Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Spleen & Ideal

‘To the Reader’ [trans. Lord Derwent]
…We feed remorse and call it charming names.

On evil’s pillow Satan Trismegist
Lulls our enchanted soul with patient care,
And by that all-too-learned alchemist,
Our will’s metallic worth is blown to air.

The Devil holds our puppet threads!
We find attraction in things horrible; each day
Through noisome blackness undeterred and blind
To Hell we step yet further on our way.

Close-seething tribes of Demons in our brain,
Like millions of worms, hold festival;
And when we breathe, Death with dull sighs of pain
Into our lungs flows down invisible.

But in our base menagery of vice,
More than the jackals, panthers, bitches, all
The vultures, apes, scorpions and cockatrice,
Monsters that yelp and howl and grunt and crawl,

There’s one more cruel, loathsome, hideous yet!
Though he scarce moves, scarce utters, his desire
Is to see ruin where the earth was set,
And swallow in one yawn the world entire;

ENNUI! look how, dreaming a gallows dream,
Half tearfully he smokes his hookah through;
You know this delicate monster, you who seem
My twin, my double—canting reader, you!

Spleen & the Ideal

I. Benediction [James Huneker]
When by the high degree of powers supreme,
The Poet came into this world outworn,
She who had borne him, in a ghastly dream,
Clenched blasphemous hands at God, and cried in scorn:

‘O rather had I borne a writhing knot
Of unclean vipers, than my breast should nurse
This vile derision, of my joy begot
To be my expiation and my curse!

Since of all women thou hast made of me
Unto my husband a disgust and shame;
Since I may not cast this monstrosity,
Like an old love-epistle, to the flame;

I will pour out thine overwhelming hate
On this the accursed weapon of thy spite;
This stunted tree I will so desecrate
That not one tainted bud shall see the light!’

So foaming with the foam of hate and shame,
Blind unto God’s design inexorable,
With her own hands she fed the purging flame
To crimes maternal consecrate in hell.

Those he would love looked sideways and with fear,
Or, taking courage from his aspect mild,
Sought who should first bring to his eye the tear
And spent their anger on the dreaming child.

His wife ran crying in the public square: …

‘I will lay on him my fierce, fragile hand
When I am weary of the impious play;
For well these harpy talons understand
Tto furrow to his heart their crimson way.

‘I’ll tear the red thing beating from his breast,
Tto cast it with disdain upon the ground,
Like a young bird torn trembling from the nest—
His heart shall go to gorge my favourite hound.’

[The Poet:] ‘I know the one thing noble is grief
Withstanding earth’s and hell’s destructive tooth,
And I, through all my dolorous life and brief,
To gain the mystic crown, must cry the truth.

‘For it is wrought of pure unmingled light,
Dipped in the white flame whence all flame is born—
The flame that makes all eyes, though diamond-bright,
Seem obscure mirrors, darkened and forlorn.’

VI. The Beacons [trans. James Huneker]

Goya, a nightmare full of things unknown;
The foetus witches broil on Sabbath night:
Old women at the mirror; children lone
Who tempt old demons with their limbs’ delight.

VII. The Sick Muse [J. Huneker]
Poor Muse, alas, what ails thee, then, to-day?
Thy hollow eyes with midnight visions burn,
Upon thy brow in alternation play
Madness and Horror, cold with taciturn.

Have the green lemure and the goblin red,
Poured on thee love and terror from their urn?
Or with despotic hand the nightmare dread
Deep plunged thee in some fabulous Minturne?

IX. The Bad Monk [Lord Derwent]

I, sorry hermit, have my soul for tomb,
Since time began, my walking-place, my room;
Nothing adorns this cloister’s odious white.

X. The Enemy [Sir John Squire]
Naught but a long blind tempest was my youth,
Sun-shot at times; the thunder and the rain
Have worked their havoc with so little truth
That in my garden few red fruits remain.

Now have I reached the autumn of my thought,
And shovel and pick must use some soil to save
From out the ruins that the rain hath wrought
Where all around great pits gape like the grave.

Who knows if these last flowers of my dreams
Shall find beneath this naked strand that streams
The mystic substance which their strength imparts?

O misery! Misery! Time eats our lives,
And that dark Enemy who gnaws our hearts
Grows by the blood he sucks from us, and thrives.

XI. Unlucky [Lord Derwent]
To lift a load so desperate
Would need your courage, Sisyphus!
Though keen the soul that burns in us,
Yet Art is lone, and Time grows late.

Far from illustrious burials,
Towards a graveyard no one knows,
My heart moves, beating as it goes
The muffled drums of funerals.

How many jewels, lost in sleep,
Oblivion and darkness keep
Withdrawn from picks and soundings rude!

And many a flower sighs its scent
Softer than intimacies, pent
In the profoundest solitude.

XIII. Gypsies Travelling [J. Huneker]
…this throng
Of ever-wandering ones whose calm eyes see
Familiar realms of darkness yet to be, …

XV. Don Juan in Hell [James Elroy Flecker]
The night Don Juan came to pay his fees
To Charon, by the caverned water’s shore,
A begger, proud-eyed as Antisthenes,
Stretched out his knotted fingers on the oar.

Mournful, with dropping breasts and robes unsewn
The shapes of women swayed in ebon skies,
Trailing behind him with a restless moan
Like cattle herded for a sacrifice.

Here, grinning for his wage, stood Sganarelle,
And here Don Luis pointed, bent and dim,
To show the dead who lined the holes of Hell,
This was that impious son who mocked at him.

The hollow-eyed, the chaste Elvira came
And trembling and veiled, to view her traitor spouse.
Was it one last bright smile she thought to claim,
Such as made sweet the morning of his vows?

A great stone man rose like a tower on board,
Stood at the helm and cleft the flood profound:
The but calm hero, leaning on his sword,
Gazed back, and would not offer one look round.

XVII The Chastisement of Pride [Sir J. Squire]
…Straightway his reason left him; that keen mind,
Sunbright before, was darkened and made blind;
All chaos whirled within that intellect
Erewhile a shrine with all fair gems bedeckt,
Beneath whose roof such pomp had shone so bright;
He was possessed by silence and thick night
As is a cellar when its key is lost

XIX The Ideal [J. Huneker]
… To Gavarni, the poet of chloroses,
I leave his troupes of beauties sick and wan;
I cannot find among these pale, pale roses,
The red ideal mine eyes would gaze upon.

