High Falcon & Other Poems by Leonie Adams
4.1k
Lullaby

Hush, lullay.

Your treasures all

Encrust with rust,

Your trinket pleasures fall

        To dust.



Beneath the sapphire arch,

Upon the grassy floor,

Is nothing more

        To hold,

And play is over-old.

Your eyes

        In sleepy fever gleam,

Their lids droop

        To their dream.

You wander late alone,

The flesh frets on the bone,

Your love fails in your breast,

Here is the pillow.

Rest.

I was enriched, not casting after marvels,
But as one walking in a usual place,
Without desert but common eyes and ears,
No recourse but to hear, power but to see,
Got to love you of grace.


Subtle musicians, that could body wind,
Or contrive strings to anguish, in conceit
Random and artless strung a branch with bells,
Fixed in one silver whim, which at a touch
Shook and were sweet.


And you, you lovely and unpurchased note,
One run distraught, and vexing hot and cold
To give to the heart’s poor confusion tongue,
By chance caught you, and henceforth all unlearned
Repeats you gold.

Now the rich cherry, whose sleek wood,
And top with silver petals traced
Like a strict box its gems encased,
Has spilt from out that cunning lid,
All in an innocent green round,
Those melting rubies which it hid;
With moss ripe-strawberry-encrusted,
So birds get half, and minds lapse merry
To taste that deep-red, lark’s-bite berry,
And blackcap bloom is yellow-dusted.


The wren that thieved it in the eaves
A trailer of the rose could catch
To her poor droopy sloven thatch,
And side by side with the wren’s brood—
O lovely time of beggar’s luck—
Opens the quaint and hairy bud;
And full and golden is the yield
Of cows that never have to house,
But all night nibble under boughs,
Or cool their sides in the moist field.


Into the rooms flow meadow airs,
The warm farm baking smell’s blown round.
Inside and out, and sky and ground
Are much the same; the wishing star,
Hesperus, kind and early born,
Is risen only finger-far;
All stars stand close in summer air,
And tremble, and look mild as amber;
When wicks are lighted in the chamber,
They are like stars which settled there.


Now straightening from the flowery hay,
Down the still light the mowers look,
Or turn, because their dreaming shook,
And they waked half to other days,
When left alone in the yellow stubble
The rusty-coated mare would graze.
Yet thick the lazy dreams are born,
Another thought can come to mind,
But like the shivering of the wind,
Morning and evening in the corn.

I'd watched the hills drink the last colour of light,
All shapes grow bright and wane on the pale air,
Till down the traitorous east there came the night
And swept the circle of my seeing bare;
Its intimate beauty like a wanton's veil
Tore from the void as from an empty face.
I felt at being's rim all being fail,
And my one body pitted against space.
O heart more frightened than a wild bird's wings
Beating at green, now is no fiery mark
Left on the quiet nothingness of things.
Be self no more against the flooding dark;
There thousandwise, sown in that cloudy blot,
Stars that are worlds look out and see you not.

When tunes jigged nimbler than the blood
And quick and high the bows would prance
And every fiddle string would burst
To catch what’s lost beyond the string,
While half afraid their children stood,
I saw the old come out to dance.
The heart is not so light at first,
But heavy like a bough in spring.

These lovers’ inklings which our loves enmesh,
Lost to the cunning and dimensional eye,
Though tenemented in the selves we see,
Not more perforce than azure to the sky,
Were necromancy-juggled to the flesh,
And startled from no daylight you or me.


For trance and silvermess those moons commend,
Which blanch the warm life silver-pale; or look
What ghostly portent mist distorts from slight
Clay shapes; the willows that the waters took
Liquid and brightened in the waters bend,
And we, in love’s reflex, seemed loved of right.


Then no more think to net forthwith love’s thing,
But cast for it by spirit sleight-of-hand;
Then only in the slant glass contemplate,
Where lineament outstripping line is scanned,
Then on the perplexed text leave pondering,
Love’s proverb is set down transliterate.

Gold shed upon suckling gold,
The time of the bole blackens,
Of the dark mounted through dapple,
While in the sealed apple
The seed cradled toward cold.
A gold on gold spent,
Put by from an elm in its years
Now its gilded of days,
Over turf’s dishevelment;
Where all which is green sickens,
All the fresh shall be sere.
All which is green sickens,
And it is but for a time
Those embered veinings blaze
A year’s delirium;
Or neared of other space,
Unportioned azure shall close
One of more, and which is,
One which goes.
Let the little pupils that will,
Of vision, gaze for salt
To whet their gazing, wit
In one weather is high
From burrow and lair, by
Nether providences’ default
An all’s accrued.
And apposite, beyond
Such primer beholdings, has
Its long accounting known


