v FLOATING WORLD
Books by AMY LOWELL
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
WHAT S O CLOCK
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
CAN GRANDE S CASTLE
MEN, WOMEN AND GHOSTS
SWORD BLADES AND POPPY SEED
A DOME OF MANY-COLOURED GLASS
A CRITICAL FABLE
(IN COLLABORATION WITH FLORENCE ATSCOUGH)
FIR-FLOWER TABLETS: POEMS TRANSLATED
FROM THE CHINESE
TENDENCIES IN MODERN AMERICAN POETRY
six FRENCH POETS: STUDIES IN CONTEMPO
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
(I;e fttoerg ibe presrf Cambri&Qe
MORRISON MEMORIAL LIBRARY
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY AMY LOWELL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER, 7919
REPRINTED NOVEMBER, DECEMBER, 1919
JUNE, 1920; AUGUST, 1922
MAY, 1924, DECEMBER, 1925
CAMBRIDGE - MASSACHUSETTS
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
"In <fo? name of J&ese States and in your and my name,
And in the name of these States and in your and my
name, the Present time"
Walt Whitman. " WITH ANTECEDENTS."
THE march of peoples is always toward the
West, wherefore, the earth being round, in time
the West must be East again. A startling
paradox, but one which accounts for the great
interest and inspiration that both poets and
painters are discovering in Oriental art. The
first part of this book represents some of the
charm I have found in delving into Chinese and
Japanese poetry. It should be understood,
however, that these poems, written in a quasi-
Oriental idiom, are not translations except in a
very few instances all of which have been duly
acknowledged in the text.
In the Japanese "Lacquer Prints," the hokku
pattern has been more closely followed than has
any corresponding Chinese form in the "Chi-
noiseries"; but, even here, I have made no
BY MESSENGER 4
NEAR KIOTO 6
YOSHIWARA LAMENT 6
A YEAR PASSES 7
A LOVER 8
To A HUSBAND 8
THE FISHERMAN S WIFE 8
FROM CHINA 8
THE POND 9
EPHEMERA .... -tn
DOCUMENT ..... IQ
THE EMPEROB S GARDEN .... n
, ONE OF THE "HUNDRED VIEWS OF FUJI" BY
DISILLUSION .... 12
PAPER FISHES ..... 12
MEDITATION i Q
THE CAMELLIA TREE OF MATSUE ... 13
SUPERSTITION 1 5
THE RETURN 15
A LADY TO HER LOVER ... jg
AUTUMN HAZE ..... 16
PEACE .... 16
IN TIME OF WAR 1 7
NUIT BLANCHE 1 7
SPRING DAWN 1 7
POETRY o lg
FROM A WINDOW ..... 18
AGAIN THE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL 18
PILGRIMS ASCENDING FUJI-YAMA ... 19
THE KAGOES OF A RETURNING TRAVELLER . 20
A STREET 20
OUTSIDE A GATE 20
ROAD TO THE YOSHIWARA . . . .21
Ox STREET. TAKANAWA 21
A DAIMIO S OIRAN [21
PASSING THE BAMBOO FENCE .... 22
FROSTY EVENING 22
AN ARTIST 22
A BURNT OFFERING 23
DAYBREAK. YOSHIWARA 23
TEMPLE CEREMONY 23
Two PORTERS RETURNING ALONG A COUNTRY
STORM BY THE SEASHORE 24
THE EXILED EMPEROR 25
LETTER WRITTEN FROM PRISON BY Two POLIT
ICAL OFFENDERS 25
MOON HAZE 25
PROPORTION . 26
CONSTANCY ..... 26
REFLECTIONS .... 27
FALLING SNOW <gg
GOLD-LEAF SCREEN 29
A POET S WIFE 30
SPRING LONGING 3j
Li T AI Po 32
PLANES OF PERSONALITY
TWO SPEAK TOGETHER
VERNAL EQUINOX 39
THE LETTER 40
MISE EN SCENE 42
VENUS TRANSIENS 43
MADONNA OF THE EVENING FLOWERS ... 45
BRIGHT SUNLIGHT 47
OMBRE CHINOISE 48
JULY MIDNIGHT 49
THE WEATHER-COCK POINTS SOUTH . . . .51
THE ARTIST 53
THE GARDEN BY MOONLIGHT 54
THE WHEEL OF THE SUN 59
A SHOWER 61
SUMMER RAIN 62
Cog D OR 64
THE CHARM 66
AFTER A STORM 67
ORANGE OF MIDSUMMER 71
SHORE GRASS 73
AUTUMNAL EQUINOX . . . . . . .74
THE COUNTRY HOUSE 75
THE SIXTEENTH FLOOR
SNOW IN APRIL
A SPRIG OF ROSEMARY
MALADIE DE L APRES-MIDI ....
EYES, AND EARS, AND WALKING
THE BACK BAY FENS
FREE FANTASIA ON JAPANESE THEMES
AT THE BOOKSELLER S 109
VIOLIN SONATA BY VINCENT D !NDY . . . .111
WINTER S TURNING 113
EUCHARIS AMAZONICA 115
THE Two RAINS 117
GOOD GRACIOUS! 118
DAWN ADVENTURE 120
THE CORNER OF NIGHT AND MORNING . . . 121
BEECH, PINE, AND SUNLIGHT ..... 122
PLANNING THE GARDEN 124
IMPRESSIONIST PICTURE OF A GARDEN . . . 128
A BATHER 130
AUGUST (LATE AFTERNOON) 134
HILLY COUNTRY 135
TREES IN WINTER 136
SEA COAL 138
DOLPHINS IN BLUE WATER 139
MOTOR LIGHTS ON A HILL ROAD . . . .141
AS TOWARD ONE ? S SELF
IN A TIME OF DEARTH 147
MIDDLE AGE 153
LA VIE DE BOHEME 154
FLAME APPLES 157
THE TRAVELLING BEAR 158
THE POEM 162
THE PEDDLER OF FLOWERS 164
THE FANATIC 167
ENTENTE CORDIALE 174
CASTLES IN SPAIN 175
PLUMMETS TO CIRCUMSTANCE
ELY CATHEDRAL 179
WILLIAM BLAKE . ...... 181
AN INCIDENT ........ 182
PEACH-COLOUR TO A SOAP-BUBBLE .... 184
THE BOOKSHOP 187
GARGOYLES . . 189
To WINKY 193
APPULDURCOMBE PARK 201
THE BROKEN FOUNTAIN 207
THE DUSTY HOUR-GLASS 209
THE FLUTE 211
LITTLE IVORY FIGURES PULLED WITH STRING . . 215
ON THE MANTELPIECE 217
AS TOWARD WAR
DREAMS IN WAR TIME 222
SPECTACLES . 227
IN THE STADIUM 229
AFTER WRITING "THE BRONZE HORSES" . , 232
THE FORT 235
CAMOUFLAGED TROOP-SHIP 239
SEPTEMBER. 1918 244
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE PARADE .... 246
AS TOWARD IMMORTALITY
ON A CERTAIN CRITIC 253
The author wishes to thank the editors of the following magazines and
newspapers for permission to reprint such of these poems as have already
appeared in their pages: The Atlantic Monthly, The Century, Scribner s,
Harper s, The North American Review, The Yale Review, The Bookman,
The Seven Arts, The New Republic, Poetry, The Dial, Reedy s Mirror,
The Touchstone, The Smart Set, The Independent, The Craftsman, Good
Housekeeping, House and Garden, Vanity Fair, The Little Review, Others,
The Poetry Journal, The Masses, La Revista de Indias, The Lyric, Youth,
The Trimmed Lamp, The New York Tribune, The New YorK Sun, Poetry
and Drama, London, The Egoist, London, also Some Imagist Poets, Some
Imaglst Poets 1916, and Some Imagist Poets^ 1917, published by
Houghton Mifflin Company.
(Adapted from the poet Yakura Sanjin, 1769)
As I wandered through the eight hundred and eight
streets of the city,
I saw nothing so beautiful
As the Women of the Green Houses,
With their girdles of spun gold,
And their long-sleeved dresses,
Coloured like the graining of wood.
As they walk,
The hems of their outer garments flutter open,
And the blood-red linings glow like sharp-toothed
4 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
When there was a clear moon,
I sat down
To write a poem
But the dazzle of moonlight
In the ink
And I could only write
What I remembered.
Therefore, on the wrapping of my poem
I have inscribed your name.
UPON the maple leaves
The dew shines red,
But on the lotus blossom
It has the pale transparence of tears.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE rain is dark against the white sky,
Or white against the foliage of eucalyptus-trees.
But, in the cistern, it is a sheet of mauve and amber,
Because of the chrysanthemums
Heaped about its edge.
WHEN I stand under the willow-tree
Above the river,
In my straw-coloured silken garment
Embroidered with purple chrysanthemums,
It is not at the bright water
That I am gazing,
But at your portrait,
Which I have caused to be painted
On my fan.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
As I crossed over the bridge of Ariwarano Narikira,
I saw that the waters were purple
With the floating leaves of maples.
UNDER the plum-blossoms are nightingales ;
But the sea is hidden in an egg-white mist,
And they are silent.
Under blossoming cherry-trees,
But on all the wide sea
There is no boat.
THE pool is edged with the blade-like leaves of irises.
If I throw a stone into the placid water,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
It suddenly stiffens
Into rings and rings
Of sharp gold wire.
WALKING beside the tree-peonies,
I saw a beetle
Whose wings were of black lacquer spotted with milk.
I would have caught it,
But it ran from me swiftly
And hid under the stone lotus
Which supports the statue of Buddha.
A YEAR PASSES
BEYOND the porcelain fence of the pleasure garden,
I hear the frogs in the blue-green rice-fields ;
But the sword-shaped moon
Has cut my heart in two.
8 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
IF I could catch the green lantern of the firefly
I could see to write you a letter.
To A HUSBAND
BRIGHTER than fireflies upon the Uji River
Are your words in the dark, Beloved.
THE FISHERMAN S WIFE
WHEN I am alone,
The wind in the pine-trees
Is like the shuffling of waves
Upon the wooden sides of a boat.
I THOUGHT :
Shining upon the many steps of the palace before me,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Shines also upon the chequered rice-fields
Of my native land.
And my tears fell
Like white rice grains
At my feet.
COLD, wet leaves
Floating on moss-coloured water,
And the croaking of frogs
Cracked bell-notes in the twilight.
ALL day I have watched the purple vine leaves
Fall into the water.
And now in the moonlight they still fall,
But each leaf is fringed with silver.
10 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
SILVER-GREEN lanterns tossing among windy branches :
So an old man thinks
Of the loves of his youth.
THE great painter, Hokusai,
In his old age,
Wrote these words :
"Profiting by a beautiful Spring day,
In this year of tranquillity,
To warm myself in the sun,
I received a visit from my publisher
Who asked me to do something for him.
Then I reflected that one should not forget the
glory of arms,
Above all when one was living in peace ;
And in spite of my age,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 11
Which is more than seventy years,
I have found courage to draw those ancient heroes
Who have been the models of glory."
THE EMPEROR S GARDEN
ONCE, hi the sultry heats of Midsummer,
An Emperor caused the miniature mountains in his
To be covered with white silk,
That so crowned
They might cool his eyes \
With the sparkle of snow.
ONE OF THE "HUNDRED VIEWS OF FUJI" BY HOKUSAI
I filled a cup with water,
And, behold ! Fuji-yama lay upon the water
Like a dropped leaf !
12 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Weary of erecting the fragile towers of words,
Went on a pilgrimage to Asama-yama.
And seeing the force of the fire
Spouting from this mighty mountain,
Hurled himself into its crater
THE paper carp,
At the end of its long bamboo pole,
Takes the wind into its mouth
And emits it at its tail.
So is man,
Forever swallowing the wind.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 13
A WISE man,
Watching the stars pass across the sky,
In the upper air the fireflies move more slowly.
THE CAMELLIA TREE OF MATSUE
There was a Camellia Tree of great beauty
Whose blossoms were white as honey wax
Splashed and streaked with the pink of fair coral.
When the moon rose in the sky,
The Camellia Tree would leave its place
By the gateway,
And wander up and down the garden,
Trailing its roots behind it
14 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Like a train of rustling silk.
