Christopher John Brennan

1 November 1870 – 5 October 1932 / Sydney / Australia

Liminary

The hollow crystal of my winter dream
and silences, where thought for worship, white,
shimmer'd within the icy mirror-gleam,
vanishes down the flood of broader light.
The royal weft of arduous device
and starr'd with strangest gems, my shadowy pride
and ritual of illusive artifice
is shed away, leaving the naked side.
No more is set within the secret shrine
a wonder wherein day nor night has part;
my passing makes the ways of earth divine
with the wild splendours of a mortal heart.
A whisper thrills the living fringe of green
on my retreat; tiptoe the silence stands;
the breathless morn waits till her step be seen,
my summer bride, new life from nuptial lands.
The hidden places of her beauty hold
the savours shed o'er wastes of island air,
and her crown'd body's wealth of torrid gold
burns dusky in her summer-storm of hair.
Her breasts in baffling curves, an upward hope,
strain towards the lips pain'd with too eager life,
and the rich noons faint on each lustrous slope
where thunder-hush in the ardent brake is rife.
I cannot tell what god is in her gaze,
such depths of slumbrous passion drown my breath,
but where the charmed shadow clings and stays
Fate cowers before that high disdain of death.
Oh, take me to thy bosom's sultry beat,
steep all my sense in thy long breath of flame,
oppress me with thy summer's heavy heat,
consume all me that wears an uncrown'd name;
burn this my flesh to a clear web of light,
send thy keen airy spirit to search each vein,
that the hard pulse may throb with strong delight,
o'ermastering life and life's divinest pain.
Then, then we twain will seek each farthest way,
mingled in radiance over cloud and lea,
our joy shall swell the exultant heart of day,
our love shall tinge the rose of sky and sea.
And we shall know the steep pride of the hills
and the dark meditation of the wood,
or quench our rage where the red wine-god spills
o'er glowing rocks the madness of his blood.
Our link'd approach shall flush the water-maid
that dreams her limpid realm with wistful eyes,
our noon-tide rest shall haunt her memory's shade,
vexing her dim breast with unwonted sighs.
And where our fiercer joys have thrill'd the earth
shall burst hard stalks and cruel cups that keep
strong soul of seasons dead to fill the dearth
of lesser lives whose dream is dull with sleep.
And gloriously our summer's reign shall end:
in some dark pass that leads into the west,
burnt incense-wise, each blood shall sweetly blend,
exhaled in music from the love-slain breast,
some eve whose dragon-dying hides the sky
and holds the hour on its empurpled wings,
while pallid seers proclaim the doom-day nigh
and shuddering nations watch the death of kings.
See now the time (O eve of smoky brown!)
the morbid season of my close content,
drown'd flame, broad swathes of vapour closing down
round the clear gaze that pierces, vainly pent,
and knows how vain the hero-death that flung
far flame against the craven face of dark
(poor hero-heart the minstrel summer sung,
O brooding hidden over a bitter cark!),
how vain! did not the hot strength of the earth
exude in drifts of colour, dwindling
to dimmer odour-wafts, a hearted worth
the long-defeated tribes to altar bring.
The unslaked caravans of vast desire
seeking in furnace-sands some fierier rose
with deadly heart, the red crusades of ire
following some dusky king of mighty woes
unto a nameless fall in distant fight
(such only freedom from the daily mesh
spun by the crafty lord of wrong and right);
the pride and splendour of rebellious flesh,
full-sated with wild honey of summer's heart,
the golden lot of ignominy that cast
and craved the honour of a menial part,
to follow on bleeding feet, nor fell the last;
how high their pyre blazed with insensate will
that the last word of their red tale be told,
and o'er their darkening blood, a moment, still,
hung on horizon-wings the spirit's gold,
the ghost of flame, in the vast crucible
transmuted of some viewless Trismegist —
haply the same whose touch, inaudible,
dissolves the lingering leaf to evening mist.
Now with the lucid flower-cups in their hands
that star the pale fields of Thulean spring,
and silver from the moon-made table-lands
of snow, the glimmering distance vanishing,
with opals that engeal the Boreal gleam
and diamond-drip of ether's crystal thrill
miraculous, the cortèges of dream
over the hills of legend gathering, fill
the imaginary avenues of gloom
up to the watching windows that betray
the House of Contemplation, vaulted room
soaring, with shade that broods above pale day;
pale day that wastes even since morning, drain'd
by ambush'd mystery of its wanton breath:
see now the time that rises, pale, unstain'd,
the fixed light that charms the fields of death.
A little yet, a little — wait, O files
obedient to my dumb command — the brow
may waive its frigid lordliness, the wiles
of the spent heart becloud it — wait; and thou,
dark presence, large above the passing world,
biding the full hour of the fated stroke,
ere in the sudden gust of truth be whirl'd
the veils of kindly Maya, leaf or smoke,
let their suspense of smouldering glory be
yet mirror'd in this mind's unruffled pool
or e'er beneath the implacable certainty
of icy light and thought's untarnish'd rule
the vacant world stand rigid; let me yet
this vesper ween I am not all alone,
and ponder with luxurious regret
over the singing golden morning flown:
soon, soon enough the spirit, unreproved,
shall on its proud predestin'd circle range,
in dread indifferent solitude removed
above the poignant pageantry of change,
and the broad brows whose curves are centuries
arise of Isis' carven front supreme
that bids the lucid soul in silence freeze,
the glittering crystal of my winter dream.
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