Lady Macbeth, the lovely star of crime,
The Greek poet’s dream born in a northern clime—Ah she could quench my dark heart’s deep desiring;

XXI The Mask [A. Graham Reynold]
(An allegorical statue in the style of the Renaissance)

…Poor perfect beauty, a grand river breaks
As your tears fall into my anxious soul,
I am drunk with your lie, my spirit slakes
Its torture in the stream your eyes unroll.

Why is she weeping? In her lovely pride
She could have conquered the whole race of man;
What unknown evil harrows her lithe side?

She weeps, mad girl, because her life began;
Because she lives. One thing she does deplore
So much that she kneels trembling in the dust—
That she must live to-morrow, evermore,
To-morrow and to-morrow—as we must!

XXII Hymn to Beauty [Sir J. Squire]
Comest though from high heaven or from the abyss,
O Beauty?

From the darkest gulf, or from immortal stars?
The charmèd Demon follows like a hound;
Thou rul’st with hand that careless makes or mars,
Not to our prayers vouchsafest any sound.

Thou walkest over dead men mocking them,
Beauty! and horror decks the throat of thee,
And glittering murder, thy most precious gem,
On thy proud belly dances amorously.

Toward thee, flame, the dazzled insect flies,
Shrivels and cries, ‘Blest conqueror of gloom!’
Upon his fair one’s breast the lover lies,
As ’twere a dying man who hugs his tomb.

XXV Je t’adore [A. Graham Reynolds]
…I leap to your attack, climb in assault
Like corpseworms feeding nimbly in the vault,
And cherish you, relentless, cruel beast
Till that last coldness which delights me best.

XXVI Tu Mettrais l’univers [Edna St. Vincent-Millay]
…You need, to keep your teeth sound, exercise your jaws,
Daily, for dinner, some new heart between your paws!

XXVII Sed non Satiata [Arthur Symons]
…O pitiless Demon, pour on me less flame;
I am not the Styx to embrace thee nine times, nay,
Alas! I cannot, Megaera of the Sorrows nine,
To break they courage and to set thee at bay
In the hell of thy bed become they Proserpine!

XXVIII Avec ses vêtements [William John Robertson]
In undulant robes with nacreous sheen impearled
She walks in some stately saraband;
Or like lithe snakes by sacred charmers curled
In cadence wreathing on the slender wand…

XXIX The Dancing Snake [James Laver]
…Your dreaming eyes, upon me bent,
Love nor hate reveal,
Cold jewels they, in which are blent
Gleams of gold and steel, …

XXXI A Carrion [Sir John Squire]
Rememberest thou, my sweet, that summer’s day,
How in the sun outspread
At a path’s bend a filthy carcase lay
Upon a pebbly bed?

Like a lewd woman, with its legs in air,
Burned, oozed the poisonous mass;
Its gaping belly, calm and debonair,
Was full of noisome gas.

And steadily upon this rottenness,
As though to cook it brown
And render Nature hundred fold excess,
The sun shown down.

The blue sky thought the carrion marvellous,
A flower most fair to see;
And as we gazed it almost poisoned us—
It stank so horribly.

The flies buzzed on this putrid belly, whence
Black hosts of maggots came,
Which streamed in thick and shining rivers thence
Along that ragged frame.

Pulsating like a wave, spirting about
Bright jets, it seemed to live;
As though it were by some vague wind blown out.
Some breath procreative.

And all this life was strangely musical
Like wind or bubbling spring,
Or corn which moves with rhythmic rise and fall
In time of winnowing.

The lines became indefinite and faint
As a thin dream that dies,
A half-forgotten scene the hand can paint
Only from memories…

Behind the rocks these lurked a hungry hound
With melancholy eye,
Longing to nose the morsel he had found
And gnaw it greedily.

Yet thou shalt be as vile a carrion
As this infection dire,
O bright star of my eyes, my nature’s sun,
My angel, my desire!

Yes, such, O queen of the graces, shalt thou be
After the last soft breath,
Beneath the grass and the lush greenery
A-mouldering in death!

Why thy sweet flesh the worms devour with kisses,
Tell them, O beauty mine,
Of rotting loves I keep the bodily blisses
And essence all-divine!

XXXI De Profundis Clamavi [Sir John Squire]
O my sole love, I pray thee pity me
From out this dark gulf where my poor heart lies
A barren world hemmed in by leaden skies
Here horror flies at night, and blasphemy.

For half the year the sickly sun is seen,
The other half thick night lies on the land,
A country bleaker than the polar strand;
No beasts, no brooks, nor any shred of green.

There never was a horror which surpassed
This icy sun’s cold cruelty, and this vast
Night like primeval Chaos; would I were

The dumb brutes, who in a secret lair
Lie wrapt in stupid slumber for a space…
The time creeps at so burdensome a pace.

XXXII The Vampire [George Dillon]
Thou who abruptly as a knife
Didst come into my heart; thou who,
A demon horde into my life,
Didst enter, wildly dancing, through

The doorways of my sense unlatched
To make my spirit thy domain-—
Harlot to whom I am attached
As convicts to the ball and chain,

As gamblers to the wheel’s bright spell,
As drunkards to their raging thirst,
As copies to their worms—accurst
Be thou! O, be thou damned to hell!

I have entreated the swift sword
To strike, that I at once be freed;
The poisoned phial I have implored
To plot with me a ruthless deed.

XXXIII Une Nuit que j;etais près [Sir John Squire]

If some soft evening, with single tear,
O cruel queen, thou couldst have dimmed the clear
Cold splendour of those icy eyes of thine.

XXXV The Cat [Countee Cullen]
Come, lovely cat, to this adoring breast;
Over thy daggers silken scabbards draw;
Into thy beauty let me plunge to rest,
Unmindful of thy swift and cruel claw,

The while my fingers leisurely caress
Thy head and vaulted back’s elastic arch,
And through each tip mysterious pleasures press
And cradle on their swift dynamic march.

I see revived in thee, felinely cast
A woman with thine eyes, satanic beast,
Profound and cold scythes to mow me down….

