THE SILENCE OF AMOR
"Are they gone, these twain, who loved with deathless love. Or is this a dream that I have dreamed.
"Afar in an island-sanctuary that I shall not see again, where the wind chants the blind oblivious rune of Time, I have heard the grasses whisper:
Time never was, Time is not."
"ULA AND URLA."
There is one word never spoken in these estrays of passion and longing. But you, White Flower of these fugitive blossoms, know it: for the rustle of the wings of Amor awakens you at dawn, and in the last quietudes of the dark your heart is his dear Haven of dream.
For, truly, that wandering voice, that twilight-whisper, that breath so dewy sweet, that flame-wing'd luteplayer whom none sees but for a moment, in a rainbow-shimmer of joy, or a sudden lightning-flare of passion, this exquisite mystery we call Amor, comes, to some rapt visionaries at least, not with a song upon the lips that all may hear, or with blithe viol of a public music, but as one wrought by ecstasy, dumbly eloquent with desire, ineffable, silent.
For Amor is ofttimes a dreamer, and when he dreams it is through lovely analogies. He speaks not, he whispers not, who in the flight of the wild swan against the frosty stars, or in the interlaceries of black branches against the moonlight, or the abrupt song of a bird in the green gloom of the forest, hears the voice that is all Music for him, sees the face of his unattainable Desire: These things are his silences, wherein his heart and his passion commune. And being his, they are mine: to lay before you, Dear; as a worshipper, wrought to incommunicable pain, lays white flowers before the altar, which is his Sanctuary and the Ivory Gate of his joy.
In the hollows of quiet places we may meet,
the quiet places where is neither moon nor sun,
but only the light as of amber and pale gold
that comes from the Hills of the Heart.
There, listen at times: there you will call, and I hear: there will I whisper, and that whisper will come to you as dew is gathered into the grass, at the rising of the moon.
THE SHADOWY WOODLANDS
Above the shadowy woodlands I hear the voice of the cuckoo, sailing like a silver skiff upon the moonflood.
I hear the far-off plaint of the cuckoo sink deep through the moonshine above the shadowy woodlands. At last, in the dense shadow of the wood, the moonlight sleeps.
AT THE RISING OF THE MOON
At the rising of the moon I heard the falling echo of a song, down by the linn where the wild brier hangs over the swirling foam. Ah, swirling foam, ah, poignant breath of the wild brier, now that I hear no haunting-sweet echo of a falling song at the rising of the moon.
By dim, mauve and. dream-white bushes of lilac I pass to the cypress alley, and to the mere which lies breathless in the moonshine. A fish leaps, a momentary flame of fire. Then all is still again on the moonlit mere, where, breathless, it lies beyond the cypress alley. In the vague moonshine of the cypress alley I pass again, a silent shadow, by the dim, mauve and dream-white bushes of lilac.
LANCES OF GOLD
The afternoon has drowsed through the sun-flood. The green leaves have grown golden, saturated with light. And now, at the sudden whirling of the lances of gold, a cloud of wild-doves arises from the pines, wheels against the sunblaze, and flashes out of sight, flames of purple and rose, of foam-white and pink. I know the green hidden nests of the wild-doves, when ye come again, O whirling lances of gold!
Low upon a pine-branch a nightjar leans and sings his churring song. He sings his churring song to his mate, who, poised upon a juniper hard by, listens with quivering wings.
The whirring of the nightjar fills the dusk, heavy with the fragrance of new-mown hay. There is neither star nor moon in the dim, flowing darkness, only the red and yellow wayfaring flames where the glow-worms are. Like a wandering wave, in the dewy dark, the churring note of the nightjar rises and falls against the juniper bush hard by.
THE TWILIT WATERS
Upon the dim seas in the twilight I hear the tide forging slowly through the still waters. There is not a sound else: neither the scream of a sea-mew, nor the harsh cry of the heron, nor the idle song of the wind: only the steadfast forging of the tide through the still waters of the twilit seas. O steadfast onward tide, O gloaming-hidden palpitating seas!
Oceanward, the sea-horses sweep magnificently, champing and whirling white foam about their green flanks, and tossing on high their manes of sunlit rainbow-gold, dazzling white and multitudinous far as sight can reach. O champing horses of my soul, toss, toss, on high your sunlit manes, your manes of rainbow-gold, dazzling white and multitudinous- for I too rejoice, rejoice!
