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Full Online Book HomePoemsAfter (introductory Poem)
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After (introductory Poem) Post by :SandyBaby Category :Poems Author :William Rose Benet Date :October 2011 Read :3363

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After (introductory Poem)

I

On Sunday in the sunlight
With brightness round her strown
And murmuring beauty of the sky
At last her very own,
She who had loved all children
And all high things and clean
Turned away to silentness
And bliss unseen.

Rending, blinding anguish,
Is all a man can know;
Yet still I kneel beside her
For she would have it so,
Kneel and pray beside her
In light she left behind--
Light and love in silentness,
Sight to the blind.

Oh living light burn through me!
Oh speak, as spoke to me
Her deep sweet eyes and faithful,
Voice on Calvary!
Oh light be near and shining,
Nearer than I guess,
And teach me that true language
Of silentness!


II

If now I fall away
From faith, may never day
Shine as it shone
With inmost sanctities
Of those sun-glittering trees--
We two alone.

The darkness toils and heaves.
The Wood of Glittering Leaves
You gave--you gave,
Dearest in life and death,
Dearest with every breath,
Lamp of the brave!

You came in sunlight, still
As God, with Whom your will
Was always one.
You knew me, and you knew
I read your presence through
That sacred sun.

League upon league of light,
As the train raced the night,
With night on me,
With pain that gripped and wrung
As the cars clashed and swung,--
I yet could see

The slim trees of that wood
Brighter than tears or blood,
Fairy with day;
That dark marsh land made bright,
Veiled in miraculous light,--
Your way!

I hold it fast. I hold
All that mysterious gold,
All that it weaves
Of Heaven to understand--
Our radiant bridal land
Of glittering leaves.


III

Honest hands to help, honest eyes to see,
Light that lives in God:
Such our dearest was, such will ever be
Under Heaven.
Nothing in this life gives to you and me
Such a sunlight-shod,
Sunlight-crowned delight in our memory
As was given.

There was not a harm in these roaring hours
That could touch Her head
Perfect was Her charm borne against the powers
Gnashing still.
In her heart a field laughed with golden flowers
Where Her soul could tread.
Swift, serene, she passed all that snarls and cowers,
White of will.

Song can give her nothing. We who brave the night
Say Her name again
Raise it like a cup full of sacred light
Up to Heaven.
Now we know our pain blinding, burning bright
In the world of men.
Yet we know our joy, knowing now aright
What was given.


IV

Base rewards and glamours, the beating tide of hours,
The crying and clamors and the surge of silent powers
Pass me and pass me now. Silently I go
The one road, the only road I know.

Oh, bare and bright as dreams
And laced with silver streams
Lies the land on either hand, past the darkness and dread.
Though a man must grip his soul lest it start from all control,
And must bow his head.

Where are your footprints on air that I may find them?
Where your radiant garments that I may hide behind them?
No, it is my own road, straight and black
That turns not back.

I will search till the darkness sears on either hand
With the drifting sparkles of some fiery brand,
Of some pain that lights me nearer to the land of your endeavor.
I will search forever.

The torrent of the hours like a veil veiling heaven,
The war with bitter powers--I am given.
But light that you left me--light, your own decision,
Your secret and your vision.

Time? What is Time now. Standing to the thong
And the dream that is passing, time is not long.
And I shall find the valley past the mountains that defeat me,
And see you come to meet me.


V

Not all the spoils you cast, not all the dark was bearing
In dream across the sea, across the murmurous sea;
Not beauty that has passed or crowns the stars were wearing
Or flame that fierce and fast through darkness hunted me;
Not the frustrate desire, the web of memory broken,
The silence where your speech dizzies through all the air;
Not these elude my reach when the dark hours have spoken
As does that priceless token, your soul of passionate prayer.

Oh race that falters on, the striving and the stricken
Passing with fruits and garlands and dust upon the head;
Oh burning sunset gone wherein was hope to quicken
The surge of starry dawn rising above the dead;
Oh clamor over shame, yoke of the little-wiser
On the unwilling shoulders, clenched by the quivering hands;
Patience and proof that were and are your still appriser
Now veil her and disguise her, gone from the spectral lands.

The spectral lands of time, the eternal torrent pouring
Of dark and light around us, who fear both dark and light;
And grief that wails in rhyme, and flesh the soul abhorring,
And dismal pantomine played on a stage moon-bright;
Why should such things as these assail her happy meadow,
Creep on the court of children, come crying through the shine?
We who are too unskilled even to taunt the shadow
Groan only in the darkness and spill the precious wine!

For round us beating, beating her wings are in the mirror
Of sleep, the mirror of silence built up with perilous breath.
And in our conscience meeting her smile is on the terror
That chains us round with error and desperate fear of death;
Kind as a child's small hands her faithfulness is round us
With swift and fading gestures, wise as a child is wise;
Out of the gathering clouds that curtain and confound us,
Ecstasy and enchantment--sudden and swift, her eyes!

The hills shall lay away their sombreness unspoken,
The seas shall hush their murmur, the saddened wind be still,
When the long league of silence 'twixt earth and beast is broken
When at the end of all things the stones speak on the hill.
Then Calvary shall cry with glorious joy to heaven,
Aceldama be hearkened and purged by words aware,--
For that in days gone by her voice to His was given,
And to the joy of heaven her soul of passionate prayer.