XXXVI Duellum [Arthur Ellis]
–This abyss, ’tis Hell, throng’d with our friends. O there,
Inhuman Amazon, let us reel and hold
Eterniz’d so our fire of hate and scorn!

XXXVII The Balcony [Lord Alfred Douglas]
The night grew deep between us like a pall,
And in the dark I guessed your shining eyes,
And drank your breath, O sweet, O honey-gall!
Your little feet slept on me sister-wise.
The night grew deep between us like a pall.

XXXVIII The Possessed One [Cyril Scott]
Just be what thou wilt, black night, dawn divine,
There is not a nerve in my trembling frame
But cries, ‘I adore thee, Beelzebub mine!’

XXXIX A Phantom [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
[I. In the Shadows]
Down in the fathomless despair
Where Destiny has locked me in,
Where light nor joy descends, and where—
Sole lodger of Night’s dreary inn,

Like artists blind God sets apart
In mockery, I paint the murk;
Where, ghoulish scullion, I work
Boiling and munching all my heart,

Glitters anon, and grows apace
A phantom languorous and bright,
A dream of Oriental grace,

When it attains its utmost height,
I know at last the lovely thing:
‘Tis She! Girl dark yet glimmering. …

[IV. The Portrait]
Death and Disease make ashes of
The flames that wrapped our youth around. …

Dying, like me, in solitude,
Paling each day in every part
‘Neath Time’s untiring pinions rude…

Dark murderer of Life and Art,
Never shalt thou in me destroy
Her who was once my pride and joy!

XL Je te Donne ces Vers [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
…Accursèd one, to whom, from the deep skies
To the Abyss, naught, save my heart, replies;
–O thou that like a ghost impalpable

Tramplest upon, serenely as a bronze,
The stupid mortals who denied thy spell,
Cold statue, jet-eyed angel cast in bronze!

XLI Semper Eadem [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
Dost ask: ‘Whence cometh all thy sadness strange,
A mounting tide against a grey sea-wall?’
When hearts have culled their grapes in Love’s exchange,
To live is hateful. Secret known to all,

A common sorrow, free from mysteries,
‘Tis like thy joy a glaring thing enow.
So, Lady Curious, thy searching cease!
And though thy voice is sweet, be silent now!

Be silent, simple heart, forever gay
with girlish laughter! More than Life, to-day,
Death binds our hearts in tenuous webs of doom.

Let me be drunken with the wine of lies ,
Leave me to delve for dreams within thine eyes
And slumber long beneath thine eyebrows gloom!

XLII Tout Entière [Sir John Squire]
This morning in my attic high
The Demon came to visit me…

XLV Reversibility [J. Huneker]
…Angel of Kindness, have you tasted hate?
With hands clenched in the shade and tears of gall,
When Vengeance beats her hellish battle-call,
And makes herself the captain of our Fate,
Angel of Kindness, have you tasted hate?

Angel of health, did ever you know pain,
Which like an exile trails his tired foot falls
The cold length of the white infirmary walls,
With lips compressed, seeking the sun in vain?
Angel of health, did you ever know pain? …

XLVI The Confession [Lois Saunders]
Once, only once, beloved and gentle lady,
Upon my arm you leaned your arm of snow,
And on my spirit’s background, dim and shady,
That memory flashes now.

The hour was late, and like a medal gleaming
The full moon showed her face,
And the night’s splendour over, Paris streaming
Filled every silent place.

Along the houses, in the doorways hiding,
Cats passed with stealthy tread
And listening ear, or followed, slowly gliding,
Like ghosts of dear one’s dead…

Oft have I called to mind that night enchanted,
The silence and the langour over all,
And that wild confidence, thus harshly chanted,
At the heart’s confessional.

XLVII The Spiritual Dawn [Sir John Squire]
…The Sun has dimmed and charred the candles’ flames
And thus, my glorious all-conquering one,
Thy shade is peer to the immortal Sun.

XLVIII Evening Harmony [Lord Alfred Douglas]
…Each flower, like a censer, sheds its sweet,
the violins are like sad souls that cry, …

Poor souls that hate the vast black night of Death;
A shrine of Death and Beauty is the sky.
Drowned in red blood, the Sun gives up his breath….

XLIX The Flask [J. Huneker]
There are some powerful odours that can pass
Out of the stoppered flagon; even glass
To them is porous. Oft when some old box
Brought from the East is opened and the locks
And hinges creak and cry; or in a press
In some deserted house, where the sharp stress
Of odours old and dusty fills the brain;
An ancient flask is brought to light again,
And forth the ghosts of long-dead odours creep.
There, softly trembling in the shadows, sleep
A thousand thoughts, funeral chrysalides,
Phantoms of old the folding darkness hides,
Who make faint flutterings as their wings unfold,
Rose-washed and azure-tinted, shot with gold.

A memory that brings langour flutters here:
the fainting eyelids droop, and giddy Fear.
Thrusts with both hands the soul towards the pit
where, like a Lazarus from his winding-sheet,
arises from the gulf of sleep a ghost
of an old passion, long since loved and lost.
So I, when vanished from man’s memory
deep in some dark and sombre chest I lie,
An empty flagon they have cast aside,
Broken and soiled, the dust upon my pride,
Will be your shroud, beloved pestilence!
The witness of your might and virulence,
Sweet poison mixed by angels; bitter cup
Of life and death my heart has drunken up!

L Poison [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
…Dread poisons, but more dread the poisoned well
Of thy green eyes accurst;
Lakes where I view my trembling soul, reversed…
My dreams innumerable
Come to thy bitter gulfs to slake their thirst.

Dread magic, but thy mouth more dread than these:
Its wine and hellebore
Burn, floods of Lethe, in my bosom’s core,
Till winds of madness seize
And dash me swooning on Death’s barren shore!

LII The Cat [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
She prowls around my shadowy brain,
As she were mistress of the place,
A furtive beast of charming ways,
Meowing in melodious strain,

Yet so discreetly, softly, her
Angry or peaceful moods resound,
You scarcely hear their song profound,
Her secret, rich voluptuous purr….

…She is the spirit of the shrine;
Never a deed nor a desire
She does not judge, direct, inspire;
Is she perchance a beast divine?…

LV The Irreparable [Sir J. Squire]
How shall we kill this old, this long Remorse
Which writhes continually
And feeds on us as worms upon a corpse,
Maggots upon a tree?
How stifle this implacable Remorse?

