Adelaide Crapsey


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Ah, Walter, where you live I rue
These days come all too late for me;
What matter if her eyes are blue
Whose rival is Persephone?

Fiesole, 1909.

Page  62


White doves of Cytherea, by your quest
Across the blue Heaven's bluest highest air,
And by your certain homing to Love's breast,
Still to be true and ever true—I swear.
Page  63


The shadowy boy of night
Crosses the dusking land;
He sows his poppy-seeds
With steady gentle hand.
The shadowy boy of night,
Young husbandman of dreams,
Garners his gracious blooms
By far and moonlit streams.
Page  64


Little my lacking fortunes show
For this to eat and that to wear;
Yet laughing, Soul, and gaily go!
An obol pays the Stygian fare.

London, 1910.

Page  65


Is it as plainly in our living shown,
By slant and twist, which way the wind hath blown?
Page  66


Sun and wind and beat of sea,
Great lands stretching endlessly…
Where be bonds to bind the free?
All the world was made for me!
Page  67


Oh, Lady, let the sad tears fall
To speak thy pain,
Gently as through the silver dusk
The silver rain.
Oh, let thy bosom breathe its grief
In such a soft sigh
As hath the wind in gardens where
Pale roses die.
Page  68


Never the nightingale,
Oh, my dear,
Never again the lark
Thou wilt hear;
Though dusk and the morning still
Tap at thy window-sill,
Though ever love call and call
Thou wilt not hear at all,
My dear, my dear.
Page  69


Every day,
Every day,
Tell the hours
By their shadows,
By their shadows.
Page  70


More dim than waning moon
Thy face, more faint
Than is the falling wind
Thy voice, yet do
Thine eyes most strangely glow,
Thou ghost… thou ghost.
Page  71


Ah me, my love's heart,
Like some frail flower, apart,
High, on the cliff's edge growing,
Touched by unhindered sun to sweeter showing,
Swung by each faint wind's faintest blowing,
But so, on the cliff's edge growing,
From man's reach aloof, apart:
Ah me, my love's heart!
Alack, alas, my lover,
As one who would discover
At world's end his path,
Nor knows at all what faëry way he hath
Who turneth dreaming into faith
And followeth that near path
His own heart dareth to discover:
Alack, alas, my lover!
Page  72


(Girl's Song)
In Babylon, in Nineveh,
And long ago, and far away,
The lilies and the lotus blew
That are my sweet of youth to-day.
From those high gardens of the Gods
That eyes of men may never see,
The amaranth and asphodel
Immortal odours shed on me.
In vial of my early years,
As in a crystal vial held,
What precious fragrance treasured up
Of age and agelessness distill'd.
Thine but to give. Give straightway all.
Yea, straight, mine hands the ointment rare
In great libation joyous pour!
Oh, look of youth…Oh, golden hair…
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All day, all day I brush
My golden strands of hair;
All day I wait and wait…
Ah, who is there?
Who calls? Who calls? The gold
Ladder of my long hair
I loose and wait…and wait…
Ah, who is there?
She left at dawn…I am blind
In the tangle of my long hair…
Is it she? the witch? the witch?
Ah, who is there?
Page  74


My songs to sell, good sir!
I pray you buy.
Here's one will win a lady's tears,
Here's one will make her gay,
Here's one will charm your true love true
Forever and a day;
Good sir, I pray you buy!
Oh, no, he will not buy.
My songs to sell, sweet maid!
I pray you buy.
This one will teach you Lilith's lore,
And this what Helen knew,
And this will keep your gold hair gold,
And this your blue eyes blue;
Sweet maid, I pray you buy!
Oh, no, she will not buy.
If I'd as much money as I could tell,
I never would cry my songs to sell,
I never would cry my songs to sell.
Page  75


"Belle Aliz marin leva."
Avis, the fair, at dawn
Rose lightly from her bed,
Herself arrayed.
Avis, the fair, the maid,
In vestiment of lawn;
Across the fields she sped,
Five flowerets there she found,
In fragrant garland wound,
Avis, the fair, at dawn,
Five roses red.
Go thou from thence of thy pity!
Thou lovest not me.
Page  76


Peter stands by the gate,
And Michael by the throne.
"Peter, I would pass the gate
And come before the throne."
"Whose spirit prayed never at the gate,
In life nor at the throne,
In death he may not pass the gate
To come before the throne":
Peter said from the gate;
Said Michael from the throne.
Page  77


