Madison Cawein.

The Cup of Comus: Fact and Fancy





PORTENTS


Above the world a glare
Of sunset guns and spears;
An army, no one hears,
Of mist and air:
Long lines of bronze and gold,
Huge helmets, each a cloud;
And then a fortress old
There in the night that phantoms seem to crowd.


A face of flame; a hand
Of crimson alchemy
Is waved: and, solemnly,
At its command,
Opens a fiery well,
A burning hole,
From which a stream of hell,
A river of blood, in frenzy, seems to roll.


And there, upon a throne,
Like some vast precipice,
Above that River of Dis,
Behold a King! alone!
Around whom shapes of blood
Take form: each one the peer
Of those, who, in the wood
Of Dante's Hell froze up the heart with fear.


Then shapes, that breast to breast
Gallop to face a foe:
And through the crimson glow
Th' imperial crest
Of him whose banner flies
Above a world that burns,
A raven in the skies,
And as it flies into a Death's-Head turns.
The wild trees writhe and twist
Their gaunt limbs, wrung with fear:
And now into my ear
A word seems hissed;
A message, filled with dread,
A dark, foreboding word,
"Behold! we are the dead,
Who here on Earth lived only by the sword!"

THE IRON CRAGS


Upon the iron crags of War I heard his terrible daughters
In battle speak while at their feet,
In gulfs of human waters,
A voice, intoning, "Where is God?" in ceaseless sorrow beat:
And to my heart, in doubt, I said,
"God? God's above the storm!
O heart, be brave, be comforted,
And keep your hearth-stone warm
For her who breasts the storm
God's Peace, the fair of form."
I heard the Battle Angels cry above the slain's red mountains,
While from their wings the lightnings hurled
Of Death's destroying fountains,
And thunder of their revels rolled around the ruined world:
Still to my heart, in fear, I cried,
"God? God is watching there!
My heart, oh, keep the doorway wide
Here in your House of Care,
For her who wanders there,
God's Peace, with happy hair."


The darkness and the battle passed: and rushing on wild pinions
The hosts of Havoc shrieked their hate
And fled to Hell's dominions,
And, lo! I heard, out in the night, a knocking at the gate:
And one who cried aloud to me:
"The night and storm are gone!
Oh, open wide the door and see
Who waits here in the dawn!
Peace, with God's splendor on
Back to the sad world drawn!"

THE IRON CROSS


They pass, with heavy eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross,
The Nations, stricken with their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.


What is the prayer they pray to Him,
Christ Jesus on the Iron Cross?
The Christ, neglected, dark with moss,
Whose hands are pierced, whose face is grim.


Is it forgiveness for great sin
They plead before the Iron Cross?
Or for some gift of gold or dross?
Or battle lost, that they would win?


With eyes where hate and horror meet,
They pass before the Iron Cross,
The Cross, that ancient words emboss,
Where hangs the Christ with nail-pierced feet.


His hair is fallen on his face.
His head hangs sidewise from the Cross
The Crucified, who knows all loss,
And had on Earth no resting place.


"O world of men," he seems to say,
"Behold me on your Iron Cross!
To me why kneel and tell your loss?
Why kneel to me and weep and pray?


"Have I not taught you to forgive?
And bade you from my Iron Cross
Believe, and bear your grief and loss,
That after death you too may live?


"You have not followed at my call!
You keep me on this Iron Cross,
And pray me keep you from all loss,
And save and comfort you withal.



"You ask for love, and hate the more!
You keep me on this Iron Cross!
Restore to me my greater loss,
The brotherhood of rich and poor."

* * * *

They pass, with weary eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross
The Nations, wailing of their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.

THE WANDERER


Between the death of day and birth of night,
By War's red light,
I met with one in trailing sorrows clad,
Whose features had
The look of Him who died to set men right.


Around him many horrors, like great worms,
Terrific forms,
Crawled, helmed like hippogriff and rosmarine,
Gaunt and obscene,
Urged on to battle with a thousand arms.


Columns of steel, and iron belching flame,
Before them came:
And cities crumbled; and amid them trod
Havoc, their god,
With Desolation that no tongue may name.


