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 .Lake Song

    THE lapping of the water
    Is like the weeping of women,
    The weeping of ancient women
    Who grieved without rebellion.

    The lake falls over the shore
    Like tears on their curven bosoms.
    Here is languid, luxurious wailing,
    The wailing of king's daughters.

    So do we ever cry,
    A soft, unmutinouss crying,
    When we know ourselves each a princess
    Locked fast within her tower.

    The lapping of the water
    Is like the weeping of women,
    The fertile tears of women
    That water the dreams of men.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .Anti-Erotic

    HOLD me and press my head
    Close to your shoulder with a gentle hand;
    And do not wonder that this mild caress
    Dearer to me than all your passion is.

    For passion one can have from many men.
    When a woman flames to the new life of Spring,
    Men read the ardor and the dreaming in her eyes
    As tributes to themselves--and burn to her.

    But to be cherihed as a child is cherished,
    To be held as something incredibly dear,
    This is like the delicate hopes of childhood,
    Like walking from December into a sun-sweet May.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .From the Road in November

    IS DEATH like this:
    The slow and quiet chill
    That creeps up from the ground
    And wraps the listless hands,
    That numbs the closed lips and the drooping eyes
    That open to gaze wishless
    On shallow banks of snow?

    To hear without thrill or sadness
    The sounds of twilight,
    The soft snap of breaking twigs,
    The distant baying of a dog,
    Winds urging on uncovered leaves,
    And a little stream
    That tattles incongruously of summer . . .

    To realize the slant of shadowy hills,
    To look again at the lighted house
    Shutting in one's beloved . . .
    And then to turn to the dark fields,
    To go willingly into the dark sepulchre of night.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .Rebirth

    LET us lay aside the memories of old love
    Like the garments of our childhood.
    They have a beauty and young grace,
    But they do not fit us any more,
    We have grown bigger and we shall be clothed
    In a grandeur fitting our destiny.
    You have found me and I you,
    And all the bright and ragged past
    Is gone.
    Not through passion or delight
    Nor by an easy way.
    But through red pain and struggle, sanctified by tears,
    You have come--
    Not to me but to what I stand for.
    You have revealed my godhead to me
    And by reverence have given me my heritage.
    Now i can bear with you and for you,
    Since you have found me
    Woman--and Holy.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .Little Dirge

    AS HEARTS have broken, let young hearts break;
    Let slow feet trad a measure feet have trod before.
    There gleams a pathway I shall never take;
    Here dies a grief will trouble me no more.

    Only swift feet may overtake desire,
    Only young hearts can soar.
    My goal is beckoning from a safe hearth-fire;
    My youth is slipping out the door.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .The Old Tune

    I PRAY thee send thy arrows, Spring!
    I'll court and welcome every sting;
    Thy silver javelins of rain
    That prick my lethargy to pain.
    Behold, I let my garments slip
    And bear me to the windy whip,
    Nor care if thy approach be rude
    So that thou pierce my torpitude.
    See, I am bound in ice and frost,
    A frozen thing, and well-nigh lost.
    O quicken thou my blood again,,
    Though it be an ecstasy of pain.
    Thy keenest thrust I beg thee give
    Only that I may know I live.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .The Passionate Sword

    TEMPER my spirit, oh Lord,
    Burn out its alloy,
    And make it a pliant steel for thy wielding,
    Not a clumsy toy,
    A blunt, iron thing in my hands
    That blunder and destroy.

    Temper my spirit, oh Lord,
    Keep it long in the fire;
    Make it one with the flame. Let it share
    That up-reaching desire.
    Grasp it thyself, oh my God;
    Swing it straighter and higher!

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .Child at a Concert

    SONATA, F MINOR. BEETHOVEN

    (For Richard Buhlig)

    BETWEEN that child's face seen half in shadow,
    Where the dim lights touch into soft radiance
    The rondure of temple, cheek and chin,--
    Between that grave face,
    As gently moulded as a melody,
    What bond is there with the tumultuous sound
    That burns and storms and rushes through this hall?