The people in the house,
Hearing the scrape of them upon the gravel,
Looked out into the garden
And saw the tree,
With its flowers erect and peering,
Pressed against the shoji.
Many nights the tree walked about the garden,
Until the women and children
And the Master of the house
Ordered that it be cut down.
But when the gardener brought his axe
And struck at the trunk of the tree,
There spouted forth a stream of dark blood ;
And when the stump was torn up,
The hole quivered like an open wound.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 15
I HAVE painted a picture of a ghost
Upon my kite,
And hung it on a tree.
Later, when I loose the string
And let it fly,
The people will cower
And hide their heads,
For fear of the God
Swimming in the clouds.
COMING up from my boat
In haste to lighten your anxiety,
I saw, reflected in the circular metal mirror,
The face and hands of a woman
Arranging her hair.
16 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
A LADY TO HER LOVER
THE white snows of Winter
Follow the falling of leaves ;
I have had your portrait cut
In snow-white jade.
EVEN the iris bends
When a butterfly lights upon it.
Is it a dragonfly or a maple leaf
That settles softly down upon the water ?
PERCHED upon the muzzle of a cannon
A yellow butterfly is slowly opening and shutting its
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 17
IN TIME OF WAR
ACROSS the newly-plastered wall,
The darting of red dragonflies
Is like the shooting
Of blood-tipped arrows.
THE chirping of crickets in the night
Like the twinkling of stars.
HE wore a coat
With gold and red maple leaves,
He was girt with the two swords,
He carried a peony lantern.
When I awoke,
There was only the blue shadow of the plum-tree
Upon the shoji.
18 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
OVKK the shop where silk is sold
Still the dragon kites are flying.
FROM A WINDOW
YOUR footfalls on the drum bridge beside my house
Are like the pattering drops of a passing shower,
So soon are they gone.
AGAIN THE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL
I HAVE drunk your health
In the red -lacquer wine cups,
But the wind-bells on the bronze lanterns
In my garden
Are corroded and fallen.
;: . .. . Tin; rr/jATi.v; W.HJj 19
LOOKING at myself in my metal mirror,
I saw, faintly outlined,
The figure of a crane
Engraved upon its hack.
WHEN* the leaves of the cassia-tree
Turn red in Autumn,
Then the moon,
In which it grows,
Shines for many nights
PILGRIMS ASCENDING FUJI-YAMA
I SHOULD tremble at the falling showers of ashes
Dislodged by my feet,
Did I not know
20 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
That at night they fly upward
And spread themselves once more
Upon the slopes of the Honourable Mountain.
THE KAGOES OF A RETURNING TRAVELLER
DIAGONALLY between the cryptomerias,
What I took for the flapping of wings
Was the beating feet of your runners,
O my Lord !
UNDER red umbrellas with cream-white centres,
A procession of Geisha passes
In front of the silk-shop of Matsuzaka-ya.
OUTSIDE A GATE
ON the floor of the empty palanquin
The plum-petals constantly increase.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 21
ROAD TO THE YOSHIWARA
COMING to you along the Nihon Embankment,
Suddenly the road was darkened
By a flock of wild geese
Crossing the moon.
Ox STREET. TAKANAWA
WHAT is a rainbow ?
Have I not seen its colours and its shape
Duplicated in the melon slices
Lying beside an empty cart ?
A DAIMIO S OIRAN
WHEN I hear your runners shouting :
" Get down ! Get down ! "
Then I dress my hair
With the little chrysanthemums.
22 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
PASSING THE BAMBOO FENCE
WHAT fell upon my open umbrella
A plum-blossom ?
IT is not the bright light in your window
Which dazzles my eyes ;
It is the dim outline of your shadow
Moving upon the shoji.
THE anchorite, Kisen,
Composed a thousand poems
And threw nine hundred and ninety-nine into the
Finding one alone worthy of preservation.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 23
A BURNT OFFERING
BECAUSE there was no wind,
The smoke of your letters hung in the air
For a long time ;
And its shape
Was the shape of your face,
DRAW your hoods tightly,
You who must depart,
The morning mist
Is grey and miasmic.
(From the Japanese of Sojo Henjo)
And let no clouds cover the moon
24 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Which lights the posturing steps
Of the most beautiful of dancers.
Two PORTERS RETURNING ALONG A COUNTRY ROAD
SINCE an empty kago can be carried upon the back
of one man,
Therefore the other has nothing to do
But gaze at the white circle
Drawn about the flying moon.
STORM BY THE SEASHORE
THERE is no moon in the sky,
But with each step
I see one grow in the sand
Under my feet.
This interests me so much
That I forget the rain
Beating against the lantern
Which my cloak only partially covers.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 25
THE EXILED EMPEROR
THE birds sing to-day,
For to-morrow they will be flown
Many miles across the tossing
LETTER WRITTEN FROM PRISON BY Two POLITICAL
WHEN a hero fails of his purpose,
His acts are regarded as those of a villain and a robber.
Pursuing liberty, suddenly our plans are defeated.
In public we have been seized and pinioned and
caged for many days.
How can we find exit from this place ?
Weeping, we seem as fools ; laughing, as rogues.
Alas ! for us ; we can only be silent.
BECAUSE the moonlight deceives
Therefore I love it.
26 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
IN the sky there is a moon and stars,
And in my garden there are yellow moths
Fluttering about a white azalea bush.
ALTHOUGH so many years,
Still the vows we made each other
Remain tied to the great trunk
Of the seven separate trees
In the courtyard of the Crimson Temple
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 27
WHEN I looked into your eyes,
I saw a garden
With peonies, and tinkling pagodas,
And round-arched bridges
Over still lakes.
A woman sat beside the water
In a rain-blue, silken garment.
She reached through the water
To pluck the crimson peonies
Beneath the surface,
But as she grasped the stems,
They jarred and broke into white-green ripples ;
And as she drew out her hand,
The water-drops dripping from it
Stained her rain-blue dress like tears.
28 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE snow whispers about me,
And my wooden clogs
Leave holes behind me in the snow.
But no one will pass this way
Seeking my footsteps,
And when the temple bell rings again
They will be covered and gone.
IN the cloud-grey mornings
I heard the herons flying ;
And when I came into my garden,
My silken outer-garment
Trailed over withered leaves.
A dried leaf crumbles at a touch,
But I have seen many Autumns
With herons blowing like smoke
Across the sky.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 29
UNDER the broken clouds of dawn,
The white leopards eat the grapes .
In my vineyard.
And in the sunken splendour of twilight,
The ring pheasants perch among the red fruit
Of my pomegranate trees.
The bright coloured varnish
Scales off the wheels of my chariots,
For the horses which should draw them
Have gone Northward in a gloom of spears.
My stablemen march,
Each with a two-edged spear upon his shoulder,
And my orchard tenders have put on the green
And girt themselves with black bows.
I stand above the terrace of three hundred rose-trees
And gaze at my despoiled vineyards.
30 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Drums beat among the Northern hills,
But I hear only the rattle of the wind on the chipped
Of my roof.
A thousand little stitches in the soul of a dead man
Still one can enjoy these things
Sitting over a fire of camphor wood
In a quilted gown of purple-red silk.
A POET S WIFE
Cho Wen-chun to her husband Ssu-ma Ilsiang-ju
You have taken our love and turned it into coins of
You sell the love poems you wrote for me,
And with the price of them you buy many cups of
I beg that you remain dumb,
That you write no more poems.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 31
For the wine does us both an injury,
And the words of your heart
Have become the common speech of the Emperor s
THE South wind blows open the folds of my dress,
My feet leave wet tracks in the earth of my garden, :
The willows along the canal sing
with new leaves turned upon the wind.
I walk along the tow-path
Gazing at the level water.
Should I see a ribbed edge
Running upon its clearness,
I should know that this was caused
By the prow of the boat
In which you are to return.
32 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
LI T AI PO
So, Master, the wine gave you something,
I think I see you,
Your silks all disarranged,
Lolling in a green-marble pavilion,
Ogling the concubines of the Emperor s Court
Who pass the door
In yellow coats, and white jade ear-drops,
Their hair pleated in folds like the hundred clouds.
I watch you,
Hiccoughing poetry between drinks,
Sinking as the sun sinks,
Sleeping for twenty-four hours,
While they peek at you,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 33
Through the open door.
You found something in the wine,
Since you could not leave it,
Even when, after years of wandering,
You sat in the boat with one sail,
Travelling down the zigzag rivers
On your way back to Court.
You had a dream,
You saw something under the willow-lights of the
Which swept you to dizziness,
So that you toppled over the edge of the boat,
And gasped, and became your dream.
34 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Twelve hundred years
Did the wine do it ?
I would sit in the purple moonlight
And drink three hundred cups,
If I believed it.
Three hundred full cups,
After your excellent fashion,
While in front of me
The river dazzle ran before the moon,
And the light flaws of the evening wind
Scattered the notes of nightingales
Loosely among the kuai trees.
They erected a temple to you :
Prince of Poetry,
Immortal man who loved drink."
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 35
I detest wine,
And I have no desire for the temple,
Which under the circumstances
But I would sacrifice even sobriety
If, when I was thoroughly drunk,
I could see what you saw
Under the willow-clouded water,
The day you died.
PLANES OF PERSONALITY
TWO SPEAK TOGETHER
THE scent of hyacinths, like a pale mist, lies between
me and my book ;
And the South Wind, washing through the room,
Makes the candles quiver.
My nerves sting at a spatter of rain on the shutter,
And I am uneasy with the thrusting of green shoots
Outside, in the night.
Why are you not here to overpower me with your
tense and urgent love ? <
40 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
LITTLE cramped words scrawling all over the paper
Like draggled fly s legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves ?
Or of my uncurtained window and the bare floor
Spattered with moonlight ?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of
Beneath my hand.
I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against
The want of you ;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 4J
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon.
42 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
MISE EN SCENE
WHEN I think of you, Beloved,
I see a smooth and stately garden
With parterres of gold and crimson tulips
And bursting lilac leaves.
There is a low-lipped basin in the midst,
Where a statue of veined cream marble
Perpetually pours water over her shoulder
From a rounded urn.
When the wind blows,
The water-stream blows before it
And spatters into the basin with a light tinkling,
And your shawl the colour of red violets
Flares out behind you in great curves
Like the swirling draperies of a painted Madonna.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 43
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are,
When she topped
The crinkled waves,
On her plaited shell ?
Was Botticelli s vision
Fairer than mine ;
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady,
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness
As with a gauze
Of misted silver ?
44 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
You stand poised
In the blue and buoyant air,
Cinctured by bright winds,
Treading the sunlight.
And the waves which precede you ,
Ripple and stir
The sands at my feet.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 45
MADONNA OF THE EVENING FLOWERS
ALL day long I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call : "Where are you?"
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely :
Where are you ?
I go about searching.
Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
46 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.
You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet Te Deums of
the Canterbury bells.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 47
THE wind has blown a corner of your shawl
Into the fountain,
Where it floats and drifts
Among the lily-pads
Like a tissue of sapphires.
But you do not heed it,
Your fingers pick at the lichens
On the stone edge of the basin,
And your eyes follow the tall clouds
As they sail over the ilex-trees.
48 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
RED foxgloves against a yellow wall streaked with
plum-coloured shadows ;
A lady with a blue and red sunshade;
The slow dash of waves upon a parapet.
That is all.
As solid as the centre of a ring of fine gold.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 49
FIREFLIES flicker in the tops of trees,
Flicker in the lower branches,
Skim along the ground.
Over the moon-white lilies
Is a flashing and ceasing of small, lemon-green stars.
As you lean against me,
The air all about you
Is slit, and pricked, and pointed with sparkles of
Starting out of a background of vague, blue trees.
50 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
You stand between the cedars and the green spruces,
And I think :
What are you,
A gem under sunlight ?
A poised spear ?
A jade cup ?
You flash in front of the cedars and the tall spruces,
And I see that you are fire
Sacrificial fire on a jade altar,
Spear-tongue of white, ceremonial fire.
