ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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{Undertones 1863}

 

                                                                                                                                                                 62

IV.

THE NAIAD.

_____

 

1.

DIAN white-arm’d has given me this cool shrine,
Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine:
         The silver-sparkling showers
         That close me in, the flowers
That prink my fountain’s brim, are hers and mine;
     And when the days are mild and fair,
         And grass is springing, buds are blowing,
         Sweet it is, ’mid waters flowing,
     Here to sit, and know no care,
         ’Mid the waters flowing, flowing, flowing,
     Combing my yellow, yellow hair.

 

2.

The ounce and panther down the mountainside
Creep thro’ dark greenness in the eventide;
         And at the fountain’s brink                                                      63
         Casting great shades they drink,
Gazing upon me, tame and sapphire-eyed;
     For, awed by my pale face, whose light
         Gleameth thro’ sedge and lilies yellow,
         They, lapping at my fountain mellow,
     Harm not the lamb that in affright
         Throws in the pool so mellow, mellow, mellow,
     Its shadow small and dusky-white.

 

3.

Oft do the fauns and satyrs, flusht with play,
Come to my coolness in the hot noon-day.
         Nay, once indeed, I vow
         By Dian’s truthful brow,
The great god Pan himself did pass this way,
     And, all in festal oak-leaves clad,
         His limbs among these lilies throwing,
         Watch’d the silver waters flowing,
     Listen'd to their music glad,
         Saw and heard them flowing, flowing, flowing,
     And ah! his face was worn and sad!

                                                                                                                                                                 64

4.

Mild joys around like silvery waters fall;
But it is sweetest, sweetest far of all,
         In the calm summer night,
         When the tree-tops look white,
To be exhaled in dew at Dian’s call,
     Among my sister-clouds to move
         Over the darkness earth-bedimming,
         Milky-robed thro’ heaven swimming,
     Floating round the stars above,
         Swimming proudly, swimming, proudly swimming,
     And waiting on the Moon I love.

 

5.

So tenderly I keep this cool green shrine,
Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine;
         Faithful thro’ shade and sun,
         That service due and done
May haply earn for me a place divine
     Among the white-robed deities
         That thread thro’ starry paths, attending
         My sweet Lady, calmly wending                                            65
     Thro’ the silence of the skies,
         Changing in hues of beauty never ending,
     Drinking the light of Dian’s eyes.

 

                                                                                                                                                                 66

V.

THE SATYR.

_____

 

1.

THE trunk of this tree,
     Dusky-leaved, shaggy-rooted,
     Is a pillow well suited
To a hybrid like me,
     Goat-bearded, goat-footed;
For the boughs of the glade
     Meet above me, and throw
A cool pleasant shade
     On the greenness below;
Dusky and brown’d
     Close the leaves all around;
And yet, all the while,
     Thro’ the boughs I can see
A star, with a smile,
     Looking at me.

                                                                                                                                                               67

2.

Full length I lie,
     On this mossy tree-knot,
With face to the sky,
     The vast blue I see not;
And I start in surprise
     From my dim half-dream,
     With the moist white gleam
Of the star in mine eyes:
     So strange does it seem
     That the star should beam
From her crystal throne
     On this forest nook
     Of all others, and look
Upon me alone:
Ay, that yonder divine
     Soft face
     Should shine
On this one place;
And, when things so fair
Fill the earth and air,                                                              [l.xx]
     Should choose to be,
Night after night,
The especial light                                                                     68
     Of a monster like me!

 

3.

Why, all day long,
     I run about
With a madcap throng,
     And laugh and shout.
Silenus grips
     My ears, and strides
On my shaggy hips,
         And up and down
         In an ivy crown
     Tipsily rides;
And when in a dose                                                               [l.xi]
His eyelids close,
     Off he tumbles, and I
Can his wine-skin steal,
I drink—and feel
     The grass roll—sea-high                                                   [l.xvi]
Then with shouts and yells,
Down mossy dells,
I stagger after
     The wood-nymphs fleet,                                                    69
Who with mocking laughter
     And smiles retreat;
And just as I clasp
     A yielding waist,
     With a cry embraced,
—Gush! it melts from my grasp
     Into water cool,
         And—bubble! trouble!
         Seeing double!
I stumble and gasp
     In some icy pool!

