Black Marigolds By: by E. Powys Mathers [1919]

Before you start reading, here’s a warning. This poem is 50 stanzas long!

A short history of this poem.

11th century

A free interpretation of the Chauraspanchasika


Even now

My thought is all of this gold-tinted king’s daughter

With garlands tissue and golden buds,

Smoke tangles of her hair, and sleeping or waking

Feet trembling in love, full of pale languor;

My thought is clinging as to a lost learning

Slipped down out of the minds of men,

Labouring to bring her back into my soul.

 

 

 

Even now

If I see in my soul the citron-breasted fair one

Still gold-tinted, her face like our night stars,

Drawing unto her; her body beaten about with flame,

Wounded by the flaring spear of love,

My first of all by reason of her fresh years,

Then is my heart buried alive in snow.

 

 

 

Even now

If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again

Weary with the dear weight of young love,

Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms

And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,

As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease

Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.

 

 

 

Even now

I bring her back, ah, wearied out with love

So that her slim feet could not bear her up;

Curved falls of her hair down on her white cheeks;

In the confusion of her coloured vests

Speaking that guarded giving up, and her scented arms

Lay like cool bindweed over against my neck.

 

 

 

Even now

I bring her back to me in her quick shame,

Hiding her bright face at the point of day;

Making her grave eyes move in watered stars,

For love’s great sleeplessness wandering all night,

Seeming to sail gently, as that pink bird,

Down the water of love in a harvest of lotus.

 

 

 

Even now

If I saw her lying all wide eyes

And with collyrium the indent of her cheek

Lengthened to the bright ear and her pale side

So suffering the fever of my distance,

Then would my love for her be ropes of flowers, and night

A black-haired lover on the breasts of day.

 

 

 

Even now

I see the heavy startled hair of this reed-flute player

Who curved her poppy lips to love dances,

Having a youth’s face madding like the moon

Lying at her full; limbs ever moving a little in love,

Too slight, too delicate, tired with the small burden

Of bearing love ever on white feet.

 

 

 

Even now

She is present to me on her beds,

Balmed with the exhalation of a flattering musk,

Rich with the curly essence of santal;

Girl with eyes dazing as the seeded-wine,

Showing as a pair of gentle nut-hatches

Kissing each other with their bills, each hidden

By turns within a little grasping mouth.

 

 

 

Even now

She swims back in the crowning hour of love

All red with wine her lips have given to drink,

Soft round the mouth with camphor and faint blue

Tinted upon the lips, her slight body,

Her great live eyes, the colourings of herself

A clear perfection; sighs of musk outstealing

And powdered wood spice heavy of Cashmir.

 

 

 

Even now

I see her; fair face blond like gold

Rich with small lights, and tinted shadows surprised

Over and over all of her; with glittering eyes

All bright for love but very love-weary,

As it were the conjuring disk of the moon when Rahu ceases

With his dark stumbling-block to hide her rays.

 

 

 

Even now

She is art-magically present to my soul

And that one word of strange heart’s ease, good-bye,

That in the night, in loth moving to go,

And bending over to a golden mouth,

I said softly to the turned away

Tenderly tired hair of this king’s daughter.

 

 

 

Even now

My eyes that hurry to see no more are painting, painting

Faces of my lost girl. O golden rings,

That tap against cheeks of small magnolia leaves,

O whitest so soft parchment where

My poor divorced lips have written excellent

Stanzas of kisses, and will write no more.

 

 

 

Even now

Death sends me the flickering of powdery lids

Over wild eyes and the pity of her slim body

All broken up with the weariness of joy;

The little red flowers of her breasts to be my comfort

Moving above scarves, and for my sorrow

Wet crimson lips that once I marked as mine.

 

 

 

Even now

By a cool noise of waters in the spring

The asoka with young flowers that feign her fingers

And bud in red; and in the green vest pearls kissing

As it were rose leaves in the gardens of God; the shining at night

Of white cheeks in the dark; smiles from light thoughts within,

And her walking as of a swan; these trouble me.

 

 

 

Even now

The pleased intimacy of rough love

Upon the patient glory of her form

Racks me with memory; and her bright dress

As it were yellow flame, which the white hand

Shamefastly gathers in her rising haste,

The slender grace of her departing feet.

 

 

 

Even now

When all my heavy heart is broken up

I seem to see my prison walls breaking

And then a light, and in that light a girl

Her fingers busied about her hair, her cool white arms

Faint rosy at the elbows, raised in the sunlight,

And temperate eyes that wander far away.

 

 

 

Even now

I seem to see my prison walls come close,

Built up of darkness, and against that darkness

A girl no taller than my breast and very tired,

Leaning upon the bed and smiling, feeding

A little bird and lying slender as ash-trees,

Sleepily aware as I told of the green

Grapes and the small bright-coloured river flowers.