The beetle’s morsel thus
Was rich, and the slug’s bed on
The oak’s generations, deep
Over the lark’s bones.
In slough of Edens fast
Wit in one weather shall stand,
While millennia nibble at
The sensual apple
Toppled it net,
Plenty in the palm of the hand,
And the fallen not fallen, not lost
From out its certitude—
For our unbeggaring
Has been gross. Few and late
To cherish an immoderate
Wish, hope’s calculus,
Love’s hope; few to miss,
From natural tally thrust,
In the lime-girdled space
Of choice, where alone
Man can abandon what
Is only his own;
And in cold and tarrying
Their rearisers sleep:


While to the granite cheek
Light’s purples bring
Infinite their ministering,
And past our finial
And ragged crests, to keep
Time’s ambient stood,
Propose horizons from
Their shadowy quarries; while,
In an unwandered wood,
Or under the indifferent foot,
Is let fall, let fall a fruit,
Through eternal leisures down,
For but time’s unravelling.

1.6k
Sundown

This is the time lean woods shall spend
A steeped-up twilight, and the pale evening drink,
And the perilous roe, the leaper to the west brink,
Trembling and bright to the caverned cloud descend.


Now shall you see pent oak gone gusty and frantic,
Stooped with dry weeping, ruinously unloosing
The sparse disheveled leaf, or reared and tossing
A dreary scarecrow bough in funeral antic.


Then, tatter you and rend,
Oak heart, to your profession mourning; not obscure
The outcome, not crepuscular; on the deep floor
Sable and gold match lustres and contend.


And rags of shrouding will not muffle the slain.
This is the immortal extinction, the priceless wound
Not to be staunched. The live gold leaks beyond,
And matter’s sanctified, dipped in a gold stain.

Send forth the high falcon flying after the mind
Till it come toppling down from its cold cloud:
The beak of the falcon to pierce it till it fall
Where the simple heart is bowed.
O in wild innocence it rides
The rare ungovernable element,
But once it sways to terror and descent,
The marches of the wind are its abyss,
No wind staying it upward of the breast—
Let mind be proud for this,
And ignorant from what fabulous cause it dropt,
Or with how learned a gesture the unschooled heart
Shall lull both terror and innocence to rest.

(From a Persian Carpet)


Ash and strewments, the first moth-wings, pale
Ardour of brief evenings, on the fecund wind;
Or all a wing, less than wind,
Breath of low herbs upfloats, petal or wing,
Haunting the musk precincts of burial.
For the season of newer riches moves triumphing,
Of the evanescence of deaths. These potpourris
Earth-tinctured, jet insect-bead, cinder of bloom—
How weigh while a great summer knows increase,
Ceaselessly risen, what there entombs?—
Of candour fallen from the slight stems of Mays,
Corrupt of the rim a blue shades, pensively:
So a fatigue of wishes will young eyes.
And brightened, unpurged eyes of revery, now
Not to glance to fabulous groves again!
For now deep presence is, and binds its close,
And closes down the wreathed alleys escape of sighs.
And now rich time is weaving, hidden tree,
The fable of orient threads from bough to bough.
Old rinded wood, whose lissomeness within
Has reached from nothing to its covering
These many corymbs’ flourish!—And the green
Shells which wait amber, breathing, wrought
Towards the still trance of summer’s centering,
Motives by ravished humble fingers set,
Each in a noon of its own infinite.
And here is leant the branch and its repose
of the deep leaf to the pilgrim plume. Repose,
Inflections brilliant and mute of the voyager, light!
And here the nests, and freshet throats resume
Notes over and over found, names
For the silvery ascensions of joy. Nothing is here
But moss and its bells now of the root’s night;
But the beetle’s bower, and arc from grass to grass
For the flight in gauze. Now its fresh lair,
Grass-deep, nestles the cool eft to stir
Vague newborn limbs, and the bud’s dark winding has
Access of day. Now on the subtle noon
Time’s image, at pause with being, labours free
Of all its charge, for each in coverts laid,
Of clement kind; and everlastingly,
In some elision of bright moments is known,
Changed wide as Eden, the branch whose silence sways
Dazzle of the murmurous leaves to continual tone;
Its separations, sighing to own again
Being of the ignorant wish; and sways to sight,
Waked from it nighted, the marvelous foundlings of light;
Risen and weaving from the ceaseless root
A divine ease whispers toward fruitfulness,
While all a summer’s conscience tempts the fruit.

Light at each point was beating then to flight,
The sapling bark flushed upward, and the welling
Tips of the wood touched, touched at the bound,
And boughs were slight and burdened beyond telling
Toward that caress of the boughs a summer’s night,
Illimitable in fragrance and in sound.


