The Most Beautiful Woman In Town by Charles Bukowski
Cass was the youngest and most beautiful of 5 sisters.
Cass was the most beautiful girl
1/2 Indian with a supple and strange body, a snake-like and fiery body with eyes
to go with it.
Cass was fluid moving fire.
She was like a spirit stuck into a form that
would not hold her.
Her hair was black and long and silken and whirled about as did her
Her spirit was either very high or very low.
There was no in between for Cass.
said she was crazy.
The dull ones said that.
The dull ones would never understand Cass.
the men she was simply a sex machine and they didn’t care whether she was crazy or not.
And Cass danced and flirted, kissed the men, but except for an instance or two, when it
came time to make it with Cass, Cass had somehow slipped away, eluded the men.
Her sisters accused her of misusing her beauty, of not using her mind enough, but Cass
had mind and spirit; she painted, she danced, she sang, she made things of clay, and when
people were hurt either in the spirit or the flesh, Cass felt a deep grieving for them.
Her mind was simply different; her mind was simply not practical.
Her sisters were jealous
of her because she attracted their men, and they were angry because they felt she didn’t
make the best use of them.
She had a habit of being kind to the uglier ones; the so-called
handsome men revolted her- “No guts,” she said, “no zap.
They are riding on
their perfect little earlobes and well- shaped nostrils.
all surface and no
” She had a temper that came close to insanity, she had a temper that some
Her father had died of alcohol and her mother had run off leaving the
The girls went to a relative who placed them in a convent.
The convent had
been an unhappy place, more for Cass than the sisters.
The girls were jealous of Cass and
Cass fought most of them.
She had razor marks all along her left arm from defending
herself in two fights.
There was also a permanent scar along the left cheek but the scar
rather than lessening her beauty only seemed to highlight it.
I met her at the West End
Bar several nights after her release from the convent.
Being youngest, she was the last of
the sisters to be released.
She simply came in and sat next to me.
I was probably the
ugliest man in town and this might have had something to do with it.
“Drink?” I asked.
“Sure, why not?”
I don’t suppose there was anything unusual in our conversation that night, it was
simply in the feeling Cass gave.
She had chosen me and it was as simple as that.
She liked her drinks and had a great number of them.
She didn’t seem quite of
age but they served he anyhow.
Perhaps she had forged i.
, I don’t know.
time she came back from the restroom and sat down next to me, I did feel some pride.
was not only the most beautiful woman in town but also one of the most beautiful I had
I placed my arm about her waist and kissed her once.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked.
“Yes, of course, but there’s something else.
there’s more than your
“People are always accusing me of being pretty.
Do you really think I’m
“Pretty isn’t the word, it hardly does you fair.
Cass reached into her handbag.
I thought she was reaching for her handkerchief.
came out with a long hatpin.
Before I could stop her she had run this long hatpin through
her nose, sideways, just above the nostrils.
I felt disgust and horror.
She looked at me
and laughed, “Now do you think me pretty? What do you think now, man?” I pulled
the hatpin out and held my handkerchief over the bleeding.
Several people, including the
bartender, had seen the act.
The bartender came down:
“Look,” he said to Cass, “you act up again and you’re out.
We don’t need
your dramatics here.
“Oh, fuck you, man!” she said.
“Better keep her straight,” the bartender said to me.
“She’ll be all right,” I said.
“It’s my nose, I can do what I want with my nose.
“No,” I said, “it hurts me.
“You mean it hurts you when I stick a pin in my nose?”
“Yes, it does, I mean it.
“All right, I won’t do it again.
She kissed me, rather grinning through the kiss and holding the handkerchief to her
We left for my place at closing time.
I had some beer and we sat there talking.
was then that I got the perception of her as a person full of kindness and caring.
gave herself away without knowing it.
At the same time she would leap back into areas of
wildness and incoherence.
A beautiful and spiritual schitzi.
Perhaps some man,
something, would ruin her forever.
I hoped that it wouldn’t be me.
We went to bed and
after I turned out the lights Cass asked me,
“When do you want it? Now or in the morning?”
“In the morning,” I said and turned my back.
In the morning I got up and made a couple of coffees, brought her one in bed.
“You’re the first man who has turned it down at night.
,” I said, “we needn’t do it at all.
“No, wait, I want to now.
Let me freshen up a bit.
Cass went into the bathroom.
She came out shortly, looking quite wonderful, her long
black hair glistening, her eyes and lips glistening, her glistening.
She displayed her
body calmly, as a good thing.
She got under the sheet.
“Come on, lover man.
I got in.
She kissed with abandon but without haste.
I let my hands run over her body,
through her hair.
It was hot, and tight.
I began to stroke slowly, wanting to
make it last.
Her eyes looked directly into mine.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“What the hell difference does it make?” she asked.
I laughed and went on ahead.
Afterwards she dressed and I drove her back to the bar but
she was difficult to forget.
I wasn’t working and I slept until 2 p.
then got up and
read the paper.
I was in the bathtub when she came in with a large leaf- an elephant ear.
“I knew you’d be in the bathtub,” she said, “so I brought you something
to cover that thing with, nature boy.
She threw the elephant leaf down on me in the bathtub.
“How did you know I’d be in the tub?”
Almost every day Cass arrived when I was in the tub.
The times were different but she
seldom missed, and there was the elephant leaf.
And then we’d make love.
One or two nights
she phoned and I had to bail her out of jail for drunkenness and fighting.
“These sons of bitches,” she said, “just because they buy you a few
drinks they think they can get into your pants.
“Once you accept a drink you create your own trouble.
“I thought they were interested in me, not just my body.
“I’m interested in you and your body.
I doubt, though, that most men can see
beyond your body.
I left town for 6 months, bummed around, came back.
I had never forgotten Cass, but
we’d had some type of argument and I felt like moving anyhow, and when I got back i
figured she’d be gone, but I had been sitting in the West End Bar about 30 minutes when
she walked in and sat down next to me.
“Well, bastard, I see you’ve come back.
