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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917.
 
420. The Poet in the Desert
 
By Charles Erskine Scott Wood
 
 
Extracts from the Prologue
 
 
I HAVE come into the Desert because my soul is athirst as the Desert is athirst;
My soul which is the soul of all; universal, not different.
We are athirst for the waters which make beautiful the path
And entice the grass, the willows and poplars,
So that in the heat of the day we may lie in a cool shadow,        5
Soothed as by the hands of quiet women, listening to the discourse of running waters as the voices of women, exchanging the confidences of love.
.    .    .    .    .    .
 
The mountains afar girdle the Desert as a zone of amethyst;
Pale, translucent wails of opal,
Gridling the Desert as Life is girt by Eternity.
They lift their heads high above our tribulation        10
Into the azure vault of Time;
Theirs are the airy castles which are set upon foundations of sapphire.
My soul goes out to them as the bird to her secret nest.
They are the abode of peace.
.    .    .    .    .    .
 
The flowers bloom in the Desert joyously—        15
They do not weary themselves with questioning;
They are careless whether they be seen, or praised.
They blossom unto life perfectly and unto death perfectly, leaving nothing unsaid.
They spread a voluptuous carpet for the feet of the Wind
And to the frolic Breezes which overleap them, they whisper:        20
“Stay a moment, Brother; plunder us of our passion;
Our day is short, but our beauty is eternal.”
Never have I found a place, or a season, without beauty.
Neither the sea, where the white stallions champ their bits and rear against their bridles,
Nor the Desert, bride of the Sun, which sits scornful, apart,        25
Like an unwooed princess, careless, indifferent.
She spreads her garments, wonderful beyond estimation,
And embroiders continually her mantle.
She is a queen, seated on a throne of gold
In the Hall of Silence.        30
She insists upon humility.
She insists upon meditation.
She insists that the soul be free.
She requires an answer.
She demands the final reply to thoughts which cannot be answered.        35
She lights the sun for a torch
And sets up the great cliffs as sentinels:
The morning and the evening are curtains before her chambers.
She displays the stars as her coronet.
She is cruel and invites victims,        40
Restlessly moving her wrists and ankles,
Which are loaded with sapphires.
Her brown breasts flash with opals.
She slays those who fear her,
But runs her hand lovingly over the brow of those who know her,        45
Soothing with a voluptuous caress.
She is a courtesan, wearing jewels,
Enticing, smiling a bold smile;
Adjusting her brilliant raiment negligently,
Lying brooding upon her floor which is richly carpeted;        50
Her brown thighs beautiful and naked.
She toys with the dazzelry of her diadems,
Smiling inscrutably.
She is a nun, withdrawing behind her veil;
Gray, subdued, silent, mysterious, meditative; unapproachable.        55
She is fair as a goddess sitting beneath a flowering peach-tree, beside a clear river.
Her body is tawny with the eagerness of the Sun
And her eyes are like pools which shine in deep canons.
She is beautiful as a swart woman, with opals at her throat,
Rubies on her wrists and topaz about her ankles.        60
Her breasts are like the evening and the day stars;
She sits upon her throne of light, proud and silent, indifferent to her wooers.
The Sun is her servitor, the Stars are her attendants, running before her.
She sings a song unto her own ears, solitary, but it is sufficient—
It is the song of her being. Oh, if I may sing the song of my being it will be sufficient.        65
She is like a jeweled dancer, dancing upon a pavement of gold;
Dazzling, so that the eyes must be shaded.
She wears the stars upon her bosom and braids her hair with the constellations.
 
I know the Desert is beautiful, for I have lain in her arms and she has kissed me.
I have come to her, that I may know freedom;        70
That I may lie upon the breast of the Mother and breathe the air of primal conditions.
I have come out from the haunts of men;
From the struggle of wolves upon a carcass,
To be melted in Creation’s crucible and be made clean;
To know that the law of Nature is freedom.        75
 

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