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Poetry Monster

Written In A Volume Of The Comtesse De Noailles

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

Be my companion under cool arcades

That frame some drowsy street and dazzling square

Beyond whose flowers and palm-tree promenades

White belfries burn in the blue tropic air.

Lie near me in dim forests where the croon

Of wood-doves sounds and moss-banked water flows,

Or musing late till the midsummer moon

Breaks through some ruined abbey’s empty rose.

Sweetest of those to-day whose pious hands

Tend the sequestered altar of Romance,

Where fewer offerings burn, and fewer kneel,

Pour there your passionate beauty on my heart,

And, gladdening such solitudes, impart

How sweet the fellowship of those who feel!

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With A Copy Of Shakespeares Sonnets On Leaving College

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

As one of some fat tillage dispossessed,

Weighing the yield of these four faded years,

If any ask what fruit seems loveliest,

What lasting gold among the garnered ears, —

Ah, then I’ll say what hours I had of thine,

Therein I reaped Time’s richest revenue,

Read in thy text the sense of David’s line,

Through thee achieved the love that Shakespeare knew.

Take then his book, laden with mine own love

As flowers made sweeter by deep-drunken rain,

That when years sunder and between us move

Wide waters, and less kindly bonds constrain,

Thou may’st turn here, dear boy, and reading see

Some part of what thy friend once felt for thee.

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Vivien

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

Her eyes under their lashes were blue pools

Fringed round with lilies; her bright hair unfurled

Clothed her as sunshine clothes the summer world.

Her robes were gauzes — gold and green and gules,

All furry things flocked round her, from her hand

Nibbling their foods and fawning at her feet.

Two peacocks watched her where she made her seat

Beside a fountain in Broceliande.

Sometimes she sang. . . . Whoever heard forgot

Errand and aim, and knights at noontide here,

Riding from fabulous gestes beyond the seas,

Would follow, tranced, and seek . . . and find her not . . .

But wake that night, lost, by some woodland mere,

Powdered with stars and rimmed with silent trees.

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Virginibus Puerisque

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

I care not that one listen if he lives

For aught but life’s romance, nor puts above

All life’s necessities the need to love,

Nor counts his greatest wealth what Beauty gives.

But sometime on an afternoon in spring,

When dandelions dot the fields with gold,

And under rustling shade a few weeks old

‘Tis sweet to stroll and hear the bluebirds sing,

Do you, blond head, whom beauty and the power

Of being young and winsome have prepared

For life’s last privilege that really pays,

Make the companion of an idle hour

These relics of the time when I too fared

Across the sweet fifth lustrum of my days.

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Translations Dante Inferno Canto Xxvi

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

Florence, rejoice! For thou o’er land and sea

So spread’st thy pinions that the fame of thee

Hath reached no less into the depths of Hell.

So noble were the five I found to dwell

Therein — thy sons — whence shame accrues to me

And no great praise is thine; but if it be

That truth unveil in dreamings before dawn,

Then is the vengeful hour not far withdrawn

When Prato shall exult within her walls

To see thy suffering. Whate’er befalls,

Let it come soon, since come it must, for later,

Each year would see my grief for thee the greater.

We left; and once more up the craggy side

By the blind steps of our descent, my guide,

Remounting, drew me on. So we pursued

The rugged path through that steep solitude,

Where rocks and splintered fragments strewed the land

So thick, that foot availed not without hand.

Grief filled me then, and still great sorrow stirs

My heart as oft as memory recurs

To what I saw; that more and more I rein

My natural powers, and curb them lest they strain

Where Virtue guide not, — that if some good star,

Or better thing, have made them what they are,

That good I may not grudge, nor turn to ill.

As when, reclining on some verdant hill —

What season the hot sun least veils his power

That lightens all, and in that gloaming hour

The fly resigns to the shrill gnat — even then,

As rustic, looking down, sees, o’er the glen,

Vineyard, or tilth where lies his husbandry,

Fireflies innumerable sparkle: so to me,

Come where its mighty depth unfolded, straight

With flames no fewer seemed to scintillate

The shades of the eighth pit. And as to him

Whose wrongs the bears avenged, dim and more dim

Elijah’s chariot seemed, when to the skies

Uprose the heavenly steeds; and still his eyes

Strained, following them, till naught remained in view

But flame, like a thin cloud against the blue:

So here, the melancholy gulf within,

Wandered these flames, concealing each its sin,

Yet each, a fiery integument,

Wrapped round a sinner.

