White April

Harold Vinal

Part I: Golden Windows
My Own
Deborah Speaks
Lesbia Sewing

Part II: Sonnets for Weeping
Late and Soon
Earth Lover
After Dusk
Year's Ending
Autumn Afternoon
Earth Memory

Part III: Of Mariners
Sea longing
Of Mariners
Old Ships
The Little Song
The Sea Remembers
Let Me Lie

Part IV: White Glamour
You came to Me
The House of Dust
The Nights Remember
Little Death
Moonlight Magic
Song of Young Love

Part V: Overtones
Death Comes
Old Things
Music Tides

Poets' Corner Scripting
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White April

by Harold Vinal

(1922, Yale University Press)

Proserpine (Persephone)

from an 1874 painting
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti;
Click for a larger image;
[selection by the Editor]

Part I. Golden Windows

. My Own

    O I MUST answer to a name
    And live upon a certain street,
    And stairs within a dingy house
    Must bear the burden of my feet.

    Still, when the night is dim and sweet,
    In dreams I roam the silent hills,
    Where aisles of shadow, vague with light,
    Are petalled soft with daffodils.

    I foot it through the silver dark,
    I shout aloud to field and tree
    And all this gipsy heart of me
    Is longing, longing to be free.

    O I must answer to a name
    And live upon a certain street,
    But who shall take my dreams from me
    Or keep my life from being sweet?

    Harold Vinal

. Candle

    I WILL light my candle
    Before night comes on,
    A room is a dreary place
    And forlorn.

    I will light the tiny flame
    So it sputter brightly,
    For ghosts of lonely things
    Trouble me nightly.

    I will shut my ears
    Lest I hear again
    Wind crying in the hall,
    Rain on the pane.

    I will light my candle
    Before night comes on,
    A room is a dreary place,
    Now love has gone.

    Harold Vinal

. To Persephone

    NO more you weave, Persephone,
    Gowns the colors of the sea.

    Your ivory fingers now are still
    And your grave a grassy hill.

    But everywhere songs are sung
    They sing of you who died so young.

    And lads and lassies passing by
    Place bergamot where you lie.

    No more you weave, Persephone,
    Gowns the colors of the sea,

    Emerald, chrysoprase and blue
    That looked beautiful on you.

    But everywhere songs are sung
    They sing of you who died so young.

    Harold Vinal

. Window

    FROM my window I see
    Tall trees in a row,
    Rhododendron and phlox,
    Spicy things that blow.

    All of beauty there
    Through four little panes,
    Clumps of columbine
    Wet with the rains.

    Through my window I see
    Life pass by me--
    Colin and Christopher,
    Rose and Charity.

    Harold Vinal

. Tokens

    IN memory of this and that
    I'll wear a starry hood
    And set a bowl upon the stoop
    And light the wood.

    In memory of laughter
    I'll dance no more
    But hide my gown and feathers
    Behind a dark door.

    In memory of sorrow
    I'll take them out again
    And put a ribbon in my hair
    And dance down a lane.

    Harold Vinal

. Forgotten

    HOW can I remember
    Autumn and pain,
    When trees hold dreams
    In their arms again ?

    How can my heart break
    Till it cries"?
    The joy of summer
    Has made me wise.

    I can't remember
    What hurt me so--
    Autumn and winter
    Were so long ago.

    Harold Vinal

. Query

    I AM bound by twilight,
    I am chained by snow,
    I am held a captive
    To the winds that blow.
    But the careless people
    Laugh as they go by
    Blind to all the wonder
    Of the earth and sky;
    Deaf to all the music
    Falling over me;
    Is it they are captive--
    And that I am free ?

    Harold Vinal

. Deborah Speaks

    THE candles I keep burning
    Above the door
    Are in memory of those
    Who pass no more.

    Faith and Caroline,
    Rose and Margaret,
    I light candles there
    Lest the heart forget.

    I keep candles flaming
    Lest, when Strephon call,
    I forget that they
    Ever lived at all.

    Harold Vinal

. Lesbia Sewing

    STITCHES over and over
    So the heart won't break,
    Thrust the needle under
    For sorrow's sake.

    Stitches over and over
    Till the pattern's set,
    Thrust the needle under
    So the heart forget.

    Stitches over and over,
    Needle hurry fast,
    Till the love of beauty
    Fall from me at last.