GREY AND ROSE
I watched the greying of the dawn suspiring into rose. Then a yellow ripple came out of the narrow corrie at the summit of the hill. The yellow ripple ran like the running tide through the flushing grey, and washed in among the sprays of a birch beside me and among the rowan-clusters of a mountain-ash. But at the falling of the sun the yellow ripple was an ebbing tide, and the sprays of the birch were as a perishing flame and the rowan.-berries were red as drops of blood. Thereafter I watched the rose slow fading into the grey veils of dusk.
O greying of my dawn suspiring into rose: O grey veils of dusk that obscure the tender flushing of my rose-lit dawn!
To-day, as I walked at high noon, listening to the larks filling the April blue with a spray of delicate song, I saw a shadow pass me, where no one was, and where nothing moved, above me or around. It was not my shadow that passed me, nor the shadow of one for whom I longed. That other shadow came not. I have heard that there is a god clothed in shadow who goes to and fro among the human kind, putting silence between hearts with his waving hands, and breathing a chill out of his cold breath, and leaving a gulf as of deep waters flowing between them because of the passing of his feet. Thus, thus it was that that other shadow for which I longed came not. Yet, in the April blue I heard the wild aërial chimes of song, and watched the golden fulfilment of the day under the high, illimitable arch of noon.
THE WHITE MERLE
Long, long ago, a white merle flew out of Eden. Its song has been in the world ever since, but few there are who have seen the flash of its white wings through the green-gloom of the living wood--the sun-splashed, rain-drenched, mist-girt, storm-beat wood of human life.
But to-day, as I came through the wood, under an arch of tempest, and led by lightnings,I passed into a green sun -splashed place. There, there, I heard the singing of a rapt song of joy! there, ah, there I saw the flash of white wings!
I saw the Weaver of Dream, an immortal shape of star-eyed Silence; and the Weaver of Death, a lovely Dusk with a heart of hidden flame: and each wove with the shuttles of Beauty and Wonder and Mystery. I knew not which was the more fair: for Death seemed to me as Love, and in the eyes of Dream I saw Joy. Oh, come, come to me, Weaver of Dream! Come, come unto me, O Lovely Dusk, thou that hast the heart of hidden flame!
THE WEAVER OF HOPE
Again I saw a beautiful lordly one. He, too, lifted the three shuttles of Beauty and Wonder and Mystery, and wove a mist of rainbows. Rainbow after rainbow he wrought out of the mist of glory that he made, and sent each forth to drift across the desert of the human soul, and o'er every haunted valley of defeated dreams. O drifting rainbows of Hope, I know a pale place, a haunted valley of defeated dreams.
THE GOLDEN TIDES
The moon lay low above the sea, and all the flowing gold and flashing silver of the rippling, running water seemed to be a flood going that way and falling into the shining hollow of the moon. Oh, that the tides of my heart, for ever flowing one way, might fall to rest in the hollow of a golden moon.
A pale golden flame illumines the suspended billows of the forest. Star after star emerges, where the moongold laps the velvet-soft shores of dusk. Slowly the yellowing flame arises like smoke among the dark-blue depths. The white rays of the stars wander over the moveless, over the shadowless and breathless green lawns of the tree-tops. Oh, would that I were a star lost deep within the paling yellow flame that illumes the suspended billows of the forest.
THE REED PLAYER
I saw one put a hollow reed to his lips. It was a forlorn, sweet air that he played, an ancient forgotten strain learned of a shepherding woman upon the hills. The Song of Songs it was that he played: and the beating of hearts was, heard, and I heard sighs, and a voice like a distant bird-song rose and fell.
" Play me a song of Death," I said. Then he, who had the hollow reed at his lips smiled, and he played again the Song of Songs.
I heard the voice of the wind among the pines. It was as the tide coming over smooth sands. On the red pine-boles the sun flamed goldenly out of the west. In falling cadences the cuckoos called across the tides of light. In dreams, now, I hear the cuckoos calling across a dim sea of light, there where a sun that never rose nor set flames goldenly upon ancient trees, in whose midst the wind goes sighingly, with a sound as of the tide slipping swift over smooth sands. And I hear a solitary voice singing there, where I stand beside the gold-flamed pine-boles and look with hungry eyes against the light of a sun that never rose nor set.
