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{The Outcast 1891}










WHOM shall I dedicate this Book to?
     (Each Canto needs a dedication.)
I want some briny Bard to look to
     For sympathy and inspiration!
The theme is primitive at present—
     Nature undrest, without her stays:
To Tennyson ’twould seem unpleasant—
     He blends no vine-leaves with his bays.
Scorning the flesh and all things hot,
Will Morris wanders sans culotte,
     And tries the hydra-mob to tame;
While Patmore rocks a baby’s cot
     And sings sweet nuptials void of blame.
(Ah! gentle Bards without a spot!
Beshrew me if I envy not
     Such innocent and stainless fame!)
Next, though the rogues have wit in plenty,
     I still must pass politely by
The Savile bards, those four-and-twenty
     Blackbirds all piping in one pie!
I do not fancy Lewis Morris                                                              74
     Would care for rhythmic freaks so strident—
Non sibi Venus mittit flores,
     Non sibi æquora ponti rident!
Matt Arnold seeks for ‘light’ no more
     But sleeps serene and satisfied;
While Edwin, of that ilk, doth pore
On screeds of luminous Eastern lore
     By moonlight on the Ganges’ side.
Dear Roden Noel, round whose throat
     Byron’s loose collar still is worn,
Now tunes his song to one clear note
     Divinely gentle and forlorn;
Far, far from him whom holy choirs
     Of angel infants stoop to kiss,
The stormy doubts, the fierce desires,
     Of questionable songs like this!
George Meredith might serve my turn
For thoughts that breathe and words that burn,
Or, better still, his master Browning,
     A sober’d Saul in evening dress;
But both these bards would end by frowning
     At my mad Muse’s gamesomeness.
No! these respectable and gracious
     Bards with clean shirts will never do!
I need a spirit more audacious,
Morality more free and spacious,
     To inspire my song and help me through.

The world is tired of things poetic,                                                       75
     But poets are themselves to blame;
Their wine’s too sickly and emetic,
Or, grown too thin and dietetic,
     It lacks the old flush of morning flame!
Far is the cry from Byron’s brandy
To Pater’s gods of sugar candy!
Lost the Homeric swing and trot,
     Jingle of spur and beam of blade,
Of that moss-trooper, Walter Scott,
     Riding upon his border raid,
And pricking south with all his power
To capture Shakespeare’s feudal tower!
Where the swashbucklers throng’d in force
The æsthete mounts his hobby horse,
And troubadours devoid of gristle
Play the French flute and Cockney whistle.
Sir Alfred only, gently glad,
Stainless and chaste as Galahad,
Clothed in white armour like a maid
Goes carolling through glen and glade,
Singing in silvern tones a song
Against the world of lust and wrong—
Certain, though all his fellows fail,
Of gaining the Parnassian Grail!

Peace with these poets one and all!
Flowers on their happy footsteps fall!
Yet would to Heaven their songs could be                                           76
More glad, more primitive and free!
Ah, for the days gone by! when Singers
Were wonder-workers, pleasure-bringers!
When Art was bold, when sunburnt Mirth
     Gladden’d around the Maypole leaping;
When the mad Muses tript the earth,
Not clad, as now, in silks by Worth,
     But gipsy-like and briskly skipping!
Then, skirts were lifted in the breeze
To show brown legs and lissome knees!
Then, men were hale and maids were merry,
     Then, Nature felt the breath of Spring;
Then, poets shouted ‘Heydown Derry’
     And played at kisses-in-the-ring!
But when the trumpet-call rang round them
     Threw armour on and rode to fight,
Till in due time the people crown’d them—
     The Kings of Music, Mirth, and Might!

My Dedication? Well, no more
I’ll linger on this sunless shore,
Where prim landlubbers of the island
Go gathering shells of verse on dry land!
No! o’er the seas I sail, to seek
     My Homer of the southern seas,
Who, proudly pagan, Yankee-Greek,
     Flung out his banner to the breeze,
Then, wandering onward like Ulysses,                                               77
     Heard Syrens sing of Nature’s charms,
Leaping on shore to greet with kisses
The dainty dimpled nutbrown misses,
     Found the lost Eden in their arms!

The surges trumpet into fame,
Last of the grand Homeric race,
     Great tale-teller of the marines,
I give this Song, wherein I chase
     Thy soul thro’ magic tropic scenes!
Ah, would that I, poor modern singer,
Spell-bound with Care’s mesmeric finger,
Might to the living world forth-figure
Thine Odyssean strength and vigour!
Alas! o’er waves you tost on gladly
I sail more timidly and sadly,
And find no surcease or protection
From mal de mer, or introspection!
Yet ne’er the less, in spite of all
Mishaps and ills that may befall,
Despite the tumult and commotion,
     The countless shipwrecks of the time,
Away I go across the Ocean
     In this my cockleshell of rhyme!