I ordered her a drink.
Then I looked at her.
She had on a high- necked dress.
never seen her in one of those.
And under each eye, driven in, were 2 pins with glass
All you could see were the heads of the pins, but the pins were driven down into
“God damn you, still trying to destroy your beauty, eh?”
“No, it’s the fad, you fool.
“I’ve missed you,” she said.
“Is there anybody else?”
“No there isn’t anybody else.
But I’m hustling.
It costs ten bucks.
you get it free.
“Pull those pins out.
“No, it’s the fad.
“It’s making me very unhappy.
“Are you sure?”
“Hell yes, I’m sure.
Cass slowly pulled the pins out and put them back in her purse.
“Why do you haggle your beauty?” I asked.
“Why don’t you just live with
“Because people think it’s all I have.
Beauty is nothing, beauty won’t stay.
don’t know how lucky you are to be ugly, because if people like you you know it’s for
,” I said, “I’m lucky.
“I don’t mean you’re ugly.
People just think you’re ugly.
You have a fascinating
We had another drink.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I can’t get on to anything.
If you were a woman you could hustle.
“I don’t think I could ever make contact with that many strangers, it’s
“You’re right, it’s wearing, everything is wearing.
We left together.
People still stared at Cass on the streets.
She was a beautiful
woman, perhaps more beautiful than ever.
We made it to my place and I opened a bottle of
wine and we talked.
With Cass and I, it always came easy.
She talked a while and I would
listen and then i would talk.
Our conversation simply went along without strain.
to discover secrets together.
When we discovered a good one Cass would laugh that laugh-
only the way she could.
It was like joy out of fire.
Through the talking we kissed and
moved closer together.
We became quite heated and decided to go to bed.
It was then that
Cass took off her high -necked dress and I saw it- the ugly jagged scar across her throat.
It was large and thick.
“God damn you, woman,” I said from the bed, “god damn you, what have you
“I tried it with a broken bottle one night.
Don’t you like me any more? Am I still
I pulled her down on the bed and kissed her.
She pushed away and laughed, “Some
men pay me ten and I undress and they don’t want to do it.
I keep the ten.
“Yes,” I said, “I can’t stop laughing.
Cass, bitch, I love you.
destroying yourself; you’re the most alive woman I’ve ever met.
We kissed again.
Cass was crying without sound.
I could feel the tears.
The long black
hair lay beside me like a flag of death.
We enjoined and made slow and somber and
In the morning Cass was up making breakfast.
She seemed quite calm and
She was singing.
I stayed in bed and enjoyed her happiness.
Finally she came over
and shook me,
“Up, bastard! Throw some cold water on your face and pecker and come enjoy the
I drove her to the beach that day.
It was a weekday and not yet summer so things were
Beach bums in rags slept on the lawns above the sand.
Others sat on
stone benches sharing a lone bottle.
The gulls whirled about, mindless yet distracted.
ladies in their 70’s and 80’s sat on the benches and discussed selling real estate left
behind by husbands long ago killed by the pace and stupidity of survival.
For it all,
there was peace in the air and we walked about and stretched on the lawns and didn’t say
It simply felt good being together.
I bought a couple of sandwiches, some chips and
drinks and we sat on the sand eating.
Then I held Cass and we slept together about an
It was somehow better than lovemaking.
There was flowing together without tension.
When we awakened we drove back to my place and I cooked a dinner.
After dinner I suggested
to Cass that we shack together.
She waited a long time, looking at me, then she slowly
” I drove her back to the bar, bought her a drink and walked out.
found a job as a parker in a factory the next day and the rest of the week went to
I was too tired to get about much but that Friday night I did get to the West End
I sat and waited for Cass.
Hours went by .
After I was fairly drunk the bartender
said to me, “I’m sorry about your girlfriend.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, didn’t you know?”
She was buried yesterday.
“Buried?” I asked.
It seemed as though she would walk through the doorway at
How could she be gone?
“Her sisters buried her.
“A suicide? Mind telling me how?”
“She cut her throat.
Give me another drink.
I drank until closing time.
Cass was the most beautiful of 5 sisters, the most
beautiful in town.
I managed to drive to my place and I kept thinking, I should have
insisted she stay with me instead of accepting that “no.
” Everything about her
had indicated that she had cared.
I simply had been too offhand about it, lazy, too
I deserved my death and hers.
I was a dog.
No, why blame the dogs? I got up
and found a bottle of wine and drank from it heavily.
Cass the most beautiful girl in town
was dead at 20.
Outside somebody honked their automobile horn.
They were very loud and
I sat the bottle down and screamed out: “GOD DAMN YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH
,SHUT UP!” The night kept coming and there was nothing I could do.
The Drowned Man by Alexander Pushkin
Children running into izba,
Calling father, dripping sweat:
“Daddy, daddy! come — there is a
Deadman caught inside our net.
“Fancy, fancy fabrication.
Grumbled off their weary Pa,
“Have these imps imagination!
Deadman, really! ya-ha-ha.
the court may come to bother –
What’ll I say before the judge?
Hey you brats, go have your mother
Bring my coat; I better trudge.
Show me, where?” — “Right there, Dad, farther!”
On the sand where netting ropes
Lay spread out, the peasant father
Saw the veritable corpse.
Badly mangled, ugly, frightening,
Blue and swollen on each side.
Has he fished in storm and lightning,
Or committed suicide?
Could this be a careless drunkard,
Or a mermaid-seeking monk,
Or a merchandizer, conquered
By some bandits, robbed and sunk?
To the peasant, what’s it matter!
Quick: he grabs the dead man’s hair,
Drags his body to the water,
Looks around: nobody’s there:
relieved of the concern he
Shoves his paddle at a loss,
While the stiff resumes his journey
Down the stream for grave and cross.
Long the dead man as one living
Rocked on waves amid the foam.
Surly as he watched him leaving,
Soon our peasant headed home.
“Come you pups! let’s go, don’t scatter.
Each of you will get his bun.