My eyes burn,
My hands are flames seeking you,
But you are as remote from me as a bright pointed
Set in the distance of an evening sky.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 51
THE WEATHER-COCK POINTS SOUTH
I PUT your leaves aside,
One by one :
The stiff, broad outer leaves ;
The smaller ones,
Pleasant to touch, veined with purple ;
The glazed inner leaves.
One by one
I parted you from your leaves,
Until you stood up like a white flower
Swaying slightly in the evening wind.
Flower of wax, of jade, of unstreaked agate;
Flower with surfaces of ice,
With shadows faintly crimson.
Where in all the garden is there such a flower ?
The stars crowd through the lilac leaves
52 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
To look at you.
The low moon brightens you with silver.
The bud is more than the calyx.
There is nothing to equal a white bud,
Of no colour, and of all,
Burnished by moonlight,
Thrust upon by a softly-swinging wind.
PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD 53
WHY do you subdue yourself in golds and purples ?
Why do you dim yourself with folded silks ?
Do you not see that I can buy brocades in any
draper s shop,
And that I am choked in the twilight of all these
How pale you would be, and startling,
How quiet ;
But your curves would spring upward
Like a clear jet of flung water,
You would quiver like a shot-up spray of water,
You would waver, and relapse, and tremble.
And I too should tremble,
Murex-dyes and tinsel
And yet I think I could bear your beauty unshaded.
54 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE GARDEN BY MOONLIGHT
A BLACK cat among roses,
Phlox, lilac-misted under a first-quarter moon,
The sweet smells of heliotrope and night-scented
The garden is very still,
It is dazed with moonlight,
Contented with perfume,
Dreaming the opium dreams of its folded poppies.
Firefly lights open and vanish
High as the tip buds of the golden glow
Low as the sweet alyssum flowers at my feet.
Moon-shimmer on leaves and trellises,
Moon-spikes shafting through the snow-ball bush.
Only the little faces of the ladies delight are alert
Only the cat, padding between the roses,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 55
Shakes a branch and breaks the chequered pattern
As water is broken by the falling of a leaf.
Then you come,
And you are quiet like the garden,
And white like the alyssum flowers,
And beautiful as the silent sparks of the fireflies.
Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies ?
They knew my mother,
But who belonging to me will they know
When I am gone.
56 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WHEN I have baked white cakes
And grated green almonds to spread upon them ;
When I have picked the green crowns from the
And piled them, cone-pointed, in a blue and yellow
When I have smoothed the seam of the linen I have
been working ;
To-morrow it will be the same :
Cakes and strawberries,
And needles in and out of cloth.
If the sun is beautiful on bricks and pewter,
How much more beautiful is the moon,
Slanting down the gauffered branches of a plum-tree ;
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 57
Wavering across a bed of tulips ;
Upon your face.
You shine, Beloved,
You and the moon.
But which is the reflection ?
The clock is striking eleven
I think, when we have shut and barred the door,
The night will be dark
58 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Chink against my ribs
And roll about like silver hail-stones.
I should like to spill them out,
And pour them, all shining,
But my heart is shut upon them
And holds them straitly.
Come, You ! and open my heart ;
That my thoughts torment me no longer,
But glitter in your hair.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 59
THE WHEEL OF THE SUN
I BEG you
Hide your face from me.
Draw the tissue of your head-gear
Over your eyes.
For I am blinded by your beauty,
And my heart is strained,
In the street,
You spread a brightness where you walk,
And I see your lifting silks
And rejoice ;
But I cannot look up to your face.
You melt my strength,
And set my knees to trembling.
60 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
Shadow yourself that I may love you,
For now it is too great a pain.
PICTUEES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 61
THAT sputter of rain, flipping the hedge-rows
And making the highways hiss,
How I love it !
And the touch of you upon my arm
As you press against me that my umbrella
May cover you.
Tinkle of drops on stretched silk.
Wet murmur through green branches.
62 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
ALL night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping ! Ping ! and there was not a pin-point of
silence between them.
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed orange torches against the
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain !
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 63
A BIRD chirped at my window this morning,
And over the sky is drawn a light net-work of clouds.
Let us go out into the open,
For my heart leaps like a fish that is ready to spawn.
I will lie under the beech-trees,
Under the grey branches of the beech-trees,
In a blueness of little squills and crocuses.
I will lie among the little squills
And be delivered of this overcharge of beauty,
And that which is born shall be a joy to you
Who love me.
64 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
COQ D OR
I WALKED along a street at dawn in cold, grey light,
Above me lines of windows watched, gaunt, dull,
The lamps were fading, and the sky was streaked
Silhouetting chimneys with their queer, round pots.
My feet upon the pavement made a knock knock
Above the roofs of Westminster, Big Ben struck.
The cocks on all the steeples crew in clear, flat tones,
And churchyard daisies sprang away from thin,
The golden trees were calling me : " Come ! Come !
The trees were fresh with daylight, and I heard bees
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 65
A cart trailed slowly down the street, its load young
They sparkled like blown emeralds, and then I
A morning in the city with its upthrust spires
All tipped with gold and shining in the brisk, blue air,
But the gold is round my forehead and the knot still
Where you tied it in the shadows, your rose-gold hair.
66 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
I LAY them before you,
One, two, three silver pieces,
And a copper piece
Dulled with handling.
The first will buy you a cake,
The second a flower,
The third a coloured bead.
The fourth will buy you nothing at all,
Since it has a hole in it.
I beg you, therefore,
String it about your neck,
At least it will remind you of my poverty.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 67
AFTER A STORM
You walk under the ice trees.
They sway, and crackle,
And arch themselves splendidly
To deck your going.
The white sun flips them into colour
They are blue,
They are amber, >
They are silver fretted to flame
And startled to stillness,
Bunched, splintered, iridescent.
You walk under the ice trees
And the bright snow creaks as you step upon it.
68 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
My dogs leap about you,
And their barking strikes upon the air
Like sharp hammer-strokes on metal.
You walk under the ice trees
But you are more dazzling than the ice flowers,
And the dogs barking
Is not so loud to me as your quietness.
You walk under the ice trees
At ten o clock in the morning.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.,
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.
70 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
JOLT of market-carts ;
Steady drip of horses hoofs on hard pavement ;
A black sky lacquered over with blueness,
And the lights of Battersea Bridge
Pricking pale in the dawn.
The beautiful hours are passing
And still you sleep !
Tired heart of my joy,
Incurved upon your dreams,
Will the day come before you have opened to me ?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 71
ORANGE OF MIDSUMMER
You came to me in the pale starting of Spring,
And I could not see the world
For the blue mist of wonder before my eyes.
You beckoned me over a rainbow bridge,
And I set foot upon it, trembling.
Through pearl and saffron I followed you,
Through heliotrope and rose,
Iridescence after iridescence,
And to me it was all one
Because of the blue mist that held my eyes.
You came again, and it was red-hearted Summer.
You called to me across a field of poppies and wheat,
With a narrow path slicing through it
Straight to an outer boundary of trees.
And I ran along the path,
72 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Brushing over the yellow wheat beside it,
And came upon you under a maple-tree, plaiting
poppies for a girdle.
"Are you thirsty?" said you,
And held out a cup.
But the water in the cup was scarlet and crimson
Like the poppies in your hands.
"It looks like blood," I said.
"Like blood," you said,
But drink it, my Beloved,"
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 73
THE moon is cold over the sand-dunes,
And the clumps of sea-grasses flow and glitter ;
The thin chime of my watch tells the quarter after
And still I hear nothing
But the windy beating of the sea.
74 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WHY do you not sleep, Beloved ?
It is so cold that the stars stand out of the sky
Like golden nails not driven home.
The fire crackles pleasantly,
And I sit here listening
For your regular breathing from the room above.
What keeps you awake, Beloved ?
Is it the same nightmare that keeps me strained with
So that I cannot read ?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 75
THE COUNTRY HOUSE
DID the door move, or was it always ajar ?
The gladioli on the table are pale mauve.
I smell pale mauve and blue,
Blue soft like bruises putrid oozing
The air oozes blue mauve
And the door with the black line where it does not
I must pass that door to go to bed,
Or I must stay here
And watch the crack
Is it air?
76 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE lake is steel-coloured and umber,
And a clutter of gaunt clouds blows rapidly across
I wonder why you chose to be buried
In this little grave-yard by the lake-side.
It is all very well on blue mornings,
Autumn mornings polished with sunlight/
But in Winter, in the cold storms,
When there is no wind,
And the snow murmurs as it falls !
The grave-stones glimmer in the twilight
As though they were rubbed with phosphorous.
The direct road is up a hill,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 77
I will take the lake road,
I can drive faster there.
You used to like to drive with me
Why does death make you this fearful thing ?
Flick ! flack ! my horse s feet strike the stones.
There is a house just round the bend.
78 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WHITE phlox and white hydrangeas,
High, thin clouds,
A low, warm sun.
So it is this afternoon.
But the phlox will be a drift of petals,
And the hydrangeas stained and fallen
Before you come again.
I cannot look at the flowers,
Nor the lifting leaves of the trees.
Without you, there is no garden,
No bright colours,
No shining leaves.
There is only space,
Stretching endlessly forward
And I walk, bent, unseeing,
Waiting to catch the first faint scuffle
Of withered leaves.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 79
THEY brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball of proclamation :
Fecundity decked in staring yellow
For all the world to see.
They brought a quilled, yellow dahlia,
To me who am barren.
Shall I send it to you,
You who have taken with you
All I once possessed ?
80 PICTUBES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE SIXTEENTH FLOOR
THE noise of the city sounds below me.
It clashes against the houses
And rises like smoke through the narrow streets.
It polishes the marble fronts of houses,
Grating itself against them,
And they shine in the lamplight
And cast their echoes back upon the asphalt of the
But I hear no sound of your voice,
The city is incoherent trivial,
And my brain aches with emptiness.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 81
IT is late
And the clock is striking thin hours,
But sleep has become a terror to me,
Lest I wake in the night
And stretching out my arms to comfort myself with
Clasp instead the cold body of the darkness.
All night it will hunger over me,
And push and undulate against me,
Breathing into my mouth
And passing long fingers through my drifting hair.
Only the dawn can loose me from it,
And the grey streaks of morning melt it from my side.
Bring many candles,
Though they stab my tired brain
82 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And hurt it.
For I am afraid of the twining of the darkness
And dare not sleep*
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 83
SEE ! He trails his toes
Through the long streaks of moonlight,
And the nails of his fingers glitter :
They claw and flash among the tree-tops.
His lips suck at my open window,
And his breath creeps about my body
And lies in pools under my knees.
I can see his mouth sway and wobble,
Sticking itself against the window- jambs,
But the moonlight is bright on the floor,
Without a shadow.
Hark ! A hare is strangling in the forest,
And the wind tears a shutter from the wall.
84 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WHY do the lilies goggle their tongues at me
When I pluck them ;
And writhe, and twist,
And strangle themselves against my fingers,
So that I can hardly weave the garland,
For your hair ?
Why do they shriek your name
And spit at me
When I would cluster them ?
Must I kill them
To make them lie still,
And send you a wreath of lolling corpses
To turn putrid and soft
On your forehead
While you dance ?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 85
SNOW IN APRIL
Smooth blue skies,
Fresh winds through early tree-tops,
White and purple cups.
I am a plum-tree
Checked at its flowering.
My blossoms wither,
My branches grow brittle again.
I stretch them out and up,
But the snowflakes fall
Whirl and fall.
April and snow,
And my heart stuffed and suffocating
86 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
With rny blossoms brown and dropping
Upon my cold roots.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 87
A SPRIG OF ROSEMARY
I CANNOT see your face.
When I think of you,
It is your hands which I see.
Holding a book,
Resting for a moment on the sill of a window.
My eyes keep always the sight of your hands,
But my heart holds the sound of your voice,
And the soft brightness which is your soul.
88 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
MALADIE DE L APRES-MIDI
"WHY does the clanking of a tip-cart
In the road
Make me so sad ?
The sound beats the air
Wit,h flat blows,
Dull and continued.
Not even the clear sunshine
Through bronze and green oak leaves,
Nor the crimson spindle of a cedar-tree
Hooded with Virginia creeper,
Nor the humming brightness of the air,
Can comfort my melancholy.
