Percy MacKaye: Uriel

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff


(In memory of William Vaughn Moody)

Percy MacKaye


Uriel, you that in the ageless sun
Sit in the awful silences of light,
Singing of vision hid from human sight, —
Prometheus, beautiful rebellious one!
And you, Deucalion,
For whose blind seed was brought the illuming spark,
Are you not gathered, now his day is done,
Beside the brink of that relentless dark —
The dark where your dear singer's ghost is gone?


Imagined beings, who majestic blend
Your forms with beauty! — questing, unconfined,
The mind conceived you, though the quenchèd mind
Goes down in dark where you in dawn ascend.
Our songs can but suspend
The ultimate silence: yet could song aspire
The realms of mortal music to extend
And wake a Sibyl's voice or Seraph's lyre —
How should it tell the dearness of a friend?


The simplest is the inexpressible;
The heart of music still evades the Muse,
And arts of men the heart of man suffuse,
And saddest things are made of silence still.
In vain the senses thrill
To give our sorrows glorious relief
In pyre of verse and pageants volatile,
And I, in vain, to speak for him my grief
Whose spirit of fire invokes my waiting will.


To him the best of friendship needs must be
Uttered no more; yet was he so endowed
That Poetry because of him is proud
And he more noble for his poetry,
Wherefore infallibly
I obey the strong compulsion which this verse
Lays on my lips with strange austerity —
Now that his voice is silent — to rehearse
For my own heart how he was dear to me.


Not by your gradual sands, elusive Time,
We measure your gray sea, that never rests;
The bleeding hour-glasses in our breasts
Mete with quick pangs the ebbing of our prime,
And drip, like sudden rime
In March, that melts to runnels from a pane
The south breathes on — oblivion of sublime
Crystallizations, and the ruthless wane
Of glittering stars, that scarce had range to climb.


Darkling those constellations of his soul
Glimmered, while racks of stellar lightning shot
The white, creative meteors of thought
Through that last night, where — clad in cloudy stole —
Beside his ebbing shoal
Of life-blood, stood Saint Paul, blazing a theme
Of living drama from a fiery scroll
Across his stretchèd vision as in dream —
When Death, with blind dark, blotted out the whole.


And yet not all: though darkly alien
Those uncompleted worlds of work to be
Are waned; still, touched by them, the memory
Gives afterglow; and now that comes again
The mellow season when
Our eyes last met, his kindling currents run
Quickening within me gladness and new ken
Of life, that I have shared his prime with one
Who wrought large-minded for the love of men.


But not alone to share that large estate
Of work and interchange of communings —
The little human paths to heavenly things
Were also ours: the casual, intimate
Vistas, which consecrate —
With laughter and quick tears — the dusty noon
Of days, and by moist beams irradiate
Our plodding minds with courage, and attune
The fellowship that bites its thumb at fate.


Where art thou now, mine host Guffanti? — where
The iridescence of thy motley troop!
Ah, where the merry, animated group
That snuggled elbows for an extra chair,
When space was none to spare,
To pour the votive Chianti for a toast
To dramas dark and lyrics debonair,
The while, to `Bella Napoli', mine host
Exhaled his Parmazan, Parnassan air!


Thy Parmazan, immortal laird of ease,
Can never mold, thy caviare is blest,
While still our glowing Uriel greets the rest
Around thy royal board of memories,
Where sit, the salt of these,
He of the laughter of a Hundred Lights,
Blithe Eldorado of high poesies,
And he — of enigmatic gentle knights
The kindly keen — who sings of `Calverly's'.


Because he never wore his sentient heart
For crows and jays to peck, ofttimes to such
He seemed a silent fellow, who o'ermuch
Held from the general gossip-ground apart,
Or tersely spoke, and tart:
How should they guess what eagle tore, within,
His quick of sympathy for humblest smart
Of human wretchedness, or probed his spleen
Of scorn against the hypocritic mart!


Sometimes insufferable seemed to come
That wrath of sympathy: One windy night
We watched through squalid panes, forlornly white, —
Amid immense machines' incessant hum —
Frail figures, gaunt and dumb,
Of overlabored girls and children, bowed
Above their slavish toil: "O God! — A bomb,
A bomb!" he cried, "and with one fiery cloud
Expunge the horrible Cæsars of this slum!"


Another night dreams on the Cornish hills:
Trembling within the low moon's pallid fires,
The tall corn-tassels lift their fragrant spires;
From filmy spheres, a liquid starlight fills —
Like dew of daffodils —
The fragile dark, where multitudinous
The rhythmic, intermittent silence thrills,
Like song, the valleys. — "Hark!" he murmurs, "Thus
May bards from crickets learn their canticles!"


Now Morning, not less lavish of her sweets,
Leads us along the woodpaths — in whose hush
The quivering alchemy of the pure thrush
Cools from above the balsam-dripping heats —
To find, in green retreats,
'Mid men of clay, the great, quick-hearted man
Whose subtle art our human age secretes,
Or him whose brush, tinct with cerulean,
Blooms with soft castle-towers and cloud-capped fleets.


Still to the sorcery of August skies
In frillèd crimson flaunt the hollyhocks,
Where, lithely poised along the garden walks,
His little maid enamoured blithe outvies
The dipping butterflies
In motion — ah, in grace how grown the while,
Since he was wont to render to her eyes
His knightly court, or touch with flitting smile
Her father's heart by his true flatteries!


But summer's golden pastures boast no trail
So splendid as our fretted snowshoes blaze
Where, sharp across the amethystine ways,
Iron Ascutney looms in azure mail,
And, like a frozen grail,
The frore sun sets, intolerably fair;
Mute, in our homebound snow-tracks, we exhale
The silvery cold, and soon — where bright logs flare —
Talk the long indoor hours, till embers fail.


Ah, with the smoke what smouldering desires
Waft to the starlight up the swirling flue! —
Thoughts that may never, as the swallows do,
Nest circling homeward to their native fires!
Ardors the soul suspires
The extinct stars drink with the dreamer's breath;
The morning-song of Eden's early choirs
Grows dim with Adam; close at the ear of death
Relentless angels tune our earthly lyres!


Let it be so: More sweet it is to be
A listener of love's ephemeral song,
And live with beauty though it be not long,
And die enamoured of eternity,
Though in the apogee
Of time there sit no individual
Godhead of life, than to reject the plea
Of passionate beauty: loveliness is all,
And love is more divine than memory.
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