 

4.

All suborn me,
Flout me, scorn me!
Drunken joys
     And cares are mine,
Romp and noise,
     And the dregs of wine;
And whene’er in the night
     Diana glides by
     The spot where I lie,
With her maids green-dight,                                                    70
     I must turn my back
In a rude affright,
     And blindly fly
     From her shining track;                                                     [xiv]
Or if only I hear
Her bright foot-fall near,
     Fall with face to the grass,
Not breathing for fear
     Till I feel her pass.

 

5.

I am—
     I know not what:
Neither what I am,
     Nor what I am not—
I seem to have rollick’d,
     And frolick’d,
In this wood for ay,
     With a beast’s delight
Romping all day,
     Dreaming all night!
Yet I seem
     To remember awaking                                                       71
     Just here, and aching
     With the last forsaking
         Tender gleam
Of a droll strange dream.—
When I lay at mine ease,
     With a sense at my heart
     Of being a part
Of the grass and trees
And the scented earth,
     And of drinking the bright
     Subdued sunlight
With a leafy mirth:
Then behold, I could see
     A wood-nymph peeping
Out of her tree,
     And closer creeping,
Timorously
Looking at me!
And still, so still,
I lay until
     She trembled close to me,
     Soft as a rose to me,
And I leapt with a thrill                                                            72
     And a shout, and threw
Arms around her, and press’d her,
Kiss’d her, caress’d her,—
     Ere she scream’d, and flew.

 

6.

Then I was ’ware
     Of a power I had—
To drink the air,
         Laugh and shout,
         Run about,
     And be consciously glad—
So I follow’d the maiden
     ’Neath shady eaves,
Thro’ groves deep-laden
     With fruit and leaves,
Till, drawing near
To a brooklet clear,
I shuddering fled
     From the monstrous shape
There mirrorëd—
Which seem’d to espy me,
     And grin and gape,                                                            73
And leap up high
In the air with a cry,
         And fly me!

 

7.

Whence I seem to have slowly
     Grown conscious of being
A thing wild, unholy,
     And foul to the seeing.—
But ere I knew aught
     Of others like me,
I would lie, fancy-fraught,
In the greenness of thought,
     Beneath a green tree;
And seem to be deep
     In the scented earth-shade
     ’Neath the grass of the glade,
In a strange half-sleep:
When the wind seem’d to move me,
     The cool rain to kiss,
The sunlight to love me,
     The stars in their bliss
To tingle above me;                                                                74
And I crept thro’ deep bowers
That were sparkling with showers
     And sprouting for pleasure,
And I quicken’d the flowers
     To a joy without measure—
Till my sense seem’d consuming
     With warmth, and, upspringing,
I saw the flowers blooming,
     And heard the birds singing!

 

8.

Wherever I range,
     Thro’ the greenery,
That vision strange,
     Whatsoever it be,
     Is a part of me
Which suffers not change.—
The changes of earth,
     Water, air, ever-stirring,
     Disturb me, conferring
My sadness or mirth:
Wheresoever I run,
I drink strength from the sun;                                                   75
The wind stirs my veins
     With the leaves of the wood,
The dews and the rains
     Mingle into my blood.
I stop short
In my sport,
     Panting, and cower,
While the blue skies darken
     With a sunny shower;
And I lie and hearken,
     In a balmy pain
         To the tinkling clatter,
         Pitter, patter,
     Of the rain
On the leaves close to me,
     And sweet thrills pass
Thro’ and thro’ me,
     Till I tingle like grass.
When lightning with noise
     Tears the wood’s green ceiling,
When the black sky’s voice
     Is terribly pealing,
I hide me, hide me, hide me,                                                     76
     With wild averted face,
     In some terror-stricken place,
While flowers and trees beside me,
     And every streamlet near,
Darken whirl, and wonder,
Above, around, and under,
And murmur back the thunder
     In a palpitating fear!

