LAURENCE HOPE'S EARLY UNPUBLISHED POETRY
Originally organized by Ed Marx, 2006
Although the three volumes of poems of Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Nicolson) have been reprinted many times, the fourth and last volume to appear under her name is hardly known at all. Copies of the slim 31-page volume -- published in 1907 by William Heinemann in London and Paul R. Reynolds (evidently Heinemann's agent) in New York, entitled simply Laurence Hope's Poems -- may be found in the British Library and the Library of Congress. As no other copies are known to exist, it appears that the only intent was to establish the copyright, for the sake of a future commercial edition which never materialized.
Heinemann's reasons for refraining from commercial publication can be surmised from the contents. The poems are evidently mainly juvenilia, written by the teenage Adela Cory before she discovered her Eastern subject matter, and before her poetical skills were fully developed. Heinemann may have felt that the appearance of such a volume would add little to the poet's reputation, and might perhaps even detract from it. The three earlier volumes were then earning substantial profits, and it was perhaps unwise to tamper with success.
However one may judge the poems in this somewhat misleadingly-titled collection, they are valuable as a source of information about the circumstances of the poet's upbringing and development as a writer. What little is known about her childhood is given in Lesley Blanch's biographical essay:
The family travelled much and Adela Florence and her two sisters spent their time between European cities and a private school in London acquiring the accomplishments then encouraged. Adela Florence was greatly gifted, was musical, composed, played and sang and painted with considerable talent. In the studios and salons of Florence, her artistic development matured precociously, and she is said to have written many verses at this time, though none are included in her collected works. When her parents returned to India, she was marooned in England, to complete her schooling. She seems to have been anguished by the separation: already she was a prey to the force of her emotions.
The school in Florence seems to have been the setting for many of the poems here with Italian themes, while other poems give evidence of travel in England and Germany.
The poet's fascination with passion and tragedy, and the fierce independence of her voice, are already developed here, as are certain psychological tendencies present in the later work. The included dedication seems to have been written much later, and is reminiscent of the Dedication to Malcolm Nicolson included in her Indian Love / Last Poems.
- To Curlie
- To Sacha
- The Raft
- The Custodian of the Coliseum
- Pia Casa Dei Minoreni Corrigenti
- In Normandy
- An Old Venetian Dagger
- One of Us
- "Nulla Dies Sine Linea"
- To Cencetta
- From the Neapolitan
- A Lake or Tarn on Loughrig
- To Romea
- Youth of Savonarola
- On the Mountains
- The Choice
- In Borghese
- Tessa Mia
- To M. M.
- The Pity
- Motto on a Jug
- To Myself
- To Sacha
- A Roman Rose
- To Sacha
- Two Rings
- Forza del Destino
- From the Sea
- To Sacha
- A Question
- Of Pergolese
If you, as in times past, were with me still,
And read these verses, you would doubtless find
Them weak and frivolous and wanting skill,
The outcome of a restless, fickle mind.
Yet if my inmost feelings you could see
You would not find me changeful or untrue;
My faithlessness is but fidelity
As I am never constant but to you.
If you had wished it, dear, who knows, who knows
To gain your praise, or merit your kind care
I might have made my life before its close
Worth of that perfection which you were,
What I do now is worthless, but I know
If you had chosen, it had not been so.
I, who have loved so well the sunny south
And wandered thither always, being free,
To praise the southern tints of sky and sea
Can find no word of gladness in my mouth.
And all the silver of the star-filled night--
And all the sweetness of the long blue day--
And all the little curling waves at play
Seem less than dust and ashes in my sight.
For, in the evening when the day is done
And the grey waters round our vessel sigh
While great bright stars come whitely one by one
In that blue wilderness we call the sky,
I sit and long for one far northern isle
That hears my Curlie's voice and sees her smile.
You see me kneeling here, imploring grace
Although I know not any special sin
Except my love. It is so hard to win
Pardon for faults that have for cause your face?
If you would listen for a little space,
And see how sorrowful I am within.
How sad my soul is--you would soon begin
To pity Love for such a dwelling-place,
And give him some small consolation, lest
His grief should kill him--though he makes his own.
And yet, may be, love sometimes thrives the best
In utter desolation, he has grown
Stronger than all my passions. All the rest
Being subdued to him, he reigns alone.
