LAURENCE HOPE'S EARLY UNPUBLISHED POETRY, PART 2
To M. M.
She is but three years old and three feet high,
This little child on whom we set our love.
Her eyes reflect the blueness of the sky,
Her mind the influence of God above.
We use the simile of bygone days,
When dying men looked up to Heav'n and smiled;
For though the world now walks in other ways,
We still believe in God who sees this child.
And like that poet, who, some legend says,
Loving some treasure as we love ours now,
Broke out into a fervent hymn of praise,
Being made sure of God's existence. "How,"
We ask, "could any lesser might than His
Have given us so fair a thing as this?"
It is a pity we have to hear
Often--nay always--every day--
So many voices that tire us so
When the longed for voice is far away.
It is a pity we have to see
So many different eyes, the while
We wish for those that are far, to turn
Our earth to heaven by one swift smile.
It is a pity I have to go
Backwards and forwards. These useless miles
Would bring me, traversed in one straight line,
Into the light of your words and smiles.
Ah, when one thinks what one's life might be,
With some little changes here and there,
The pity of it grows very great,
The waste of pleasure seems hard to bear.
Motto on a Jug
"Chi vuol lieta compagnia
Ch'egli prima lieto sia!"
Yes, but the very need of gladness
Proves a subjective state of sadness,
And how shall he to laugh begin
Whose soul is full of care within?
While he whose heart is young and gay,
Who smiles on each awak'ning day,
Although he half regrets the light,
So pleasant are his dreams at night,
Why is he gay, his words will show
He needs no friend to make him so.
What is my life without you? One long night
Whose darkness waits a no more rising sun.
What made me love you? Ah, the true First Cause
Lay in those gifts that made you lovable.
Mine the misfortune, but the fault was yours,
If fault there be in love that loves too well.
How much I love you? As the Infinite
Can have no limits, so my love has none.
Oh, fool, who scorning other faiths and creeds,
Must now erect an altar of thine own,
Whose saint much sacrifice and penance needs,
And utter worship done to it alone.
Thou who wouldst worship nothing knowing well
That all most worthy worship needs it least,
Must now believe in Heaven and in Hell,
Burn incense, with thy face towards the East.
For if thy saint's face be but turned away,
The lowest depths of Hades thou must see,
And Paradise is opened on the day
Thine idol condescends to smile on thee,
How art thou willing reverence to pay
To one whose feet are surely only clay?
Is it that need of faith, innate in man,
Which bends his stubborn knees and bids him pray,
Which still surviving since his race began
Forces him now to worship and obey?
Is it reaction from the wretched truth
That all are base and worthless at the best,
Or the inane enthusiasm, youth,
Is prone to give to one above the rest?
But after all it does not matter much,
All other Faiths have fashioned their own graves.
Thou art a fool! One argues not with such,
But waits until iconoclastic waves
Sweep o'er their gods and cast them down to earth,
Showing unwilling eyes their little worth.
Nay, there is nothing, dear, you need explain;
I do not wish your secret thoughts to see.
If such confession cause you any pain,
Withhold it from me; you are wholly free.
If you have sinned, you need not come to me;
It lies with you and with your own ideal
Of honour, ethical morality,
Or God, or what you hold to be most real.
Besides, you know it makes no difference
What you have said or done, or what you are,
For I should hold my love a mere pretence
If for your sake it did not go thus far.
However wide you stray or low you fall,
I love you well enough to pardon all.
A Roman Rose
Why are you here, forsaken, faded
Down in the dust of the Roman street?
You, the flower of all the poets,
Trampled under the hurrying feet.
Ah, this pitiless scheme of Nature,
With so much beauty and so much waste!
You who come of the race of roses
Done to death by the crowd's hot haste!
Was it some princess dropped you lightly
Over the balcony up above?
Or did some peasant bring you Romewards,
A little tribute of rural love?
For these days of carnival folly
You have forsaken your garden home;
You have come from the great green country,
A rose to die in the streets of Rome.
By the paleness of your pink petals
You lived in the outside air, I know
You, a little Campagna blossom,
Were hardly reared betwixt sun and snow.
It is well you cannot remember
The sunny beauty of southern days;
You, my rose, would have found it harder
To die in the dusty Roman ways.
If you knew how the fireflies glisten,
When June's long evenings are calm and sweet,
Like the myriad stars, reflected
In stirless oceans of young green wheat.
If you knew how the sultry silence
Waits for the nightingale's liquid song,
Sung to thousands of unplucked roses
Who love to listen the whole night long.
Better, better, that you remember
The faint sun rising through mists of rain,
Since no sunshine, however brilliant,
Could freshen your faded leaves again.
Ah, the Corso is quite deserted!
I never noticed the people go;
This little rose with crumpled petals
Somehow or other absorbed me so.
Well, I think it is time we parted.
Already the evening shadows fall.
You must die in the Roman moonlight,
And I must die at to-night's masked ball.
When we love we gather flowers.
We who always passed them by
Seek for them in early hours,
Ere their morning dew be dry.