And out of Heaven came a burning breath,
And on it Death,
Riding: before him, huge and bellowing herds
Of beasts, like birds,
Bat-winged and demon, nothing conquereth.


Hag-lights went by, and Fear that shrieks and dies;
And mouths, with cries
Of famine; and the madness of Despair;
And everywhere
Curses, like kings, with ever-burning eyes.


And, lo! the shadow shook and cried a name,
That grew a flame
Above the world, and said, "Give heed! give heed!
See how they bleed!
My wounds! my wounds! Was it for this I came?


"Where is the love for which I shed my blood?
And where the good
I preached and died for? Lo! ye have denied
And crucified
Me here again, who swore me brotherhood!"


Then overhead the vault of night was rent:
The firmament
Winged thunder over of aerial craft;
And Battle laughed
Titanic laughter as its way it went.

THE END OF SUMMER


The rose, that wrote its message on the noon's
Bright manuscript, has turned her perfumed face
Towards Fall, and waits, heart-heavy, for the moon's
Pale flower to take her place.


With eyes distraught, and dark disheveled hair,
The Season dons a tattered cloak of storm
And waits with Night that, darkly, seems to share
Her trouble and alarm.


It is the close of summer. In the sky
The sunset lit a fire of drift and sat
Watching the last Day, robed in empire, die
Upon the burning ghat.


The first leaf crimsons and the last rose falls,
And Night goes stalking on, her cloak of rain
Dripping, and followed through her haunted halls
By ail Death's phantom train.


The sorrow of the Earth and all that dies,
And all that suffers, in her breast she bears;
Outside the House of Life she stops and cries
The burden of her cares.


Then on the window knocks with crooked hands,
Her tree-like arms to Heaven wildly-hurled:
Love hears her crying, "Who then understands?
Has God forgot the world?"

THE LUST OF THE WORLD


Since Man first lifted up his eyes to hers
And saw her vampire beauty, which is lust,
All else is dust
Within the compass of the universe.


With heart of Jael and with face of Ruth
She sits upon the tomb of Time and quaffs
Heart's blood and laughs
At all Life calls most noble and the truth.


The fire of conquest and the wine of dreams
Are in her veins; and in her eyes the lure
Of things unsure,
Urging the world forever to extremes.


Without her, Life would stagnate in a while.
Her touch it is puts pleasure even in pain.
So Life attain
Her end, she cares not if the means be vile.


She knows no pity, mercy, or remorse.
Hers is to build and then exterminate:
To slay, create,
And twixt the two maintain an equal course.

CHANT BEFORE BATTLE


Ever since man was man a Fiend has stood
Outside his House of Good,
War, with his terrible toys, that win men's hearts
To follow murderous arts.


His spurs, death-won, are but of little use,
Except as old refuse
Of Life; to hang and testify with rust
Of deeds, long one with dust.


A rotting fungus on a log, a tree,
A toiling worm, or bee,
Serves God's high purpose here on Earth to build
More than War's maimed and killed.


The Hebetude of asses, following still
Some Emperor's will to kill,
Is that of men who give their lives for what?
The privilege to be shot!


Grant men more vision, Lord! to read thy words,
That are not guns and swords,
But trees and flowers, lovely forms of Earth,
And all fair things of worth.


So he may rise above the brute and snake,
And of his reason make
A world befitting, as thou hast designed,
His greater soul and mind!


So he may rid himself of worm and beast,
And sit with Love at feast,
And make him worthy to be named thy son,
As He, thy Holy One! Amen.

NEARING CHRISTMAS


The season of the rose and peace is past:
It could not last.
There's heartbreak in the hills and stormy sighs
Of sorrow in the rain-lashed plains and skies,
While Earth regards, aghast,
The last red leaf that flies.


The world is cringing in the darkness where
War left his lair,
And everything takes on a lupine look,
Baring gaunt teeth at every peaceful nook,
And shaking torrent hair
At every little brook.


Cancers of ulcerous flame his eyes, and hark!
There in the dark
The ponderous stir of metal, iron feet;
And with it, heard around the world, the beat
Of Battle; sounds that mark
His heart's advance, retreat.


