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Additional Poems by H.D.

from Sea Garden (1916)

Sheltered Garden

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest--
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,

I have had enough--
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch--
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent--
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light--
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit--
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
With a russet coat.

Or the melon--
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste--
it is better to taste of frost--
the exquisite frost--
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves--
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince--
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.


Sea Poppies

Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,

spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:

your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.

Beautiful, wide-spread,
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?



Can we believe -- by an effort
comfort our hearts:
it is not waste all this,
not placed here in disgust,
street after street,
each patterned alike,
no grace to lighten
a single house of the hundred
crowded into one garden-space.

Crowded -- can we believe,
not in utter disgust,
in ironical play --
but the maker of cities grew faint
with the beauty of temple
and space before temple,
arch upon perfect arch,
of pillars and corridors that led out
to strange court-yards and porches
where sun-light stamped
black on the pavement.

That the maker of cities grew faint
with the splendour of palaces,
paused while the incense-flowers
from the incense-trees
dropped on the marble-walk,
thought anew, fashioned this --
street after street alike.

For alas,
he had crowded the city so full
that men could not grasp beauty,
beauty was over them,
through them, about them,
no crevice unpacked with the honey,
rare, measureless.

So he built a new city,
ah can we believe, not ironically
but for new splendour
constructed new people
to lift through slow growth
to a beauty unrivalled yet --
and created new cells,
hideous first, hideous now --
spread larve across them,
not honey but seething life.

And in these dark cells,
packed street after street,
souls live, hideous yet --
O disfigured, defaced,
with no trace of the beauty
men once held so light.

Can we think a few old cells
were left -- we are left --
grains of honey,
old dust of stray pollen
dull on our torn wings,
we are left to recall the old streets?

Is our task the less sweet
that the larve still sleep in their cells?
Or crawl out to attack our frail strength:
You are useless. We live.
We await great events.
We are spread through this earth.
We protect our strong race.
You are useless.
Your cell takes the place
of our young future strength.

Though they sleep or wake to torment
and wish to displace our old cells --
thin rare gold --
that their larve grow fat --
is our task the less sweet?

Though we wander about,
find no honey of flowers in this waste,
is our task the less sweet --
who recall the old splendour,
await the new beauty of cities?

The city is peopled
with spirits, not ghosts, O my love:

Though they crowded between
and usurped the kiss of my mouth
their breath was your gift,

their beauty, your life.

from The God (1913-1917)


Are you alive?
I touch you.
You quiver like a sea-fish.
I cover you with my net.
What are you - banded one?

from Hymen (1921)


Where the slow river
meets the tide,
a red swan lifts red wings
and darker beak,
and underneath the purple down
of his soft breast
uncurls his coral feet.

Through the deep purple
of the dying heat
of sun and mist,
the level ray of sun-beam
has caressed
the lily with dark breast,
and flecked with richer gold
its golden crest.

Where the slow lifting
of the tide,
floats into the river
and slowly drifts
among the reeds,
and lifts the yellow flags,
he floats
where tide and river meet.

Ah kingly kiss --
no more regret
nor old deep memories
to mar the bliss;
where the low sedge is thick,
the gold day-lily
outspreads and rests
beneath soft fluttering
of red swan wings
and the warm quivering
of the red swan's breast.




Men, fires, feasts,
steps of temple, fore-stone, lintel,
step of white altar, fire and after-fire,
slaughter before,
fragment of burnt meat,
deep mystery, grapple of mind to reach
the tense thought,
power and wealth, purpose and prayer alike,
(men, fires, feasts, temple steps)­-useless.

Useless to me who plant
wide feet on a mighty plinth,
useless to me who sit,
wide of shoulder, great of thigh,
heavy in gold, to press
gold back against solid back
of the marble seat:
useless the dragons wrought on the arms,
useless the poppy-buds and the gold inset
of the spray of wheat.

Ah they have wrought me heavy
and great of limb­-
she is slender of waist,
slight of breast, made of many fashions;
they have set her small feet
on many a plinth;
she they have known,
she they have spoken with,
she they have smiled upon,
she they have caught
and flattered with praise and gifts.

But useless the flattery
of the mighty power
they have granted me:
for I will not stay in her breast,
the great of limb,
though perfect the shell they have
fashioned me, these men!

Do I sit in the market-place­-
do I smile, does a noble brow
bend like the brow of Zeus­-
am I a spouse, his or any,
am I a woman, or goddess or queen,
to be met by a god with a smile-­and left?


Do you ask for a scroll,
parchment, oracle, prophecy, precedent;
do you ask for tablets marked with thought
or words cut deep on the marble surface,
do you seek measured utterance or the mystic trance?

Sleep on the stones of Delphi­
dare the ledges of Pallas
but keep me foremost,
keep me before you, after you, with you,
never forget when you start
for the Delphic precipice,
never forget when you seek Pallas
and meet in thought
yourself drawn out from yourself
like the holy serpent,
never forget
in thought or mysterious trance­
I am greatest and least.