 

9.

Ay; and when the earth turns
     A soft bosom of balm
To the darkness that yearns
     Above it, and grows
     To dark, dewy, and calm
         Repose,—
I, apart from rude riot,
Partake of the quiet
     The night is bequeathing,
Lie, unseen and unheard,
In the greenness just stirr’d
     By its own soft breathing—
And my heart then thrills                                                          77
     With a strange sensation
Like the purl of rills
Down moonlit hills
     That loom afar,
With a sweet sensation
Like the palpitation
     Of yonder star!

 

10.

Thro’ yonder bough
     Her white ray twinkles;
And on my brow
     She silently sprinkles
         A dewy rain,
         That lulls my brain
To a dream of being
     Under the ground,
Blind to seeing
     Deaf to sound,
Drinking a dew
     That drops from afar,
And feeling unto
     The sweet pulse of a star,                                                    78
Who is beckoning me
Though I cannot see!
And of suddenly blooming
     Up into the air,
And, swooning, assuming
     The shape I wear!
While all fair things
     Fly night and day from me,
Wave bright wings,
     And glimmer away from me!

 

11.

—She shines above me,
     And heareth not,
     Though she smiles on this spot
And seems to love me.
Here I lie aloof,
     Goat-footed, knock-kneed,
     A monster, indeed,
From horns to hoof;
And the star burns clearly
     With pearl-white gleam—
Have I merely                                                                        79
     Dream’d a dream?

 

12.

—Did she hear me, I wonder?—
     She trembles upon
     Her throne—and is gone!
The boughs darken under,
     Then thrill, and are stirr’d
     By the notes of a bird.
The green grass brightens
     With pearly dew,
And the whole wood whitens
     As the dawn creeps thro’.—
“Hoho!”—that shout
Flung the echoes about
     The boughs, like balls!
         Who calls?—
’Tis the noisy rout
Of my fellows upspringing
     From sleep and dreaming,
To the birds’ shrill singing,
     The day’s soft beaming:
And they madly go                                                                  80
To and fro,
     Though o’ nights they are dumb.
Hoho! hoho!
     I come! I come!
Hark!—to the cry
They reply:
“Ha, there, ha!”
“Hurrah!”—“hurrah!”
     And startling afraid
At the cries,
     In the depths of the glade
Echo replies—
“Ho, there!”—“ho, there!”—
By the stream below there
     The answer dies.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 2, l. xx: Till the earth and air,
v. 3, l. xi: And when in a doze
v. 3, l. xvi: The grass roll—sea-high!
v. 4. l.xiv: From her shining track! ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 81

VI.

VENUS ON THE SUN-CAR.

_____

 

1.

TELL me, thou many-finger’d Frost,
Coming and going like a ghost
     In leafless woods forsaken—
O Frost, that o’er him lying low
Drawest the garment of the snow
     From silver cloud-wings shaken,
And round bare boughs with strange device
Twinest fantastic leaves of ice—
     When will Adon waken?
Lo, dawn by dawn I rise afar
Beside Apollo in his car,
     And, far below us wreathing,
Thy fogs and mists are duskly curl’d                                                 82
Round the white slumber of the world,
     Like to its own deep breathing;
But crimson thro’ the mist our light
Foameth and freezeth, till by night
     Snow-bosom’d hills we fade on—
The pallid god, at my desire,
Gives unto thee a breath of fire
     To reach the lips of Adon.

 

2.