With shrapnel pipes he goes his monstrous ways;
And, screeching, plays
The hell-born music Havoc dances to;
And, following with his skeleton-headed crew
Of ravening Nights and Days,
Horror invades the blue.


Against the Heaven he lifts a mailed fist
And writes a list
Of beautiful cities on the ghastly sky:
And underneath them, with no reason why,
In blood and tears and mist,
The postscript, "These must die!"


Change is the portion and chief heritage
Of every Age.
The spirit of God still waits its time. And War
May blur His message for a while, and mar
The writing on His page,
To this our sorrowful star.


But there above the conflict, orbed in rays,
Is drawn the face
Of Peace; at last who comes into her own;
Peace, from whose tomb the world shall roll the stone,
And give her highest place
In the human heart alone.

A BELGIAN CHRISTMAS

The "happy year" of 1914

An hour from dawn:
The snow sweeps on
As it swept with sleet last night:
The Earth around
Breathes never a sound,
Wrapped in its shroud of white.


A waked cock crows
Under the snows;
Then silence. After while
The sky grows blue,
And a star looks through
With a kind o' bitter smile.


A whining dog;
An axe on a log,
And a muffled voice that calls:
A cow's long low;
Then footsteps slow
Stamping into the stalls.


A bed of straw
Where the wind blows raw
Through cracks of the stable door:
A child's small cry,
A voice nearby,
That says, "One mouth the more."


A different note
In a man's rough throat
As he turns at an entering tread
Satyrs! see!
"My woman she
Was brought last night to bed!"


A cry of "Halt!"
"Ach! ich bin kalt!"
"A spy!" "No." "That is clear!
There's a good shake-down
I' the jail in town
For her!" And then, "My orders here."


A shot, sharp-rolled
As the clouds unfold:
A scream; and a cry forlorn
Clothed red with fire,
Like the Heart's Desire,
Look down the Christmas Morn.


The babe with light
Is haloed bright,
And it is Christmas Day:
A cry of woe;
Then footsteps slow,
And the wild guns, far away.

THE FESTIVAL OF THE AISNE


Imperial Madness, will of hand,
Builds vast an altar here, and rears
Before the world, on godly land,
A Moloch form of blood and tears.


And far as eye can see, behold,
Priests plunge into its brazen arms
Men, that its iron maw of mold
Mangles, returning horrible forms.


Its Priests are armies, moving slow,
And crowned like kings, in human-guise:
And theirs it is to make it flow
The crimson stream of sacrifice.

THE CRY OF EARTH


The Season speaks this year of life
Confusing words of strife,
Suggesting weeds instead of fruits and flowers
In all Earth's bowers.


With heart of Jael, face of Ruth,
She goes her way uncouth
Through hills and fields, where fog and sunset seem
Wild smoke and steam.


Around her, spotted as a leopard skin,
She draws her cloak of whin,
And through the dark hills sweeps dusk's last red glare
Wild on her hair.


Her hands drip leaves, like blood, and burn
With frost; her moony urn
She lifts, where Death, 'mid driving stress and storm,
Rears his gaunt form.


And all night long she seems to say
"Come forth, my Winds, and slay! "
And everywhere is heard the wailing cry
Of dreams that die.

CHILD AND FATHER


A little child, one night, awoke and cried,
"Oh, help me, father! there is something wild
Before me! help me!" Hurrying to his side
I answered, "I am here. You dreamed, my child."


"A dream? " he questioned. "Oh, I could not see!
It was so dark! Take me into your bed!"
And I, who loved him, held him soothingly,
And smiling on his terror, comforted.


He nestled in my arms. I held him fast;
And spoke to him and calmed his childish fears,
Until he smiled again, asleep at last,
Upon his lashes still a trace of tears


How like a child the world! who, in this night
Of strife, beholds strange monsters threatening
And with black fear, having so little light,
Cries to its Father, God, for comforting.


And well for it, if, answering the call,
The Father hear and soothe its dread asleep!
How many though, whom thoughts and dreams appall,
Must lie awake and in the darkness weep.

THE RISING OF THE MOON


The Day brims high its ewer
Of blue with starry light,
And crowns as King that hewer
Of clouds (which take their flight
Across the sky) old Night.


