WHITE MAGIC Poetry/Poem by George Sterling (1869-1926)

KEEP ye her brow with starshine crost
And bind with ghostly light her hair,
O powers benign, lest I accost
Song’s peaceless angel unaware!

One eve her whisper came to earth,
As eastward woke a thorny star,
To tell me of her kingdom’s worth
And what her liberations are:

She hath the Edens in her gift
And songs of sovereignties unborn;
In realms agone her turrets lift,
Wrought from the purples of the morn.

Where swings to foam the dusky sea,
She waits with sapphires in her hand
Whose light shall make thy spirit be
Lost in a still, enchanted land.

Musing, she hears the subtle tunes
From chords where faery fingers stray–
A rain of pearl from crumbling moons
Less clear and delicate than they.

The strain we lost and could not find
Think we her haunted heart forgets?
She weaves it with a troubled wind
And twilight music that regrets.

Often she stands, unseen, aloof,
To watch beside an ocean’s brink
The gorgeous, evanescent woof
Cast from the loom of suns that sink.

Often, in eyries of the West,
She waits a lover from afar–
Frailties of blossom on her breast
And o’er her brow the evening star.

She stands to greet him unaware,
Who cannot find her if he seek:
A sigh, a scent of heavenly hair–
And oh, her breath is on his cheek!

THE SWIMMERS Poetry/Poem by George Sterling (1869-1926)

WE were eight fishers of the western sea,
Who sailed our craft beside a barren land,
Where harsh with pines the herdless mountains stand
And lonely beaches be.

There no man dwells, and ships go seldom past;
Yet sometimes there we lift our keels ashore,
To rest in safety ‘mid the broken roar
And mist of surges vast.

One strand we know, remote from all the rest,
Far north and south the cliffs are high and steep,
Whose naked leagues of rock repel the deep,
Insurgent from the west.

Tawny it lies, untrodden e’er by man,
Save when from storm we sought its narrow rift
To beach our craft and light a fire of drift
And sleep till day began.

Along its sands no flower nor bird has home.
Abrupt its breast, girt by no splendor save
The whorled and curving emerald of the wave
And scarves of rustling foam.

A place of solemn beauty; yet we swore,
By all the ocean stars’ unhasting flight,
To seek no refuge for another night
Upon that haunted shore.

That year a sombre autumn held the earth.
At dawn we sailed from out our village bay;
We sang; a taut wind leapt along the day;
The sea-birds mocked our mirth.

Southwest we drave, like arrows to a mark;
Ere set of sun the coast was far to lee,
Where thundered over by the white-hooved sea
The reefs lie gaunt and dark.

But when we would have cast our hooks, the main
Grew wroth a-sudden, and our captains said:
“Seek we a shelter.” And the west was red;
God gave his winds the rein.

And eastward lay the sands of which I told;
Thither we fled, and on the narrow beach
Drew up our keels beyond the lessening reach
Of waters green and cold.

Then set the wounded sun. The wind blew clean
The skies. A wincing star came forth at last.
We heard like mighty tollings on the blast
The shock of waves unseen.

The wide-winged Eagle hovered overhead;
The Scorpion crept slowly in the south
To pits below the horizon; in its mouth
Lay a young moon that bled.

And from our fire the ravished flame swept back,
Like yellow hair of one who flies apace,
Compelled in lands barbarian to race
With lions on her track.

Then from the maelstroms of the surf arose
Wild laughter, mystical, and up the sands
Came Two that walked with intertwining hands
Amid those ocean snows.

Ghostly they shone before the lofty spray–
Fairer than gods and naked as the moon,
The foamy fillets at their ankles strewn
Less marble-white than they.

Laughing they stood, then to our beacon’s glare
Drew nearer, as we watched in mad surprise
The scarlet-flashing lips, the sea-green eyes,
The red and tangled hair.

Then spoke the god (goddess and god they seemed),
In harplike accents of a tongue unknown–
About his brows the dripping locks were blown;
Like wannest gold he gleamed.

Staring we sat; again the Vision spoke.
Beyond his form we saw the billows rave,–
The leap of those white leopards in the wave,–
The spume of seas that broke.

Yet sat we mute, for then a human word
Seemed folly’s worst. And scorn began to trace
Its presence on the wild, imperious face;
Again the red lips stirred,

But spoke not. In an instant we were free
From that enchantment: fleet as deer they turned
And sudden amber leapt the sands they spurned.
We saw them meet the sea.

We heard the seven-chorded surf, unquelled,
Call in one thunder to the granite walls;
But over all, like broken clarion-calls,
Disdainful laughter welled.

Then silence, save for cloven wave and wind.
Our fire had faltered on its little dune.
Far out a fog-wall reared, and hid the moon.
The night lay vast and blind.

Silent, we waited the assuring morn,
Which rose on angered waters. But we set
Our hooded prows to sea, and, tempest-wet,
Beat up the coast forlorn.

