ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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{The Book of Orm 1870}

 

                                                                                                                                                                 207

IX.

THE DEVIL’S MYSTICS.

 

A Scroll Antique, all weed-behung,
Writ in a curious Southern tongue,
Wash’d to Orm’s feet by the wild main,
After fierce nights of wind and rain;
Many a midnight, wearily,
Over the parchment pondered he,
Now moved with sympathy intense,
Now vaguely grasping at the sense,
Till, in the end, he fashion’d it
Into the Songs that here are writ.

 

[Notes:
With the omission of the original sections VII and VIII (‘Coruisken Sonnets’ and ‘The Coruisken Vision’) in Volume III of the 1874 Poetical Works (H. S. King) and the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (Chatto & Windus) , Section IX: ‘The Devil’s Mystics’ now follows Section VI: ‘The Lifting of the Veil’ and is renumbered.
The introductory verse is also amended:

A scroll antique, with weeds behung,
Writ in a mystic pagan tongue,
Wash’d to Orm’s feet by the wan Main
After long nights of wind and rain:
Translating this at dead of night,
The Celt beholds with dazzled sight
Strange gods stalk past, and in their train,
Supreme, the King of Sin and Pain. ]

 

                                                                                               209

IX.

THE DEVIL’S MYSTICS.

 

I.

THE INSCRIPTION WITHOUT.

 

     The Moral Law: all Evil is Defect;
The limb deform’d for common use of life
Defect,—but haply in the line of growth.

 

                                                                                             210

II.

THE TREE OF LIFE.

 

The Master said:
     “I have planted the Seed of a Tree,
It shall be strangely fed
With white dew and with red,
     And the Gardeners shall be three—
     Regret, Hope, Memory!”

The Master smiled:
     For the Seed that He had set
Broke presently thro’ the mould,
With a glimmer of green and gold,
     And the Angels’ eyes were wet—
     Hope, Memory, Regret.

The Master cried:
     “It liveth—breatheth—see!
Its soft lips open wide—                                                         211
It looks from side to side—
     How strange they gleam on me,
     The little dim eyes of the Tree!”

The Master said:
     “After a million years,
The Seed I set and fed
To itself hath gatherëd
     All the world’s smiles and tears—
     How mighty it appears!”

The Master said:
     “At last, at last, I see
A Blossom, a Blossom o’ red
From the heart of the Tree is shed.
     ’Tis fairer certainly                                                             [5:5]
     Than the Tree, or the leaves o’ the Tree.”

The Master cried:
     “O Angels, that guard the Tree,
A Blossom, a Blossom divine                                                  212
Grows on this greenwood of mine:
     What may this Blossom be?
     Name this Blossom to me!”

The Master smiled;
     For the Angels answered thus:
“Our tears have nourish’d the same,
We have given it a name
     That seemeth fit to us—
     We have called it Spiritus.”

The Master said:
     “This Flower no Seed shall bear;
But hither on a day
My beautiful Son shall stray,                                                    [8:4]
     And shall snatch it unaware,
     And wreath it in his hair.”

The Master smiled:
     “The Tree shall never bear—
Seedless shall perish the Tree,                                                213
But the Flower my Son’s shall be;                                          [9:4]
     He will pluck the Flower and wear,
     Till it withers in his hair!”

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 5, l. 5: Fairer it seems to be
v. 8, l. 4: My beautiful Child shall stray,
v. 9, l. 4: But the Flower my Child’s shall be; ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               214

III.

THE SEEDS.

 

When all that puzzles sense was planned,
     When the first seeds of being fell,
In reverence bent, I stood at hand,
     And heard a part of the spell:
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen into power and pain!”

Shoots of the seed, I saw them grow,
     Green blades of vegetable sheen,
They darken’d as with wind, and so
     The Earth’s black ball grew green—
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

Then starry-bright out of the ground
     The firstling flowers sprang dewy-wet;
I pluckt one, and it felt no wound—                                        215
     There was no pain as yet.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

Next in His Hand He lifted thus
     Bright water bubbling from the spring—                            [4:2]
And in that crystal tremulous
     Quicken’d a living thing.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

And suddenly! ere I was aware,                                             [5:1]
     (So fast the dreadful spell was tried),
O’er Earth’s green bosom everywhere
     Crawl’d living things, and cried.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

On every grass-blade glittering bright
     A shining Insect leapt and played,
By every sea, on every height,                                                 216
     A Monster cast its shade—
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