 

 

 

Even now

I see her, as I used, in her white palace

Under black torches throwing cool red light,

Woven with many flowers and tearing the dark.

I see her rising, showing all her face

Defiant timidly, saying clearly;

Now I shall go to sleep, good-night, my ladies.

 

 

 

Even now

Though I am so far separate, a flight of birds

Swinging from side to side over the valley trees,

Passing my prison with their calling and crying,

Bring me to see my girl. For very bird-like

Is her song singing, and the state of a swan

In her light walking, like the shaken wings

Of a black eagle falls her nightly hair.

 

 

 

Even now

I know my princess was happy. I see her stand

Touching her breasts with all her flower-soft fingers,

Looking askance at me with smiling eyes.

There is a god that arms him with a flower

And she was stricken deep. Her, oh die here.

Kiss me and I shall be purer than quick rivers.

 

 

 

Even now

They chatter her weakness through the two bazaars

Who was so strong to love me. And small men

That buy and sell for silver being slaves

Crinkle the fat about their eyes; and yet

No Prince of the Cities of the Sea has taken her,

Leading to his grim bed. Little lonely one,

You clung to me as a garment clings, my girl.

 

 

 

Even now

Only one dawn shall rise for me. The stars

Revolve to-morrow’s night and I not heed.

One brief cold watch beside an empty heart

And that is all. This night she rests not well;

Oh, sleep; for there is heaviness for all the world

Except for the death-lighted heart of me.

 

 

 

Even now

My sole concern the slipping of her vests,

Her little breasts the life beyond this life.

One night of disarray in her green hems,

Her golden cloths, outweighs the order of the earth,

Making of none effect the tides of the sea.

I have seen her enter the temple meekly and there seem

The flag of flowers that veils the very god.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind the coming and talking of wise men from towers

Where they had thought away their youth. And I, listening,

Found not the salt of the whispers of my girl,

Murmur of confused colours, as we lay near sleep;

Little wise words and little witty words

Wanton as water, honeyed with eagerness.

 

 

 

Even now

I call to mind her weariness in the morning

Close lying in my arms, and tiredly smiling

At my disjointed prayer for her small sake.

Now in my morning the weariness of death

Sends me to sleep. Had I made coffins

I might have lived singing to three score.

 

 

 

Even now

The woodcutter and fisherman turn home,

With on his axe the moon and in his dripping net

Caught yellow moonlight. The purple flame of fire

Calls them to love and sleep. From the hot town

The maker of scant songs for bread wanders

To lie under the clematis with his girl.

The moon shines on her breasts, and I must die.

 

 

 

Even now

I have a need to make up prayers, to speak

My last consideration of the world

To the great thirteen gods, to make my balance

Ere the soul journeys on. I kneel and say:

Father of Light. Leave we it burning still

That I may look at you. Mother of the Stars,

Give me your feet to kiss; I love you, dear.

 

 

 

Even now

I seem to see the face of my lost girl

With frightened eyes, like a wood wanderer,

In travail with sorrowful waters, unwept tears

Labouring to be born and fall; when white face turned

And little ears caught at the far murmur,

The pleased snarling of the tumult of dogs

When I was buried away down the white road.

 

 

 

Even now

When slow rose-yellow moons looked out at night

To guard the sheaves of harvest and mark down

The peach’s fall, how calm she was and love worthy.

Glass-coloured starlight falling as thin as dew

Was wont to find us at the spirit’s starving time

Slow straying in the orchard paths with love.

 

 

 

Even now

Love is a god and Rati the dark his bride;

But once I found their child and she was fairer,

That could so shine. And we were each to each

Wonderful and a presence not yet felt

In any dream. I knew the sunset earth

But as a red gold ring to bear my emerald

Within the little summer of my youth.

 

 

 

Even now

I marvel at the bravery of love,

She, whose two feet might be held in one hand

And all her body on a shield of the guards,

Lashed like a gold panther taken in a pit

Tearfully valiant, when I too was taken’

Bearding her black-beard father in his wrath,

Striking the soldiers with white impotent hands.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind that I loved cypress and roses, dear,

The great blue mountains and the small grey hills,

The sounding of the sea. Upon a day

I saw strange eyes and hands like butterflies;

For me at morning larks flew from the thyme

And children came to bathe in little streams.