    Harold Vinal

Part II. Sonnets for Weeping

. Late and Soon

    I AM so near to grief I needs must weep
    For little places fair as Camelot,
    For dusty inns and gardens long forgot,
    They haunt me ever so I cannot sleep.
    I am the slave of beauty late and soon,
    Of apricots blown into silver rain,
    Held close to tears by many a shining lane
    Where ghostly birds call wildly to the moon.
    Is there at last an ending to it all,
    An end of petals blown against my face,
    Can I not hide myself behind a wall
    And forget beauty for a little space,
    Forget all passion that I ever knew--
    Old beauty gone and you and you and you ?

    Harold Vinal


. Invocation

    I THOUGHT that beauty was forever dead,
    Until I saw a daffodil abloom
    And two bright tulips in my garden bed
    And silver spills beyond my little room.
    I thought that grief would never go from me,
    Yet now how wonderful are all the days,
    I am no longer hurt by misery
    But wild with joy and tremulous with praise.
    0 God, let not too many white stars fall,
    Nor let your bushes bloom in one small hour,
    I could not bear the beauty of it all,
    For I would pause with awe before each flower
    And touch each blossom with my finger-tips
    And feel the wind's first sweetness on my lips.

    Harold Vinal

. Earth Lover

    OLD loveliness has such a way with me,
    That I am close to tears when petals fall
    And needs must hide my face against a wall,
    When autumn trees burn red with ecstasy.
    For I am haunted by a hundred things
    And more that I have seen in April days;
    I have held stars above my head in praise,
    I have worn beauty as two costly rings.
    Alas, how short a state does beauty keep,
    Then let me clasp it wildly to my heart
    And hurt myself until I am a part
    Of all its rapture, then turn back to sleep,
    Remembering through all the dusty years
    What sudden wonder brought me close to tears.

    Harold Vinal

. After Dusk

    BY day no singing beauty wakes in me;
    My soul is silent as a silver dell,
    Where voiceless winds speak only of farewell
    And cloistered flowers dwell in secrecy.
    Shaken with woe I hide against my heart
    Sweetness and loveliness and meadowed rain
    And swallow-beauty May has brought again;
    Dream-still they lie alone, untouched, apart.
    But when day undesired falls asleep,
    Dreaming on hills where shaking stars look down,
    I roam cool-misted vales beyond the town,
    And cry my love of beauty till I weep.
    The glowing trees, so faint that no one hears,
    Drop veils of shadow down to hide my tears.

    Harold Vinal

. Year's Ending

    O I COULD weep my heart out, late and soon,
    For dear and lovely things I would forget:
    A blur of silver spills that burned at noon,
    A clump of daffodils and mignonette,
    Aprils remembered that come back no more
    To haunt my gardens where the tulips bloom
    And banished summers flaming at my door,
    When haunted moonlight streamed into my room.
    At times the thought of so much loveliness
    Drops from me strangely, like the end of grief,
    Then suddenly I feel the wind's caress,
    Or a wild tree lets fall a lyric leaf.
    The thought of you drifts from an ancient spring-
    And I near weep again remembering.

    Harold Vinal

. Autumn Afternoon

    OLD loveliness returned this afternoon
    To break my heart and make me weep aloud;
    I had forgotten autumn came so soon,
    With blur of golden leaf and jewelled cloud.
    Here once wild, scarlet tulips used to blow
    And daffodils wave lightly in the spring
    And lovely spicewood bushes burn and glow
    And April trees spill April blossoming.
    Now the last birds go winging down the air
    And children's laughter and a scrap of song
    Blown from a shivering pipe; Nothing lasts long,
    Not even April that was once so fair.
    O how it hurts to see the wild trees thinned
    And spring's dear beauty falling in the wind.

    Harold Vinal

. Evanescence

    SLOWLY I pass among the blowing flowers
    Catching my breath at their beauty as I go;
    Familiar sweetness drifts across the hours,
    Keen, lovely sweetness, intimate as woe.
    Yet by to-morrow all the roses blown
    Will be a sea of crimson on the grass,
    And the naked trees will shudder at the moan
    Of glowing winds that wake them as they pass.
    In such wise, love will vanish as the night,
    Each word of joy that you have sung to me
    The years will silence with their dark delight,
    And the wild soaring after ecstasy
    Will be a lyric bird that dares the sky--
    Only to fall to earth when storms beat by.