Aid me, O sea-compelling man!
Before whose wand Leviathan                                                            78
Rose white and hoary from the Deep,
With awful sounds that broke its sleep!
MELVILLE, whose magic brought Typee
Radiant as Venus from the Sea!
Who, ignorant of the draper’s trade,
     Indifferent to the arts of dress,
Drew Fayaway the South-Sea maid
     Almost in mother-nakedness!
Without a robe, or boot, or stocking
(A want of clothes to some so shocking),
With just one chemisette to dress her,
She lives, and still shall live, God bless her!
Long as the Sea rolls deep and blue,
     While Heaven repeats the thunder of it,
Long as the White Whale ploughs it through,
The shape my Sea-Magician drew
     Shall still endure,—or I’m no prophet!



OUT on the waters, lost in light,
     His ship fades softly out of sight,
While on a beach of golden sands,
Shading his eyes with archèd hands
     And gazing up to heights of palm,
Alone the dark-eyed Outcast stands
     And breathes warm airs of spice and balm:
Behind him amethystine seas,
Just touch’d with shadows of the breeze,
Foam on the red-lip’d reefs that rise
     Beyond the shallows rainbow-hued—
Before him, under burning skies,
     Rise slopes of pine and sandalwood,
High as the topmost summit where
     A lonely palm-tree stirs its fan
Sharp-shadow’d ’gainst the golden glare
     Of cloudless voids cerulean.
And downward from the wooded height
A torrent hangs its scarf of white,
A sparkling necklace that unfurls
Strung with for-ever-changing pearls,
Turning the sunlight in its fold
To rainbow beams and glints of gold.
And down beneath lie rounded huts
Tree-shaded, dusky, brown as nuts,
With lithe black figures moving slow                                                   80
From sun to shadow to and fro:
And from the stillness all around
Comes now and then a distant sound
Of voices faint and far, that seem
As strange as voices heard in dream!

In the warm hush of summer weather,
     The tremulous hearts of Sky and Sea,
Like hearts of lovers prest together,
     Lie still, just throbbing peacefully—
And where they mix with sleepy sighs,
     Soft stirs of bliss and rapturous smile,
Upon the Sea’s blue bosom lies
     This jewel of a coral Isle—
A dark green spot with gentle gleams
Of golden sands and silver streams,
With dusky depths of scented glade,
And cool wells bubbling in the shade;
And over all sleeps soft as balm
A glowing Paradisal calm.

Slowly, with shadow blotted black
     On the white sands, the Outcast moves,
Leaves the blue waters at his back
     And gains the quiet coca-groves.
His stormy heart scarce seems to beat,
     His troubled blood scarce seems to flow—


‘If this were Death, then Death were sweet!’                                       81
He murmurs in the golden glow.
Tall, dark, and strange, a stately form,
     He walks thro’ woods of emerald green,
When suddenly the branches swarm
     With dusky faces mild of mien!
He pauses, starts, and looks around,—
The faces vanish with no sound,
But ’mong the boughs he seems to hear
A sound like laughter merry and clear.
And presently, beside a pool
     Blue as a patch of fallen sky,
He stands, and in the mirror cool
     Sees shades of swift bright birds float by.
Upon the marge he sits, below
Acacia-branches white as snow,
And marks his own face worn with care
Uplooking from the waters there.
Suddenly, as he sits and broods,
     Come laughter and soft chattering cries,
And mother-naked from the woods
     Steal dusky shapes with wondering eyes!
The tropic boughs, the flowery brakes,
Grow live with limbs that move like snakes,
Great open eyes ’mid opening flowers
Gleam out amid these shadowy bowers,
The foliage trembling and astir
     Is full of creatures warm and bright,
Who on the sad-eyed Mariner                                                            82
Gaze in mild wonder and delight!

He raised his melancholy eyes—
And back they shrank with bird-like cries—
But when he droop’d his head again
     And thro’ the woods went wandering,
With speech as soft as summer rain,
     Voices that seem’d to sigh or sing,
They murmur’d to him in a tongue
     Most sweet yet scarce articulate,
Such as was heard when Love was young
     And Adam coo’d to woo his mate!
All vows, all vowels, language such
     As bees might use if they could tell
Their tremulous thrills of taste and touch
     Deep in some honeysuckle’s cell;
Murmur of insects and of birds,
Just turning joy to honeyed words,—
Half human speech, half speechless cadence,
     Voluptuous as the time and place,
And rapturous as some rosy maiden’s
     Sigh, when she yields to Love’s embrace.

