THE 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.
It 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.
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.
My thoughts like bees explore all sweetest things
To fill for you the honeycomb of praise,
Linger in roses and white jasmine sprays,
And marigolds that stand in yellow rings.
In the blue air they moan on muted strings,
And the blue sky of my soul’s summer days
Shines with your light, and through pale violet ways.
Birds bear your name in beatings of their wings.
I see you all bedecked in bows of rain,
New showers of rain against new-risen suns,
New tears against new light of shining joy.
My youth, equipped to go, turns back again,
Throws down its heavy pack of years and runs
Back to the golden house a golden boy.
— ’To Olive’ (IV) by Lord Alfred Douglas, 1907
SPIRIT of Spring, thy coverlet of snow
Hath fallen from thee, with its fringe of frost,
And where the river late did overflow
Sway fragile white anemones, wind-tost,
And in the woods stand snowdrops, half asleep,
With drooping heads—sweet dreamers so long lost.
Spirit, arise! for crimson flushes creep
Into the cold gray east, where clouds assemble
To meet the sun: and earth hath ceased to weep.
Her tears tip every blade of grass, and tremble,
Caught in the cup of every flower. O Spring!
I see thee spread thy pinions,—they resemble
Large delicate leaves, all silver-veined, that fling
Frail floating shadows on the forest sward;
And all the birds about thee build and sing!
Blithe stranger from the gardens of our God,
We welcome thee, for one is at thy side
Whose voice is thrilling music, Love, thy Lord,
Whose tender glances stir thy soul, whose wide
Wings wave above thee, thou awakened bride!
Not yet, dear love, not yet: the sun is high;
You said last night, ‘At sunset I will go.’
Come to the garden, where when blossoms die
No word is spoken; it is better so:
Ah! bitter word ‘Farewell.’
Hark! how the birds sing sunny songs of spring!
Soon they will build, and work will silence them;
So we grow less light-hearted as years bring
Life’s grave responsibilities – and then
The bitter word ‘Farewell.’
The violets fret to fragrance ‘neath your feet,
Heaven’s gold sunlight dreams aslant your hair:
No flower for me! your mouth is far more sweet.
O, let my lips forget, while lingering there,
Love’s bitter word ‘Farewell.’
Sunset already! have we sat so long?
The parting hour, and so much left unsaid!
The garden has grown silent – void of song,
Our sorrow shakes us with a sudden dread!
Ah! bitter word ‘Farewell.’
First published in the Pall Mall Magazine, May, 1895.
Dürer’s St Anthony.
THE ENGRAVING BY DÜRER
Dürer has drawn him resting by the way . . .
Has he returned from some far pilgrimage?
Or just come out into the light of day
From a dark hermit’s cell? We cannot know . . .
With stooping shoulders, and with head bent low
Over his book–and pointed hood drawn down.
His eager eyes devour the printed page . . .
Regardless of the little lovely town
Rising behind him, with its clustered towers . . .
O Saint, look up! and see how gay and fair
The earth is in its summer-time of flowers,
Look up, and see the world, for God is there . . .
Old dreaming Saint, how many are like you,
Intent upon the dusty book of fate:
Slow to discern the false things from the true!
Yet weary of world clamour and world hate,
And hungering for eternal certainties . . .
Not knowing how close about them heaven lies!
From Inn of Dreams, 1911.