And the rose that is the whitest,
And the rose we find most sweet,
And the rose whose leaves are brightest,
Lay together at her feet.
When we love we need some painter
Who shall render back her face,
That our mem'ry grow not fainter
When we seek some distant place.
And although we find it hateful
Other eyes her eyes should scan;
To the artist we are grateful:
What we cannot do, he can.
When we love, we seek some tender
Poet of the olden time,
Whose fond verses we may send her
To express our thoughts in rhyme.
So the words some fair dead maiden
Read the while her eyes grew dim,
Go to her with kisses laden
And our grateful thanks to him.
Youth is all over and past;
Life's dreary autumn has come;
Power and passions are dead;
Darkness has fallen at last;
We are astonished and dumb.
Where are the days that are fled?
Are we more sorry or glad
Thus to arrive at the end,
Ready with laughter or tears,
Merry or mournfully sad?
Death, is he foe? is he friend
Reaping the harvest of years?
Now that we sit in the shade,
Sit in the shadow of years
Seeing the flower of life
Open and blossom and fade.
We without hopes, without fears,
Quietly watching the strife.
What is there we would recall?
What is there we would regret?
We, whose indifferent eyes
Evenly glance over all,
Women whose eyelids are wet,
Men on whose lips laughter lies.
Some who have lutes in their hands,
Lillies and leaves in their hair,
Those who in sorrowful strains
Mournfully walking in bands
Lift up their voices in prayer,
Prayer that unanswered remains.
Some with thin faces and pale,
Eyes that impatiently shine,
Weary with vigils at night,
Some with lips ruddy with wine,
Footsteps that falter and fail,
Hands lifted up in delight.
We who are tired of it all,
Seeing some face that is fair,
New to the toil and the strife,
We would give words to recall
Time when, as they are, we were,
Still in the springtime of life.
Noting some shade in the eyes,
Seeing some curl in the mouth,
Thoughts of the youth that was ours,
Passionate, painful, arise
Like a hot wind from the south,
Like a wind blown over flowers.
Then we regret and despair,
Weep for the time that is past,
Mourn for the youth we possessed,
Fervor and follies that were,
Till we in silence at last
Sink into ultimate rest.
Will love be with us always? Can we say?
To read the future years we have no skill,
And Fate or Providence, or what you will,
That none the coming times can understand,
Saying "These things shall be or shall not be."
Besides what matter other days to me?
Who kiss your half-closed eyes and hold your hand?
This same small hand shall be our book of fate.
It's [sic] delicacy seems to indicate
It would not hold a man's affection long.
And yet, these eyes, so infinitely blue,
If half their laughing sweetness says be true,
I, who deem Love inconstant, do him wrong.
One wonders, seeing this Etruscan ring,
Whose was the slender hand that wore it last,
Who was the owner of this little thing
That comes to us from out the far dim past.
One wonders was she very young and fair,
The woman whose warm fingers wore this gold,
Whether she loved the hand that placed it there,
Or was she to the gift and giver cold?
Perhaps, in future times, someone will pass,
As we do now, through a museum, and see
With other relics, labelled, under glass
This little modern ring you gave to me.
And yet I think that long before that day
My kisses will have worn it all away.
Forza del Destino
The clouds come down so very near
They almost seem to kiss the sand.
The birds are flying low from fear;
The children clasp their mother's hand.
The brown dust flies before the wind
That rushes, whistling wildly, past;
The heavy rain-drops fall behind;
The thunderstorm has come at last.
And you, perforce, will have to wait
Beneath my roof for half an hour.
Oh, happy, happy thought of Fate
To give us such a thunder shower!
From the Sea
Not empty handed came we from the sea,
For some had gathered shells whose opal hue
Kept the waves' iridescence in their blue
And pink and violet transparency.
Others had seaweeds, in long shining bands,
By tempests torn from the unfathomed deep,
Or shining stones and pebbles, which should keep.
The colours of the blue waves and yellow sands
And each engraved distinctly on this mind
The variations of the sea and sky,
The salt scent carried by the passing wind,
The sandy shore, the white ships gliding by,
So that in inland cities we might find
Some mem'ry of the sea we left behind.
Well, we are still together, though we know
It is not love that keeps us side by side,
But habit, twining round our beings so,
We could not break our fetters if we tried.
Nor do we wish to. I still hold you dear
From custom, which still turns your face to me.
We cannot separate, and yet I fear
We both were happier if we were free.
Now that the twilight of our love has come
We have no force to face the falling night.
Though all the music of our lives be dumb,
We cannot do without each other, quite.
Is it that we are restless more or tired?
Is liberty or love the most desired?
To live alone in a world of dreams,
Taking the world as we find it, seems
The best and the only thing to do,
Out of humility, out of pride,
Leaving the rest of mankind outside--
Sorrow and vanity outside, too.
Since nothing we do or are or say
Can lessen the tortures, day by day
Nature, with infinite thought and care,
Sees fit on all of us to bestow,
On man and brute, on the high and low,
Who each and all in her favour share.