Tell me, thou bare and wintry World,
Wherein the wingëd flowers are curl’d
     Like pigmy spirits dozing—
O World, within whose lap he lies,
With thy quick earth upon his eyes,
     In dim unseen reposing,
Husht underneath the wind and storm,
Still rosy-lipt in darkness warm—
     Are Adon’s eyes unclosing?
Lo, dawn by dawn I rise afar
Beside Apollo in his car,
     Thro’ voids of azure soaring,
And gazing down on regions dead,                                                     83
With golden hair dishevellëd,
     And claspëd hands imploring.
Wonderful creatures of the light
Hover above thee, hanging bright
     Faint pictures glen and glade on:
The pallid god, at my desire,
Hideth in glimmering snows his fire,
     To reach the sleep of Adon.

 

3.

Tell me, thou spirit of the Sun,
Radiant-lock’d and awful one,
     Strong, constant, unforsaking—
Sun, by whose shadier side I sit
And search thy face, and question it,
     Conferring light and taking—
Whose fiery westward motion throws
The shadow-hours on his repose,—
     Is my Adon waking?
Lo, dawn by dawn I rise afar
Beside thee in thy flaming car,
     Thou ever-constant comer!
And flashing on the clouds that break                                                84
Around our path thy sunbeams make
     A phantom of the summer.
O breathe upon the Moon, that she
May use her magic witchery
     When snowy hills we fade on,
That, in the dark, when thou art gone,
She speed the resurrection,
     And stir the sleep of Adon!

 

4.

Tell me, O silver-wingëd Moon,
That glidest to melodious tune
     Ice-sparkling skies on skies up,—
O Moon, that to the sunset grey,
Drinking faint light that fades away,
     Liftest immortal eyes up,
And walking on, art thro’ the night
Troubled to pain by that strange light,—
     When will Adon rise up?
Lo, dawn by dawn I rise afar
Beside Apollo in his car,
     Imploring sign or token
But night by night such pale peace beams                                           85
Upon his slumber, that it seems
     Too beauteous to be broken!
O gentle goddess, be not cold—
But, some dim dawn, may we behold
     New glory hill and glade on,
The leaves and flowers alive to bliss,
And, somewhat pale with thy last kiss,
     The smiling face of Adon!

 

                                                                                                                                                                 86

VII.

SELENE THE MOON.

_____

 

1.

I HIDE myself in the cloud that flies
     From the west and drops on the hill’s grey shoulder,
And I gleam thro’ the cloud with my panther-eyes,
     While the stars turn paler, the dews grow colder;
I veil my naked glory in mist,
     Quivering downward and dewily glistening,
Till his sleep is as pale as my lips unkist,
     And I tremble above him, panting and listening.
As white as a star, as cold as a stone,
     Dim as my light in a sleeping lake,
With his head on his arm he lieth alone.
         And I sigh “Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and see!”                                                     87
And he stirs in his sleep for the love of me;
     But on his eyelids my breath I shake:
         “Endymion, Endymion!
         Awaken, awaken!”
     And the yellow grass stirs with the mystic moan,
         And the tall pines groan,
     And Echo sighs in her grot forsaken
         The name of Endymion!

 

2.

A foamy dew from the Ocean old,
     Whence I rise with shadows behind me flying,
Drops from my sandals and glittereth cold
     On the long spear-grass where my love is lying;
My face is dim with departed suns,
     And my eyes are dark from the depths of ocean,
A starry shudder throughout me runs,
     And my pale cloud stirs with a radiant motion,
When the darkness wherein he slumbers alone
     Ebbs back from my brightness, as black waves break
From my shining ankle with shuddering tone;
         And I sigh “Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and hear!”                                                  88
And he stirs in his sleep with a dreamy fear,
     And his thin lips part for my sweet sake:
         “Endymion, Endymion!
         Awaken, awaken!”
     And the skies are moved, and a shadow is blown
         From the Thunderer’s throne,
     And the spell of a voice from Olumpos shaken
         Echoes “Endymion!”

 

3.

