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Taliesin: A Masque


PERCIVAL, Knight of the Round Table.

NIMUE, the Lady of the Lake.




First Movement. – The Forest of Broceliande.
Second Movement. – Helicon.
Third Movement. – The Chapel of the Graal.


The Forest of Broceliande. TALIESIN lies asleep under the thick-leaved trees, a harp by his side. The voices of unseen Spirits are heard, singing.


Here falls no light of sun nor stars;
   No stir nor striving here intrudes;
No moan nor merrymaking mars
   The quiet of these solitudes.

Submerged in sleep, the passive soul
   Is one with all the things that seem;
Night blurs in one confusèd whole
   Alike the dreamer and the dream.

O dwellers in the busy town!
   For dreams you smile, for dreams you weep.
Come out, and lay your burdens down!
   Come out; there is no God but Sleep.

[The branches are pressed apart, and the young knight, SIR PERCIVAL, pushes his way through them.

PERCIVAL. No path, no beacon of directing stars,
No outlet from perpetual wandering!
Three days have I sought vainly through this wood;
And yet I fear to sleep. The heavy air
Enwraps me with a drowsiness so strange
I dare not yield to it. – What youth is this?
A minstrel, by his harp. Alas, he sleeps
As if he ne'er would wake again. Soho!
Awake! lest you should sleep into your death.

TALIESIN (awaking). Dreams, but I fain would know wherefore we dream.

PERCIVAL. Shake off your slumber now and answer me.
I am Sir Percival, three days ago
Made Knight of the Round Table. Who art thou?

TALIESIN. I was the bard at Elphin's court, whose realm
The encroaching sea o'erthrew. And now I go
To seek the halls of Arthur, for a bard
Must live at courts, and where the life of men
Is densest and the struggle is most fierce.

PERCIVAL. Men speak at Camelot of Taliesin,
And call him the new Merlin. Ay, the King
Himself has spoken of you, and I know
That you will be right welcome. But how comes it
That you are here so far from the right way?

TALIESIN. This is the mystic wood where Merlin lies
In his enchanted sleep. My master he,
And of him I seek counsel.

PERCIVAL.                      And I too.
Three days have I sought for him in this wood,
And seen no living thing, nor heard no sound
But murmurs that entice me to a sleep
Wherefrom I shrink. I took this quest upon me,
Being heartsore with the scandals of the court.

TALIESIN. Scandals, at the court of the blameless King?

PERCIVAL. Sir, I perceive you know us as we seem,
Not as we are. And for the King himself,
Save rumors of strange sins wrought long ago,
I know no charge against him. But his court,
Even the high order of the Table Round,
That was for an ensample edified
Of manhood at its highest, holiest reach, –
It has become a house of infamy.
Ere I was made a knight, the sin I saw
Made the light harsh and the air stifling to me;
And then I vowed that my first knightly quest
Should be to find some rescue from the sin.

   Sleep, and renounce the vital day;
      For evil is the child of life.
   Let be the will to live, and pray
      To find forgetfulness of strife.

   Beneath the thicket of these leaves
      No light discriminates each from each.
   No Self that wrongs, no Self that grieves
      Hath longer deed nor creed nor speech.

   Sleep on the mighty Mother's breast!
      Sleep, and no more be separate!
   Then, one with Nature's ageless rest,
      There shall be no more sin to hate,

TALIESIN. Again – the slumber gains upon my eyes
As gently as night rises on the hills.

PERCIVAL. Arouse you! Hither came we not to sleep;
And to my ears these voices, like the scent
Of poisonous orient flowers, albeit sweet,
Are heavy with the drowsiness of death.

TALIESIN. Death hath no terrors if he come like this,
Fondling the soul to sleep with lingering touch.

PERCIVAL. No sleep for us, on whom the weight is laid
Of many labors. Yet what way to turn
Or by what art or speech or master deed
To find the Seer where he lies entranced
That know I not.

TALIESIN (seizing his harp). But that I know, nor longer
Shall these seducing spirits have power on me.
Listen, for now I rule them in my turn.

[He touches the strings of his harp, and at the sound the other murmurs are still. He sings :

      Spirits of Sleep,
          That swell and sink
             In the sea of Being
      Like waves on the deep,
      Forming, crumbling,
      Fumbling, and tumbling
            Forever, unseeing,
         From brink to brink!

      Perishing voices,
         That call and call
            From the coves of dream
      With hollow noises!
      I hear the sweep
      Of the tides of sleep,
            The ocean stream
         Where the ages fall.

      But not for these
         Will I let me die,
            Though my heart remembers
      The calling seas;
      For the cycles fought
      Till form was wrought
            And Might had members
      And I was I.

      Yet still to you,
         O Dreams, I turn;
            Not with a prayer
      But a bidding to do!
      I surmount and subdue you;
      Not without you but through you
            I shall forge and fare
         To the chosen bourne.

      We are ware of a will
      Cries "Peace, be still!"
      And our waters cease
      To a troubled peace.

      Lo, star upon star!
         They dwell alone –
            Sirius, Altair,
      Their ways are asunder, –
      Aloof, in thunder
            They march and flare
         From zone to zone.

      But the formless ether
         Far and far
            Enfolds their places.
      Therein together
      At one they sweep
      From deep to deep,
            And over its spaces
         Star calls to star.

      Through its waves they reach
         Beyond their spheres
            To their fellow fires.
      Each yearns to each,
      And the straight wills swerve
      To a yielding curve,
            And a moth's desires
         Deflect the years.

      And with urge on urge
         Of the rippling wave
            Light speeds through space;
      The domes emerge;
      And the halls of Night
      Behold each light
            Reveal his face
         To the vast conclave

      The centred Soul
         By these is known.
            Its will it wreaks
      At its own control;
      But dumb, unseeing,
      The sea of Being
            Washes the peaks
         Where it strives alone.

      As the dawn awaits
      The recoiling gates
      Of the eastern air,
      We are calm and hear.

      O vast of Sleep
         Wherein we grew!
            Whence wrench by wrench
      Self heaved its steep!
      The bond abides;
      Your mighty tides
            Still clasp and clench
         The soul to you

     In your darks indwelling
        The lonely Mind
            Regains its deeps.
      Therethrough the compelling
      Gravitation of soul
      Decrees control,
             And with far leaps
         Knits kind to kind.

      Through your floods of dream
         The warm love glows;
            And its live light streaming
      Beam on beam
      Bares each to each
      As sight nor speech
            Nor deed nor deeming
         Could e'er disclose.

      For save in you
         (Strange under-life!)
            We can but trust
      If the world be true,
      Or if our vision
      Be but derision,
            The smoke and dust
         Of a phantom strife.

