Bertrand Russell Poems
I WILL not follow you, my bird,
I will not follow you.
I would not breathe a word, my bird,
To bring thee here anew.
I love the free in thee, my bird,
The lure of freedom drew;
The light you fly toward, my bird,
I fly with thee unto.
And there we yet will meet, my bird,
Though far I go from you
Where in the light outpoured, my bird,
Are love and freedom too.
OH, be not led away,
Lured by the colour of the sun-rich day.
The gay romance of song
Unto the spirit life doth not belong:
Though far-between the hours
In which the Master of Angelic powers
Lightens the dusk within
The holy of holies, be it thine to win
Rare vistas of white light,
Half-parted lips through which the Infinite
Murmurs its ancient story,
Hearkening to whom the wandering planets hoary
Waken primeval fires,
With deeper rapture in celestial choirs
Breathe, and with fleeter motion
Wheel in their orbits through the surgeless ocean.
So hearken thou like these,
Intent on it, mounting by slow degrees,
Until thy song’s elation
Echoes the multitudinous meditation.
OH, if my spirit may foretell
Or earlier impart,
It is because I always dwell
With morning in my heart.
I feel the keen embrace of light
Ere dawning on the view
It sprays the chilly fold of night
With iridescent dew.
The robe of dust around it cast
Hides not the earth below,
Its heart of ruby flame, the vast
Mysterious gloom and glow.
Something beneath yon coward gaze
Betrays the royal line;
Its lust and hate, but errant rays,
Are at their root divine.
I hail the light of elder years
Behind the niggard mould,
The fiery kings, the seraph seers,
As in the age of gold.
And all about and through the gloom
Breaths from the golden clime
Are wafted like a sweet perfume
From some most ancient time.
THE TWINKLING mists of green and gold
Afloat in the abyss of air,
From out the window high and old
We watched together there.
The monstrous fabric of the town
Lay black below; the cries of pain
Came to our ears from up and down
The dimly-lighted lane.
Olive, your eyes were turned to me,
Seeking a soul to sympathise:
I wondered what that glow might be,
Olive, within your eyes.
Into your trembling words there passed
The sorrow that was sighed through you:
Pity, a breath from out the vast,
From unknown hollows blew.
ONE thing in all things have I seen:
One thought has haunted earth and air:
Clangour and silence both have been
Its palace chambers. Everywhere
I saw the mystic vision flow
And live in men and woods and streams,
Until I could no longer know
The dream of life from my own dreams.
Sometimes it rose like fire in me
Within the depths of my own mind,
And spreading to infinity,
It took the voices of the wind:
It scrawled the human mystery—
Dim heraldry—on light and air;
Wavering along the starry sea
I saw the flying vision there.
Each fire that in God’s temple lit
Burns fierce before the inner shrine,
Dimmed as my fire grew near to it
And darkened at the light of mine.
At last, at last, the meaning caught—
The spirit wears its diadem;
It shakes its wondrous plumes of thought
And trails the stars along with them.
On the other side of a mirror there's an inverse world,
where the insane go sane; where bones climb out of the
earth and recede to the first slime of love.
And in the evening the sun is just rising.
Lovers cry because they are a day younger, and soon
childhood robs them of their pleasure.
In such a world there is much sadness which, of course,
The Vision of Love
THE TWILIGHT fleeted away in pearl on the stream,
And night, like a diamond done, stood still in our dream.
Your eyes like burnished stones or as stars were bright
With the sudden vision that made us one with the night.
We loved in infinite spaces, forgetting here
The breasts that were lit with life and the lips so near;
Till the wizard willows waved in the wind and drew
Me away from the fulness of love and down to you.
Our love was so vast that it filled the heavens up:
But the soft white form I held was an empty cup,
When the willows called me back to earth with their sigh,
And we moved as shades through the deep that was you and I.
FAR up the dim twilight fluttered
Moth-wings of vapour and flame:
The lights danced over the mountains,
Star after star they came.
The lights grew thicker unheeded,
For silent and still were we;
Our hearts were drunk with a beauty
Our eyes could never see.
The Vesture of the Soul
I PITIED one whose tattered dress
Was patched, and stained with dust and rain;
He smiled on me; I could not guess
The viewless spirit’s wide domain.
He said, “The royal robe I wear
Trails all along the fields of light:
Its silent blue and silver bear
For gems the starry dust of night.
“The breath of Joy unceasingly
Waves to and fro its folds starlit,
And far beyond earth’s misery
I live and breathe the joy of it.”
The house grows sick in its dining room and begins to vomit.
Father cries, the dining room is vomiting.
No wonder, the way you eat, it's enough to make anybody sick,
says his wife.
What shall we do? What shall we do? he cries.
Call the Vomit Doctor of course.
Yes, but all he does is vomit, sighs father.
If you were a vomit doctor you'd vomit too.
But isn't there enough vomit? sighs father.
There is never enough vomit.
Do I make everybody that sick, sighs father.
No no, everybody is born sick.
Born sick? cries father.
Of course, haven't you noticed how everybody eventually
dies? she says.
Is the dining room dying . . . ?
. . . The way you eat, it's enough to make anyone sick,
So I do make everybody that sick . . .
Excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick, she says.
Oh where is the Vomit Doctor? At least when he vomits one
knows one has it from high authority, screamed father.
The Divine Vision
THIS mood hath known all beauty, for it sees
In these pale forms, and kingly crowns of gold
On brows no longer bold,
And through the shadowy terrors of their hell
The love for which they fell,
And how desire which cast them in the deep
Called God too from His sleep.