What wine, what drug, what philtre known of man
Will drown this ancient foe,
Ruthless and ravenous as a courtesan,
Sure as an ant, and slow?
What wine? What drug? What philtre known of man?

O tell, fair sorceress, tell is thou dost know
This soul distraught with pain
As a dying soldier crushed and bruised below
Steel hooves and wounded men!
O tell, fair sorceress, tell if thou dost know.

This poor racked wretch the wolf already flays
O’er whom the vultures whirr,
This broken warrior! If in vain he prays
For cross and sepulchre.
This anguished wretch the wolf already flays!

How should we rend dense gulfs which know not dawn
Nor eve, nor any star?
How pierce with light skies which abyss-like yawn
When black, as pitch they are?
How should we rend dense gulfs which know not dawn?

Hope glimmered in the windows of the Inn,
But Hope is dead for aye!
Moonless and rayless, can poor travellers win
To shelter from the way?
The Devil made dark the windows of the Inn!

Dost love the damned, adorable sorceress?
Dost know the smitten sore?
Dost know Remorse that, grim and pitiless,
Feeds at my heart’s red core?
Dost love the damned, adorable sorceress?

My soul is prey to the Irreparable,
It gnaws with tooth accurst,
And, termite0like, the cunning spawn of hell
Mines the foundations first!
My soul is prey to the Irreparable!

Often within a theatre I have seen,
‘Thwart the orchestral roar,
A dazzling Fairy stand in sudden sheen
Where all was gloom before!
Often within a theatre I have seen

A being made of light and gold and gauze
Fling Demons to their fate!
But on my heart’s dark stage and endless pause
Is all, and I await
In vain, in vain the Spirit with wings of gauze!

LVI Causerie [Sir J. Squire]
You are an autumn sky, suffused with rose…
Yet sadness rises in me like the sea,
And on my sombre lip, when it outflows,
Leaves its salt burning slime for memory.

Over my swooning breast your fingers stray;
In vain, alas! My breast is void pit
Sacked by the tooth and claw of woman. Nay,
Seek not my heart; the beasts have eaten it!

My heart is as a palace plunderèd
By the wolves, wherein they gorge and rend and kill.
A perfume round thy naked throat is shed…

Beauty, strong scourge of souls, O work thy will!
Scorch with thy fiery eyes which shine like feasts
These shreds of flesh rejected by the beasts!

LVII Autumn Song [L.P. Shanks]
Soon shall we drown in winter, dark and chill;
Farewell to fiery summer’s fleeting suns!
I hear already through the court-yard grill
The fire-logs crash grimly on the stones.

And winter’s horrors will invade my soul:
Gloom, wrath and hateful toil will be my lot,
And like the sun in his far hell, the Pole,
My heart will be a red and frozen clot.

I listen shuddering to each falling log,
As criminals ‘neath rising gibbets cower.
And I succumb to that grim dialogue
As to a battering ram a crumbling tower;

Till in my dream the cradling echoes drum
Like frantic hammers finishing a bier.
For whom? –Last night was summer; now is come
October, and the parting of the year.

I love thy long green eyes of slumberous fire,
My sweet, but now all things are gall to me,
And naught, thy room, thy heart nor thy desire
Is worth the sunlight shimmering on the sea.

Yet love me, tender heart! As mothers love
Even a thankless or a wicked son;
Mistress or sister, shed the glories of
A brief October or a setting sun.

‘Twill not be long! The hungry tomb await!
Ah! Let me, forehead resting on thy knees,
Savour, regretful of the bleaching heats,
The amber glow of autumn’s sorceries!

LVIII To a Madonna [J. Huneker]
…And last, to make thy drama all complete,
that love and cruelty may mix and meet,
I, thy remorseful torturer, will take
all the Seven Deadly Sins, and from them make
in darkest joy, Seven Knives, cruel-edged and keen,
and like a juggler choosing, O my Queen,
that spot profound whence love and mercy start,
I’ll plunge them all within thy panting heart!

LIX An Afternoon Song [Harry Curwen]
Can you heal my soul, my darling,
You all colour, warmth and light?
Can you, sweet, dispel the darkness
Of my drear, Siberian night?

LXII Franciscae Meae Laudes [Arthur Symons]
{Verses written for a learned and pious dressmaker}
Songs from mine exasperation
Dear girl, lither-limbed, of my creation,
In heart’s solitude’s crispation.

For my hunger, tavern-raven, light my midnight, cavern-paven, with hell’s perils straight to haven
Add to venom venomous, scented breath, male, odorous, sense strange and savourous!

LXV The Ghostly Visitant [Sir J. Squire]
Like the mild-eyed angels sweet
I will come to thy retreat,
Stealing in without a sound
When the shade of night close round.

I will give thee manifold
Kisses soft and moony-cold,
Gliding, sliding o’er thee like
A serpent crawling round a dike.

When the livid worm creeps on
You will wake and fine me gone
Till the evening come again.

As by tenderness and ruth
Others rule thy life and youth,
I by terror choose to reign.

LXVIII The Cats [Sir John Squire]

The lover and the stern philosopher
Both love, in their ripe time, the confident
Soft cats, the house’s chiefest ornament,
Who like themselves are cold and seldom stir.

Of knowledge and of pleasure amorous,
Silence they seek and Darkness’ fell domain;
Had not their proud souls scorned to brook his rein, They would have made grim steeds for Erebus.

Pensive they rest in noble attitudes
Like great stretched sphinxes in vast solitudes
Which seem to sleep wrapt in an endless dream…

LXIX The Owls [Edna St Vincent-Millet]
The owls that roost in the black yews,
Along one limb in solemn state,
And with a red eye look you through;
Are eastern gods; they meditate.

No feather stirs on them, not one,
Until that melancholy hour
When night, supplanting the weak sun,
Resumes her interrupted power.

Their attitude instructs the wise
To shun all action, all surprise.
Suppose there passed a lovely face,–

Who ever longs to follow it,
Must feel for ever the disgrace
Of being all but moved a bit.

LXXI Music [Sir John Squire]
…I suffer all the throes, within my quivering form, Of a great ship in pain, now a soft wind, and
Now the writhings of a storm

Upon the vasty main
Tock me: at other times a death-like calm, the bare Mirror of my despair.