      Oh, then, to gain
         The eternal streams!
            Nor fail as flakes
      In the gulfing main!
      No lordship losing,
      To fare on, fusing
            The self that wakes
         And the self that dreams!

      For so shall my calling
         Compel to me
            The dumb, the distant,
      The unrecalling,
      Through ways that darken
      To hie and hearken
            And unresistant
         Their dooms decree.

      So shall my word
         Yearn forth and reach
            Where Merlin lies,
      Far, still, unstirred
      Of birth or dying.
      Yea, at my crying
            The dead shall rise
         And grant me speech.

      O Merlin, master,
            Hear my prayer!
               We grope and palter,
      And thick disaster
      Besets our ways
      In the wood of days
            Wherein we falter
         From snare to snare.

      One hour awake
         From your magic sleep,
            And point us where
      Are the paths to take;
      Till in your musing
      We find for choosing
            The deeds to dare
         And the laws to keep.

[A diffused light appears in the background. It gathers and defines to a luminous sphere.

      He hath spoken our names;
      And we yield as flames
      That are wild or still
      At the wind's will.

[The forms of MERLIN and NIMUE gradually become visible in the light.

NIMUE. He sleeps;
The ancient Mother o'er him croons
The lull of her recurring runes;
And in his heart he keeps
The calm of silent moons.
For him no vital Avalon,
No still-aspiring Paradise!
He sought it not; at peace he lies,
Nor hears the years stride on.

On earth two only held his heart,
And with these two his soul abides.
For here reluctant Nature hides
No more her secret; he is part
Of her most unconfided whim,
And here in dreams I visit him.
O ye for whom the forest has no fears!
O thou whose voice is strong
To quell the night with song!
Speak; for he hears.

TALIESIN. Wakest thou, then, O Merlin?

MERLIN.                                            Nay, I sleep.

TALIESIN. And yet thou hearest?

MERLIN.                                   I hear thee in my dream.
Who art thou?

TALIESIN.    One that ere thou knewest sleep,
Chose thee for master; for I heard the hills
Reverb thy music, and the druid trees
Speak with thy voice and take thy thought upon them.
And still I hearten mine own song with thine,
And on the lonely crags repeat thy runes
And fill my lungs with thunders. But to me
Speak thou not yet. I am but as my harp
Whereon a Hand makes music; thou, the last
Of the antique wholeness and heroic height,
Bard, ruler, prophet, like the sacred oak,
With stir of lyric rumor in thy leaves,
Shadowest the mysteries of the hidden gods.
Give answer first to him that comes with me,
Who seeks to rule his deeds; then to my cry,
Who am the horn blown on his battlefield.

MERLIN. The horn blown is a deed. I know thee now
And him that comes with thee.
(To PERCIVAL.)                     Brave-hearted boy,
Though not for thee to know the mysteries,
Be of good heart; thou also shalt attain.
Thou shalt behold the ripe fruit on the tree,
Though the earth send its riches through the sap
Without thy ken; and thy right hand shall guard
The fruit from evil, and thy lips shall taste
Its savor. From this place the earth-goddess,
Even Nimue, whom thou beholdest here,
Shall bear thee to a castle far away
Where the Graal-lord, King Evelac, abides;
A marvel shall be shown thee there, and all,
Lawful to speak, be told thee.

PERCIVAL.                          Must I leave
My comrade then?

MERLIN.             Heed not; but, forasmuch
As thou mayest not behold the secrets shown
To thy companion, sleep. When thou awakest,
Thou shalt be with him and the ancient King.

PERCIVAL. Nay, nay, I will not sleep.

MERLIN. Thou must. (To TALIESIN.) For thee,
Dear son, thou shalt not be as I. I am
As I desired, but thy desire shall be
Other, and thou shalt go from hence to win
From brighter powers intenser wakefulness,
While I sink back to deeper sleep. But first,
Ere from the wood thou pass, thou shalt behold,
Unclad alone to lyric eyes, the heart
Of Broceliande, the Lady of the wood,
The goddess of the silent stir of life,
Nimue, in star-blinding nakedness.

PERCIVAL. Thou wilt not do this thing.

TALIESIN.                                         Thy dream for thee;
But for me other stars and white desires.
Great master, rest; and all thy will be thine.

MERLIN. I go again to the great deep. Farewell!

[The form of MERLIN fades away out of the circle of light.

NIMUE (to PERCIVAL). Wilt thou resist? Behold, if I stretch but my hand
Like a gleam of the northlights against thee, thou yieldest. The calm
Of the cool earth rises about thee, and over thy heart
Shoots lacework of frost, – crystal lightnings that thicken and knit
To a corselet of silence: ice-bound, wilt thou strive, wilt thou wake?

[PERCIVAL sleeps.

Sleep; not for the eyes that contemn me, I draw from its sheath
The white sword of my beauty. Sleep; ay, lest thou wake and it smite
And cleave thee with madness.

TALIESIN.                             Goddess swift and fierce!
I know the trail that in dim woods at eve
Hangs like a mist and makes each stir of air
Accord in music. I have caught and lost
The memory of thy passing in thrilled skies,
Or where waves crumble their thin edges down
In laughter of shifting line. But never day
So bugling, never night so druid-sweet
That the elusive secret spoke itself,
The lamp whose radiance or reflection washed
The world in charm, blazed evident in pearl.

NIMUE. I have known thee, my lover, my bard. I have lurked in the leaves
And allured thee with rumors, and fled, and beguiled thee to follow,
Till I sank in the maze and escaped thee and laughed through my hair.

TALIESIN. Thou crafty, thou elusive, undivined!
Laugh once again, O queen, with lyric throat
And witchcraft of escape in wildwood eyes!
– Nay, this time mock me not; though equal charm
Abide in thee evasive in the glen
Or in this arctic splendor palpable!
Remain, remain; and from thy holy light,
Oh, cast the pale electric mantle off;
My eyes will dare the sun.

NIMUE.                          On thy head the event!
Be thou weak to sustain the intolerable avatar,
Thou shalt flee from this forest accursed; from this day at thy heart
Like a vulture the rage of that beauty shall ravin for food
And consume thee for failure to find it. But master thy soul
And be strong to command in the blaze of the vision thy song,
And my power shall be thine and the word of my magic to men.
Achieve the ordeal, through me shalt thou seek other gods,
And their light be upon thee.

TALIESIN.                          Reveal thyself.

NIMUE.                                                   See, at thy peril.

[NIMUE throws back from her shoulders her mantle, revealing herself in softer garments of a roseate yellow; these, with an almost imperceptible slowness, seem first to melt away into draperies of light, which vanish in turn save for shreds of luminous mist that linger a little and then disappear completely, leaving the goddess manifest in her beauty. All the while TALIESIN, standing by the entranced body of his companion, sings to a strange accompaniment on his harp.