The most was lingering in the least,
     The least became the most anon;
From plant to fish, from fish to beast,
     The Essence deepen’d on.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

And deeper still in subtle worth
     The Essence grew, from gain to gain,
And subtler grew, with each new birth,
     The creatures’ powers of pain.                                          [8:4]
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

Paler I saw the Master grow,
     Faint and more faint His breathing fell,
And strangely, lower and more low,                                       217
     He mutter’d over the spell:
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

Now the deep murmur of the Earth
     Was mingled with a painful cry,
The yeanling young leapt up in mirth,
     But the old lay down to die.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

When standing in the perfect light
     I saw the first-born Mortal rise—
The flower of things he stood his height
     With melancholy eyes.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

From all the rest he drew apart,
     And stood erect on the green sod,
Holding his hand upon his heart,                                               218
     And looking up at God!
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

He stood so terrible, so dread,
     With right hand lifted pale and proud,
God feared the thing he fashionëd,
     And fled into a cloud.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

And since that day He hid away
     Man hath not seen the Face that fled,
And the wild question of that day
     Hath not been answerëd.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

And since that day, with cloudy face,
     Of His own handiwork afraid,
God from His heavenly hiding-place                                         219
     Peers on the thing He made.
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

O Crown of things, O good and wise,
     O mortal Soul that would’st be free,
I weep to look into thy eyes—                                              [16:3]
     Thou art so like to me!
“Grow, Seed! blossom, Brain!
Deepen, deepen, into pain!”

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 4, l. 2: Bright bubbling water from the spring—
v. 5, l. 1: And suddenly! ere I was ’ware,
v. 8, l. 4: The creature’s power of pain.
v. 16, l. 3: I weep to look into thine eyes— ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               220

IV.

FIRE AND WATER; OR, A VOICE OF THE FLESH.

 

“Two white arms, a moss pillow,
     A curtain o’ green;
Come love me, love me,
     Come clasp me unseen!”

As red as a rose is,
     I saw her arise,
Fresh waked from reposes,
     With wild dreamy eyes.

I sprang to her, clasp’d her
     I trembled, I prest,
I drank her warm kisses,
     I kiss’d her white breast.

With a ripple of laughter,                                                         221
     A dazzle of spray,
She melted, she melted,
     And glimmer’d away!

Down my breast runs the water,
     In my heart burns the fire,
My face is like crimson
     With shame and desire!

 

                                                                                             222

V.

SANITAS.

 

Dreamily, on her milk-white Ass,
Rideth the maiden Sanitas—
With zone of gold her waist is bound,
Her brows are with immortelles crown’d;
Dews are falling, song-birds sing,
It is a Christian evening—
Lower, lower, sinks the sun,
The white stars glimmer, one by one!

Who sitteth musing at his door?
Silas, the Leper, gaunt and hoar;
Tho’ he is curst in every limb,
Full whitely Time hath snowed on him—
Dews are falling, song-birds sing,
It is a Christian evening—
The Leper, drinking in the air,                                                223
Sits like a beast, with idiot stare.

How pale! how wondrous! she doth pass,                             [3:1]
The heavenly maiden Sanitas;
She looketh, and she shuddereth,
She passeth on with bated breath—
Dews are falling, song-birds sing,
It is a Christian evening—
His mind is like a stagnant pool,
She passeth o’er it, beautiful!

Brighter, whiter, in the skies,
Open innumerable eyes;
The Leper looketh up and sees,
His aching heart is soothed by these—
Dews are falling, song-birds sing,
It is a Christian evening—
He looketh up with heart astir,
And every Star hath eyes like her!

Onward on her milk-white Ass                                               224
Rideth the maiden Sanitas.
The boughs are green, the grain is pearl’d,
But ’tis a miserable world—
Dews are falling, song-birds sing,
It is a Christian evening—
All o’er the blue above her, she
Beholds bright spots of Leprosy!

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 3, l. 1: How pale! how wondrous! doth she pass, ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               225

VI.

THE PHILOSOPHERS.

 

We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     Lo! we sit apart,
Each right hand is uplifted,
     Each left hand holds a heart;
At our feet rolls by the tumult,
     O’er our heads the still stars gleam—
We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     We drink and dream!

We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     We are worn and old,
Each hath the sad forehead,
     Each the cup of gold.
In our eyes the awe-struck Nations
     Look, and name us wise, and go—
We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     We drink and know!

