James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)

Yasmin (A Ghazel)

How splendid in the morning grows the lily: with what grace he throws
His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?

But when the silver dove descends I find the little flower of friends
Whose very name that sweetly ends I say when I have said, Yasmin.

The morning light is clear and cold: I dare not in that light behold
A whiter light, a deeper gold, a glory too far shed, Yasmin.

But when the deep red light of day is level with the lone highway,
And some to Meccah turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin;

Or when the wind beneath the moon in drifting like a soul aswoon,
And harping planets talk love’s tune with milky wings outspread, Yasmin,

Shower down thy love, O burning bright! For one night or the other night,
Will come the Gardener in white, and gathered flowers are dead, Yasmin.

Oak and Olive

Though I was born a Londoner,
And bred in Gloucestershire,
I walked in Hellas years ago
With friends in white attire:
And I remember how my soul
Drank wine as pure as fire.
And when I stand by Charing Cross
I can forget to hear
The crash of all those smoking wheels,
When those cold flutes and clear
Pipe with such fury down the street,
My hands grow moist with fear.
And there’s a hall in Bloomsbury
No more I dare to tread,
For all the stone men shout at me
And swear they are not dead;
And once I touched a broken girl
And knew that marble bled.

But when I walk in Athens town
That swims in dust and sun
Perverse, I think of London then
Where massive work is done,
And with what sweep at Westminster
The rayless waters run.
I ponder how from Attic seed
There grew an English tree,
How Byron like his heroes fell,
Fighting a country free,
And Swinburne took from Shelley’s lips
The kiss of Poetry.
And while our poets chanted Pan
Back to his pipes and power,
Great Verrall, bending at his desk,
And searching hour on hour
Found out old gardens, where the wise
May pluck a Spartan flower.

When I go down the Gloucester lanes
My friends are deaf and blind:
Fast as they turn their foolish eyes
The Mænads leap behind,
And when I hear the fire-winged feet,
They only hear the wind.
Have I not chased the fluting Pan
Through Cranham’s sober trees?
Have I not sat on Painswick Hill
With a nymph upon my knees,
And she as rosy as the dawn,
And naked as the breeze?

But when I lie in Grecian fields,
Smothered in asphodel,
Or climb the blue and barren hills,
Or sing in woods that smell
With such hot spices of the South
As mariners might sell —
Then my heart turns where no sun burns,
To lands of glittering rain,
To fields beneath low-clouded skies
New-widowed of their grain,
And Autumn leaves like blood and gold
That strew a Gloucester lane.

Oh well I know sweet Hellas now,
And well I knew it then,
When I with starry lads walked out —
But ah, for home again!
Was I not bred in Gloucestershire,
One of the Englishmen!

I rose from dreamless hours

I rose from dreamless hours and sought the morn
That beat upon my window: from the sill
I watched sweet lands, where Autumn light newborn
Swayed through the trees and lingered on the hill.
If things so lovely are, why labour still
To dream of something more than this I see?
Do I remember tales of Galilee,
I who have slain my faith and freed my will?
Let me forget dead faith, dead mystery,
Dead thoughts of things I cannot comprehend.
Enough the light mysterious in the tree,
Enough the friendship of my chosen friend.


Smile then, children, hand in hand
Bright and white as the summer snow,
Or that young King of the Grecian land,
Who smiled on Thetis, long ago, —
So long ago when, heart aflame,
The grave and gentle Peleus came
To the shore where the halcyon flies
To wed the maiden of his devotion,
The dancing lady with sky-blue eyes,
Thetis, the darling of Paradise,
The daughter of old Ocean.
Seas before her rise and break,
Dolphins tumble in her wake
Along the sapphire courses:
With Tritons ablow on their pearly shells
With a plash of waves and a clash of bells
From the glimmering house where her Father dwells
She drives his white-tail horses!
And the boys of heaven gowned and crowned,
Have Aphrodite to lead them round,
Aphrodite with hair unbound
Her silver breasts adorning.
Her long, her soft, her streaming hair,
Falls on a silver breast laid bare
By the stir and swing of the sealit air
And the movement of the morning.

To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence

Who am I dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Mæonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.