Soft are the hands of Love,
soft, soft are his feet;
you who have twined myrtle,
have you brought crocuses,
white as the inner
stript bark of the osier,
have you set
black crocus against the black
locks of another?


Of whom do I speak?

Many the children of gods
but first I take
Bromios, fostering prince,
lift from the ivy brake, a king.

Enough of the lightning,
enough of the tales that speak
of the death of the mother:
strange tales of a shelter
brought to the unborn,
enough of tale, myth, mystery, precedent­
a child lay on the earth asleep.

Soft are the hands of Love,
but what soft hands
clutched at the thorny ground,
scratched like a small white ferret
or foraging whippet or hound,
sought nourishment and found
only the crackling of ivy,
dead ivy leaf and the white
berry, food for a bird,
no food for this who sought,
bending small head in a fever,
whining with little breath.

Ah, small black head,
ah, the purple ivy bush,
ah, berries that shook and spilt
on the form beneath,
who begot you and left?

Though I begot no man child
all my days,
the child of my heart and spirit,
is the child the gods desert
alike and the mother in death­
the unclaimed Dionysos.


What of her­
mistress of Death?

Form of a golden wreath
were my hands that girt her head,
fingers that strove to meet,
and met where the whisps escaped
from the fillet, of tenderest gold,
small circlet and slim
were my fingers then.

Now they are wrought of iron
to wrest from earth
secrets; strong to protect,
strong to keep back the winter
when winter tracks too soon
blanch the forest:
strong to break dead things,
the young tree, drained of sap,
the old tree, ready to drop,
to lift from the rotting bed
of leaves, the old
crumbling pine tree stock,
to heap bole and knot of fir
and pine and resinous oak,
till fire shatter the dark
and hope of spring
rise in the hearts of men.

What of her­
mistress of Death­
what of his kiss?

Ah, strong were his arms to wrest
slight limbs from the beautiful earth,
young hands that plucked the first
buds of the chill narcissus,
soft fingers that broke
and fastened the thorny stalk
with the flower of wild acanthus.

Ah, strong were the arms that took
(ah, evil the heart and graceless),
but the kiss was less passionate!



It was easy enough
to bend them to my wish,
it was easy enough
to alter them with a touch,
but you
adrift on the great sea,
how shall I call you back?

Cedar and white ash,
rock-cedar and sand plants
and tamarisk
red cedar and white cedar
and black cedar from the inmost forest,
fragrance upon fragrance
and all of my sea-magic is for nought.

It was easy enough­
a thought called them
from the sharp edges of the earth;
they prayed for a touch,
they cried for the sight of my face,
they entreated me
till in pity
I turned each to his own self.

Panther and panther,
then a black leopard
follows close­
black panther and red
and a great hound,
a god-like beast,
cut the sand in a clear ring
and shut me from the earth,
and cover the sea-sound
with their throats,
and the sea-roar with their own barks
and bellowing and snarls,
and the sea-stars
and the swirl of the sand,
and the rock-tamarisk
and the wind resonance­
but not your voice.

It is easy enough to call men
from the edges of the earth.
It is easy enough to summon them to my feet
with a thought­
it is beautiful to see the tall panther
and the sleek deer-hounds
circle in the dark.
It is easy enough
to make cedar and white ash fumes
into palaces
and to cover the sea-caves
with ivory and onyx.

But I would give up
rock-fringes of coral
and the inmost chamber
of my island palace
and my own gifts
and the whole region
of my power and magic
for your glance.


At Baia

I should have thought
in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream)
I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed.

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine)
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower stuff­
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous­perilous­
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll
some word:

Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower leaf,


Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this.

from Heliodora (1924)


O Hymen king.

Hymen, O Hymen king,
what bitter thing is this?
what shaft, tearing my heart?
what scar, what light, what fire
searing my eye-balls and my eyes with flame?
nameless, O spoken name,
king, lord, speak blameless Hymen.

Why do you blind my eyes?
why do you dart and pulse
till all the dark is home,
then find my soul
and ruthless draw it back?
scaling the scaleless,
opening the dark?
speak, nameless, power and might;
when will you leave me quite?
when will you break my wings
or leave them utterly free
to scale heaven endlessly?

A bitter, broken thing,
my heart, O Hymen lord,
yet neither drought nor sword
baffles men quite,
why must they feign to fear
my virgin glance?
feigned utterly or real
why do they shrink?
my trance frightens them,
breaks the dance,
empties the market-place;
if I but pass they fall
back, frantically;
must always people mock?
unless they shrink and reel
as in the temple
at your uttered will.

O Hymen king,
lord, greatest, power, might,
look for my face is dark,
burnt with your light,
your fire, O Hymen lord;
is there none left
can equal me
in ecstasy, desire?
is there none left
can bear with me
the kiss of your white fire?
is there not one,
Phrygian or frenzied Greek,
poet, song-swept, or bard,
one meet to take from me
this bitter power of song,
one fit to speak, Hymen,
your praises, lord?

