Herbert Price

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The Caged Lion's Dream

Now he recalleth his triumphant days,
And fervid throes of equatorial fire
Thrill through his frame, till re-aroused desire
(His dream so shows him all his desert ways)
To lap the scented blood of what he slays,
Lifts him upon his feet; a lurid ire
Burns in his eyes, a shaggy horror stays
His mane erect in aspect grim and dire.

His eyes that are the mirror of his dream,
As slowly from their deeps the vision fades
Lose all the light wherewith they blazed and shone,
His limbs relent, and all the savage gleam
Droops in his mane to ever gloomier shades,
And with his sleep his royal mood is gone.


Our fate is round us like a viewless net,
Woven of thoughts, inheritances, deeds,
And all the drift of circumstantial weeds
About the shores of being that are set,
Imponderable strands no mortal fret
Hath power to fray; the inevitable seeds
Sown by the gods along the cosmic meads
(The gods who sow and never know regret)
Throw round us their invisible intents;
Webs knitted in the house of destiny
Enmesh the yearning visage of the soul,
And though it cry, the sequence of events,
The march and order of the mighty whole
Remain unchanged through all eternity.


Roses I saw, and poppies all alight
With colours of the dawn, and rainbow hues
Drawn from the sun and all the secret dews
Distilled upon them from the brooding night,
And delicate sweet-peas so purely dight
They must have grown where icy winds refuse
To blow, or haply where nuns dream and muse
In holy meditation, out of sight
Of the rough world;--flowers of moonlight sheen
And golden hearts, and velvet pansies turned
The room they stood in to a garden scene
Of loveliness so exquisite, I yearned
Through all my soul to be as chastely clean
As these, and more my raptured eye discerned.


Lo! all the land is dry and parched with heat,
And all the hills are white with withered grass
That hath no touch of greenness; and, alas!
See how the lately waving fields of wheat
Droop wearily towards a sure defeat
Before the scorching winds that hourly pass
Over the arid earth; how like a glass,
The hot flats shimmer underneath the heat,
More strenuous as the stifling weeks increase,
Of quenchless and unmitigable rays,
That make a terror of the rainless days;
And the clear vault of fire, that will not cease
To heap with death the long and dusty ways,
And burn out life from all the leafless trees.


Green grass, green trees, and greenest wildernesses
Of cool green ferns; and ah! such long green spaces
Sleeping within the sunlight's warm embraces!
Green-shadowed rills that gurgle through green cresses,
And deep green nooks wherein the locust dresses
Her shining wings; green dells, and high green places
O'er which bright swarms of sportive insect graces
Flash and are gone, and know not what distress is;
Green-covered spots; green fields where greenness less is
By reason of the clouds of blowing daisies
That variegate the verdure with their faces;
Green arbours where all greenest loveliness is
Like little billowy puffs of maiden tresses!
All these leave on the soul their joyous traces.


Slow mists were on the ridges all around,
And in the kloofs; and on the mountain-side
They moved and swayed, a softly flowing tide
That rose against the rocks without a sound,
Then circled back upon the lower ground
In folding mazes that would not abide
A moment there, but wandered far and wide
In billowy waves no shores were set to bound.

Our raptured souls were in that magic sea,
And in those wreaths that journeyed with the wind
Were all our thoughts, and in each eager mind
The beauty of that morning mystery
Became an exultation, yet to be
Remembered when our mortal eyes are blind.

The Mountain Top

What witching hours of wild delight are here!
What amplitude of healing airs that sweep
Downward to rouse the dreamers from their sleep
Far in unhealthful valleys! and what cheer
Of gleeful laughter wins the soul from fear
To gambol on these lusty heights like sheep
Glad with the spring! In what still pools and deep
Shine spaces of the crystal atmosphere!
What flowers are here! what scented dells of shade!
What carols make the mornings musical!
What fragrant coils of everlastings glow
In secret spots along each sinuous glade!
What luminous waters rush and pause to fall!
What exultations through the spirit flow!

The First Dawn

What blackness reigned before a star was born?
When far across void spaces of the night
The pale diaphanous wonder of the dawn
Rose ghostlike on the unaccustomed sight
Of all the unimaginable eyes
(Strange creatures of the darkness sure were bred)
That stared towards the east in wild surmise,
To see the changing colours throb and spread,
Innumerable films of rosy fire
Flushing the orient with their glowing tints,
Clothing the haggard plains in rich attire,
And flashing from great hills of naked flints,
Until the gaunt and hungry earth displayed
The jewelled splendour of a queen arrayed.

Dante to Beatrice

Ah God, the gulf between us is too dark!
Too deep, and dark, and terrible to cross;
If either now should launch a venturing bark,
The surging breakers would assail, and toss
And rend it into pieces; it would fare
On these fell waters that between us scream
And fling fierce arms of hatred through the air,
Like some frail atom in a demon's dream;
Yea, it would perish and go down to doom
In ravenous swirls of chaos, like a dove
Caught in mid riot of the crash and boom
Of fire and rain and thunder. From above
There where thou livest in pure light divine
Smile and again this whole dark earth will shine.

"Never again will she visit the Old Well"

O weary watcher waiting at the well!
She cannot come to fill thy aching brain
With thoughts as sweet as nectar in a cell,
Or bright as flowers in a dreamy dell;
Her individual force is spent; in vain
Thou yearnest for the touch that eases pain;
No longer can she weave her mystic spell.
For she is now a part of all around,
A spirit and an essence, a desire,
An inspiration in the heart of things,
That murmurs in the harmony of sound,
Is white in lilies, red in flaming fire,
And everlasting in recurring springs.

The Law

Yea, is it so? will death relieve the soul
Of its most secret and inveterate sin?
Will all be altered when behind the goal
Set to the flesh, the spirit shall pass in?
It cannot be; as we have lived we die;
Prone in the arms of our unrighteous deeds
At the last moment we shall surely lie
And so pass forth. Nothing there is but breeds
The thing it is; evil shall still be so,
Though spirit-borne into ethereal ways;
Yet there perchance a stronger will may grow,
To do some work which God may bless with praise
As being good; a new environment
Remoulds us till we lose the old intent.