But remember: just you chatter —
And I’ll whip you, every one.
Dark and stormy it was turning.
High the river ran in gloom.
Now the torch has finished burning
In the peasant’s smoky room.
Kids asleep, the wife aslumber,
He lies listening to the rain.
Bang! he hears a sudden comer
Knocking on the window-pane.
” — “Let me in there, master!”
“Damn, you found the time to roam!
Well, what is it, your disaster?
Let you in? It’s dark at home,
Dark and crowded.
What a pest you are!
Where’d I put you in my cot.
Slowly, with a lazy gesture,
He lifts up the pane and – what?
Through the clouds, the moon was showing.
Well? the naked man was there,
Down his hair the water flowing,
Wide his eyes, unmoved the stare;
Numb the dreadful-looking body,
Arms were hanging feeble, thin;
Crabs and cancers, black and bloody,
Sucked into the swollen skin.
As the peasant slammed the shutter
(Recognized his visitant)
Horror-struck he could but mutter
“Blast you!” and began to pant.
He was shuddering, awful chaos
All night through stirred in his brain,
While the knocking shook the house
By the gates and at the pane.
People tell a dreadful rumor:
Every year the peasant, say,
Waiting in the worst of humor
For his visitor that day;
As the rainstorm is increasing,
Nightfall brings a hurricane –
And the drowned man knocks, unceasing,
By the gates and at the pane.
Translated by: Genia Gurarie, 11/95
Copyright retained by Genia Gurarie.
A poem on divine revelation by Hugh Henry Brackenridge
This is a day of happiness, sweet peace,
And heavenly sunshine; upon which conven’d
In full assembly fair, once more we view,
And hail with voice expressive of the heart,
Patrons and sons of this illustrious hall.
This hall more worthy of its rising fame
Than hall on mountain or romantic hill,
Where Druid bards sang to the hero’s praise,
While round their woods and barren heaths was heard
The shrill calm echo of th’ enchanting shell.
Than all those halls and lordly palaces
Where in the days of chivalry, each knight,
And baron brave in military pride
Shone in the brass and burning steel of war;
For in this hall more worthy of a strain
No envious sound forbidding peace is heard,
Fierce song of battle kindling martial rage
And desp’rate purpose in heroic minds:
But sacred truth fair science and each grace
Of virtue born; health, elegance and ease
And temp’rate mirth in social intercourse
Convey rich pleasure to the mind; and oft
The sacred muse in heaven-breathing song
Doth wrap the soul in extasy divine,
Inspiring joy and sentiment which not
The tale of war or song of Druids gave.
The song of Druids or the tale of war
With martial vigour every breast inspir’d,
With valour fierce and love of deathless fame;
But here a rich and splendid throng conven’d
From many a distant city and fair town,
Or rural seat by shore or mountain-stream,
Breathe joy and blessing to the human race,
Give countenance to arts themselves have known,
Inspire the love of heights themselves have reach’d,
Of noble science to enlarge the mind,
Of truth and virtue to adorn the soul,
And make the human nature grow divine.
Oh could the muse on this auspicious day
Begin a song of more majestic sound,
Or touch the lyre on some sublimer key,
Meet entertainment for the noble mind.
How shall the muse from this poetic bow’r
So long remov’d, and from this happy hill,
Where ev’ry grace and ev’ry virtue dwells,
And where the springs of knowledge and of thought
In riv’lets clear and gushing streams flow down
Attempt a strain? How sing in rapture high
Or touch in vari’d melody the lyre
The lyre so long neglected and each strain
Unmeditated, and long since forgot?
But yet constrain’d on this occasion sweet
To this fam’d hall and this assembly fair
With comely presence honouring the day,
She fain would pay a tributary strain.
A purer strain though not of equal praise
To that which Fingal heard when Ossian sung
With voice high rais’d in Selma hall of shells;
Or that which Pindar on th’ Elean plain,
Sang with immortal skill and voice divine,
When native Thebes and ev’ry Grecian state
Pour’d forth her sons in rapid chariot race,
To shun the goal and reach the glorious palm.
He sang the pride of some ambitious chief,
For olive crowns and wreaths of glory won;
I sing the rise of that all glorious light,
Whose sacred dawn the aged fathers saw
By faith’s clear eye, through many a cloud obscure
And heavy mist between: they saw it beam
From Judah’s royal tribe, they saw it shine
O’er Judah’s happy land, and bade the hills,
The rocky hills and barren vallies smile,
The desert blossom and the wilds rejoice.
This is that light and revelation pure,
Which Jacob saw and in prophetic view,
Did hail its author from the skies, and bade
The sceptre wait with sov’reignty and sway
On Judah’s hand till Shiloh came.
Which Beor’s son in clearer vision saw,
Its beams sore piercing his malignant eye;
But yet constrain’d by the eternal truth
Confess’d its origin and hail’d its rise,
Fresh as a star from Judah’s sacred line.
This, Amos’ son touch’d with seraphic fire
In after times beheld.
He saw it beam
From Judah’s royal tribe; he saw it shine
O’er Judah’s happy land, and bade the hills,
The rocky hills and barren vallies smile,
The desert blossom and the wilds rejoice.
This is that light which purifies the soul,
From mist obscure, of envy, hate, and pride;
Bids love celestial in the bosom glow,
Fresh kindling up the intellectual eye
Of faith divine, in beatific view
Of that high glory and seraphic bliss,
Which he who reigns invisible, shall give
To wait on virtue in the realms of day.
This is that light which from remotest times
Shone to the just; gave sweet serenity,
And sunshine to the soul, of each wise sage,
Fam’d patriarch, and holy man of God,
Who in the infancy of time did walk
With step unerring, through those dreary shades,
Which veil’d the world e’er yet the golden sun
Of revelation beam’d.
Seth, Enos, and
The family of him preserv’d from death
By flood of waters.
Abram and that swain
Who erst exil’d in Midian did sing
The world from chaos rising, and the birth
Of various nature in the earth, or sea,
Or element of air, or heav’n above.
