Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > The New Poetry: An Anthology
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917.
346. The Waste Places
By James Stephens
AS a naked man I go
  Through the desert sore afraid,
Holding up my head although
  I’m as frightened as a maid.
The couching lion there I saw        5
  From barren rocks lift up his eye;
He parts the cactus with his paw,
  He stares at me as I go by.
He would follow on my trace
  If he knew I was afraid,        10
If he knew my hardy face
  Hides the terrors of a maid.
In the night he rises and
  He stretches forth, he snuffs the air;
He roars and leaps along the sand,        15
  He creeps and watches everywhere.
His burning eyes, his eyes of bale,
  Through the darkness I can see;
He lashes fiercely with his tail,
  He would love to spring at me.        20
I am the lion in his lair;
  I am the fear that frightens me;
I am the desert of despair
  And the nights of agony.
Night or day, whate’er befall,        25
  I must walk that desert land,
Until I can dare to call
  The lion out to lick my hand.
As a naked man I tread
  The gloomy forests, ring on ring,        30
Where the sun that’s overhead
  Cannot see what’s happening.
There I go: the deepest shade,
  The deepest silence pressing me;
And my heart is more afraid        35
  Than a maiden’s heart would be.
Every day I have to run
  Underneath the demon tree,
Where the ancient wrong is done
  While I shrink in agony.        40
There the demon held a maid
  In his arms, and as she, daft,
Screamed again in fear, he laid
  His lips upon her lips and laughed.
And she beckoned me to run,        45
  And she called for help to me,
And the ancient wrong was done
  Which is done eternally.
I am the maiden and the fear;
  I am the sunless shade, the strife;        50
I the demon lips, the sneer
  Showing under every life.
I must tread that gloomy way
  Until I shall dare to run
And bear the demon with his prey        55
  From the forest to the sun.


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