As the stars dissolve in the dawn,
     Thou art warm, thou art fair;
And the birth of thy beauty is gone
     Like a chord through the air.
The darkness has heard, and is thrilled
     With a light to be born;
The heart of the silence is filled
     With the trumpets of morn.

As the kiss of two lovers at night
     Makes the darkness a choir,
The dusk is a-quiver with light
     Of its heart's desire.
Earth bows in her temple of stars
     In a rapturous hush,
As beaconing over her scars
     God burns in the bush.

As the heather glows over the hills
     Like a shadow ablaze,
The moss of the forest-floor thrills
     Into bloom at thy gaze;
The grasses begin to confer,
     And the crickets to fife;
The borders of Death are astir
     With the armies of Life.

Thou art comely, O queen, thou art strong
     As the red deer leaping;
And the light of thy limbs is like song
     When thought lies sleeping;
As the sphere of a star thou art fair;
     As an almond in bloom
The flush of thy beauty laid bare
     Throbs, throbs in the gloom.

O daughter and queller of strife,
     From whose beauty death slips
Like a cloud in thy garments! my life
     For the cling of thy lips!
I have known thee, our Lady of Birth;
     I have seen and adored;
I must die on the reel of thy mirth
     Or be wholly thy lord.

[He steps forward into the circle of light and kisses her. The light vanishes instantly, and the scene is plunged into darkness.


The Slopes of Helicon. NIMUE and TALIESIN.

NIMUE. No further alone will the dream-mighty magic prevail
Of the lightnings that lurk in my girdle. Do thou too put forth
The flash of thy will and the jar of thy striving, and climb.
Though I leave thee, I do not forsake thee.

TALIESIN.                                              Nay, leave me not!
Thy kiss throbs through me yet. My brain is like
The beat of aching music, rhythmical,
But groaning to be free.  . . . Oh, I grow faint!
The glow in me, like moonlight seen through clouds,

NIMUE. They to whom I bear children, the birth-throes feel
In spirit and brain, though I, the immortal, impassive,
Suffer only, indwelling the dark of their being, in them.
Lo, the earth is my womb, and the air is the door of my womb,
And the domed sky is big with the births of my teeming. Be calm.

[Floating in the air between the two appears a strange, elf-like CHILD. It is uncouth and hairy, and like a being of the woods, but there is yet a wild, unhuman charm in its look and smile.

TALIESIN. Mine! Mine!
                   Dragon-fly darting
                   Hither and thither, –
                   Blue smoke of wings;
                   Bee buzzing movelessly
                   Over a blue-bell;
                   Cloud in the sun,
                   Clad with a gleam
                   Glad as the clay-red
                   Blaring of battle-horns!
                   Mine, thou art mine!
                   I demand thee!

CHILD.      I am a hedgehog;
                      I am a burr;
                   'Ware prickles! Touch me not!
                      Krr! krr! krr!

TALIESIN. Fairy or child;
                   Elfin or human;
                   Light on the tarn,
                   Escaping the hollow hand,
                   Scooped in the water,
                   Eluding, alluring, –
                   How shall I seize thee?

CHILD.      I'll dare you like a dare-dog;
                      I'll haunt you like a witch;
                   I'll lead you like a tanglefoot,
                      And leave you in the ditch.

TALIESIN. Only one lure,
                   Only one call for a lure!
                   Hear! hear!
                   Dark in the heart of the deep,
                   Far in the speed of the stars, –
                   Throb, throb, –
                   Rune of the spheres!

CHILD.       Bells in the blue sky,
                      Birds sing in June;
                    I am a stickleback, —
                      Tickle me with tune.

TALIESIN. Under the moss,
                    Under the dream of the moss!
                    Near, near!
                    Dark in the sleep of the grass!
                    Chime in the rumor of Time!
                    Beat, beat, –
                    Croon of the years!

CHILD.       Cricket in the grass cries;
                      Bees buzz, buzz;
                    I am a thistle-bloom, –
                      Take me by the fuzz.

TALIESIN. Little ones know,
                    Little ones know without knowing,
                    (Dear, dear!)
                    Dark in the guess of their hearts!
                    Joy, my little one, joy!
                    Leap, leap,
                    To the tune of the world.

[The CHILD settles in TALIESIN's arms.

CHILD.        Grasshopper jumping
                      In the early morning dew!
                    Teach me how to dance so
                      And I'll play with you.

Enter above, at the top of a steep ascent, three DAMSELS, having their garments curiously embroidered, one with bells, another with precious stones and metals, the third with flowers. They come, dancing.

   Dance we merrily, maids of May!
   All the woods and the meadows laugh
   Low with crocus and hyacinth;
   Dance we lightly, the sky is blue!

   Light bells blown in the morning breeze,
   Hear them shimmering like fine rain
   Shot with sun to a lace of light
   Woven over the bosomed hills!

   Every flower with an opal gleams;
   All the grasses are tipped with joy;
   Wind in clover-bed, wind in fern,
   Kicks his heels with the mirth of morn.

   Decked for gala day, forth and free!
   Meet the morn with a heart of sky!
   Greet the wave with a rippled face,
   Dance we merrily, maids of May!

TALIESIN (playfully). Joy for my joy, and flowers for my flower!
I'll have them, though I climb for 't.

[Begins lightly to climb the slope.

NIMUE.                                  Fare thee well!    [Disappears.

CHILD.   Up we go, long legs,
                  Up to the top!
               When we get there, will
                  The blue sky drop?

DAMSELS. Bring the boy to us. Look, this tree
Silver-glittering with the morn, –
We will make him as fair to see.

[TALIESIN and the CHILD reach the level, on which the three DAMSELS await them.

CHILD.   Pretty things, pretty things, –
                  What can they be?
                Pretty toys, and pretty noise, –
                  Give them all to me.

TALIESIN. That was an easy climb, and yet I hardly
Can get my breath. You are not a light load,
Youngster, for all you 're but a morning old.

FIRST DAMSEL. Bells I bring, that your steps may chime!

SECOND DAMSEL. Jewels, every eye to spell!

THIRD DAMSEL. Flowers, to girdle you with sweet air!

CHILD. Rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes,
Garlands of daffodil, lily, and rose!
She shall have music wherever she goes,
And hands to hold up in a beautiful pose,
And a very sweet smell in her nose, – her nose, –
A very sweet smell in her nose!

[A dance, in which the CHILD is passed from damsel to damsel, with a gay song; in the dance, they cover him with garments richly ornamented with bells, gems, and flowers.

         Come, foot it with us gayly;
         Our legs are lithe as willow;
         Our heels are light as vapor!

         The sparkle on the water,
         When wind and sunshine frolic,
         No gayer than our glance is.

