Twilight

 Mother of the dews, dark eyelashed Twilight!

Low-lidded Twilight o’er the valley’s brim.     MEREDITH.

 

SPIRIT of Twilight, through your folded wings

I catch a glimpse of your averted face,

And rapturous on a sudden, my soul sings ”

Is not this common earth a holy place ? ”

 

Spirit of Twilight, you are like a song

That sleeps, and waits a singer, like a hymn

That God finds lovely and keeps near Him long,

Till it is choired by aureoled cherubim.

 

Spirit of Twilight, in the golden gloom

Of dreamland dim I sought you, and I found

A woman sitting in a silent room

Full of white flowers that moved and made no sound.

 

These white flowers were the thoughts you bring to all,

And the room’s name is Mystery where you sit,

Woman whom we call Twilight, when night’s pall

You lift across our Earth to cover it.

 

First published in The Yellow Book, vol. III, October 1894.

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The Coming of the Prince

lordandladyalfreddouglasTHE Prince has come! shy princess, Oh, be wise,
Kiss his sweet mouth, look deep into his eyes,
And let your songs, like lutes tired hands left dumb,
Learn all Love’s language now the Prince has come.

The Prince is fair, proud princess, hold him fast
With slim white hands, each kiss may be the last.

Joy is a flower whose petals fall apart,
And fade too soon. Ah, hold him to your heart.

And this sweet Prince, who never will grow old,
This boy with great blue eyes and hair like gold,
Will lead you, little princess, by the hand
Through all the gardens of his fairy land.

What though a sleepless dragon day and night
The great world watches, jealous of delight,
Strong Love shall stand with shining wings unfurled
Between you and the hatred of the world.

from Rainbows

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Olive and Raymond

olive and raymond_smallIt has been suggested that Olive Custance was a bad mother. Natalie Barney could only think of what the pregnancy had done to her figure; and yet there is nothing explicitly unmaternal from Olive’s pen, even if her diaries reveal that she left most of the work to the nanny,  as was the custom. There is, however, a sad letter she wrote very soon after the birth in which she spoke of everything except the fact that she had just had a baby … reading this correspondence between her and Natalie Barney, just weeks after the birth, it was obvious to me that she was deep in the throes of post-natal depression.

And so it is a pleasure to have come across in my researches a photo that all the other scholars thought lost;  Olive with Raymond as a baby. Here it is, in a smaller version than I am intending to include in the Collected Works that I expect to have finished in mid 2018.

 

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A Song to Beauty

SWEET! I have seen the argent moon astray
In crimson meadows of the morning sky,
Watched by the jealous Night too sad to fly
Before the bright relentless sword of day.
So, your pale lovers see you pass them by.

Proud Beauty I like that wonderful gold flower
The twilight gathers when the sun takes flight,
And lays before the silver feet of Night,
Beauty that seen in dreams has such strange power
Shine, shine upon my darkness, lovely Light !

By what enchantment were you doomed to range
The forest of this world, where joys are few?
My heart is like a hound that follows you.
My heart, a princely hunter, hears your strange
Elusive laughter and must still pursue.

Oh, once my song-bird heart was free and wise,
But now its wings are tangled in Love’s snare,
For it has seen the sunshine of your hair,
The troubled beauty of your great blue eyes,
The wild-rose whiteness of your body fair.

In vain fate strives to keep us still apart,
Death could not do it even . . . though there be
Long leagues of land, broad wastes of shining sea
Between us, yet my heart is with your heart
When in the world of dreams you walk with me.

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Rainbows

SONGS! that like rainbows following after storm
Spanned suddenly with flame-like wings of hope
Some silent void of sorrow in my heart,
Dark with vain prayers and desolating tears,
Or rising softly in a happy hour,
Were mirrored like pale colours of the Dawn
In my glad soul, as in a dancing sea,
And borne on crests of laughter to the light!

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A tragic wedding?

tragic weddingThe newspapers had a field day on 11th March 1902, ‘announcing the simultaneous announcements’ in The Times of the breaking-off of the engagement between Olive Custance and George Montaigu and the “quiet” marriage of Olive Custance and Lord Alfred Douglas.

And so, with the minimum of ceremony, Lord Alfred Douglas, suggestively described as having recently produced “some weak imitations of Oscar Wilde’s poetry” married the “tall brunette, with an intellectual face” whose “crowing glory is her hair which is chestnut colored” and whose poems follow “the lines laid down by Eileen Thronycroft Fowler and John Oliver Hobbes.”

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Peacocks: A Mood

peacocksIn gorgeous plumage, azure, gold and green,
They trample the pale flowers, and their shrill cry
Troubles the garden’s bright tranquillity!
Proud birds of Beauty, splendid and serene,
Spreading their brilliant fans, screen after screen
Of burnished sapphire, gemmed with mimic suns–
Strange magic eyes that, so the legend runs,
Will bring misfortune to this fair demesne…

And my gay youth, that, vain and debonair,
Sits in the sunshine–tired at last of play
(A child, that finds the morning all too long),
Tempts with its beauty that disastrous day
When in the gathering darkness of despair
Death shall strike dumb the laughing mouth of song.

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