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Poem by Francis Thompson
A Corymbus for Autumn
Hearken my chant, ’tis As a Bacchante’s, A grape-spurt, a vine-splash, a tossed tress, flown vaunt ’tis! Suffer my singing, Gipsy of Seasons, ere thou go winging; Ere Winter throws His slaking snows In thy feasting-flagon’s impurpurate glows! The sopped sun—toper as ever drank hard— Stares foolish, hazed, Rubicund, dazed, Totty with thine October tankard. Tanned maiden! with cheeks like apples russet, And breast a brown agaric faint-flushing at tip, And a mouth too red for the moon to buss it, But her cheek unvow its vestalship; Thy mists enclip Her steel-clear circuit illuminous, Until it crust Rubiginous With the glorious gules of a glowing rust. Far other saw we, other indeed, The crescent moon, in the May-days dead, Fly up with its slender white wings spread Out of its nest in the sea’s waved mead! How are the veins of thee, Autumn, laden? Umbered juices, And pulpèd oozes Pappy out of the cherry-bruises, Froth the veins of thee, wild, wild maiden! With hair that musters In globèd clusters, In tumbling clusters, like swarthy grapes, Round thy brow and thine ears o’ershaden; With the burning darkness of eyes like pansies, Like velvet pansies Wherethrough escapes The splendid might of thy conflagrate fancies; With robe gold-tawny not hiding the shapes Of the feet whereunto it falleth down, Thy naked feet unsandallèd; With robe gold-tawny that does not veil Feet where the red Is meshed in the brown, Like a rubied sun in a Venice-sail. The wassailous heart of the Year is thine! His Bacchic fingers disentwine His coronal At thy festival; His revelling fingers disentwine Leaf, flower, and all, And let them fall Blossom and all in thy wavering wine. The Summer looks out from her brazen tower, Through the flashing bars of July, Waiting thy ripened golden shower; Whereof there cometh, with sandals fleet, The North-west flying viewlessly, With a sword to sheer, and untameable feet, And the gorgon-head of the Winter shown To stiffen the gazing earth as stone. In crystal Heaven’s magic sphere Poised in the palm of thy fervid hand, Thou seest the enchanted shows appear That stain Favonian firmament; Richer than ever the Occident Gave up to bygone Summer’s wand. Day’s dying dragon lies drooping his crest, Panting red pants into the West. Or the butterfly sunset claps its wings With flitter alit on the swinging blossom, The gusty blossom, that tosses and swings, Of the sea with its blown and ruffled bosom; Its ruffled bosom wherethrough the wind sings Till the crispèd petals are loosened and strown Overblown, on the sand; Shed, curling as dead Rose-leaves curl, on the fleckèd strand. Or higher, holier, saintlier when, as now, All nature sacerdotal seems, and thou. The calm hour strikes on yon golden gong, In tones of floating and mellow light A spreading summons to even-song: See how there The cowlèd night Kneels on the Eastern sanctuary-stair. What is this feel of incense everywhere? Clings it round folds of the blanch-amiced clouds, Upwafted by the solemn thurifer, The mighty spirit unknown, That swingeth the slow earth before the embannered Throne? Or is’t the Season under all these shrouds Of light, and sense, and silence, makes her known A presence everywhere, An inarticulate prayer, A hand on the soothed tresses of the air? But there is one hour scant Of this Titanian, primal liturgy; As there is but one hour for me and thee, Autumn, for thee and thine hierophant, Of this grave ending chant. Round the earth still and stark Heaven’s death-lights kindle, yellow spark by spark, Beneath the dreadful catafalque of the dark. And I had ended there: But a great wind blew all the stars to flare, And cried, “I sweep the path before the moon! Tarry ye now the coming of the moon, For she is coming soon;” Then died before the coming of the moon. And she came forth upon the trepidant air, In vesture unimagined-fair, Woven as woof of flag-lilies; And curdled as of flag-lilies The vapour at the feet of her, And a haze about her tinged in fainter wise. As if she had trodden the stars in press, Till the gold wine spurted over her dress, Till the gold wine gushed out round her feet; Spouted over her stainèd wear, And bubbled in golden froth at her feet, And hung like a whirlpool’s mist round her. Still, mighty Season, do I see’t, Thy sway is still majestical! Thou hold’st of God, by title sure, Thine indefeasible investiture, And that right round thy locks are native to; The heavens upon thy brow imperial, This huge terrene thy ball, And o’er thy shoulders thrown wide air’s depending pall. What if thine earth be blear and bleak of hue? Still, still the skies are sweet! Still, Season, still thou hast thy triumphs there! How have I, unaware, Forgetful of my strain inaugural, Cleft the great rondure of thy reign complete, Yielding thee half, who hast indeed the all? I will not think thy sovereignty begun But with the shepherd sun That washes in the sea the stars’ gold fleeces Or that with day it ceases, Who sets his burning lips to the salt brine, And purples it to wine; While I behold how ermined Artemis Ordainèd weed must wear, And toil thy business; Who witness am of her, Her too in autumn turned a vintager; And, laden with its lampèd clusters bright, The fiery-fruited vineyard of this night.
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