Scarlet the poppies
Blue the corn-flowers,
Golden the wheat.
Gold for The Eternal:
Blue for Our Lady:
Red for the five
Wounds of her Son
Page  78


I make my shroud but no one knows,
So shimmering fine it is and fair,
With stitches set in even rows.
I make my shroud but no one knows.
In door-way where the lilac blows,
Humming a little wandering air,
I make my shroud and no one knows,
So shimmering fine it is and fair.
Page  79


For Aubrey Beardsley's picture "Pierrot is dying."
Pierrot is dying;
Tiptoe in,
Finger touched to lip,
Columbine and Clown.
Hush! how still he lies
In his bed,
White slipped hand and white
Sunken head.
Oh, poor Pierrot.
There's his dressing-gown
Across the chair,
Slippers on the floor…
Can he hear
Us who tiptoe in?
Pillowed high he lies
In his bed;
Listen, Columbine.
"He is dead."
Oh, poor Pierrot.
Page  80


He comes from Mass early in the morning
The sky's the very blue Madonna wears;
The air's alive with gold! Mark you the way
The birds sing and the dusted shimmer of dew
On leaf and fruit?... Per Bacco, what a day!
Page  81


Written in a Moment of Exasperation
How can you lie so still? All day I watch
And never a blade of all the green sod moves
To show where restlessly you turn and toss,
Or fling a desperate arm or draw up knees
Stiffened and aching from their long disuse;
I watch all night and not one ghost comes forth
To take its freedom of the midnight hour.
Oh, have you no rebellion in your bones?
The very worms must scorn you where you lie,
A pallid, mouldering, acquiescent folk,
Meek habitants of unresented graves.
Why are you there in your straight row on row
Where I must ever see you from my bed
That in your mere dumb presence iterate
The text so weary in my ears: "Lie still
And rest; be patient and lie still and rest."
I'll not be patient! I will not lie still!
Page  82
There is a brown road runs between the pines,
And further on the purple woodlands lie,
And still beyond blue mountains lift and loom;
And I would walk the road and I would be
Deep in the wooded shade and I would reach
The windy mountain tops that touch the clouds.
My eyes may follow but my feet are held.
Recumbent as you others must I too
Submit? Be mimic of your movelessness
With pillow and counterpane for stone and sod?
And if the many sayings of the wise
Teach of submission I will not submit
But with a spirit all unreconciled
Flash an unquenched defiance to the stars.
Better it is to walk, to run, to dance,
Better it is to laugh and leap and sing,
To know the open skies of dawn and night,
To move untrammeled down the flaming noon,
And I will clamour it through weary days
Keeping the edge of deprivation sharp,
Nor with the pliant speaking of my lips
Of resignation, sister to defeat.
I'll not be patient. I will not lie still.
And in ironic quietude who is
The despot of our days and lord of dust
Needs but, scarce heeding, wait to drop
Grim casual comment on rebellion's end;
"Yes, yes…Wilful and petulant but now
Page  83
As dead and quiet as the others are."
And this each body and ghost of you hath heard
That in your graves do therefore lie so still.
Saranac Lake, N. Y. 1914.
Page  84


I have no heart for noon-tide and the sun,
But I will take me where more tender night
Shakes, fold on fold, her dewy darkness down,
And shelters me that I may weep in peace,
And feel no pitying eyes, and hear no voice
Attempt my grief in comfort's alien tongue.
Where cypresses, more black than night is black,
Border straight paths, or where, on hillside slopes,
The dim grey glimmer of the olive trees
Lies like a breath, a ghost, upon the dark,
There will I wander when the nightingale
Ceases, and even the veiled stars withdraw
Their tremulous light, there find myself at rest,
A silence and a shadow in the gloom.
But all the dead of all the world shall know
The pacing of my sable-sandal'd feet,
And know my tear-drenched veil along the grass,
And think them less forsaken in their graves,
Saying: There's one remembers, one still mourns;
For the forgotten dead are dead indeed.
Page  85


I have minded me
Of the noon-day brightness,
And the crickets' drowsy
Singing in the sunshine…
I have minded me
Of the slim marsh-grasses
That the winds at twilight,
Dying, scarcely ripple…
And I cannot sleep.
I have minded me
Of a lily-pond,
Where the waters sway
All the moonlit leaves
And the curled long stems…
And I cannot sleep.
Page  86


