Margaret and Henry by Moonlight*

Spinning under the full moon

Henry and Margaret at either end

Of a small flat boat:

Margaret gazing up,

Breathless in falling stars,

Her heart wild with Shelley

And fire;

Henry peering down

At spindly waterbugs

Scooting along the brackish crest.

 

Around and round they spin

In this grey-ghost glimmering light,

An ovenbird echoing nearby,

Reflections bursting like tiny bites

Off the wake,

Margaret corseted in camlet and brocade,

Henry used to wading nude in the Assabet,

Wearing only his hat.

 

Precarious on the water

In this precarious life,

Silent they—not friends, not comfortable

Together, not today—

But locked in spinning still

Beneath the moon,

Each in his or her particular

Peculiar own way.

* Henry Thoreau, the writer, once took Margaret Fuller, the editor, out in his boat in the middle of Walden Pond on a moonlit night. She still wouldn’t publish his work.
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at 08:59PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Walden

What did I learn

Between the beanfield and the pond?

Trying not to step on chipmunks, I sat

Down on dry leaves and pine cones.

Birdsongs mingled

With drizzling echoes of Route 2.

Prison bars--stone spikes--surround

The one-time hovel site.

The woodpile is recalled in a

National Park-type monument,

Grave-marker grey.

Everything brown and auburn, high

Trees to dirt, washing over the eye. 

Just to the north, the cairn:

150 years of stone

Piled sideways, thanks to gravity.

There I left my own, and something else,

Too indefinable and elusive for telling,

In this mid-morning misty air.

Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2007 at 06:47AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

19th century-style sonnet sequence on the death of Beethoven

This doesn't relate to religious scholarship or tolerance, the themes of this Web site, but some young friends expressed an interest in these old Romantic sonnets, patterned after 19th century models. Not having another place to put them,  I scatter them, like old rose petals, here.

 

Elegy

By Linda Brown

Composed at age 17

 

I

My predatory passion unrestrained

Falls mad with anguish on thy tender name,

Not as the scavenger who, not detained

By death’s cold enmity, asserts his claim

Upon the bones of presages deceased,

But rather a perplexed and frightened child

Who lashes at a universe increased

With animosity and hope defiled;

And sinking in a pool of bitter tears,

Calling that sole name into the earth,

Who perpetrates the pageant of the years,

The cyclic mystery of death and birth.

Impotency clings vainly to the dream;

The lion feeds on apricots and cream.

 

II

But not unto thy grave my footsteps fled,

Nor nigh the brook that watched thy fairest hours;

There is no grief that can be comforted

In weaving sprays of funereal flowers.

But not with eulogies and dirges drear

Anoint the air where once thy voice had rung,

Nor privy take prerogatory tear,

Nor hopelessly the heavy heart be hung.

I hold not bitter death in these two eyes;

One cannot see obliterated light.

Upon the clouded cloak of Paradise,

The paltry parrot Death dissolves in night.

Our spirits hand in hand, again we stroll

Among the verdant pastures of the Soul.

 

III

No love is that which perishes with death

Of matter and extension, when Decay

Assaults the frame that held both pulse and breath,

When those warm hands fall to the frosty fray:

Can winter’s peroration devastate

The course of all conformed to Nature’s plan?

Can Autumn quell the cedar’s burnished slate

Or slay the efflorescent soul of Man?

The hours plot and calculate our end,

Conjurors of inveterate design;

Men’s souls alone their alchemy transcend

Intoxicant by Revelation’s wine.

And thou, undying in my spirit’s eye,

Love’s fair myopic apparition lie.

 

IV

Sing, sing again the iterated lay,

Again the augury august, O wind!

The same sad harbinger the cypress sway

And rock the rancid crematory blind!

Sardonically, I hear thy dirge once more

That gloats thy proven prophecy to see;

It rests beyond the mausoleum door,

Within the vortex of mine agony.

Shriek out thine ululations at the moon,

Now blanching in the ice-congealing night:

Enshroud her form with hoar; the air festoon

Derisively with rapture recondite!

The cold damp wind whirls wildly through the rain,

To heave my heart with renovated pain.