The simile in that last line
Is Vanderdecken’s (and not mine)
Ta’en from the Notebook written in
His own red blood on parchment skin.
Henceforward, that the reader may                                                      83
Avoid confounding his reflections
With mine, I’ll use throughout my lay
     His own remarks and interjections.
So understand, whene’er I quote
     Passages some consider shocking,
Inverted commas will denote
     ’Tis only Vanderdecken mocking!

“I turn’d—they vanish’d, with a sound
     Like music of some scented shower
That ceases on warm grassy ground,
While all the green boughs rustle round
     And bright drops cling on leaf and flower.
But as I wander’d from the shade
     The happy creatures follow’d after,
Clear voices ran in the green glade
     Answer’d with rippling peals of laughter!
And when into the sun I strode
     They ring’d me round with throngs at gaze,
As if they looked upon a god
     In mingled worship and amaze!

“Then one, with laughter low yet clear,
     Ran from the rest to interview me,
But paused at arm’s length full of fear
     And turn’d a wistful face unto me—
Beauteous, a woman yet a child,
     Her gentle eyes upon me bent                                                       84
With humid orbs both sweet and mild,
She stretch’d a little hand, then smiled
     In welcome and in wonderment!
And lo, as if a fountain’s dew
     Was scatter’d on my brows and hair,
Refresh’d and gladdening ere I knew,
I felt the smile, and, smiling too,
     Shook off the cloud of my despair!

“Venus! Natura procreans!
     Te, Dea, adventumque tuum,
All living things obey, and Man’s
Proud spirit vainly plots and plans
     Thy spells to scatter, and break through ’em!
A look—a smile—a touch—suffices
     To witch our nature and to win it—
Stone turns to merry flesh, and ice is
     Wine warm and rosy in a minute!
So was it then, so is it ever,
'Spite all Morality’s endeavour!
So shall it be, though parsons patter,
As long as Man is two-thirds Matter!
Won by the face and form of her
     Who welcomed me for all the rest,
I felt my stony heart astir
     And throbbing gently in my breast.
I took her little hand,—and gazed
     Into her eyes with kindly greeting;                                                  85
Hers did not drop, but, softly raised,
     Sparkled with pleasure at the meeting!
And full of joy, no longer flying
     The strange sad form from distant lands,
Her dusky kinsfolk, laughing, crying,
     Flock’d round about with outstretch’d hands;
Women and men and children small,
     Dusky and gentle, old and young,
Welcomed the stranger,—one and all
Uttering the same soft bird-like call,
     And prattling in that golden tongue;
And what I fail’d to understand
     The kindly folk made bright and clear
By smile of face and touch of hand,
     Which said, ‘O Stranger, welcome here!’
For they had never seen before
A white man on that sunny shore,
And to their gaze I seem’d to be
Clothed round with grace of Deity!
A little bored, a little scorning,
     I gazed with calm superior air
On these wild Children of the Morning
     Happy with scarce a rag to wear;
And some were comely, all were bright
With life and innocent delight,
And never one among the throng
Suspected cruelty or wrong:
Happy as beasts or birds, unstricken                                                   86
With modern psychical disease,
Free of complaints whereof souls sicken,
They felt the sun within them quicken
     And lived the life of swarming bees:
Their very speech, as I have said,
     Scarce consonanted, clear and sweet
As warm winds whispering overhead,
     As runlets rippling at their feet,—
Beauteously fitted to express
Anacreontic happiness,
One cooing and delicious tone,
Like that to Grecian lovers known,



     “And so, as on a flowery stream
One floateth in a summer dream,
Upon this flow of lives, swept round
     By merry maids and children gay,
’Mid soft delights of scent and sound,
     I floated and was borne away—
From shade to sun, from sun to shade,
     Laughing they led me thro’ the land,
And still that dimpled dainty Maid
Nestled quite close, and unafraid
     Smiled in my face and kiss’d my hand.
And laughing too, while on me fell
The golden glamour and the spell,
I wander’d on at their sweet will!—                                                    87
     O had I power to paint the scene,
Not scribbling with this blood-stain’d quill,
     But with a brush of sweep serene!—
I, the sad Man with dark locks shed
     Round features worn and marble pale,
My lithe form strangely garmented
     In raiment wrought to brave the gale;
Rings on my waxen hands; around
My throat a bright scarf lightly wound;
On broad brows beaten by the sea
A sailor’s hat worn jauntily!
The centre of the picture, this;
     Around, dark Darlings of the Isle,
Warm bosoms panting full of bliss,
Waists to embrace and lips to kiss,
     And best, that Maiden’s sunny smile!
Thus was I tangled in the mesh
     Of those bright moving living bowers!
The sun shone free, the wind blew fresh,
     And Eden smiled, all fruit, all flowers!
Far off, beyond the emerald land
Sloping to shores of yellow sand,
Beyond the stately coca trees
Stirring their fans in the soft breeze,
Past the red coral reef whereon
     The turquoise Sea broke milky white,
Far as my dazzled eyes could con
Ocean and Heaven mingling shone,—                                                  88
     Veil beyond veil of golden light!