Here were the blue buds, earlier than hope,
Unnumbered, beneath the leaves, a breath apart,
Wakening in root-dusk. When the air went north,
Lifting the oakleaves from the northern slope,
Their infinite young tender eyes looked forth.
Here all that was, was frail to bear a heart.

No, I have borne in mind this hill,
For once before I came its way
In hours when summer held her breath
Above her innocents at play;
Knew the leaves deepening the green ground
With their green shadows, there as still
And perfect as leaves stand in air;
The bird who takes delight in sound
Giving his young and watery call,
That is each time as if a fall
Flashed silver and were no more there.
And knew at last, when day was through,
That sky in which the boughs were dipped
More thick with stars than fields with dew;
And in December brought to mind
The laughing child to whom they gave
Among these slopes, upon this grass,
The summer-hearted name of love.
Still can you follow with your eyes,
Where on the green and gilded ground
The dancers will not break the round,
The beechtrunks carved of moonlight rise;
Still at their roots the violets burn
Lamps whose flame is soft as breath.
But turn not so, again, again,
They clap me in their wintry chain;
I know the land whereto you turn,
And know it for a land of death.


Note: The title is from Goethe's "Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn?" (Know you the land where the lemon-trees bloom?").

The last majority attained,

And shut from its small house of dust,

Into the heritage of air

The spirit goes because it must:

And halts before the multiple plane

To look more ways than left and right,

And weeping walks its father's house

Like something homeless in the night:

For now less largely let abroad,

Though but the world they say is mine,

I shiver as I take the road.

I turned as new resigned:

A summer gleaned, my business was within,

My charge the sober mind,

My care the wintry bin.

And found the boughs in stain,

Past-promise-hued. O not

Before, earnest as rich was yet so plain;

A harvest was ungot.

Beech drenching down my pathway goldenheart,

Ash, pensive light-cheek rose,

Both pluck the thought apart,

And meant you, heart, to close?

So fell the doomed farewells;

So, so looked forth a thing:

Regret, reproach, what else

Must baffle, vex, beguile this severing

A fall over rock,
Metal answering to water,
Is the seal of this spot;
A land trodden by music
And the tune forgot.


Of a region savage,
The territory that was broken,
Silver gushed free;
And earth holy, earth meek shall receive it
In humility.


This, not dwelt in, this haunted,
The country of the proud,
Is curdling to stone,
And careless of the feet of the waters
As they glance from it down.

1.3k
The Mount

Now I have tempered haste,
The joyous traveller said,
The steed has passed me now
Whose hurrying hooves I fled.
My spectre rides thereon,
I learned what mount he has,
Upon what summers fed;
And wept to know again,
Beneath the saddle swung,
Treasure for whose great theft
This breast was wrung.
His bridle bells sang out,
I could not tell their chime,
So brilliantly he rings,
But called his name as Time.
His bin was morning light,
Those straws which gild his bed
Are of the fallen West.
Although green lands consume
Beneath their burning tread,
In everlasting bright
His hooves have rest.

Then I was sealed, and like the wintering tree
I stood me locked upon a summer core;
Living, had died a death, and asked no more.
And I lived then, but as enduringly,
And my heart beat, but only as to be.
Ill weathers well, hail, gust and cold I bore,
I held my life as hid, at root, in store:
Thus I lived then, till this air breathed on me.
Till this kind air breathed kindness everywhere,
There where my times had left me I would stay.
Then I was staunch, I knew nor yes nor no;
But now the wishful leaves have thronged the air.
My every leaf leans forth upon the day;
Alas, kind element! which comes to go.

This that is washed with weed and pebblestone
Curved once a dolphin’s length before the prow,
And I who read the land to which we bore
In its grave eyes, question my idol now,
What cold and marvelous fancy it may keep,
Since the salt terror swept us from our course,
Or if a wisdom later than the storm,
For old green ocean’s tinctured it so deep;
And with some reason to me on this strand
The waves, the ceremonial waves have come,
And stooped their barbaric heads, and all flung out
Their glittering arms before them, and are gone,
Leaving the murderous tribute lodged in sand.

What plummet, seas, to sound you—

All the long reaches spun out silver-white,

Turn you and cast drowned riches?

Or how again, O velvet night,

When the sky, stooping with its glittering load,

About the elf-locks of the curious grass

Scatters its sparklings, will you part almost

Upon the quintessential host?

Or how the figment spirit sleeping

Can it render body, ghost,

In its dream unseat the heavy monarch,

Conjure to the bleak wild coast

Its sunk, its deep delight,

Its night and mist divide, recall how flitting

Above the pallid thing,

Joy has an azure wing?

— The End —