We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!                                            226
     Silent, kingly, pure;
Who is wise if we be foolish?
     Who, if we die, shall endure?
The Bacchanals with dripping vine-leaves,
     Blushing meet our eyes, and haste—
We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     Bitter to taste!

We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     Spirits pure as snow;
White star-frost is on our foreheads—
     We are weary, we would go.
Hark! the world fades with its voices,
     Fades the tumult and the cry—
We are the Drinkers of Hemlock!
     We drink and die!

 

                                                                                             227

VII.

PRAYER FROM THE DEEPS.

 

Father which art in heaven,—not here below;
     Be Thy name hallowëd, in that place of worth;
And till Thy Kingdom cometh, and we know,
     Be Thy will done more tenderly on Earth;
Since we must live,—give us this day our bread;
     Forgive our stumblings,—since Thou mad’st blind;                        [6]
If we offend Thee, Sire, at least forgive
     As tenderly as we forgive our kind;—
Spare us temptation,—human or divine;
     Deliver us from evil, now and then;
The Kingdom, Power, and Glory all are Thine
     For ever and for evermore. Amen.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Title changed to ‘THE DEVIL’S PRAYER’.
l. 6: Forgive our stumblings—since Thou mad’st us blind; ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 228

VIII.

HOMUNCULUS; OR, THE SONG OF DEICIDES.

 

1.

Now all the mystic Lamps that shed
Light on the living world are fled;
Now the swart digger rinses gold,
Unless a starless heaven and cold;                                         [1:4]
Now every God, save one, is dead,
Now that last God is almost sped;
Cold falls the dew, chill rise the tides,
To this still Song of Deicides.

 

2.

Homunculus! Homunculus!
Not ever shalt thou conquer us!
Zeus, Astaroth, Brahm, and Menù,
With all the gods, white, black, and blue,
Are fallen, and while I murmur thus,                                         229
Strong, and more strong, Homunculus
Upon a Teuton Jackass rides,
Singing the Song of Deicides.

 

3.

It seems but yesterday the dim
And solitary germ of him
Glimmer’d most strangely on my sense,
While, with my microscope intense,
I search’d a Beast’s brain-cavern dark:—
A germ—a gleam—a cell—a spark—
Grown to Homunculus, who rides
To my sad Song of Deicides.

 

4.

O had I then so far foreseen,
This day of doom had never been,
For with a drop of fire from Hell
I would have killed the feeble Cell.
Too late! too late! for slow and strange                                   230
He has passed the darker spheres of change,                          [4:6]
Lo! he emerges—shouts—derides,
Singing the Song of Deicides!

 

5.

Black is his raiment, top to toe,
His flesh is white and warm below,
All thro’ his silent veins flow free
Hunger, and Thirst, and Venery;
But in his eye a still small flame,
Like the first Cell from which he came,
Burns round and luminous,—as he rides
To my still Song of Deicides!

 

6.

With Obic Circle he began,
Swift thro’ the Phallic rites he ran,
He watch’d until his head went round
The Memphian Sphinx’s stare profound;
All these by turn he overcast,                                                   231
And suck’d the Orphic Egg at last;
Now laughing low he westward strides,
Singing the Song of Deicides!

 

7.

He drives the Gods o’ the North to death—
The Sanctus Spiritus is breath—
He plucks down Thammuz from his joy,
And kneads him to a huswife's toy;
He stares to shame the Afric spheres;
He strikes—he overturns—he sneers—
Over the fallen Titans strides,
And squeaks the Song of Deicides!

 

8.

Homunculus! Homunculus!
Wretched, degenerate, impious!
He will not stay, he will not speak—
Another blow! another shriek!
Lo! where he hacketh suddenly                                              232
At the red Cross of Calvary!
All darkens—faintly moan the tides—
Sing low the Song of Deicides!

 

9.

Gigantic, in a dark mist, see!
Loometh the Cross of Calvary;
With rayless eyes the Skeleton
Quivers through all its bones thereon.
Deep grows the mist, faint falls the wind,
The bloodshot sun setteth behind—
A crash! a fall!—The Cross he strides,
Singing the Song of Deicides!

 

10.

Now he hath conquered godhead thus,
Whither will turn Homunculus?
I am the only God let be—                                                    [10:3]
All but the fiends believe in me;                                              [10:4]
(Tho’ all the Angels deem me prince,                                     233
My kith and kin I can’t convince.)
Christ help me now! Hither he rides,
Singing my Song of Deicides!