THE WILD BEES
There was a man, seeking Peace, who found a precious treasure in the heather, when the bells were sweet with honey-ooze. Did the wild bees know of it? Would that I could hear the soft hum of their gauzy wings. Where blooms that heather, and what wind is it that moveth the bells that are sweet with the honey-ooze? Only the wild bees know of it; but I think they must be the bees of Magh-Mell, the bees that make a sweet sound in the drowsy ears of those who beneath the heather have indeed found rest by the dim waysides of Peace.
The rain has ceased falling softly through the dusk. A cool green wind flows through the deeps of air. The stars are as windwhirled fruit blown upward from the treetops. Full-orbed, and with a pulse of flame, the moon leads a tide of quiet light over the brown shores of the world. But here, here where I stand upon the brown shores of the world, in the shine of that quiet flame where, full-orbed, the moon uplifts the dark, I think only of the stars as wind-whirled fruit blown upward from the tree-tops. I think only of that wind that blew upon the tree-tops, where the whirling stars spun in a mazy dance, when, at last, the rain had ceased falling softly through the dusk. O windwhirled stars, O secret falling rain!
I dreamed of Orchil, the dim goddess who is under the brown earth, in a vast cavern, where she weaves at two looms. With one hand she weaves life upward through the grass; with the other she weaves death downward through the mould; and the sound of the weaving is Eternity, and the name of it in the green world is Time. And, through all, Orchil weaves the weft of Eternal Beauty, that passeth not, though its soul is Change. This is my comfort, O Beauty that art of Time, who am faint and hopeless in the strong sound of that other weaving, where Orchil, the dim goddess, sits dreaming at her loom under the brown earth.
I see the lift of the dark, the lovely advance of the lunar twilight, the miracle of the yellow bloom--golden here and here white as frost-fire--upon sea and land. I see, and yet see not. I hear the muffled voice of ocean and soft recurrent whisperings of the foam-white runners at my feet: I hear, and yet hear not. But one sound, one voice, I hear; one gleam, one vision, I see: O irrevocable, ineffable Desire!
In the heart of the shell a wild-rose flush lies shut from wind or wave; lies close, and dreams to the unceasing lullaby that the seashell sings. O would that I were that wild-rose flush, shut close from wind or wave: O would that I were that wild-rose flush to dream for ever to the unceasing song my sea-shell sings.
THE WHITE PROCESSION
One by one the stars come forth--solemn eyes watching for ever the white procession move onward orderly where there is neither height, nor depth, nor beginning, nor end. In the vast stellar space the moonglow wanes until it grows cold, white, ineffably remote. Only upon our little dusky earth, upon our restless span of waters, the light descends in a tender warmth. Deep gladness to me, though but the creature of an hour, that I am on this little moonlit dusky earth. Too cold, too white, too ineffably remote the moonglow in these vast wastes of Infinity where, one by one, the constellations roam--solemn witnesses watching for ever the white procession move onward orderly where there is neither height, nor depth, nor beginning, nor end.
Through the blue deeps of noon I heard the cuckoo tolling his infrequent peals from skiey belfries built of sun and mist. And now, through the blue deeps of night, from skiey belfries built of dusk and stars, I hear the tolling of infrequent peals.
THE HILLS OF DREAM
The tide of noon is upon the hills. Amid leagues of purple heather, of pate amethyst ling, stand isled great yellow-lichened granite boulders, fringed with tawny bracken. In the vast dome of blue there is nought visible save a speck of white, a gannet that drifts above the invisible sea. And through the hot tide of noon goes a breath as of the heart of flame. Far off, far off, I know dim hills of dream, and there my heart suspends as a white bird longing for home: and there, oh there, is a heart of flame, and the breath of it is as the tide of noon upon these hills of dream.
THE TWO ETERNITIES
Time never was, Time is not. Thus I heard. the grasses whisper, the green lips of the wind that chants the blind oblivious rune of Time, far in that island-sanctuary that I shall not see again. Time never was, Time is not. O Time that was!
