August Poems: August Moon - Poem by Emma Lazarus
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August Moon - Poem by Emma Lazarus
Look! the round-cheeked moon floats high,
In the glowing August sky,
Quenching all her neighbor stars,
Save the steady flame of Mars.
White as silver shines the sea,
Far-off sails like phantoms be,
Gliding o'er that lake of light,
Vanishing in nether night.
Heavy hangs the tasseled corn,
Sighing for the cordial morn;
But the marshy-meadows bare,
Love this spectral-lighted air,
Drink the dews and lift their song,
Chirp of crickets all night long;
Earth and sea enchanted lie
'Neath that moon-usurped sky.
To the faces of our friends
Unfamiliar traits she lends-
Quaint, white witch, who looketh down
With a glamour all her own.
Hushed are laughter, jest, and speech,
Mute and heedless each of each,
In the glory wan we sit,
Visions vague before us flit;
Side by side, yet worlds apart,
Heart becometh strange to heart.
Slowly in a moved voice, then,
Ralph, the artist spake again-
'Does not that weird orb unroll
Scenes phantasmal to your soul?
As I gaze thereon, I swear,
Peopled grows the vacant air,
Fables, myths alone are real,
White-clad sylph-like figures steal
'Twixt the bushes, o'er the lawn,
Goddess, nymph, undine, and faun.
Yonder, see the Willis dance,
Faces pale with stony glance;
They are maids who died unwed,
And they quit their gloomy bed,
Hungry still for human pleasure,
Here to trip a moonlit measure.
Near the shore the mermaids play,
Floating on the cool, white spray,
Leaping from the glittering surf
To the dark and fragrant turf,
Where the frolic trolls, and elves
Daintily disport themselves.
All the shapes by poet's brain,
Fashioned, live for me again,
In this spiritual light,
Less than day, yet more than night.
What a world! a waking dream,
All things other than they seem,
Borrowing a finer grace,
From yon golden globe in space;
Touched with wild, romantic glory,
Foliage fresh and billows hoary,
Hollows bathed in yellow haze,
Hills distinct and fields of maize,
Ancient legends come to mind.
Who would marvel should he find,
In the copse or nigh the spring,
Summer fairies gamboling
Where the honey-bees do suck,
Mab and Ariel and Puck?
Ah! no modern mortal sees
Creatures delicate as these.
All the simple faith has gone
Which their world was builded on.
Now the moonbeams coldly glance
On no gardens of romance;
To prosaic senses dull,
Baldur's dead, the Beautiful,
Hark, the cry rings overhead,
'Universal Pan is dead!''
'Requiescant!' Claude's grave tone
Thrilled us strangely. 'I am one
Who would not restore that Past,
Beauty will immortal last,
Though the beautiful must die-
This the ages verify.
And had Pan deserved the name
Which his votaries misclaim,
He were living with us yet.
I behold, without regret,
Beauty in new forms recast,
Truth emerging from the vast,
Bright and orbed, like yonder sphere,
Making the obscure air clear.
He shall be of bards the king,
Who, in worthy verse, shall sing
All the conquests of the hour,
Stealing no fictitious power
From the classic types outworn,
But his rhythmic line adorn
With the marvels of the real.
He the baseless feud shall heal
That estrangeth wide apart
Science from her sister Art.
Hold! look through this glass for me?
Artist, tell me what you see?'
'I!' cried Ralph. 'I see in place
Of Astarte's silver face,
Or veiled Isis' radiant robe,
Nothing but a rugged globe
Seamed with awful rents and scars.
And below no longer Mars,
Fierce, flame-crested god of war,
But a lurid, flickering star,
Fashioned like our mother earth,
Vexed, belike, with death and birth.'
Rapt in dreamy thought the while,
With a sphinx-like shadowy smile,
Poet Florio sat, but now
Spake in deep-voiced accents slow,
More as one who probes his mind,
Than for us-'Who seeks, shall find-
Widening knowledge surely brings
Vaster themes to him who sings.
Was veiled Isis more sublime
Than yon frozen fruit of Time,
Hanging in the naked sky?
Death's domain-for worlds too die.
Lo! the heavens like a scroll
Stand revealed before my soul;
And the hieroglyphs are suns-
Changeless change the law that runs
Through the flame-inscribed page,
World on world and age on age,
Balls of ice and orbs of fire,
What abides when these expire?
Through slow cycles they revolve,
Yet at last like clouds dissolve.
Jove, Osiris, Brahma pass,
Races wither like the grass.
Must not mortals be as gods
To embrace such periods?
Yet at Nature's heart remains
One who waxes not nor wanes.