 

11.

Silent I wait—(how stand the odds?)
I am the Serpent of the Gods,—
Wait!—draw the forkëd tongue in slow,
Hoard up my venom for the blow,
Crouch in my cave—of all the host
I know he feareth me the most—
Then strike and crush that thing accurst
I should have stifled at the first! . . .
All Earth awaits! Hither he rides!
Cold fall the dews, chill rise the tides,
To this still Song of Deicides!

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. 4: Under a starless heaven and cold;
v. 4, l. 6: He has passed the darker sphere of change,
v. 10, l. 3: I am the only God let be—
v. 10, l. 4: All but my fiends believe in me; ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               234

IX.

ROSES.

 

“Sad, and sweet, and wise,
     Here a child reposes,
Dust is on his eyes,
Quietly he lies,—
     Satan, strew Roses!”

Weeping low, creeping slow,
     Came the Weary-wingëd;
Roses red over the dead
     Quietly he flingëd.

“I am old,” he thought,
     “And the world’s day closes;
Pale and fever-fraught,
Sadly have I brought
     These blood-red Roses.”

By his side the mother came                                                    235
     Shudderingly creeping;
The Devil’s and the woman’s heart
     Bitterly were weeping.

“Swift he came and swift he flew,
     Hopeless he reposes;
Waiting on is weary too,—
Wherefore on his grave we strew
     Bitter, withering Roses.”

The Devil gripped the woman’s heart,
     With gall he staunched its bleeding;
Far away, beyond the day,
     The Lord heard interceding.

“Lord God, One in Three!
     Sure Thy anger closes;
Yesterday I died, and see
The Weary-wingëd over me
     Bitterly streweth Roses.”

The voice cried out, “Rejoice! rejoice!                                    236
     There shall be sleep for evil!”
And all the sweetness of God’s voice
     Passed strangely through the Devil.

 

[Notes:
Part IX of ‘The Devil’s Mystics’ - ‘Roses’ - was originally published in North Coast and other Poems (1867) as the eighth part of the poem, ‘Celtic Mystics’. Details of the changes made to this earlier version are available in the North Coast - Revisions section.]

 

                                                                                                                                                               237

X.

HERMAPHRODITUS.

 

This is a section of a Singer’s Brain—
How delicately run the granular lines!
By what strange chemic could I touch this thing,
That it again might quicken and dissolve,
Changing and blooming, into glittering gleams
Of fancy; or what chemic could so quicken
The soft soil backward that it might put forth
Green vegetable shoots,—as long ago?
O on what headland did it blow of old                                              [1:9]
And ripen hitherward! Surely ’twas a place
Flowery and starry!

                                   Cast it back to the grave!
Look down no more, but raise thine eyes and see
Who standeth glorious in the brightening Dawn!

     Behold him, on the apex of the cone,                                          238
The perfect blossom of miraculous life,
Hermaphroditus. With how subtle shade
Male into female beauty mingleth—thews
Of iron coated o’er with skin of silk;—
There, on the crown he stands, the perfect one,
Witching the world with sterile loveliness,—
Beyond him, darkness and the unknown change,
The next uncurtain’d and still higher scene
That is to follow. Are those pinions,— peeping
Under the delicate-flesh’d white shoulder-blades?

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. 9: Upon what headland did it blow of old ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               239

XI.

AFTER.

 

I see, as plain as eyes can see,
From this dark point of mystery,
Death sitting at his narrow Gate,—
While all around, disconsolate,
The wretched weep, the weary wait.
     God pity us who weep and wait!

But, better still, if sadder, I
From this dark corner can descry
What is well-veil’d from human view:
Beyond the Gate I can pursue
The flight of those who have passed thro’.
     God pity us who have passed thro’!

In at the portal, one by one,
They creep, they crawl, with shivering moan—
Nobles and beggars, priests and kings;                                   240
Out at the thither gate each springs                                         [3:4]
A Spirit,—with a pair of wings!
     God pity us now we have wings.

All round the starry systems stir,
Each silent as a death-chamber;
There is no sound of melody,
Only deep space and mystery;
And each hath wings to wander free.
     God pity us who wander free!

Some cannot use their wings at all;
Some try a feeble flight and fall;
A few, like larks in earthly skies,
With measured beat of wings uprise,
And make their way to Paradise.
     God help us on to Paradise!

