The Flower Of Flame
AS round the cliff I came alone
The whole bay bared its blaze to me;
Loud sang the wind, the wild sun shone
The tumbled clouds fled scattering on,
Light shattered on wave and winking stone,
And in the glassy midst stood one
Brighter than sun or cloud or sea.
She with flame-vehement hair untied,
Virginal in her fluttering dress,
Watched, deafened and all dazzle-eyed,
Each opulent breaker's crash and glide
And now flung arms up high and wide
As if, possessing all, she cried
Her beauty, youth and happiness.
Loud rang the waves and higher, higher
The surge in chains of light was flung,
The wind as in a wild desire
Licked round her form—she seemed a spire
Of sunny drift ! a fount of fire!
The hymn of some triumphant lyre
Which sounded when the world was young!
Purified by the scalding glare,
Swept clear by the salty sea-wind's flow,
My eyes knew you for what you are—
The daemon thing for which we dare,
Which breaks us, which we bid not spare.
The life, the light, the heavenly snare,
The turretted city's overthrow,
Helen, I knew you standing there!
The long, low wavelets of summer
Glide in and glitter along the sand;
The fitful breezes of summer
Blow fragrantly from the land.
Side by side we lie silent
Between sunned cliffs and blown seas:
Our eyes more bright than sea ripples,
Our breaths more light than the breeze.
When a gust meets a wave that advances
The wave leaps, flames, falls with a hiss
So lightly, so brightly each heart leaps
When our dumb lips touch in a kiss.
Foamless the gradual waters well
From the sheer deep, where darkness lies,
Till to the shoulder rock they swell
With a slow cumulance of sighs.
O, waters gather up your strength
From the blind caves of your unrest,
Loose your load utterly at length
Over the moonlight-marbled breast.
There sleep, diffused, the long dim hours,
Nor let your love-locks be withdrawn
Till round the world-horizon glowers
The wrath and chaos of the dawn.
She picked a whorled shell from the beach
And laid it close beside her ear;
Then held it, frightened, at full reach
Toward my face that I might hear.
And while she leaned and while I heard
Our dumb eyes dared not meet for shame,
Our hearts within us sickly stirred,
Our limbs ran wax before the flame.
For in the despairing voice and meek
An echo to our hearts we found
Who through love-striving vainly seek
To coop the infinite in bound.
All is estranged to-day.
Chastened and meek,
Side by side taking our way,
With what anguish we seek
To dare each to face the other or even to speak!
The sun like an opal drifts
Through a vapourous shine
Or overwhelms itself in dark rifts,
On the sea's far line
Sheer light falls in a single sword like a sign.
The sea, striving in its bed
Like a corpse that awakes,
Slowly heaves up its lustreless head,
Crowned with weeds and snakes,
To strike at the shore bareing fangs as it breaks.
Something threatening earth
Aims at our love;—
Gone is our ignorant mirth,
Love like speech of the dove;
The Sword and the Snake have seen and proclaim now
The narrow pathway winds its course
Through dwarfish oaks and junipers
Till suddenly beyond the gorse
We glimpse the copse of stunted firs,
That tops the headland, round whose base
The cold tide flings a drowned man's bones
All day against the cliff's sheer face,
All night prolongs his lasting groans.
The Drowned—who in the copse once stood
Waiting the Dead: to end both vows—
Heard, as we hear, the split of wood
And shrieking of the writhen boughs
Grow shrill and shriller. Pass the spot,
The strained boughs arch toward collapse.
A whistle and—CRACK! there's the shot!
Or is it but a bough which snaps?
Ever, when we have left the gorse
And through the copse each hastening hies,
We, lovers on the self-same course,
Dare not look in each other's eyes.
Before I woke I knew her gone
Though nothing nigh had stirred,
Now by the curtain inward blown
She stood not seen but heard
Where the faint moonlight dimmed or shone . . .
And neither spoke a word.
One hand against her mouth she pressed,
But could not staunch its cry,
The other knocked upon her breast
Impotently . . . while I
Glared rigid, labouring, possessed
And dared not ask her why.
Noon : and now rocks the summer sea
All idleness, one gust alone
Skates afar off and soundlessly
Is gone from me as you are gone.
No hull creeps on th' horizon's rim
No pond of smoke wreathes the far sky,
Only the dazzling sinuous swim
Of the fierce tide-maze scalds the eye.
Alone, aloft, unendingly
A peering gull on moveless wing
Floats silent by and again by
In search for some indefinite thing.
Each wave-line glittering through its run
Gives, in its plash where still pools lie
Upstaring at the downstaring sun,
A single harsh and sudden sigh.
And Oh, more lonely blows the breeze,
More empty shines the perfect sky,
More solitary sound the seas
Where two watched, where now watch but I!
I love a flower which has no lover
The yellow sea-poppy is its name;
Spined leaves its glaucous green stem cover
Its flower is a yellow fitful flame.
Stung by the spray which leaps the shingle,
Torn by the winds that scour the beach,
Its roots with the salt sea-wrack mingle
Its leaves upon the bleached stones bleach.
Its desperate growth but few remember,
None misses it when it has died—
Scorched by the sun to a scant ember
Or wholly ravaged by the tide.
Yet I elect this weed to cherish
Nor any other would desire
Than this which must so shortly perish
Tortured by sea-foam or sky-fire.
Above this flower we too once bended,
Drawn to it by a subtle spell,
On whom the fire of heaven descended
Over whom the wave arose from hell.
Frantic, she snatched the ragged blossom,
Kissed it then with a wild, fierce kiss,
Pressed spine and flame into her bosom,
Crying, 'The flower! our love is this!'
The grey waves crash. The wind whirls over.
The flower is withered from the beach,
Whose waves divide the loved and lover,
Whose wind blows louder than their speech.
The moon behind high tranquil leaves
Hides her sad head;
The dwindled water tinkles and grieves
In the stream's black bed
And where now, where are you sleeping?
The shadowy nightjar, hawking gnats,
Flickers or floats;
High in still air the flurrying bats
Repeat their wee notes,
And where now, where are you sleeping?
Silent lightning flutters in heaven,
Where quiet crowd
By the toil of an upper whirlwind driven
Dark legions of cloud;
In whose arms now are you sleeping?
The cloud makes, lidding the sky's wan hole,
The world a tomb;
Far out at sea long thunders roll
From gloom to dim gloom;
In whose arms now are you sleeping?
Rent clouds, like boughs, in darkness hang
The foreland's bell-buoy begins to clang
As if for the dead:
Awake they, where you are sleeping?
The chasms crack; the heavens revolt;
With tearing sound
Bright bolt volleys on flaring bolt,
Wave and cloud clash; through deep, through vault
Huge thunders rebound!
But they wake not where you are sleeping.
Robert Nichols's Other Poems
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
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