The Candle and the Flame

George Sylvester Viereck

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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 Caesar'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!

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