 

V

If by the wage of necromancy’s art

Illusions of thy presence would appear

Untrammeled in the abyss of my heart,

To what effect the emigrated fear

Of vapours vile and midnight’s witchery

Or sacraments of mistletoe and oak,

The cauldron of the devil’s chemistry

Which inspissates with glutted fire and smoke?

Walpurgisnacht expires across the sky,

A dying meteor to spark this sea

Of dreams, to slake by a conjectured lie

The thirst of uninured reality.

Yet would of all the greatest pain not be,

Beyond all reach and hope, thy face to see?

 

VI

How bitter, bittersweet the memory

Upon my senses’ savour unresolves

To time, as linger hints of mint and tea

And every condiment which circumvolves

In aureoles of tantalizing spice:

Exotic herbs, strong chicory and mace,

The cheddar aged, the tender julienne slice

Of cloven ham, the devil’s only grace;

I, tasting these and more, the past renew,

The pain of recollection’s rich perfume,

Nor can I through the odor misconstrue

The omnipresent horror of the tomb.

And garnished I with most remors’d defeat,

Dissolve in tears, oh bitter, bittersweet.

 

VII

The anarchy of our illusions twain

‘Twixt two vast centuries of seasoned grief,

Which aggragates upon the barren plane

Of sullen age and ageless disbelief

In Providence, usurps the monarch’s throne

That Chance would deign pragmatic to erect

As incubus to Platonism’s own

Belov’d and Freedom’s orbit circumspect.

Upon the forum of a fairer state

Than migratory government affords

Below, the congress of congruent Fate

Asserts its replication to these words.

Thus we from fetters freed this truth repeat:

That politics and death have found defeat.

 

VIII

Shattered! Even as a glass is smashed

Irrep’rably in fractured splinters thrust

Or as a dynasty, barbaric dashed

Against the stones of demolition’s dust:

Hence, ever I in nether regions spent,

Engulf unfathom’d depths’ anomaly

Deterred by shock, and conflagration rent,

A recreant conceal’d by apathy.

Blind, faltering in rhyme irresolute,

I hinder harrowed Hope’s desirous flight,

Too actual to instigate dispute

And yet, obscured by agues recondite.

(couplet effaced)

 

IX

When I survey the cataracts of night,

The stellar floods which in profusion fling

Their macerated effluence of light

Throughout the maiden ether sparkleing,

I find myself restored to Nature home,

Assimilated, soul-involved above;

Unseen, unsought across the dome

Of sky. There is no vanity in love

Of God or stars emollient in dew

Replenished by the streams of ardent Spring

That from the fount of hope divine, anew

Gush forth, forever mystic issuing;

But only perfect virtue, as I don,

Thy countenance to bathe in paeans wan.

 

X

October passes even as the elm

Her condescending foliage shyly sheds,

The soil to cover in a burnished realm

Of golden gleam, those color-coweled heads

Which monk-like prey on resignation meek

And ultimately find repose in sleep

Eternal, ‘til the voice of Winter speak,

In gusts of judgment chill their harvest reap.

Through empty arbors moonlight laughing peers,

A full and hearty outburst of delight

To see my shameless, disconcerted tears

The pumpkin crown with frosty pearls bedight.

The passing hour, the evanescent leaf:

Both snow-ensnared precipitate my grief.

 

XI

Du, du allein my consolation be,

My refuge, my palladium of joy,

The apex of inert nobility,

Transfiguring what sorrow would destroy.

Thou art a beacon midst the tempests thrown

Of virulent inclemency and rage,

A luminary lantern to repose

Among the stagnant mórasses of age.

Recipient of my devotion’s self,

Attendent to my heart’s resurgent cry…

Now but an unframed painting on the shelf

Of deathless life and love that cannot die.

Thou, thou alone, though yet these worlds assail

My foolish dissertation, still prevail.

 

XII

As vernicose the apple orchard shines

On torsion’d tilth and sumptuous repute,

Its verdure wild oblivion repines

While luscious odors vaunt the fragrant fruit.