This is that light which on fair Zion hill
Descending gradual, in full radiance beam’d
O’er Canaan’s happy land.
Her fav’rite seers
Had intercourse divine with this pure source,
And oft from them a stream of light did flow,
To each adjoining vale and desert plain,
Lost in the umbrage of dark heathen shades.
‘Twas at this stream the fabling poets drank
And sang how heav’n and earth from chaos rose;
‘Twas at this stream the wiser sages drank
And straightway knew the soul immortal lives
Beyond the grave and all the wrecks of time.
From Judah’s sacred hills a partial ray
Extraneous, visited and cheer’d the gloom
Spread o’er the shaded earth; yet more than half
In superstition and the dreams of night
Each hoary sage by long experience wise,
And high philosopher of learning fam’d
Lay buried deep shut from the light of day.
Shut from the light of revelation clear
In devious path they wandered oft,
Nor could strong reason with the partial beam
Of revelation, wholly dissipate
The midnight horrors of so dark an age.
Vain were their searches, and their reason vain,
Else whence the visionary tales receiv’d,
Of num’rous deities in earth, or heav’n
Or sea, or river, or the shades profound
Of Erebus, dark kingdom of the dead.
Weak deities of fabled origin
From king or hero, to the skies advanc’d
For sanguinary appetite, and skill
In cruel feats of arms, and tyranny
O’er ev’ry right, and privilege of man.
Vain were their searches, and their reason vain,
Else whence the sculptur’d image of a god,
And marble bust ador’d as deity,
Altar and hecatomb prepar’d for these,
Or human sacrifice when hecatomb
Consum’d in vain with ceremony dire,
And rites abhorr’d, denied the wish’d success.
Reason is dark, else why heroic deem’d
Fell suicide, as if ’twere fortitude
And higher merit to recede from life,
Shunning the ills of poverty, or pain,
Or wasting sickness, or the victor’s sword,
Than to support with patience fully tried
As Job, thence equall’d with him in renown.
Shut from the light of revelation clear
The world lay hid in shades, and reason’s lamp
Serv’d but to show how dark it was; but now
The joyous time with hasty steps advanc’d,
When truth no more should with a partial ray
Shine on the shaded earth; now on swift wings
The rosy hours brought on in beauty mild,
The day-spring from on high, and from the top
Of some fair mount Chaldean shepherds view
That orient star which Beor’s son beheld,
From Aram east, and mark’d its lucid ray,
Shedding sweet influence on Judah’s land.
Now o’er the plain of Bethl’em to the swains
Who kept their flocks beneath the dews of night,
A light appears expressive of that day
More general, which o’er the shaded earth
Breaks forth, and in the radiance of whose beams,
The humble shepherd, and the river-swain
By Jordan stream, or Galilea’s lake,
Can see each truth and paradox explain’d,
Which not each wise philosopher of Greece,
Could tell, nor sage of India, nor the sons
Of Zoroaster, in deep secrets skill’d.
Such light on Canaan shone but not confin’d
With partial ray to Judah’s favour’d land,
Each vale and region to the utmost bound
Of habitable earth, distant or nigh
Soon finds a gleam of this celestial day:
Fam’d Persia’s mountains and rough Bactria’s woods
And Media’s vales and Shinar’s distant plain:
The Lybian desert near Cyrene smiles
And Ethiopia hails it to her shores.
Arabia drinks the lustre of its ray
Than fountain sweeter, or the cooling brook
Which laves her burning sands; than stream long sought
Through desert flowing and the scorched plain
To Sheba’s troop or Tema’s caravan.
Egypt beholds the dawn of this fair morn
And boasts her rites mysterious no more;
Her hidden learning wrapt in symbols strange
Of hieroglyphic character, engrav’d
On marble pillar, or the mountain rock,
Or pyramid enduring many an age.
She now receives asserted and explain’d
That holy law, which on mount Sinai writ
By God’s own finger, and to Moses giv’n,
And to the chosen seed, a rule of life.
And strict obedience due; but now once more
Grav’d on the living tablet of the heart,
And deep impress’d by energy divine,
Is legible through an eternal age.
North of Judea now this day appears
On Syria west, and in each city fair
Full many a church of noble fame doth rise.
In Antioch the seat of Syrian kings,
And old Damascus, where Hazael reign’d.
Now Cappadocia Mithridates’ realm,
And poison-bearing Pontus, whose deep shades
Were shades of death, admit the light of truth.
In Asia less seven luminaries rise,
Bright lights, which with celestial vigour burn,
And give the day in fullest glory round.
There Symrna shines, and Thyatira there,
There Ephesus a sister light appears,
And Pergamus with kindred glory burns:
She burns enkindled with a purer flame
Than Troy of old, when Grecian kings combin’d
Had set her gates on fire: The Hellespont
And all th’ Egean sea shone to the blaze.
But now more west the gracious day serene
On Athens rising, throws a dark eclipse
On that high learning by her sages taught,
In each high school of philosophic fame;
Vain wisdom, useless sophistry condemn’d,
As ignorance and foolishness of men.
Let her philosophers debate no more
In the Lyceum, or the Stoics porch,
Holding high converse, but in error lost
Of pain, and happiness, and fate supreme.
Fair truth from heav’n draws all their reas’ning high
In captive chains bound at her chariot wheels.
Now Rome imperial, mistress of the world
Drinks the pure lustre of the orient ray
Assuaging her fierce thirst of bloody war,
Dominion boundless, victory and fame;
Each bold centurion, and each prætor finds
A nobler empire to subdue themselves.
From Rome the mistress of the world in peace,
Far to the north the golden light ascends;
To Gaul and Britain and the utmost bound
Of Thule famous in poetic song,
Victorious there where not Rome’s consuls brave,
Heroes, or conquering armies, ever came.
Far in the artic skies a light is seen,
Unlike that sun, which shall ere long retreat,
And leave their hills one half the year in shades.
Or that Aurora which the sailor sees
Beneath the pole in dancing beams of light,
Playing its gambols on the northern hills.