If ever in their flight thro’ space
They chance to reach that resting-place,
I do not think these creatures dim                                           241
Will find the Lord of Cherubim
Exactly what they picture Him.
     May God be what we picture Him!

Out of the fiery Sun is thrown
To other worlds the meteor-stone;
Back to the Sun, in season right,
The meteor-stone doth take its flight.
Lost in that melancholy light.
     We fade in melancholy light.

I see, as plain as eyes can see,
From this dark point of mystery,
Those fledgling Spirits everywhere;
They sing, they lessen up the air;
They go to God—Christ help them there!
     We go to God—Christ help us there.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 3, l. 4: Out at the further gate each springs ]

 

                                                                                                                                                               242

XII.

HIS PRAYER.

 

In the time of transfiguration,
Melt me, Master, like snow;
Melt me, dissolve me, inhale me
Into Thy wool-white cloud;
With a warm wind blow me upward
Over the hills and the seas,
And upon a summer morning
Poise me over the valley
Of Thy mellow, mellow realm;
Then, for a wondrous moment,
Watch me from infinite space
With Thy round red Eyeball of sunlight,
And melt and dissolve me downward
In the beautiful silver Rain
That drippeth musically,
With a gleam like Starlight and Moonlight,
On the footstool of Thy Throne.

 

[Notes:
Part XII of ‘The Devil’s Mystics’ - ‘His Prayer’ - was originally published in North Coast and other Poems (1867) as the ninth part of the poem, ‘Celtic Mystics’. Details of the changes made to this earlier version are available in the North Coast - Revisions section.]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 243

X.

THE VISION OF THE MAN ACCURST.

 

How in the end the Judgment dread
Shall by the Lord be utter
ëd,—                                             [2]
While brightly in a City of Rest
Shall flash the fountains of the Blest,
And gladdening around the Throne
All mortal men shall smile,—save one. . . .
Children of Earth, hear last rehearst
                                  [7]
The Vision of the Man Accurst.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 2: Shall by the Lord thy God be said,—
l. 7: Children of Earth, hear, last and first, ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 245

X.

THE VISION OF THE MAN ACCURST.

 

JUDGMENT was over; all the world redeem’d
Save one Man,—who had sinned all sins, whose soul
Was blackness and foul odour. Last of all,
When all was lamb-white, thro’ the summer Sea
Of ministering Spirits he was drifted
On to the white sands; there he lay and writhed,
Worm-like, black, venomous, with eyes accurst
Looking defiance, dazzled by the light
That gleam’d upon his clench’d and blood-stain’d hands;
While, with a voice low as a funeral bell,
The Seraph, sickening, read the sable scroll,
And as he read the Spirits ministrant
Darken’d and murmur’d, “Cast him forth, O Lord!”
And, from the Shrine where unbeheld He broods,                             246
The Lord said, “’Tis the basest mortal born—
Cast him beyond the Gate!”

                                           The wild thing laugh’d
Defiant, as from wave to wave of light
He drifted, till he swept beyond the Gate,
Past the pale Seraph with the silvern eyes;
And there the wild Wind, that for ever beats
About the edge of brightness, caught him up,
And like a straw whirl’d round and lifted him,                                   [2:7]
And on a dark shore in the Underworld
Cast him, alone and shivering; for the Clime
Was sunless, and the ice was like a sheet
Of glistening tin, and the faint glimmering peaks
Were twisted to fantastic forms of frost,
And everywhere the frozen moonlight steam’d
Foggy and blue, save where the abysses loom’d
Sepulchral shadow. But the Man arose,
With teeth gnash’d beast-like, waved wild feeble hands                     247
At the white Gate (that glimmer’d far away,
Like to the round ball of the Sun beheld
Through interstices in a wood of pine),                                            [2:19]
Cast a shrill curse at the pale Judge within,
Then groaning, beast-like crouch’d.

                                             Like golden waves
That break on a green island of the south,
Amid the flash of many plumaged wings,
Passed the fair days in Heaven. By the side
Of quiet waters perfect Spirits walked,
Low singing, in the star-dew, full of joy
In their own thoughts and pictures of those thoughts
In looking eyes that loved them; while beside them,                          [3:8]
After exceeding storm, the Waters of Life
With soft sea-sound subsided. Then God said,
“’Tis finished—all is well!” But as He spake
A voice, from out the lonely Deep beneath,
Mock’d!
                   Then to the Seraph at the Gate,                                     248
Who looketh on the Deep with steadfast eyes
For ever, God cried, “What is he that mocks?”
The Seraph answered, “’Tis the Man accurst!”
And, with a voice of most exceeding peace,
God ask’d, “What doth the Man?”