    Harold Vinal

. Pity

    O DO not pity me because I gave
    My heart when lovely April with a gust
    Swept down the singing lanes like a cool wave,
    And do not pity me because I thrust
    Aside your love that once burned as a flame;
    I was as thirsty as a windy flower
    That bares its bosom to the summer shower
    And to the unremembered winds that came.
    Pity me most for moments yet to be
    In the far years, when some day I shall turn
    Toward this strong path up to our little door
    And find it barred to all my ecstasy.
    No sound of your warm voice the winds have borne--
    Only the crying sea upon the shore.

    Harold Vinal

. Earth Memory

    THE earth remembers many an April blown
    To lyric beauty on a lovely hill,
    And many a golden hour she has known
    Comes back to haunt her with old wonder still.
    The earth remembers things she knew of yore,
    Summers that olden lovers have forgot,
    The way of silver rain upon a shore
    And little towns as fair as Camelot.
    The earth has moon-kissed beauty and to spare,
    While I weep long for love, a thing as frail
    As blue spills blown high in a sudden gale,
    The space of weeping is too great to bear;
    Blow by a whirl of petalled blossoming--
    So I forget to weep with wondering.

    Harold Vinal

Part III. Of Mariners

. Sea Longing

    YOU who are inland born know not the pain
    Of one who longs for grey dunes and the seas
    And sound of ebbing tide and windy rain
    And sea-mews crying down immensities.
    You who are inland born know not the urge
    Of rapt tides beating passionate and wild,
    Nor have you thrilled with wonder at the surge
    Of drifting water, wayward as a child.
    Impetuous I seek the eager sea,
    Imperious for joy and wind-blown spray;
    You, who are city beaten every day,
    What do you know of mirth and ecstasy?
    No thirsty wind has journeyed from the South--
    And laid a cool, wet finger on your mouth!

    Harold Vinal

. Exiled

    I WILL remember to the very last
    The look of ships upon a quiet sea,
    Each windy sail, each spar and slender mast
    Must linger ever in my memory.
    I will remember hills and harbor ways
    And bright lagoons, though I long to forget;
    Enchanted islands green as chrysoprase
    And lonely nights of rose and violet.
    Men who have known such splendid things as these
    Can never quite forget what they have learned;
    Their thoughts must always be of secret seas
    Or of dim places where the moonlight burned.
    Always the sound of wind moans in their ears
    Or rush of waters under ghostly piers.

    Harold Vinal

. Of Mariners

    YOU who have known the changes of the sea
    And marked the tides and watched each wistful star;
    You who have known old ships, each mast and spar,
    Can only know what such things mean to me.
    You who have known the quiet mystery
    Of lovely islands in a glowing bay,
    Know what it is that haunts me night and day--
    A ghost of things that will not let me be.
    For they who know such things must always dream
    Of wind and tide and barques that they have known,
    Old schooners lying where the town lights gleam,
    A tall ship sailing by at dawn alone.
    They who have felt the wind upon their lips,
    Their speech must always be of sea or ships.

    Harold Vinal

. Old Ships

    WHAT memories hang round about the spars
    Of splendid ships that come to port no more,
    What dreams of moonlit seas and lovely stars,
    What sound of waters on a wooden floor.
    Something remembered from an ancient day
    Comes back to haunt them when the evening falls,
    The cry of gleaming birds from far away,
    The moan of winds around their whitened walls.
    Something survives to make them wistful still
    Of silver harbors that they knew of yore,
    Of midnight quiet by a secret hill,
    Of shining lights upon a singing shore.
    Perchance, a ghostly gull against the sky
    Or a white sail at twilight flashing by.

    Harold Vinal

. Little Song

    PUT a fence about my house
    It matters not to me,
    If from the highest window
    I cannot watch the sea.

    Scent the rooms with flowers,
    You may leave them bare
    If no salty sea wind
    Wanders there.

    Leave tall candles burning,
    A house can be a grave--
    If it's far from water
    And a breaking wave.

    Harold Vinal

. The Sea Remembers

    THE sea remembers things she knew of yore,
    Ships that have flowered on her lovely breast
    And secret islands, silvered by a shore,
    The cry of winds that mocked her with a jest.
    Remembered beauty comes to haunt her still,
    A ghostly sail blown by at evenfall,
    A singing bird above a starry hill--
    In haunted hours she remembers all.
    She cannot quite forget these wistful things,
    Barges that were her lovers in old days
    And golden argosies with lifted wings,
    And splendid schooners that sailed down her bays.
    Always she dreams of masts and wooden spars
    Or a tall ship that passed beneath the stars.