And no man scorned our tale, for well they knew
Had mystery befallen: in our eyes
Were alien terrors and unknown surmise.
Men saw the tale was true.

And no man seeks a refuge on that shore,
Tho tempests gather in impelling skies;
Unseen, unsolved, unhazarded it lies,
Forsaken evermore.

For on those sands immaculate and lone
Perchance They list the sea’s immeasured lyre,
When sunset casts an evanescent fire
Thro billows thunder-sown.

THE SKELETON IN ARMOR Poetry/Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

“SPEAK! speak! thou fearful guest!
Who, with thy hollow breast
Still in rude armor drest,
Comest to daunt me!
Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
But with thy fleshless palms
Stretched, as if asking alms,
Why dost thou haunt me?”

Then, from those cavernous eyes
Pale flashes seemed to rise,
As when the Northern skies
Gleam in December;
And, like the water’s flow
Under December’s snow,
Came a dull voice of woe
From the heart’s chamber.

“I was a Viking old!
My deeds, though manifold,
No Skald in song has told,
No Saga taught thee!
Take heed, that in thy verse
Thou dost the tale rehearse,
Else dread a dead man’s curse;
For this I sought thee.

“Far in the Northern Land,
By the wild Baltic’s strand,
I, with my childish hand,
Tamed the gerfalcon;
And, with my skates fast-bound,
Skimmed the half-frozen Sound,
That the poor whimpering hound
Trembled to walk on.

“Oft to his frozen lair
Tracked I the grisly bear,
While from my path the hare
Fled like a shadow;
Oft through the forest dark
Followed the were-wolf’s bark,
Until the soaring lark
Sang from the meadow.

“But when I older grew,
Joining the corsair’s crew,
O’er the dark sea I flew
With the marauders.
Wild was the life we led;
Many the souls that sped,
Many the hearts that bled,
By our stern orders.

“Many a wassail-bout
Wore the long winter out;
Often our midnight shout
Set the cocks crowing.
As we the Berserk’s tale
Measured in cups of ale,
Draining the oaken pail,
Filled to o’erflowing.

“Once as I told in glee
Tales from the stormy sea,
Soft eyes did gaze on me,
Burning yet tender;
And as the white stars shine
On the dark Norway pine,
On that dark heart of mine
Fell their soft splendor.

“I wooed the blue-eyed maid,
Yielding, yet half afraid,
And in the forest’s shade
Our vows were plighted.
Under its loosened vest
Fluttered her little breast,
Like birds within their nest
By the hawk frighted.

“Bright in her father’s hall
Shields gleamed upon the wall,
Loud sang the minstrels all,
Chanting his glory;
When of old Hildebrand
I asked his daughter’s hand,
Mute did the minstrels stand
To hear my story.

“While the brown ale he quaffed,
Loud then the champion laughed,
And as the wind-gusts waft
The sea-foam brightly,
So the loud laugh of scorn,
Out of those lips unshorn,
From the deep drinking-horn
Blew the foam lightly.

“She was a Prince’s child,
I but a Viking wild,
And though she blushed and smiled,
I was discarded!
Should not the dove so white
Follow the sea-mew’s flight,
Why did they leave that night
Her nest unguarded?

“Scarce had I put to sea,
Bearing the maid with me,
Fairest of all was she
Among the Norsemen!
When on the white sea-strand,
Waving his arméd hand,
Saw we old Hildebrand,
With twenty horsemen.

“Then launched they to the blast,
Bent like a reed each mast,
Yet we were gaining fast,
When the wind failed us;
And with a sudden flaw
Came round the gusty Skaw,
So that our foe we saw
Laugh as he hailed us.

“And as to catch the gale
Round veered the flapping sail,
‘Death!’ was the helmsman’s hail,
‘Death without quarter!’
Midships with iron keel,
Struck we her ribs of steel;
Down her black hulk did reel
Through the black water!

“As with his wings aslant,
Sails the fierce cormorant,
Seeking some rocky haunt,
With his prey laden,
So toward the open main,
Beating to sea again,
Through the wild hurricane,
Bore I the maiden.

“Three weeks we westward bore,
And when the storm was o’er,
Cloudlike we saw the shore
Stretching to leeward;
There for my lady’s bower
Built I a lofty tower,
Which, to this very hour,
Stands looking seaward.

“There lived we many years;
Time dried the maiden’s tears;
She had forgot her fears,
She was a mother;
Death closed her mild blue eyes,
Under that tower she lies;
Ne’er shall the sun arise
On such another!

“Still grew my bosom then,
Still as a stagnant fen!
Hateful to me were men,
The sunlight hateful!
In the vast forest here,
Clad in my warlike gear,
Fell I upon my spear,
Oh, death was grateful!

“Thus, seamed with many scars,
Bursting these prison bars,
Up to its native stars
My soul ascended!
There from the flowing bowl
Deep drinks the warrior’s soul,
Skoal! to the Northland! skoal!”
–Thus the tale ended.