LXXII The Burial of the Accursed [Sir John Squire]
If haply one dark, dreary night
Some charitable soul appear
And ‘neath old rubble stow from sight
The body that you held so dear–

What time the chaste stars veil their eyes,
Drowsy and fain for slumber, there
Spiders shall weave their traceries,
Vipers their spotted young shall bear.

Above your doomed head you will hear
Each night throughout the heavy year
The lean wolves’ melancholy cries,

Famished hags’ howling for a crust,
Lewd pastimes of old men who lust,
And scoundrels’ dark conspiracies.

LXXIII A Fantastic Engraving [James Laver]
This strange, gaunt spectre nothing wears at all
Save, on his head, a crown of Carnival,
Grotesquely perched upon his naked skull.
Without or whip or spur (its nostrils full
Of dribbling foam) he urges on its course
His ghastly, grim, Apocalyptic horse,
And horse and rider, through a space as wide
As is Infinity, tumultuous ride.

And while his mount treads down a nameless horde.
The spectral rider shakes his flaming sword
Over the mighty, royal realm that is
His broad estate—one vast necropolis,
Where sleep, beneath the cold sun’s joyless eye,
All the inhabitants of History.

LXXIV The Joyous Corse [Sir John Squire]
In a soil full of snails and free from stones
I fain would dig myself a pit full deep,
Where I might lay at ease my aged bones
And, like a wave-borne shark, forgetful sleep.

For testaments I hate, and tombs I hate;
Rather than crave a tear from human eyes
I would invite the crows their hunger sate
Upon my corpse’s foul extremities.

O worms! O black, deaf, sightless company!
There comes to you a dead man glad and free.
O philosophic sons of rottenness,
Across my ruin crawl without remorse,
And tell is any pain may yet oppress
This old and soulless death—surrounded corse.

LXXV The Barrel of Hatred [A. Symons]
Hate is the barrel of the pale Danaides;
Vengeance with enormous arms utterly frantic
Precipitates into the void darkness of the Seas
Huge buckets full of blood and of snakes that antic.

The Demon in his abysses has made secret hollows Through which fly sweating more than a thousand years, After his heedless victims Hate hastily follows,
Makes bleed their bodies, galvanized by his shears.

Hate is a drunkard at the far end of a Tavern,
Who feels always his intense thirst born of his drink Multiply himself like a hydra in a Cavern.

–But the jolly drunkards know to what depths they sink,
And that Hate endures this pang redoubtable
Of never having slept in Hell.

LXXVI The Cracked Bell [Sir John Squire]
‘Tis bitter-sweet, when winter nights are long,
To watch, beside the flames which smoke and twist,
The distant memories which slowly throng,
Brought by the chime soft-singing through the mist.

Happy the sturdy, vigorous-throated bell
Who, spite of age alert and confident,
Cries hourly, like some strong old sentinel
Flinging the ready challenge from his tent.

For me, my soul is cracked; when, sick with care,
She strives with songs to people the cold air
It happens often that her feeble cries

Mock the harsh rattle of a man who lies wounded, Forgotten, ‘neath a mound of slain and dies,pinned Fast, writhing his limbs in vain.

LXXVII Spleen [Louis Piaget Shanks]
November, angry at the capital,
Whelms in a death-chill from her gloomy urn
The pallid dead beneath the graveyard wall,
The death-doomed who in dripping houses yearn.

Grimalkin prowls, a gaunt and scurvy ghoul,
Seeking a softer spot for her sojourn;
Under the eaves an ancient poet’s soul
Shivers and flees and wails at each return.

The grieving church-bell and the sputtering log
Repeat the rusty clock’s harsh epilogue;
While in a pack of cards, scent-filled and vile,

Grim relic of a spinster dropsical,
The knave of hearts and queen of spades recall
Their loves defunct and sinistrously smile.

LXXVIII The Sphinx [Edna St. Vincent-Millay]
I swear to you that if I lived a thousand years I could not be crammed with more dubious souvenirs.

There’s no old chest of drawers bulging with deeds and billed,
love-letters, locks of hair, novels, bad verses, wills,
that hides so many secrets as my wretched head; —
it’s like a mausoleum, like a pyramid,
holding more heaped unpleasant bones than Potter’s Field;
I am a graveyard hated by the moon; revealed
Never by her blue light are those long worms that force
Into my dearest dead their blunt snouts of remorse. –I am an old boudoir, where roses dried and brown Have given their dusty odour to the faded gown,
To the ridiculous hat, doubtless in other days
So fine, among the wan pastels and pale Bouchers.

Time has gone lame, and limps; and under a thick pall Of snow the endless years afface and muffle all;
Till boredom, fruit of the mind’s inert, in curious tree,
Assumes the shape and size of immortality.

Henceforth, O living matter, you are nothing more
Than the fixed heart of chaos, soft horror’s granite core,
Than a forgotten Sphinx that in some desert stands, Drowsing beneath the heat, half-hidden by the sands, Unmarked on any map, –whose rude and sullen frown Lights up a moment only when the sun goes down.

LXXIX The King of the Rainy Country [Edna St. Vincent-Millay]
A rainy country this, that I am monarch of, —
A rich but powerless king, worn-out while yet a boy;
For whom in vain the falcon falls upon the dove;
Not even his starving people’s groans can give him joy;
Scorning his tutors, loathing his spaniels,finding stale
His favourite jester’s quips, yawning at the droll tale
His bed, for all its fleurs de lis, looks like a tomb;
The ladies of the court, attending him, to whom
He, being a prince, is handsome, see him lying there
Cold as a corpse, and lift their shoulders in despair.
No garment they take off, no garter they leave on
Excites the gloomy eye of this young skeleton.
The royal alchemist, who makes him gold from lead,
The baser element from out the royal head
Cannot extract; nor can those Roman baths of blood,
For some so efficacious, cure the hebetude
Of him, along whose veins, where flows no blood at all,
For ever the slow waters of green Lethe crawl.

LXXX Spleen [Sir John Squire]
When the low heavy sky weighs like a like a lid
Upon the spirit aching for the light
And all the wide horizon’s line is hid
By a black day sadder than any night.