Three days he saw the sun in redness rise,
Three nights he watched its golden brilliance pale
Since first he knew his store of water fail,
Through all the hours he scanned with haggard eyes
Where the wide waters join the arching skies,
For his last hopeless hope, a passing sail,
Which if it come not soon, will nought avail;
Then weary slept, worn out; best if he dies--
Dreaming of clear deep pools with turfy banks,
Where wash with rounded arms the laughing girls
Stirring white linen in the limpid tanks,
As stirs the waving wind their wetted curls--
Ere he must wake again to mark the swirls
Of salt seas washing o'er those parting planks.
The Custodian of the Coliseum.
Under the blueness of the Roman sky
Column and capital and vast hewn stone,
Embrowned to a dull dusky monotone
By Time's accumulated shadows, lie.
Here, where the lion's roar, the martyr's cry
Made music to the multitude, a sound
Of long since silenced voices seems to sigh
Echoed by solemn arches standing round;
And here, unsaddened on the haunted ground
With its tremendous past, a little home
Beneath the hoary walls has "Pippo" found
And o'er his cooking meal you hear him sing,
And [possibly "an"] infinitely little living thing
Amid the desolation of dead Rome.
Pia Casa Dei Minoreni Corrigenti
Under which lie buried those who died in the Plague.
If you know Florence, you'll remember there
Near Prato gate, a somewhat dreary street
Named Della Scala; all the sultry air
Is filled with fragrance through the summer heat
But the Oricellari garden, where
Machiavelli's friends were wont to meet.
Opposite is a shrine. The passing feet
Of Medioeval [sic] sinners stopped for prayer.
Their sleep is sound under those ancient stones
Who lie forgotten in eternal rest;
For few men know their sepulchre; so best,
And none would dare disturb their slumbers lest,
The terrors of the re-awakened Pest,
Swept o'er the City to avenge their bones.
I saw her first when it was eventide,
When day and night in tender twilight meet,
The flowers were sleeping all around her feet
And rustling reeds grew tall on either side
Where sedgy leaves the glist'ning waters ride;
The evening air was cool and very sweet,
Behind her fields of green unripened wheat
Stretched like a waveless ocean far and wide.
I might have waited longer there, until
Her beauty wearied my accustomed eyes:
Instead, I left the tow behind the hill,
Left the broad corn fields, left the low grey skies;
Yet, like unfinished sketches artists prize,
The memory of her face is with me still.
An Old Venetian Dagger.
The hilt is broken, centuries of rust
Lie redly on the notched and dinted blade,
Mocking the crimson life-blood's stain, that must
Long since have dulled its brightness. Men who made
These weapons, knew the value of a thrust
Dealt in some solitary archway's shade
Where o'er the steps now crumbling into dust
The dark Venetian waters softly played.
This worn-out steel suggestion brings, of nights
Whose darkness covered unrecorded crimes,
Of days of splendour's pageants, sounds and sights
Of Carnival and music, masques and mimes
Light laughter, lighter love, and glittering lights
Quenched in the dimness of those far-off times.
Although the rain has ceased, wet branches shake
A spray of silver drops on every side.
Among the rushes, where my boat is tied,
A sad September robin tries to make
A little song that shall his sadness hide.
The sun should shine if only for his sake!
Alas, the sun is absent, far and wide
White misty vapours roll across the lake.
The mournful hills against the sky appear
Like shaded drawings delicately grey,
Fainter each peak until they fade away.
The very soul of sadness lingers here,
Where the chill breezes of the autumn day
Ruffle the waters of wide Windermere.
One of Us
They have laid her away to sleep,
To sleep forever and all alone.
My little treasure I could not keep--
My eyes are dry for I can not weep,
But my heart is dead as any stone.
They left her there, and the grass grows green
Under the shade of a wind blown tree,
Daisies and buttercups spring between,
The air is fresh and the wind is keen,
Filled with the scent of the great grey sea.
The sands are yellow, the skies are grey,
One hears the sound of the western waves
That break on the shore in endless play.
They fling their tears in a briny spray
Over the poor little grass-grown graves.
Ah, my treasure, I loved you so
As never, never I loved before.
The days will pass and the years will go,
The tide on the beach roll to and fro,
But you will come to me never more.