         The tinkle, tinkle, tinkle
         Of drops of water falling

         (A silver sound of laughing
         From lattices of morning),

         The flutter of blown grasses,
         The swing of twigs birds cling to,

         The pomp of poppied meadows,
         The revel of June roses,

         The reel of life made tipsy
         With vintages of laughter,

         Awake us, and we answer
         The call of day with music.

         And over blade and clover,
         As when the west wind passes,
         The grasses hardly bending,

         We twirl and glide and trip it
         Down wind-floors of desiring,
         To open doors of dreamland.

[They dance away, leaving the CHILD covered with a profusion of ornaments.

CHILD (still dancing).
         Oh, see the pretty spangles
         And hear the pretty jangles!
         From every corner dangles
            A garland to and fro!
         I love the silver tinkling,
         I love the starry twinkling,
         Although I've not an inkling
            Of what the garlands know.

TALIESIN. Beauty, but not the beauty of the soul
I see dim-glowing like a coal the wind
Fans till it kindles. Let the bells be bells,
The roses breathe their rose-thought out in odors,
The opal-passion through the opal sing;
Thy loveliness is other. Come, away!

CHILD. You sha'n't have my pretty things, I say.

[Darting off.

TALIESIN. Nay, keep them, till you yield them of yourself.
. . . Higher to climb looks not so light a task
As this first hillock. No ascent I see
But up sheer heights and over rocky ways.
But on the summit see I not afar
Soft slopes and pleasant woods, and 'neath the boughs
Calm goddesses whose moving, even here,
Seems like a solemn music? . . . I will climb!

[Climbs up and out of sight with the CHILD. The scene changes to the summit of Helicon. The nine MUSES are moving through an intricate and stately dance, in the intervals of which they sing. A simpler movement of the dance continues through the singing.

THE MUSES. The supreme rays of the sun break into day, only on reaching
At the far rim of the sphere, faint as the dim ghost of a dream-sea,
   The upwhirled foam of the thin air;
In the void spaces between worlds it is night. So is the spirit
Unrevealed, barren, remote, vain, but if made flesh for beholding;
And its doom surely is darkness.

For a soul speechless, without body, without token for comrades,
Is the dark promise of soul only, enwombed still, unbegotten.
   But the flesh, giving the spirit
To the world, gives it as well back to itself, great with a world's gain;
And the word teaches our own thought that was spoke, teaching another;
   And the deed fashions the doer.

To the unseeing, the unspeaking, the blue heaven is a vain thing
And the world's hero a name. Love in his heart rots unaccomplished,
   As an oak dead in the acorn.
But let speech fall like a sunburst on the night – lo, it unfolds star
Upon star, height beyond height, world without end, till in its splendor
   It shall see God, it shall be God.

Enter TALIESIN and the CHILD.

TALIESIN. O benign goddesses, be gracious now
To me who call upon you, ignorant,
Unskilful, but my heart is set to sing.

URANIA. What gifts, then, dost thou bring, invoking goddesses?

TALIESIN. Joy, and a gift of praise, and sacrifice.

URANIA. Approach and offer these upon the altar, then.

TALIESIN. The sandals wherewith to this height I climbed,
These for a pledge of years and weariness;
The harp I play on, for a token of awe,
Praise and the utter yield of all my song
To your divine dominion, dames serene,
Daughters of Wisdom; last of all, I give
The song, the rapture of my heart, the love,
The lyric joy, the child that made me glad.

[He leaves the CHILD and the other gifts on the altar.

O splendors of the eternal, hear my prayer!
Teach me the knowledge of your ways, till what
I feel in all my veins, I may declare
In all my voices; what I know at heart,
In speech incarnate; what my soul desires,
Show forth in all the passion of my flesh.
Divinities of light, oh, hear my cry!

URANIA. In the beginning is the Word; God, perfect Spirit,
Eternally reveals himself. To Space he speaks
And clothes himself in thunders of orchestral stars.
He calls aloud, and Time grows rhythmic with the breath
Of life. The grappling of the spheres declares the might
Of his dominion, and their paths its perfectness.
Lo, he hath builded the foundations of the world
In night, and vaulted its blue dome with fire. His speech
Is in the carved work of its walls, and where his hand
Hath laid its floors in beauty. Very light of light,
Behind the drench and dream of color lurks his love.

CLIO. Empires, migrations, battles, thrones, democracies,
Wharves and adventuring sails, and clamor of fierce desires,
Cities and priesthoods, – so the spirit of man is clay
God moulds into the mighty image of his dream.

URANIA. The universe is his garment.

CLIO.                                             And the soul of man
His image, triune, sense and thought and love, full-sphered.

TERPSICHORE. Last through the body, one with Man and Nature, – a speech
Itself and mother of all speech else, – wherein the earth
Takes on the likeness of divinity, – he shines.

TALIESIN. Ay, but the blind world sees not, till the artist
Reverbs the messages. The myriad-wrought
Harmonies of design and color fade
For very intricacy of eloquence
Into an indistinguishable gray.
But bit by bit if disentangled, held
Apart, and shown to men, their eyes, once seeing
The broken beauty isolated, turn
Back to God's work to find it there forever;
So God makes use of poets. Teach me, then,
To fashion worlds in little, making form,
As God does, one with spirit, – be the priest
Who makes God into bread to feed the world.

URANIA. The body is a form, with line and tone and tint
And hue and texture, light and shade; and talks as clouds
And mountains do, and oaks and grass and starry nights;
And in its features what man is, is charactered.
Nor may he change his nature but sure Time inscribes
The record of the change upon that palimpsest.

TERPSICHORE. Form is the subsidence upon the shores of Time
Left there by motion of forgotten seas. Not form
Alone, immutable and sterile diamond,
The body is, but vibrant, pregnable, a harp
Whereon the spirit plays innumerous melodies
Of motion, – chords, progressions visible, – wherein
Gather and fade the myriad unrecurring dreams,
Passions and ecstasies that sweep like shadows o'er
The prairies of man's heart.

POLYHYMNIA.                   Nor this alone; without,
An instrument whereon the harmonies of light
And movement rise, within it is an organ wrought
From crown to midriff for the wonder of tone. And so
Man's life goes out in music.

TERPSICHORE.                  Praise the body, then,
A loveliness itself and twofold lyre to call
New loveliness to being. Praise the blazon of flesh
That like a clarion sunburst trumpets to the night
The universe of soul: valley and peak and still
Woodland and quiver of the universal air
Leap from the silence, and the dead is made alive.