May I not wed
as you have wed?
may it not break, beauty,
from out my hands, my head, my feet?
may Love not lie beside me
till his heat
burn me to ash?
may he not comfort me, then,
spent of all that fire and heat,
still, ashen-white and cool
as the wet laurels,
white, before your feet
step on the mountain-slope,
before your fiery hand
lift up the mantle
covering flower and land,
as a man lifts,
O Hymen, from his bride,
(cowering with woman eyes,) the veil?
O Hymen lord, be kind.

Fragment Sixty-eight

. . . even in the house of Hades.


I envy you your chance of death,
how I envy you this.
I am more covetous of him
even than of your glance,
I wish more from his presence
though he torture me in a grasp,
terrible, intense.

Though he clasp me in an embrace
that is set against my will
and rack me with his measure,
effortless yet full of strength,
and slay me
in that most horrible contest,
still, how I envy you your chance.

Through he pierce me--imperious--
though beauty is slain
when I perish,
I envy you death.
What is beauty to me?
has she not slain me enough,
have I not cried in agony of love,
birth, hate,
in pride crushed?

What is left after this?
what can death loose in me
after your embrace?
your touch,

your limbs are more terrible
to do me hurt.
What can death mar in me
that you have not?


What can death send me
that you have not?
you gathered violets,
you spoke:
"your hair is not less black,
nor less fragrant.
nor in your eyes is less light,
your hair is not less sweet
with purple in the lift of lock;"
why were those slight words
and the violets you gathered
of such worth?

How I envy you death;
what could death bring,
more black, more set with sparks
to slay, to affright,
than the memory of those first violets,
the chance lift of your voice,
the chance blinding frenzy
as you bent?


So the goddess has slain me
for your chance smile
and my scarf unfolding
as you stooped to it;
so she trapped me
with upward sweep of your arm
as you lifted the veil,
and the swift smile and selfless.

Could I have known?
nay, spare pity,
though I break,
crushed under the goddess' hate,
though I fall beaten at last,
so high have I thrust my glance
up into her presence.

Do not pity me, spare that,
but how I envy you
your chance of death.


Let Zeus


I say, I am quite done,
quite done with this;
you smile your calm
inveterate chill smile

and light steps back;
intolerate loveliness
smiles at the ranks
of obdurate bitterness;

you smile with keen
chiselled and frigid lips;
it seems no evil
ever could have been;

so, on the Parthenon,
like splendour keeps
peril at bay,
facing inviolate dawn.


Men cannot mar you,
women cannot break
your innate strength,
your stark autocracy;

still I will make no plea
for this slight verse;
it outlines simply
Love's authority:

but pardon this,

that in these luminous days,
I re-invoke the dark
to frame your praise;

as one to make a bright room
seem more bright,
stares out deliberate
into Cerberus-night.


Sometimes I chide the manner of your dress;
I want all men to see the grace of you;
I mock your pace, your body's insolence,
thinking that all should praise, while obstinate
you still insist your beauty's gold is clay:

I chide you that you stand not forth entire,
set on bright plinth, intolerably desired;
yet I in turn will cheat, will thwart your whim,
I'll break my thought, weld it to fit your measure
as one who sets a statue on a height
to show where Hyacinth or Pan have been.


When blight lay and the Persian like a scar,
and death was heavy on Athens, plague and war,
you gave me this bright garment and this ring;

I who still kept of wisdom's meagre store
a few rare songs and some philosophising,
offered you these for I had nothing more;

that which both Athens and the Persian mocked
you took, as a cold famished bird takes grain,
blown inland through darkness and withering rain.


Would you prefer myrrh-flower or cyclamen?
I have them, I could spread them out again;
but now for this stark moment while Love breaths
his tentative breath, as dying, yet still lives,
wait as that time you waited tense with me:

others shall love when Athens lives again,
you waited in the agonies of war;
others will praise when all the host proclaims
Athens the perfect; you, when Athens lost,
stood by her; when the dark perfidious host
turned, it was you who pled for her with death.


Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldebaran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads' are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;
yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others, blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.


None watched with me
who watched his fluttering breath,
none brought white roses,
none the roses red;

many had loved,
had sought him luminous,
when he was blithe
and purple draped his bed;

yet when Love fell
struck down with plague and war,
you lay white myrrh-buds
on the darkened lintel;

you fastened blossom
to the smitten sill;
let Zeus record this,
daring Death to mar.


Mysteries Remain

The mysteries remain,
I keep the same
cycle of seed-time
and of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass,
I multiply,
renew and bless
Bacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true,
the first of these
to name the living, dead;
I am the wine and bread.

I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine,
the branches, you,
and you.


Stars Wheel in Purple

Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion's sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.

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