Ascending mists of dawn, embellish’d dew

Whose blandishments exort bucolic songs

Of praise and gladness, chide the bitter rue

Nocturnally enrapt, for valued wrongs.

How sweet the vague auroral sweep expires

Upon meridians’ autumnal gleam;

How gracefully the apple orchard tires

And, vitriolic, acquiesces in dream.

From this, all beauty fled, I likewise flee

To him whose beauty waxes deathlessly.

 

XIII

May no man sere thee now with caustic tongue

Or cruelly excoriate thy pride

With whips of hate and vile sarcasm strung,

The flatulent derision, mala fide.

A choir of nightingales adorns the earth

With myrtle branches in libation strewn

Remiss, condoning thine intrinsic worth;

Anathemas then proferring the moon

Whose humor heinous sought to mock my strife.

Peace, borne on angel wing and winged sigh

Of seraphim, beyond the dross of life:

Why didst Thou, Father, deign my spirit die?

(Peace borne, though I were born too late to see

The consequence of peaceless destiny.)

 

XIV

Below December’s nipping chill, the lea

Lolls silent to the blizzard’s blast severe,

Aborted by malign cacophony

Of glaucous glade and spangled atmosphere.

One cloud-encompass’d star and thou, bare field,

In unprolific loneliness forlorn;

Nor beast nor fowl which once in gladness reeled

Upon thy pregnant soil, through fragrant corn,

A festival of gold, the fledg’d ear

Warm basking in the sun, loose mist in glee

Free floating on the liquid heavens clear

And swimming through the incense-foaming sea.

Incens’d, should it be said? Or still perfum’d

When barren lies my heart, to rubble doom’d?

 

XV

He is no more, though timeless melodies

Of his invention yet invoke our thought,

Ameliorating life’s indignities:

Disconsolate, as though in charnel wrought,

The world evolves to vaster sorrows; Sin

Uplifts his filthy parasitic maw]

To suck the moral lifeblood from within

The walls of mortal negligence; the flaw,

It seems, is grosser now that he is not

But in impervious and lanquid sleep; each year

It swells recurrent, every moment sought

For some offensive meed or fulsome fear.

Imperfect Earth, know this: he is complete;

And heaven’s victory is our defeat.

 

XVI

Whence fly wild geese when winter strips their nest

Of green, when they encircling skim

Through nebulous and drizzling mist, distress’d

And pining? To the grey sequestered brim

Of promentaries plunging to the deep,

They wanton wing their way discursively,

To ocean grottos ebbed to drowsy sleep

By sea nymphs’ gentle lullabies. O, flee,

Fair creatures, flee this faithless perjury

Of visionary joy, your sails hoist high

In flight uncharted; “Home, come home,” the sea

Entreats, “return to me, no siren I…”

Hence, southerly they dwindle, tempest-lash’d,

Yet stronger than my heart by breakers dash’d.

 

XVII

Divinity exists if only this:

That fulminating from the mystic fount

Of paradise, as my sublimest bliss,

Such spirit-rending music dare to mount

The kindled firmament. Not far beneathe,

Endymion, when moon impassion’d, rose

On pinions gilded sweet; the wilted wreathe

Droops sadly o’er his tomb, while Beauty throws

Her prostrate essence under harmony,

Subdued but in acknowledging her dearth

Of glory. I have heard her say to me,

“Music is all that frees us from the earth.”

She pointed starward, “Fly! He is divine…”

And I, freed from my world, soar unto thine.

 

XVIII

The muffled drum drones on, the pealing bell

Continues midst a drugg’d lament of snow:

Expir’d, you lie at state with asphodel

Dissolved in weeping, dead from wasted woe,

Expended to revive a lifeless corse.

Though Spring is wont to gambol, flower-donn’d,

Around her vernal equinox, the soursce

Ineffable of waken’d mirth, she pawn’d

Her ditty for the direge’s solumn March

And raiment pied for weeded grief to wear;

Gaze, widow’d Nature, past the specter’d arch

His death compels amid the dappl’d air.

Would I to dew be snatched, mostly highly blest,

That, chancing on his brow, I fain may rest.

