A Spider sewed at Night
Without a Light
Upon an Arc of White.
If Ruff it was of Dame
Or Shroud of Gnome
Himself himself inform.
– Emily Dickinson
(For the Rev. James J. Daly, S. J.)
Bright stars, yellow stars, flashing through the air,
Are you errant strands of Lady Mary’s hair?
As she slits the cloudy veil and bends down through,
Do you fall across her cheeks and over heaven too?
Gay stars, little stars, you are little eyes,
Eyes of baby angels playing in the skies.
Now and then a winged child turns his merry face
Down toward the spinning world — what a funny place!
Jesus Christ came from the Cross (Christ receive my soul!)
In each perfect hand and foot there was a bloody hole.
Four great iron spikes there were, red and never dry,
Michael plucked them from the Cross and set them in the sky.
Christ’s Troop, Mary’s Guard, God’s own men,
Draw your swords and strike at Hell and strike again.
Every steel-born spark that flies where God’s battles are,
Flashes past the face of God, and is a star.
– Joyce Kilmer
Amid the mystic fields of Love
I wander’d, and beheld a grove.
Breathlessly still was part, and part
Was breathing with an easy heart;
And there below, in lamblike game,
Were virgins, all so much the same,
That each was all. A youth drew nigh,
And on them gazed with wandering eye,
And would have pass’d, but that a maid,
Clapping her hands above her, said,
‘My time is now!’ and laughing ran
After the dull and strange young man,
And bade him stop and look at her.
And so he call’d her lovelier
Than any else, only because
She only then before him was.
And, while they stood and gazed, a change
Was seen in both, diversely strange:
The youth was ever more and more
That good which he had been before;
But the glad maiden grew and grew
Such that the rest no longer knew
Their sister, who was now to sight
The young man’s self, yet opposite,
As the outer rainbow is the first,
But weaker, and the hues reversed.
And whereas, in the abandon’d grove,
The virgin round the Central Love
Had blindly circled in her play,
Now danced she round her partner’s way;
And, as the earth the moon’s, so he
Had the responsibility
Of her diviner motion. ‘Lo,’
He sang, and the heavens began to glow,
‘The pride of personality,
Seeking its highest, aspires to die,
And in unspeakably profound
Humiliation Love is crown’d!
And from his exaltation still
Into his ocean of good-will
He curiously casts the lead
To find strange depths of lowlihead.’
To one same tune, but higher, ‘Bold,’
The maiden sang, ‘is Love! For cold
On Earth are blushes, and for shame
Of such an ineffectual flame
As ill consumes the sacrifice!’
– Coventry Patmore
How strange at night to wake
And watch, while others sleep,
Till sight and hearing ache
For objects that may keep
The awful inner sense
Unroused, lest it should mark
The life that haunts the emptiness
And horror of the dark!
How strange at night the bay
Of dogs, how wild the note
Of cocks that scream for day,
In homesteads far remote;
How strange and wild to hear
The old and crumbling tower,
Amid the darkness, suddenly
Take tongue and speak the hour!
Albeit the love-sick brain
Affects the dreary moon,
Ill things alone refrain
From life’s nocturnal swoon:
Men melancholy mad,
Beasts ravenous and sly,
The robber, and the murderer,
Remorse, with lidless eye.
The nightingale is gay,
For she can vanquish night;
Dreaming, she sings of day
Notes that make darkness bright;
But when the refluent gloom
Saddens the gaps of song,
Men charge on her the dolefulness,
And call her crazed with wrong.
– Coventry Patmore
In the secular night you wander around
alone in your house. It’s two-thirty.
Everyone has deserted you,
or this is your story;
you remember it from being sixteen,
when the others were out somewhere, having a good time,
or so you suspected,
and you had to baby-sit.
You took a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream
and filled up the glass with grapejuice
and ginger ale, and put on Glenn Miller
with his big-band sound,
and lit a cigarette and blew the smoke up the chimney,
and cried for a while because you were not dancing,
and then danced, by yourself, your mouth circled with purple.
Now, forty years later, things have changed,
and it’s baby lima beans.
It’s necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You’d be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.
There is so much silence between the words,
you say. You say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
You say, I have too much white clothing.
You start to hum.
Several hundred years ago
this could have been mysticism
or heresy. It isn’t now.
Outside there are sirens.
Someone’s been run over.
The century grinds on.
– Margaret Atwood
There is nothing to be afraid of,
it is only the wind
changing to the east, it is only
your father the thunder
your mother the rain
In this country of water
with its beige moon damp as a mushroom,
its drowned stumps and long birds
that swim, where the moss grows
on all sides of the trees
and your shadow is not your shadow
but your reflection,
your true parents disappear
when the curtain covers your door.
We are the others,
the ones from under the lake
who stand silently beside your bed
with our heads of darkness.
We have come to cover you
with red wool,
with our tears and distant whipers.
You rock in the rain’s arms
the chilly ark of your sleep,
while we wait, your night
father and mother
with our cold hands and dead flashlight,
knowing we are only
the wavering shadows thrown
by one candle, in this echo
you will hear twenty years later.
– Margaret Atwood
‘Sleep, that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,’
Forsakes me, while the chill and sullen blast,
As my sad soul recalls its sorrows past,
Seems like a summons bidding me prepare
For the last sleep of death–Murmuring I hear
The hollow wind around the ancient towers,
While night and silence reign; and cold and drear
The darkest gloom of middle winter lowers;
But wherefore fear existence such as mine,
To change for long and undisturb’d repose?
Ah! when this suffering being I resign
And o’er my miseries the tomb shall close,
By her, whose loss in anguish I deplore,
I shall be laid, and feel that loss no more!
– Charlotte Smith
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
– Edgar Allan Poe
In visions of the dark night
I have dreamed of joy departed-
But a waking dream of life and light
Hath left me broken-hearted.
Ah! what is not a dream by day
To him whose eyes are cast
On things around him with a ray
Turned back upon the past?
That holy dream- that holy dream,
While all the world were chiding,
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam
A lonely spirit guiding.
What though that light, thro’ storm and night,
So trembled from afar-
What could there be more purely bright
In Truth’s day-star?
– Edgar Allan Poe
‘Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro’ the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
‘Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold- too cold for me-
There pass’d, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.
– Edgar Allan Poe