The Defeat of Youth and Other Poems

The Defeat of Youth and Other Poems

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THE DEFEAT OF YOUTH I. UNDER THE TREES.

here had been phantoms, pale-remembered shapesOf this and this occasion, sisterlyIn their resemblances, each effigyCrowned with the same bright hair above the nape'sWhite rounded firmness, and each body alertWith such swift loveliness, that very restSeemed a poised movement: ... phantoms that impressedBut a faint influence and could bless or hurtNo more than dreams. And these ghost things were she;For formless still, without identity,Not one she seemed, not clear, but many and dim.One face among the legions of the street,Indifferent mystery, she was for himSomething still uncreated, incomplete.

II.

Bright windy sunshine and the shadow of cloudQuicken the heavy summer to new birthOf life and motion on the drowsing earth;The huge elms stir, till all the air is loudWith their awakening from the muffled sleepOf long hot days. And on the wavering lineThat marks the alternate ebb of shade and shine,Under the trees, a little group is deepIn laughing talk. The shadow as it flowsAcross them dims the lustre of a rose,Quenches the bright clear gold of hair, the greenOf a girl's dress, and life seems faint. The lightSwings back, and in the rose a fire is seen,Gold hair's aflame and green grows emerald bright.

III.

She leans, and there is laughter in the faceShe turns towards him; and it seems a doorSuddenly opened on some desolate placeWith a burst of light and music. What beforeWas hidden shines in loveliness revealed.Now first he sees her beautiful, and knowsThat he must love her; and the doom is sealedOf all his happiness and all the woesThat shall be born of pregnant years hereafter.The swift poise of a head, a flutter of laughter—And love flows in on him, its vastness pentWithin his narrow life: the pain it brings,Boundless; for love is infinite discontentWith the poor lonely life of transient things.

IV.

Men see their god, an immanence divine,Smile through the curve of flesh or moulded clay,In bare ploughed lands that go sloping awayTo meet the sky in one clean exquisite line.Out of the short-seen dawns of ecstasyThey draw new beauty, whence new thoughts are bornAnd in their turn conceive, as grains of cornGerm and create new life and endlesslyShall live creating. Out of earthly seedsSprings the aerial flower. One spirit proceedsThrough change, the same in body and in soul—The spirit of life and love that triumphs stillIn its slow struggle towards some far-off goalThrough lust and death and the bitterness of will.

V.

One spirit it is that stirs the fathomless deepOf human minds, that shakes the elms in storm,That sings in passionate music, or on warmStill evenings bosoms forth the tufted sleepOf thistle-seeds that wait a travelling wind.One spirit shapes the subtle rhythms of thoughtAnd the long thundering seas; the soul is wroughtOf one stuff with the body—matter and mindWoven together in so close a meshThat flowers may blossom into a song, that fleshMay strangely teach the loveliest holiest thingsTo watching spirits....