“And now we come to swarms of huts
Dusky and brown as coca-nuts,
Beneath a crag that skyward towers
Festoon’d from crown to base with flowers:
Some high, like great brown birds’-nests, clinging
High up and with the tree-boughs swinging,
Some fallen like husks of fruit and lying
     Wide open on the grassy sward;
And hither and thither, multiplying
Like happy bees in sunlight flying,
     Fresh flocks of happy creatures pour’d,
Until the place was all alive
With forms that swarm’d from hive to hive,
Buzzing and murmuring every one
In that soft lingo of the Sun!

“Close to the flowery crag there clung
A brown thatch’d roof with wild flowers hung,
Supported on four sapling trees
That pour’d sweet scents on the warm breeze,
And underneath it, loosely wall’d
With boughs as green as emerald,
There lay a wide and open bower,
A mossy nest of fruit and flower,
With soft green hammocks swinging high
To the wind’s summer lullaby.                                                            89
Grass was the floor, but o’er it spread,
Crumbling warm spice beneath the tread,
Were woven carpets green and soft
As the fresh blooms that swung aloft.
Thither my captor, that sweet Maid
     Who held me in her sweet control,
Led me, and, seated in the shade,
     My throne an old tree’s mossy bole,
I watch’d the throng who round me went
In welcome and in merriment.

“Possession’s nine points of the law,
     Even yonder in the southern seas!
And murmuring softly ‘Alohà!’
     (Which means ‘I love you,’ if you please!)
That Maid who was the first to capture
     My idle eyes with her strange beauty
Gazed on my face in tender rapture
     And kiss’d my hand in sign of duty.
Then, when some others, gladsome girls
With sunny cheeks and teeth like pearls,
Came thronging all around to view
My face and give me welcome too,
She waved them back with flashing eyes
     And seem’d to say (if looks could do it)
‘This man is mine! I claim the prize,
     And if you touch him, you shall rue it!’
Smiling and laughing merrily,                                                              90
I just look’d on, content to be
Appropriated for the present
By one so young and plump and pleasant;
And nodding, by my side I placed her,
Patted her brown back and embraced her,—
Whereon the happy native bands,
     Incapable of jealous spite,
Laugh’d their approval, clapt their hands,
     And shared the little Maid’s delight.

“Then, at a signal from the Maid,
     They brought me poi, a native dish
Of island grains and juices made,
     And stickier than one might wish—
Her two forefingers lightly dipping
     Therein, she twirled them round about,
Then drew a glutinous, slimy, dripping
     Mouthful, like macaroni, out;
Next, quickly raised her finger-tips
Thus coated to her rosy lips,
Sucking them like a bonbon, while
I watch’d her with a wondering smile.
Ev’n thus she show’d me full of joy
The native mysteries of poi
And presently, I made essay
To eat it in the native way,
And found the flavour of the stuff
     (Altho’ the modus operandi                                                       91
Was strange and primitive enough),
     Was much like rice and sugar-candy.
And next they brought in goblets green
     Of coca-shell a pleasant tipple
As clear as mead or Hippocrene
     Or milk that flows from Venus’ nipple;
And quaffing this right joyously
     I felt my heart within throb quicker,
For, like most sailors of the sea,
     I on occasion love good liquor!
And thus they fêted me and fed me,
     And when at last I paused contented,
To a green couch the Maiden led me,
     And down I sank on leaves sweet-scented;—
When nimble virgins, at her sign,
     Kneaded me, limbs and loins and thighs,
Till rack’d and rent I sank supine
     With aching frame and sleepy eyes,—
And sank to charmèd sleep! (They name
This swift shampooing of the frame
The lomi-lomi.) When at last
     I woke, all sense seem’d sublimated,
Bathed in a comfort deep and vast
     I lay like Adam new-created—
Ambrosial peace and perfect rest
     Stole through my veins and warm’d me through,
Serenely strong, completely blest,
     I gladden’d at each breath I drew;                                                92
And all the world and its annoy
Turn’d to an odorous rose of joy,
Taking both soul and sense in capture
With soft celestial folds of rapture!