And our crowning glory still
Is to have conceived his will.'
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When my eyes are weeds, And my lips are petals, spinning Down the wind that has beginning Where the crumpled beeches start In a fringe of salty reeds; When my arms are elder-bushes, And the rangy lilac pushes Upward, upward through my heart; Summer, do your worst! Light your tinsel moon, and call on Your performing stars to fall on Headlong through your paper sky; Nevermore shall I be cursed By a flushed and amorous slattern, With her dusty laces' pattern Trailing, as she straggles by.
Surely I will be disquieted by the hospital, that body zone- bodies wrapped in elastic bands, bodies cased in wood or used like telephones, bodies crucified up onto their crutches, bodies wearing rubber bags between their legs, bodies vomiting up their juice like detergent, Here in this house there are other bodies. Whenever I see a six-year-old swimming in our aqua pool a voice inside me says what can't be told... Ha, someday you'll be old and withered and tubes will be in your nose drinking up your dinner. Someday you'll go backward. You'll close up like a shoebox and you'll be cursed as you push into death feet first. Here in the hospital, I say, that is not my body, not my body. I am not here for the doctors to read like a recipe. No. I am a daisy girl blowing in the wind like a piece of sun. On ward 7 there are daisies, all butter and pearl but beside a blind man who can only eat up the petals and count to ten. The nurses skip rope around him and shiver as his eyes wiggle like mercury and then they dance from patient to patient to patient throwing up little paper medicine cups and playing catch with vials of dope as they wait for new accidents. Bodies made of synthetics. Bodies swaddled like dolls whom I visit and cajole and all they do is hum like computers doing up our taxes, dollar by dollar. Each body is in its bunker. The surgeon applies his gum. Each body is fitted quickly into its ice-cream pack and then stitched up again for the long voyage back.
Listen here. I've never played it safe in spite of what the critics say. Ask my imaginary brother, that waif, that childhood best friend who comes to play dress-up and stick-up and jacks and Pick-Up-Sticks, bike downtown, stick out tongues at the Catholics. Or form a Piss Club where we all go in the bushes and peek at each other's sex. Pop-gunning the street lights like crows. Not knowing what to do with funny Kotex so wearing it in our school shoes. Friend, friend, spooking my lonely hours you were there, but pretend.
This was its promise, held to faithfully: The early morning sun came in this way Until the angle of its saffron beam Between the curtains and the sofa lay, And with its ochre heat it spread across The village houses, and the nearby wood, Upon my bed and on my dampened pillow And to the corner where the bookcase stood. Then I recalled the reason why my pillow Had been so dampened by those tears that fell- I'd dreamt I saw you coming one by one Across the wood to wish me your farewell. You came in ones and twos, a straggling crowd; Then suddenly someone mentioned a word: It was the sixth of August, by Old Style, And the Transfiguration of Our Lord. For from Mount Tabor usually this day There comes a light without a flame to shine, And autumn draws all eyes upon itself As clear and unmistaken as a sign. But you came forward through the tiny, stripped, The pauperly and trembling alder grove, Into the graveyard's coppice, russet-red, Which, like stamped gingerbread, lay there and glowed. And with the silence of those high treetops Was neighbour only the imposing sky And in the echoed crowing of the cocks The distances and distances rang by: There in the churchyard underneath the trees, Like some surveyor from the government Death gazed on my pale face to estimate How large a grave would suit my measurement. All those who stood there could distinctly hear A quiet voice emerge from where I lay: The voice was mine, my past; prophetic words That sounded now, unsullied by decay: 'Farewell, wonder of azure and of gold Surrounding the Transfiguration's power: Assuage now with a woman's last caress The bitterness of my predestined hour! 'Farewell timeless expanse of passing years! Farewell, woman who flung your challenge steeled Against the abyss of humiliations: For it is I who am your battlefield! 'Farewell, you span of open wings outspread, The voluntary obstinacy of flight, O figure of the world revealed in speech, Creative genius, wonder-working might!'
So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky of this black August. My sister, the sun, broods in her yellow room and won't come out. Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume like a kettle, rivers overrun; still, she will not rise and turn off the rain. She is in her room, fondling old things, my poems, turning her album. Even if thunder falls like a crash of plates from the sky, she does not come out. Don't you know I love you but am hopeless at fixing the rain ? But I am learning slowly to love the dark days, the steaming hills, the air with gossiping mosquitoes, and to sip the medicine of bitterness, so that when you emerge, my sister, parting the beads of the rain, with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness, all with not be as it was, but it will be true (you see they will not let me love as I want), because, my sister, then I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones, The black rain, the white hills, when once I loved only my happiness and you.