And Tempest there, who houses
Within them, like a cave,
Lies down and dreams and drowses
Upon the Earth's huge grave,
With wandering wind and wave.


The storm moves on; and winging
From out the east a bird,
The moon drifts, calmly bringing
A message and a word
Of peace, in Heaven it heard.


Of peace and times called golden,
Whose beauty makes it glow
With love, like that of olden,
Which mortals used to know
There in the long-ago.

WHERE THE BATTLE PASSED


One blossoming rose-tree, like a beautiful thought
Nursed in a broken mind, that waits and schemes,
Survives, though shattered, and about it caught,
The strangling dodder streams.


Gaunt weeds: and here a bayonet or pouch,
Rusty and rotting where men fought and slew:
Bald, trampled paths that seem with fear to crouch,
Feeling a bloody dew.


Here nothing that was beauty's once remains.
War left the garden to its dead alone:
And Life and Love, who toiled here, for their pains
Have nothing once their own.


Death leans upon the battered door, at gaze
The house is silent where there once was stir
Of husbandry, that led laborious days,
With Love for comforter.


Now in Love's place, Death, old and halt and blind,
Gropes, searching everywhere for what may live.
War left it empty as his vacant mind;
It has no more to give.

THE IRON AGE


And these are Christians! God! the horror of it
How long, O Lord! how long, O Lord! how long
Wilt Thou endure this crime? and there, above it,
Look down on Earth nor sweep away the wrong!


Are these Thy teachings? Where is then that pity,
Which bade the weary, suffering come to Thee?
War takes its toll of life in field and City,
And Thou must see! O Christianity!


And then the children! Oh, Thou art another!
Not God! but Fiend, whom God has given release!
Will prayer avail naught? tears of father, mother?
To give at last the weary world surcease


From butchery? that back again hath brought her
Into that age barbarian that priced
Hate above Love; and, shod with steel and slaughter,
Stamped on the Cross and on the face of Christ.

THE BATTLE


Black clouds hung low and heavy,
Above the sunset glare;
And in the garden dimly
We wandered here and there.


So full of strife, of trouble
The night was dark, afraid,
Like our own love, so merely
For tears and sighings made.


That when it came to parting,
And I must mount and go,
With all my soul I wished it
That God would lay me low.

ON RE-READING CERTAIN GERMAN POETS


They hold their own, they have no peers
In gloom and glow, in hopes and fears,
In love and terror, hovering round
The lore of that enchanted ground!
That mystic region, where one hears,
By bandit towers, the hunt that nears
Wild through the Hartz; the demon cheers
Of Hackelnberg; his horn and hound
They hold their own.


Dark Wallenstein; and, down the years,
The Lorelei; and, creased with sneers,
Faust, Margaret; the Sabboth sound,
Witch-whirling, of the Brocken, drowned
In storm, through which Mephisto leers,
They hold their own.

ON OPENING AN OLD SCHOOL VOLUME OF HORACE


I had forgot how, in my day
The Sabine fields around me lay
In amaranth and asphodel,
With many a cold Bandusian well
Bright-bubbling by the mountain-way.
In forest dells of Faun and Fay
How, lounging in the fountain's spray,
I talked with Horace; felt his spell,
I had forgot.


With Pyrrha and with Lydia
How oft I sat, while Lalaga
Sang, and the fine Falerian fell,
Sparkling, and heard the poet tell
Of loves whose beauty lasts for aye,
I had forgot.

LAUS DEO


In her vast church of glimmering blue,
Gray-stoled from feet to chin,
Her dark locks beaded with the dew,
The nun-like dawn comes in:
At once the hills put on their spencers
Of purple, swinging streaming censers
Of mist before the God of Day
Who goes with pomp his way.


With sapphire draperies of light
Is hung the sombre pines;
Filling each valley, every height
With sacerdotal lines
Shrines, where, like priests with worship vestured,
The forests bow and, heavenly gestured,
Lift high the chalice of the sun,
Intoning, "Night is done!"