“Meantime her kinsfolk, blithe and gay
As motes that in the sunbeam play,
Simple as babies biting coral,
Without one instinct known as moral,
Eager to welcome and caress
     Whatever stranger they beheld,
Full of the sunny happiness
     That from their dusky hearts up-well’d,
Came smiling round the flowery nest
Wherein I lay in blissful rest.
Then one, an Elder of the place,
A glad old boy with wrinkled face,
Laugh’d and clapt hands, and at the sign
All squatted down or lay supine,
And from the shade of these dark bowers
     Outpour’d, with wondrous twists and twirls,
Most lightly raimented in flowers
     A band of lissome Dancing Girls—
These [while the rest began to croon
A drowsy droning native tune,]
With gestures loose and looser raiment,
With postures never for broad day meant,
With panting mouths and shining eyes,                                                93
With heaving breasts and quivering thighs,
Began a measure which to see
Would shock our modern modesty!
A measure?—nay, a dance that knew
No measure Thought could time it to—
A leaping, eddying, unabating
Revel of flesh and blood pulsating—
Now soft and sweet as fountains falling,
     Now mad and wild as billows bounding,
Now murmurous as wood-doves calling,
Now corybantic and appalling,
     And changeful as it was astounding!”

Reflections on the margin, made
     In Rome, at a quite recent time,
Follow, and tho’ I’m half afraid
     To quote them, here they are, in rhyme:

. . . “Aye me, what witchery may be wrought
     By soft round arms and looks of passion!
What magic flooding sense and thought
     By limbs in beauteous undulation!
Love rules the world, and Love shall rule it,
Tho’ rogues corrupt and sages fool it!
Love moves the chessmen, Kings and Knights,
     And stirs the merest pawns as well,
Hence change of empires, bloodiest fights,
     And all the game of Heaven and Hell.                                            94
Herodias dances, and demands
     The Baptist’s head as instant payment!
Phryne just stirs her little hands,
     Lifting the edge of her light raiment,
Glimpse of trim ankles to discover,
And lo! a Dynasty is over!
Were I the Devil, I’d rather deal
     With incantation such as this is,
Than have great senates at my heel!
Show me whole legions clad in steel—
     I’ll rout them easily—with kisses!
Kings for such guerdon will pay down
Gladly the sceptre and the crown!
Bishops their mitres and their crosiers
For soft limbs beautified by hosiers!
God gets no hearing anywhere
While Womankind is fond and fair,
And so the world is at the mercy
Of the supreme enchantress, Circe!

     “Hartmann, whose page explains to us
The creed of the Unconscious,
By the Unconscious means the Power
Which fills Life’s Tree from root to flower.
Pulsating out of yonder sunlight,
     Flowing in flame from form to form,
Is the eternal Light, the one Light
     For ever wanton, wild, and warm,—                                             95
Shedding magnetic rays of splendour,
     In ecstasies of new creation,
Forcing all creatures to surrender
     To Love’s amphibious invitation!
Amœbæ in the ooze, and fishes,
     Beasts in the fields, birds in the air,
Sweep whither the Unconscious wishes,
     And recreate forms foul or fair—
All sing Natura Cumulans,—
     Nature, the Matronhood immortal—
In vain le bon Dieu sits and plans
     Yonder beyond the heavenly portal,
Crying like Canute, to the Ocean
Of loose primordial mad emotion,
‘Thus far, no further’—while its waves,
Beating the shore of human graves,
Surging and rising, ever growing,
     Submerging earth from zone to zone,
Drown Man’s frail Soul, and overflowing
     Flood the bright Footstool of the Throne!”

     Wide-eyed in wonder and delight
The Wanderer drank in the sight—
A Bacchic rite in emulation
Of the first orgies of Creation!
And when the dancers sank o’erpower’d
With their own rapture, blossoms shower’d
Upon them, and with flashing faces                                                     96
They clung in beautiful embraces.
Then when the cup of joy was full
     Up to the brim and running over,
Out of the darkness green and cool
     A girl coo’d clearly to her lover!—
One bird-like note, one plaintive call,
Passionate yet celestial,
Thrill’d through the silence! then there came
     Out of the darkness, robed in white,
With arms outstretch’d and eyes aflame,
     Alive with Love and Love’s delight,
That Flower of Maidens,—fair she stood
Full in the sunset’s crimson flood,
And gazing on the heavens above
Warbled her wondrous song of Love!
And fascinated, thrilling through
With bliss at every breath he drew,
The Outcast listen’d, while the throng
Were hushed to hear that Orphic song!
But as he leapt to her embrace
     She laugh’d and vanish’d from his glance,
And once again the leafy place
     Was loud with life and song and dance—
Again, while loud the music rung,
The choir of dancing girls upsprung,
And mingling in the measure wrought
Their fine gyrations passion-fraught!
But now the dance was less capricious,                                               97
     The undulations more subdued,—
Subsiding into throbs delicious,
     Faint rapture stealing through their blood,
The maidens moved like one bright billow
     Now heavenward, now upon the ground,
All swaying on an airy pillow
     And swooning with soft zones unbound,
And spicy odours, burning beams,
Blew round them as they rock’d in dreams,
While on their happy cheeks and eyes
Rain’d diamond dews from Paradise!