"Nulla Dies Sine Linea."
Two thousand years have passed since that dim age
When the Ephesian artist used to paint.
Nothing remains of him for us: no quaint
Old drawings in some dark museum, no faint,
Decaying frescoes, peeling off the stone
Round which some legend of himself had grown.
Nothing remains--but the few words alone;
Words of an artist, worthy of a sage--
Which , gathered from the Latin author's page,
Give him an immortality their own.
From the Neapolitan.
If I thought you really loved me,
If I found you loyal and true,
If I found no falseness lingered
In your eyes serene and blue;
If I found your lips vermillion
Were to foreign kisses cold,
Would your beauty more enchain me?
Would it have more power to hold?
Should I leave you earlier? later?
If I knew you all my own--
Your heart's empire undivided
And myself upon the throne?
If your fancies lasted longer,
If less quickly you forgot--
Should I love you more I wonder?
Possibly, most likely not.
A Lake or Tarn on Loughrig.
It lies alone on the mountain side,
Very quiet and deep and cool.
Rushes around it the edges hide.
Such a quaint little lonely pool!
The infinite azure of the sky
Is reflected within its breast,
And masses of sunset clouds that lie
In the enormous golden west.
To the north and south the mountains rise
Of a soft cerulean hue,
To west and east till they join the skies
In a delicate misty blue.
The nearer peaks have violet tints,
With long shadows of grey and brown.
Over those rocks where the sunlight glints
The winter torrents race down.
The silence is broken now and then
By the hum of a large brown bee,
But no one comes to the mountain glen
But a chaffinch or two--and me.
See, I have brought a string of beads.
I wanted them to match your eyes,
But could find nothing half so blue,
Unless perhaps the April skies.
I kissed them one by one last night,
For always lying on your breast.
They will become most holy things--
Like rosaries that priests have blest.
They are not all the same in size,
And I am glad they should not be.
These large ones show my love for you,
These little ones, your love for me.
How they will sparkle when you smile!
And if, one day, you chance to sing,
Why they will dance about for joy
Until they nearly break their string.
But what, I wonder, would they feel
If they should hear you singing, dear?
Sorrow that you were sad? or joy
At being near enough to hear?
"A little laughter and a little love"
Are all the world can give us, so they say.
He who is wise goes laughing, gathering
As many of love's flowers as he may.
But when the first sweet wine of Youth has ceased
It's [sic] brief intoxication, how shall we--
All our illusions lost, our hopes dispelled,
Nothing before us but uncertainty,
Small faith in men below or Gods above--
How shall we find the laughter or the love?
One of the youngest among nations! Wise
As older nations are not; swift to seek
Her own advantage. With prophetic eyes
Firm on its base of broken fait and lies.
Betrays the strong, annihilates the weak,
While altruistic fools, serenely meek
On being smitten, turn the other cheek.
What matter millions slaughtered without cause?
Their blood serves only to cement the State.
What matter treaties or unwritten laws
Of national honor, aught, so she be great?
Is there no Power who will dare to bid her pause
Ere Europe wake to ruin, all to late?
Youth of Savonarola
Florence was quite a youthful city then,
A place that one could loiter in at will,
Lying among the azure lillies till
One lost remembrance of the world of men.
And so he sat and dreamed in silence, when
The Tuscan night came down to find him still
Under the vine leaves on his window sill,
Touching his eight-cord lute with trembling pen.
Alas! Too soon from dreams he must awake
And waking, wake the world with words of grace,
Making it purer for a little space,
While for his last reward the market place
Waits with its fierce eyed crowds and cruel stake.
On the Mountains
The sombre pines cut darkly, gaunt and bare
Against the greyness of the dusky sky.
The heat hung heavy in the languid air.
From time to time a solitary cry
From something prowling in the shadows, where
The sunburnt grass and ferns grew thick and high,
Fell on the silence, but they did not care,
For she was dead, and he desired to die.
He kissed her cold dead lips and quiet eyes
That, closing, shut love's sunlight from the skies.
For she was yet his own. A little space
And Death, impatient for so fair a prize,
Would come to claim her beauty and efface,
Its sweet perfection in his chill embrace.
Death should not wholly conquer. He had found,
And heaped together, grass and branches, till,
With leaves and buds he made a fragrant mound
Upon the summit of the highest hill.