EUTERPE. Lute, viol, trumpet, – as a conquering king the soul
O'ersteps the realm ancestral, fills dead Africas
With colonies of music, multiplies its throne
In empired harmonies. The forest yields its trees,
The caverns of the earth their ores, and man creates
A thousand throats to speak through. Oh, the wondrous frame
The soul shall fashion for itself in that vast life
God keeps for it in heaven! Speech of the yet unshaped,
Dream of the yet enwombed and unborn in man's heart,
He gropes for in the shudderings of the air.

ERATO.                                                  And last
Man names the world, himself, and all that is therein,
The incantation of the word calls from the dark
The phantoms of the mind, insights, analogies,
Conceptions, ratiocinations, memories, –
Bodiless wizardries whose air-drawn lineaments
Compel the ages.

CALLIOPE.         Word, tone, gesture, color, shape,
I sum them in the deed. Man, Master of an Act,
At last and only finds whole utterance. Poet, sing
The Hero, then, the man whose work the Lord of Worlds
Confirms coeval with his peaks and stars.

MELPOMENE.                                        All speech
Made one to voice the strife irreconcilable
Of Will and Doom, of man and his relentless births
Rending the spirit that engendered them, the war
Of thunders in mid-air, battling if earth shall be
Blasted, or filled with foison more divine, – for this
Body and vesture, sound, speech, color, deed, in-wrought
In harmonies of harmonies!

THALIA.                          All language, too,
For joy, for reconcilement! God is a merry God;
And from their lofty seats the laughter of the gods
Goes up like crackling smoke of mighty forest fires.
For mirth, the child, and reconciling love, a tall
Young angel, and the calm of slow full-statured joy,
These three stand nighest about the throne of God; and these
Man utters and arouses when I come.

TALIESIN.                                       I reel,
Drunken with vision. Enter into me,
Ye voices, and become my life, my soul!
Or how shall I become what I discern?

TERPSICHORE. Attend; and take the meaning of the signs you see.

[A marvellous dance of the nine MUSES. TERPSICHORE, approaching the altar, takes therefrom the CHILD, who, as he joins in the dance arid repeats the beautiful, mysterious motions of the goddesses, is transformed from stage to stage of stature and loveliness, until he appears a youth, tall and slender and of perfect beauty. He is completely naked, all his ornaments having fallen from him hi the dance. But the MUSES gather up and restore to him a few, of such a nature that they enhance rather than cumber the lithe grace of his figure. The dance finished, the YOUTH turns to TALIESIN. As he does so, TALIESIN is aware that NIMUE is again standing by his side; and with her the presence of two of the gods, which are HERMES and APOLLO.

The city waits with garlands, and I go;
The city waits with garlands like a bride.
Now with the joy still in that look of hers,
I must go to her. Not a sea-breath stirs
Across the gardens where she waits and dreams
Of one whose coming shall be like a tide
Of day, flooding the marsh-long loops and gleams
Of sunrise heavens in midsummertide.
I am her lover; it is I she waits.
Farewell; I go like summer to her gates.

HERMES. Stay for a moment. If you go into the city
With no more raiment than you need on Helicon,
You'll hardly get the kind of welcome that you look for.
Put on this mantle; it is the prevailing fashion,
And has a magic virtue. All to whom you speak
Will listen while you wear it. Should you strip it off,
Beware! men stone the fool that jargons in their ears,
. . . And, since you seem to be in something of a hurry,
Here, take my sandals (you observe the wings on them);
Be off; you need winged sandals when a lady's waiting.
Only, be sure, next time you are passing by Olympus,
Leave them with Ganymede; I do not wish to lose them.

[APOLLO stretches forth his hands upon the YOUTH.

APOLLO. When thou wast still blown through the leaves at the will of the air,
                    I was with thee!
And when thou wert gathered in sleep in the womb of the dark,
                    I was with thee!
Look on me! Dost thou know me, who I am?

THE YOUTH. Brightness of God, bless me and set me free!

[APOLLO breathes upon his forehead, and the face and the whole body of the YOUTH send forth a glow as of flame seen through a veil.

TALIESIN. These be the gods, in truth.

NIMUE.                                             And I, a god,
Am with thee forever.

TALIESIN.                I fear the gifts of gods.

NIMUE. The gifts of the gods are twofold, – death and life,

TALIESIN. Come death then, so they give me life indeed.

    O World! O Life! O City by the Sea!
            Hushed is the hum
    Of streets; a pause is on the minstrelsy.
            I come, I come!
    The sunlight of thy gardens from afar
            Is in my heart.
    A girl's laugh dropt from heaven like a star
            Leads where thou art.
    The old men in the market-place confer,
            The streets are dumb;
    The sentinels await a harbinger –
            I come, I come!

[He leaps downward through the air, and his song is heard dying in the distance. TALIESIN kneels before APOLLO, about whom the MUSES gather.

O thou without whom song is a broken bell,
Whose face is as white swords with the sun thereon!
    Look on thy priest who kneels before thee,
        Silent, awaiting the breath that quickens;

As hangs a white ship under a tropic moon
Between a windless sky and a waveless sea,
    Dream-still, with all sail set, till softly
        Over the waters a wind arises.

APOLLO. Give ear to their teaching, O thou who wouldst take fire and beacon with me!
As wood or as brass they shall fashion thee; yea, as a lyre they shall frame
Thy heart, and thy lips shall be moulded as the lips of a trumpet are wrought.
They are cunning artificers; they are the makers of lutes for the gods.
But, behold, I am he that shall smite into music the lutes they have strung;
I am he that shall breathe through their trumpets; I am he that shall burn in their lyres.
Ere thou lifted thy face for my seeking, ere thou wert, ere the world was, or these,
The Nine of the secrets of wisdom, I was, and my song was, with God;
And through me and the sound of my singing they were made, and all things that were made.

Before the worlds God was and the nothingness,
The yawn of space; He spake, and the word was Thou,
    First-born of angels and archangels,
        Lord of the light and the lyre, Apollo.

Thou art the breath God kindles the stars withal;
The seed of God wherewith as a womb the world
    Conceives and brings forth life; the sea-cry
        Calling the soul to its ageless journey.

APOLLO. Greaten thyself to the end, I am he for whose breath thou art greatened;
Perfect thy speech to a god's, I am he for whom speech is made perfect;
And my voice in the hush of thy heart is the voice of the tides of the worlds.
Thou shalt know it is I when I speak, as the foot knows the rock that it treads on,
As the sea knows the moon, as the sap knows the place of the sun in the heavens,
As the cloud knows the cloud it must meet and embrace with caresses of lightning.
When thou hearest my voice, thou art one with the hurl of the stars through the void,
One with the shout of the sea and the stampede of droves of the wind,
One with the coursers of Time and the grip of God's hand on their harness;
And the powers of the night and the grave shall avail not to stand in thy path.