                                                     The Seraph said:
“Upon a desolate peak, with hoar-frost hung,
Amid the steaming vapours of the Moon,
He sitteth on a throne, and hideously
Playeth at judgment; at his feet, with eyes
Slimy and luminous, squats a monstrous Toad;
Above his head pale phantoms of the Stars
Fulfil cold ministrations of the void,
And in their dim and melancholy lustre
His shadow, and the shadow of the Toad
Beneath him, linger. Sceptred, thron’d, and crown’d,
The foul judgeth the foul, and sitting grim,
Laughs!”

                 With a voice of most exceeding peace                           249
The Lord said, “Look no more!”

                                                 The Waters of Life
Broke with a gentle sea-sound gladdening—
God turn’d and blest them; as He blest the same,
A voice, from out the lonely void beneath,
Shriek’d!

                   Then to the Seraph at the Gate,
Who looketh on the Deep with steadfast eyes
For ever, God cried, “What is he that shrieks?”
The Seraph answered, “’Tis the Man accurst!”
And, with a voice of most exceeding peace,
God ask’d, “What doth the Man?”

                                                     The Seraph said:
“Around him the wild phantoms of the fog                                       [8:2]
Moan in the rheumy hoar-frost and cold steam.
Long time, crown’d, sceptred, on his throne he sits
Playing at judgment; then with shrill voice cries—                             250
‘’Tis finished, thou art judged!’ and laughing fierce                            [8:6]
He thrusteth down an iron heel to crush
The foul Toad, that with dim and luminous eyes
So stareth at his soul. Thrice doth he lift
His foot up fiercely—lo! he shrinks and cowers—
Then, with a wild glare at the far-off Gate,
Rushes away, and, rushing thro’ the dark,
Shrieks!”

                   With a voice of most exceeding peace
The Lord said, “Look no more!”

                                           The Waters of Life,
The living, spiritual Waters, broke,
Fountain-like, up against the Master’s Breast,
Giving and taking blessing. Overhead
Gather’d the shining legions of the Stars,
Led by the ethereal Moon, with dewy eyes
Of lustre: these have been baptized in fire,
Their raiment is of molten diamond,                                                  251
And ’tis their office, as they circling move
In their blue orbits, evermore to turn
Their faces heavenward, drinking peace and strength
From that great Flame which, in the core of Heaven,
Like to the white heart of a violet burns,
Diffusing rays and odour. Blessing all,
God sought their beauteous orbits, and behold!
The Eyes innumerably glistening
Were turn’d away from Heaven, and with sick stare,
Like the blue gleam of salt dissolved in fire,
They searched the Void, as human faces look
On horror.

                     To the Seraph at the Gate,
Who looketh on the Deep with steadfast eyes,
God cried, “What is this thing whereon they gaze?”
The Seraph answered, “On the Man accurst.”                                   [11:4]
And, with a voice of most exceeding peace,
God ask’d, “What doth the Man?”

                                                     The Seraph said:                       252
“O Master! send Thou forth a tongue of fire
To wither up this worm! Serene and cold,
Flooded with moon-dew, lies the World, and there
The Man roams; and the image of the Man
In the wan waters of the frosty sphere
Falleth gigantic. Up and down he drifts,
Worm-like, black, venomous, with eyes accursed,                          [12:8]
Waving his bloody hands in fierce appeal,
So that the gracious faces of Thy Stars
Are troubled, and the stainless tides of light
Shadow pollution. With wild, ape-like eyes,
The wild thing whining peers thro’ horrent air,                                [12:13]
And rusheth up and down, seeking to find
A face to look upon, a hand to touch,
A heart that beats; but all the World is void
And beauteous. All alone in the Cold Clime,                                  [12:17]
Alone within the lonely universe,
Crawleth the Man accurst!”

                                           Then said the Lord,                              253
“Doth he repent?” And the fair Seraph said,
“Nay—he blasphemeth! Send Thou forth thy fire!”
But with a voice of most exceeding peace,
Out of the Shrine where unbeheld He broods,
God said, “What I have made, a living Soul,
Cannot he unmade, but endures for ever.”
Then added, “Call the Man!”

