NO more in any house can I be at peace,
Because of a house that waits, far off or near,
To-morrow or (likelier) after many a year,
Where a room and a door are that shall fulfil my fear.
For last night, dreaming, I stood in a house and saw
Softly the room door open, and one came in,
Its owner, and as round the edge his evil grin
Peep’d ere he pass’d, I knew him for visible Sin.
Unwash’d, unshaven, frowsy, abominable,
In a green greasy hat, a green greasy coat,
Loose-mouth’d, with silent tread and the smell of the goat,
He stole in, and helplessness stifled rage in my throat.
For this was he who came long since to my heart,
This was he who enter’d the house of my soul long ago;
Now he possesses imagination, and O
I shall meet him yet in some brick-built house, I know.
He shall come, he shall turn from the long parch’d street he treads
For ever, shuffling, hand rubb’d over hand unclean,
Servile yet masterful, with satiate spleen
Watching his houses, and muttering of things obscene.
He shall come to my flesh as he came last night to my dream;
Eyes shall know him as soul and insight have known;
Though all the world be there, I shall stand alone
Watching him peer and enter and find out his own.
Noisier he shall not move, nor loudlier speak,
Than the first sly motion of lewd delight in me
Long since—which then I shall know none other than he,
Now visible, aged, and filled with monstrous glee.
Therefore now in terror I enter all houses, all rooms
Enter in dread, and move among them in fear,
Watching all doors, saying softly ‘It draws more near
Daily; and here shall it be in the end—or here?’
John Alexander Chapman
Gipsy queen of the night, wraith of the fire-lit dark,
Glittering eyes of ice, sharp as glacier green,
Lisping falling kisses, syllabled flakes of snow,
Down on the stubble fields, over my eyes and hair;
If on my mouth one falls, it is tasteless and light and cold—
She mocks you, gipsy queen, the brown-eyed child of earth;
As berry that grew from flower, she, as grape of the vine,
Is warm and sweet for man; the wine, in herself, and cup.
Why do you haunt me then? Are you for me, not she?
Am I a leafless branch, bowed with a load of snow;
Not for warm hands to pluck, but alone in the world of cold;
Black against pale-washed sky, grey never vein’d with red?
But so the better for you, cold shape of the dark outside;
You banish’d from rose too red for ice-green eyes to see;
Chased before lambing time, ere even the snowdrops come,
Poor gipsy-wraith of the snow, but knowing your brother,
To him? Then come to me. I will give you a cold, cold kiss.
My roses are dead, they too. My lips are grey. My eyes
Have neither iris nor pupil. They died, and now all is white;
White in a face of stone. Sister, cold lover, come.
‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.
I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropt not down.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.
I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.
I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay dead like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.
An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—
Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,
The charmèd water burnt alway
A still and awful red.
Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
In my limited experience of Japanese poetry, Saigyo, a monk writing during the 12th century, is by far my favorite poet. A few selections, again from Carter’s Traditional Japanese Poetry:
On a roadside
next to a clear flowing stream
in a willow’s shade
I stopped–for a moment, I thought–
but ended up staying on
It creates a heart
even in those among us
who think of themselves
as indifferent to all things–
this first wind of autumn.
Spring. Written when people were composing on the topic “Blossoms Falling in a Dream” at the home of the Kamo Virgin:
In a dream I saw
the winds of spring scattering
the cherry blossoms–
and after I woke, the sound
was still rustling in my breast.
Winter. “Leaves falling at dawn”:
Raindrops, I first thought
as I lay awake in my bed–
but what I heard
was the unbroken patter
of leaves giving in to storm winds.