The Complete Poems of Francis Ledwidge/Songs of Peace/A Dream of Artemis

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There was soft beauty on the linnet's tongue
To see the rainbow's coloured bands arch wide.
The thunder darted his red fangs among
South mountains, but the East was like a bride
Drest for the altar at her mother's door
Weeping between two loves. The fields were pied
With May's munificence of flowers, that wore
The fashion of the days when Eve was young,
God's kirtles, ere the first sweet summer died.
The blackbird in a thorn of waving white
Sang bouquets of small tunes that bid me turn
From twilight wanderings thro' some old delight
I heard in my far memory making mourn.
Such music fills me with a joy half pain,
And beats a track across my life I spurn
In sober moments. Ah, this wandering brain
Could play its hurdy-gurdy all the night
To vagrant joys of days beyond the bourn.

I heard the river warble sweetly nigh
To meet the warm salt tide below the weir,
And saw a coloured line of cows pass by,—
And then a voice said quickly, "Iris here!"
"What message now hath Hera?" then I woke,
An exile in Arcadia, and a spear
Flashed by me, and ten nymphs fleet-footed broke
Out of the coppice with a silver cry,
Into the bow of lights to disappear.
For one blue minute then there was no sound
Save water-noise, slow round a rushy bend,
And bird-delight, and ripples on the ground
Of windy flowers that swelling would ascend
The coloured hill and break all beautiful
And, falling backwards, to the woods would send
The full tide of their love. What soft moons pull
Their moving fragrance? did I ask, and found
Sad Io in far Egypt met a friend.—
It was my body thought so, far away
In the grey future, not the wild bird tied
That is the wandering soul. Behind the day
We may behold thee, soft one, hunted wide
By the loud gadfly; but the truant soul
Knows thee before thou lay by night's dark side,
Wed to the dimness; long before its dole
Was meted it, to be thus pound in clay
That daubs its whiteness and offends its pride.

There were loud questions in the rainbow's end,
And hurried answers, and a sound of spears.
And through the yellow blaze I saw one bend
Down on a trembling white knee, and her tears
Fell down in globes of light, and her small mouth
Was filled up with a name unspoken. Years
Of waiting love, and all their long, long drought
Of kisses parched her lips, and did she spend
Her eyes blue candles searching thro' her fears.
"She hath loved Ganymede, the stolen boy."
Said one, and then another, "Let us sing
To Zeus that he may give her living joy
Above Olympus, where the cool hill-spring
Of Lethe bubbles up to bathe the heart
Sorrow's lean ringers bruised. There eagles wing
To eyries in the stars, and when they part
Their broad dark wings a wind is born to buoy
The bee home heavy in the far evening."


"God, whose kindly hand doth sow
The rainbow showers on hill and lawn,
To make the young sweet grasses grow
And fill the udder of the fawn.
Whose light is life of leaf and flower,
And all the colours of the birds.
Whose song goes on from hour to hour
Upon the river's liquid words.
Reach out a golden beam of thine
And touch her pain. Your finger-tips
Do make the violets' blue eclipse
Like milk upon a daisy shine.

God, who lights the little stars,
And over night the white dew spills.
Whose hand doth move the season's cars
And clouds that mock our pointed hills.
Whose bounty fills the cow-trod wold,
And fills with bread the warm brown sod.
Who brings us sleep, where we grow old
'Til sleep and age together nod.

Reach out a beam and touch the pain
A heart has oozed thro' all the years.
Your pity dries the morning's tears
And fills the world with joy again!"
The rainbow's lights were shut, and all the maids
Stood round the sad nymph in a snow-white ring,
She rising spoke, "A blue and soft light bathes
Me to the fingers. Lo, I upward swing!"
And round her fell a mantle of blue light.
"Watch for me on the forehead of evening."
And lifting beautiful went out of sight.
And all the flowers flowed backward from the glades,
An ebb of colours redolent of Spring.