When the changed earth is not a dungeon dank
Where bat like Hope goes blindly fluttering
And, striking wall and roof and mouldered plank,
Bruises his tender head and timid wing;

When like grim prison-bars stretch down the thin,
Straight, rigid pillars of the endless rain,
And the dumb throngs of infamous spiders spin
Their meshes in the caverns of the brain; –

Suddenly, bells leap forth into the air,
Hurling a hideous uproar to the sky
As ’twere a band of homeless spirits who fare
Through the strange heavens, wailing stubbornly.

And hearses, without drum or instrument,
File slowly through my soul; crushed, sorrowful,
Weeps Hope and Grief, fierce and omnipotent,
Plants his black banner on my dropping skull.

LXXXI Obsession [Wilfred Thorley]
…But thee I love, O Night when no stars spell
The speech of Light’s reverberate syllable
To one who seeks the void, the dark, the unknown!

LXXXII Annihilation [George Dillon]
…Time blots me out, as flakes on freezing bodies fall;
I see the whole round world, with every animal
And every flower, and every leaf on every branch,
and there is absolutely nothing I like at all.

Come down and carry me away, O avalanche.

LXXXIII The Alchemy of Grief [Sir John Squire]
…Through him I make gold changeable
To dross, and paradise to hell;
Clouds for its corpse-cloths I descry.

A stark dead body I love well,
And in the gleaming fields on high
I build immense sarcophagi.

LXXXIV Magnetic Horror [Clark Ashton Smith]
‘From this bizarre and livid sky
Tormented like your doom and mine,
On your void spirit passing by,
What thoughts descend, O libertine?’

–Athirst for mortal things unsung,
In shadowy realms of lone surmise,
I will not whine like Ovid, flung
From out the Latin paradise.

Skies torn like strands of ocean-streams,
In you is mirrored all my pride!
Your slow,enormous clouds abide,

The dolent hearses of my dreams;
Your glimmers mock with fluctuant lights
The hell wherein my hearts delights.

LXXXV The Peace-Pipe [Longfellow]
…And the smoke rose slowly, slowly,
Though the tranquil air of mourning,
First a single-line of darkness,
Then a denser, bluer vapour,
Then a snow-white cloud unfolding,
Like the tree-tops of the forest,
Ever rising, rising, rising,
Till it touched the top of heaven,
Till it broke against the heaven,
And rolled outward all around it…

Gitch Manito, the mighty,
The creator of the nations,
Looked upon them with compassion,
With paternal love and pity;
Looked upon their wrath and wrangling
But as a quarrels among children,
But as fends and fights of children!

Over them he stretched his right hand,
to subdue their stubborn natures,
to allay theirthirst and fever,
by the shadow of his right hand;
Spake to them with voice majestic
as the sound of far-off waters
falling into deep abysses,
warning, chiding, spake in this wise;–…

LXXXVIII The Unforeseen [Edna St. Vincent-Millay]
Harpagon, sitting up beside his father’s bed,
Mused, as the breathing altered and the lips went grey,
‘I’ve plenty of old planks, I think, out in the shed;
I saw them there the other day.’

Celimene coos and says, ‘How beautiful I am!
God, since my heart is kind, has made me fair, as well!’
Her heart!–as tough as leather, her heart!–smoked like a ham,
And turning on a spit in hell!

A sputtering gazetteer, who thinks he casts a light,
Says to his readers drowned in paradox and doubt,
‘Where do you see him, then, this God of Truth and Right?
This Saviour that you talk about?’

Better than these I know—although I know all three—
That foppish libertine, who yawns in easy grief
Nightly upon my shoulder, ‘All right, you wait and see;
I’m turning over a new leaf!’

…Whereat a Presence, stranger to few, greeted by none,
Appears. ‘Well met!’ he mocks; ‘have I not seen you pass
Before my sacred vessel, in communion
Of joyousness, at the Black Mass?

Each of you builds in secret a temple to my fame;
Each one of you in secret has kissed my foul behind;
Look at me; hear this laughter: Satan is my name,–
Lewd, monstrous as the world!

Oh, blind, of, hypocritical men! –And did you think indeed
To mock your master? –trick him till double wage be given?
Did it seem likely two such prizes be decreed:
To be so rich—and enter Heaven?

The game must pay the hunter; the hunter for his prey
Lies chilled and cramped so long behind the vain decoy;
Down through the thickness now I carry you away,
Companions of my dreary joy;

Down through the thickness of primodial earth and rock,
Thickness of human ashes helter-skelter blown
Into a palace huge as I, –a single block—-
And of no soft and crumbling stone!–

For it is fashioned whole from Universal Sin;
And it contains my grief, my glory and my pride!’
–Meantime, from his high perch above our earthyl din,
An angel sounds the victory wide…

LXXXIX Self-Questioning at Midnight [Clark Ashton Smith]
The pendulum, with brazen din,
Proclaims the midnight; we begin
To call to mind, ironically,
What uses we have made of this
Dead day that drops to the abyss:
To-day, O, date prophetical,
Friday thirteenth in sombre folly
Maugre the truth our heart maintains,
We, seeing still the light that sains,
Have walked in ways heretical.

We have blasphemed the might of Jeses,
The most irrefutable Lord;
And like a parasite at the board
Of some abominable Croesus,
To please the monstrous animal,
True servitor of Asmodai,
We have denied and flouted all
The things we love eternally,
And all the things that we despise
Greeted with slavish flattery;

A servile executioner,
Bemoaned the wrong of our mesprise;
Bowed to immense Stupidity,
Stupidity the minotaur;
Kissed with devotion prodigal
The brainless Matter’s red and white,
And praised the dim phosphoric light
That is corruption’s final pall.

Likewise, to drown the vertigo
Of vision, dream and dolour febrile,
We, the proud servant of the Lyre,
The Lyre whose glow is to show
The drunkenness of things funerbral,
Again have drunk with no desire,
Have eaten still with no delight…
Swiftly blow out the lamp, for we
Would shroud us in the secrecy
And dark indifference of Night!

XC A Mournful Madrigal [Dorothy Martin]
Ah, what to me though you be wise,
So you be fair, so you be said?
Tears lend allurement to your eyes,
For streams are sweet where’er they rise:
Storms make the drooping blossoms glad

I love you best when all delight
Down from your darkening brow is cast,
When your heart drowns in horror’s night,
When all is blotted from your sight
By direful clouds from out the past.

