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EMBLEMS OF LOVE



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

INTERLUDES AND POEMS


EMBLEMS OF LOVE

DESIGNED IN SEVERAL DISCOURSES
BY LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE

_"Wonder it is to see in diverse mindes
How diversly love doth his pageaunts play"


"Ego tamquam centrum, circuli, cui simili modo
se habent circumferentiæ partes"_




TO MY WIFE




TABLE

page
HYMN TO LOVE 3

PART I DISCOVERY AND PROPHECY
PRELUDE 7
VASHTI 16

PART II IMPERFECTION
THREE GIRLS IN LOVE:
MARY: A LEGEND OF THE '45 77
JEAN 94
KATRINA 109

PART III VIRGINITY AND PERFECTION
JUDITH 127
THE ETERNAL WEDDING 188

MARRIAGE SONG 200
EPILOGUE: DEDICATION 209




EMBLEMS OF LOVE




HYMN TO LOVE

We are thine, O Love, being in thee and made of thee,
As thóu, Lóve, were the déep thóught
And we the speech of the thought; yea, spoken are we,
Thy fires of thought out-spoken:

But burn'd not through us thy imagining
Like fiérce móod in a sóng cáught,
We were as clamour'd words a fool may fling,
Loose words, of meaning broken.

For what more like the brainless speech of a fool,--
The lives travelling dark fears,
And as a boy throws pebbles in a pool
Thrown down abysmal places?

Hazardous are the stars, yet is our birth
And our journeying time theirs;
As words of air, life makes of starry earth
Sweet soul-delighted faces;

As voices are we in the worldly wind;
The great wind of the world's fate
Is turned, as air to a shapen sound, to mind
And marvellous desires.

But not in the world as voices storm-shatter'd,
Not borne down by the wind's weight;
The rushing time rings with our splendid word
Like darkness filled with fires.

For Love doth use us for a sound of song,
And Love's meaning our life wields,
Making our souls like syllables to throng
His tunes of exultation.

Down the blind speed of a fatal world we fly,
As rain blown along earth's fields;
Yet are we god-desiring liturgy,
Sung joys of adoration;

Yea, made of chance and all a labouring strife,
We go charged with a strong flame;
For as a language Love hath seized on life
His burning heart to story.

Yea, Love, we are thine, the liturgy of thee.
Thy thought's golden and glad name,
The mortal conscience of immortal glee,
Love's zeal in Love's own glory.




PART I

DISCOVERY AND PROPHECY




PRELUDE


_Night on bleak downs; a high grass-grown trench runs
athwart the slope. The earthwork is manned by
warriors clad in hides. Two warriors, BRYS and
GAST, talking_.

_Gast_.
This puts a tall heart in me, and a tune
Of great glad blood flowing brave in my flesh,
To see thee, after all these moons, returned,
My Brys. If there's no rust in thy shoulder-joints,
That battle-wrath of thine, and thy good throwing,
Will be more help for us than if the dyke
Were higher by a span.--Ha! there was howling
Down in the thicket; they come soon, for sure.

_Brys_.
Has there been hunger in the forest long?

_Gast_.
I think, not only hunger makes them fierce:
They broke not long since into a village yonder,
A huge throng of them; all through the night we heard
The feasting they kept up. And that has made
The wolves blood-thirsty, I believe.

_Brys_.
O fools
To keep so slack a waking on their dykes!
Now have they made a sleepless winter for us.
Every night we must look, lest the down-slope
Between us and the woods turn suddenly
To a grey onrush full of small green candles,
The charging pack with eyes flaming for flesh.
And well for us then if there's no more mist
Than the white panting of the wolfish hunger.

_Gast_.
They'll come to-night. Three of us hunting went
Among the trees below: not long we stayed.
All the wolves of the world are in the forest,
And man's the meat they're after.

_Brys_.
Ay, it must be
Blood-thirst is in them, if they come to-night,
Such clear and starry weather.--What dost thou make,
Gast, of the stars?

_Gast_.
Brother, they're horrible.
I always keep my head as much as I may
Bent so they cannot look me in the eyes.

_Brys_.
I never had this awe. The fear I have
Is not a load I crouch beneath, but something
Proud and wonderful, that lifteth my heart.
Yea, I look on a night of stars with fear
That comes close against glee. 'Tis like the fear
I have for the wolves, that maketh me joy-mad
To drive the yellow flint-edge through their shags.
So when I gaze on stars, they speak high fear
Into my soul; and strangely I think they mean
The fear must prompt me to some unknown war.

_Gast_.
Be thou well ware of this. I have not told thee
How the stars, with their perilous overlooking,
Have raught away from all his manhood Gwat,
Our fiercest strength. For when the conquering wolves
Into that village won, we in our huts
Lay hearkening to their rejoicing hunger;
But Gwat stayed out in the stars all night long.
I peered at him as much as that whipt dog,
My heart, had daring for; and he stood stiff,
With all his senses aiming at the noise.
Some strong bad eagerness kept tightly rigged
The cordage of his body, till his nerves
Loosed on a sudden. He yelled, "What do we here,
High up among bleak winds, always afraid
Of murder from the wolves? I will be man
No more; the grey four-footed fellows have
The good meats of the world, and the best lodging,
Forest and weald." And then he wolfish howled,
And hurled off towards the snarling and the baying.
And now his soul wears the strength and fury
Of a huge dun-pelted wolf; he's the wolves' king;
And the fiends have learnt from him to laugh at our flints.
Now always in the assaults there's one great beast,
With yellow eyes and hackles like a mane,
That plays the captain, first to reach the dyke;
And I have heard that when he stands upright
To ramp against the bulwarks, in his throat
Are chattering yelps half tongued to grisly words.
Doubtless to-night thou'lt see him, leading his pack,
And with his jaws savagely tampering
With our earth-builded safety.--But now, Brys,
Is it not certain that the stars have done
This evil to Gwat's heart, and curdled all
The manhood in him?