 

XIX

Umbrageous forest, darken’d densely, thick

Suspended in the emeraldine shine

Of overhanging willow, quagmire quick

Its maelstrom draughted full the steeping wine

Of living things which folly ventures near:

Heed not the whining fungus, purple stained,

Ebullient mushrooms chattering in drear

Inanity; crustaceans, hence sein’d

In thy convulsive cascade, fear alone

The elemental tumult; they behold

In solitary disbelief, their fate unknown

Amid the slime bed varnish’ed terror cold.

I envy thee, thou awful specter; Fear

Distorts our mettle when death dawdles near.

 

XX

Is love not adoration’s peer? In truth

‘tis said to be superfluous by those

Who worship at the shrine of trifling youth,

To whom maturity and age are foes

To be surpass’d, and nothing more. They fain

Would char their individuality

Upon that vassal altar, passion slain

In sickly odors, quell’d immediately.

These very same would scoff love’s constant fire

Where spirits both merge equally, one breath,

One purpose, one empyreal desire

Which stronger proves than desultory death.

We smile on these who would deny below

Unsever’d love that they can never know.

 

XXI

The Gothic turret towers through the fume

Evelop’d city: twilight crevice seeps

And horning waves of traffic din resume

Impersonal; exhausted buses sweep

To termination, scrawny children laugh

With twigs and pebbles battl’d; where to go,

What rural rhapsody exits now? Draught

Of poetry, of music, none can flow

From this cold century. Thou never wast

A part of such machine; and ever I

A foreigner remain. Two misfits cast

From life, one must go on, one needs must die.

By minarets dusk purfl’d, pigeons crawl:

The sky turns nectarine—but that is all.

 

XXII

Reflections often fairer prove that that

Which mirror’d stands; Narcissus, feckless child,

No beauty claim’d ‘til on the moss he sat

And viewed his image in the waters mild.

Nor did I own the firey heavens bright

Nigh that still moment when I watched the lake

Illuminously scintillate in night;

Thus, little glory decorates the flake

Of enervated snow until she finds

Her latent partner on the burnish’d ice:

Upon this mirror’d principle, our minds

For virtue supplementary suffice.

Upon our hearts beguil’d, love’s rays refract:

But truer love deceiv’d than spoil’d in fact.

 

XXIII

The anniversary of birth recalls

A poignancy of cherish’d memory,

E’er fire-inspir’d, the jolly Yule log falls

To drape its shadows on the tinsl’d tree.

A merry season, ruddy berry kiss’d

By holly ‘neath the winking mistletoe;

The glowing carolings that softly twist

An aural wreath accrest the downing snow.

Peal, clear carillion, crisply snap the air;

Blaze, candl’d fir, and toast the frigid years.

A merry celebration I prepare,

With festive cakes and goblets brimm’d of tears;

With sugar’d fruits, plump mince, and steaming rum,

To this dessert, would Death had never come.

 

XXIV

I never more this fog will kenning pierce:

The grey vignette deep etch’d upon my mind

Would intervene, would miasmata fierce

Exhale in fetid breath and choke through blind

Indifference, mine ultimate relief.

We must remembrances tenacious hold:

They flee from thought and cannot keep belief

Alive, intangible amorphous fold

Of vacillating light. We cannot clasp

Abstracted ardor’s relics exquisite,

Nor guiltlessly permit hearts guiltless grasp

The dying gasp of crumbl’d passions sweet.

And darkly apprehended, fog engrav’d,

Beholdst thou me to thee and art enslav’d.

 

XXV

Eclipse that sips the nectar’d moon, ‘til black

Her sootless bosom swells, no thought have we

For such inebriation: merely lack

In form, and we to weep? Adumbral sea

Cast over God, and we to mourn? Nay, let

The frenzied wind wind mad lamenting breath

Around the whisper’d sepulcher. Regret

Would mock the very constancy of death,

Would laughter roar, a rowdy jeer permit

Among the jangling fumes of open’d graves.

Cold ice embalms night’s heart; an ebon’d pit

Is sky, and cometless the naked waves.

We shiver in the wind; the vial is drain’d.

Warm, liberating Death moves, unexplain’d.