I love you when your wide eyes weep
A water warm as though ’twere blood,
When whilst my hand would bring you sleep,
You cry aloud in anguish deep
As though death bore you towards his flood.

Like to celestial harmonies
Profound, voluptuous, apart,
I breathe your sobbing agonies,
And watch the pearls that dewed your eyes
Shedding their gleam within your heart.

Your heart wherein, though dispossessed,
Shadows of outworn loves are tossed,
Flames on with forge-like, fierce unrest,
The while you nurture in your breast
Some of the pride that haunts the lost.

Yet in so far, love, as your dream
Never has plunged you deep as hell,
Since ne’er, on nightmare’s eddying stream
Where lust is hot for weapon’s gleam,
For powder’s havoc, poison’s spell,

Where all men are shut out as foes,
Evil is read in every fate,
Where, shuddering, chimes each hour that goes,
Have you felt all about you close
The clutch of comprehensive Hate;

Therefore, my slave-queen, you may not,
Who mix with fear love’s offering,
Tell me amid night’s noisome blot
With urgent clamour heart-begot
‘I am your equal, O my King!’

XCI The Fang [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
Each man who is a man can show
A yellow Serpent in his heart,
Installed as on a throne apart,
That cries to all his wishes: ‘No!’

Plunger in the fixed and froxen lies
Of Satyr-maids’ or Nixies’ eyes,
The Fang says: ‘Duty, not Delight!’

Beget thee sons, or plant a tree,
Carve blocks of marble, poetry,
The Fang says: ‘If thou dies to-night?’

Whatever plan or hope we grasp
We cannot live one moment and
Escape the warning reprimand
Of that intolerable asp.

XCII To a Girl from Malabar [James Laver]
…And when the night descends with cloak of red…
…how, as the cruel corset cramps your blood…

XCIII The Voice [George Dillion]
I grew up in the shadow of a big bookcase: a tall
Babel, where verses, novels, histories, row upon row—-
the immemorial ashes of Greek and Latin—all
Mingled and murmured. When I was as high as a folio,
I heard two voices speaking. The first one said, ‘Be wise;
The world is but a large, delicious cake, my friend!
It calls for an appetite of corresponding size–
And whoso heeds my counsel, his joys shall have no end.’
The other voice spoke softly: ‘Come, travel with me in dream,
Far, far beyond the range of the possible and the known!’
And in that voice was the senseless music of winds and streams
Blown suddenly out of nowhere and into nowhere blown–
A phantom cry, a sound to frighten and captivate.
And I replied: ‘I will, O lovely voice!’ And from
That hour was sealed for ever the disastrous fate
Which still attends me: Always, behind the tedium
Of finite semblances, beyond the accustomed zone
Of time and space, I see distinctly another world–
And I must wear with loathing these mortal toils, as one
Dragging a weight of serpents about his ankles curled.
And from that hour, like the old prophets of Palestine,
I love extravagantly the wildernes and the sea;
I find an ineffable joy in the taste of harsh, sour wine;
I smile at the saddest moments; I weep amid gaiety;
I take facts for illusions—and often as not, with my eyes
Fixed confidently upon the heavens, I fall into holes.
But the Voice comforts me: ‘Guard, fool thy dreams!
The wise
Have none so beautiful as thou hast.’ And the
Voice consoles.

XCIV Agnostos Theo [H.W. Garrod]
…O scent of roses still perfuming
The lorn hold of thine anchorite,
Forgotten censer still reluming
The secret silences of night!…

XCV The Rebel [Wilfred Thorley]
An angel, like an eagle swept by wrath,
Drops earthward, plucks the sinner’s hair full hard,
And cries: ‘Thou shalt walk a righteous path!
I will it, I who have thy soul in ward.
Know then that thou shalt love thy fellows, yea!
Knave, dolt, or misbegotten. Even thus
Thou shalt with charity make thy Lord’s way,
When that He passeth by thee, glorious.

‘Such is true Love. Ere thy hot blood turn chill,
Drink of the glory of God’s burning grace
Wherein is a delight Time cannot kill.’
And the great Angel’s giant arms apace
Smite down on the damned soul’s defiant face
That yet doth answer: ‘Nay, I never will!’

XCVI Bertha’s Eyes [Cyril Scott]
The loveliest eyes you can scorn with your wondrous glow—
O! beautiful childish eyes, there abounds in your light
A something unspeakably tender and good as the night:
O eyes! Over me your enchanting darkness let flow.

Large eyes of my child! O Arcana profoundly adored!
Ye resemble so closely those caves in the magical creek;
Where within the deep slumbering shade of some petrified peak,
There shines, undiscovered, the gems of a dazzling hoard.

My child has got eyes so profound and so dark and so vast,
Like thee! O unending Night, and they mystical shine:
Their flames are those thoughts that with love and with Faith combine,
And sparkle deep down in the depths so alluring or chaste.

XCVII The Fountain [George Dillon]
Thine eyes are heavy. Let them close.
Lie without opening them. Lie
Still in the lovely thoughtless pose
Where pleasure found thee. The long cry
Of moonlit waters that caress
The evening, langourous as thou art,
Lives on: So does the tenderness
Love has awakened in my heart.

The fountain leaps and flowers
In many roses,
Whereon the moonlight flares.
Their crystal petals, falling,
Falling for ever,
Are changed to bright tears.

Even thus thy spirit, briefly lit
With the strange lightnings of desire,
Once more into the infinite
Flings up its pure forgetful fire,
As if the dusty earth to flee—
And blossoms there, and breaks apart,
And falls, and flows invisibly
Into the deep night of my heart.

O thou, so fair and so forelorn,
How sweet, my lips upon thy breast,
To hear within its marble urn
The water sibbing without rest.
O moon, loud water, lovely night,
O leaves where the soft winds upstart,
O wild and melancholy light,
Ye are the image of my heart.

C The Sundown of Romanticism [John Payne]
How goodly is the sun’s first frank, resplendent beam,
When, with a burst of light, he throws us his ‘Good-day!’
And happy he who can with love his setting ray
Salute, his setting ray more glorious than a dream!