                                               The Seraph heard,
And in a low voice named the lost one’s name;
The wild Wind that for ever beats the Gate
Caught up the word, and fled thro’ the cold void.
’Twas murmur’d on, as a lorn echo fading,
From peak to peak. Swift as a wolf the Man
Was rushing o’er a waste, with shadow streaming
Backward against a frosty gleaming wind,
When like a fearful whisper in his ear
’Twas wafted; then his blanch’d lips shook like leaves
In that chill wind, his hair was lifted up,
He paused, his shadow paused, like stone and shadow,                   254
And shivering, glaring round him, the Man moaned,
“Who calls?” and in a moment he was ’ware
Of the white light streaming from the far Gate,
And looming, blotted black against the light,
The Seraph, with uplifted forefinger,
Naming his name!

                               And ere the Man could fly,
The wild Wind in its circuit swept upon him
And like a straw whirled him and lifted him,                                   [15:3]
And cast him at the Gate,—a bloody thing—
Wild, moaning, horrible, obscene, unclean;                                     [15:5]
A body swollen and stainëd, like the wool
Of sheep that in the rainy season crawl
About the hills, and sleep on foul damp beds
Of bracken rusting red. There, breathing hard,
Glaring with fiery eyes, panted the Man,
With scorch’d lips drooping, thirsting as he heard
The flowing of the Fountains far within.

     Then said the Lord, “Is the Man there?” and “Yea,”                    255
Answered the Seraph pale. Then said the Lord,
“What doth the Man?” The Seraph, frowning, said:
“O Master, in the belly of him is fire,
He thirsteth, fiercely thrusting out his hands,
And threateneth, seeking water!” Then the Lord
Said, “Give him water—let him drink!”

                                                           The Seraph,
Stooping above him, with forefinger bright
Touch’d the gold kerbstone of the Gate, and lo!
Water gush’d forth and gleamed; and lying prone
The Man crawl’d thither, dipt his fever’d face,
Drank long and deeply; then, his thirst appeased,
Thrust in his bloody hands unto the wrist,
And let the gleaming Fountain play upon them,
And looking up out of his dripping hair,
Grinned mockery at the giver.

                                                 Then the Lord
Said low, “How doth the Man?” The Seraph said:
“It is a snake! He mocketh all Thy gifts,                                            256
And in a snake’s voice half-articulate,
Blasphemeth!” Then the Lord: “Doth the Man crave
To enter in?” “Not so,” the Seraph said,
“He saith——” “What saith he?” “That his Soul is filled
With hate of Thee and of Thy ways; he loathes
Pure pathways where the fruitage of the Stars
Hangeth resplendent, and he spitteth hate
On all Thy Children. Send Thou forth Thy fire!
In no wise is he better than the beasts,
The gentle beasts, that come like morning dew
And vanish. Let him die!” Then said the Lord:
“What I have made endures; but ’tis not meet
This thing should cross my perfect work for ever.
Let him begone!” Then cried the Seraph pale:
“O Master! at the frozen Clime he glares
In awe, shrieking on Thee!” “What doth he crave?”                        [18:19]
“Neither Thy Heaven nor Thy holy ways.                                       [18:20]
He murmureth out he is content to dwell
In the Cold Clime for ever, so Thou sendest                                      257
A face to look upon, a heart that beats,
A hand to touch—albeit like himself,
Black, venomous, unblest, exiled, and base:
Give him this thing, he will be very still,
Nor trouble Thee again.”

                                         The Lord mused.

                                                                         Still,
Scarce audible, trembled the Waters of Life—
Over all Heaven the Snow of the same Thought
Which rose within the Spirit of the Lord
Fell hushedly; the innumerable Eyes
Swam in a lustrous dream.

                                             Then said the Lord:
“In all the waste of worlds there dwelleth not
Another like himself—behold he is
The basest Mortal born. Yet ’tis not meet
His cruel cry, for ever piteous,
Should trouble my eternal Sabbath-day.                                           258
Is there a Spirit here, a human thing,
Will pass this day from the Gate Beautiful
To share the exile of this Man accurst,—
That he may cease the shrill pain of his cry,
And I have peace?”

                                 Hushedly, hushedly,
Snow’d down the Thought Divine—the living Waters
Murmured and darkened. But like mournful mist
That hovers o’er an autumn pool, two Shapes,
Beautiful, human, glided to the Gate
And waited.