_Brys_.
When I was wanderer,
I came upon a lake, set in a land
Which has no fear of wolves. A fisher folk
Live there in houses stilted over the water,
And the stars walk like spectres of white fire
Upon the misty waters of the mere.
Ay, if they have no wolves, they have the fear
All as thou hast; the sedges in the night
Shudder, and out of the reeds there comes a cry
Half chuckling, half bewailing; but, as I think,
It is the mallard calling. Now among
This haunted folk, I markt a man who went
With shining eyes, and a joy in his face, about
His needs of living. Clear it was to me
He knew of some sweet race in his daily wont
Which blest him wonderly. I lived with him,
And from him learnt marvels. Yea, for he gave me
A wit to see in our earth more than fear.
Brother, how shall I tell thee, who hast still
Fear-poisoned nerves, that like a priest he brewed
My heart keen drink from out the look of earth?--
Gast, is it nothing to thee that all in green
The wolds go heaping up against the blue?
And is it only fear to thee that night
Is thatched with stars?--Ah, but I took his wit
Further than he e'er did; in women I found
The same amazement for my wakened eyes
As in the hills and waters. Ay, gape at me,
And think me bitten by some evil tooth;
But as a quiet stream at the cliff's edge
Breaks its smooth habit into a loud white force,
So this delight the earth pours over me
Leaps out of women with such excellence,
It seems as I must brace my sinews to it,--
The comely fashion of their limbs, their eyes,
Their gait, and the way they use their arms. And now
My eyes have a message to my heart from them
Such as thou only through a blind skin hast.
Therefore I came back here;--I scarce know why,
But now that women are to me not only
The sacred friends of hidden Awe, not only
Mistresses of the world's unseen foison,
Ay, and not only ease for throbbing groins,
But things mine eyes enjoy as mine ears take songs,
Vision that beats a timbrel in my blood,
Dreams for my sleeping sight, that move aired round
With wonder, as trembling covers a hearth,--
It seems I must be fighting for them, must
Run through some danger to them now before
Delighting in them. I am here to fight
Wolves for the joy of the world, marvellous women!

_Gast_.
Star-madden'd! What is this in earth and women
That pricks thee into wrath against the wolves?
Do I not fight for women too? But I
For what is certain in them, not for madness.

_Brys_.
I make my fierceness of a mind to set
My spirit high up in the winds of joy,
Before I tumble down into the darkness.
Not thus thy women send thee to thy fighting:
All fear thy battle-courage is, fear-bred
Thine anger. Thou heavily drudgest women,
But yet thou art afraid of them.

_Gast_.
Ay, truly;
For look how from their wondrous bodies comes
Increase: who knoweth where such power ends?
They are in league with the great Motherhood
Who brings the seasons forth in the open world;
And if to them She hands, unseen by us,
Their marvellous bringing forth of children, what
Spirit of Her great dreadful mountain-spell,
Wherein the rocks have purpose against us,
Sealed up in watchful quiet stone, may not
Pass on to their dark minds, that seem so mild,
Yet are so strange; or what charm'd word from out
Her forests whispering endless dangerous things,
Wherefrom our hunters often have run crazed
To hear the trees devising for their souls;
What secret share of Her earth's monstrous power
May She not also grant to women's lives?
Yea, wise is our fear of women; but we fight
For more than fear; we give them liking too.
Who but the women can deliver us
From this continual siege of the wolves' hunger?
High above comfort, on the shrugging backs
Of downland, where the winds parch our skins, and frost
Kneads through our flesh until his fingers clamp
The aching bones, our scanty families
Hold out against the ravin of the wolves,
Fended by earthwork, fighting them with flint.
But if we keep the favour of our women,
They will breed sons to us so many and strong
We shall have numbers that will make us dare
Invade the weather-shelter'd woods, and build
Villages where now only wolves are denn'd;
Yea, to the beasts shall the man-folk become
Malice that haunts their ways, even as now
Our leaguer'd tribes must lurk and crouch afraid
Of wolfish malice always baying near.
And fires, stackt hugely high with timber, shall
With nightlong blaze make friendly the dark and cold,
Cheer our bodies, and roast great feasts of flesh,--
Ah, to burn trunks of trees, not bracken and ling!
This is what women are to me,--a fear
Lest the earth-hidden Awe, who unseen gives
The childing to their flesh, should make their minds
As darkly able as their wombs, with power
To think sorceries over us; and hope
That with their breeding they will dispossess
The beasts of the good lowlands, until man,
No longer fled to the hills, inhabit all
The comfort of the earth.

_Brys_.
These are mine too,
But as great rivers own the brook's young speed.
For in my soul, the women do not dwell
A torch going through darkness, with a troop
Of shadows gesturing after; but as the sun
Upon his height of golden blaze at noon,
With all the size of the blue air about him.
Fear that in women the unseen is seen
And the unknown power sits beside us known,--
This fear is good, but better is than this
Their beauty, and the wells of joy in women.
I speak dumb words to thee; but know thou, Gast,
My soul is looking at the time to come,
And seeing it not as a cavern lit
With smoky burning brandons of thy fear,
But as a day shining with my new joy.
Thou canst not fight with me for the coming heart
Of man,--fear cannot fight with joy.



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