That light is vain and gives no genial heat,
To warm the tenants of those frozen climes,
Or give that heav’nly vigour to the soul,
Which truth divine and revelation brings;
And but for which each heart must still remain,
Hard as the rock on Scandanavia’s shore,
Cold as the ice which bridges up her streams,
Fierce as the storm which tempests all her waves.
Thus in its dawn did sacred truth prevail,
In either hemisphere from north to south,
From east to west through the long tract of day.
From Shinar’s plain to Thule’s utmost isle,
From Persia’s bay to Scandanavia’s shores.
Cheer’d by its ray now ev’ry valley smiles,
And ev’ry lawn smote by its morning beam.
Now ev’ry hill reflects a purer ray,
Than when Aurora paints his woods in gold,
Or when the sun first in the orient sky,
Sets thick with gems the dewy mountain’s brow.
The earth perceives a sov’reign virtue shed
And from each cave, and midnight haunt retires
Dark superstition, with her vot’ries skill’d,
In potent charm, or spell of magic pow’r;
In augury, by voice, or flight of birds,
Or boding sign at morn, or noon, or eve,
Portent and prodigy and omen dire.
Each oracle by Demon, or the craft
Of priests, made vocal, can declare no more
Of high renown, and victory secure,
To kings low prostrate at their bloody shrines.
No more with vain uncertainty perplex
Mistaken worshippers, or give unseen
Response ambiguous in some mystic sound,
And hollow murmer from the dark recess.
No more of Lybian Jove; Dodona’s oaks,
In sacred grove give prophecy no more.
Th’ infernal deities retire abash’d,
Our God himself on earth begins his reign;
Pure revelation beams on ev’ry land,
On ev’ry heart exerts a sov’reign sway,
And makes the human nature grow divine.
Now hideous war forgets one half her rage,
And smoothes her visage horible to view.
Celestial graces better sooth the soul,
Than vocal music, or the charming sound
Of harp or lyre.
More than the golden lyre
Which Orpheus tun’d in melancholy notes,
Which almost pierc’d the dull cold ear of death,
And mov’d the grave to give him back his bride.
Peace with the graces and fair science now
Wait on the gospel car; science improv’d
Puts on a fairer dress; a fairer form
Now ev’ry art assumes; bold eloquence
Moves in a higher sphere than senates grave,
Or mix’d assembly, or the hall of kings,
Which erst with pompous panegyric rung.
Vain words and soothing flattery she hates,
And feigned tears, and tongue which silver-tipt
Moves in the cause of wickedness and pride.
She mourns not that fair liberty depress’d
Which kings tyrannic can extort, but that
Pure freedom of the soul to truth divine
Which first indulg’d her and with envious hand
Pluck’d thence, left hideous slavery behind.
She weeps not loss of property on earth,
Nor stirs the multitude to dire revenge
With headlong violence, but soothes the soul
To harmony and peace, bids them aspire
With emulation and pure zeal of heart,
To that high glory in the world unseen,
And crown celestial, which pure virtue gives.
Thus eloquence and poesy divine
A nobler range of sentiment receive;
Life brought to view and immortality,
A recent world through which bold fancy roves,
And gives new magic to the pow’r of song;
For where the streams of revelation flow
Unknown to bards of Helicon, or those
Who on the top of Pindus, or the banks
Of Arethusa and Eurotas stray’d,
The poet drinks, and glorying in new strength,
Soars high in rapture of sublimer strains;
Such as that prophet sang who tun’d his harp
On Zion hill and with seraphic praise
In psalm and sacred ode by Siloa’s brook,
Drew HIS attention who first touch’d the soul
With taste of harmony, and bade the spheres
Move in rich measure to the songs on high.
Fill’d with this spirit poesy no more
Adorns that vain mythology believ’d,
By rude barbarian, and no more receives,
The tale traditional, and hymn profane,
Sung by high genius, basely prostitute.
New strains are heard, such as first in the morn
Of time, were sung by the angelic choirs,
When rising from chaotic state the earth
Orbicular was seen, and over head
The blazing sun, moon, planet, and each light
That gilds the firmament, rush’d into view.
Thus did the sun of revelation shine
Full on the earth, and grateful were its beams:
Its beams were grateful to the chosen seed,
To all whose works were worthy of the day.
But creatures lucifuge, whose ways were dark,
Ere this in shades of paganism hid,
Did vent their poison, and malignant breath,
To stain the splendour of the light divine,
Which pierc’d their cells and brought their deeds to view
Num’rous combin’d of ev’ry tongue and tribe,
Made battle proud, and impious war brought on,
Against the chosen sanctified by light.
Riches and pow’r leagu’d in their train were seen,
Sword, famine, flames and death before them prey’d.
Those faithful found, who undismay’d did bear
A noble evidence to truth, were slain.
Why should I sing of these or here record,
As if ’twere praise, in poesy or song,
Or sculptur’d stone, to eternize the names,
Which writ elsewhere in the fair book of life,
Shall live unsullied when each strain shall die:
Shall undefac’d remain when sculptur’d stone,
And monument, and bust, and storied urn
Perpetuates its sage and king no more.
The pow’r of torture and reproach was vain,
But what not torture or reproach could do,
Dark superstition did in part effect.
That superstition, which saint John beheld,
Rise in thick darkness from th’ infernal lake.
Locust and scorpion in the smoke ascend,
False teacher, heretic, and Antichrist.
The noon day sun is dark’ned in the sky,
The moon forbears to give her wonted light.
Full many a century the darkness rul’d,
With heavier gloom than once on Egypt came,
Save that on some lone coast, or desert isle,
Where sep’rate far a chosen spirit dwelt,
A Goshen shone, with partial-streaming ray.
Night on the one side settles dark; on Rome,
It settles dark, and ev’ry land more west
Is wrapt in shades.
Night on the east comes down
With gloom Tartarean, and in part it rose
From Tartary beneath the dusky pole.