Oh, Pity, only seer, who looking through
A heart melted like dew,
Seest the long perished in the present thus,
For ever dwell in us.
Whatever time thy golden eyelids ope
They travel to a hope;
Not only backward from these low degrees
To starry dynasties,
But, looking far where now the silence owns
And rules from empty thrones,
Thou seest the enchanted hills of heaven burn
For joy at our return.
Thy tender kiss hath memory we are kings
For all our wanderings.
Thy shining eyes already see the after
In hidden light and laughter.
EVEN as a bird sprays many-coloured fires,
The plumes of paradise, the dying light
Rays through the fevered air in misty spires
That vanish in the heights.
These myriad eyes that look on me are mine;
Wandering beneath them I have found again
The ancient ample moment, the divine,
The God-root within men.
For this, for this the lights innumerable
As symbols shine that we the true light win:
For every star and every deep they fill
Are stars and deeps within.
THEY bathed in the fire-flooded fountains:
Life girdled them round and about:
They slept in the clefts of the mountains:
The stars called them forth with a shout.
They prayed, but their worship was only
The wonder at nights and at days,
As still as the lips of the lonely
Though burning with dumbness of praise.
No sadness of earth ever captured
Their spirits who bowed at the shrine:
They fled to the Lonely enraptured
And hid in the darkness divine.
As children at twilight may gather,
They met at the doorway of death
The smile of the dark hidden Father,
The Mother with magical breath.
Untold of in song or in story,
In days long forgotten of men,
Their eyes were yet blind with a glory
Time will not remember again.
Our Thrones Decay
I SAID my pleasure shall not move;
It is not fixed in things apart:
Seeking not love—but yet to love—
I put my trust in mine own heart.
I knew the fountain of the deep
Wells up with living joy, unfed:
Such joys the lonely heart may keep,
And love grow rich with love unwed.
Still flows the ancient fount sublime;—
But, ah, for my heart, shed tears, shed tears;
Not it, but love, has scorn of time,
It turns to dust beneath the years.
There was a man who found two leaves and came
indoors holding them out saying to his parents
that he was a tree.
To which they said then go into the yard and do
not grow in the living room as your roots may
ruin the carpet.
He said I was fooling I am not a tree and he
dropped his leaves.
But his parents said look it is fall.
On The Eating Of Mice
A woman prepared a mouse for her husband's dinner,
roasting it with a blueberry in its mouth.
At table he uses a dentist's pick and a surgeon's scalpel,
bending over the tiny roastling with a jeweler's loupe . . .
Twenty years of this: curried mouse, garlic and butter
mouse, mouse sauteed in its own fur, Salisbury mouse,
mouse-in-the-trap, baked in the very trap that killed it,
mouse tartare, mouse poached in menstrual blood at the full
of the moon . . .
Twenty years of this, eating their way through the
mice . . . And yet, not to forget, each night, one less vermin
in the world . . .
Ape And Coffee
Some coffee had gotten on a man's ape. The man said,
animal did you get on my coffee?
No no, whistled the ape, the coffee got on me.
You're sure you didn't spill on my coffee? said the man.
Do I look like a liquid? peeped the ape.
Well you sure don't look human, said the man.
But that doesn't make me a fluid, twittered the ape.
Well I don' know what the hell you are, so just stop it,
cried the man.
I was just sitting here reading the newspaper when you
splashed coffee all over me, piped the ape.
I don't care if you are a liquid, you just better stop
splashing on things, cried the man.
Do I look fluid to you? Take a good look, hooted the ape.
If you don't stop I'll put you in a cup, screamed the man.
I'm not a fluid, screeched the ape.
Stop it, stop it, screamed the man, you are frightening me.
WHEN the soul sought refuge in the place of rest,
Overborne by strife and pain beyond control,
From some secret hollow, whisper soft-confessed,
Came the legend of the soul.
Some bright one of old time laid his sceptre down
So his heart might learn of sweet and bitter truth;
Going forth bereft of beauty, throne, and crown,
And the sweetness of his youth.
So the old appeal and fierce revolt we make
Through the world’s hour dies within our primal will;
And we justify the pain and hearts that break,
And our lofty doom fulfil.
To One Consecrated
YOUR paths were all unknown to us:
We were so far away from you:
We mixed in thought your spirit thus—
With whiteness, stars of gold, and dew.
The Mighty Mother nourished you;
Her breath blew from her mystic bowers;
Their elfin glimmer floated through
The pureness of your shadowy hours.
The Mighty Mother made you wise,
Gave love that clears the hidden ways;
Her glooms were glory to your eyes,
Her darkness but the fount of days.
You with all gentleness she graced,
And beauty radiant as the morn’s:
She made our joy in yours, then placed
Upon your head a crown of thorns.
Your eyes are filled with tender light
For those whose eyes are dim with tears:
They see your brow is crowned and bright,
But not its ring of wounding spears.
NOW the quietude of earth
Nestles deep my heart within;
Friendships new and strange have birth
Since I left the city’s din.
Here the tempest stays its guile,
Like a big kind brother plays,
Romps and pauses here awhile
From its immemorial ways.
Now the silver light of dawn,
Slipping through the leaves that fleck
My one window, hurries on,
Throws its arms around my neck.
Darkness to my doorway hies,
Lays her chin upon the roof,
And her burning seraph eyes
Now no longer keep aloof.
And the ancient mystery
Holds its hands out day by day,
Takes a chair and croons with me
By my cabin built of clay.
When the dusky shadow flits,
By the chimney nook I see
Where the old enchanter sits,
Smiles and waves and beckons me.