Helen Gray Cone
The House Of Hate - Poem by Helen Gray Cone
Mine enemy builded well, with the soft blue hills in sight;
But betwixt his house and the hills I builded a house for spite:
And the name thereof I set in the stone-work over the gate,
With a carving of bats and apes; and I called it the House of Hate.
And the front was alive with masks of malice and of despair;
Horned demons that leered in stone, and women with serpent hair;
That whenever his glance would rest on the soft hills far and blue,
It must fall on mine evil work, and my hatred should pierce
And I said, 'I will dwell herein, for beholding my heart's desire
On my foe;' and I knelt, and fain had brightened the hearth with fire;
But the brands they would hiss and die, as with curses a strangled man,
And the hearth was cold from the day that the House of Hate began.
And I called at the open door, 'Make ye merry, all friends of mine,
In the hall of my House of Hate, where is plentiful store and wine.
We will drink unhealth together unto him I have foiled and fooled!'
And they stared and they passed me by; but I scorned to be thereby
And I ordered my board for feast; and I drank, in the topmost seat,
Choice grape from a curious cup; and the first it was wonder-sweet;
But the second was bitter indeed, and the third was bitter and black,
And the gloom of the grave came on me, and I cast the cup to wrack.
Alone, I was stark alone, and the shadows were each a fear;
And thinly I laughed, but once, for the echoes were strange to hear;
And the wind in the hallways howled as a green-eyed wolf might cry,
And I heard my heart: I must look on the face of a man, or die!
So I crept to my mirrored face, and I looked, and I saw it grown
(By the light in my shaking hand) to the like of the masks of stone;
And with horror I shrieked aloud as I flung my torch and fled,
And a fire-snake writhed where it fell; and at midnight
the sky was red.
And at morn, when the House of Hate was a ruin, despoiled of flame,
I fell at mine enemy's feet, and besought him to slay my shame;
But he looked in mine eyes and smiled, and his eyes were
calm and great:
'You rave, or have dreamed,' he said; 'I saw not your House of Hate.'
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