The Body

A poem by John Frederick Freeman

When I had dreamed and dreamed what woman's beauty was,
And how that beauty seen from unseen surely flowed,
I turned and dreamed again, but sleeping now no more:
My eyes shut and my mind with inward vision glowed.

"I did not think!" I cried, seeing that wavering shape
That steadied and then wavered, as a cherry bough in June
Lifts and falls in the wind--each fruit a fruit of light;
And then she stood as clear as an unclouded moon.

As clear and still she stood, moonlike remotely near;
I saw and heard her breathe, I years and years away.
Her light streamed through the years, I saw her clear and still,
Shape and spirit together mingling night with day.

Water falling, falling with the curve of time
Over green-hued rock, then plunging to its pool
Far, far below, a falling spear of light;
Water falling golden from the sun but moonlike cool:

Water has the curve of her shoulder and breast,
Water falls as straight as her body rose,
Water her brightness has from neck to still feet,
Water crystal-cold as her cold body flows.

But not water has the colour I saw when I dreamed,
Nor water such strength has. I joyed to behold
How the blood lit her body with lamps of fire
And made the flesh glow that like water gleamed cold.

A flame in her arms and in each finger flame,
And flame in her bosom, flame above, below,
The curve of climbing flame in her waist and her thighs;
From foot to head did flame into red flame flow.

I knew how beauty seen from unseen must rise,
How the body's joy for more than body's use was made.
I knew then how the body is the body of the mind,
And how the mind's own fire beneath the cool skin played.

O shape that once to have seen is to see evermore,
Falling stream that falls to the deeps of the mind,
Fire that once lit burns while aught burns in the world,
Foot to head a flame moving in the spirit's wind!

If these eyes could see what these eyes have not seen--
The inward vision clear--how should I look for joy,
Knowing that beauty's self rose visible in the world
Over age that darkens, and griefs that destroy?

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