After the Pleasure Party


Fear me, virgin whosoever 
Taking pride from love exempt, 
Fear me, slighted. Never, never 
Brave me, nor my fury tempt: 
Downy wings, but wroth they beat 
Tempest even in reason’s seat. 

   Behind the house the upland falls 
With many an odorous tree— 
White marbles gleaming through green halls— 
Terrace by terrace, down and down, 
And meets the star-lit Mediterranean Sea. 

   ’Tis Paradise. In such an hour 
Some pangs that rend might take release. 
Nor less perturbed who keeps this bower 
Of balm, nor finds balsamic peace? 
From whom the passionate words in vent 
After long revery's discontent? 

   “Tired of the homeless deep, 
Look how their flight yon hurrying billows urge, 
   Hitherward but to reap 
Passive repulse from the iron-bound verge! 
Insensate, can they never know 
’Tis mad to wreck the impulsion so? 

   “An art of memory is, they tell: 
But to forget! forget the glade 
Wherein Fate sprung Love's ambuscade, 
To flout pale years of cloistral life 
And flush me in this sensuous strife. 
’Tis Vesta struck with Sappho’s smart. 
No fable her delirious leap: 
With more of cause in desperate heart, 
Myself could take it—but to sleep! 

   “Now first I feel, what all may ween, 
That soon or late, if faded e’en, 
One’s sex asserts itself. Desire, 
The dear desire through love to sway, 
Is like the Geysers that aspire— 
Through cold obstruction win their fervid way. 
But baffled here—to take disdain, 
To feel rule’s instinct, yet not reign; 
To dote, to come to this drear shame— 
Hence the winged blaze that sweeps my soul 
Like prairie-fires that spurn control, 
Where withering weeds incense the flame. 

   “And kept I long heaven’s watch for this, 
Contemning love, for this, even this? 
O terrace chill in Northern air, 
O reaching ranging tube I placed 
Against yon skies, and fable chased 
Till, fool, I hailed for sister there 
Starred Cassiopea in Golden Chair. 
In dream I throned me, nor I saw 
In cell the idiot crowned with straw. 

   “And yet, ah yet, scarce ill I reigned, 
Through self-illusion self-sustained, 
When now—enlightened, undeceived— 
What gain I, barrenly bereaved! 
Than this can be yet lower decline— 
Envy and spleen, can these be mine? 

   “The peasant-girl demure that trod 
Beside our wheels that climbed the way, 
And bore along a blossoming rod 
That looked the sceptre of May-Day— 
On her—to fire this petty hell, 
His softened glance how moistly fell! 
The cheat! on briers her buds were strung; 
And wiles peeped forth from mien how meek. 
The innocent bare-foot! young, so young! 
To girls, strong man’s a novice weak. 
To tell such beads! And more remain, 
Sad rosary of belittling pain. 

   “When after lunch and sallies gay 
Like the Decameron folk we lay 
In sylvan groups; and I—let be! 
O, dreams he, can he dream that one 
Because not roseate feels no sun? 
The plain lone bramble thrills with Spring 
As much as vines that grapes shall bring. 

   “Me now fair studies charm no more. 
Shall great thoughts writ, or high themes sung 
Damask wan cheeks—unlock his arm 
About some radiant ninny flung? 
How glad with all my starry lore, 
I’d buy the veriest wanton’s rose 
Would but my bee therein repose. 

   “Could I remake me! or set free 
This sexless bound in sex, then plunge 
Deeper than Sappho, in a lunge 
Piercing Pan’s paramount mystery! 
For, Nature, in no shallow surge 
Against thee either sex may urge, 
Why hast thou made us but in halves— 
Co-relatives? This makes us slaves. 
If these co-relatives never meet 
Self-hood itself seems incomplete. 
And such the dicing of blind fate 
Few matching halves here meet and mate. 
What Cosmic jest or Anarch blunder 
The human integral clove asunder 
And shied the fractions through life’s gate? 

   “Ye stars that long your votary knew 
Rapt in her vigil, see me here! 
Whither is gone the spell ye threw 
When rose before me Cassiopea? 
Usurped on by love's stronger reign— 
But, lo, your very selves do wane: 
Light breaks—truth breaks! Silvered no more, 
But chilled by dawn that brings the gale 
Shivers yon bramble above the vale, 
And disillusion opens all the shore.” 

   One knows not if Urania yet 
The pleasure-party may forget; 
Or whether she lived down the strain 
Of turbulent heart and rebel brain; 
For Amor so resents a slight, 
And hers had been such haught disdain, 
He long may wreak his boyish spite, 
And boy-like, little reck the pain. 

   One knows not, no. But late in Rome 
(For queens discrowned a congruous home) 
Entering Albani’s porch she stood 
Fixed by an antique pagan stone 
Colossal carved. No anchorite seer, 
Not Thomas a Kempis, monk austere, 
Religious more are in their tone; 
Yet far, how far from Christian heart 
That form august of heathen Art. 
Swayed by its influence, long she stood, 
Till surged emotion seething down, 
She rallied and this mood she won: 

   “Languid in frame for me, 
To-day by Mary’s convent-shrine, 
Touched by her picture’s moving plea 
In that poor nerveless hour of mine, 
I mused—A wanderer still must grieve. 
Half I resolved to kneel and believe, 
Believe and submit, the veil take on. 
But thee, arm’d Virgin! less benign, 
Thee now I invoke, thou mightier one. 
Helmeted woman—if such term 
Befit thee, far from strife 
Of that which makes the sexual feud 
And clogs the aspirant life— 
O self-reliant, strong and free, 
Thou in whom power and peace unite, 
Transcender! raise me up to thee, 
Raise me and arm me!” 

                         Fond appeal. 
For never passion peace shall bring, 
Nor Art inanimate for long 
Inspire. Nothing may help or heal 
While Amor incensed remembers wrong. 
Vindictive, not himself he’ll spare; 
For scope to give his vengeance play 
Himself he’ll blaspheme and betray. 

   Then for Urania, virgins everywhere, 
O pray! Example take too, and have care.