Little Sister Rose-Marie,
Will thy feet as willing-light
Run through Paradise, I wonder,
As they run the blue skies under,
Willing feet, so airy-light?
Little Sister Rose-Marie,
Will thy voice as bird-note clear
Lift and ripple over Heaven
As its mortal sound is given,
Swift bird-voice, so young and clear?
How God will be glad of thee,
Little Sister Rose-Marie!
Page  87


Have you seen Angélique,
What way she went?
A white robe she wore,
A flickering light near spent
Her pale hand bore.
Have you seen Angélique?
Will she know the place
Dead feet must find,
The grave-cloth on her face
To make her blind?
Have you seen Angélique…
At night I hear her moan,
And I shiver in my bed;
She wanders all alone,
She cannot find the dead.
Page  88


The rose new-opening saith,
And the dew of the morning saith,
(Fallen leaves and vanished dew)
Remember death.
Ding dong bell
Ding dong bell
May-moon thin and young
In the sky,
Ere you wax and wane
I shall die:
So my faltering breath,
So my tired heart saith,
That foretell me death.
Ding-dong ding-dong bell
Page  89
"Thy gold hair likes me well
And thy blue eyes," he saith,
Who chooses where he will
And none may hinder—Death.
At head and feet for candles
Roses burning red,
The valley lilies tolling
For the early dead:
Ding-dong ding-dong
Ding-dong ding-dong
Ding-dong ding-dong bell
Ding dong bell
Page  90


Grey gaolers are my griefs
That will not let me free;
The bitterness of tears
Is warder unto me.
I may not leap or run;
I may nor laugh nor sing.
"Thy cell is small," they say,
"Be still thou captived thing."
But in the dusk of the night,
Too sudden-swift to see,
Closing and ivory gates
Are refuge unto me.
My griefs, my tears must watch,
And cold the watch they keep;
They whisper, whisper there—
I hear them in my sleep.
They know that I must come,
And patient watch they keep,
Page  91
Whispering, shivering there,
Till I come back from sleep.
But in the dark of a night,
Too dark for them to see,
The refuge of black gates
Will open unto me.
Whisper up there in the dark…
Shiver by bleak winds stung…
My dead lips laugh to hear
How long you wait…how long!
Grey gaolers are my griefs
That will not let me free;
The bitterness of tears
Is warder unto me.
Page  92


Have ye forgot, sweet birds,
How near the heavens lie?
Drooping, sick-pinion'd, oh
Have ye forgot the sky?
The air that once I knew
Whispered celestial things;
I weep who hear no more
Upward and rushing wings.
Page  93


When I was a girl by Nilus stream
I watched the desert stars arise;
My lover, he who dreamed the Sphinx,
Learned all his dreaming from my eyes.
I bore in Greece a burning name,
And I have been in Italy
Madonna to a painter-lad,
And mistress to a Medici.
And have you heard (and I have heard)
Of puzzled men with decorous mien,
Who judged—The wench knows far too much—
And hanged her on the Salem green?
Page  94


Hear thou my lamentatïon,
Eros, Aphrodite's son!
My heart is broken and my days are done.
Where the woods are dark and the stream runs clear in the dark,
I prayed to thy mother and planted the seeds of her flowers,
And smiled at the planting and wept at the planting. Oh, violets
Ye are dead and your whiteness, your sweetness, availed not. Thy mother
Is cruel. Her flowers lie dead at the steps of her altar,
Eros! Eros!
With a shining like silver they cut through the blue of the sky
The dove's wings, the white doves I brought to thy mother in worship;
Page  96
And I said, she will laugh for joy of my doves.
Oh, stillness
Of dead wings. She laughed not nor looked.
My doves are dead,
Are dead at the steps of her altar. Thy mother is cruel
Eros! Eros!
Hear thou my lamentatïon,
Eros, Aphrodite's son!
My heart is broken and my days are done.
Page  95


Madonna, Madonna,
Sat by the grey road-side,
Saint Joseph her beside,
And Our Lord at her breast;
Oh they were fain to rest,
Mary and Joseph and Jesus,
All by the grey road-side.
She said, Madonna Mary,
"I am hungry, Joseph, and weary,
All in the desert wide."
Then bent a tall palm-tree
Its branches low to her knee;
"Behold," the palm-tree said,
"My fruit that shall be your bread."
So were they satisfied,
Mary and Joseph and Jesus,
All by the grey road-side.
From Herod they were fled
Over the desert wide,
Mary and Joseph and Jesus,
In Egypt to abide:
Page  97
Mary and Joseph and Jesus,
In Egypt to abide.
The blessèd Queen of Heaven
Her own dear Son hath given
For my son's sake; his sleep
Is safe and sweet and deep.
So may you sleep alway,
My baby, my dear son:
Amen, Amen, Amen.
My baby, my dear son.
Page  98


