A Lover's Litanies - Seventh Litany. Stella Matutina.

A poem by Eric Mackay


Arise, fair Phoebus! and with looks serene
Survey the world which late the orbèd Queen
Did pave with pearl to please enamour'd swains.
Arise! Arise! The Dark is bound in chains,
And thou'rt immortal, and thy throne is here
To sway the seasons, and to make it clear
How much we need thee, O thou silent god!
That art the crown'd controller of the year.


And while the breezes re-construct for thee
The shimmering clouds; and while, from lea to lea,
The great earth reddens with a maid's delight,
Behold! I bring to thee, as yesternight,
My subject song. Do thou protect apace
My peerless one, my Peri with the face
That is a marvel to the minds of men,
And like a flower for humbleness of grace.


The earth which loves thee, or I much have err'd,
The glad, green earth which waits, as for a word,
The sound of thee, up-shuddering through the morn,
The restive earth is pleased when Day is born,
And soon will take each separate silent beam
As proof of sex,--exulting in the dream
Of joys to come, and quicken'd and convuls'd,
Year after year, by love's triumphant theme.


A thousand times the flowers in all the fields
Will bow to thee; and with their little shields
The daisy-folk will muster on the plain.
A thousand songs the birds will sing again,
As sweet to hear as quiverings of a lute;
And she I love will sing, for thy repute,
Full many a song. She sings when she but speaks;
And when she's near the birds should all be mute.


O my Belovèd! from thy curtain'd bed
Arise, rejoice, uplift thy golden head,
And be an instant, while I muse on this,
As nude as statues, and as good to kiss
As dear St. Agnes when she met her death,
Unclad and pure and patient of her breath,
And with the grace of God for wedding-gown,
As many an ancient story witnesseth.


The bath, the plunge, the combing of the hair,
All this I view,--a sight beyond compare
Since Daphne died in all the varied charms
Of her chaste body,--rounded regal arms,
And shape supreme, too fair for human gaze,
But not too fair to win the mirror's praise
That throbs to see thee in thy déshabille
And loves thee well through all the nights and days.


I see thee thus in fancy, as in books
A man may see the naïads of the brooks;--
As one entranced by potions aptly given
May see the angels where they walk in Heaven,
And may not greet them in their high estate.
For who shall guess the riddle wrought of Fate
Till he be dead? And who that lives a span
Shall thwart the Future where it lies in wait?


And now to-day a word I dare not write
Starts to my lips, as when a baffled knight
Witholds a song which fain he would repeat;
For lo! the sense thereof is passing sweet.
And, like a cup that's full, my heart is fill'd
With new desires and quiverings new-distill'd
From old delights; and all my pulses throb
As at the touch of dreams divinely-will'd.


Who talks of comfort when he sees thee not
And feels no fragrance of the happy lot
Which violets feel, when call'd upon to lie
On thy white breast? And who with amorous eye
Looks at the dear tomb of the shuddering flowers,
The two-fold tomb where daintily for hours
They droop and muse,--who looks, I say, at these
And will not own the witchery of thy powers?


Who speaks of glory and the force of love,
And thou not near, my maiden-minded dove!
With all the coyness, all the beauty-sheen,
Of thy rapt face? A fearless virgin-queen,--
A queen of peace art thou,--and on thy head
The golden light of all thy hair is shed
Most nimbus-like and most suggestive, too,
Of youthful saints enshrined and garlanded.


Thou'rt Nature's own; and when a word of thine
Rings on the air, and when the Voice Divine
We call the lark upfloats amid the blue,
I know not which is which, for both are true,
Both meant for Heaven, though foster'd here below.
And when the silences around me flow,
I think of lilies and the face of thee
Which hath compell'd my manhood's overthrow.


O blue-eyed Rapture with the radiant locks!
O thou for whom, athwart the fever-shocks
Of life and death and misery and much sin,
I'd sell salvation! There's a prize to win
And thou'rt its voucher; there's a wonder-prize,
Unknown till now beneath the vaulted skies,
And thou'rt its symbol; thou'rt its essence fair,
Its full completion form'd adoring-wise!


Yes, I will tell thee how I love thee best,
And all my thoughts of thee shall be confess'd
And none withheld, not e'en the witless one
Which late I harbor'd when the mounting sun
Burst from a cloud,--the moon a mile away,
As if in hiding from the lord of day,--
As if, at times, the moon were like thyself,
And fear'd the semblance of a master's sway.


I love thee dearly when thine eyes are dim
With unshed tears; for then they seem to swim
In liquid blessedness, and unto me
There comes the memory of a god's decree
Which said of old:--"Be all men evermore,
All men and maids whose hearts are passion-sore,
Acclaim'd in Heaven!" and all day long I muse
On hope's divine and deathless prophet-lore.


I love thee when the soft endearing flush
Invades thy face, and dimples in the blush
Bespeak attention,--as a rose's pout
Absorbs the stillness when the sun is out,
And all the air retains the glow thereof.
In all the world there is not light enough
Nor sheen enough, all day, nor any warmth,
Till thou be near me, arm'd with some rebuff!


And how I love thee when thy startled eyes
Look out at me, enrapt in that surprise
Which marks an epoch in the life I lead,--
As if they guess'd the scope of Eros' creed
And all the mirth and malice of his wiles.
For it is wondrous when my Lady smiles,
And all the ground is holy where she treads,
And all the air is thrill'd for many miles!


In every mood of thine thou art my joy,
And, day by day, to shield thee from annoy,
I'd do the deeds that slaves were bound unto
With stabs for payment,--shuddering through and through
With their much labour; and I'd deem it grand
To die for thee if, after touch of hand,
I might but kiss thee as a lover doth;
For I should then be king of all the land.


But Father Time, old Time with Janus-face
Looks o'er the sphere, and sees no fitting place
For thine acceptance; for the thrones of earth
Are much too mean, and in thy maiden worth
Thou'rt crown'd enough, and throned in very sooth
More than the queens who lord it in their youth
O'er men's convictions; and He names thy name
As one belov'd of Nature and of Truth.


He sees the nights, he sees the veering days,
The sweet spring season with its hymn of praise,
The summer, frondage-proud, the autumn pale,
The winter worn with withering of the gale,--
All this he sees; and now, to-day, in June,
He, too, recalls that rapturous afternoon
When all the fields and flowers were like a dream,
And all the winds the offshoot of a tune.


So I will cease to clamour for the past,
And seek suspension of my doubts at last,
In some new way till Fate becomes my friend.
I will re-gain the right to re-defend
The love I bear to thee, for good or ill.
For though, 'tis said, our griefs have power to kill,
Mine let me live, in mine unworthiness,
That, spurn'd of thee, my lips may praise thee still!

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