The ruthless Turk, and Saracen in arms,
O’er-run the land the gospel once illum’d;
The holy land Judea once so nam’d,
And Syria west where many churches rose.
Those golden luminaries are remov’d,
Which once in Asia shone.
Athens no more
For truth and learning fam’d.
Ionia mourns through all her sea-girt isles.
But yet once more the light of truth shall shine
In this obscure sojourn; shall shoot its beam
In morning beauty mild, o’er hill and dale.
See in Bohemia and the lands more west
The heavenly ray of revelation shines,
Fresh kindling up true love and purest zeal.
Britannia next beholds the risen day
In reformation bright; cheerful she hails
It from her snow-white cliffs, and bids her sons,
Rise from the mist of popery obscure.
Her worthier sons, whom not Rome’s pontiff high,
Nor king with arbitrary sway could move.
Those mightier who with constancy untam’d,
Did quench the violence of fire, at death
Did smile, and maugre ev’ry pain, of bond,
Cold dark imprisonment, and scourge severe,
By hell-born popery devis’d, held fast
The Christian hope firm anchor of the soul.
Or those who shunning that fell rage of war,
And persecution dire, when civil pow’r,
Leagu’d in with sacerdotal sway triumph’d,
O’er ev’ry conscience, and the lives of men,
Did brave th’ Atlantic deep and through its storms
Sought these Americ shores: these happier shores
Where birds of calm delight to play, where not
Rome’s pontiff high, nor arbitrary king,
Leagu’d in with sacerdotal sway are known.
But peace and freedom link’d together dwell,
And reformation in full glory shines.
Oh for a muse of more exalted wing,
To celebrate those men who planted first
The christian church in these remotest lands;
From those high plains where spreads a colony,
Gen’rous and free, from Massachusett-shores,
To the cold lakes margin’d with snow: from that
Long dreary tract of shady woods and hills,
Where Hudson’s icy stream rolls his cold wave,
To those more sunny bowers where zephyrs breath,
And round which flow in circling current swift
The Delaware and Susquehannah streams.
Thence to those smiling plains where Chesapeak
Spreads her maternal arms, encompassing
In soft embrace, full many a settlement,
Where opulence, with hospitality,
And polish’d manners, and the living plant
Of science blooming, sets their glory high .
Thence to Virginia, sister colony,
Lib’ral in sentiment, and breathing high,
The noble ardour of the freeborn soul.
To Carolina thence, and that warm clime
Where Georgia south in summer heat complains,
And distant thence towards the burning line.
These men deserve our song, and those who still,
With industry severe, and steady aim
Diffuse the light in this late dreary land,
In whose lone wastes and solitudes forlorn,
Death long sat brooding with his raven wing.
Who many ‘a structure of great fame have rais’d,
College, and school, upon th’ Atlantic coast,
Or inland town, through ev’ry province wide,
Which rising up like pyramids of fire,
Give light and glory to the western world.
These men we honour, and their names shall last
Sweet in the mouths and memory of men;
Or if vain man unconscious of their worth,
Refuse a tear when in some lonely vale
He sees those faithful laid; each breeze shall sigh,
Each passing gale shall mourn, each tree shall bend
Its heavy head, in sorrow o’er their tombs,
And some sad stream run ever weeping by.
Weep not O stream, nor mourn thou passing gale,
Beneath those grassy tombs their bodies lie,
But they have risen from each labour bere
To make their entrance on a nobler stage.
What though with us they walk the humble vale
Of indigence severe, with want oppress’d?
Riches belong not to their family,
Nor sloth luxurious nor the pride of kings;
But truth meek-ey’d and warm benevolence
Wisdom’s high breeding in her sons rever’d
Bespeaks them each the children of a king.
The christian truth of origin divine,
Grows not beneath the shade of civil pow’r,
Riches or wealth accompanied with pride;
Nor shall it bloom transplanted to that soil,
Where persecution, in malignant streams,
Flows out to water it; black streams and foul
Which from the lake of Tartarus break forth,
The sickly tide of Acheron which flows,
With putrid waves through the infernal shades.
This plant of heaven loves the gentle beams,
Of truth and meekness, and the kindly dew
Which fell on Zion hill; it loves the care
Of humble shepherds, and the rural swain,
And tended by their hands it flourishes
With fruit and blossoms, and soon gives a shade,
Beneath which ev’ry traveller shall rest,
Safe from the burning east-wind and the sun.
A vernal shade not with’ring like the gourd
Of him who warned Nineveh, but like
The aged oaks immortal on the plain
Of Kadesh, or tall cedars on the hill
Of Lebanon, and Hermon’s shady top.
High is their fame through each succeeding age
Who build the walls of Zion upon earth.
Let mighty kings and potentates combine,
To raise a pyramid, which neither storm,
Nor sea indignant, nor the raging fire,
Nor time can waste, or from firm basis move.
Or let them strive by counsel or by arms,
To fix a throne, and in imperial sway,
Build up a kingdom shadowing the earth,
Unmov’d by thunder or impetuous storm
Of civil war, dark treason, or the shock
Of hostile nations, in dire league combin’d.
They build a kingdom of a nobler date,
Who build the kingdom of the Saviour God.
This, not descending rain, nor mighty storm,
Nor sea indignant, nor the raging fire,
Nor time shall waste, or from firm basis move.
Rounded on earth its head doth reach the skies,
Secure from thunder, and impetuous storm,
Of civil war, dark treason, or the shock
Of hostile nations in dire league combin’d.
This still shall flourish and survive the date,
Of each wide state and empire of the earth
Which yet shall rise, as now of those which once
From richest Asia or from Europe spread
On mighty base and shaded half the world.
Great Babylon which vex’d the chosen seed,
And by whose streams the captive Hebrews sat,
In desolation lies, and Syria west,
Where the Seleucidæ did fix their throne,
Loud-thund’ring thence o’er Judah’s spoiled land,
Boasts her proud rule no more.
Rome pagan next,
The raging furnace where the saints were tried,
No more enslaves mankind.