    Harold Vinal

. Rumours

    THERE is a rumor when each ship returns
    Of ghostly harbors that it touched at dawn,
    Of blue lagoons where lifted beauty burns,
    Shore lines towards which its wooden spars have gone.
    There is a rumor of disastrous days
    And nights by quiet islands near a town,
    Of wine-red hills, beyond the waterways
    Where both the moon and lovely stars looked down.
    Now do they dream beneath the April sky
    Of olden time and golden circumstance,
    Of ancient summers, ended like a dance,
    And mad adventures, now a memory.
    A secret flower lying on their breast
    The wind dropped down upon an old, old quest.

    Harold Vinal

. Let Me Lie

    LET me lie in an unremembered place
    With sorrel red about me and currants swaying;
    Let the cool darkness fall upon my face--
    I only want to hear waves playing.

    I only ask this thing, sound of the sea,
    Clean water shifting under a granite ledge,
    Spindrift flying wildly by a tree,
    The sound of the wind among the sedge.

    Life must go on, to-morrow and to-morrow,
    Night following night and day following day;
    Give me the one thing, Life, that I desire--
    The sound of wheeling gulls and waves at play.

    Harold Vinal

Part IV. White Glamour

. You Came to Me

    YOU came to me with darkness as a lute
    On which you played strange melodies to woo me,
    You came with cymbals and wild timbrelling--
    With golden harmonies did you pursue me.

    Upon a pipe of lovely shivering reeds,
    You strung your arabesques like filigrees;
    The notes were kisses blown to touch my lips
    As warm as rain upon pomegranate trees.

    You came to me with darkness as a lute,
    A twirl of tears to woo me and your eyes;
    You brought me death and beauty, I was mute--
    Now do I hunger for you, O most wise.

    Harold Vinal

. The House of Dust

    WHEN this, our love, at last is buried low
    Beneath the flaming streets of a dark city
    And other hearts forget to scoff and pity
    Our lovely dream that burned as deep as woe,
    We shall arise again and gladly turn
    Down these far dew-drenched vales we tread to-day
    And wander where the rain-kissed boughs of May
    Shed streaming perfume over starry fern.
    No one will see or guess that we are there,
    Who spoke their last farewell above our dust,
    When our hushed voices ended all surprise,
    And bitter silence for a moment thrust
    Dead waves across your beauty burning fair
    And petalled flowers over your sweet eyes.

    Harold Vinal

. The Nights Remember

    T HE nights remember lovely things they knew,
    The words of lovers, tremulous and wise,
    And kisses blown and laughter and the beauty
    Of glowing eyes.

    The nights remember hours white with wonder,
    Lipped with red stars and strangely luminous;
    Perchance, beloved, when the years have lengthened--
    They will remember us.

    Harold Vinal

. Unbound

    SHELTER me from loving you
    Lest it grow too great to bear,
    Put a silence to my song
    Lest it sing you everywhere.

    Let me be a common hour
    Or a careless word;
    Pluck me, as you would a flower,
    Cage me, as you would a bird.

    For I praise you everywhere,
    Shout your wonder down the street;
    Bind me, so I may not dare
    Leave you, sweet.

    Harold Vinal

. Talisman

    I SHALL remember you in years to be,
    As June's first rose or as a golden bough,
    And all this beauty that we gather now
    Will be a song or a dear memory.
    I shall remember you as mists that blow
    Across reluctant fields where no sounds are
    And grief's dark night will wear a splendid star
    Because of the enchanted things I know.
    The peace of all your preciousness will make
    Each hour of pain an hour of loveliness,
    For some remembered call or faint caress
    Will startle me and make my soul awake.
    So I forget that woe is terrible--
    Remembering that love is beautiful.

    Harold Vinal

. Little Death

    YOUR love died for me
    Like rain in a hollow,
    Suddenly there was no cry
    For me to follow.

    All that was dear and sweet
    Last, last December,
    Now is a little poem
    You can't remember.

    Your love died for me
    Like mist on a bough,
    Well, since I must forget--
    I will, somehow.