THE NEW YORK SKYSCRAPER

The Woolworth Building

Enormously it lifts
Its tower against the splendor of the west;
Like some wild dream that drifts
Before the mind, and at the will's behest,
Enchantment-based, gigantic steel and stone,
Is given permanence;
A concrete fact,
Complete, alone,
Glorious, immense,
Such as no nation here on Earth has known:
Epitomizing all
That is American, that stands for youth,
And strength and truth;
That's individual,
And beautiful and free,
Resistless strength and tireless energy.


Even as a cataract,
Its superb fact
Suggests vast forces Nature builds with Joy,
And Power and Thought,
She to her aid has brought
For eons past, will bring for eons yet to be,
Shaping the world to her desire: the three
Her counsellors constantly,
Her architects, through whom her dreams come true,
Her workmen, bringing forth,
With toil that shall not cease,
Mountains and plains and seas,
That make the Earth
The glory that it is:
And, one with these,
Such works of man as this,
This building, towering into the blue,
A beacon, round which like an ocean wide,
Circles and flows the restless human tide.

ROBERT BROWNING


Master of human harmonics, where gong
And harp and violin and flute accord;
Each instrument confessing you its lord,
Within the deathless orchestra of Song.
Albeit at times your music may sound wrong
To our dulled senses, and its meaning barred
To Earth's slow understanding, never marred
Your message brave: clear, and of trumpet tongue.
Poet-revealer, who, both soon and late,
Within an age of doubt kept clean your faith,
Crying your cry of "With the world all's well!"
How shall we greet you from our low estate,
Keys in the keyboard that is life and death,
The organ whence we hear your music swell?

RILEY

His Birthday, October the 7th, 1912

Riley, whose pen has made the world your debtor,
Whose Art has kept you young through sixty years,
Brimming our hearts with laughter and with tears,
Holding her faith pure to the very letter:
We come to you to-day, both man and woman,
And happy little children, girl and boy,
To laurel you with all our love and joy,
And crown you for the dreams your pen made human:
For Orphant Annie and for Old Aunt Mary,
The Raggedty Man, who never will grow older,
And all the kindly folks from Griggsby's Station,
Immortal throngs, with Spirk and Wunk and Faery,
Who swarm behind you, peering o'er your shoulder,
Sharing with you the blessings of a Nation.

DON QUIXOTE

On receiving a bottle of Sherry Wine of the same name

What "blushing Hippocrene" is here! what fire
Of the "warm South" with magic of old Spain!
Through which again I seem to view the train
Of all Cervantes' dreams, his heart's desire:
The melancholy Knight, in gaunt attire
Of steel rides by upon the windmill-plain
With Sancho Panza by his side again,
While, heard afar, a swineherd from a byre
Winds a hoarse horn.


And all at once I see
The glory of that soul who rode upon
Impossible quests, following a deathless dream
Of righted wrongs, that never were to be,
Like many another champion who has gone
Questing a cause that perished like a dream.

THE WOMAN


With her fair face she made my heaven,
Beneath whose stars and moon and sun
I worshiped, praying, having striven,
For wealth through which she might be won.


And yet she had no soul: A woman
As fair and cruel as a god;
Who played with hearts as nothing human,
And tossed them by and on them trod.


She killed a soul; she did it nightly;
Luring it forth from peace and prayer,
To strangle it, and laughing lightly,
Cast it into the gutter there.


And yet, not for a purer vision
Would I exchange; or Paradise
Possess instead of Hell, my prison,
Where burns the passion of her eyes.

THE SONG OF SONGS

Read November 14th, 1913, before the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters in joint session at Chicago, Ill.


I heard a Spirit singing as, beyond the morning winging,
Its radiant form went swinging like a star:
In its song prophetic voices mixed their sounds with trumpet-noises,
As when, loud, the World rejoices after war.
And it said:

I

Hear me!
Above the roar of cities,
The clamor and conflict of trade,
The frenzy and fury of commercialism,
Is heard my voice, chanting, intoning.
Down the long corridors of time it comes,
Bearing my message, bidding the soul of man arise
To the realization of his dream.
Now and then discords seem to intrude,
And tones that are false and feeble
Beginnings of the perfect chord
From which is evolved the ideal, the unattainable.
Hear me!
Ever and ever,
Above the tumult of the years,
The blatant cacophonies of war,
The wrangling of politics,
Demons and spirits of unrest,
My song persists,
Addressing the soul
With the urge of an astral something,
Supernal,
Elemental,
Promethean,
Instinct with an everlasting fire.