I mind me to have seen all, field, flower, furrow, stream,
Throb like a fluttering heart, beneath the flooding sun.
Toward th’ horizon, come, ’tis late, quick! let us run,
So at the least we may catch some last slanting gleam!

But in vain I pursue the God that sinks in death;
Th’ inevitable Night its realm establisheth,
Black, humid, sinister and full of shadows grim.

Out of the darkness a grave-like breath exhales
And my shy feet impinge, along the marish-rim,
On unexpected toads and cold and slimy snails.

CI On the ‘Tasso in Prison’ of Eugene Delacroix [Arthur Ellis]
The poet in his cell, dishevell’d, white
With foot convuls’d twisting a fallen scroll,
Measures with stare afire with mad affright
Rungs of the dizzying trance with gulfs his soul.

The wildering laughs which throng his prison-house,
Lure on his reason to the weird and absurd;
Doubts compass him about—wild fears begird,
Witless and multiform and hideous.

In hovel foul this genius confin’d,
These ghosts, cries, leers, as warm, by spectral calls
Hallooed to swoop and whirl behind his ear,

This dreamer wak’d by his lodging’s horror, here
Self’s emblem, thou vague, visionary mind,
That the Real suffocates ‘tween its four walls.

CII The Pit [Wilfred Thorley]
Great Pascal had his pit always in sight.
All is abysmal—deed, desire, or dream
Or speech! Fulloften over me doth scream
The wind of Fear and blows my hair upright
By the lone strand, thro’ silence, depth and height,
And shoreless space that doth with terror teem…
On my black nights God’s finger like a beam
Traces his sarming tomrnets infinite.

Sleep is a monstrous hold that I do dread,
Full of vague horror, leading none knows where;
All windows open on infinity,
So that my dizzy spirit in despair
Longs for the torpor of the unfeeling dead.
Ah! From Time’s menace never to win free!

CIV Self-Communing [James Laver]
Be wise, my Sorrow, and be quiet too;
You called the Night, and lo, the Night is here;
And in the city, covered all from view,
She brings to some, sweet peace, to other fear;
While the vile multitude, a grovelling crew,
Crouch ‘neath the whip of pleasure, bought too dear,
And gather up remorse, their only due—
Give me your hand, my Sorrow; go not near!

Far from them, let us watch the vanished years,
In antique garb, on heaven’s high battlement,
And sweet Regret, smiling amid her tears.
Under an arch the dead Sun falls asleep,
And in her long shroud, towards the Orient,
Listen, my love, and hear the soft night creep!

CV Heautontimoroumenos [Lewis Piaget Shanks]
I’ll strike thee without enmity
Nor wrath, –like butchers at the block!
As Moses smote the living rock,
–Till from thine eyelids’ agony

The springs of suffering shall flow
To slake the desert of my thirst;
And on that flood, my lust accurst
With Hope to fill its sails, shall go

As on the waves, a pitching barge,
And in my bosom quickening,
Thy sobs and tears I love shall ring
Loud as a drum that beats a charge!

For am I not a clashing note
In God’s eternal symphony,
Thanks to this culture, Irony,
Whose talons rend my heart and throat?

She’s in my voice, the screaming elf!
My poisoned blood came all from her!
I am the mirror sinister
Wherein the vixen sees herself!

I am the wound and I the knife!
I am the blow I give, and feel!
I am the broken limbs, the wheel,
The hangman and the strangled life!

I am my heart’s own yampire, for
I walk alone, condemned, forlorn,
By laughter everlasting torn,
Yet doomed to smile, –ah, nevermore!

CVI The Irremediable [Clark Ashton Smith]
I.] An Entity, an Eidolon,
Fallen from out some azure clime
Into a Styx of lead and slime
Nor star nor sun has looked upon;

A wandering angel indiscreet,
Lost in the love of things difform,
Who down abysmal dreams of harm
Falls beating as great swimmers beat,

And fights in mortal anguish stark
Some eddy of a demon sea
That sings and shouts deliriously
And dances in the whirling dark;

II.] A hapless wretch ensorceled,
Who from a viper-swarming pit
In futile gropings infinite
Would reach the flownlight overhead;

A lost soul without lamp descending,
To whom the gulf-arisen smell
Betrays a dank, profounder hell
And raillers fall of stairs unending.

Where slimy monsters ward the way
Whose eyes of phosphor, luminous, large,
Make darker still the nighted marge—-
Burning in bulks obscure for aye;

A vessel at the frozen pole
As in a trap of crystal caught,
And searching how her keel was brought
Thereto by fatal strait and shoal: —

Clear emblems, perfect similes
Of a fortunate irremediable,
Showing the Devil is always able
To do the task that he decrees.

III.] The heart, in sombre colloquy,
mirrors itself in very sooth:
the dark and lucid well of Truth,
where a star trembles lividly,

Flambeau of grace from sullen hells,
Pharos, of ironies infernal,
Sole glory, solacement eternal—
Conscience in Evil, ever dwells!

CVII The Clock [Edna St. Vincent-Millay]
Terrible Clock! God without mercy; mighty Power!
Saying all day, ‘ Remember! Remember and beware:
There is no arrow of pain but in a tony hour
Will make thy heart its target, and stick and vibrate there.

‘Toward the horizon all too soon and out of sight
Vaporous Pleasure, like a sylphe, floats away;
Each instant swallows up one crumb of that delight
Accorded to each man fall his mortal day.’

The Second says, three thousand six hundred times an hour, ‘ Remember! Look, the winged insect Now doth sit
Upon thy vain, and shrilleth, “I am Nevermore,
And I have sucked thy blood; I am flying away with it!”

Remember! Souviens-toi! Esto memor! – no tongue
My metal larynx does not speak—O frivolous man,
These minutes, rich in gold, slide past; thou art not young, Remember! and wash well the gravel in the pan!

Remember! ‘ Time, the player that need not cheat to win,
Makes a strong adversary. Is thy game begun?
Thy game is lost! Day wanes; night waxes. Look within
The gulf, –it still is thirsty. The sands are all but run.

‘Soon, soon, the hour will strike, when Hazard, he that showed
A god-like face, when Virtue—thy bride, but still intact—
When even Repentance (oh, last inn along the road!)
Will say to thee, “Die corward. It is too late to act.” ‘

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