On the bridge intent,

Gazing I stood, and grasped its flinty side,

Or else, unpushed, had fallen. And my guide,

Observing me so moved, spake, saying: “Behold

Where swathed each in his unconsuming fold,

The spirits lie confined.” Whom answering,

“Master,” I said, “thy words assurance bring

To that which I already had supposed;

And I was fain to ask who lies enclosed

In the embrace of that dividing fire,

Which seems to curl above the fabled pyre,

Where with his twin-born brother, fiercely hated,

Eteocles was laid.” He answered, “Mated

In punishment as once in wrath they were,

Ulysses there and Diomed incur

The eternal pains; there groaning they deplore

The ambush of the horse, which made the door

For Rome’s imperial seed to issue: there

In anguish too they wail the fatal snare

Whence dead Deidamia still must grieve,

Reft of Achilles; likewise they receive

Due penalty for the Palladium.”

“Master,” I said, “if in that martyrdom

The power of human speech may still be theirs,

I pray — and think it worth a thousand prayers —

That, till this horned flame be come more nigh,

We may abide here; for thou seest that I

With great desire incline to it.” And he:

“Thy prayer deserves great praise; which willingly

I grant; but thou refrain from speaking; leave

That task to me; for fully I conceive

What thing thou wouldst, and it might fall perchance

That these, being Greeks, would scorn thine utterance.”

So when the flame had come where time and place

Seemed not unfitting to my guide with grace

To question, thus he spoke at my desire:

“O ye that are two souls within one fire,

If in your eyes some merit I have won —

Merit, or more or less — for tribute done

When in the world I framed my lofty verse:

Move not; but fain were we that one rehearse

By what strange fortunes to his death he came.”

The elder crescent of the antique flame

Began to wave, as in the upper air

A flame is tempest-tortured, here and there

Tossing its angry height, and in its sound

As human speech it suddenly had found,

Rolled forth a voice of thunder, saying: “When,

The twelvemonth past in Circe’s halls, again

I left Gaeta’s strand (ere thither came

Aeneas, and had given it that name)

Not love of son, nor filial reverence,

Nor that affection that might recompense

The weary vigil of Penelope,

Could so far quench the hot desire in me

To prove more wonders of the teeming earth, —

Of human frailty and of manly worth.

In one small bark, and with the faithful band

That all awards had shared of Fortune’s hand,

I launched once more upon the open main.

Both shores I visited as far as Spain, —

Sardinia, and Morocco, and what more

The midland sea upon its bosom wore.

The hour of our lives was growing late

When we arrived before that narrow strait

Where Hercules had set his bounds to show

That there Man’s foot shall pause, and further none shall go.

Borne with the gale past Seville on the right,

And on the left now swept by Ceuta’s site,

`Brothers,’ I cried, `that into the far West

Through perils numberless are now addressed,

In this brief respite that our mortal sense

Yet hath, shrink not from new experience;

But sailing still against the setting sun,

Seek we new worlds where Man has never won

Before us. Ponder your proud destinies:

Born were ye not like brutes for swinish ease,

But virtue and high knowledge to pursue.’

My comrades with such zeal did I imbue

By these brief words, that scarcely could I then

Have turned them from their purpose; so again

We set out poop against the morning sky,

And made our oars as wings wherewith to fly

Into the Unknown. And ever from the right

Our course deflecting, in the balmy night

All southern stars we saw, and ours so low,

That scarce above the sea-marge it might show.

So five revolving periods the soft,

Pale light had robbed of Cynthia, and as oft

Replenished since our start, when far and dim

Over the misty ocean’s utmost rim,

Rose a great mountain, that for very height

Passed any I had seen. Boundless delight

Filled us — alas, and quickly turned to dole:

For, springing from our scarce-discovered goal,

A whirlwind struck the ship; in circles three

It whirled us helpless in the eddying sea;

High on the fourth the fragile stern uprose,

The bow drove down, and, as Another chose,

Over our heads we heard the surging billows close.”

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To England At The Outbreak Of The Balkan War

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

A cloud has lowered that shall not soon pass o’er.

The world takes sides: whether for impious aims

With Tyranny whose bloody toll enflames

A generous people to heroic war;

Whether with Freedom, stretched in her own gore,

Whose pleading hands and suppliant distress

Still offer hearts that thirst for Righteousness

A glorious cause to strike or perish for.

England, which side is thine? Thou hast had sons

Would shrink not from the choice however grim,

Were Justice trampled on and Courage downed;

Which will they be — cravens or champions?

