George Sylvester Viereck: The Candle and the Flame

The Candle and the Flame

George Sylvester Viereck

Thy hands are like cool herbs that bring  Balm to men's hearts, upon them laid;  Thy lovely-petalled lips are made As any blossom of the spring. But in thine eyes there is a thing,  O Love, that makes me half afraid.
For they are old, those eyes …  They gleam Between the waking and the dream  With antique wisdom, like a bright Lamp strangled by the temple's veil,  That beckons to the acolyte Who prays with trembling lips and pale  In the long watches of the night.
They are as old as Life.  They were  When proud Gomorrah reared its head A new-born city.  They were there  When in the places of the dead Men swathed the body of the Lord.  They visioned Pa-wak raise the wall  Of China.  They saw Carthage fall And marked the grim Hun lead his horde.
There is no secret anywhere  Nor any joy or shame that lies  Not writ somehow in those child-eyes  Of thine, O Love, in some strange wise. Thou art the lad Endymion,  And that great queen with spice and myrrh From Araby, whom Solomon  Delighted, and the lust of her.
The legions marching from the sea With Cæsar's cohorts sang of thee,  How thy fair head was more to him Than all the land of Italy. Yea, in the old days thou wast she  Who lured Mark Antony from home To death and Egypt, seeing he  Lost love when he lost Rome.
Thou saw'st old Tubal strike the lyre,  Yea, first for thee the poet hurled Defiance at God's starry choir! Thou art the romance and the fire,  Thou art the pageant and the strife, The clamour, mounting high and higher,  From all the lovers in the world  To all the lords of love and life.

. . . . .

Perhaps the passions of mankind  Are but the torches mystical Lit by some spirit-hand to find The dwelling of the Master-Mind  That knows the secret of it all, In the great darkness and the wind.
We are the Candle, Love the Flame,  Each little life-light flickers out, Love bides, immortally the same: When of life's fever we shall tire He will desert us and the fire  Rekindle new in prince or lout.
Twin-born of knowledge and of lust,  He was before us, he shall be Indifferent still of thee and me, When shattered is life's golden cup, When thy young limbs are shrivelled up, And when my heart is turned to dust.
Nay, sweet, smile not to know at last  That thou and I, or knave, or fool,  Are but the involitient tool Of some world-purpose vague and vast. No bar to passion's fury set,  With monstrous poppies spice the wine:  For only drunk are we divine, And only mad shall we forget!