    Harold Vinal

. Rosemary

    FOR the thought of you
    I'll wind up the clock,
    Sweep the floor
    And turn the lock.

    For the thought of you
    I'll put on a gown,
    A ribbon or two
    And go to town.

    For the thought of you
    I'll talk to strange folk
    And smile merrily--
    Though my heart's broke.

    Harold Vinal

. Moonlight Magic

    MOONLIGHT is magic when a day is gone
    For shivering silver hangs upon each flower;
    Here where old lovers wandered once forlorn
    The trees are blown to beauty in an hour.
    Flowers and moonlight, these shall ever dwell
    A part of beauty on each secret hill,
    And whispered words that lovers dared not tell,
    Will be the birth of many a daffodil.
    Nor shall there be an ending to it all
    For always music shall drift down the air
    And shining petals tremble by a wall
    And olden loveliness pass unaware.
    We, who wear moonlight now like flower and grass,
    In later years will bring new things to pass.

    Harold Vinal

. Vision

    I PUT my dream away,
    My dream of you;
    A lonely little dream
    Of star and dew.

    Now you can only see
    Wild April skies
    When you look deep into
    My sober eyes.

    So sorrowfully sad
    Their look shall be--
    Your heart will never guess
    What made them see.

    Harold Vinal

. Song of Young Love

    I MADE my love a palanquin
    From wood of Lebanon,
    The seats were all of purple
    And ivory from the dawn,
    For she who was to ride it
    Was fair to look upon.

    I made my love a palanquin,
    Inlaid with filigrees,
    The cushions were of river blue
    And color from the seas,
    And there were slaves to bear it
    Dark as pomegranate trees.

    I made my love a palanquin,
    The ceiling overhead
    Was silver and wild olive
    And ebony and redó
    I did not dream that it would be
    A place for young love dead.

    Harold Vinal

Part V. Overtures

. Buried

    DEEPER far than dead men lie
    Have I buried thoughts of you
    Underneath cool grasses
    And a night-green yew.

    Never shall the starlings wake
    Things that lie so deep;
    Never shall the sunlight stir
    Thoughts asleep.

    Deeper far then dead men lie,
    Shaded and withdrawn,
    I have buried thoughts of you
    From another dawn.

    Harold Vinal

. Glimpses

    I SAW a star flame in the sky,
    I heard a wild bird sing
    And down where all the forest stirred
    Another answering.

    All suddenly I felt the gleam
    That made my faith revive--
    Ah God, it takes such simple things
    To keep the soul alive.

    Harold Vinal

. Pastoral

    THE air is thin and sweet
    With sounds I do not hear,
    Somewhere beauty blows
    As it does each year.

    Somewhere laughter calls
    Down a country lane,
    But I hear the shriek
    Of a noisy train.

    Somewhere lovers wait
    For maids undoubtedly,
    Wait for a word, a kiss,
    That belong to me.

    Harold Vinal

. Death Comes

    DEATH comes in a night,
    All that we cherish,
    Beauty and laughter
    Soon perish.

    Death comes in a day--
    House yourself well,
    Colin, Beatrice,

    Harold Vinal

. Old Things

    SONGS that I have loved
    Come back to me,
    One cannot forget a bird
    Or the crying sea.

    Words that I have loved
    Give the heart no rest,
    Always they He like flowers
    On the breast.

    Faces I have loved,
    Eyes that gave no sign,
    Did the soul behind them
    Yearn as much as mine ?

    Harold Vinal

. Music Tides

    TIDES of old music what do you sing
    Out in the darkness like a bird ?
    Listen and I will tell to you
    The unspeakable word.

    Tides of old music what do you cry
    Out where the warm stars flame ?
    Bend low and I will whisper you
    The unspeakable name.

    Harold Vinal

. Surety

    DO not weep for her who lies
    In the silences,
    For she knew both youth and age
    And grew tired of these.

    Do not weep for she was glad
    To share the quiet earth,
    Who grew weary of such things
    As joy and mirth.

    Weep only for yourself
    Who pass unsatisfied--
    You have much to learn from her
    Who so gladly died.

    Harold Vinal

. Miser

    I HAVE seen many things,
    Too beautiful for words;
    Twilights, tremulous with mist--

    I have heard music
    That was to me
    Soft as the clinging fingers
    Of the sea.

    I have known many things,
    Now I am old--
    I am a miser
    Counting my gold.

    Harold Vinal

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