Oh, if a doubt intrude, remember him

Whose death made Missolonghi holy ground.

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Tithonus

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

So when the verdure of his life was shed,

With all the grace of ripened manlihead,

And on his locks, but now so lovable,

Old age like desolating winter fell,

Leaving them white and flowerless and forlorn:

Then from his bed the Goddess of the Morn

Softly withheld, yet cherished him no less

With pious works of pitying tenderness;

Till when at length with vacant, heedless eyes,

And hoary height bent down none otherwise

Than burdened willows bend beneath their weight

Of snow when winter winds turn temperate, —

So bowed with years — when still he lingered on:

Then to the daughter of Hyperion

This counsel seemed the best: for she, afar

By dove-gray seas under the morning star,

Where, on the wide world’s uttermost extremes,

Her amber-walled, auroral palace gleams,

High in an orient chamber bade prepare

An everlasting couch, and laid him there,

And leaving, closed the shining doors. But he,

Deathless by Jove’s compassionless decree,

Found not, as others find, a dreamless rest.

There wakeful, with half-waking dreams oppressed,

Still in an aural, visionary haze

Float round him vanished forms of happier days;

Still at his side he fancies to behold

The rosy, radiant thing beloved of old;

And oft, as over dewy meads at morn,

Far inland from a sunrise coast is borne

The drowsy, muffled moaning of the sea,

Even so his voice flows on unceasingly, —

Lisping sweet names of passion overblown,

Breaking with dull, persistent undertone

The breathless silence that forever broods

Round those colossal, lustrous solitudes.

Times change. Man’s fortune prospers, or it falls.

Change harbors not in those eternal halls

And tranquil chamber where Tithonus lies.

But through his window there the eastern skies

Fall palely fair to the dim ocean’s end.

There, in blue mist where air and ocean blend,

The lazy clouds that sail the wide world o’er

Falter and turn where they can sail no more.

There singing groves, there spacious gardens blow —

Cedars and silver poplars, row on row,

Through whose black boughs on her appointed night,

Flooding his chamber with enchanted light,

Lifts the full moon’s immeasurable sphere,

Crimson and huge and wonderfully near.

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The Wanderer

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

To see the clouds his spirit yearned toward so

Over new mountains piled and unploughed waves,

Back of old-storied spires and architraves

To watch Arcturus rise or Fomalhaut,

And roused by street-cries in strange tongues when day

Flooded with gold some domed metropolis,

Between new towers to waken and new bliss

Spread on his pillow in a wondrous way:

These were his joys. Oft under bulging crates,

Coming to market with his morning load,

The peasant found him early on his road

To greet the sunrise at the city-gates,—

There where the meadows waken in its rays,

Golden with mist, and the great roads commence,

And backward, where the chimney-tops are dense,

Cathedral-arches glimmer through the haze.

White dunes that breaking show a strip of sea,

A plowman and his team against the blue

Swiss pastures musical with cowbells, too,

And poplar-lined canals in Picardie,

And coast-towns where the vultures back and forth

Sail in the clear depths of the tropic sky,

And swallows in the sunset where they fly

Over gray Gothic cities in the north,

And the wine-cellar and the chorus there,

The dance-hall and a face among the crowd,—

Were all delights that made him sing aloud

For joy to sojourn in a world so fair.

Back of his footsteps as he journeyed fell

Range after range; ahead blue hills emerged.

Before him tireless to applaud it surged

The sweet interminable spectacle.

And like the west behind a sundown sea

Shone the past joys his memory retraced,

And bright as the blue east he always faced

Beckoned the loves and joys that were to be.

From every branch a blossom for his brow

He gathered, singing down Life’s flower-lined road,

And youth impelled his spirit as he strode

Like winged Victory on the galley’s prow.

That Loveliness whose being sun and star,

Green Earth and dawn and amber evening robe,

That lamp whereof the opalescent globe

The season’s emulative splendors are,

That veiled divinity whose beams transpire

From every pore of universal space,

As the fair soul illumes the lovely face—

That was his guest, his passion, his desire.

His heart the love of Beauty held as hides

One gem most pure a casket of pure gold.

It was too rich a lesser thing to bold;

It was not large enough for aught besides.