 

XXVI

If thought forsaken, for thy sake forgot,

I smile in softer aspects to behold

A worldlier demeanor, count it not

As slander to thy sprite: for feigning bold

Appearance is my one retreat from too

Prolong’d seclusion. Rather pity me

In pitying the screaming ages who

Assail they dust, though I transgressing be;

I seek the world, quicksilver on my weak

And quiver’d palms. Forsaken memory—

That vortex—drains my humor; and to speak

Thy name would churn Charybdis mad in me.

Hence, view my strain’d confusion in this light:

That strongest chain’d is love when feigned in flight.

 

XXVII

As in respective orbits circumvolv’d

Two winnow’d forms in wither’d shadow pass,

We vaguely apprehend the void devolv’d

Between, and evanesce: I could surpass

A stormy sea that rapes the elements

Or spurn abrupt Vesuvius; no ash

Can burning chafe devotion nor commence

Of fluent death can halt love’s course. A flash

Immur’d in sudden comprehension breaks—

The yew bends to the hail-discharging sky:

The monumental stone its treasure takes

And penury personified am I.

But Saturn’s rings persist; and death drifts near,

‘Til dying promise bears, and living, fear.

 

XXVIII

How thou in wax remaineth, waxing not,

Disrupts my stable concepts of surcease,

A ripple pricks upon my stagnant thought

‘Til crashing waves ensue, and, through release

Of energy, diminish. Time beguiles

The finite mind with blandishments, coy pleas,

And storied fears of what shall be: her wiles

Enticement spin and win the hear that flees

Her horrible seduction. Death and I

Now watch the pools of Life; from dream awake

I understand how thou couldst never die

In time nor I thy labor’d rhyme forsake.

Fair Loomsmith rise: my spirit be thy flax,

To weave with Death, and permeate in wax.

 

XXIX

Identity incarcerate in art

Abides immutable through time. His hands

Are cinder dust, and earth his vibrant heart,

Where, as the aromatic wind which shifts the sands

Of far Arabia, the constant change

Possesses all. But music is a trust

To immortality, a timeless range

Transcendent to the sublunary dust

Of affluence and continuity.

Behold the sway of men; a timely jest.

Corrosive wear the prime of masonry

And most accurst whose were most highly blest.

And being blest, the very spheres shall weep

With gnashing teeth and eyes that will not sleep.

 

XXX

Faint pink and tinsled blue beneath the shade

Of poplars dancing skyward, here they wink,

The sleepy mushrooms murmuring in glad

Unspoil’d by light intrusion: I would think

Their heavy lids would crack if dawn impos’d

Her radiance beyond the brush and rose

Evelop’d their retreat. Fresh dew enclos’d

Forever in their tender shoots would pose

One borealic instant to the breeze,

And then evaporate to splendid dream

And reminiscence fled, as humming bees

To hive return, thick with the golden cream.

A tremor roars. A denigrated shroud

Is life; and swells above, the mushroom cloud.

 

XXXI

That month is this, that moment exquisite

Our Father pluck’d thee from the fountainhead

Of life; indeed, this very trice, this fleet

Spring festival of downy tears, the dead

For softer sprays have spurn’d, one hope the Cross

Foreshadow’d in its Way. This very price

Is spent in thine ascent and, meager loss

To mine eternity, partakes its slice

Of paschal bread and bears the crushed grape.

Here March reflects her dearest prize on me,

A single plume, the fairest from the nape

Of music’s ruby neck, and nurtures thee.

That month is this, and this by two-fold dearth:

Which paid they death and entertain’d my birth.

 

XXXII

My birth thy death precedes, oh, hapless date!

And yet, depriv’d of thee, thou being done

Before my rise in sand. To implicate

From such as mystery suggests, that one

Thus alienate in space knows never thee,

Is falser than to deem the desert bare

When thirsty caravans oases see

And frankincense molests the humid air.

No water sweeter slakes than desert springs

The nomad cups his parched lips to cool.

Nor fruit but appetite appeasement brings

As dates and spice drench’d in the rippling pool.

And so, it matters not, our dates remiss,

Unless mirage it be, or figment this.