    The child never stirs.
    She is as unshaken as a marble Muse.
    And under the artist's fingers,
    From his fixed eye, through tensely breathing lips,
    The Apassionata seems to surge;

    To catch up in a divine rage
    These shaken men and women,
    A mocking giant careless of their fears--
    A wielder of water, earth and air--
    A scourger with brands of war--
    A shimmering healer--
    A cradling, compassionate God. . . .

    And when the music dies away
    And blinking faces shake off their awe,
    Amid the bustle of departing crowds,
    The child sits,
    Lonely, grave, composed:
    Moved and unmoving.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 . From the Day-Book of a Forgotten Prince

    MY FATHER us happy or we should be poor.
    His gateway is wide, and the folk of the moor
    Come singing so gaily right up to the door.

    We live in a castle that's dingy and old;
    The casements are broken, the corridors cold,
    The larder is empty, the cook is a scold.

    But father can dance, and his singing is loud.
    From meadow and highway there's always a crowd
    That gathers to hear him, and this makes him proud.

    He roars out a song in a voice that is sweet--
    Of grandeur that's gone, rare viands to eat,
    And treasure that used to be laid at his feet.

    He picks up his phone, faded, wrinkled and torn,
    Though banded in ermine, moth-eaten and worn,
    And held at the throat by a twisted old thorn.

    He leaps in the air with a rickety grace,
    And a kingly old smile illumines his face,
    While he fondles his beard and stares off into space.

    The villagers laugh, then look quickly away,
    And some of them kneel in the orchard to pray.
    I often hear whispers: "The old king is fey."

    But after they're gone, we shall find, if you please,
    White loaves and a pigeon, and honey and cheese,
    And wine that we drink while I sit on his knees.

    And, while he sups, he will feed me and tell
    Of Mother, whom men used to call "The Gazelle,"
    And of glorious times before the curse fell.

    And then he will fall, half-asleep, to the floor;
    The rafters will echo his quivering snore. . . .
    I go to find cook through the slack oaken door.

    My father is happy or we should be poor.
    His gateway is wide, and the folk of the moor
    Come singing so gaily right up to the door.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .The Altar

    THERE were estrangements on the road of love:
    Betrayals and false passions, angers, lusts.
    There were keen nights and sated noons and trusts
    Grudgingly given and held light to prove
    Your self-sufficiency, your manhood's dower,
    And mockery at my faith,--my single power.

    There were renewals all along the way,
    Of pledges and of weeping, new delights.
    But no new meaning till that night of nights
    You groped beyond to where my meaning lay.
    And when you knelt to me you found me kneeling,
    Proud of love's pain and humble to its healing.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .April Conceit

    CAN this be Spring that floats such shadowy veils?
    And what procession does she head?
    And are the showery whitened apple-trees
    The bouquets of a bride, about to be wed?

    And are those dark hills standing in a row
    The black-frocked ushers in her train?
    And can it be the bride is sad this year
    And hangs back weeping? What else, then, is the rain?

    Jean Starr Untermeyer

 .During Darkness

    TAKE me under thy wing, O Death.
    I am tired, I am cold.
    Take me under thy wing, O great, impartial bird;
    Take me, carry me hence
    And let me sleep.
    For the soil that was once so sweet is sour with rotting dead;
    The air is acrid with battle fumes;
    And even the sky is obscured by the cannon's smoke.
    Beauty and Peace--where are they?
    They have gone, and to what avail?
    The mountains stand where the mountains stood,
    And the polluted seas boil in the selfsame basin,
    Unconcerned.

    The beast in man is again on the trail,
    Swinging his arms and sniffing the air for blood.
    And what was gentle,
    What bore fruit with patient pain, is gone.

    Take me under thy wing,
    O Death.

    Jean Starr Untermeyer


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