― 24 ―

Ode To A Pallid Cuckoo

AT what black tarn of unavailing tears,
Rock-bound, remote,
Hast thou deep drunken through the iron years
Till, note by note,
Its mortal anguish falls like molten spears
Of trembling music from thy golden throat?

There is no grief in this young land to break
Her singing gold
With mournful minor wrung from hidden ache,
Old, ages old;
Yet singest thou for some old sorrow's sake
The saddest story song hath ever told.

Bringest thou still from some mysterious place
Of asphodels,
And tideless beaches of an older race,
And long-breathed spells
Whose ecstasy and anguish interlace
Like drifting desolate tones of wind-blown bells,

Some broken legend homeless winds have keened,
Some odyssey
Of baffled ships in bitter seas careened
Salt-bitten sails and battered bulwarks greened
With the cold creeping gardens of the sea?

Or where dark-limbed magnolias, hushed and filled
With peace divine,
Lift ivory bowls from which great winds have spilled
The magian wine,
From harp aeolian some dire tempest stilled
Plucked thou the enchanted song and made its sorrow thine?

  ― 25 ―
When drowned Atlantis foundered steep by steep,
Nor kindly Noon
Nor Dawn nor Dusk could break her weed-wound sleep,
Nor the white moon,
Swelled first o'er that forlorn and empty deep
The haunting notes of thine immortal rune?

Or did some lovely Trojan woman's soul,
From Ilium
Travailing toward her dark predestined goal,
Splendid but dumb,
Conjure thee from the gods' inscrutable scroll,
Her templar and her troubadour to come?

Or when the dying Prince of David's stem
Bade the triced thief
To sup with Him in Heaven, nor condemn
Man's vengeance brief….
On that wan hill by walled Jerusalem
Caught'st thou some cosmic chord of sempiternal grief,

The ache of all the ages that have run
Whence none dare ask,
The moan of dreadful wheels of Being spun
In endless task,
For amnesty of blind oblivion….
The wail behind Creation's smiling mask?

What ages wrought with cunning sorceries
The thing thou art?
As isle and isle set wide in sundering seas
We are apart,
Yet thou, clear calling in these Summer trees,
Hast told the sorrow lying next my heart.

Ah Summer trees! Ah Bird-song bitter-sweet
With human loss,
Here where but now was fern and cool retreat
Of flower and moss,
I see a vision of pale piercéd feet,
And Mary crying underneath the Cross.