The cart goes slowly,
It creeps at a foot-pace,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 89
And the flat blows of sound
And bring me nearly to weeping.
90 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE vine leaves against the brick walls of my house
Are rusty and broken.
Dead leaves gather under the pine-trees,
The brittle boughs of lilac-bushes
Sweep against the stars.
And I sit under a lamp
Trying to write down the emptiness of my heart.
Even the cat will not stay with me,
But prefers the rain
Under the meagre shelter of a cellar window.
PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD 91
"THROUGH pleasures and palaces *
Through hotels, and Pullman cars, and steamships . . .
Pink and white camellias
floating in a crystal bowl,
The sharp smell of firewood,
The scrape and rustle of a dog stretching himself
on a hardwood floor,
And your voice, reading reading
to the slow ticking of an old brass clock . .
And I watch the man in front of me
Fumbling in fourteen pockets,
While the conductor balances his ticket-punch
Between his fingers.
92 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WOHLD
TO-DAY I went into a shop where they sell spectacles.
"Sir," said the shopman, "what can I do for you?
Are you far-sighted or near-sighted ? "
"Neither the one nor the other," said I.
"I can read the messages passing along the telegraph
And I can see the antennae of a fly
Perched upon the bridge of my nose."
"Rose-coloured spectacles, perhaps?" suggested the
"Indeed, no," said I.
"Were I to add them to my natural vision
I should see everything ruined with blood."
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 93
"Green spectacles," opined the shopman.
"By no means," said I.
"I am far too prone to that colour at moments.
No. You can give me some smoked glasses
For I have to meet a train this afternoon."
"What a world yours must be, Sir,"
Observed the shopman as he wrapped up the
" When it requires to be dimmed by smoked glasses."
"Not a world," said I, and laid the money down on
"Certainly not a world.
94 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WHEN you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 95
As I sit here in the quiet Summer night,
Suddenly, from the distant road, there comes
The grind and rush of an electric car.
And, from still farther off,
An engine puffs sharply,
Followed by the drawn-out shunting scrape of a
These are the sounds that men make
In the long business of living.
They will always make such sounds,
Years after I am dead and cannot hear them.
Sitting here in the Summer night,
I think of my death.
What will it be like for you then?
96 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
You will see my chair
With its bright chintz covering
Standing hi the afternoon sunshine, "S
You will see my narrow table
At which I have written so many hours.
My dogs will push their noses into your hand,
And ask ask
Clinging to you with puzzled eyes. _.
The old house will still be here,
The old house which has known me since the
The walls which have watched me while I played :
Soldiers, marbles, paper-dolls,
Which have protected me and my books. )
The front-door will gaze down among the old trees
Where, as a child, I hunted ghosts and Indians ;
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 97
It will look out on the wide gravel sweep
Where I rolled my hoop,
And at the rhododendron bushes
Where I caught black-spotted butterflies.
The old house will guard you,
As I have done.
Its walls and rooms will hold you,
And I shall whisper my thoughts and fancies
From the pages of my books.
You will sit here, some quiet Summer night,
Listening to the puffing trains,
But you will not be lonely,
For these things are a part of me.
And my love will go on speaking to you
Through the chairs, and the tables, and the pictures,
As it does now through my voice,
And the quick, necessary touch of my hand.
98 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
DEAREST, we are like two flowers
Blooming last in a yellowing garden,
A purple aster flower and a red one
Standing alone in a withered desolation.
The garden plants are shattered and seeded,
One brittle leaf scrapes against another,
Fiddling echoes of a rush of petals.
Now only you and I nodding together.
Many were with us ; they have all faded.
Only we are purple and crimson,
Only we in the dew-clear mornings,
Smarten into colour as the sun rises.
When I scarcely see you in the flat moonlight,
And later when my cold roots tighten,
PICTTJBES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 99
I am anxious for the morning,
I cannot rest in fear of what may happen.
You or I and I am a coward.
Surely frost should take the crimson.
Purple is a finer colour,
Very splendid in isolation.
So we nod above the broken
Stems of flowers almost rotted.
Many mornings there cannot be now
For us both. Ah, Dear, I love you !
EYES, AND EARS, AND WALKING
WHEN night drifts along the streets of the city,
And sifts down between the uneven roofs,
My mind begins to peek and peer.
It plays at ball in old, blue Chinese gardens,
And shakes wrought dice-cups in Pagan temples
Amid the broken flu tings of white pillars.
It dances with purple and yellow crocuses in its hair,
And its feet shine as they flutter over drenched grasses.
How light and laughing my mind is,
When all the good folk have put out their bedroom
And the city is still !
104 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE BACK BAY FENS
Study in Orange and Silver
THROUGH the Spring-thickened branches
I see it floating,
An ivory dome
Headed to gold by the dim sun.
It hangs against a white-misted sky,
And the swollen branches
Open or cover it,
As they blow in the wet wind.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 105
FREE FANTASIA ON JAPANESE THEMES
ALL the afternoon there has been a chirping of birds,
And the sun lies, warm and still, on the Western sides
of puffed branches.
There is no wind,
Even the little twigs at the ends of the branches do
And the needles of the pines are solid,
Bands of inarticulated blackness,
Against the blue-white sky.
Still but alert
And my heart is still and alert,
Passive with sunshine
Avid of adventure.
I would experience new emotions
Submit to strange enchantments
106 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Bend to influences,
Fresh with burgeoning.
I would climb a Sacred Mountain,
Struggle with other pilgrims up a steep path through
Above to the smooth, treeless slopes,
And prostrate myself before a painted shrine,
Beating my hands upon the hot earth,
Quieting my eyes with the distant sparkle
Of the faint Spring sea.
I would recline upon a balcony
In purple curving folds of silk,
And my dress should be silvered with a pattern
Of butterflies and swallows,
And the black band of my obi
Should flash with gold, circular threads,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 107
And glitter when I moved.
I would lean against the railing
While you sang to me of wars )
Past, and to come
Sang and played the samisen.
Perhaps I would beat a little hand drum
In time to your singing ;
Perhaps I would only watch the play of light
On the hilts of your two swords.
I would sit in a covered boat,
Rocking slowly to the narrow waves of a river,
While above us, an arc of moving lanterns,
Curved a bridge.
And beyond the bridge,
A hiss of gold
Blooming out of blackness,
And died in a soft dripping of coloured stars.
108 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
We would float between the high trestles,
And drift away from the other boats,
Until the rockets flared without sound
And their falling stars hung silent in the sky
Like wistaria clusters above the ancient entrance of
I would anything
Rather than this cold paper,
With, outside, the quiet sun on the sides of burgeoning
And inside, only my books.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 109
AT THE BOOKSELLER S
HANGING from the ceiling by threads
Hundreds of prints
Of actors and courtesans,
Cheap, everyday prints
To delight the common people.
Those which please the most arc women
With long, slim fingers,
In dresses of snow-blue,
Of green the colour of the heart of a young onion,
Of rose, of black, of dead-leaf brown.
Over the dresses runs a light tracing
Of superimposed tissues :
Orange undulations, zigzag cinnabar trellises,
Patterns of purplish paulownias.
In the corner of one of the prints is written :
" Utamaro has here painted his elegant visage."
110 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
They cost nothing, these pictures,
They are only one of the cheap amusements of the
Yet they say that the publisher : Tsoutaya,
Has made a fortune.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 111
VIOLIN SONATA BY VINCENT D INDY
To CHARLES MARTIN LOEFFLER
A LITTLE brown room in a sea of fields,
Fields pink as rose-mallows
Under a fading rose-mallow sky.
Four candles on a tall iron candlestick,
Clustered like altar lights.
Above, the models of four brown Chinese junks
Sailing round the brown walls,
Silent and motionless.
The quick cut of a vibrating string,
Another, and another,
Biting into the silence.
Notes pierce, sharper and sharper ;
They draw up in a freshness of sound,
112 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Higher higher, to the whiteness of intolerable
They are jagged and clear,
Like snow peaks against the sky ;
They hurt like air too pure to breathe.
Is it catgut and horsehair,
Or flesh sawing against the cold blue gates of the sky ?
The brown Chinese junks sail silently round the
A cricket hurries across the bare floor.
The windows are black, for the sun has set.
Only the candles,
Clustered like altar lamps upon their tall candlestick,
Light the violinist as he plays.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 113
WINTER S TURNING
SNOW is still on the ground,
But there is a golden brightness in the air.
Across the river,
Sweeping widely under the arches
Of many bridges,
Is a spire and a dome,
Clear as though ringed with ice-flakes,
Golden, and pink, and jocund.
On a near-by steeple,
A golden weather-cock flashes smartly,
His open beak "Cock-a-doodle-dooing"
Straight at the ear of Heaven.
A tall apartment house,
Thrusts up from the street
114 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Like a new-sprung flower.
Another street is edged and patterned
With the bloom of bricks,
Houses and houses of rose-red bricks,
Every window a-glitter.
The city is a parterre,
Blowing and glowing,
Alight with the wind,
Washed over with gold and mercury.
Let us throw up our hats,
For we are past the age of balls
And have none handy.
Let us take hold of hands,
And race along the sidewalks,
And dodge the traffic in crowded streets.
Let us whir with the golden spoke-wheels
Of the sun.
For to-morrow Winter drops into the waste-basket,
And the calendar calls it March.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 115
shaped like narcissus,
burst from a thin green stem,
Your trumpets spray antennae
like cold, sweet notes stabbing air.
In your cups
is the sharpness of winds,
The white husks of your blooms
crack as ice cracks,
You strike against the darkness
as hoar-frost patterning a window.
116 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Mary kissed your petals,
And the chill of pure snow
Burned her lips with its six-pointed seal.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 117
THE TWO RAINS
TINKLING of ankle bracelets.
Of jade and sardonyx
From whirling ends of jointed circlets.
CLASHING of bronze bucklers,
Screaming of horses.
Red plumes of head-trappings
Flashing above spears.
118 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THEY say there is a fairy in every streak d tulip.
I have rows and rows of them beside my door.
Hoop-la ! Come out, Brownie,
And I will give you an emerald ear-ring !
You had better come out,
For to-morrow may be stormy,
And I could never bring myself to part with my
Unless there was a moon.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 119
THE branches of the trees lie in layers
Above and behind each other,
And the sun strikes on the outstanding leaves
And turns them white,
And they dance like a splatter of pebbles
Against a green wall.
The trees make a solid path leading up in the air.
It looks as though I could walk upon it
If I only had courage to step out of the window.
120 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
I STOOD in my window
looking at the double cherry :
A great height of white stillness,
Underneath a sky
the colour of milky grey jade.
Suddenly a crow flew between me and the tree
Swooping, falling, in a shadow-black curve
And blotted himself out in the blurred branches
of a leafless ash.
There he stayed for some time,
and I could only distinguish him by his
Then a wind caught the upper branches of the cherry,
And the long, white stems nodded up and down,
casually, to me in the window,
Nodded but overhead the grey jade clouds
passed slowly, indifferently, toward the sea.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 121
THE CORNER OF NIGHT AND
CROWS are cawing over pine-trees,
They are teaching their young to fly
Above the tall pyramids of double cherries.
Rose lustre over black lacquer
The feathers of the young birds reflect the rose-
Caw ! Caw !
I want to go to sleep,
But perhaps it is better to stand in the window
And watch the crows teaching their young to fly
Over the pines and the pyramidal cherries,
In the rose-gold light
Of five o clock on a May morning.
122 PICTUEES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
BEECH, PINE, AND SUNLIGHT
THE sudden April heat
Under the smooth, leafless branches
Of the beech-tree,
And lies lightly
Upon the great patches
Of purple and white crocus
With their panting, wide-open cups.
A clear wind
Slips through the naked beech boughs,
And their shadows scarcely stir.
But the pine-trees beyond sigh
When it passes over them
And presses back their needles,
And slides gently down their stems. ->
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 123
It is a languor of pale, south-starting sunlight
Come upon a morning unawaked,
And holding her drowsing.
124 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
PLANNING THE GARDEN
BRING pencils, fine pointed,
For our writing must be infinitesimal ;
And bring sheets of paper
To spread before us.