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The Torture Of Cuauhtemoc

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

Their strength had fed on this when Death’s white arms

Came sleeved in vapors and miasmal dew,

Curling across the jungle’s ferny floor,

Becking each fevered brain. On bleak divides,

Where Sleep grew niggardly for nipping cold

That twinged blue lips into a mouthed curse,

Not back to Seville and its sunny plains

Winged their brief-biding dreams, but once again,

Lords of a palace in Tenochtitlan,

They guarded Montezuma’s treasure-hoard.

Gold, like some finny harvest of the sea,

Poured out knee deep around the rifted floors,

Shiny and sparkling, — arms and crowns and rings:

Gold, sweet to toy with as beloved hair, —

To plunge the lustful, crawling fingers down,

Arms elbow deep, and draw them out again,

And watch the glinting metal trickle off,

Even as at night some fisherman, home bound

With speckled cargo in his hollow keel

Caught off Campeche or the Isle of Pines,

Dips in his paddle, lifts it forth again,

And laughs to see the luminous white drops

Fall back in flakes of fire. . . . Gold was the dream

That cheered that desperate enterprise. And now? . . .

Victory waited on the arms of Spain,

Fallen was the lovely city by the lake,

The sunny Venice of the western world;

There many corpses, rotting in the wind,

Poked up stiff limbs, but in the leprous rags

No jewel caught the sun, no tawny chain

Gleamed, as the prying halberds raked them o’er.

Pillage that ran red-handed through the streets

Came railing home at evening empty-palmed;

And they, on that sad night a twelvemonth gone,

Who, ounce by ounce, dear as their own life’s blood

Retreating, cast the cumbrous load away:

They, when brown foemen lopped the bridges down,

Who tipped thonged chests into the stream below

And over wealth that might have ransomed kings

Passed on to safety; — cheated, guerdonless —

Found (through their fingers the bright booty slipped)

A city naked, of that golden dream

Shorn in one moment like a sunset sky.

Deep in a chamber that no cheerful ray

Purged of damp air, where in unbroken night

Black scorpions nested in the sooty beams,

Helpless and manacled they led him down —

Cuauhtemotzin — and other lords beside —

All chieftains of the people, heroes all —

And stripped their feathered robes and bound them there

On short stone settles sloping to the head,

But where the feet projected, underneath

Heaped the red coals. Their swarthy fronts illumed,

The bearded Spaniards, helmed and haubergeoned,

Paced up and down beneath the lurid vault.

Some kneeling fanned the glowing braziers; some

Stood at the sufferers’ heads and all the while

Hissed in their ears: “The gold . . . the gold . . . the gold.

Where have ye hidden it — the chested gold?

Speak — and the torments cease!”

They answered not.

Past those proud lips whose key their sovereign claimed

No accent fell to chide or to betray,

Only it chanced that bound beside the king

Lay one whom Nature, more than other men

Framing for delicate and perfumed ease,

Not yet, along the happy ways of Youth,

Had weaned from gentle usages so far

To teach that fortitude that warriors feel

And glory in the proof. He answered not,

But writhing with intolerable pain,

Convulsed in every limb, and all his face

Wrought to distortion with the agony,

Turned on his lord a look of wild appeal,

The secret half atremble on his lips,

Livid and quivering, that waited yet

For leave — for leave to utter it — one sign —

One word — one little word — to ease his pain.

As one reclining in the banquet hall,

Propped on an elbow, garlanded with flowers,

Saw lust and greed and boisterous revelry

Surge round him on the tides of wine, but he,

Staunch in the ethic of an antique school —

Stoic or Cynic or of Pyrrho’s mind —

With steady eyes surveyed the unbridled scene,

Himself impassive, silent, self-contained:

So sat the Indian prince, with brow unblanched,

Amid the tortured and the torturers.

He who had seen his hopes made desolate,

His realm despoiled, his early crown deprived him,

And watched while Pestilence and Famine piled

His stricken people in their reeking doors,

Whence glassy eyes looked out and lean brown arms

Stretched up to greet him in one last farewell

As back and forth he paced along the streets

With words of hopeless comfort — what was this

That one should weaken now? He weakened not.

Whate’er was in his heart, he neither dealt

In pity nor in scorn, but, turning round,

Met that racked visage with his own unmoved,

Bent on the sufferer his mild calm eyes,

And while the pangs smote sharper, in a voice,

As who would speak not all in gentleness

Nor all disdain, said: “Yes! And am -I- then

Upon a bed of roses?”

Stung with shame —

Shame bitterer than his anguish — to betray

Such cowardice before the man he loved,

And merit such rebuke, the boy grew calm;

And stilled his struggling limbs and moaning cries,

And shook away his tears, and strove to smile,

And turned his face against the wall — and died.