Oh, well for him, strong son of the urge of song,
Who, out of gloom dim-groping to find the sky,
    Beholds the splendor of our coming,
        Over the darkness a dawn arising;

As when to lost wayfarers in woods at night
Day breaks and spectres flee, and a bird begins
    His joy, and paths lie straight before them.
        So shall he stand with the sunlight on him,

Beholding all things, myriad, evident,
Each wave that lifts, each ripple upon the wave,
    And bird and bud and wind-borne drift-seed,
        Leaf and the vein in the leaf apparent.

Till eye[s] again grow dim with diviner sight,
Till lips forget all craft in the lyric rush,
    Till knowledge be made one with being,
        Deep where the dark of the soul debates not.

For he, with lips made swift for the song to pass.
Shall be aware no longer of lips that sing;
    Use shall have made speech leap unbidden,
        Sure as a horse when he knows his rider.

So day, that makes earth clear to its tiniest,
But darkens heaven's orbed deeps and immensities;
    Marks motes and blots out spheres, – till night comes,
        Night with the stars and their revelations.


The Chapel of the Graal. A Gothic hall of alabaster. In the middle, at back, steps lead up as to an altar; but in the stead of one are massive golden doors, bolted heavily. On the sides, the usual choir-stalls, in which the CHORISTERS stand, singing their office. The aisle between is spacious, and in it, on the left, on a couch covered with white leopard skins, KING EVELAC, a man old beyond belief, with long white hair and beard, clad in white garments and crowned with a silver crown inwrought with diamonds, reclines as if sick and worn with long dolors. On the right, further back, PERCIVAL lies asleep, in the same posture as when the might of the sleep came upon him. His head and arm rest upon a couch covered with white leopard skins, and at his head NIMUE stands, erect and clad in her electric mantle. Beside them TALIESIN sits, with his harp. A blue light burns in the sanctuary-lamp.

Neither KING EVELAC nor the CHORISTERS pay any heed to the presence of the others; nor does the King at any time rise or change his posture.

Hidden in the hills of the soul,
    The dusk of us calls to thee –
    The lone of us cries to thee!
Silent in the far of the soul,
    The desire of thee wakes to the dark.

Who is he that comes like the day
    To reveal thou art nigh to us –
    To assure thou art touching us?
Nay, for thou art gone with the day,
    Who wert nearer than touch in the dark.

Utter thy desire, O my soul,
    In the still of the midnight –
    In the death of the midnight!
Then shall there be signs for the soul
    And the whispers of God through the dark.

KING EVELAC. As a stir in the air, when the aspens alone are aware –

CHORISTERS. We have heard thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As a voice in a dream, as an echo of voice in a dream –

CHORISTERS. We have heard thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the birth of a rose, as the noise of an opening rose –

CHORISTERS. We have heard thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the song of the spheres, as the cry of the lapse of the years –

CHORISTERS. We have heard thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As a cloud in the sky, that dissolves ere it catches the eye –

CHORISTERS. We have seen thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the light in a face, that a moment sufficed to efface –

CHORISTERS. We have seen thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the breath of the moon in the lull of a midnight in June –

CHORISTERS. We have seen thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the vision supreme, when the prayer dies away in the dream –

CHORISTERS. We have seen thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the fingers that pass in the stir of the wind in the grass –

CHORISTERS. We have touched thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As a bird feels the air in its wings, to caress and upbear –

CHORISTERS. We have touched thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the breath of a lover is warm on the cheek of his love –

CHORISTERS. We have touched thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. As the feel of the night and its spaces, about and above –

CHORISTERS. We have touched thee, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. By the cry of the heart in the darkness, to know where thou art –

CHORISTERS. We beseech thee to hear us.

KING EVELAC. By the grace thou hast shown, by the tokens and touch we have known –

CHORISTERS. We beseech thee to hear us.

KING EVELAC. By the vigil thou keepest about us, awake and asleep –

CHORISTERS. We beseech thee to hear us.

KING EVELAC. By thy coming at night, by the voice and the kiss and the light –

CHORISTERS. We beseech thee to hear us. . . .

KING EVELAC. Listen to the fearfulness of our love.

CHORISTERS. And forgive us the unloveliness that we have wrought. . . .

KING EVELAC. Alas, the memory of our trespass clings
Bat-like and sucks the courage of our hearts.
Alas, the knowledge of our faithlessness
Clings like an ivy to our crumbled pride.

CHORISTERS. Forgive us, Beloved.

KING EVELAC. Nathless, thou hast not wholly cast us off.
Nathless, we are the wardens of the light
We may not see, the love we dare not touch.
Oh, may the time be shortened that we watch!

CHORISTERS. Forgive us, Beloved. . . .

KING EVELAC. Therefore we have shaken off fear from our feet and shame from our eyelids.

CHORISTERS. And our song is a song of love, and our voice is a voice of rejoicing. . . .

KING EVELAC. As a poet abashed at the heights on him flashed from above –

CHORISTERS. We adore thee, O Lord.

KING EVELAC. As a dog lifts his pitiful eyes to his master for love –

CHORISTERS. We adore thee, O Lord.

KING EVELAC. As a child's heart breaks in the dark for its mother with love –

CHORISTERS. We adore thee, O Lord.

KING EVELAC. As a maiden's soul is a moonlit marsh with love –

CHORISTERS. We adore thee, O Lord.

KING EVELAC. O secret, O sweet, O piercing Lord of the soul! . . .

    Lover in the silent night
        Who comest like still peaks
    Under the lonely stars
        Into the soul's retreats!
    O lover like unto the light
        Of a dawn seen under the sea!
    As a leaf that the loam debars,
        Our desire is unto thee.

    As sea-floors trampled with wind,
         We are under thy feet;
    And the light of thy coming is dimmed
        With the daze of its sweet;
    We are spread as a plain for thy couch,
        And the grasses are deep;
    Kiss us with the kisses of thy mouth,
        Which are sweeter than sleep.

    Lord of the lone heights
        Where the soul has fear!
    Lord of the secret nights
        Of the starlit mere!
    We are the waves that hush
        For the light to be.
    Dawn o'er us, ravish us,
         Prone unto thee. . . .

[A long pause, in which the CHORISTERS remain with their faces raised in silent adoration. Then, rising, they leave the stalls silently and, meeting in the centre, before the golden doors, kneel two by two, turning, they come down the spacious aisle and, pausing two by two to bow before the ancient King, go out in silence by a little door on the right. During the singing of the office, PERCIVAL has awaked.

PERCIVAL. There is a quiet thrill along the air,
As if God laid his hand upon the place.
How came we hither? Whither have we come?