Then under his lids like a balmy rain
     I put pale dreams of my heavenly glory;—
And he sees me lead with a silver chain
     The tamed Sea-Tempest white-tooth’d and hoary;
And he sees me fading thro’ forests dark
     Where the leopard and lion avoid me in wonder,
Or ploughing the sky in a pearly bark,
     While the earth is dumb with my beauty under!
Then he brightens and yearns where he lies alone,
     And his heart grows dumb with a yearning ache,
And the thin lips part with a wondering moan,
         As I sigh “Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and see                                                       89
All things grow bright for the love of me,
     With a love that grows gentle for thy sweet sake!
         Endymion, Endymion!
         Awaken, awaken!”
     And my glory grows paler, the deep woods groan,
         And the waves intone,
     Ay, all things whereon my glory is shaken
         Murmur “Endymion!”

 

4.

Aï! The black earth brightens, the Sea creeps near
     When I swim from the sunset’s shadowy portal;
But he will not see, and he will not hear,
     Though to hear and see were to be immortal:
Pale as a star and cold as a stone,
     Dim as my ghost in a sleeping lake,
In an icy vision he lieth alone,
         And I sigh “Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and be
Divine, divine, for the love of me!”
     And my odorous breath on his lids I shake:
         “Endymion, Endymion!
         Awaken, awaken!”                                                                 90
     But Zeus sitteth cold on his cloud-shrouded throne,
         And heareth my moan,
     And his stern lips form not the hope-forsaken
         Name of Endymion.

 

                                                                                                                                                                 91

VIII.

IRIS THE RAINBOW.

_____

 

1.

’MID the cloud-enshrouded haze
     Of Olumpos I arise,
With the full and rainy gaze
     Of Apollo in mine eyes;
But I shade my dazzled glance
     With my dripping pinions white
Where the sunlight sparkles dance
     In a many-tinctured light:
My foot upon the woof
     Of a fleecy cloudlet small,
I glimmer thro’ the roof
     Of the paven banquet-hall,
And a soft pink radiance dips                                                  92
     Thro’ the floating mists divine,
Touching eyes and cheeks and lips
     Of the mild-eyed gods supine,
And the pinky odour rolls                                                      [l.xvii]
     Round their foreheads, while I stain,
With a blush like wine, the bowls
     Of foam-crusted porcelain:                                                [l.xx]
Till the whole calm place has caught
     A deep gleam of rosy fire—
When I darken to the thought
     In the eyes of Zeus the Sire.

 

2.

Then Zeus, arising, stoops
     O’er the ledges of the skies,
Looking downward, thro’ the loops
     Of the starry tapestries,
On the evident dark plain
     Speck’d with wood and hill and stream,
On the wrinkled tawny main
     Where the ships, like snowflakes, gleam;
And with finger without swerve,
     Swiftly lifted, swiftly whirl’d,                                                93
He draws a magic curve
     O’er the cirrus of the world;                                             [l.xii]
When with waving wings display’d,
     On the Sun-god’s threshold bright
I upleap, and seem to fade
     In a humid flash of light;                                                    [l.xvi]
But I plunge thro’ vapours dim
     To the dark low-lying land,
And I tremble, float, and swim,
     On the strange curve of the Hand:
From my wings, that drip, drip, drip,
     With cool rains, shoot jets of fire,
As across green capes I slip
     With the thought of Zeus the Sire.

 

3.

Thence, with drooping wings bedew’d,
     Folded close about my form,
I alight with feet unview’d
     On the ledges of the storm;
For a moment, cloud-enroll’d,
     Mid the murm’rous rain I stand,
And with meteor eyes behold                                                  94
     Vapoury ocean, misty land;
Till the thought of Zeus outsprings
     From my ripe mouth with a sigh,
And unto my lips it clings
     Like a shining butterfly;
When I brighten, gleam, and glow
     And my glittering wings unfurl,
And the melting colours flow
     To my foot of dusky pearl;
And the ocean mile on mile
     Gleams thro’ capes and straits and bays,
And the vales and mountains smile,
     And the leaves are wet with rays,—
While I wave the humid Bow
     Of my wings with flash of fire,
And the Tempest, crouch’d below,
     Knows the thought of Zeus the Sire.

