A MAN YOUNG AND OLD I. i{First Love} THOUGH nurtured like the sailing moon In beauty's murderous brood, She walked awhile and blushed awhile And on my pathway stood Until I thought her body bore A heart of flesh and blood. But since I laid a hand thereon And found a heart of stone I have attempted many things And not a thing is done, For every hand is lunatic That travels on the moon. She smiled and that transfigured me And left me but a lout, Maundering here, and maundering there, Emptier of thought Than the heavenly circuit of its stars When the moon sails out. II. i{Human Dignity} Like the moon her kindness is, If kindness I may call What has no comprehension in't, But is the same for all As though my sorrow were a scene Upon a painted wall. So like a bit of stone I lie Under a broken tree. I could recover if I shrieked My heart's agony To passing bird, but I am dumb From human dignity. III. i{The Mermaid } A mermaid found a swimming lad, Picked him for her own, Pressed her body to his body, Laughed; and plunging down Forgot in cruel happiness That even lovers drown. IV. i{The Death of the Hare} I have pointed out the yelling pack, The hare leap to the wood, And when I pass a compliment Rejoice as lover should At the drooping of an eye, At the mantling of the blood. Then' suddenly my heart is wrung By her distracted air And I remember wildness lost And after, swept from there, Am set down standing in the wood At the death of the hare. V. i{The Empty Cup} A crazy man that found a cup, When all but dead of thirst, Hardly dared to wet his mouth Imagining, moon-accursed, That another mouthful And his beating heart would burst. October last I found it too But found it dry as bone, And for that reason am I crazed And my sleep is gone. VI. i{His Memories} We should be hidden from their eyes, Being but holy shows And bodies broken like a thorn Whereon the bleak north blows, To think of buried Hector And that none living knows. The women take so little stock In what I do or say They'd sooner leave their cosseting To hear a jackass bray; My arms are like the twisted thorn And yet there beauty lay; The first of all the tribe lay there And did such pleasure take -- She who had brought great Hector down And put all Troy to wreck -- That she cried into this ear, 'Strike me if I shriek.' VII. i{The Friends of his Youth} Laughter not time destroyed my voice And put that crack in it, And when the moon's pot-bellied I get a laughing fit, For that old Madge comes down the lane, A stone upon her breast, And a cloak wrapped about the stone, And she can get no rest With singing hush and hush-a-bye; She that has been wild And barren as a breaking wave Thinks that the stone's a child. And Peter that had great affairs And was a pushing man Shrieks, 'I am King of the Peacocks,' And perches on a stone; And then I laugh till tears run down And the heart thumps at my side, Remembering that her shriek was love And that he shrieks from pride. VIII. i{Summer and Spring} We sat under an old thorn-tree And talked away the night, Told all that had been said or done Since first we saw the light, And when we talked of growing up Knew that we'd halved a soul And fell the one in t'other's arms That we might make it whole; Then peter had a murdering look, For it seemed that he and she Had spoken of their childish days Under that very tree. O what a bursting out there was, And what a blossoming, When we had all the summer-time And she had all the spring! IX. i{The Secrets of the Old} I have old women's secrets now That had those of the young; Madge tells me what I dared not think When my blood was strong, And what had drowned a lover once Sounds like an old song. Though Margery is stricken dumb If thrown in Madge's way, We three make up a solitude; For none alive to-day Can know the stories that we know Or say the things we say: How such a man pleased women most Of all that are gone, How such a pair loved many years And such a pair but one, Stories of the bed of straw Or the bed of down. X. i{His Wildness} O bid me mount and sail up there Amid the cloudy wrack, For peg and Meg and Paris' love That had so straight a back, Are gone away, and some that stay Have changed their silk for sack. Were I but there and none to hear I'd have a peacock cry, For that is natural to a man That lives in memory, Being all alone I'd nurse a stone And sing it lullaby. XI. i{From 'Oedipus at Colonus'} Endure what life God gives and ask no longer span; Cease to remember the delights of youth, travel-wearied aged man; Delight becomes death-longing if all longing else be vain. Even from that delight memory treasures so, Death, despair, division of families, all entanglements of mankind grow, As that old wandering beggar and these God-hated children know. In the long echoing street the laughing dancers throng, The bride is carried to the bridegroom's chamber through torchlight and tumultuous song; I celebrate the silent kiss that ends short life or long. Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say; Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have looked into the eye of day; The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.