TALIESIN. We came through many lands, across a sea,
And into a white summer. When I first
Looked on it, tales of Thule and Ysmonde
Woke in my soul, and lands of ice and snow.
But from the fields a breath of lilied June
Blessed me upon the eyelids with a kiss.
No glitter of the diamonds of the snow
Was on the fields, but lilies and white grass,
Softer than ermine, lush and thick and deep,
Wherein no footfall sounded. Tall white trees
Blossomed with pale mists of blue flowers; and birds
With plumage like the green of sunset skies,
Or the dim violet of the moon's dark orb
When the first silver rims it, sprang from bough
To bough and sang as birds sing in a dream
Of argent heavens. Aloof, against white cliffs
The blue sea lay in calm, silent and smooth,
Under the cloudless sky. And all the place
Was dim as the great deeps of a man's soul
Or of the sea. And in the midst of all
Lay a white temple, with a golden light
That issued from its roof and reached the sky
Like a strange sunrise coming from the north.
Therein we entered.

PERCIVAL.             Knowest thou naught else?
(To NIMUE.) . . . Unknown and mighty, who hast brought me here,
Tell me, thou! Is it the Chapel of the Graal?

[NIMUE vanishes softly as he speaks, but a vague wraith of her is still, from time to time, seen dimly in the shadows.

(To EVELAC.) . . . King, for thou seemest like a king and bearest
Upon thy brow the closed crown of a king;
Priest, for thou doest the office of a priest
And wearest alb and stole – I kneel to thee,
Unwitting who thou art. Wisdom and eld
Are in thy face, at least, and kindliness.
I pray thee, tell me whither I am come.

KING EVELAC. Since I came into the white land, the slow
Waters that eat an inch a year, have gnawed
The length of six graves inland from the cliffs.
Here without change of spring or winter, I,
Changeless as the still season, wait. My name
Is Evelac, of whom perchance some bruit
Sighs still along the arches of the world.
I was a king, what time one of the Three
Who are in One forever, shrank his skies
Into the compass of a maiden's womb.
After He tore the mask from rosy Death,
Arimathean Joseph came to me
In the wild North I reigned in, preaching peace,
Bearing in his hands a marvel, even –

PERCIVAL.                                   The Graal!

KING EVELAC. The Cup of Mystery, men call the Graal :
Thou seekest it? Beware! On me, the first,
The sacred madness of the Vessel came.
Too rash, I would have stretched my hand upon it
When Joseph died; the wound thereof I bear.
Yet, – for my love was great, – this grace is mine,
That God shall choose the issue of my flesh
To lift the Graal up like a vasty torch
Blazing God's beacon in the gulfs of sky;
And till he come, the ninth from me in birth,
I, seeing not, unworthy to draw nigh,
Barred from its beauty and its gloriousness,
Keep watch before yon portals of its shrine,
Doing due ritual, warding it from ill,
The porter of the mysteries of God.
The centuries go by like northern lights;
But I remain till all this be fulfilled,
And he whom God has chosen, come at last
To heal me of my wound, and gain the Graal.

PERCIVAL. Not overbold, nor without heavenly signs,
Have I come hither.

KING EVELAC.     Art thou he I wait?
Come near, my son, that I may look on thee. . . .
Seven kings have ruled the realm I left to them,
Eldest from eldest born, of my descent,
The last of whom was Ban. From him should spring
A son, his first-born, whom all men shall praise;
And from that son he that shall gain the Graal. . . .

PERCIVAL. The first-born of King Ban all men indeed
Praise, and acknowledge knight without a peer;
All men, from Arthur to a villager,
Praise Launcelot du Lac, the son of Ban.

KING EVELAC. And art thou, then, his son?

PERCIVAL.                                               No son of his
Breathes the sweet air that blows across the world.
Bound by a sterile love of lips denied,
Too fervent-faithful to that love to woo
Another, he will never have a son.

KING EVELAC. God shall accomplish his decrees, though chance,
Folly, and the weak wills of men withstand them.
Man's disobedience shall fulfil his hests
As well as man's submission. Deem not thou
The oracles of God are empty words. . . .
And as for thee, since thou art not the son
I wait, give o'er; the Graal is not for thee.

PERCIVAL. Thy oracles for thee, and mine for me.
I have no other lantern for my feet
Than the one given into my hand. The lights
That others bear, however true for them,
But cast conflicting gleams athwart my path
And dazzle all my searching. Such high warrant
I have for my desire, I must obey,
Were Death, not Life, the Lord behind the door. . . .

[He takes three steps toward the golden doors and stops suddenly, as if arrested by an invisible hand. The bolts glide back of themselves, noiselessly, and the doors open. The soft, intense splendor of the Graal fills all the place, but the Graal is not seen; for seven ANGELS, all in gold, stand before it, which are the Seven that see God continually. One of them, URIEL, who stands in the middle, a little before the others, holds in his hands a flaming sword.

URIEL. Percival . . . Percival! . . . Approach no nearer thy desire, thou of the Choice.
The time is not yet. Still the air thy spirit breathes too thickened is with noise
Of earth-blown rumors for the thin pulsations of the interstellar voice
To stir its sluggard atoms to the unbroken theme the deeps hear and rejoice.
Thy heart is yet too full of anger, and the hate of evil clots thy soul;
Too far from hell to hate it must he be whom God shall breathe on as a coal
Until the pure light of perfection burns about him like an aureole.
Pray to the tranquil night to let the calm of stars beneath the silent pole
Fall like a mighty hand upon thy spirit, even like the hand of Death.
And in that hour when thou art clothed upon with the tranquillity of Death,
When Love has cast out even the hate of hate, – Love whom the gods name Death, –
Come, and the gates shall open; come, and thou shalt enter in the holy place,
See the mask melt into the features of the Living Soul it covers, face
The Eyes that all love looks through, feel intense about thee like a burning breath
The swift invasion of his heart-beats, the reverberation of his grace. . . .

TALIESIN. Lord, who am I that I should let my voice
Swim like a mote into the golden silence
That pours like sunlight from thy ended speech? . . .
Tall lord of splendors, slay me not with light,
If I, unworthier than a grasshopper,
Send my thin cry across the summer noon! . . .
Yet will I take heart, O my lord, and speak;
For thou it was, none other, albeit now
In fiercer light and shape more awful shown,
That on the Mount of Vision spake to me
And showed me many signs and breathed upon me,
Filling my spirit with the pulse of Time.
Under thy forms I know thee for the same;
And by the touch still tingling on my brow
Dare speak a child's speech at my father's feet.
Behold the man that kneels before thee here,
Whom thou dost not arraign of any sin.
Much has he wrought and suffered much, to come
Unto this place. Shall he be sent away
With no more grace than this thou givest him?

