Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Epilogue
By Lascelles Abercrombie (1881–1938)
 
WHAT shall we do for Love these days?
How shall we make an altar-blaze
To smite the horny eyes of men
With the renown of our Heaven,
And to the unbelievers prove        5
Our service to our dear god, Love?
What torches shall we lift above
The crowd that pushes through the mire,
To amaze the dark heads with strange fire?
I should think I were much to blame,        10
If never I held some fragrant flame
Above the noises of the world,
And openly ’mid men’s hurrying stares,
Worshipt before the sacred fears
That are like flashing curtains furl’d        15
Across the presence of our Lord Love.
 
  Nay, would that I could fill the gaze
Of the whole earth with some great praise
Made in a marvel for men’s eyes,
Some tower of glittering masonries,        20
Therein such a spirit flourishing
Men should see what my heart can sing:
All that Love hath done to me
Built into stone, a visible glee;
Marble carried to gleaming height        25
As moved aloft by inward delight;
Not as with toil of chisels hewn,
But seeming poised in a mighty tune.
For of all those who have been known
To lodge with our kind host, the sun,        30
I envy one for just one thing:
 
  In Cordova of the Moors
There dwelt a passion-minded King,
Who set great bands of marble-hewers
To fashion his heart’s thanksgiving        35
In a tall palace, shapen so
All the wondering world might know
The joy he had of his Moorish lass.
His love, that brighter and larger was
Than the starry places, into firm stone        40
He sent, as if the stone were glass
Fired and into beauty blown.
 
  Solemn and invented gravely
In its bulk the fabric stood,
Even as Love, that trusteth bravely        45
In its own exceeding good
To be better than the waste
Of time’s devices; grandly spaced,
Seriously the fabric stood.
But over it all a pleasure went        50
Of carven delicate ornament,
Wreathing up like ravishment,
Mentioning in sculptures twined
The blitheness Love hath in his mind;
And like delighted senses were        55
The windows, and the columns there
Made the following sight to ache
As the heart that did them make.
Well I can see that shining song
Flowering there, the upward throng        60
Of porches, pillars and window’d walls,
Spires like piercing panpipe calls,
Up to the roof’s snow-cloud flight;
All glancing in the Spanish light
White as water of arctic tides,        65
Save an amber dazzle on sunny sides.
You had said, the radiant sheen
Of that palace might have been
A young god’s fantasy, ere he came
His serious worlds and suns to frame;        70
Such an immortal passion
Quiver’d among the slim hewn stone.
And in the nights it seem’d a jar
Cut in the substance of a star,
Wherein a wine, that will be pour’d        75
Some time for feasting Heaven, was stored.
 
  But within this fretted shell,
The wonder of Love made visible,
The King a private gentle mood
There placed, of pleasant quietude.        80
For right amidst there was a court,
Where always muskèd silences
Listen’d to water and to trees;
And herbage of all fragrant sort,—
Lavender, lad’s-love, rosemary,        85
Basil, tansy, centaury,—
Was the grass of that orchard, hid
Love’s amazements all amid.
Jarring the air with rumour cool,
Small fountains play’d into a pool        90
With sound as soft as the barley’s hiss
When its beard just sprouting is;
Whence a young stream, that trod on moss,
Prettily rimpled the court across.
And in the pool’s clear idleness,        95
Moving like dreams through happiness,
Shoals of small bright fishes were;
In and out weed-thickets bent
Perch and carp, and sauntering went
With mounching jaws and eyes a-stare;        100
Or on a lotus leaf would crawl
A brinded loach to bask and sprawl,
Tasting the warm sun ere it dipt
Into the water; but quick as fear
Back his shining brown head slipt        105
To crouch on the gravel of his lair,
Where the cool’d sunbeams broke in wrack,
Spilt shatter’d gold about his back.
 
  So within that green-veil’d air,
Within that white-wall’d quiet, where        110
Innocent water thought aloud,—
Childish prattle that must make
The wise sunlight with laughter shake
On the leafage overbow’d,—
Often the King and his love-lass        115
Let the delicious hours pass.
All the outer world could see
Graved and sawn amazingly
Their love’s delighted riotise,
Fixt in marble for all men’s eyes;        120
But only these twain could abide
In the cool peace that withinside
Thrilling desire and passion dwelt;
They only knew the still meaning spelt
By Love’s naming script, which is        125
God’s word written in ecstasies.
 
  And where is now that palace gone,
All the magical skill’d stone,
All the dreaming towers wrought
By Love as if no more than thought        130
The unresisting marble was?
How could such a wonder pass?
Ah, it was but built in vain
Against the stupid horns of Rome,
That pusht down into the common loam        135
The loveliness that shone in Spain.
But we have raised it up again!
A loftier palace, fairer far,
Is ours, and one that fears no war.
Safe in marvellous walls we are;        140
Wondering sense like builded fires,
High amazement of desires,
Delight and certainty of love,
Closing around, roofing above
Our unapproacht and perfect hour        145
Within the splendours of love’s power.
 
 
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