A pause—a thrill—which seem’d to be
A long sweet dream of ecstasy—
Then suddenly, before he knew,
All vanish’d from his wondering view—
Of all the throng not one was there,
Men, women, maidens, turn’d to air,
And lonely on his couch he lay
Lit by the sunset’s fading ray—
But as he sigh’d and lookt around,
     He heard again that bird-like cadence
And turning saw, with lilies crown’d,
     That tender miracle of maidens—
Her eyes on his—one soft hand prest
To still the billowing of her breast—
Her cheeks all smiles, her eyes all bliss,
     Sending new thrills of rapture through him,                                     98
Her mouth bent down for him to kiss,
     Her soul a votive offering to him!

Then Twilight spread its purple fold
     Dew-spangled o’er the blue sky’s bosom,
And ripe and large as fruit of gold
     Great sun-fed stars began to blossom,—
Such stars as never kindle save
Out yonder o’er the tropic wave,
Each like a little moon, and making
     In the smooth Ocean trails of light,
While others, from the darkness breaking
Like bursting fruit, shot seaward shaking
     Prismatic splendours through the night.
As each new splendour flashed afar
     And melted in the quiet Main,
It seem’d as if some shining star
     Had burst within the Wanderer’s brain!
And spicy scents of that green Land
     On the warm wind were wafted thither,
As holding that dark Maiden’s hand,
     Silent he sat, uplooking with her.
Then sighing heavily, he turn’d
His dark eyes shoreward, and discern’d
The spume upon the reef that fell
Like white milk from the coca-shell,
The waters round of lustre green
Alive with rays of starry sheen,                                                           99
And far off, on the water’s bound,
The Moon uprising large and round,
Clear lemon-yellow, without rays,
Out of the pathless ocean-ways!



HE turned his eyes on that sweet Maid,
Who smiling in his face essay’d
Quick eager speech of rippling words
     More musical than any singer’s,—
He guess’d the meaning of the words
     By the warm pressure of the fingers!
Child-like she stood, with eyes of light
Full of the happy tropic night,
A white straw hat upon her head
With ferns and flowers bright garlanded,
Her dress one cool chemise of snow
     Wherein her soft form slipt at ease,
Sleeveless, around the breasts cut low,
     And fluttering to the supple knees;
Her limbs and arms all bare and warm,
     Her bosom gently palpitating,—
Her face alive with Love, her form
     Thrill’d through with fires of Love’s creating!

Over that night now falls the veil!
Earth held her breath. The stars grew pale
Down-gazing. Heavenly balms were strewn
On those two forms who ’neath the Moon
Took Love’s divine first kiss. The Night
Linger’d above them in delight,
Till softly and serenely blest,                                                                101
Still as two love-birds in a nest,
They slept! . . .
                         O Alohà! (which means
     ‘I love you,’ mind) delightful Maiden!
Still in the daintiest of your teens,
     Yet woman-soul’d and passion laden!
Through you, alas! I make this canto
More warmly-colour’d than I want to!
For I profess—let all men know it—
To be a Psychologic Poet!
Not that with solemn cogitations
I mean to tire the reader’s patience,
Hair-splitting and refining ether
Like some bards (and no small ones neither)
Who show with philosophic hiccup
The metaphysics in a teacup,
And plummets deep as Death apply
To gauge the depths of apple-pie!
But aiming at the adumbration
Of Nature’s chaos of sensation,
The more I of these Mysteries speak
The more I pause with blushing cheek!
Many will misconceive me; some
Will just be thunderstruck and dumb
That I should dream of spiritualising
A subject which—there’s no disguising—
Is delicate extremely. Then
I dread the Critics, those small men                                                     102
With those big voices! . . .
The days of passionate song are o’er,
And now no Poet wins the laurel
Who is not absolutely moral.
We’ve had our fill of impropriety,
Since Byron rose to shock Society,
And of all moods by bards affected
Anacreon’s has been least neglected.
The favourite Muses, Greek or British,
Have ever been extremely skittish,
And modern bards have drunk too wildly
The warm Greek wine which Goethe mildly
Sipt at while sketching with soft shade his
Loose-laced, lax-moral’d German ladies;
Gretchen, Philina, all the crew,
Fleshly yet sentimental too,
Sad sensuous things of scant decorum,
Lost like the Magdalen before ’em,
Save Mignon, who, as story teaches,
Lack’d fat and so became the breeches.
Then we’ve had Byron, that lame Cupid
Of odalisques sublimely stupid,
Not to name here Chateaubriand,
Alfred de Musset, and George Sand,
All watering with artistic squirt
The flower of passion grown in dirt,
Till Gautier made the Immortals flutter                                                103
By rolling Venus in the gutter!
But patience! this strange tale I tell,
Is high as Heaven, though deep as Hell,
And in the end shall please the mind
That’s to analysis inclined;
Shall show you, ere the last sad line,
The great Eternal Feminine
(Das Ewigweibliche, to wit,
As amorous Wolfgang christen’d it),
And vindicate its flights immodest
Through scenes where Venus lies unbodiced,
By flying on with fearless pinions
To the clear air of God’s dominions.