Now draw the plan of our garden beds,
And outline the borders and the paths
We will scatter little words
Upon the paper,
Like seeds about to be planted ;
We will fill all the whiteness
With little words,
So that the brown earth
Shall never show between our flowers ;
Instead, there will be petals and greenness
From April till November.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 125
These narrow lines
Are rose-drifted thrift,
Edging the paths.
And here I plant nodding columbines,
With tree-tall wistarias behind them.
Each stem umbrella d in its purple fringe.
Winged sweet-peas shall flutter next to pansies
All down the sunny centre.
Thrust back against the swaying lilac leaves,
Will bloom and fade before the China asters
Smear their crude colours over Autumn hazes.
These double paths dividing make an angle
Bleeding hearts, I think,
Their flowers jigging
Like little ladies,
Ready for a ball.
126 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The round black circles
Mean striped and flaunting tulips,
The clustered trumpets of yellow jonquils,
And the sharp blue of hyacinths and squills.
These specks like dotted grain
Are coreopsis, bright as bandanas,
And ice-blue heliotrope with its sticky leaves,
Whose sober-coloured cones of bloom
Scent quiet mornings.
And poppies ! Poppies ! Poppies !
The hatchings shall all mean a tide of poppies,
Crinkled and frail and flowing in the breeze.
Wait just a moment,
Here s an empty space.
Now plant me lilies-of -the- valley
This pear-tree over them will keep them cool
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 127
We ll have a lot of them
With white bells jingling.
Shall be all soft with stone-crop ;
And at the top
I ll make an arch of roses,
There, it is done ;
Seal up the paper.
Let us go to bed and dream of flowers. ^
128 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
IMPRESSIONIST PICTURE OF A
GIVE me sunlight, cupped in a paint brush,
And smear the red of peonies
Over my garden.
Splash blue upon it,
The hard blue of Canterbury bells,
Paling through larkspur
To wash away among forget-me-nots.
Dip red again to mix a purple,
And lay on pointed flares of lilacs against bright green.
Streak yellow for nasturtiums and marsh marigolds
And flame it up to orange for my lilies.
Now dot it so and so along an edge
Of Iceland poppies.
Swirl it a bit, and faintly,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 129
That is honeysuckle.
Now put a band of brutal, bleeding crimson
And tail it off to pink, to give the roses.
And while you re loaded up with pink,
Just blotch about that bed of phlox.
Fill up with cobalt and dash in a sky
As hot and heavy as you can make it ;
Then tree-green pulled up into that
Gives a fine jolt of colour.
Strain it out,
And melt your twigs into the cobalt sky.
Toss on some Chinese white to flash the clouds,
And trust the sunlight you ve got in your paint.
There is the picture.
130 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
After a Picture by Andreas Zorn
THICK dappled by circles of sunshine and fluttering
Your bright, naked body advances, blown over by
Half-quenched in their various green, just a point
of you showing,
A knee or a thigh, sudden glimpsed, then at once
The filmy and flickering forest, to start out again
Triumphant in smooth, supple roundness, edged
sharp as white ivory,
Cool, perfect, with rose rarely tinting your lips and
Swelling out from the green in the opulent curves of
v ripe fruit,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 131
And hidden, like fruit, by the swift intermittence of
So, clinging to branches and moss, you advance on
Of rock which hang over the stream, with the wood-
smells about you,
The pungence of strawberry plants, and of gum-
While below runs the water, impatient, impatient
to take you,
To splash you, to run down your sides, to sing you of
Of pools brown and golden, with brown-and-gold
flags on their borders,
Of blue, lingering skies floating solemnly over your
Of undulant waters a-sway in the effort to hold you,
To keep you submerged and quiescent while over you
132 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Oread, Dryad, or Naiad, or just
Woman, clad only in youth and in gallant perfection,
Standing up in a great burst of sunshine, you dazzle
Like a snow-star, a moon, your effulgence burns up
in a halo,
For you are the chalice which holds all the races of
You slip into the pool and the water folds over your
And over the tree-tops the clouds slowly follow your
And the scent of the woods is sweet on this hot
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 133
A LADDER sticking up at the open window,
The top of an old ladder ;
And all of Summer is there.
Great waves and tufts of wistaria surge across the
And a thin, belated blossom
Jerk? up and down in the sunlight ;
Purple translucence against the blue sky.
"Tie back this branch," I say,
But my hands are sticky with leaves,
And my nostrils widen to the smell of crushed green.
The ladder moves uneasily at the open window,
And I call to the man beneath,
"Tie back that branch."
There is a ladder leaning against the window-sill,
And a mutter of thunder in the air.
134 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
SMOKE-COLOUR, rose, saffron,
With a hard edge chipping the blue sky,
A great cloud hung over the village,
And the white-painted meeting-house,
And the steeple with the gilded weather-cock
Heading and flashing to the wind.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 135
JANGLE of cow-bells through pine-trees.
Grasshoppers leaping up out of the grass.
The mountain is bloomed like a grape
(Silver, hazing over purple),
It blocks into the sky like a shadow.
The South wind blows intermittently,
And the clanking of the cow-bells comes up the hill
l33 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
TREES IN WINTER
Black clouds slowly swaying
Over a white earth.
Coned green shadows
Through a falling veil.
Stiff black threads
Lacing over silver.
Roofing naked ground.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 137
Stabbing at a grey sky.
Swept down by wind.
Cased in alabaster.
138 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
SWIFT like the tongues of lilies,
Thrusting out of cloven basalt.
Amber and chalcedony,
And the snapping of sand
Glazed by the wind.
PICTUKES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 139
DOLPHINS IN BLUE WATER
HEY ! Crackerjack jump !
Swirl, flick, flitter;
Snout into a wave-trough,
Razor-cut and tumble.
Straight and shoot at the sky,
All rose-flame drippings.
140 PICTUKES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And gone ;
With smooth over-swirlings of blue water,
Slipping, liquid lapis lazuli,
Tintings of pink and ochre.
Underneath a windy sky.
PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD 141
MOTOR LIGHTS ON A HILL ROAD
YELLOW-GREEN, yellow-green, yellow-green and silver,
Rimpte of leaves,
Silver of twisted leaves ;
Fan-like yellow glare
Fluted side wake
Breaking from one polished stem to another.
Swift drop on a disappearing road,
Jolt a wooden bridge,
And a flat sky opens in front.
The wide sky careers furiously past a still moon.
142 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Suddenly Slap ! green, yellow,
Leaves and no moon.
Chamfered light patterns
Playing on a pleaching of leaves.
Continuous, like the leaves.
Wind sliding beside us,
Pointing against us through a yellow-green tunnel.
Dot . . . Dot . . . Dot . . .
Little square lights of windows,
Black walls stamping into silver mist,
Shingle roofs aflame like mica.
Elliptical cutting curve
Round a piazza where rocking-chairs creak emptily.
Square white fences
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 143
Plunge at a black hill,
Flash into water-waving fluctuations.
Leaves gush out of the darkness
And boil past in yellow-green curds :
We slip between them with the smoothness cf oil. !
Hooped yellow light spars
Glide toward us,
Impinge upon our progress,
Open and let us through.
Liquid leaves lap the wheels,
Green and yellow water-slopes hang over us,
Close behind us,
Push us forward.
We are the centre of a green and yellow bubble,
144 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Skimming over the face of the world
Green and yellow, occasionally tinged with silver.
AS TOWARD ONE S SELF
IN A TIME OF DEARTH
On either side of me,
I see sand.
If I turn the corner of my house
I see sand.
Lines and levels of flat
If I could see a caravan
Heave over the edge of it :
The camels wobbling and swaying,
Stepping like ostriches,
With rocking palanquins
Whose curtains conceal
Languors and faintnesses,
148 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
Muslins tossed aside,
And a disorder of cushions.
The swinging curtains would pique and solace me.
But I only see sand,
Long, brown sand,
If I could see a herd of Arab horses
Their manes and tails pulled straight
By the speed of their going ;
Their bodies sleek and round
Like bellying sails.
They would beat the sand with their fore-feet,
And scatter it with their hind-feet,
So that it whirled in a cloud of orange,
And the sun through it
Was clip-edged, without rays and
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 149
But I only see sand,
Long, brown, hot sand,
If I could see a mirage
Blue- white at the horizon,
With palm-trees about it ;
Tall, windless palm-trees, grouped about a glitter.
If I could strain towards it,
And think of the water creeping round my ankles,
Tickling under my knees,
Leeching up my sides,
Spreading over my back !
But I only feel the grinding beneath my feet .
And I only see sand,
Long, dry sand,
150 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
If a sand-storm would come
And spit against my windows,
Snapping upon them, and ringing their vibrations ;
Swirling over the roof,
Seeping under the door-jamb,
Suffocating me and making me struggle for air.
But I only see sand,
Sand lying dead in the sun,
Lines and lines of sand,
I will paste newspapers over the windows to shut out
I will fit them into one another, and fasten the
Then I will strike matches
And read of politics, and murders, and festivals,
Three years old.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 151
But I shall not see the sand any more
And I can read
While my matches last.
152 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE chatter of little people
Breaks on my purpose
Like the water-drops which slowly wear the rocks to
And while I laugh
My spirit crumbles at their teasing touch.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 153
LIKE black ice
Scrolled over with unintelligible patterns
by an ignorant skater
Is the dulled surface of my heart.
154 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
LA VIE DE BOHEME
ALONE, I whet my soul against the keen
Unwrinkled sky, with its long stretching blue.
I polish it with sunlight and pale dew,
And damascene it with young blowing leaves.
Into the handle of my life I set
Sprays of mignonette
Twisted into sheaves.
The colours laugh and twinkle.
Twined bands of roadways, liquid in the sheen
Of street lamps and the ruby shine of cabs,
Glisten for my delight all down its length ;
And there are sudden sparks
Of morning ripplings over tree-fluttered pools.
My soul is fretted full of gleams and darks,
Pulsing and still.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 155
Smooth-edged, untarnished, girded in my soul
I walk the world.
But in its narrow alleys,
The low-hung, dust-thick valleys
Where the inob shuffles its empty tread,
My soul is blunted against dullard wits,
Smeared with sick juices,
Nicked impotent for other than low uses.
Its arabesques and sparkling subtleties
Crusted to grey, and all its changing surfaces
Spread with unpalpitant monotonies.
I re-create myself upon the polished sky :
A honing-strop above converging roofs.
The patterns show again, like buried proofs
Of old, lost empires bursting on the eye
In hieroglyphed and graven splendour.
156 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The whirling winds brush past my head,
And prodigal once more, a reckless spender
Of disregarded beauty, a defender
Of undesired faiths,
I walk the world.
PICTUEES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 157
LITTLE hot apples of fire,
Burst out of the flaming stem
Of my heart,
I do not understand how you quickened and grew,
And you amaze me
While I gather you.
I lay you, one by one,
Upon a table.
And now you seem beautiful and strange to me,
And I stand before you,
158 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE TRAVELLING BEAR
GRASS-BLADES push up between the cobblestones
And catch the sun on their flat sides
Shooting it back,
Gold and emerald,
Into the eyes of passers-by.
And over the cobblestones,
Square-footed and heavy,
Dances the trained bear.
The cobbles cut his feet,
And he has a ring in his nose
Which hurts him ;
But still he dances,
For the keeper pricks him with a sharp stick,
Under his fur.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 159
Now the crowd gapes and chuckles,
And boys and young women shuffle their feet in time
to the dancing bear.
They see him wobbling
Against a dust of emerald and gold,
And they are greatly delighted.
The legs of the bear shake with fatigue,
And his back aches,
And the shining grass-blades dazzle and confuse him.
But still he dances,
Because of the little, pointed stick.
160 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
I MADE a song one morning,
Sitting in the shade under the hornbeam hedge.
I played it on my pipe,
And the clear notes delighted me,
And the little hedge-sparrows and the chipmunks
Also seemed pleased.
So I was very proud
That I had made so good a song.
Would you like to hear my song ?
I will play it to you
As I did that evening to my Beloved,
Standing on the moon-bright cobbles
Underneath her window.
But you are not my Beloved,
You must give me a silver shilling,
* PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 161
Round and glittering like the moon.
