Ever to Be

- 1876-1940

My far cry, though no one should echo,—
    Though no one to listen should stand,
I shall dare with my burden the darkness
    And I shall not retreat from this land;
Though I’m hurled ’neath the feet of the millions,
    Who struggle their places to keep,
The sea-nymphs still bathe with my fancy
    And the Dryads still sweeten my sleep.

Though I’m crushed, cast away and forgotten,—
    Though I’m buried in the dust of their cars,
I can see through their madness above me,—
    I can feel the quick pulse of the stars;
Though my head be the foot-stool of tyrants,
    Though my back be a step to their throne,
I still dwell with the kings of Orion
    And I walk with the sun-queen alone.

Though the fire of my youth should consume me,—
    Though my body a brimstone should be,
I can draw on the clouds for their water,
    And behold! I’ve of water a sea;
And though roofless, and friendless, and hopeless
    And loveless, and godless I stand,
The waves of my Life shall continue
    To murmur and laugh on the Strand .

To The Sonnet

Though cribbed and gyved, thou canst within thy 
          walls 
Unfold a wondrous wealth of worlds unseen,
And flood the soul’s abyss with moon-light sheen,
As well as darken passions’ gilded halls ; 
Thy fourteen outlets are so many falls 
From which gush out the prisoned joy, or 
         spleen— 
The silvery cascades, or the billows green,
And either a sea of bliss or grief recalls. 
Thou goddess of the gems of Fancy’s deep, 
Though few thy facets, they reflect the whole 
Of inner-self in multi-shaded hues ; 
Thou art the couch of dreams that never sleep ; 
Thou art the phoenix of the poet’s soul,
As well the crystal palace of his muse.

A Peasant's Song

O, thou, who loved me once,
From thy Pagoda glance ;
Shoot down a poisoned lance :
        All’s well that comes from thee.

Look back, look down once more ;
Dear was to thee this shore ;
I see thee nevermore
        Beneath the olive tree.

Remains my station low,
Whilst thou dost greater grow ;
Ah, fate hath struck the blow
        That parted thee and me.

How can I bear my fate,
How can I loveless wait
In this most sorry state,
        When thou art far and free?

Far from the soul that swore
On love’s abysmal door
To cling forevermore
        To none on earth but thee ;

Free from the sacred plight
Which, to dispel the night,
Thou madest, when I quite
        Fell near thy bended knee.

Dost thou not still remember
Love’s May and Love’s December?
Both burned their sacred ember
        In our sweet company.

Dost hear the echoes fall
Within thy gilded hall?
Dost thou not ever recall
        The day thou wert like me?

When all thy gardens bloom,
Look out into the gloom ;
There does the flame consume
        Thy budless lilac tree.

There often thou didst play
A-mindless of the day
When soul to soul would say :
        “No more of thee and me.”

And when withers thy rose,
Throw to the wind that blows
This way a leaf ; who knows
        What therein I can see.

And till my course is run
I’ll count them one by one—
These leaves ; and may the sun
        Of joy ne’er set on thee.

The Brass Bed

I love thy color and thy symmetry ;
I love the art that wrought thy glittering arms.
Thy canopy, thy satin portieres too ;
I love the silks and feathers on thy breast—
The cushions and the pillows and the quilts :
I love thine every part.
Yet still more do I love to rest in thee—
To dream of art’s perfection in thy frame ;
Of paths as smooth, as shining as thy limbs ;
Of scenes as exquisite as thy coils ;
Of nooks as warm as thine hospitable bosom,
As cool and as refreshing as thy veinless naked arms,
I dream of all beneath thy soothing mantle.

But O, I love my dreams much more than thee,
And one sad soul much more than all my dreams.

If thou hadst but an eye to see,
To look upon the guest that lay upon thy floor
Beneath thy silken ceiling !
O, hadst thou but an ear to hear
The plaintive chirpings of this swallow-soul.
Couldst thou but feel her forehead
Moistened with the sweat of hope and pain.
For forty moons she lay within thine arms,
Rubbing her erstwhile rosy cheeks
Against the ulcers of Ayoub of yore.
Couldst thou but see, O Bed of Brass,
Couldst thou but hear, couldst thou but feel,—

Of what use all thy showy stuff—
Thy glittering brass, the filigree of art,
Thy floor of down and feather cushions all,
Thy snow-white mantles, satin tapestries?

Beauty and Pain!
Death will not come with thee, O Pain!
Life will not come with thee, O Beauty!
The fires of hell are but a taper’s flame compared to this.

Thy guest, O Bed of Brass,
Looks on thee with a yearning glance,
And vet her soul, bearing the torch of Pain,
Is searching all the worlds for Death.