VI

I listened to the wind who speaks of finding
Among the litter of his blown leaves of days
All rainbow gold of tears that are so blinding;
And then again he says
Something of glittering jewels in the haze,
Incense of praise, myrtles and bays for binding
The wounds that blossom blood upon his ways.

I listened to the sun who can recover
Miraculous instants of an earlier time
Surprise Her eyes alinger on her lover
And run like rhyme
On leaf and stream. He spoke of dream and clime
Sacred with everlasting Spring, ahover
With light more cadenced than bright bells in chime.

I listened to the earth and sea. Their voices,
Too mixed with men, came sombrer and more sad.
They droned awhile of all the tangled choices
That every man has had,
And moaned like ancients with mere age gone mad
And left me nothing that reasons or rejoices--
That seemed so reasonless in being glad.

I listened starward where the ghostly weaving
Of wandering lights is all of Heaven we know
And worlds are lamps and darkness comes bereaving
The world of ebb and flow,
And 'tis as if a bosom were heaving slow
With firmamental care,--ah, heaving, heaving
With an unfathomable earlier woe.

"Listener at many doors,--for what disaster?--"
Her spirit murmur crept into my ears.
"Brooder on pictures breathed on by the Master,
Listen at the heart that hears,--
Ah, listen softly, breathing low!" The years
Were not--for there She was--and, gazing past her,
I saw the Vision raised by blood and tears.


VII

For the eyes loved,
For the face lifted
In that still light,
Dark trees are groved,
The snow drifted,
And the mound white.

And the grave dug
And the words spoken
And the flowers shed--
And the eyes tearless
But the heart broken
For the brave dead.

Though a soul thrill
To the stars' fire
And a mind sing
To a keen will
Of a high desire
And a great thing,--

Ah, who listens?
Who--who hearkens
Or answer makes,--
Though the moon glistens
And the night darkens
And the heart breaks?

Lay her sword by her,
Her steel of spirit,
Her phantom blade,
Lest the loud liar
In his hell inherit
What her soul made!

Sweet sword, she came
To pierce and quicken
My heart to grace,--
Oh, white flame,
Oh, heart life-stricken,
Oh, deathless face!


VIII

Now the snow drives. The day
Goes on in whirling gray.
Still the world roars,
As if no striving flame
Had gone, as it suddenly came,
Passing blind doors;

As if no eyes, no smile,
No heart that could beguile
Evil from earth,
Had hovered just a space
To light one holy place
In the dark and the dearth.

Was it always as fierce and strange--
This blank and sudden change
Men have known ever?
This veil as hard and keen
As the blade of a guillotine
Flashing to sever?

Oh, ears that hark in the night,
Eyeballs that strain for sight,
Pulses that know
The same dull burning ache,
Though a man sleep, though he wake,--
Was it always so?


IX

True love runs wild and wildly understands.
I took the bread of Heaven once from your two hands.
And your eyes are upon me even as I sing,
Saying, "Be of comfort. Death is a little thing."

Oh, magic child and woman, who crept into my heart,
Who hold me with strong arms from all the world apart--
No, I will not say it--for your eyes grieve;
I will say you draw us all to Heaven--your Heaven, by your
leave!

Lady Simplicitas, who hummed like any bee
Little quaint and olden rhymes to keep simplicity,
Lady of the downcast eyes and sudden starry mirth,
And eloquence by torchlight for the wronged of all the earth,

True love runs wild and wildly understands!
I took the wine of Heaven once from your two hands;
And when your eyes were darkened for the world's red smart
You made a violet twilight as you pressed against my heart.

For that coiled hair's brown crown, for that sweet and seemly way,
The straight thoughts, the eager words, the dazzle of your day,
Shall I turn base then and learn to whine and curse?
Not though daggers of memory flicker through this verse!

For true love runs wild and wildly understands.
I took the sacrament of love from your two hands.
So shall I cross the sunset hill and climb the pasture bars
And meet you in our porch at last, in the Village of the Stars.


X

One thing only I can say to you
Whatever be the things men do;
Let one love make May to you,
Hold one love true.
Who but hears the querulous
Sigh and the heavy groan,--
Yet stand for the one love perilous,
Though you stand alone.

Yes, and though beaten and beaten
By the ravings of the blood;
Though with dust and ashes eaten,
Be one thing understood.
The battle in the cloud overthrows you,
Your lips are dashed with foam,--
Yet the one love lives and knows you
And leads you home.

Home--ah, God!--to the slumber
At last and the waking peace,
Where wars without name or number
Give last release;
Where her whisper again is more to you
Than the angels' flaming wars,
And proud Death's hands can pour to you
The cold of the stars.


XI

The selfishness of grief! ... and yet each turning
And questing after some new brave relief
Shows other steel stretched forth and on me burning
The selfishness of grief.

Till self who was my God and love, my chief,
Even these turn from my side with footsteps spurning
As, stooping low, I lift the heavy sheaf

Of our flowered hours gathered with our yearning,
Gathered so wildly in our happy fief
And glimmering beautiful beyond belief,
With dazing fragrance, till my dim discerning
Sees them the legend dropped for my unlearning
The selfishness of grief!


(The end)
William Rose Benet's poem: After (Introductory Poem)

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