Copper I will not take,
How should copper pay for a song
All made out of nothing,
And so beautiful !
162 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
IT is only a little twig
With a green bud at the end ;
But if you plant it,
And water it,
And set it where the sun will be above it,
It will grow into a tall bush
With many flowers,
And leaves which thrust hither and thither
From its roots will come freshness,
And beneath it the grass-blades
Will bend and recover themselves,
And clash one upon another
In the blowing wind.
But if you take my twig
And throw it into a closet
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 163
With mousetraps and blunted tools,
It will shrivel and waste.
And, some day,
When you open the door,
You will think it an old twisted nail,
And sweep it into the dust bin
With other rubbish.
164 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE PEDDLER OF FLOWERS
I CAME from the country
Larkspur and roses,
In their leaves,
And long, cool lavender.
I carried them
From house to house,
And cried them
Down hot streets.
The sun fell
Upon my flowers,
And the dust of the streets
Blew over my basket.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 165
I slept upon the open seats
Of a circus,
Where all day long
People had watched
Of a painted clown.
166 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THROW the blue ball above the little twigs of the
And cast the yellow ball straight at the buzzing stars.
All our life is a flinging of coloured balls
to impossible distances.
And in the end what have we ?
A tired arm a tip-tilted nose.
Ah ! Well ! Give me the purple one.
Wouldn t it be a fine thing if I could make it stick
On top of the Methodist steeple ?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 167
LIKE Don Quixote, I tilted at a windmill.
On my good, grey horse I spurred at it,
Galloping heavily over the plain.
My lance pierced the framework of a sail and stuck
And the impact sent me sprawling on the ground.
My horse wandered away, cropping,
But I started up and fell upon the windmill,
With my dagger unsheathed.
Valiantly I stabbed a dipping sail,
But it rose before I could withdraw the weapon,
And the blade went up with it, gleaming flickering.
Then I drew a pistol,
For I am an up-to-date knight
1G8 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And my armory unrivalled.
I aimed above me,
At the sky between two sails.
Ping ! went the bullet,
And a round, blue eye peeked at me through the
I fired again
Two eyes winked at me, jeering.
Then I ran at the windmill with my fists,
But it struck me down and left me.
All night I lay there,
And the great sails turned about and about,
And brushed me with their shadows,
For there was a moon.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 169
You hate me and I hate you,
And we are so polite, we two !
But whenever I see you, I burst apart
And scatter the sky with my blazing hearto
It spits and sparkles in stars and balls,
Buds into roses and flares, and falls*
Scarlet buttons, and pale green disks,
Silver spirals and asterisks,
Shoot and tremble in a mist
Peppered with mauve and amethyst.
I shine in the windows and light up the trees,
And all because I hate you, if you please.
170 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And when you meet me, you rend asunder
And go up in a flaming wonder
Of saffron cubes, and crimson moons,
And wheels all amaranths and maroons.
Golden lozenges and spades,
Arrows of malachites and jades,
Patens of copper, azure sheaves.
As you mount, you flash in the glossy leaves.
Such fireworks as we make, we two !
Because you hate me and I hate you.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 171
I WANT to be a carpenter,
To work all day long in clean wood,
Shaving it into little thin slivers
Which screw up into curls behind my plane ;
Pounding square, black nails into white boards,
With the claws of my hammer glistening
Like the tongue of a snake.
I want to shingle a house,
Sitting on the ridge-pole in a bright breeze.
I want to put the shingles on neatly,
Taking great care that each is directly between two
I want my hands to have the tang of wood :
Spruce, Cedar, Cypress.
I want to draw a line on a board with a flat pencil,
And then saw along that line,
172 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
With the sweet-smelling sawdust piling up in a
yellow heap at my feet.
That is the life !
It is much easier than to write this poem.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 173
You are like the stem
Of a young beech-tree,
Straight and swaying,
Breaking out in golden leaves.
Your walk is like the blowing of a beech-tree
On a hill.
Your voice is like leaves
Softly struck upon by a South wind.
Your shadow is no shadow, but a scattered sunshine ;
And at night you pull the sky down to you
And hood yourself in stars.
But I am like a great oak under a cloudy sky,
Watching a stripling beech grow up at my feet.
174 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE young gentleman from the foreign nation
Sat on the sofa and smiled.
He stayed for two hours and I talked to him.
He answered agreeably,
He was very precise, very graceful, very enthusiastic
I thought :
Is it possible that there are no nations, only indi
That it is the few who give gold and flowers,
While the many have only copper
So worn that even the stamp is obliterated ?
I talked to the young gentleman from the foreign
And the faint smell of copper assailed my nostrils :
Twisted copper coins dropped by old women
Into the alms-boxes of venerable churches.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 175
CASTLES IN SPAIN
I BUILD my poems with little strokes of ink
Drawn shining down white paper, line and line,
And there is nothing here which men call fine,
Nothing but hieroglyphs to make them think.
I have no broad and blowing plain to link
And loop with aqueducts, no golden mine
To crest my pillars, no bright twisted vine
Which I can train about a fountain s brink.
Those others laced their poems from sea to sea
And floated navies over fields of grain,
They fretted their full fancies in strong stone
And struck them on the sky. And yet I gain ;
For bombs and bullets cannot menace me,
Who have no substance to be overthrown.
Cathedrals crash to rubbish, but my towers,
Carved in the whirling and enduring brain,
Fade, and persist, and rise again, like flowers.
PLUMMETS TO CIRCUMSTANCE
ANAEMIC women, stupidly dressed and shod
In squeaky shoes, thump down the nave to laud an
Bunches of lights reflect upon the pavement where
The twenty benches stop, and through the close,
Gaunt arches push up their whited stones,
And cover the sparse worshippers with dead men s
Behind his shambling choristers, with flattened feet
And red-flapped hood, the Bishop walks, complete
In old, frayed ceremonial. The organ wheezes
A mouldy psalm-tune, and a verger sneezes.
180 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
But the great Cathedral spears into the sky
Shouting for joy.
What is the red-flapped Bishop praying for,
by the by?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 181
, HE said he saw the spangled wings of angels
In a tree at Peckham Rye,
And Elija walking in the haying-fields ;
So they beat him for his lies,
And prenticed him to an engraver.
Now his books sell for broad, round, golden guineas.
That s a bouncing turn of Fortune !
But we have the guineas,
Since our fathers were thrifty men
And knew the value of gold.
182 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
WILLIAM BLAKE and Catherine Bourchier were
married in the newly rebuilt Church of Batter-
sea where the windows were beautifully painted
to imitate real stained glass.
Pigments or crystal, what did it matter when
Jehovah sat on a cloud of curled fire over the
And angels with silver trumpets played Hosannas
under the wooden groins of the peaked roof !
William and Catherine Blake left the painted windows
behind in the newly rebuilt Church of Battersea,
But God and the angels went out with them ;
And the angels played on their trumpets under the
plaster ceiling of their lodging,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 183
Morning, and evening, and morning, forty-five round
Has the paint faded in the windows of Battersea
Church, I wonder ?
184 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
PEACH-COLOUR TO A SOAP-BUBBLE
A MAN made a symphony
Out of the chords of his soul.
The notes ran upon the air like flights of chickadees,
They gathered together and hung
As bees above a syringa bush,
They crowded and clicked upon one another
In a flurry of progression,
And crashed in the simultaneous magnificence
Of a grand finale.
All this he heard,
But the neighbors heard only the croak
Of a wheezy, second-hand flageolet.
Forced to seek another lodging
He took refuge under the arch of a bridge,
For the river below him might be convenient
PICTUKES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 185
OUR meeting was like the upward swish of a rocket
In the blue night.
I do not know when it burst ;
But now I stand gaping,
In a glory of falling stars.
Hola! Hola! shouts the crowd, as the catharine-
wheels sputter and turn.
Hola! They cheer the flower-pots and set pieces.
And nobody heeds the cries of a young man in shirt
Who has burnt his fingers setting them off.
186 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
A King and Queen, and a couple of Generals,
Flame in coloured lights,
Putting out the stars,
And making a great glare over the people wandering
among the booths.
They are very beautiful and impressive,
And all the people say "Ah !"
By and by they begin to go out,
Little by little.
The King s crown goes first, ;
Then his eyes,
Then his nose and chin.
The Queen goes out from the bottom up,
Until only the topmost jewel of her tiara is left.
Then that too goes ;
And there is nothing but a frame of twisted wires,
With the stars twinkling through it.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 187
PIERROT had grown old.
He wore spectacles
And kept a shop.
Opium and hellebore
Between the covers of books,
And perfumes distilled from the veins of old ivory,
And poisons drawn from lotus seeds one hundred years
And thinned to the translucence of alabaster.
He sang a pale song of repeated cadenzas
In a voice cold as flutes
And shrill as desiccated violins.
I stood before the shop,
Fingering the comfortable vellum of an ancient
188 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Turning over its leaves,
And the dead moon looked over my shoulder
And fell with a green smoothness upon the page.
I read :
"I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other
gods but me."
Through the door came a chuckle of laughter
Like the tapping of unstrung kettledrums,
For Pierrot had ceased singing for a moment
To watch me reading.
1 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 189
A COMEDY OF OPPOSITIONS
THIMBLE-RIG on a village green,
Snake-charmers under a blue tent
Winding drugged sausage-bellies through thin arms.
Of a yellow and magenta shawl
On a platform
Drip cockatoos of colour
On broadest shoulders,
Dead eyes swim to a silver fish.
Gluttonous hands tear at apron strings,
Reach at the red side of an apple,
Slide under ice-floes,
190 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And waltz clear through to the tropics
To sit among cocoanuts
And caress bulbous negresses with loquats in their
A violin scorching on an F-sharp exit.
Hayricks, and panting,
Noon roses guessed under calico
A budded thorn-bush swinging
Against a smoke-dawn.
Hot pressing on sweet straw,
Laughs like whales floundering across air circles,
Wallows of smoothness,
Loose muscles dissolved upon lip-brushings,
Sleep oozing over wet flesh,
Cooling under the broad end of an angled shadow.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 191
Absurd side-wiggle of geese before elephants ;
A gold leopard snarls at a white-nosed donkey ;
Panther-purrs rouse childhood to an edge of
Trumpets brawl beneath an oscillation of green
Why blow apple-blossoms into wind-dust ?
Why drop a butterfly down the throat of a pig ?
Timid shrinkings of a scarlet-runner bean
From pumpkin roughnesses.
Preposterous clamour of a cock for a tulip.
If your flesh is cold
Warm it on tea-pots
And let them be of Dresden china
With a coreopsis snarled in the handle.
Horse-bargainings do not become temples,
And sarabands are not danced on tea-trays of German
192 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Thin drums flatten the uprightness of distance,
A fading of drums shows lilac on the fallen beech
Emptiness of drums.
Burr of a rising moon.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 193
What are you ?
Son, through a thousand generations, of the black
Padding among the sprigs of young bamboo ;
Descendant of many removals from the white panthers
Who crouch by night under the loquat-trees ?
You crouch under the orange begonias,
And your eyes are green
With the violence of murder,
Or half-closed and stealthy
Like your sheathed claws.
You rise and stretch
194 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
In a glossiness of beautiful curves,
Of muscles fluctuating under black, glazed hair.
You are a strange creature.
You sit on your haunches
But when you leap
I can almost hear the whine
Of a released string,
And I look to see its flaccid shaking
In the place whence you sprang.
You carry your tail as a banner,
Slowly it passes my chair,
But when I look for you, you are on the table
Moving easily among the most delicate porcelains.
Your food is a matter of importance
And you are insistent on having
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 195
Your wants attended to,
And yet you will eat a bird and its feathers
Apparently without injury.
In the night, I hear you crying,
But if I try to find you
There are only the shadows of rhododendron leaves
Brushing the ground.
When you come in out of the rain,
All wet and with your tail full of burrs,
You fawn upon me in coils and subtleties ;
But once you are dry
You leave me with a gesture of inconceivable
Conveyed by the vanishing quirk of your tail
As you slide through the open door.
You walk as a king scorning his subjects ;
You flirt with me as a concubine in robes of silk.