 

XXXIII

Where art thou, Death? Alone at last? Poor friend!

To think thy prey eluded thee and thou

So mighty, spoil’d and pamper’d child. His end

For me did render thee as poor, since now

He triumphs in the heights of glory. I

Have not relinquish’d him to thee, bvut both

Have spied expediency in him and cry

His name to hollow spheres where fugal growth

Of counterpoint expands the symphony

To universal ring. No, we shall one

Abide, fair Death; oh, hasten! Come to me

That solitude may our communion shun.

Komm susser Tod: I cannot weep alone.

I weep for thee and yet, he is thine own.

 

XXXIV

We face the wind; the blatant storm above

This precipice disintegrates in tears,

The salty residue of fated love.

And back to back upon the cliff-hung years,

We loosen hands and stumble in the void.

Had Orpheus not gazed with longing’s eye

And step by step, eternity destroyed!

Thou shalt not turn, but into Light shalt fly.

Dust, dust to dust, and I to mortal life;

The flower to its season, dripping dew.

Dust, dust to dust, a falling off to strife,

A tripping down; and, if the debt be due,

A quick descent, where Satan slipped and fell,

In heaven think of me—and pity hell.

 

XXXV

What to omega give? What is an end,

A peroration but a means to spread

Beyond the vapor of a tear? Extend

The name Omega to commencement? Dread

The gestation and shun the fruit it bear?

Rather were I a corpse to maggots breed

Than in life’s desert womb contain despair

And fruitless labor. Warnings? Shall I heed

The words of them who, stagnant in their sin,

Inflate their ego’s present rot and see

Their bellies fat? Death is a pin

To pierce the soul and let it flow to Thee.

To pierce the heart and end the end of pain,

To puncture life, and dying, wake again.

 

XXXVI

Each snowflake circumvents a grain of dust;

Each oyster’s whitest pearl, a speck of sand;

Each noble mind, the treachery of lust;

A tyrant’s order, guised in just command.

Appearances belie the filthy heart,

The poison’d substance locked beneath the skin;

What seen doth not necessitate a part

Of that demeanor flourishing within.

Here I digress from Nature, being bound

By that which guileless my foundations bore;

And though, though Death with thee my sense abscound,

Affecteth peace in me and grace restore.

So, seeming vile, I cherish purity;

For where thou art, there shalt my spirit be.

 

XXXVII

If Death is not, no Life remains for me;

Within his arms, my happiness abides.

Blow out the flame and who shall ever see

The taper that its nourishment provides?

My spirit beats her wings against that fire

Not yet consum’d, but too intensified

With passion to relinquish her desire.

And when, if there is Death, my spirit died,

She would into his fiery heart plunge deep,

Gasp her last breath and be made one with his.

Poor Moth: the wick is not. You only sleep

And conjure visionary dreams of bliss.

No, Death is not. But still my candle burns.

Its fire imbrues my brain when sleep returns.

 

XXXVIII

Come, sweet September, how much can I bear

Of August with his hot, perspiring days?

Come, cool one, put a tingle in the air

And lick my heart’s incarcerated blaze.

Come, Autumn fair, come bless the night with breeze,

Come linger in the river and sublime

In scarlet foliage drifting from both trees

And humid flowers. Come and ravish Time,

Steal thse moist hours and substitute thy bliss

Lest I with sick remembrances expire,

Lest I imagine in the moonlight’s kiss

Upon the heather, his own, full of fire.

September, come! Too rich the jasmin’d night.

The moon is gold; his voice, too sweet and light.

 

XXXIX

Dismiss me not. Reject me if thou must,

But do not force me thither from thy sight.

Although thou view my worship with disgust,

Say naught that would necessitate my flight.

I shall not speak if speech offends thy ear,

Or, hearing not, if movement doth affront.

I shall become as lifeless as a bier

Bourne to the tomb. Yes, I shall bear the brunt

Of all thy blows at life, thy stabs at love,

If thou be wont to smite what thou has fled.

And even now, I feel my spirit move

To join thee in the region of the dead.

But turn me not away. I’d rather die

By living here—than see you pass me by.

Posted on Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 08:39PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References
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