That night, within their bower of bloom
Flooded with moonlight and perfume,
The Captain and his new-found treasure
Drank deep of Love’s o’erflowing measure,
Then down the Unconscious sinking deep
Floated on shimmering seas of Sleep.

Wonder and hush miraculous!
     When, weary of her load of care,
This Earth, whose fond arms shelter us,
     Feels softly on her brows and hair
The cool dark dews of twilight fall
Mysterious and celestial!
Lo! while her golden robe of day                                                       104
Slips film by film and falls away,
Naked and warm she stands a space,
The sun-flush fading from her face;
Then, with bow’d head and soft hands prest
Upon her bare and billowing breast,
Takes, while the chill Moon steals in sight,
The cold ablution of the Night!
And then, as by the pools of rest
She lieth down subdued and blest,
As on her closèd eyes are shed
Dim influence from the heavens o’erhead,
We nestling in her bosom close
Our feverish eyelids and repose—
Our spirits husht, our voices dumb,
     Our little lives a little still’d,
We sleep!—and round us softly come
     Souls from whose fountains ours are fill’d!
Spirits as soft as moonbeams flit
Around our rest, not breaking it,
Brushing across our lips and eyes
Wings wet with dews of Paradise!
While at God’s mercy and at theirs
We lie, they bless us unawares,—
Watch the Soul’s pool that lies within
The branches dark of Flesh and Sin,
And stir it as with Aaron’s rod
To gleams of Heaven and dreams of God!
Lifting the filmy tent of Sleep                                                              105
With gentle fingers, on us peep
Those errant angels, soft and tender
With some strange starlight’s dusky splendour;
With balm from Heaven they bedew us,
Bring flowers from Heaven and hold them to us,
Flash on our eyes the diamonds shaken
To fairy rainbows as we waken,
And jubilantly ere departing
     Ring those wild echoes in our ears,
Which, flusht and from our pillows starting,
     We hearken for with childish tears!

If Dreams were not, if we could fall
To slumber and not dream at all,—
If when the eyes were closed, the sense
Close shut, all seeing vanish’d thence,
Why, ’twere not difficult to fancy
This life no freak of necromancy,—
And Man a clock, contrived to go
(Bar breakage) seventy years or so,
Yet running down and pausing nightly,
     Pendulum fluttering with no pain,
Till, as the daydawn glimmers brightly,
     A Finger quickens it again!
But Dreams, though sages think them silly,
Attest us Spirits willy-nilly,
And prove that, when the Unconscious glides
Around us with its numbing tides,                                                        106
Shapes past conceiving or control
Stir the dark cisterns of the Soul!
All day God veils Himself in Light,
But down the starry stairs each night
He steals with solemn soundless tread
And finds us—fast asleep, not dead!
Ah, then begins the conjuration,
The Mystery, the Incantation!
The Feet Divine with soft insistence
Plash through the Waters of Existence,
Send strange electric thrills each minute
Down to the very ooze within it,
While, startled by the shining Presence,
All Nature breaks to phosphorescence! . . .

Now came the golden tropic Morning!
     Not like our dawns of chilly gloom:
One glow, one crimson flash of warning,
     Then one great flood of blinding bloom—
The world awoke and leapt—the Sea
Flasht like a mirror radiantly—
The leaves and flowers were all alive—
     A miracle of Light was done—
And glad as bees from out the hive
     The people flock’d into the sun!

