Hymn To Desire

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


Mother of visions, with lineaments dulcet as numbers
Breathed on the eyelids of love by music that slumbers,
Secretly, sweetly, O presence of fire and snow,
Thou comest mysterious,
In beauty imperious,
Clad on with dreams and the light of no world that we know.
Deep to my innermost soul am I shaken,
Helplessly shaken and tossed,
And of thy tyrannous yearnings so utterly taken,
My lips, unsatisfied, thirst;
Mine eyes are accurst
With longings for visions that far in the night are forsaken;
And mine ears, in listening lost,
Yearn, yearn for the note of a chord that will never awaken.


Like palpable music thou comest, like moonlight; and far,--
Resonant bar upon bar,--
The vibrating lyre
Of the spirit responds with melodious fire,
As thy fluttering fingers now grasp it and ardently shake,
With flame and with flake,
The chords of existence, the instrument star-sprung.
Whose frame is of clay, so wonderfully molded from mire.


Vested with vanquishment, come, O Desire, Desire!
Breathe in this harp of my soul the audible angel of love!
Make of my heart an Israfel burning above,
A lute for the music of God, that lips, which are mortal, but stammer!
Smite every rapturous wire
With golden delirium, rebellion and silvery clamor,
Crying--"Awake! awake!
Too long hast thou slumbered! too far from the regions of glamour,
With its mountains of magic, its fountains of Faƫry, the spar-sprung,
Hast thou wandered away, O Heart!
Come, oh, come and partake
Of necromance banquets of beauty; and slake
Thy thirst in the waters of art,
That are drawn from the streams
Of love and of dreams."


"Come, oh, come!
No longer shall language be dumb!
Thy vision shall grasp--
As one doth the glittering hasp
Of a dagger made splendid with gems and with gold--
The wonder and richness of life, not anguish and hate of it merely.
And out of the stark
Eternity, awful and dark,
Immensity silent and cold,--
Universe-shaking as trumpets, or thunderous metals
That cymbal; yet pensive and pearly
And soft as the rosy unfolding of petals,
Or crumbling aroma of blossoms that wither too early,--
The majestic music of Death, where he plays
On the organ of eons and days."

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