Helen Gray Cone

(1859-1934 / United States)

Two Moods Of Failure - Poem by Helen Gray Cone

I
THE LAST CUP OF CANARY
So, the powder's low, and the larder's clean,
And surrender drapes, with its black impending,
All the stage for a sorry and sullen scene:
Yet indulge me my whim of a madcap ending!

Let us once more fill, ere the final chill,
Every vein with the glow of the rich canary!
Since the sweet hot liquor of life's to spill,
Of the last of the cellar what boots be chary?

Then hear the conclusion: I'll yield my breath,
But my leal old house and my good blade never!
Better one bitter kiss on the lips of Death
Than despoiled Defeat as a wife forever!

Let the faithful fire hold the walls in ward
Till the roof-tree crash! Be the smoke once riven
While we flash from the gate like a single sword,
True steel to the hilt, though in dull earth driven!

Do you frown, Sir Richard, above your ruff,
In the Holbein yonder? My deed ensures you!
For the flame like a fencer shall give rebuff
To your blades that blunder, you Roundhead boors, you!

And my ladies, a-row on the gallery wall,
Not a sing-song sergeant or corporal sainted
Shall pierce their breasts with his Puritan ball,
To annul the charms of the flesh, though painted!

I have worn like a jewel the life they gave;
As the ring in mine ear I can lightly lose it,
If my days be done, why, my days were brave!
If the end arrive, I as master choose it!

Then fill to the brim, and a health, I say,
To our liege King Charles, and I pray God bless him!
'T would amend worse vintage to drink dismay
To the clamorous mongrel pack that press him!

And a health to the fair women, past recall,
That like birds astray through the heart's hall flitted;
To the lean devil Failure last of all,
And the lees in his beard for a fiend outwitted!


II

THE YOUNG MAN CHARLES STUART REVIEWETH THE TROOPS ON BLACKHEATH

(Private Constant-in-Tribulation Joyce,
May
, 1660)


We were still as a wood without wind; as 't were set by a spell
Stayed the gleam on the steel cap, the glint on the slant petronel.
He to left of me drew down his grim grizzled lip with his teeth,-
I remember his look; so we grew like dumb trees on the heath.

But the people,-the people were mad as with store of new wine;
Oh, they cheered him, they capped him, they roared as he rode
down the line:
He that fled us at Worcester, the boy, the green brier-shoot, the son
Of the Stuart on whom for his sin the great judgment was done!

Swam before us the field of our shame, and our souls walked afar;
Saw the glory, the blaze of the sun bursting over Dunbar;
Saw the faces of friends, in the morn riding jocund to fight;
Saw the stern pallid faces again, as we saw them at night!

'O ye blessed, who died in the Lord! would to God that we too
Had so passed, only sad that we ceased his high justice to do,
With the words of the psalm on our lips that from Israel's once came,
How the Lord is a strong man of war; yea, the Lord is his name!

'Not for us, not for us! who have served for his kingdom seven years,
Yea, and yet other seven have we served, sweating blood, bleeding
tears,
For the kingdom of God and the saints! Rachel's beauty made bold,
Yet we bear but a Leah at last to a hearth that is cold!'

Burned the fire while I mused, while I gloomed; in the end came a call;
Settled o'er me a calm like a cloud, spake a voice still and small:
'Take thou Leah to bride, take thou Failure to bed and to board!
Thou shalt rear up new strengths at her knees; she is given
of the Lord!

'If with weight of his right hand, with power, he denieth to deal,
And the smoke clouds, and thunders of guns, and the lightnings
of steel,
Shall the cool silent dews of his grace, in a season of peace,
Not descend on the land, as of old, for a sign, on the fleece?

'Hath he cleft not the rock, to the yield of a stream that is sweet?
Hath he set in the ribs of the lion no honey for meat?
Can he bring not delight to the desert, and buds to the rod?
He will shine, he will visit his vine; he hath sworn, he is God!'

Then I thought of the gate I rode through on the roan that's
long dead,-
I remember the dawn was but pale, and the stars overhead;
Of the babe that is grown to a maid, and of Martha, my wife,
And the spring on the wolds far away, and gave thanks for my life!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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