Slowly upon the pile her limbs he bound,
Then stretched himself beside her and lay still,
Knowing the rainless weeks had left no rill,
No water cause to damp the arid ground.
Then came a rosy brilliance fierce and bright,
The beauty of the living, leaping fire,
Shooting upwards in the sombre night
Many a snake-like tongue and twisted spire,
And soon the mountains round were all alight,
A chain of burning hills their funeral pyre.
Here is a flagon of shining silver
With cupids and roses carved round the brim.
The wine is ruddy as deep-hued rubies
And the glimmering, foaming bubbles swim
Backwards and forwards with merry motion
Round the curved edges and over the rim.
"Friend, I thank you but grief like mine
Is thirsty for tears and not for wine."
Here is a lute filled with mirthful music.
Take it and string it, and singing again,
Grief will leave you as melody whispers
Joys that the future for you will contain.
Nothing in life is worth the regretting
When we discover regretting is vain.
"Shall I sing to your offered lute
All the music within me mute?"
Here is a maiden with eyes of azure
Ah! and youth is a wonderful flower.
Give her kisses, the ghost of your sorrow
Will not be with you in half an hour!
Love is the greatest of great magicians;
No sadness resists his sovereign power.
"I lost Love once, and hence my pain;
Now I would not find him again."
There is a prairie where waving grasses
Lean over a grave that is quiet and deep.
Crimson poppies lie quietly round it;
Death's sorrowful secret their red leaves keep.
It is a place where, if you were weary,
You might take in silence your last long sleep.
"Friend, I thank you. This gift is best;
Sorrow but ends in endless rest."
In the burning heat of Roman days,
When men grow weary and seek the shade,
The sun looked down and his yellow rays
Fell on the folds of the rich brocade.
The gold of oranges rip'ning fast
Before they fall of their own sweet weight,
And leave the branches that bend at last
With fruit and flowers, their fragrant freight.
The purple glow of cathedral panes,
Like jewels set in the dusky aisles,
The green of mosses that northern rains
Have brought to life on the cottage tiles.
These colors were blent with so much skill,
And shone and flashed in the constant fire--
The ardent rays of the sun--until
His admiration became desire.
"And shall I," he said, "be doing wrong
If I take my own for my own again?
This is the amber at even song
I lend the skies as a sign of rain."
"Is not this crimson the dawn's first rose
I give the foam of the curling waves,
The pink that flushes the mountain snows,
That cover the too bold hunters' graves?"
"Ah, yes; these colors are mine," he said,
As daily about the silk he played,
And stole the azure and stole the red
Slowly away from the old brocade.
All through the days of the summer heat
He found his way to the palace wall
With cruel kisses and gay deceit
Till the red'ning leaves began to fall.
And then his visits became more rare,
And ever much shorter grew his stay.
October's chillness came on the air,
And the ancient room grew very grey.
Autumnal winds in the portico
A sorrowful lamentation made,
For the crimson hues and the brilliant glow
The sun had robbed from the old brocade.
A wind-blown mass of golden hair,
Two little hands that held it down,
Two little shoulders white and bare
Above a faded cotton gown.
The wind was blowing all about,
Tossing her roses to and fro,
And she was laughing, leaning out
To look into the street below.
She counted all her buds to see
Which soonest through its leaves would burst.
How bright the sunshine seemed to be!
That was the time I saw her first.
Two small hands crossed upon her breast,
A little white face with fast closed eyes
And silent lips whose perfect rest
Will curve no more to smiles or sighs.
And they have shorn her yellow hair,
And I have begged one curl to keep.
The little children come and stare,
The women go away to weep.
The days have gone I know not how,
And all my youth with them seems past.
All white and cold I see her now,
For that is how I saw her last.
The far dim hills, whose jagged peaks of blue
Lose themselves gently in the bluer sky;
The river, where its tide has passed me by
And in the distance hides itself from view.
The farthest sail my straining eyes can see--
And eyes that use Love's telescope see far--
Are infinitely nearer than you are,
You, whom I would have kept so near to me--
You, for whom , if it please you, I would pour
My life away like water. If I knew
That tears of mine your pleasure could ensure
My eyes would gladly weep my whole life through.
These eyes that I would close for evermore
Could they but rest one hour again on you.