                       “What art thou?” in a stern voice
The Seraph said, with dreadful forefinger
Pointing to one. A gentle voice replied,
“I will go forth with him whom ye call curst!
He grew within my womb—my milk was white
Upon his lips. I will go forth with him!”
“And thou?” the Seraph said. The second Shape                              259
Answer’d, “I also will go forth with him;
I have kist his lips, I have lain upon his breast,
I bare him children, and I closed his eyes;
I will go forth with him!”

                                         Then said the Lord,
“What Shapes are these who speak?” The Seraph answer’d:            [24:2]
“The woman who bore him and the wife he wed—
The one he slew in anger—the other he stript,
With ravenous claws, of raiment and of food.”
Then said the Lord, “Doth the Man hear?” “He hears,”
Answer’d the Seraph; “like a wolf he lies,
Venomous, bloody, dark, a thing accurst,
And hearkeneth, with no sign!” Then said the Lord:
“Show them the Man,” and the pale Seraph cried,
“Behold!”

                   Hushedly, hushedly, hushedly,                                      260
In heaven fell the Snow of Thought Divine,
Gleaming upon the Waters of Life beneath,
And melting,—as with slow and lingering pace,
The Shapes stole forth into the windy cold,
And saw the thing that lay and throbbed and lived,
And stooped above him. Then one reach’d a hand
And touch’d him, and the fierce thing shrank and moaned,               [25:8]
Hiding his face.

                           “Have they beheld the Man?”
The Lord said; and the Seraph answer’d, “Yea;”
And the Lord said again, “What doth the Man?”

“He lieth like a log in the wild blast,
And as he lieth, lo! one sitting takes
His head into her lap, and moans his name,
And smoothes his matted hair from off his brow,
And croons in a low voice a cradle song;
And lo! the other kneeleth at his side,                                                261
Half-shrinking in the old habit of her fear,
Yet hungering with her eyes, and passionately
Kissing his bloody hands.”

                                             Then said the Lord,
“Will they go forth with him?” A voice replied,
“He grew within my womb—my milk was white
Upon his lips. I will go forth with him!”
And a voice cried, “I will go forth with him;
I have kist his lips, I have lain upon his breast,
I bare him children, and I closed his eyes;
I will go forth with him!”

                                         Still hushedly
Snow’d down the Thought Divine, the Waters of Life
Flow’d softly, sadly; for an alien sound,
A piteous human cry, a sob forlorn
Thrill’d to the heart of Heaven.

                                                   The Man wept.

     And in a voice of most exceeding peace                                      262
The Lord said (while against the Breast Divine
The Waters of Life leapt, gleaming, gladdening):
“The Man is saved; let the Man enter in.”

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
v. 2, l. 7: And, like a straw, whirl’d round and wafted him,
v. 2, l. 19: Through interspaces in a wood of pine),
v. 3, l. 8: Flash’d into eyes that loved them; while beside them,
v. 8, l. 2: ‘Around him the wild phantasms of the fog
v. 8, l. 6: “’Tis finished, thou art judged!” and, fiercely laughing,
v. 11, l. 4: The Seraph answer’d, “’Tis the Man accurst.” 
v. 12, l. 8: Worm-like, black, venomous, with eyes of hate,
v. 12, l. 13: The wild thing whining peers thro’ horrent hair,
v. 12, l. 17: And awful. All alone in the Cold Clime,
v. 15, l. 3: And lifted him, and whirl’d him like a straw,
v. 15, l. 5: Mad, moaning, horrible, obscene, unclean;
v. 18, l. 19: In awe, shrieking at Thee!” “What doth he crave?”
v. 24, l. 2: “What Shapes are these which speak?” The Seraph answer’d:
v. 25, l. 8: And touch’d him, and the fierce thing shrank and spat,
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 3, l. 8: Flash’d into eyes that loved them; while beside them,
v. 8, l. 2: ‘Around him the wild phantasms of the fog
v. 8, l. 6: “’Tis finished, thou art judged!” and, fiercely laughing,
v. 12, l. 13: The wild thing whining peers through horrent hair,
v. 15, l. 5: Mad, moaning, horrible, obscene, unclean;
v. 18, l. 19: In awe, shrieking at Thee!’ ‘What doth he crave?’
v. 18, l. 20: ‘Neither Thy Heaven nor by Thy holy ways.
v. 25, l. 8: And touch’d him, and the fierce thing shrank and spat, ]

 

 

 

THE END.

 

 

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