Rome papal too
Contracts her reign and speaks proud things no more.
The throne of Ottoman is made to shake,
The Russian thund’ring to his firmest seat;
Another age shall see his empire fall.
Yet in the east the light of truth shall shine,
And like the sun returning after storms
Which long had raged through a sunless sky,
Shall beam beningly on forsaken lands.
The day serene once more on Zion hill
Descending gradual, shall in radiance beam
On Canaan’s happy land.
Her fav’rite seers
Have intercourse divine with this pure source;
Perennial thence rich streams of light shall flow,
To each adjoining vale and desert plain
Lost in the umbrage of dark heathen shades.
The gospel light shall gloriously survive
The wasting blaze of ev’ry baser fire.
The fire of Vesta, an eternal fire,
So falsely call’d and kept alive at Rome;
Sepulchral lamp in burial place of kings,
Burn’d unconsum’d for many ages down;
But yet not Vesta’s fire eternal call’d
And kept alive at Rome, nor burning lamp
Hid in sepulchral monument of kings,
Shall bear an equal date with that true light,
Which shone from earth to heav’n, and which shall shine
Up through eternity, and be the light
Of heav’n, the new Jerusalem above.
This light from heav’n shall yet illume the earth
And give its beams to each benighted land
Now with new glory lighted up again.
Then ruthless Turk and Saracen shall know
The fallacies of him Medina bred,
And whose vain tomb, in Mecca they adore.
Then Jews shall view the great Messiah come,
And each rent tribe in caravan by land,
Or ship by sea, shall visit Palestine
Thrice holy then, with vile Idolatry
No more defil’d, altar on mountain head,
Green shady hill, or idol of the grove.
For there a light appears, with which compar’d,
That was a twilight shed by rite obscure,
And ceremony dark and sacrifice
Dimly significant of things to come.
Blest with this light no more they deviate
In out-way path; distinguished no more
By school or sect, Essene or Saducee,
Cairite or Scribe of Pharisaic mould.
Jew and Samaritan debate no more,
Whether on Gerizim or Zion hill
They shall bow down.
Above Moriah’s mount
Each eye is raised to him, whose temple is
Th’ infinitude of space, whom earth, sea, sky
And heav’n itself cannot contain.
The noise of battle shall be heard, or shout
Of war by heathen princes wag’d; There’s nought
Shall injure or destroy; they shall not hurt
In all my holy mountain saith the Lord.
The earth in peace and ev’ry shadow fled,
Bespeaks Emmanuel’s happy reign when Jew,
And kindred Gentile shall no more contend,
Save in the holier strife of hymn and song,
To him who leads captive captivity,
Who shall collect the sons of Jacob’s line,
And bring the fulness of the Gentiles in.
Thrice happy day when Gentiles are brought in
Complete and full; when with its genial beams
The day shall break on each benighted land
Which yet in darkness and in vision lies:
On Scythia and Tartary’s bleak hills;
On mount Imaus, and Hyrcanian cliffs
Of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales;
Japan and China, and the sea-girt isles
The ancient Ophir deem’d; for there rich gems
And diamond pearl, and purest gold is found.
Thrice happy day when this whole earth shall feel
The sacred ray of revelation shed,
Far to the west, through each remotest land
With equal glory rivalling the day
Pour’d on the east.
When these Americ shores
Shall far and wide be light, and heav’nly day
Shall in full glory rise on many a reign,
Kingdom and empire bending to the south,
And nation touching the Pacific shore.
When Christian churches shall adorn the streams
Which now unheeded flow with current swift
Circling the hills, where fiercest beasts of prey,
Panther and wolf in nightly concert howl.
The Indian sage from superstition freed,
Be taught a nobler heav’n than cloud-topt-hill,
Or sep’rate island in the wat’ry waste.
The aged Sachem fix his moving tribe,
And grow humane now taught the arts of peace.
In human sacrifice delight no more,
Mad cantico or savage feast of war.
Such scenes of fierce barbarity no more
Be perpetrated there, but truth divine
Shine on the earth in one long cloudless day,
Till that last hour which shuts the scene of things,
When this pure light shall claim its native skies;
When the pure stream of revelation shall,
With refluent current visit its first hills:
There shall it mix with that crystalline wave,
Which laves the walls of Paradise on high,
And from beneath the seat of God doth spring.
This is that river from whose sacred head
The sanctified in golden arms draw light,
On either side of which that tree doth grow
Which yields immortal fruit, and in whose shade
If shade were needed there, the rapt shall sing,
In varied melody to harp and lyre,
The sacred song of Moses and the Lamb:
Eternity’s high arches ring; ‘Tis heard
Through both infinitudes of space and time.
Thus have I sung to this high-favour’d bow’r,
And sacred shades which taught me first to sing,
With grateful mind a tributary strain.
Sweet grove no more I visit you, no more
Beneath your shades shall meditate my lay.
Adieu ye lawns and thou fair hill adieu,
And you O shepherds, and ye graces fair
With comely presence honouring the day,
Far hence I go to some sequest’red vale
By woody hill or shady mountain side,
Where far from converse and the social band,
My days shall pass inglorious away:
But this shall be my exultation still
My chiefest merit and my only joy,
That when the hunter on some western hill,
Or furzy glade shall see my grassy tomb,
And know the stream which mourns unheeded by,
He for a moment shall repress his step,
And say, There lies a Son of Nassau-Hall.
The Double Image by Anne Sexton
I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain.
falling flat and washed.
And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.
I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling mouths when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomine
above your head.
Ugly angels spoke to me.
I heard them say, was mine.
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.
Death was simpler than I’d thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigamarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
You ask me where they go I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.
Today, my small child, Joyce,
love your self’s self where it lives.
There is no special God to refer to; or if there is,
why did I let you grow
in another place.
You did not know my voice
when I came back to call.
All the superlatives
of tomorrow’s white tree and mistletoe
will not help you know the holidays you had to miss.
The time I did not love
myself, I visited your shoveled walks; you held my glove.
There was new snow after this.