Is it not better perhaps to make
Our life (at the best a sad mistake)
Into something whose negative harm
Lies in the absence of doing good,
A course which, if rightly understood,
Gives one the greatest of all gifts--calm?
It would be somewhat cruel to say,
To kill a swallow in idle play,
The thing on its surface wanton seems.
Yet the action is infinite gain
To gnats the swallow had surely slain,
Who now still dance in the summer beams.
The statesman whose art bids warfare cease,
Giving his fatherland years of peace,
Lays up sorrow in store for those
Who, coming afterwards, quickly find
Such peace by multiplying their kind,
Brings starvation instead of foes.
The great physicians whose careful skill
Preserve the lives that they ought to kill,
Are they not--must they not be unwise?
The fittest and strongest of our race
Are overcrowded from want of space.
He is not useful who soonest dies.
Try as we may and seek as we will
We would do good, we accomplish ill.
And things being so, it seems the best
To turn to oneself and only try
To make one happier before we die,
To live for oneself and leave the rest.
If by any strict course of duty,
Intellectual, moral beauty,
One iota of good could be done,
One tear of human suffering saved,
One smile out of all the laughter craved,
By the many be given to one.
It were the best--nay the only thing.
Forgetful of self at once to fling
Oneself in the thickest of the fight,
To struggle, reckless of loss or gain,
Of our own sorrow or loss or pain,
To die if need be for truth and right.
But as things are and as things must be
Arranged by Nature in cruelty,
They are wisest who let their conscience slumber.
They, by their life of pleasure and calm,
Seeking no good and doing no harm,
Give the greatest good to the greatest number.
In the dim light, as the evening closes,
You look like a little woodland elf.
What are you doing with all these roses?
You are a little white rose yourself.
What can you want with so many flowers?
You are my flower yourself, you know.
Have you been working for so many hours
That such a quantity you can show?
Lillies and roses what a collection!
Rosy as sunset and white as the snow.
My garden will rise in insurrection
If you continue to rob it so.
What do you think of my reprimanding?
What does the thief of my roses say?
I see you are smiling, understanding
Your presence is more to me than they.
Steal from me ever in great and small ways,
My goods and my treasures, take them away--
Anything, everything, now and always--
But give me your dear little self one day!
Not for myself alone, but for my dreams,
The loved though unborn children of my mind,
The music that must die with me, it seems
So hard to leave so much undone behind.
Sometimes I though I could create great things,
When my whole soul has overflowed with song,
And all my nerves seemed clear vibrating strings,
And yet, can I be right and Rome be wrong?
Perhaps our Italy is sometimes blind,
Values the false and underrates the true,
Becoming to her greatest sons unkind,
As laughing, amorous, exiled Ovid knew.
Yet I shall not have lived my life in vain
If sometimes little melodies of mine
Are sung by peasants on the harvest wain.
Or in their taverns o'er their thin red wine.
For if some stranger heard them singing there,
Asking whose song they sang, and they replied:
"It was our Pergolese wrote that air,
And Rome neglected him and so he died."
Will not that be as good as if I knew
The whole of Europe echoed with my name?
What will it matter that my years were few,
That Rome denied me any share of fame?
They will remember me who sing my songs,
And is not such a memory the best
The world can give? Such honour as belongs
To those claim it not, being at rest?
Out of the brown and slender neck
The golden fluid gaily flows,
Each little bubble like a speck
Of liquid amber brightly glows.
From the clear depths the air escapes
Slowly, in steady lucid streams.
And through my brain its changing shapes
Send many quaint and pleasant dreams.
I think I see the azure Rhine
And overhead the summer sky,
The greenness of the budding vine,
The broad brown barges floating by.
With them I float along the stream
Until we reach a little town,
Whose red roofs through white fruit trees gleam,
Above the belfry clock looks down.
The barges stop and then we land,
And she is standing on the quay.
Her father stretches out his hand,
Her mother smiles to welcome me.
Together to her house we come.
She walks and talks and laughs with me.
Young birds are singing, brown bees hum.
How sweet the roses seem to be!
Through all the golden afternoon
We wander in her garden ground
Until the evening comes--too soon--
And sombre shadows close us round.
In the uncertain failing light
Her dress that in the sun was blue
Seems changing to a pearly white,
Her yellow hair is silvered, too.
The rosy sunset fades away
From off the mountain's highest peak.
We have so much we wish to say
But neither of us care to speak.
Her mother calls us from the door,
Saying the evening meal is spread.
We enter on the boarded floor.
The kitchen fire is shining red.
We sit and take our evening fare,
The windows open to the street,
Whence floating on the quiet air
Come sounds of voices and of feet.
Three lights illume our little room--
The faint cold brilliance from the skies,
The embers growing through the gloom,
And the soft starlight of her eyes.
The world is very far away
To me who hold her two small hands.
I speak and know not what I say,
And yet I think she understands.
Ah, well, an empty glass I see,
My visions vanish with my wine.
But I would give my soul to be
Back in that Gasthaus by the Rhine!