Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Irradiations
By John Gould Fletcher
 
I
THE IRIDESCENT vibrations of midsummer light
Dancing, dancing, suddenly flickering and quivering,
Like little feet or the movement of quick hands clapping,
Or the rustle of furbelows, or the clash of polished gems.
The sparkling mosaic of the mid-day light        5
Colliding, sliding, leaping and lingering:
Oh, I could lie on my back all day,
And mark the mad ballet of the midsummer sky.
 
II
Over the roof-tops race the shadows of clouds:
Like horses the shadows of clouds charge down the street.        10
 
Whirlpools of purple and gold,
Winds from the mountains of cinnabar,
Lacquered mandarin moments, palanquins swaying and balancing
Amid the vermilion pavilions, against the jade balustrades;
Glint of the glittering wings of dragon-flies in the light;        15
Silver filaments, golden flakes settling downwards;
Rippling, quivering flutters; repulse and surrender,
The sun broidered upon the rain,
The rain rustling with the sun.
Over the roof-tops race the shadows of clouds,        20
Like horses the shadows of clouds charge down the street.
 
III
The trees like great jade elephants
Chained, stamp and shake ’gainst the gadflies of the breeze;
The trees lunge and plunge, unruly elephants,
The clouds are as crimson howdah-canopies,        25
The sunlight glints like the golden robe of a Shah.
Would I were tossed on the wrinkled backs of those trees!
 
IV
O seeded grass, you army of little men
Crawling up the low slopes with quivering quick blades of steel:
You who storm millions of graves, tiny green tentacles of earth,        30
Interlace your tangled webs tightly over my heart
And do not let me go:
For I would lie here for ever and watch with one eye
The pilgrimaging ants in your dull savage jungles,
While with the other I see the long lines of the slope        35
Break in mid air, a wave surprisingly arrested;
And above it, wavering, bodiless, colorless, unreal,
The long thin lazy fingers of the heat.
 
V
The wind that drives the fine dry sand
Over the strand:        40
The salt wind spinning arabesques
With a wrinkled hand.
 
Labyrinths of shifting sand,
The dancing dunes!
 
I will run and catch at the flying sand        45
And scatter it higher with my hand;
I will wriggle like a long yellow snake over the beaches.
I will lie curled up, sleeping,
And the wind shall carry me
Far inland.        50
 
My breath is the music of the mad wind;
Shrill piping, stamping of drunken feet:
The fluttering, tattered broidery flung
Over the dunes’ steep escarpments.
 
The fine dry sand that whistles        55
Down the long low beaches.
 
VI
Not noisily, but solemnly and pale,
In a meditative ecstasy, you entered life,
As for some strange rite, to which you alone held the clue.
Child, life did not give rude strength to you;        60
From the beginning you would seem to have thrown away,
As something cold and cumbersome, that armor men use against death.
You would perchance look on death face to face and from him wrest the secret
Whether his face wears oftenest a smile or no?
Strange, old and silent being, there is something        65
Infinitely vast in your intense tininess:
I think you could point out with a smile some curious star
Far off in the heavens which no man has seen before.
 
VII
The morning is clean and blue, and the wind blows up the clouds:
Now my thoughts, gathered from afar,        70
Once again in their patched armor, with rusty plumes and blunted swords,
Move out to war.
 
Smoking our morning pipes we shall ride two and two
Through the woods.
For our old cause keeps us together,        75
And our hatred is so precious not death or defeat can break it.
God willing, we shall this day meet that old enemy
Who has given us so many a good beating.
Thank God, we have a cause worth fighting for,
And a cause worth losing, and a good song to sing!        80
 
VIII
Oh, all you stars up yonder,
Do you hear me? Beautiful, sullen eyes,
I am tired of seeing you in the same old places,
Night after night in the sky.
I hoped you would dance—but after twenty-six years,        85
I find you are determined to stay as you are.
So I make it known to you, stars clustered or solitary,
That I want you to fall into my lap tonight.
Come down, little stars, let me play with you!
I will string you like beads, and shovel you together,        90
And wear you in my ears, and scatter you over people—
And toss you back, like apples, as I choose.
 
IX
As I wandered over the city through the night
I saw many strange things,
But I have forgotten all        95
Except one painted face.
Gaudy, shameless night-orchid,
Heavy, flushed, sticky with narcotic perfume,
There was something in you which made me prefer you
Above all the feeble forget-me-nots of the world.        100
You were neither burnt-out nor pallid;
There was plain, coarse, vulgar meaning in every line of you,
And no make-believe:
You were at least alive,
When all the rest were but puppets of the night.        105
 
X
Slowly along the lamp-emblazoned street,
Amid the last sad drifting crowds of midnight
Like lost souls wandering,
Comes marching by solemnly
As for some gem-bedecked ritual of old,        110
A monotonous procession of black carts
Full-crowded with blood-red blossom:
Scarlet geraniums
Unfolding their fiery globes upon the night.
These are the memories of day moulded in jagged flame:        115
Lust, joy, blood and death.
With crushed hands, weary eyes, and hoarse clamor,
We consecrate and acclaim them tumultuously
Ere they pass, contemptuous, beyond the unpierced veil of silence.
 
XI
The flag let loose for a day of festivity:
        120
Free desperate symbol of battle and desire,
Leaping, lunging, tossing up the halliards:
Below it a tumult of music,
Above it the streaming wastes of the sky,
Pinnacles of clouds, pyres of dawn,        125
Infinite effort, everlasting day.
The immense flag waving
Aloft in glory:
Over seas and hilltops
Transmitting its lightnings.        130
 
 
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