They sent me letters with news
of you and I made moccasins that I would never use.
When I grew well enough to tolerate
myself, I lived with my mother, the witches said.
But I didn’t leave.
I had my portrait
Part way back from Bedlam
I came to my mother’s house in Gloucester,
And this is how I came
to catch at her; and this is how I lost her.
I cannot forgive your suicide, my mother said.
And she never could.
She had my portrait
I lived like an angry guest,
like a partly mended thing, an outgrown child.
I remember my mother did her best.
She took me to Boston and had my hair restyled.
Your smile is like your mother’s, the artist said.
I didn’t seem to care.
I had my portrait
There was a church where I grew up
with its white cupboards where they locked us up,
row by row, like puritans or shipmates
My father passed the plate.
Too late to be forgiven now, the witches said.
I wasn’t exactly forgiven.
They had my portrait
All that summer sprinklers arched
over the seaside grass.
We talked of drought
while the salt-parched
field grew sweet again.
To help time pass
I tried to mow the lawn
and in the morning I had my portrait done,
holding my smile in place, till it grew formal.
Once I mailed you a picture of a rabbit
and a postcard of Motif number one,
as if it were normal
to be a mother and be gone.
They hung my portrait in the chill
north light, matching
me to keep me well.
Only my mother grew ill.
She turned from me, as if death were catching,
as if death transferred,
as if my dying had eaten inside of her.
That August you were two, by I timed my days with doubt.
On the first of September she looked at me
and said I gave her cancer.
They carved her sweet hills out
and still I couldn’t answer.
That winter she came
part way back
from her sterile suite
of doctors, the seasick
cruise of the X-ray,
the cells’ arithmetic
the fat arm, the prognosis poor, I heard
During the sea blizzards
she had here
own portrait painted.
A cave of mirror
placed on the south wall;
matching smile, matching contour.
And you resembled me; unacquainted
with my face, you wore it.
But you were mine
I wintered in Boston,
nothing sweet to spare
with witches at my side.
I missed your babyhood,
tried a second suicide,
tried the sealed hotel a second year.
On April Fool you fooled me.
We laughed and this
I checked out for the last time
on the first of May;
graduate of the mental cases,
with my analysts’s okay,
my complete book of rhymes,
my typewriter and my suitcases.
All that summer I learned life
back into my own
seven rooms, visited the swan boats,
the market, answered the phone,
served cocktails as a wife
should, made love among my petticoats
and August tan.
And you came each
But I lie.
You seldom came.
I just pretended
you, small piglet, butterfly
girl with jelly bean cheeks,
disobedient three, my splendid
And I had to learn
why I would rather
die than love, how your innocence
would hurt and how I gather
guilt like a young intern
his symptons, his certain evidence.
That October day we went
to Gloucester the red hills
reminded me of the dry red fur fox
coat I played in as a child; stock still
like a bear or a tent,
like a great cave laughing or a red fur fox.
We drove past the hatchery,
the hut that sells bait,
past Pigeon Cove, past the Yacht Club, past Squall’s
Hill, to the house that waits
still, on the top of the sea,
and two portraits hung on the opposite walls.
In north light, my smile is held in place,
the shadow marks my bone.
What could I have been dreaming as I sat there,
all of me waiting in the eyes, the zone
of the smile, the young face,
the foxes’ snare.
In south light, her smile is held in place,
her cheeks wilting like a dry
orchid; my mocking mirror, my overthrown
love, my first image.
She eyes me from that face
that stony head of death
I had outgrown.
The artist caught us at the turning;
we smiled in our canvas home
before we chose our foreknown separate ways.
The dry redfur fox coat was made for burning.
I rot on the wall, my own
And this was the cave of the mirror,
that double woman who stares
at herself, as if she were petrified
in time — two ladies sitting in umber chairs.
You kissed your grandmother
and she cried.
I could not get you back
except for weekends.
each time, clutching the picture of a rabbit
that I had sent you.
For the last time I unpack
We touch from habit.
The first visit you asked my name.
Now you will stay for good.
I will forget
how we bumped away from each other like marionettes
It wasn’t the same
as love, letting weekends contain
You scrape your knee.
You learn my name,
wobbling up the sidewalk, calling and crying.
You can call me mother and I remember my mother again,
somewhere in greater Boston, dying.
I remember we named you Joyce
so we could call you Joy.
You came like an awkward guest
that first time, all wrapped and moist
and strange at my heavy breast.
I needed you.
I didn’t want a boy,
only a girl, a small milky mouse
of a girl, already loved, already loud in the house
We named you Joy.
I, who was never quite sure
about being a girl, needed another
life, another image to remind me.
And this was my worst guilt; you could not cure
or soothe it.
I made you to find me.
My Suicide by Robert William Service
I’ve often wondered why
Old chaps who choose to die
In evil passes,
Before themselves they slay,
Take off their glasses?
As I strolled by the Castle cliff
An oldish chap I set my eyes on,
Who stood so singularly stiff
And stark against the blue horizon;
A poet fashioning a sonnet,
I thought – how rapt he labours on it!
And then I blinked and stood astare,
And questioned at my sight condition,
For I was seeing empty air –
He must have been an apparition.
Amazed I gazed .
no one was there:
My sanity roused my suspicion.
I strode to where I saw him stand
So solitary in the sun –
Nothing! just empty sew and land,
no smallest sign of anyone.
While down below I heard the roar
Of waves, five hundred feet or more.
I had been drinking, I confess;
There was confusion in my brain,
And I was feeling more or less
The fumes of overnight champagne.
So standing on that dizzy shelf:
“You saw no one,” I told myself.
“No need to call the local law,
For after all its not your business.
You just imagined what you saw .
Then I was seized with sudden dizziness:
For at my feet, beyond denying,
A pair of spectacles were lying.
And so I simply let them lie,
And sped from that accursed spot.
No lover of the police am I,
And sooner would be drunk than not.
“I’ll scram,” said I, “and leave the locals
To find and trace them dam bi-focals.