196 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
I am afraid of your poisonous beauty ;
I have seen you torturing a mouse.
Yet when you lie purring in my lap
I forget everything but how soft you are,
And it is only when I feel your claws open upon my
That I remember
Remember a puma lying out on a branch above my
Shall I choke you, Cat,
Or kiss you ?
Really I do not know.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 197
THE cat and I
Together in the sultry night
He greatly desired a mouse ;
I, an idea.
Neither ambition was gratified.
So we watched
In a stiff and painful expectation.
Little breezes pattered among the trees,
And thin stars ticked at us
Squeezing through mist.
Those others, I said !
And my mind rang hollow as I tapped it.
Winky, I said,
198 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Do all other cats catch their mice ?
It was low and long,
Ivory white, with doors and windows blotting blue
Wind choked in pomegranate-trees,
Rain rattled on lead roofs,
And stuttered along twisted conduit-pipes.
An eagle screamed out of the heavy sky,
And some one in the house screamed
"Ah, I knew that you were dead !"
So that was it :
And the icy cowls of buried monies ;
Organs on iron midnights,
And long wax winding-sheets
Guttered from altar candles.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 199
Then spitting blood.
Music quenched in blood,
Flights of arpeggios confused by blood,
Flute-showers of notes stung and arrested on a sharp
Tangled in a web of blood.
"I cannot send you the manuscripts, as they are not
I have been ill as a dog.
My illness has had a pernicious effect on the Preludes
Which you will receive God knows when."
He bore it.
Therefore, Winky, drink some milk
And leave the mouse until to-morrow.
There are no blood-coloured pomegranate flowers
200 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Hurling their petals in at the open window,
But you can sit in my lap
And blink at a bunch of cinnamon-eyed coreopsis
While I pull your ears
In the manner which you find so infinitely agreeable.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 201
I AM a woman, sick for passion,
Sitting under the golden beech-trees.
I am a woman, sick for passion,
Crumbling the beech leaves to powder in my fingers.
The servants say: "Yes, my Lady," and "No, my
And all day long my husband calls me
From his invalid chair :
"Mary, Mary, where are you, Mary? I want you."
Why does he want me ?
When I come, he only pats my hand
And asks me to settle his cushions.
Poor little beech leaves,
In the great park.
202 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
But there are many golden beech leaves
And I am alone.
I am a woman, sick for passion,
Walking between rows of painted tulips.
Parrot flowers, toucan-feathered flowers,
How bright you are !
You hurt me with your colours,
Your reds and yellows lance at me like flames.
Oh, I am sick sick
And your darting loveliness hurts my heart.
You burn me with your parrot-tongues.
My husband taps on the window with his stick :
"Mary, come in. I want you. You will take cold."
I am a woman, sick for passion,
Gazing at a white moon hanging over tall lilies.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 203
The lilies sway and darken,
And a wind ruffles my hair.
There is a scrape of gravel behind me,
A red coat crashes scarlet against the lilies.
" Cousin-Captain !
I thought you were playing piquet with Sir Kenelm. 9
"Piquet, Dear Heart ! And such a moon !"
Your red coat chokes me, Cousin-Captain.
Blood-colour, your coat :
I am sick sick for your heart.
Keep away from me, Cousin-Captain.
Your scarlet coat dazzles and confuses me.
heart of red blood, what shall I do !
Even the lilies blow for the bee.
Does your heart beat so loud, Beloved ?
No, it is the tower-clock chiming eleven.
1 must go in and give my husband his posset.
I hear him calling :
"Mary, where are you? I want you."
204 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
I am a woman, sick for passion,
Waiting in the long, black room for the funeral pro
cession to pass.
I sent a messenger to town last night.
When will you come ?
Under my black dress a rose is blooming.
A rose ? a heart ? it rustles for you with open
Come quickly, Dear,
For the corridors are full of noises.
In this fading light I hear whispers,
And the steady, stealthy purr of the wind.
What keeps you, Cousin-Captain? . . .
What was that?
"Mary, I want you."
Nonsense, he is dead,
Buried by now.
Oh, I am sick of these long, cold corridors !
f PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 205
Sick for what ?
Why do you not come ?
I am a woman, sick sick
Sick of the touch of cold paper,
Poisoned with the bitterness of ink.
Snowflakes hiss, and scratch the windows.
"Mary, where are you? *
That voice is like water in my ears ;
I cannot empty them.
He wanted me, my husband,
But these stone parlours do not want me.
You do not want me either, Cousin-Captain.
Your coat lied,
Only your white sword spoke the truth.
Will nothing stop the white snow
206 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Will nothing stop that voice,
Drifting through the wide, dark halls ?
The tower-clock strikes eleven dully, stifled with
Softly over the still snow,
Softly over the lonely park,
Softly . . .
Yes, I have only my slippers, but I shall not tak<
A little dish of posset.
Do the dead eat ?
I have done it so long,
So strangely long.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 207
THE BROKEN FOUNTAIN
OBLONG, its jutted ends rounding into circles,
The old sunken basin lies with its flat, marble lip
An inch below the terrace tiles.
Over the stagnant water
Slide reflections :
The blue-green of coned yews ;
The purple and red of trailing fuchsias
Dripping out of marble urns ;
Bright squares of sky
Ribbed by the wake of a swimming beetle.
Through the blue-bronze water
Wavers the pale uncertainty of a shadow.
An arm flashes through the reflections,
A breast is outlined with leaves.
Outstretched in the quiet water
The statue of a Goddess slumbers.
208 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
But when Autumn comes
The beech leaves cover her with a golden counter
PICTUKES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 209
THE DUSTY HOUR-GLASS
IT had been a trim garden,
With parterres of fringed pinks and gillyflowers,
and smooth-raked walks.
Silks and satins had brushed the box edges
of its alleys.
The curved stone lips of its fishponds
had held the rippled reflections of tricorns and
The branches of its trees had glittered with lanterns,
and swayed to the music of flutes and violins.
Now, the fishponds are green with scum ;
The paths and flower-beds
are run together and overgrown.
Only at one end is an octagonal Summer-house
not yet in ruins.
310 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
Through the lozenged panes of its windows,
you can see the interior :
A dusty bench ; a fireplace
with a lacing of letters carved in the stone
above it ;
A broken ball of worsted
rolled away into a comer.
Dolci, dolci, i giorni passati I
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 211
" STOP ! What are you doing ? "
"Playing on an old flute."
" That s Heine s flute you mustn t touch it* "
"Why not, if I can make it sound."
"I don t know why not, but you mustn t."
"I don t believe I can much. It s full of dust.
Still, listen :
The rose moon whitens the lifting leaves.
Heigh-o ! The nightingale sings !
Through boughs and branches the moon-thread
Ancient as time are these midnight things.
The nightingale s notes over-bubble the night.
Heigh-o ! Yet the night is so big I
212 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
He stands on his nest in a wafer of light,
And the nest was once a philosopher s wig.
Moon-sharp needles, and dew on the grass.
Heigh-o ! It flickers, the breeze !
Kings, philosophers, periwigs pass ;
Nightingale eggs hatch under the trees.
Wigs, and pigs, and kings, and courts.
Heigh-o ! Rain on the flower !
The old moon thinks her white, bright thoughts,
And trundles away before the shower.
"Well, you got it to play."
"Yes, a little. And it has lovely silver mountings."
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 213
SHE sat in a Chinese wicker chair
Wide at the top like a spread peacock s tail,
And toyed with a young man s heart which she held
lightly in her fingers.
She tapped it gently,
Held it up to the sun and looked through it,
Strung it on a chain of seed-pearls and fastened it
about her neck,
Tossed it into the air and caught it,
Deftly, as though it were a ball.
Before her on the grass sat the young man.
Sometimes he felt an ache where his heart had been.
But he brushed it aside.
He was intent on gazing, and had no time for any
Presently she grew tired and handed him back his
214 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
But he only laid it on the ground beside him
And went on gazing.
When the maidservant came to tidy up,
She found the heart on the grass.
"What a pretty thing," said the maidservant,
"It is red as a ruby!"
So she picked it up,
And carried it into the house,
And ran a ribbon through it,
And hung it on the looking-glass in her bedroom.
There it hung for many days,
Banging back and forth as the wind blew it.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 215
LITTLE IVORY FIGURES PULLED WITH
Is it the tinkling of mandolins which disturbs you ?
Or the dropping of bitter-orange petals among the
Or the slow creeping of the moonlight between the
Drop ! drop I the rain
Upon the thin plates of my heart.
String your blood to chord with this music,
Stir your heels upon the cobbles to the rhythm of a
They have slim thighs and arms of silver ;
The moon washes away their garments ;
They make a pattern of fleeing feet in the branch
216 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And the green grapes knotted about them
Burst as they press against one another.
The rain knocks upon the plates of my heart.
They are crumpled with its beating.
Would you drink only from your brains, Old Man ?
See, the moonlight has reached your knees,
It falls upon your head in an accolade of silver.
Rise up on the music,
Fling against the moon-drifts in a whorl of young
light bodies :
Vine leaves tearing from a grey wall.
You shall run, laughing, in a braid of women,
And weave flowers with the frosty spines of thorns.
Why do you gaze into your glass,
And jar the spoons with your finger- tapping ?
The rain is rigid on the plates of my heart.
The murmur of it is loud loud.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 217
ON THE MANTELPIECE
A THOUSAND years went to her making,
A thousand years of experiments in pastes and glazes.
But now she stands
In all the glory of the finest porcelain and the most
A Dresden china shepherdess,
Flaunted before a tall mirror
On a high mantelpiece.
I love the little pink rosettes on your shoes,
The angle of your hat sets my heart a-singing.
Drop me the purple rose you carry in your hand
That I may cherish it,
And that, at my death,
Which I feel is not far off,
It may lie upon my bier. *
218 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
So the shepherdess threw the purple rose over the
But it splintered in fragments on the hearth.
Then from below there came a sound of weeping,
And the shepherdess beat her hands
And cried :
"My purple rose is broken,
It was the flower of my heart."
And she jumped off the mantelpiece
And was instantly shattered into seven hundred and
But the little brown cricket who sang so sweetly
Scuttled away into a crevice of the marble
And went on warming his toes and chirping.
AS TOWARD WAR
HE earned his bread by making wooden soldiers,
With beautiful golden instruments,
Riding dapple-grey horses.
But when he heard the fanfare of trumpets
And the long rattle of drums
As the army marched out of the city,
He took all his soldiers
And burned them in the grate ;
And that night he fashioned a ballet-dancer
Out of tinted tissue-paper,
And the next day he started to carve a Pieta
On the steel hilt
Of a cavalry sword.
222 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
DREAMS IN WAR TIME
I WANDERED through a house of many rooms. >
It grew darker and darker,
Until, at last, I could only find my way
By passing my fingers along the wall.
Suddenly my hand shot through an open window, !
And the thorn of a rose I could not see
Pricked it so sharply
That I cried aloud.
I dug a grave under an oak-tree.
With infinite care, I stamped my spade
Into the heavy grass.
The sod sucked it,
And I drew it out with effort,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 223
Watching the steel run liquid in the moonlight
As it came clear.
I stooped, and dug, and never turned,
For behind me,
On the dried leaves,
My own face lay like a white pebble,
I gambled with a silver money.
The dried seed-vessels of "honesty"
Were stacked in front of me.
Dry, white years slipping through my fingers
One by one.
One by one, gathered by the Croupier.
"Faites vos jeux, Messieurs."
I staked on the red,
And the black won.
224 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Dead years ;
But I had a system,
I always staked on the red.
I painted the leaves of bushes red
And shouted: "Fire! Fire!"
But the neighbors only laughed.
"We cannot warm our hands at them," they said.
Then they cut down my bushes,
And made a bonfire,
And danced about it.
But I covered my face and wept,
For ashes are not beautiful
Even hi the dawn.
I followed a procession of singing girls
Who danced to the glitter of tambourines.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 225
Where the street turned at a lighted corner,
I caught the purple dress of one of the dancers,
But, as I grasped it, it tore,
And the purple dye ran from it
Upon the ground.
I wished to post a letter,
But although I paid much,
Still the letter was overweight.
" What is in this package ?" said the clerk,
" It is very heavy."