URIEL. Better the rose of love out of the dung-hill of the world's adulteries
Than the maid icicle that keeps itself from stain of earth where no life is
In the aloof of splendors boreal. His own soul bars him from God's bliss,
Dwindling the sun to its own sterile sheen and freezing with transparencies.
Let him go back among his fellow-men and learn to love and learn to give,
Forgetting the white beauty of his soul in the desire that all that live
Should beacon into beauty. . . . Yet a sign to star the dark he shall receive,
Because another pleads for him. Such power have prayers of self oblivious.
Let him await Another who shall come, and sit in the Siege Perilous,
And live. In him he shall behold how light can look on darkness and forgive,
How love can walk in the mire and take no stain therefrom. In him he shall possess
The stainlessness he craves, outside himself; and in that vision luminous
Letting his chiselled virtue melt, reflect at last God's loving holiness. . . .

TALIESIN. My thoughts are vain thoughts, and my words are folly;
Yet I have spoken and thou hast not frowned,
Yet I have cried and thou hast looked on me.
Therefore will I gird my heart up once again
And speak out boldly to the Lord my God.
Thou who beholdest God continually,
Doth not his light shine even on the blind
Who feel the flood they lack the sense to see?
The lark that seeks him in the summer sky
Finds there the great blue mirror of his soul;
Winged with the dumb need of he knows not what,
He finds the mute speech of he knows not whom.
Is not the wide air, after the cocoon,
As much God as the moth-soul can receive?
Doth not God give the child within the womb
Some guess to set him groping for the world,
Some blurred reflection answering his desire?
We, shut in this blue womb of doming sky,
Guess and grope dimly for the vast of God,
And, eyeless, through some vague, less perfect sense
Strive for a sign of what it is to see.
The gardens that we journey for are hid
Behind the curve of the eternal sphere;
Yet sometimes in the sky there is a light
As of a thousand pearls, that is of them.
This man has reached the little-travelled roads;
Grant him some vision of the nearing goal.

URIEL. Draw nearer, thou! For unto thee shall be declared the word of him that is.
Less perfect in the circle of thy powers than he thou pleadest for in his,
Thou hast a sense he lacks, a sense still clouded over with impurities
But dim-discerning the eidolons that arise from that which is not seen.
Kneel; for before thy time the Lord shall lead thy feet into the Ways Serene,
Into the meadows of his smile, the riverlands that look upon his mien;
Before thy time thy soul shall bathe in the still pools in which his Face is seen.

[He lifts a sphere of diamond above his head.

Draw near and look within the crystal orb I lift above thee for a sign.
The glory hidden from thee by our golden wings upon that sphere a-shine
Leaves there the vision lurking for the eyes that see. Deem not the grace is thine
Of thine own merit. Much is given unto thee, that much by thee be given.
Thou art the eye for him thou comest with, that he may know the joy divine;
Thou art an eye for all thy kind, to lead them to the open gates of heaven. . . .

[TALIESIN slowly draws nearer the ANGEL and kneels on the lowest step beneath his feet, looking up fearfully into the diamond sphere.

Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine!
O kindle of the world! O Love divine!
O wonder of the uncomprehended Sign
Wherein the darks of thee take fire and shine,
Blazing on earth what heaven could scarce divine!
Thine! . . .

Before the awful night of thine unknown,
Tides that set blind from zone of space to zone,
We lift ourselves in glowing peaks to throne
The Dawn eternal where thy Face is shown,
Known, known!

Dim of Time!
Within the waters, lo, the lights that rhyme
The timeless splendors of the heights sublime!
Calmer and calmer till the under-grime
Dies in the vision of the holier clime
Above thy billows, Time.

Near! near! near! near! near!
Until beneath the film of sheen, O seer,
Thine eyes behold the incarnation clear,
The skies within the dewdrop of the sphere,
Gleams of the heavens on heavens that appear,
Sheer. . . .!

Oh, Heart of the Silences!
Cheek nestling close to my cheek!
Breathing in the dark!
Cooing of doves in my soul!
Whisper of death in the cool!

Thy coming is like a pool of still water;
The leaves of the poplars are not stirred.
Thy coming is like a meadow at sunset;
The haystacks cast no shadows;
A spell has arrested the world.

God hath not considered my unworthiness;
And my ill favor he hath set at naught.
He hath stretched out his arms to me, as a lover,
And solicited me from afar.
I am terrified with thy loveliness, O God.

Thy joy is like the joy of the Night!
Night of dim bugles! Night of the horns of dream!
Night of the listening soul! Orchestral Night!
Night of flute-silver rivers and the chanting hills!
Night of the silent music of the moon!

My soul lies in the lull of thy spirit
Like a lote on a lonely lake;
My soul melts like snow in the waters of thy joy;
Thy love is like a white silence;
The joy of death is in my soul.

[Taking his harp, he sings:

Unaware as the air of the light that fills full all its girth,
    Yet crowds not an atom of air from its place to make way;
Growing from splendor to splendor, from birth to birth,
    As day to the rose of dawn from the earlier gray;
As day from the sunrise gold to the luminous mirth
    Of morning, and brighter and brighter, till noon shall be;
Intense as the cling of the sun to the lips of the earth,
    And cool as the call of a wind on the still of the sea,

Joy, joy, joy in the height and the deep;
    Joy like the joy of a leaf that unfolds to the sun;
Joy like the joy of a child in the borders of sleep;
    Joy like the joy of a multitude thrilled into one;
Under the teeth that clench and the eyes that weep,
    Deeper than discord or doubt or desire or wrong,
One with the wills that sow and the Fates that reap,
    Joy in the heart of the world like a peal of song.

Stir in the dark of the stars unborn that desire
    Only the thrill of a wild, dumb force set free,
Yearn of the burning heart of the world on fire
    For life and birth and battle and wind and sea,
Groping of life after love till the spirit aspire,
     Into Divinity ever transmuting the clod,
Higher and higher and higher and higher and higher
    Out of the Nothingness world without end into God.

Man from the blindness attaining the succor of sight,
    God from his glory descends to the shape we can see;
Life, like a moon, is a radiant pearl in the night
    Thrilled with his beauty to beacon o'er forest and sea;
Life like a sacrifice laid on the altar, delight
    Kindles as flame from the air to be fire at its core!
Joy, joy, joy in the deep and the height!
    Joy in the holiest, joy evermore, evermore!

Thine! Thine!
Shrined in the worlds of worlds, whom yet the shrine
Of the domed universe doth not confine!
Red in the chalice of the years like wine!
Uttered, unutterable, awful, and benign!
Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! Thine! . . .
Thine! . . . Thine! . . . Thine! . . .
Thine! . . .

[The golden doors close silently, and the song of the ANGELS dies away within.
Additional Information:
Taliesin: A Masque was originally published in Poet-Lore 7 (1896).