The earth may glide diaphanous to death;
But if I lift my arms it is to bend
To you who turned away once, Helen, knowing
The press of troubled hands, too alternate
With steel and soil to hold you endlessly.
I meet you, therefore, in that eventual flame
You found in final chains, no captive then ---
Beyond their million brittle, bloodshot eyes;
White, through white cities passed on to assume
That world which comes to each of us alone.
From For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen I
Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.
O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,
Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of the grave
The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.
From Voyages II, last stanza
The swift red flesh, a winter king
Then you shall
Who squired the glacier woman down the sky ? see her truly
She ran the neighing canyons all the spring; --- your blood
She spouted arms; she rose with maize --- to die. remembering
And in the autumn drouth, whose burnished hands invasion of
With mineral wariness found out the stone her secrecy,
Where prayers, forgotten, streamed the mesa sands ? its first
He holds the twilight's dim, perpetual throne. encounters
with her kin,
Mythical brows we saw retiring --- loth, her chieftain
Disturbed, and destined, into denser green. lover ... his
Greeting they sped us, on the arrow's oath: shade that
Now lie incorrigibly what years between ... haunts the
lakes and hills
There was a bed of leaves, and broken play;
There was a veil upon you, Pocahontas, bride ---
O Princess whose brown lap was virgin May;
And bridal flanks and eyes hid tawny pride.
From The Bridge, Powhatan's Daughter section, The Dance, beginning stanzas
A tugboat, wheezing wreaths of steam,
Lunged past, with one galvanic blare stove up the River.
I counted the echoes assembling, one after one,
Searching, thumbing the midnight on the piers.
Lights, coasting, left the oily tympanum of waters;
The blackness somewhere gouged glass on a sky.
And this thy harbor, O my City, I have driven under,
Tossed from the coil of ticking towers.... Tomorrow,
And to be.... Here by the River that is East ---
Here at the waters edge the hands drop memory;
Shadowless in that abyss they unaccounting lie.
How far away the star has pooled the sea ---
Or shall the hands be drawn away to die ?
Kiss of our agony Thou gatherest,
O Hand of Fire
From The Bridge, The Tunnel section, The Tunnel, ending lines
Cowslip and shad-blow, flaked like tethered foam
Around bared teeth of stallions, bloomed that spring
When first I read thy lines, rife as the loam
Of prairies, yet like breakers cliffward leaping !
O, early following thee, I searched the hill
Blue-writ and odor-firm with violets, 'til
With June the mountain laurel broke through green
And filled the forest with what clustrous sheen !
Potomac lilies, --- then the Pontiac rose,
And Klondike edelweiss of occult snows !
White banks of moonlight came descending valleys ---
How speechful on oak-vizored palisades,
As vibrantly I follow down Sequoia alleys
Heard thunder's eloquence through green arcades
Set trumpets breathing in each clump and grass tuft --- 'til
Gold autumn, captured, crowned the trembling hill.
From The Bridge, Cape Hatteras
The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn
Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell
Of a spent day --- to wander the cathedral lawn
From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.
Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps
Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway
Antiphonal carillons launched before
The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray ?
Fron The Broken Tower, opening stanzas
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.
And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.
Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.
Compass, quadrant, and sextant contrive
No farther tides ... High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.
At Melville's Tomb