OLD AND NEW
by: Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
Hesper, and ye Gods of mountain waters,
- Come, nymphs and Dryades,
- Come, silken choir of soft Pierian daughters,
- And girls of lakes and seas,
- Evoë! and evoë Io! crying,
- Fill all the earth and air;
- Evoë! till the quivering words, replying,
- Shout back the echo there!
- All day in soundless swoon or heavy slumber,
- We lay among the flowers,
- But now the stars break forth in countless number
- To watch the dewy hours;
- And now Iacchus, beautiful and glowing,
- Adown the hill-side comes,
- Mid tabrets shaken high, and trumpets blowing,
- And resonance of drums.
- The leopard-skin is round his smooth white shoulders,
- The vine-branch round his hair,
- Those eyes that rouse desire in maid-beholders
- Are glittering, glowworm-fair;
- Crowned king of all the provinces of pleasure,
- Lord of a wide domain,
- He comes, and brings delight that knows no measure,
- A full Saturnian reign.
- Take me, too, Maenads, to your fox-skin chorus,
- Rose-lipped like volute-shells,
- For I would follow where your host canorous
- Roars down the forest-dells;
- The sacred frenzy rends my throat and bosom!
- I shout, and whirl where He,
- Our Vine-God, tosses like some pale blood-blossom
- Swept on a stormy sea.
- Around his car, with streaming hair, and frantic,
- The Maenads and wild gods
- And shaggy fauns and wood-girls corybantic
- Toss high the ivy-rods;
- Brown limbs with white limbs madly intertwining
- Whirl in a fiery dance,
- Till, when at length Orion is declining,
- We glide into a trance.
- The satyrs heart is faintly, faintly beating,
- The choir of nymphs is mute;
- Iacchus up the western slope is fleeting,
- Uncheered by horn or flute;
- Hushed, hushed are all the shouting and the singing,
- The frenzy, the delight,
- Since out into the cold grey air upspringing,
- The morning-star shines bright.
- II. A.D.
- Not with a choir of angels without number,
- And noise of lutes and lyres,
- But gently, with the woven veil of slumber
- Across Thine awful fires,
- We yearn to watch Thy face, serene and tender,
- Melt, smiling, calm and sweet,
- Where round the print of thorns, in thornlike splendour,
- Transcendent glories meet.
- We have no hopes if Thou art close beside us,
- And no profane despairs,
- Since all we need is Thy great hand to guide us,
- Thy heart to take our cares;
- For us is no to-day, to-night, to-morrow,
- No past time nor to be,
- We have no joy but Thee, there is no sorrow,
- No life to live but Thee.
- The cross, like pilgrim-warriors, we follow,
- Led by our eastern star;
- The wild crane greets us, and the wandering swallow
- Bound southward for Shinar;
- All night that single star shines bright above us;
- We go with weary feet,
- But in the end we know are they who love us,
- Whose pure embrace is sweet.
- Most sweet of all, when dark the way and moonless,
- To feel a touch, a breath,
- And know our weary spirits are not tuneless,
- Our unseen goal not Death;
- To know that Thou, in all Thy old sweet fashion,
- Art near us to sustain!
- We praise Thee, Lord, by all Thy tears and passion,
- By all Thy cross and pain!
- For when this night of toil and tears is over,
- Across the hills of spice,
- Thyself wilt meet us, glowing like a lover
- Before Loves Paradise;
- There are the saints, with palms and hymns and roses,
- And better still than all,
- The long, long day of bliss that never closes,
- Thy marriage festival!
POEMS BY EDMUND GOSSE
"Old and New" is reprinted
from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. Ed. Nicholson
& Lee. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1917.