An Interlude

Poem By Radclyffe Hall

I
Crush these voluptuous grapes between your teeth,
Your small, strong teeth ! and let their purple pain
Be offered in a sacrificial rain
Of sun-warmed essence; while I twine a wreath
Of all their leaves, and place it just beneath
Your high-combed curls, to rest upon the plain
Of your white temples : though the Nymphs disdain
To grace our modern banquet, they bequeath
A sylvan fancy to my wayward dream.
This glint of candles on the silver round
Is yellow moonlight, mirrored in lone stream,
These flowers are springing from the sensuous ground,
And we are Dryads, 'tis a fitting theme
For you to sing; come—thrill the night with sound.

II
The shaded lamps that make the room seem dim
Scarcely revealing pictures on the wall;
Yet one so placed to let a halo fall
Upon your hair; you smile! yes, it's a whim
A Poet's fancy with a moonlit rim
Perhaps—and yet a harmless wish withal.
Don't quarrel with it, just sit there, those tall
White lilies make a background for your slim
Young body. Let the blinds be up, and night
Gaze through the windows with her purple eyes,
Dropping some ardent star from out its height
For very eagerness of glad surprise
At so much beauty, till your song's delight
Shall waft it back into the listening skies !

III
Where shall I find a corner in this room
Almost in darkness? Ah! that deep recess
Of languid cushions, eager to caress
My weary limbs ! from out its dreaming gloom
Made holy by the incense of perfume,
All unobserved and happy I'll confess
My senses to those roses, passionless,
And listening in their bowl of silver doom.
Sing, sing, sweet friend, but soft, though eagerly !
With tender pauses in between the notes
Filled up with little sighs, unconsciously—
These rose-dropped petals, they are fairy boats
Our souls may sail on lakes of melody
Adown whose ripples youth eternal floats.

IV
Oh ! burning silence ! when the very air
Is warm with memories of sounds we love!
You cease to sing, yet from below, above,
Around me, in me, of me, everywhere,
That Music's spirit, tremulously fair
Flutters and flutters, like a wounded dove,
And cannot fly beyond this earthly groove !
Midway it pauses, hanging throbbing there.
I will not speak, lest it should seem profane
In such a presence; idle words of praise
Ye are but mortal sounds, with no refrain
That can endure beyond our passing days,
And so be silent ! silent with the pain
Of all deep feeling, that can find no phrase.

V
Kiss me good night, sweet minstrel, on the stairs !
I love your lips, they're neither pale nor red,
But like an after-glow, when day lies dead
Upon the mountains. Do they say soft prayers,
Those languid lips? to God, a God who cares,
And gathers such dear follies thread by thread
As each is woven in your mind, and shed
Like gold spun silk upon His field of tares?
You're silent! let it pass; who knows but you,
So strong in weakness, may compel God's ear
To listen for the smallest drop of dew
That all our thunders would disdain to hear :
And so, Sweet, if you pray, repeat anew
To God, that while you sang I wept a tear !

VI
This morning while I light my cigarette
In this dim study with its endless view
Stretching away to hills whose eyes are blue
With secret thoughts, my thoughts are all regret,
Regret for broken interludes! and yet—
If it were otherwise, who knows but you
Might grow to pall, as things familiar do,
While now it seems worth while to not forget !
And so good-bye, my friend, drift out in smoke,
Vague, and intangible, a fleeting joy
That some stray match of fate in passing woke,
To burn awhile, like this small soothing toy
Between my lips: Time's galling iron yoke
Is not for us, we made and we'll destroy.

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