Too far afield thy search. Nay, turn. Nay, turn.
At thine own elbow potent Memory stands,
Thy double, and eternity is cupped
In the pale hollow of those ghostly hands.
Page  99


In the cold I will rise, I will bathe
In waters of ice; myself
Will shiver, and shrive myself,
Alone in the dawn, and anoint
Forehead and feet and hands;
I will shutter the windows from light,
I will place in their sockets the four
Tall candles and set them a-flame
In the grey of the dawn; and myself
Will lay myself straight in my bed,
And draw the sheet under my chin.
Page  100


Lo, all the way,
Look you, I said, the clouds will break, the sky
Grow clear, the road
Be easier for my travelling, the fields,
So sodden and dead,
Will shimmer with new green and starry bloom,
And there will be,
There will be then, with all serene and fair,
Some little while
For some light laughter in the sun; and lo,
The journey's end,—
Grey road, grey fields, wind and a bitter rain.
Page  101


Fugitive, wistful,
Pausing at edge of her going,
Autumn the maiden turns,
Leans to the earth with ineffable
Gesture. Ah, more than
Spring's skies her skies shine
Tender, and frailer
Bloom than plum-bloom or almond
Lies on her hillsides, her fields
Misted, faint-flushing. Ah, lovelier
Is her refusal than
Yielding, who pauses with grave
Backward smiling, with light
Unforgettable touch of
Fingers withdrawn…Pauses, lo
Vanishes…fugitive, wistful…
Page  102


The clustered Gods, the marching lads,
The mighty-limbed, deep-bosomed Three,
The shimmering grey-gold London fog…
I wish that Phidias could see!
Page  103


And the centurion who stood by said:
Truly this was a son of God.
Not long ago but everywhere I go
There is a hill and a black windy sky.
Portent of hill, sky, day's eclipse I know:
Hill, sky, the shuddering darkness, these am I.
The dying at His right hand, at His left
I am—the thief redeemed and the lost thief;
I am the careless folk; I those bereft,
The Well-Belov'd, the women bowed in grief.
The gathering Presence that in terror cried,
In earth's shock, in the Temple's veil rent through,
I; and a watcher, ignorant, curious-eyed,
I the centurion who heard and knew.
Page  104


"There'll be no roof to shelter you;
You'll have no where to lay your head.
And who will get your food for you?
Star-dust pays for no man's bread.
So, Jacky, come give me your fiddle
If ever you mean to thrive."
"I'll have the skies to shelter me,
The green grass it shall be my bed,
And happen I'll find somewhere for me
A sup of drink, a bit of bread.;
And I'll not give my fiddle
To any man alive."
And it's out he went across the wold,
His fiddle tucked beneath his chin,
And (golden bow on silver strings.)
Smiling he fiddled the twilight in;
And fiddled in the frosty moon,
And all the stars of the Milky Way,
Page  105
And fiddled low through the dark of dawn,
And laughed and fiddled in the day.
But oh, he had no bit nor sup,
And oh, the winds blew stark and cold,
And when he dropped on his grass-green bed
It's long he slept on the open wold.
They digged his grave and, "There," they said,
"He's got more land than ever he had,
And well it will keep him held and housed,
The feckless bit of a fiddling lad."
And it's out he's stepped across the wold
His fiddle tucked beneath his chin—
A wavering shape in the wavering light,
Smiling he fiddles the twilight in,
And fiddles in the frosty moon,
And all the stars of the Milky Way,
And fiddles low through the dark of dawn,
And laughs and fiddles in the day.
He needeth not or bit or sup,
The winds of night he need not fear,
And (bow of gold on silver strings)
It's all the peoples turn to hear.
"Oh never," It's all the people cry,
"Came such sweet sounds from mortal hand"
Page  106
And, "Listen," they say, "it's some ghostly boy
That goes a-fiddling through the land.
Hark you! It's night comes slipping in,—
The moon and the stars that tread the sky;
And there's the breath of the world that stops;
And now with a shout the sun comes by!"
Who heareth him he heedeth not
But smiles content, the fiddling lad;
"He murmurs, "Oh many's the happy day,
My fiddle and I together have had;
And could I give my fiddle
To any man alive?"
Page  107


Wouldst thou find my ashes? Look
In the pages of my book;
And, as these thy hand doth turn,
Know here is my funeral urn.