II

Hear me!
I am the expression of the subconscious,
The utterance of the intellect,
The voice of mind,
That stands for civilization.
Out of my singing sprang, Minerva-like,
Full-armed and fearless,
Liberty,
Subduer of tyrants, who feed on the strength of Nations.
Out of my chanting arose,
As Aphrodite arose from the foam of the ocean,
The Dream of Spiritual Desire,
Mother of Knowledge,
Victor o'er Hate and Oppression,
Ancient and elemental d?mons,
Who, with Ignorance and Evil, their consorts,
Have ruled for eons of years.

III

Hear me!
Should my chanting cease,
My music utterly fail you,
Behold!
Out of the hoary Past, most swiftly, surely,
Would gather the Evils of Earth,
The Hydras and Harpies, forgotten,
And buried in darkness:
Amorphous of form,
Tyrannies and Superstitions
Torturing body and soul:
And with them,
Gargoyls of dreams that groaned in the Middle Ages
Aspects of darkness and death and hollow eidolons,
Cruel, inhuman,
Wearing the faces and forms of all the wrongs of the world.
Barbarian hordes whose shapes make hideous
The cycles of error and crime:
Grendels of darkness,
Devouring the manhood of Nations:
Demogorgons of War and Misrule,
Blackening the world with blood and the lust of destruction.
Hear me!
Out of my song have grown
Beauty and joy,
And with them
The triumph of Reason;
The confirmation of Hope,
Of Faith and Endeavor:
The Dream that's immortal,
To whose creation Thought gives concrete form,
And of which Vision makes permanent substance.

IV

Fragmentary,
Out of the Past,
Down the long aisles of the Centuries,
Uncertain at first and uneasy,
Hesitant, harsh of expression,
My song was heard,
Stammering, appealing,
A murmur merely:
Coherent then,
Singing into form,
Assertive,
Ecstatic,
Louder, lovelier, and more insistent,
Sonorous, proclaiming;
Clearer and surer and stronger.
Attaining expression, evermore truer and clearer:
Masterful, mighty at last,
Committed to conquest,
And with Beauty coeval;
Part of the wonder of life,
The triumph of light over darkness:
Taking the form of Art
Art, that is voice and vision of the soul of man.
Hear me!
Confident ever,
One with the Loveliness song shall evolve,
My voice is become as an army of banners,
Marching irresistibly forward,
With the roll of the drums of attainment,
The blare of the bugles of fame:
Tramping, tramping, evermore advancing,
Till the last redoubt of prejudice is down,
And the Eagles and Fasces of Learning
Make glorious the van o' the world.

V

They who are deaf to my singing,
Who disregard me.
Let them beware lest the splendor escape them,
The glory of light that is back o' the darkness of life,
And with it
The blindness of spirit o'erwhelm them.
They who reject me,
Reject the gleam
That goes to the making of Beauty;
And put away
The loftier impulses of heart and of mind.
They shall not possess the dream, the ideal,
Of ultimate worlds,
That is part of the soul that aspires;
That sits with the Spirit of Thought,
The radiant presence who weaves,
Directed of Destiny,
There in the Universe,
At its infinite pattern of stars.
They shall not know,
Not they,
The exaltations that make endurable here on the Earth
The ponderable curtain of flesh.
Not they! Not they!

VI

Hear me!
I control, and direct;
I wound and heal,
Elevate and subdue
The vaulting energies of Man.
I am part of the cosmic strain o' the Universe:
I captain the thoughts that grow to deeds,
Material and spiritual facts,
Pointing the world to greater and nobler things.
Hear me!
My d?dal expression peoples the Past and Present
With forms of ethereal thought
That symbolize Beauty:
The Beauty expressing itself now,
As Poetry,
As Philosophy:
As Truth and Religion now,
And now,
As science and Law,
Vaunt couriers of Civilization.





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