I observe: "Our sentimental friend the moon! Or possibly (fantastic, I confess) It may be Prester John's balloon Or an old battered lantern hung aloft To light poor travellers to their distress." She then: "How you digress!"
And I then: "Some one frames upon the keys That exquisite nocturne, with which we explain The night and moonshine; music which we seize To body forth our vacuity." She then: "Does this refer to me?" "Oh no, it is I who am inane."
"You, madam, are the eternal humorist, The eternal enemy of the absolute, Giving our vagrant moods the slightest twist! With your aid indifferent and imperious At a stroke our mad poetics to confute--" And "Are we then so serious?"
As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: "If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden ..." I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.
When Mr. Apollinax visited the United States His laughter tinkled among the teacups. I thought of Fragilion, that shy figure among the birch-trees, And of Priapus in the shrubbery Gaping at the lady in the swing. In the palace of Mrs. Phlaccus, at Professor Channing-Cheetah's He laughed like an irresponsible foetus. Otis laughter was submarine and profound Like the old man of the sea's Hidden under coral islands Where worried bodies of drowned men drift down in the green silence, Dropping from fingers of surf. I looked for the head of Mr. Apollinax rolling under a chair Or grinning over a screen With seaweed in its hair. I heard the beat of centaur's hoofs over the hard turf As his dry and passionate talk devoured the afternoon. "He is a charming man"--"But after all what did he mean?"-- "His pointed ears ... He must be unbalanced,"-- "There was something he said that I might have challenged." Of dowager Mrs. Phlaccus, and Professor and Mrs. Cheetah I remember a slice of lemon, and a bitten macaroon.
Miss Helen Slingsby was my maiden aunt, And lived in a small house near a fashionable square Cared for by servants to the number of four. Now when she died there was silence in heaven And silence at her end of the street. The shutters were drawn and the undertaker wiped his feet-- He was aware that this sort of thing had occurred before. The dogs were handsomely provided for, But shortly afterwards the parrot died too. The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece, And the footman sat upon the dining-table Holding the second housemaid on his knees-- Who had always been so careful while her mistress lived.
The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn. When evening quickens faintly in the street, Wakening the appetites of life in some And to others bringing the Boston Evening Transcript, I mount the steps and ring the bell, turning Wearily, as one would turn to nod good-bye to Rochefoucauld, If the street were time and he at the end of the street, And I say, "Cousin Harriet, here is the Boston Evening Transcript."
They are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens, And along the trampled edges of the street I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids Sprouting despondently at area gates. The brown waves of fog toss up to me Twisted faces from the bottom of the street, And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts An aimless smile that hovers in the air And vanishes along the level of the roofs.
Look, look, master, here comes two religions caterpillars. The Jew of Malta.
Polyphiloprogenitive The sapient sutlers of the Lord Drift across the window-panes. In the beginning was the Word.
In the beginning was the Word. Superfetation of [Greek text inserted here], And at the mensual turn of time Produced enervate Origen.
A painter of the Umbrian school Designed upon a gesso ground The nimbus of the Baptized God. The wilderness is cracked and browned
But through the water pale and thin Still shine the unoffending feet And there above the painter set The Father and the Paraclete. . . . . . The sable presbyters approach The avenue of penitence; The young are red and pustular Clutching piaculative pence.
Under the penitential gates Sustained by staring Seraphim Where the souls of the devout Burn invisible and dim.
Along the garden-wall the bees With hairy bellies pass between The staminate and pistilate, Blest office of the epicene.
Sweeney shifts from ham to ham Stirring the water in his bath. The masters of the subtle schools Are controversial, polymath.
Webster was much possessed by death And saw the skull beneath the skin; And breastless creatures under ground Leaned backward with a lipless grin.
Daffodil bulbs instead of balls Stared from the sockets of the eyes! He knew that thought clings round dead limbs Tightening its lusts and luxuries.
Donne, I suppose, was such another Who found no substitute for sense; To seize and clutch and penetrate, Expert beyond experience,
He knew the anguish of the marrow The ague of the skeleton; No contact possible to flesh Allayed the fever of the bone. . . . . . Grishkin is nice: her Russian eye is underlined for emphasis; Uncorseted, her friendly bust Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.
