THERE was a strife ’twixt man and maid—
Oh, that was at the birth of time!
But what befell ’twixt man and maid,
Oh, that’s beyond the grip of rhyme.
’Twas “Sweet, I must not bide with you,”
And, “Love, I cannot bide alone”;
For both were young and both were true.
And both were hard as the nether stone.
Beware the man who’s crossed in love;
For pent-up steam must find its vent.
Stand back when he is on the move,
And lend him all the Continent.
Your patience, Sirs. The Devil took me up
To the burned mountain over Sicily
(Fit place for me) and thence I saw my Earth—
(Not all Earth’s splendour, ’twas beyond my need—)
And that one spot I love—all Earth to me,
And her I love, my Heaven. What said I?
My love was safe from all the powers of Hell-
For you—e’en you—acquit her of my guilt—
But Sula, nestling by our sail—specked sea,
My city, child of mine, my heart, my home—
Mine and my pride—evil might visit there!
It was for Sula and her naked port,
Prey to the galleys of the Algerine,
Our city Sula, that I drove my price—
For love of Sula and for love of her.
The twain were woven—gold on sackcloth—twined
Past any sundering till God shall judge
The evil and the good.
Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”
There is pleasure in the wet, wet clay
When the artist’s hand is potting it.
There is pleasure in the wet, wet lay —
When the poet’s pad is blotting it.
There is pleasure in the shine of your picture on the line
At the Royal Acade-my;
But the pleasure felt in these is as chalk to Cheddar cheese
When it comes to a well-made Lie—
To a quite unwreckable Lie,
To a most impeccable Lie!
To a water-right, fire-proof, angle-iron, sunk-hinge, time-lock, steel-faced Lie!
Not a private handsome Lie,
But a pair-and-brougham Lie,
Not a little-place-at-Tooting, but a country-house-with-shooting
And a ring-fence-deer-park Lie.
When a lover hies abroad
Looking for his love,
Azrael smiling sheathes his sword,
Heaven smiles above.
Earth and sea
His servants be,
And to lesser compass round,
That his love be sooner found!
We meet in an evil land
That is near to the gates of Hell.
I wait for thy command
To serve, to speed or withstand.
And thou sayest I do not well?
Oh Love, the flowers so red
Are only tongues of flame,
The earth is full of the dead,
The new-killed, restless dead.
There is danger beneath and o’erhead,
And I guard thy gates in fear
Of words thou canst not hear,
Of peril and jeopardy,
Of signs thou canst not see.—
And thou sayest ’tis ill that I came?
This I saw when the rites were done,
And the lamps were dead and the Gods alone,
And the grey snake coiled on the altar stone—
Ere I fled from a Fear that I could not see,
And the Gods of the East made mouths at me.
Beat off in our last fight were we?
The greater need to seek the sea.
For Fortune changeth as the moon
To caravel and picaroon.
Then Eastward Ho! or Westward Ho!
Whichever wind may meetest blow.
Our quarry sails on either sea,
Fat prey for such bold lads as we,
And every sun-dried buccaneer
Must hand and reef and watch and steer,
And bear great wrath of sea and sky
Before the plate-ships wallow by.
Now, as our tall bows take the foam,
Let no man turn his heart to home,
Save to desire plunder more
And larger warehouse for his store,
When treasure won from Santos Bay
Shall make our sea-washed village gay.
Because I sought it far from men,
In deserts and alone,
I found it burning overhead,
The jewel of a Throne.
Because I sought—I sought it so
And spent my days to find—
It blazed one moment ere it left
The blacker night behind.
We be the Gods of the East—
Older than all—
Masters of Mourning and Feast—
How shall we fall?
Will they gape for the husks that ye proffer
Or yearn to your song
And we—have we nothing to offer
Who ruled them so long—
In the fume of incense, the clash of the cymbals, the blare of the conch and the gong?
Over the strife of the schools
Low the day burns—
Back with the kine from the pools
Each one returns
To the life that he knows where the altar-flame glows and the tulsi is trimmed in the urns.