Happy, contented, and serene,


     The Outcast left his nuptial bed,                                                     107
While, blushing like a happy queen,
     His bride just kissed his lips and fled,—
But soon tript back on lightsome feet
     With troops of maidens in her train,
Bringing her lord fresh fruits to eat
     And cups of coca-milk to drain.
Then gay and glad he sought the strand
     And stript, and plung’d into the tide,
And, striking strongly out from land
     In pools of Dawn beatified,
He heard a rippling laugh, and turning
     Saw her behind him, swimming too—
Her dusky face upon him yearning
     Baptized with joy and morning dew!

That was the Dawn, the bright beginning
     Of one long day of Love’s delight!
Happy, unconscious she was sinning,
     His slave by day, his bride by night,
She, with her people’s acquiescence,
     Said in Love’s language, ‘I am thine,’
And happy in her constant presence
     He lived and loved and felt divine!
And ah! what wonder he was glad,
     That all his soul grew iridescent,
Forgot the past so dark and sad,
     With such a Bride for ever present?
Soft almond eyes of starry splendour,                                                  108
     Lips poppy-red, teeth white as pearls,
A warm brown cheek sun-tan’d and tender,—
     The nicest, nakedest of girls!
Her form from shoulder down to foot
     Like Cupid’s bow a splendid curve,
Her flesh as soft as ripen’d fruit
     Yet quick with quivering pulse and nerve—
Her limbs, like those of some fair statue,
     Perfectly rounded, strong yet slight,
Her childish glance, when smiling at you,
     Alive with luxury of light!
O happy he whose head could rest
Upon that warm and bounteous breast,
And so ecstatically capture
Its tropic indolence of rapture!
How darkly, passionately fair
She seem’d when, resting by him there
Upon a couch of leaves sweet-scented,
     She smiled without a single care,
And took no kiss that she repented,
     And knew no thought he could not share.
And when he wearied with the light
Shed on his dazzled soul and sight,
Still as a bird within the nest
She saw his dark eyes close in rest;
And lay beside him fondly waiting,
     Obedient as a happy child,
Watching his face, and palpitating                                                       109
     Till he awoke again and smiled!
For all her pleasure was to trace
The happiness upon his face,
To feel his breath flow warmly thro’ her,
To kiss his hands and draw them to her,
And place them on her heart, that he
Might feel it leaping happily!
And ever springing from his side,
     She brought him fruit and dainties sweet,
And knelt beside him, happy-eyed
     To see her Lord and Master eat—
And if he frown’d her face grew very
Sad; if he laugh’d, her face grew merry;
So every shade of his emotion
     Past to her face and faithful eyes,                                                   [l.xvi]
As shadows of the summer Ocean
     Answer the changes of the Skies!

A Rose with Dawn’s cool dew and savour
Renew’d at every kiss he gave her,
A Blush Rose passionately scented,
Serene, unconscious, and contented,
She felt soft airs of Heaven bedew her,
And drank their sweetness deep into her,
Kept Soul and Body, through light and glooming,
One Flower for ever freshly blooming!
     O happy Life! O blissful Passion!                                                   110
Far from Life’s folly and Life’s fashion!
Far from the tailor and the hatter!
     Far from the clubs and criticasters!
Far from all metaphysic patter,
From all cold creeds of God and Matter,
     From silly sheep and sillier pastors!
No Parliaments, to lying given—
     No paupers, and no governing classes—
No books, or newspapers, thank Heaven!
     And no God Jingo for the masses!
O happy Life, without a trouble!
Pure and prismatic as a bubble,
     Fresh as a flower with dewdrops pearl’d,—
Ere naked Truth rose, with a wink,
Black from her Well (of printer’s ink)
     Or out of chaos woke the World!


Page 86, l. xiv: This line (printed in the original Greek) is taken from The Odes of Anacreon, No. 6. The Revelry. The translation is “pours forth a thrilling note” according to The Odes of Anacreon, with a literal interlinear translation, on the plan recommended by Mr. Locke, accompanied by illustrative notes (London: Taylor and Walton, 1837):


Having fitted to our temples rosy crowns,
we deeply drink of wine, laughing softly.
And a maiden delicate-ankled,
carrying wands rustling with ivy leaves,
dances to the harp; whilst a soft-haired youth,
of sweetly-breathing lips, pours forth a thrilling note,
playing on the reeds. And the golden-haired Cupid,
with the beautiful Bacchus, with the beautiful Venus,
attends, rejoicing, the revelry delightful to old men.

Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 109, l. xvi: Pass’d to her face and faithful eyes, ]



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The Fleshly School Controversy
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