The couched Brazilian jaguar Compels the scampering marmoset With subtle effluence of cat; Grishkin has a maisonette;
The sleek Brazilian jaguar Does not in its arboreal gloom Distil so rank a feline smell As Grishkin in a drawing-room.
And even the Abstract Entities Circumambulate her charm; But our lot crawls between dry ribs To keep our metaphysics warm.
Pipit sate upright in her chair Some distance from where I was sitting; Views of the Oxford Colleges Lay on the table, with the knitting.
Daguerreotypes and silhouettes, Her grandfather and great great aunts, Supported on the mantelpiece An Invitation to the Dance. . . . . . . I shall not want Honour in Heaven For I shall meet Sir Philip Sidney And have talk with Coriolanus And other heroes of that kidney.
I shall not want Capital in Heaven For I shall meet Sir Alfred Mond: We two shall lie together, lapt In a five per cent Exchequer Bond.
I shall not want Society in Heaven, Lucretia Borgia shall be my Bride; Her anecdotes will be more amusing Than Pipit's experience could provide.
I shall not want Pipit in Heaven: Madame Blavatsky will instruct me In the Seven Sacred Trances; Piccarda de Donati will conduct me ... . . . . . . But where is the penny world I bought To eat with Pipit behind the screen? The red-eyed scavengers are creeping From Kentish Town and Golder's Green;
Where are the eagles and the trumpets?
Buried beneath some snow-deep Alps. Over buttered scones and crumpets Weeping, weeping multitudes Droop in a hundred A.B.C.'s
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-laire--nil nisi divinum stabile est; caetera fumus--the gondola stopped, the old palace was there, how charming its grey and pink-- goats and monkeys, with such hair too!--so the countess passed on until she came through the little park, where Niobe presented her with a cabinet, and so departed.
Burbank crossed a little bridge Descending at a small hotel; Princess Volupine arrived, They were together, and he fell.
Defunctive music under sea Passed seaward with the passing bell Slowly: the God Hercules Had left him, that had loved him well.
The horses, under the axletree Beat up the dawn from Istria With even feet. Her shuttered barge Burned on the water all the day.
But this or such was Bleistein's way: A saggy bending of the knees And elbows, with the palms turned out, Chicago Semite Viennese.
A lustreless protrusive eye Stares from the protozoic slime At a perspective of Canaletto. The smoky candle end of time
Declines. On the Rialto once. The rats are underneath the piles. The jew is underneath the lot. Money in furs. The boatman smiles,
Princess Volupine extends A meagre, blue-nailed, phthisic hand To climb the waterstair. Lights, lights, She entertains Sir Ferdinand
Klein. Who clipped the lion's wings And flea'd his rump and pared his claws? Thought Burbank, meditating on Time's ruins, and the seven laws.
Thou hast nor youth nor age But as it were an after dinner sleep Dreaming of both.
Here I am, an old man in a dry month, Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain. I was neither at the hot gates Nor fought in the warm rain Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass, Bitten by flies, fought. My house is a decayed house, And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner, Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp, Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London. The goat coughs at night in the field overhead; Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds. The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea, Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.
I an old man, A dull head among windy spaces.
Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign": The word within a word, unable to speak a word, Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year Came Christ the tiger
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering Judas, To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero With caressing hands, at Limoges Who walked all night in the next room; By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians; By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles Weave the wind. I have no ghosts, An old man in a draughty house Under a windy knob.
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions, Guides us by vanities. Think now She gives when our attention is distracted And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late What's not believed in, or if still believed, In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes. These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.
The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last We have not reached conclusion, when I Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last I have not made this show purposelessly And it is not by any concitation Of the backward devils. I would meet you upon this honestly. I that was near your heart was removed therefrom To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition. I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it Since what is kept must be adulterated? I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch: How should I use it for your closer contact?
These with a thousand small deliberations Protract the profit of their chilled delirium, Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled, With pungent sauces, multiply variety In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do, Suspend its operations, will the weevil Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn, White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims, And an old man driven by the Trades To a sleepy corner.
Tenants of the house, Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.