Edgar Fawcett (1847-1904)
"From Fantasy and Passion (1878); Song and Story (1884); and Romance and Reverie (1886). This charming poet and novelist is one of the most noteworthy sonnet-writers in America. Perhaps the ablest of his romances are An Ambitious Woman, Olivia Delaplaine, and The Confessions of Claude." (Sharp)
I sometimes muse, when my adventurous gaze
Has roamed the starry arches of the night,
That were I dowered with strong angelic sight,
All would look changed in those pale heavenly ways.
What wheeling worlds my vision would amaze!
What chasms of gloom would thrill me and affright!
What rhythmic equipoise would rouse delight!
What moons would beam on me, what suns would blaze!
Then through my awed soul sweeps the larger thought
Of how creation's edict may have set
Vast human multitudes on those far spheres
With towering passions to which mine mean naught,
With majesties of happiness, or yet
With agonies of unconjectured tears!
A giant of awful strength, he dumbly lies
Far-prisoned among the solemn deeps of earth;
The sinewy grandeurs of his captive girth,--
His great-thewed breast, colossally-moulded thighs,
And arms thick-roped with muscle of mighty size,
Repose in slumber where no dream gives birth
For months, even years, to any grief or mirth;
A slumber of tranquil lips, calm-lidded eyes!
Yet sometimes to his spirit a dream will creep
Of the old glad past when clothed in dauntless pride
He walked the world, unchained by tyrannous powers;
And then, while he tosses restlessly in sleep,
Dark, terrible graves for living shapes yawn wide,
Or a city shrieks among her tottering towers!
Dulled to a drowsy fire, one hardly sees
The sun in heaven, where this broad smoky round
Lies ever brooding at the horizon's bound;
And through the gaunt knolls, on monotonous leas
Or through the damp wood's troops of naked trees,
Rustling the brittle ruin along their ground,
Like sighs from souls of perished hours, resound
The melancholy melodies of the breeze!
So ghostly and strange a look the blurred world wears,
Viewed from the flowerless garden's dreary squares,
That now, while these weird vaporous days exist,
It would not seem a marvel if where we walk,
We met, dim-glimmering on its thorny stalk,
Some pale intangible rose with leaves of mist!
What footstep but has wandered free and far
Amid that Castle of Sleep whose walls were planned
By no terrestrial craft, no human hand,
With towers that point to no recorded star?
Here sorrows, memories, and remorses are,
Roaming the long, dim rooms or galleries grand;
Here the lost friends our spirits yet demand
Gleam through mysterious door-ways left ajar.
But of the uncounted throngs that ever win
The halls where Slumber's dusky witcheries rule,
Who after wakening, may reveal aright
By what phantasmal means he entered in?--
What porch of cloud, what vapory vestibule,
What stairway quarried from the mines of night?
Strange that in your dark-dappled sanguine flower
The sculpturesque repose can still endure
Of that celestial lily, wrought so pure
It lives as chastity's white type this hour!
By what mysterious art, what baleful power,
Did you, Diana of all blooms, allure
From Nature's mood this Maenad vestiture,
And mock with gaudy tints your taintless dower?
Nay, long ago, I dream, through some warm dell
Of Asian lands a weary tiger stole
Where you, in pale bud, felt your first dews cling;
And while he slept beneath you, it befell
That all his deadly beauty pierced your soul
And made you this fantastic sultry thing!
All search of yours but ineffectual seems
To gain some coign of refuge, year by year;
Since far in loneliest woods, in wastes austere,
Winds call, beasts wander, or yet the vulture screams.
With hated sounds of life all nature teems,
And even among the deeps of sleep you hear
Voices now clad in distance or now clear,
That float forever from the lips of dreams!
But weary of spirit, and affrighted too,
At last you hurry away, with footsteps fleet,
To find, in chaos, torpor, and eclipse,
Death, your one lover inalienably true,
Encircled by whose ghostly arms you meet
The awful icy passion of his lips!
Invisible as a wind along the sky,
She ever wanders o'er the earth immense,
A spirit of beauty but malevolence,
With foot unechoing and with furtive eye.
She loathes and shuns all haunts where peace may lie,
Or love, and every joy engendered thence,
Yet prowls to wait, with wary and avid sense,
For sorrow's heaviest and most burning sigh!
Then, when some dreary sufferer darkly fails
To find in life's chill heaven one starry trace,
One hope no menace of despair assails,
Toward him she steals with sure insidious pace,
And slowly to his desperate look unveils
The maddening glooms and splendours of her face!
To T. S. S.
"C'était un démon se tordant sous un ange.
Un enfer sous un ciel."
Seeing thy face, with all thy fluctuant hair
Falling in dull-gold opulence from thy brow,
Watching thy light-blue eyes, now fired or now
Laughterful, or now dim as with despair,
I wonder, friend, that it should be God's care
To have made at all, what matter when or how,
A being so sadly, desolately rare,
So beautifully incomplete as thou!
O rank black pool, with one star's imaged form!
O sweet rich-hearted rose, with rot at core!
O summer heaven, half purpled by stern storm!
O lily, with one white leaf dipt in gore!
O angel-shape, whereover curves and clings
The awful imminence of a devil's wings!
Troubled in spirit at the unvaried ways
Wherewith perpetually I seemed to view,
In regular and familiar retinue,
Coming and going, the processional days,
I yearned to mark with many a novel phase
This round of dull monotonies that I knew,
And treat life's commonplaces, dreary of hue,
As phantoms that the intellect sternly lays!
But wheresoe'er my wandering feet might be,
Like some persistent word that memory saith,
Or like a ship's own shadow on wastes of sea,
Or the very wind's inevitable breath,
I found, among all changes, following me
The dark ubiquitous commonplace of death!
A yellow sunset, soft and dreamy of dye,
Met sharply by black fluctuant lines of grass;
A river, glimmering like illumined glass,
And narrowing till it ends in distant sky;
Pale scattered pools of luminous rain, that lie
In shadowy amplitudes of green morass;
A crescent that the old moon, as moments pass,
Has turned to a silver acorn hung on high!
Now through this melancholy and silent land
Sleep walks, diaphanous-vestured, vaguely fair,
Within her vaporous robe and one dim hand
Much asphodel and lotus doth she bear,
Going lovely and low-lidded, with a band
Of dull-red poppies amid her dull-gold hair!
(Text from American Sonnets)