The Fugitive

- 1876-1940

         I saw Thee following me,
         I heard Thee calling me,
         I even felt Thine arrows in my tears ;
         I know Thou art shadowing me,
         And wilt yet, forestalling me,
         Whip out the vanities of all my years.

I ran and still I run away from Thee
Through maze and mirage of mortality ;—
Over the hot sands and the frozen lakes,
Across the sable wilderness that breaks
In fragrant moors, I ran to hills of dreams,
Up to the secret borderland that gleams
Eternally, casting its shafts of light,
From every incommunicable height,
Upon the spinning feet of humankind. 
O, how I leaped from peak to peak to find
The path to the azure dance-hall of the world,
Whose dome is gemmed, whose portals are empearled
With hearts that melt and crystallize and shine,—
With frozen music, frozen beads of wine,—
And whose laughter echoes through spinning
        spheres,
Where we were taught to dance in former years. 
Yea, I, who lit Thine altar, as a boy, 
And nursed in incense fumes my vision of joy, 
And like a roebuck leaped across the rills,
And danced like sparks of sunlight o’er the hills,
To be, at early morn and eventide,
The first of acolytes that served with pride
Thy venerable priests, alas! one day,
Casting my shame and piety aside,
I snuffed the candles out and walked away
Into the dazzling night of dance and song,
Into the temple of the merry throng. 
And ever since, a fugitive from Thee,
Shod with Thy lightning, chuckling oft with glee,
Unburdened and unfettered and undaunted,
With naught, not e’en my shamelessness to hide,  
And only by beguiling Beauty haunted,
I trod the path of demiurgic pride.
Yea, I was proud, when in the dawn’s desire
I could command the fruit of every tree,
The bloom of every garden, and the fire
Of every passion, every ecstacy
Upon my way. O pride of brawn and dare!
I’d shake the lustre from the stars and steal
The sap from the vines of June, and I would share
My booty with the comrade that would seal
His thieving faith with paeons to the deed
That knows nor law, nor moral code, nor creed. 

                            II

I ran and still I run away from Thee,
Past pyramids and labyrinths of reason,
Through gleaming forests, where the upas tree
Feeds both saint and sinner for a season.
And I danced in its lethal shades ; I climbed
Up to the highest fruit-concealing bough
That bends beneath a mocking wing ; I rhymed
My joy and pride ; and o’er the very brow
Of Death I leaped into the howling void,
Where the acrobats of Mind, with balance-pole
Of Logic in their hands, are ever employed
In scanning the dark canyons of the Soul.
And I was proud when on the tight rope I
Essayed my feet and fixed my giddy brain
Upon the universe ; whereat the sky
Was but a mute infinity of vain
Belief ; and every mystery divine.
A sea-washed, iridescent hollow shell
Upon the sands of faith : yea, every sign
Upon the road led to an empty well. 
And I was proud—O pride of intellect!—
That the nothingness of things I could detect. 

                            III
I ran and still I run away from Thee, 
Mistaking Thy compassion for Thine ire ;—
A rebel I, fantastically free,
A green-eyed flame of crepitating fire
Whipped by the winds of Circumstance, and yet
By Thee pursued and by Thy love beset. 
And why?— I oft pretend to know not why 
This fond solicitude. For what am I 
But a bubble of vanity, a human thing
Puffed with the vision of a loneliness
In which a pimpled Ego tries to sing
Of Self, alas! and spread its ebon wing.
But I remember still Thy first caress,
Which, in my infant vision I could feel
Even as the flowers, which Thy love reveal,
Even as the ocean in the Moon’s embrace,
Even as the sunrise that reflects Thy face. 
And this remembering, I hailed the soul,
Flaunting the sacred symbol of the goal
That shrines Thine image ; yea, and I was proud
That, rising over Self Thyself to find,
With Thine own godliness I was endowed, 
And yet I am but partially resigned . . . . .
O, spiritual pride! which would disguise 
The hollow heart of Holier-than-thou
In accent borrowed from the meek and wise,
I, too, have prated with a placid brow,
Though I, still casting shadows in the mire,
Was but a scarecrow in the vineyard of desire.

 

         I saw Thee following me,
         I heard Thee calling me,
         I even felt Thine arrows in my tears ;
         I know Thou art shadowing me,
         And wilt yet, forestalling me,
         Whip out the vanities of all my years.

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.

Related Poems

from “Surge”

A long night I spent
thinking that reality was the story
of the human species

 

the vanquished search for the vanquished

 

Sounds come by, ruffling my soul

 

I sense space’s elasticity,
go on reading the books she wrote on the
wars she’s seen

 

Why do seasons who regularly follow
their appointed time, deny their kind of energy
to us?

 

why is winter followed by a few
more days of winter?

 

We came to transmit the shimmering
from which we came; to name it

 

 
we deal with a permanent voyage,
the becoming of that which itself had
become

from “The Book of Absence”

translated by Erfan Mojib and Gary Gach

 

The foot
that brought me to You
now
in a bread line
plays with a pebble

*

Missing someone
is a mother
who leaves the front door ajar

*

I want to open a door
onto a sea & a night
I want to open a door
onto you
who are the sea & the night

*

As the seasons change
the plums
are replaced by persimmons
longing
by
longing

*

He told Adam
“Your fall is temporary
You’ll come back to me”
but Adam built a house
and called it home

*

I’d wanted to be the wind
in my beloved’s hair
but am only a breeze
amidst gnarly shrubs

*

Between me and you
I am a wall
Take me down

 


 

«علیرضا روشن از «کتاب نیست

 

پا

که مرا پیش یار میتوانست برد
اینک
در صف نان
با تکه ریگی بازیبازی میکند

*

دلتنگی
مادریست
که در را
پیش میگذارد

*

کاش دری بگشایم
به دریایی و شبی
کاش دری بگشایم
به روی تو
که دریایی و شبی

*

فصل عوض میشود
جای آلو را
خرمالو میگیرد
جای دلتنگی را
دلتنگی

*
آدم را گفت
هبوط ِ تو موقت است
به من باز میگردی
آدم اما
خانه ساخت

*

باد میخواستم باشم
در مویِ یار
بادم اینک
البهالی ِ خار

*

بین ما
من دیوارم
خرابم کن