Beauty and Love are sisters of the heart,
Love has no voice, and Beauty whispered song.
Now in my own, drawn silently apart
Love looked, and Beauty sang. I felt a strong
Pulse on my wrist, a feeling like a pain
In my quick heart, for Love with gazes long
Was worshipping at Artemis, now lain
Among the heaving flowers ... I longed to dart
And fold her to my breast, nor saw the wrong.
She lay there, a tall beauty by her spear,
Her kirtle falling to her soft round knee.
Her hair was like the day when evening's near,
And her moist mouth might tempt the golden bee.
Smile's creases ran from dimples pink and deep,
And when she raised her arms I loved to see
The white mounds of her muscles. Gentle sleep
Threatened her far blue looks. The noisy weir
Fell into a low murmuring lullaby.
And then the flowers came back behind the heel
Of hunted Io: she, poor maid, had fear
Wide in her eyes looking half back to steal
A glimpse of the loud gadfly fiercely near.
In her right hand she held a slanting light,
And in her left her train. Artemis here
Raised herself on her palms, and took a white
Horn from her side and blew a silver peal
'Til three hounds from the coppice did appear.

The white nine left the spaces of flowers, and now
Went calling thro' the wood the hunter's call.
Young echoes sleeping in the hollow bough
Took up the shouts and handed them to all
Their sisters of the crags, 'til all the day
Was filled with voices loud and musical.
I followed them across a tangled way
'Til the red deer broke out and took the brow
Of a wide hill in bounces like a ball.
Beside swift Artemis I joined the chase;
We roused up kine and scattered fleecy flocks;
Crossed at a mill a swift and bubbly race;
Scaled in a wood of pine the knotty rocks;
Past a grey vision of a valley town;
Past swains at labour in their coloured frocks;
Once saw a boar upon a windy down;
Once heard a cradle in a lonely place,
And saw the red flash of a frightened fox.

We passed a garden where three maids in blue
Were talking of a queen a long time dead.
We caught a green glimpse of the sea: then thro'
A town all hills; now round a wood we sped
And killed our quarry in his native lair.
Then Artemis spun round to me and said,
"Whence come you?" and I took her long damp hair
And made a ball of it, and said, "Where you
Are midnight's dreams of love." She dropped her head,
No word she spoke, but, panting in her side,
I heard her heart. The trees were all at peace,
And lifting slowly on the grey evetide
A large and lovely star. Then to release
Her hair, my hand dropped to her girded waist
And lay there shyly. "O my love, the lease
Of your existence is for ever: taste
No less with me the love of earth," I cried.
"Though for so short a while on lands and seas
Our mortal hearts know beauty, and overblow,
And we are dust upon some passing wind,
Dust and a memory. But for you the snow
That so long cloaks the mountains to the knees
Is no more than a morning. It doth go
And summer comes, and leaf upon the trees:
Still you are fair and young, and nothing find
In all man's story that seems long ago.
I have not loved on Earth the strife for gold,
Nor the great name that makes immortal man,
But all that struggle upward to behold
What still is left of Beauty undisgraced,
The snowdrop at the heel of winter cold
And shivering, and the wayward cuckoo chased
By lingering March, and, in the thunder's van
The poor lambs merry on the meagre wold,
By-ways and cast-off things that lie therein,
Old boots that trod the highways of the world,
The schoolboy's broken hoop, the battered bin
That heard the ragman's story, blackened places
Where gipsies camped and circuses made din,
Fast water and the melancholy traces
Of sea tides, and poor people madly whirled
Up, down, and through the black retreats of sin.
These things a god might love, and stooping bless
With benedictions of eternal song.—
But I have not loved Artemis the less
For loving these, but deem it noble love
To sing of live or dead things in distress
And wake memorial memories above.

Such is the soul that comes to plead with you
Oh, Artemis, to tend you in your needs.
At mornings I will bring you bells of dew
From honey places, and wild fish from streams
Flowing in secret places. I will brew
Sweet wine of alder for your evening dreams,
And pipe you music in the dusky reeds
When the four distances give up their blue.

And when the white procession of the stars
Crosses the night, and on their tattered wings,
Above the forest, cry the loud night-jars,
We'll hunt the stag upon the mountain-side,
Slipping like light between the shadow bars
'Til burst of dawn makes every distance wide.
Oh, Artemis—what grief the silence brings!
I hear the rolling chariot of Mars!"