O Time that is!
zFOREWORD TO THE ORIGINAL EDITIONz
These prose rhythms, written a year or two earlier, were first published in 1896, at the end of the volume of verse From the Hills of Dream. They were taken by many reviewers to be prose-poems. I do not call them so, for I think the designation a mistake. Prose is prose, and poetry is poetry. The two arts are distinct, though they may lie so close in method and achievement as to seem to differ only in degree. But it is possible to widen the marches of the one, as it is possible for the rash to cross the frontiers of the other. I do not know who was the first to attempt the illusion of poetry in the signature of prose, but Turgéniev stands eminent, and Baudelaire added a subtler artifice to the simple emotional statement of the great Russian. The most famous user of "free verse" is, of course, Whitman. This is not the place or occasion to discuss these problems in detail. Each is either a real art or a fantastical and mistaken aberration from art-disordered prose or lawless verse-in accordance with the conviction of the critic that the artifice of prose and the artifice of prosody are as allied as the music of viola and violin, or the conviction that they are as different in kind as the art of the sculptor and the aquarellist.
As one does not care to hear a picture called a sonata, or a symphony a "great tone-poem," or to hear any form of art called by the title of another art's nomenclature, so it would be more scrupulous to avoid the literary use of "prose-poem."
It is obvious that there are emotions and intensified sentiments which, while they may or may not desire expression in that constrained utterance (the primary condition of music) we call poetry, must needs quiver for freedom under the reins of ordinary prose. In other words, there is, under the stress If emotion, an inevitable reversion to the impulse to chant. And as one of the characteristics of the primitive chant is repetition, either choric or in the narrative cadence--as in the sorrow of Oisìn
Grey age of the rocks is on me, grey age of the rocks: I am old, I am old! so in that literary form, the prose-rhythm of to-day, will commonly be found an iteration more or less insistent, more or less subtle and involved. It is this substitution of a calculated monotony and of a careful iteration--a recurrence either of order and cadence, or of a like cadence with an inverted order--which differentiates the brief and complete prose-rhythm from the dubious "prose-poem," so apt to be merely ornate prose crested with metaphor or plumed with hyperbole.
In looking again at this little book of mine I see that compositions such as "When Dalua was King" and "Of Blossom and Wind" are not properly prose-rhythms in the sense of lost or faint airs of memory or desire for a moment heard and captured; as, for example, "Shadowy Woodlands," or "At the Rising of the Moon." They have an arbitrary introduction; they are not cadences rising and falling on the wind. In a word, they are written as words to be read rather than as words to be chanted. The test of these forms is to read them aloud. If they have not the rise and fall of the wind upon the hill, the wave upon the shore, the murmur in the woods, they are not prose-rhythms in the sense indicated. They must come suddenly and silently as the twilight-airs. In their coming and going they must not be as intervals of an inconstant wind, but must each be a wind, an air, a breath, that is as complete, as final, as a few brief sudden notes of song from the moonlit thickets of May, as the sound of a swallow's wing in the dusk.
Within the last few years others who have felt the charm of this subtle form--that has in it the atmosphere and music we know best when borne to us on the wings of metre, and the sinuous glide or swift march of an ordered and uplifted prose--have experimented with it. I believe that in America it has votaries: in France and Italy it certainly has. I daresay that to the Latin temperament--to which a little vagueness of form, with adumbration rather than limning of feature, comes with the charm of novelty--the temptation is more natural. We are makers first, and then artists when may be: they are artists first. The nuances of expression in any art can come only from an instinctive and trained mental and spiritual finesse. Of all who have tried this method systematically as a narrative form perhaps the best known is the author of the Chants de Bilitis, but I myself know of none who has so true an understanding and so deft a faculty as Paul Fort. I am sorry I knew nothing of his work till last year, when I read the fascinating Roman de Louis XI. In the prologue to that book I found this significant sentence; "J'ai cherché un style pouvant passer, au gré de l'Emotion, de la prose au vers et du vers A la prose: la prose rhythmée fournit la transition."
After that I read all M. Fort's writings, from the first, Ballades Françaises, which was published so recently as 1897. Frankly I do not think his method suitable for narrative: if used narratively, then possibly the paragraphic and brief sectional method of Bilitis is better than that of the Roman de Louis XI. Probably the future of the prose-rhythm as a literary method is assured: for as the general imulse towards art widens so will the rarer individual impulse deepen. If any think that the form may be adopted because easier than metrical composition it should be left alone. No artist desires open gates or short cuts. The value of the form will lie in its adaptability to an emotional mood desiring a particular rhythm and a particular harmony that is something more than the lightest tread of prose, something less than the delicate or stately measures of verse. In a word, the desiderated form is the Chant, tamed now to a low and subtle modulation, in transition from the rude choric cry to the song wedded to viol or flute, or the lyric fashioned to charm the inward ear.
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