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The Sultans Palace

A poem by Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

My spirit only lived to look on Beauty’s face,

As only when they clasp the arms seem served aright;

As in their flesh inheres the impulse to embrace,

To gaze on Loveliness was my soul’s appetite.

I have roamed far in search; white road and plunging bow

Were keys in the blue doors where my desire was set;

Obedient to their lure, my lips and laughing brow

The hill-showers and the spray of many seas have wet.

Hot are enamored hands, the fragrant zone unbound,

To leave no dear delight unfelt, unfondled o’er,

The will possessed my heart to girdle Earth around

With their insatiate need to wonder and adore.

The flowers in the fields, the surf upon the sands,

The sunset and the clouds it turned to blood and wine,

Were shreds of the thin veil behind whose beaded strands

A radiant visage rose, serene, august, divine.

A noise of summer wind astir in starlit trees,

A song where sensual love’s delirium rose and fell,

Were rites that moved my soul more than the devotee’s

When from the blazing choir rings out the altar bell.

I woke amid the pomp of a proud palace; writ

In tinted arabesque on walls that gems o’erlay,

The names of caliphs were who once held court in it,

Their baths and bowers were mine to dwell in for a day.

Their robes and rings were mine to draw from shimmering trays—

Brocades and broidered silks, topaz and tourmaline–

Their turban-cloths to wind in proud capricious ways,

And fasten plumes and pearls and pendent sapphires in.

I rose; far music drew my steps in fond pursuit

Down tessellated floors and towering peristyles:

Through groves of colonnades fair lamps were blushing fruit,

On seas of green mosaic soft rugs were flowery isles.

And there were verdurous courts that scalloped arches wreathed,

Where fountains plashed in bowls of lapis lazuli.

Through enigmatic doors voluptuous accents breathed,

And having Youth I had their Open Sesame.

I paused where shadowy walls were hung with cloths of gold,

And tinted twilight streamed through storied panes above.

In lamplit alcoves deep as flowers when they unfold

Soft cushions called to rest and fragrant fumes to love.

I hungered; at my hand delicious dainties teemed—

Fair pyramids of fruit; pastry in sugared piles.

I thirsted; in cool cups inviting vintage beamed—

Sweet syrups from the South; brown muscat from the isles.

I yearned for passionate Love; faint gauzes fell away.

Pillowed in rosy light I found my heart’s desire.

Over the silks and down her florid beauty lay,

As over orient clouds the sunset’s coral fire.

Joys that had smiled afar, a visionary form,

Behind the ranges hid, remote and rainbow-dyed,

Drew near unto my heart, a wonder soft and warm,

To touch, to stroke, to clasp, to sleep and wake beside.

Joy, that where summer seas and hot horizons shone

Had been the outspread arms I gave my youth to seek,

Drew near; awhile its pulse strove sweetly with my own,

Awhile I felt its breath astir upon my cheek.

I was so happy there; so fleeting was my stay,

What wonder if, assailed with vistas so divine,

I only lived to search and sample them the day

When between dawn and dusk the sultan’s courts were mine !

Speak not of other worlds of happiness to be,

As though in any fond imaginary sphere

Lay more to tempt man’s soul to immortality

Than ripens for his bliss abundant now and here!

Flowerlike I hope to die as flowerlike was my birth.

Rooted in Nature’s just benignant law like them,

I want no better joys than those that from green Earth

My spirit’s blossom drew through the sweet body’s stem.

I see no dread in death, no horror to abhor.

I never thought it else than but to cease to dwell

Spectator, and resolve most naturally once more

Into the dearly loved eternal spectacle.

Unto the fields and flowers this flesh I found so fair

I yield; do you, dear friend, over your rose-crowned wine,

Murmur my name some day as though my lips were there,

And frame your mouth as though its blushing kiss were mine.

Yea, where the banquet-hall is brilliant with young men,

You whose bright youth it might have thrilled my breast to know,

Drink . . . and perhaps my lips, insatiate even then

Of lips to hang upon, may find their loved ones so.

Unto the flush of dawn and evening I commend

This immaterial self and flamelike part of me,—

Unto the azure haze that hangs at the world’s end,

The sunshine on the hills, the starlight on the sea,—

Unto angelic Earth, whereof the lives of those

Who love and dream great dreams and deeply feel may be

The elemental cells and nervules that compose

Its divine consciousness and joy and harmony.

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