 

[Notes:
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. xvii: And the growing glory rolls
v. 1, l. xx: Of transparent porcelain:
v. 2, l. xii: O’er the dark low-lying world;
v. 2, l. xvi: In a flash of golden light; ]

 

                                                                                                                                                                 95

IX.

ORPHEUS THE MUSICIAN.

_____

 

I SAT of old beside a stream new-born
     From loamy loins of mountains cold,
And it was garrulous of dreams forlorn
     And visions old:

Wherefore the legends of the woods and caves
     With that faint melody were blended;
And as the stream slid down to ocean-waves,
     I comprehended.

Into a dreary silence dim and deep                                                   96
     I sank with drowsy sighs and nods:
Then sang—my blue eyes dark and wise from sleep—
     The birth of gods.—

A gleaming shoulder cut the stream, and lo!
     I saw the glistening Naiad rise:
She floated, like a lily white as snow,
     With half-closed eyes.

And suddenly, thronging the boughs around,
     Came forest faces strange and glad,
That droopt moist underlips and drank the sound
     Divinely sad.

Far down the glade, where heavy shadows slept,
     Stole, purple-stainëd by the vine,
Silenus,—thro’ whose blood my music crept
     Like wondrous wine:

Tiptoe, like one who fears to break a spell,                                         97
     He came, with eyeballs blank as glass—
Not drawing breath till, at my feet, he fell
     Prone on the grass.

Then, leaning forkëd chin upon his hand,
     He listen’d, dead to tipsy strife,
And lo! his face grew smooth and soft and bland
     With purer life.

Goat-footed fauns and satyrs one by one,
     With limbs upon the greensward thrown,
Gather’d, and darken’d round me in the sun,
     Like shapes of stone:

Between the sunset and the green hillside
     Quaint pigmy spirits linger’d bright,
Till heaven’s one star swam dewy, opening wide
     To the delight,—

While sunlight redden’d, dying, and below                                        98
     All heark’d—like shapes upon a cup,
By skiëd Heré, in the ambrosial glow,
     Held rosily up.

Then twilight duskly gloam’d upon the place,
     Full of sweet odour and cool shade,
But music made a lamp of every face
     In the forest-glade:

Till swiftly swam, in showers of pearly beams,
     Selené to her azure arc,
Scattering silence, light, and dewy dreams
     On eyelids dark.

The music sadden’d, and the greenwood stirr’d,
     The moonlight clothed us in its veil,
As stooping down the dove-eyed goddess heard,
     Smiled, and grew pale:

For as they listen’d, satyrs, nymphs, and fauns                                  99
     Conceived their immortality—
Yea, the weird spirits of the woods and lawns,
     Gross, vile, to see—

Whence her pure light disturb’d them, and they strove
     To shake away the sweet strange charm;
But the light brighten’d, shaken from above
     With pearly arm.

They could not fly, they could not cry nor speak,
     It held them like a hand of strength,—
They hid their faces, wild, abash’d and weak,
     And writhed full length.

The Naiad lifted up her dewy chin,
     And knew, and saw the light with love,
Made peaceful by a purity akin
     To hers above.

And countless beauteous spirits of the shade                                     100
     Knew their own souls and felt no fear;
While Echo, nestling in her thyme-cave, made
     An answer clear.

Till, when I ceased to sing, the satyr-crew
     Rush’d back to riot and carouse;
Self-fearful faces blushingly withdrew
     Into leafy boughs;

Lastly, Silenus to his knees upcrept,
     Rubb’d eyelids swollen like the vine,
Stared blankly round him, vow’d that he had slept,
     And bawl’d for wine.

 

_____

 

Undertones continued

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