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Poem by James Elroy Flecker

Pavlovna in London

I listened to the hunger-hearted clown,
Sadder than he: I heard a woman sing, -
A tall dark woman in a scarlet gown -
And saw those golden toys the jugglers fling.
I found a tawdry room and there sat I,
There angled for each murmur soft and strange,
The pavement-cries from darkness and below:
I watched the drinkers laugh, the lovers sigh,
And thought how little all the world would change
If clowns were audience, and we the Show.
What starry music are they playing now?
What dancing in this dreary theatre?
Who is she with the moon upon her brow,
And who the fire-foot god that follows her? -
Follows among those unbelieved-in trees
Back-shadowing in their parody of light
Across the little cardboard balustrade;
And we, like that poor Faun who pipes and flees,
Adore their beauty, hate it for too bright,
And tremble, half in rapture, half afraid.

Play on, O furtive and heartbroken Faun!
What is your thin dull pipe for such as they?
I know you blinded by the least white dawn,
And dare you face their quick and quivering Day?
Dare you, like us, weak but undaunted men,
Reliant on some deathless spark in you
Turn your dull eyes to what the gods desire,
Touch the light finger of your goddess; then
After a second's flash of gold and blue,
Drunken with that divinity, expire?

O dance, Diana, dance, Endymion,
Till calm ancestral shadows lay their hands
Gently across mine eyes: in days long gone
Have I not danced with gods in garden lands?
I too a wild unsighted atom borne
Deep in the heart of some heroic boy
Span in the dance ten thousand years ago,
And while his young eyes glittered in the morn
Something of me felt something of his joy,
And longed to rule a body, and to know.

Singer long dead and sweeter-lipped than I,
In whose proud line the soul-dark phrases burn,
Would you could praise their passionate symmetry,
Who loved the colder shapes, the Attic urn.
But your far song, my faint one, what are they,
And what their dance and faery thoughts and ours,
Or night abloom with splendid stars and pale?
'Tis an old story that sweet flowers decay,
And dreams, the noblest, die as soon as flowers,
And dancers, all the world of them, must fail. 

James Elroy Flecker

James Elroy Flecker's other poems:
  1. The Second Sonnet of Bathrolaire
  2. November Eves
  3. Mignon
  4. The First Sonnet of Bathrolaire
  5. The Ballad Of The Student In The South

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