"Yes," I said,
"And yet it is only a dried fruit."
I had made a kite,
On it I had pasted golden stars
226 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
And white torches,
And the tail was spotted scarlet like a tiger-lily,
And very long.
I flew my kite,
And my soul was contented
Watching it flash against the concave of the sky,
My friends pointed at the clouds ;
They begged me to take hi my kite.
But I was happy
Seeing the mirror shock of it
Against the black clouds.
Then the lightning came
And struck the kite.
It puffed blazed fell.
But still I walked on,
In the drowning rain,
Slowly winding up the string.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 227
He was a landscape architect.
All day he planned Dutch gardens : rectangular,
squared with tulips ; Italian gardens : dark with
myrtle, thick with running water; English gar
dens : prim, box-edged, espaliered fruit trees flick
ering on walls, borders of snap-dragons, pansies,
On Saturday afternoons, he did not walk into the
country. He paid a quarter and went to a cinema
show, and gazed gazed at marching soldiers,
at guns firing and recoiling, at waste grounds
strewn with mutilated dead. When he took off
his glasses, there was moisture upon them, and his
eyes hurt. He could not see to use a periscope,
they said, yet he could draw gardens.
228 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
His firm dismissed him for designing a military garden :
forts, and redoubts, and salients, in hemlock and
yew, and a puzzle of ditches, damp, deep, floored
with forget-me-nots. It was a wonderful thing,
but quite mad, of course.
When they took his body from the river, the eyes
were wide open, and the lids were so stiffened that
they buried him without closing them.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 229
IN THE STADIUM
MARSHAL JOFFRE REVIEWING THE HARVARD
REGIMENT, MAY 12, 1917
A LITTLE old man
Huddled up in a corner of a carriage,
Rapidly driven in front of throngs of people
With his hand held to a perpetual salute.
The people cheer,
But he has heard so much cheering.
On his breast is a row of decorations.
He feels his body recoil before attacks of pain.
They are all like this :
Great Caesar even,
But that he died out of time.
230 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Sick old men,
Driving rapidly before a concourse of people,
Gay with decorations,
Crumpled with pain.
The drum-major lifts his silver-headed stick,
And the silver trumpets and tubas,
The great round drums,
Each with an H on them,
Crash out martial music.
Heavily rhythmed march music
For the stepping of a regiment.
Slant lines of rifles,
A twinkle of stepping,
The regiment comes.
The young regiment,
Boys in khaki
With slanted rifles.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 231
The young bodies of boys
Bulwarked in front of us.
The white bodies of young men
Heaped like sandbags
Against the German guns.
This is war :
Boys flung into a breach
Like shovelled earth ;
And old men,
Driving rapidly before crowds of people
In a glitter of silly decorations.
Behind the boys
And the old men,
And shreds her garments
To the blowing winds.
232 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
AFTER WRITING "THE BRONZE
I AM so tired.
I have run across the ages with spiritless feet,
I have tracked man where he falls splintered in
I have watched him shoot up like green sprouts at
I have seen him blossom, and fruit, and offer himself,
On golden platters to kings.
I have seen him reel with drunk blood,
I have followed him in flood
Sweep over his other selves.
I have written things
Which sucked the breath
Out of my lungs, and hung
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 233
My heart up in a frozen death.
I have picked desires
Out of purple fires
And set them on the shelves
Of my mind,
As though my kind
Were unlike these.
But while I did this, my bowels contracted in twists
I felt myself squeeze
And wished that I could shrivel before Destiny
Could snatch me back into the vortex of Yesterday.
Wheels and wheels
And only your hand is firm.
The very paths of my garden squirm
Like snakes between the brittle flowers,
And the sunrise gun cuts off the hours
234 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Of this day and the next.
The long, dusty volumes are the first lines of a text.
Oh, Beloved, must we read ?
Must you and I, alone in the midst of trees,
See their green alleys printing with the screed
Which counts these new men, these
Terrible resurrections of old wars.
I wish I had not seen so much :
The roses that you wear are bloody scars,
And you the moon above a battle-field ;
So all my thoughts are grown to such.
A body peeled
Down to a skeleton,
A grinning jaw-bone in a bed of mignonette.
What good is it to say "Not yet."
I tell you I am tired
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 235
THE disappearing guns
Are hidden in their concrete emplacements,
But, above them,
Meadow grasses fall and recover,
Bend and stiffen,
Go dark, burn light,
In the play of a gusty wind.
A black-and-orange butterfly
Flits about among the butter-and-egg flowers,
And the sea stands up,
Tall in perspective,
With full-spread schooners
Sprinkled upon it
As roses are powdered
Over a ribbon of moire blue.
236 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The disappearing guns are black
In grey concrete emplacements
With here and there a touch of red rust.
Wind cuts through the grasses,
Rasps upon them,
Draws a bow note out along them c
Swish ! Oh-h-h !
And the low waves
Crash soft constant cymbals
On the shingle beach
At the foot of the cliff.
Good Gracious !
A seal !
After how many years ?
He turns his head to look at us,
He lolls on his rock contented and hot with sun
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 237
The disappearing guns would shoot over him
If they were to fire.
Is he held in the harbour
By the submarine nets, I wonder ?
"You turn the crank so.
Do you see her move ?
If you stand here, you can see the springs for the
Perhaps I can,
But I cannot see the orange butterfly,
Nor the seal,
Nor the little ships
Drawn across the tall, streaked sea.
And all I can hear
Is the jingle of a piano
In the men s quarters
Playing a comic opera tune.
PICTUBES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Is it possible that, at night,
The little flitter-bats
Hang under the lever-wheels of the disappearing guns
In their low emplacements
To escape from the glare
Of the search-lights,
Shooting over the grasses
To the sea?
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Masts, one behind another,
Syncopated beyond and between one another,
A mist of grey, blurring stems
Platformed upon horizontal thicknesses.
Bows and sterns escaping fore and aft,
A long line of flatness
Darker than the fog of masts,
Plotting lustreless clouds.
240 PICTURES OP THE FLOATING WORLD
Slowly sucking the refuse of a harbour
The ferry turns ;
On the starboard quarter,
Thrust out from the vapour-wall of ships j
Against the perpendicular :
In front of the horizontal :
A crenelated edge.
A vessel, grooved and conical,
Gothic, bizarre, and unrelated.
Black spirals over cream-colour
Broken at a half-way point.
A slab of black amidships.
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 2<U
At the stern,
Rising from the water,
Curled round and over,
Drawn upon one another.
Snakes starting from a still ocean,
Writhing over cream-colour,
Crashed upon and cut down
By a flat, impinging horizon.
The sea is grey and low,
But the vessel is high with upthrusting lines :
Hair lines incessantly moving,
Broad bands of black turning evenly over emptiness,
Intorting upon their circuits,
Teasing the eye with indefinite motion,
Coming from nothing,
Ending without cessation.
242 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Drowned hair drifting against mother-of-pearl ;
Shredded upon a yellow beach ;
Salted over cream-grey wave-tops. ^
You hollow into rising water,
You double-turn under the dripped edges of clouds,
You move in a hundred directions,
And keep to a course the eye cannot see.
Your terrible lines
Are swift as the plunge of a kingfisher ;
They vanish as one traces them,
They are constantly vanishing,
And yet you swing at anchor in the grey harbour
Waiting for your quota of troops.
Men will sail in you,
Netted in whirling paint, i
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 243
Held like brittle eggs
In an osier basket. ,
They will sail,
Over black-skinned water, ^
Into a distance of cream-colour and vague shadow-
The ferry whistle blows for the landing.
Start the engine
That we may not block
The string of waiting carts.
244 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THIS afternoon was the colour of water falling through
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves ;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square,
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 245
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.
246 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE PARADE
April 25, 1919
BIRDS are calling through the rain,
Glass bells dropping across the patter of falling rain.
The garden soaks, and breathes, and lifts up the
spear-green leaves of tulips
And the long, golden mouths of daffodils
To the downpour,
And the high blossoms of forsythia
Tremble vaguely, and bend to let the rain run off them
And spill over the little red peony fronds
Uncurling at their feet.
It is wet, and cool, and pleasant.
Why should words rattle upon this quietness ?
"Adders writhe from the sunken eyes
Of statues, in Persepolis."
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 247
Clashes of bells bursting in a grey sky,
And a clock striking jubilees of brass hours, one after
Gas-jets flicker, and spin sudden lights across the
battle-flags draped to the pillars.
The church sighs in the evening rain,
Kneeling beneath the dim clouds in a stillness of
Beauty of stone, of glass, of memories,
Worshipful beauty spotted by the snarl of words
"Adders writhe from the sunken eyes
Of statues, in Persepolis."
They have put up stands,
Flimsy wooden stands to crush out the little green
life of the grass.
To-morrow the crowds will cheer,
And the streets will shine with flags and gilding.
248 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
The people will shout themselves hoarse
When the green helmets and the white bayonets
Sweep along the streets.
Only the little grass-blades will cry and languish,
Weeping : " We are the cousins of the grasses of France,
The kind grasses who cover the graves of those you
Then they will hiss under the cruel stands,
And the words will run, and glare, and brighten :
"Adders writhe from the sunken eyes
Of statues, in Persepolis."
Rain on a roofless city,
Rain over broken walls and towers scattered to a
ring of ruins,
Pale splendours of hard stone melted to the purple
bloom of orchises,
And poppies thrust between the basalt paving-blocks
of roads leading to a waste of blue-tongued
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 249
Where did I see this ?
Not in the leafless branches of the ash-tree,
Not in the glitter of my wet window-sill,
Not in the smooth garden filling itself with good rain.
There are fireworks to-night,
The first for two years.
And listen to the rain !
Prayers, and flowers, and a booming of guns. !
Do I hear anything ?
What are you reading ?
"Adders writhe from the sunken eyes
Of statues, in Persepolis.".
AS TOWARD IMMORTALITY
ON A CERTAIN CRITIC
WELL, John Keats,
I know how you felt when you swung out of the inn
And started up Box Hill after the moon.
Lord ! How she twinkled in and out of the box
Where they arched over the path.
How she peeked at you and tempted you,
And how you longed for the "naked waist" of her
You had put into your second canto.
You felt her silver running all over you,
And the shine of her flashed in your eyes
So that you stumbled over roots and things.
Ah ! How beautiful ! How beautiful !
Lying out on the open hill
With her white radiance touching you
254 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
Flecking over you.
"My Lady of the Moon,
I flow out to your whiteness,
My hands cup themselves
About your disk of pearl and fire ;
Lie upon my face,
Burn me with the cold of your hot white flame a
High, distant Goddess,
I kiss the needles of this furze bush
Because your feet have trodden it.
I am prone before you.
And drench me in loveliness.
I have written you a poem
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 255
I have made a girdle for you of words ;
Like a shawl my words will cover you,
So that men may read of you and not be burnt as I
Sere my heart until it is a crinkled leaf,
I have held you in it for a moment,
And exchanged my love with yours,
On a high hill at midnight.
Was that your tear or mine, Bright Moon ?
It was round and full of moonlight.
Don t go !
My God ! Don t go !
You escape from me,
You slide through my hands. N
Great Immortal Goddess,
Don t leave me.
My hands clutch at moonbeams,
And catch each other.
256 PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD
My Dear ! My Dear !
My beautiful far-shining lady !
I am tortured with this anguish of unbearable beauty."
Then you stumbled down the hill, John Keats,
Perhaps you fell once or twice ;
It is a rough path,
And you weren t thinking of that.
Then you wrote,
By a wavering candle,
And the moon frosted your window till it looked like
a sheet of blue ice.
And as you tumbled into bed, you said :
"It s a piece of luck I thought of coming out to Box
Now comes a sprig little gentleman,
And turns over your manuscript with his mincing
PICTURES OF THE FLOATING WORLD 257
And tabulates places and dates.
He says your moon was a copy-book maxim,
And talks about the spirit of solitude,
And the salvation of genius through the social order.
I wish you were here to damn him
With a good, round, agreeable oath, John Keats,
But just snap your fingers,
You and the moon will still love,
When he and his papers have slithered away
In the bodies of innumerable worms.
Printed in the United States of America.
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