 

 

 

Even now

Sleep left me all these nights for your white bed

And I am sure you sistered lay with sleep

After much weeping. Piteous little love,

Death is in the garden, time runs down,

The year that simple and unexalted ran till now

Ferments in winy autumn, and I must die.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind our going, full of bewilderment

As who should walk from sleep into great light,

Along the running of the winter river,

A dying sun on the cool hurrying tide

No more by green rushes delayed in dalliance,

With a clear purpose in his flower-flecked length

Informed, to reach Nirvana and the sea.

 

 

 

Even now

I love long black eyes that caress like silk,

Ever and ever sad and laughing eyes,

Whose lids make such sweet shadow when they close

It seems another beautiful look of hers.

I love a fresh mouth, ah, a scented mouth,

And curving hair, subtle as a smoke,

And light fingers, and laughter of green gems.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind asking: Where love and how love Rati’s priestesses?

You can tell me of their washings at moon-down

And if that warm basin have silver borders.

Is it so that when they comb their hair

Their fingers, being purple-stained, show

Like coral branches in the black sea of their hair?

 

 

 

Even now

I remember that you made answer very softly,

We being one soul, your hand on my hair,

The burning memory rounding your near lips;

I have seen the priestesses of Rati make love at moon-fall

And then in a carpeted hall with a bright gold lamp

Lie down carelessly anywhere to sleep.

 

 

 

Even now

I have no surety that she is not Mahadevi

Rose red of Siva, or Kapagata

The wilful ripe Companion of the King,

Or Krishna’s own Lakshmi, the violet-haired.

I am not certain but that dark Brahma

In his high secret purposes

Has sent my soft girl down to make the three worlds mad

With capering about her scented feet.

 

 

 

Even now

Call not the master painters from all the world,

Their thin black boards, their rose and green and grey,

Their ashes of lapis ultramarine, Their earth of shadows the umber. Laughing at art

Sunlight upon the body of my bride,

For painting not nor any eyes for ever.

Oh warm tears on the body of my bride.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind when the red crowds were passed and it was raining

How glad those two that shared the rain with me;

For they talked happily with rich young voices

And at the storm’s increase, closer and with content,

Each to the body of the other held

As there were no more severance for ever.

 

 

 

Even now

The stainless fair appearance of the moon

Rolls her gold beauty over an autumn sky

And the stiff anchorite forgets to pray;

How much the sooner I, if her wild mouth

Tasting of the taste of manna came to mine

And kept my soul at balance above a kiss.

 

 

 

Even now

Her mouth careless scented as with lotus dust

Is water of love to the great heat of love,

A tirtha very holy, a lover’s lake

Utterly sacred. Might I go down to it

But one more time, then should I find a way

To hold my lake for ever and ever more

Sobbing out my life beside the waters.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind that the time of the falling of blossoms started my dream

Into a wild life, into my girl;

Then was the essence of her beauty spilled

Down on my days so that it fades not,

Fails not, subtle and fresh, in perfuming

That day, and the days, and this the latest day.

 

 

 

Even now

She with young limbs as smooth as flower pollen,

Whose swaying body is laved in the cool

Waters of languor, this dear bright-coloured bird,

Walks not, changes not, advances not

Her weary station by the black lake

Of Gone Forever, in whose fountain vase

Balance the water-lilies of my thought.

 

 

 

Even now

Spread we our nets beyond the farthest rims

So surely that they take the feet of dawn

Before you wake and after you are sleeping

Catch up the visible and invisible stars

And web the ports the strongest dreamer dreamed,

Yet is it all one, Vidya, yet it is nothing.

 

 

 

Even now

The night is full of silver straws of rain,

And I will send my soul to see your body

This last poor time. I stand beside our bed;

Your shadowed head lies leaving a bright space

Upon the pillow empty, your sorrowful arm

Holds from your side and clasps not anything.

There is no covering upon you.

 

 

 

Even now

I think your feet seek mine to comfort them.

There is some dream about you even now

Which I’ll not hear at waking. Weep not at dawn,

Though day brings wearily your daily loss

And all the light is hateful. Now is it time

To bring my soul away.

 

 

 

Even now

I mind that I went round with men and women,

And underneath their brows, deep in their eyes,

I saw their souls, which go slippng aside

In swarms before the pleasure of my mind;

The world was like a flight of birds, shadow or flame

Which I saw pass above the engraven hills.

Yet was there never one like to my woman.

 

 

 

Even now

Death I take up as consolation.

Nay, were I free as the condor with his wings

Or old kings throned on violet ivory,

Night would not come without beds of green floss

And never a bed without my bright darling.

 Most fit that you strike now, black guards,

And let the fountain out before the dawn.

 

 

 

Even now

I know that I have savoured the hot taste of life

Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.

Just for a small and a forgotten time

I have had full in my eyes from off my girl

The whitest pouring of eternal light.

The heavy knife. As to a gala day.

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