THE INN OF THE FIVE CHIMNEYS Poetry/Poem by Clinton Scollard (1860-1932)

IT had five chimneys, had that Inn,
(As every man has senses five,
The while upon earth he bides alive)
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

The clapboards, warped and gray, showed stains
Of more than an hundred autumn rains;
No birds sang about the eaves,
Only the leaves, only the leaves,
Murmured in a minor weird
As though they shrank, as though they feared,–
Feared some blind, inscrutable thing,
And ever they kept on murmuring.
Upon the window-panes the dust
Was caked and cracked like a wizened crust,–
A grimy crust that none would touch
Unless he felt gaunt famine’s clutch.
Mould made dank and dark each door,
And every lintel and every floor
With the drifting silt of the years was deep;
And shapes that crawl and writhe and creep
Traced strange arabesques over all.

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

Above, in the long low dancing-hall,
You could hear the death-watch in the wall,
A sound that seemed to jibe and mock
Like the eerie tick of a ghostly clock.
In every corner and crevice hung
Spider-tapestries that clung
To the crumbling mortar,–grim festoons;
And the wraith of ancient rigadoons
Floated faintly, as though unseen
Fiddlers fingered the chorded bow,
And maskers, antic of garb and mien,
Flitted in sinuous to and fro.

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

And every chamber, wide and bare,
Breathed on the dim and moated air
Spectral echoings,–doubts and fears,
Hates and loves of the parted years;
And every hallway and every stair
Creaked and groaned with the gruesome tread
Of those long silent, of those long dead,–
Youth, in its radiant rainbow guise;
Wrinkled Age, with its shrunken eyes;
Honor, garbed in the mail of Trust;
Poverty, Riches and slinking Lust;
Oh, what a motley!–vanished quite
Into the vastnesses of night!

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

And so I left it standing still
And stark by the crossroads under the hill,
With its sagging roof and its rotting beams,
And all of its tangled maze of dreams.
But it holds me, aye, it haunts me yet,
Like a hooded vision of Regret,
Though I fain would say to it, “Be gone!”
As to the night mists saith the dawn.
And yet I needs must let it dwell
In memory till some happy spell
Shall bid it be invisible!
Come, healing spirit, and touch my soul,
And make it sweet and sane and whole!

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
(As every man has senses five,
The while upon earth he bides alive)
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

IDENTITY Poetry/Poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1906)

SOMEWHERE–in desolate wind-swept space–
In Twilight-land–in No-man’s land–
Two hurrying Shapes met face to face,
And bade each other stand.

“And who are you?” cried one a-gape,
Shuddering in the gloaming light.
“I know not,” said the second Shape,
“I only died last night!”

GHOSTS OF A LUNATIC ASYLUM Poetry/Poem by Stephen Vincent Benét

HERE, where men’s eyes were empty and as bright
As the blank windows set in glaring brick,
When the wind strengthens from the sea–and night
Drops like a fog and makes the breath come thick;

By the deserted paths, the vacant hills,
One may see figures, twisted shades and lean,
Like the mad shapes that crawl on Indian screen,
Or paunchy smears you find on prison walls.

Turn the knob gently! There’s the Thumbless Man,
Still weaving glass and silk into a dream,
Although the wall shows through him–and the Khan
Journeys Cathay beside a paper stream.

A Rabbit Woman chitters by the door–
–Chilly the grave-smell comes from the turned sod–
Come–lift the curtain–and be cold before
The silence of the eight men who were God!

THE GHOST Poetry/Poem by Charles Baudelaire

SOFTLY as brown-eyed Angels rove
I will return to thy alcove,
And glide upon the night to thee,
Treading the shadows silently.

And I will give to thee, my own,
Kisses as icy as the moon,
And the caresses of a snake
Cold gliding in the thorny brake.

And when returns the livid morn
Thou shalt find all my place forlorn
And chilly, till the falling night.

Others would rule by tenderness
Over thy life and youthfulness,
But I would conquer thee by fright!

THE FAIRIES Poetry/Poem by William Allingham (1824-1889)

UP the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music
On cold starry nights
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
If any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

THE DANCE OF DEATH Poetry/Poem by Charles Baudelaire

CARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
And the extravagant courtesan’s thin face.

Was slimmer waist e’er in a ball-room wooed?
Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.

The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes

Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
O charm of nothing decked in folly! they

Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!

Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
To Pleasure’s Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?

Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?

Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
Eternal alembic of antique distress!
Still o’er the curved, white trellis of your sides
The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.

And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
Among us here, no lover to your mind;
Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
The charms of horror please none but the brave.

Your eyes’ black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.

For he who has not folded in his arms
A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.

O irresistible, with fleshless face,
Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
“Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!

Withered Antinoüs, dandies with plump faces,
Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.

From Seine’s cold quays to Ganges’ burning stream,
The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
They do not see, within the opened sky,
The Angel’s sinister trumpet raised on high.

In every clime and under every sun,
Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye
And mingles with your madness, irony!”


Leave a Comment