Verse > Anthologies > Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. > The Little Book of Modern Verse
Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948).  The Little Book of Modern Verse.  1917.
106. The Candle and the Flame
By George Sylvester Viereck
THY hands are like cool herbs that bring
  Balm to men’s hearts, upon them laid;
  Thy lovely-petalled lips are made
As any blossom of the spring.
But in thine eyes there is a thing,        5
  O Love, that makes me half afraid.
For they are old, those eyes … They gleam
Between the waking and the dream
  With antique wisdom, like a bright
Lamp strangled by the temple’s veil,        10
  That beckons to the acolyte
Who prays with trembling lips and pale
  In the long watches of the night.
They are as old as Life. They were
  When proud Gomorrah reared its head        15
A new-born city. They were there
  When in the places of the dead
Men swathed the body of the Lord.
  They visioned Pa-wak raise the wall
  Of China. They saw Carthage fall        20
And marked the grim Hun lead his horde.
There is no secret anywhere
  Nor any joy or shame that lies
  Not writ somehow in those child-eyes
  Of thine, O Love, in some strange wise.        25
Thou art the lad Endymion,
  And that great queen with spice and myrrh
From Araby, whom Solomon
  Delighted, and the lust of her.
The legions marching from the sea        30
With Cæsar’s cohorts sang of thee,
  How thy fair head was more to him
Than all the land of Italy.
Yea, in the old days thou wast she
  Who lured Mark Antony from home        35
To death and Egypt, seeing he
  Lost love when he lost Rome.
Thou saw’st old Tubal strike the lyre,
  Yea, first for thee the poet hurled
Defiance at God’s starry choir!        40
Thou art the romance and the fire,
  Thou art the pageant and the strife,
The clamour, mounting high and higher,
  From all the lovers in the world
  To all the lords of love and life.
.    .    .    .    .    .
Perhaps the passions of mankind
  Are but the torches mystical
Lit by some spirit-hand to find
The dwelling of the Master-Mind
  That knows the secret of it all,        50
In the great darkness and the wind.
We are the Candle, Love the Flame,
  Each little life-light flickers out,
Love bides, immortally the same:
When of life’s fever we shall tire        55
He will desert us and the fire
  Rekindle new in prince or lout.
Twin-born of knowledge and of lust,
  He was before us, he shall be
Indifferent still of thee and me,        60
When shattered is life’s golden cup,
When thy young limbs are shrivelled up,
And when my heart is turned to dust.
Nay, sweet, smile not to know at last
  That thou and I, or knave, or fool,        65
  Are but the involitient tool
Of some world-purpose vague and vast.
No bar to passion’s fury set,
  With monstrous poppies spice the wine,
  For only drunk are we divine,        70
And only mad shall we forget!


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