I Knew That Marble Bled

James Elroy Flecker, Oak and Olive:

THOUGH I was born a Londoner,
And bred in Gloucestershire,
I walked in Hellas years ago
With friends in white attire:
And I remember how my soul
Drank wine as pure as fire.

And when I stand by Charing Cross
I can forget to hear
The crash of all those smoking wheels,
When those cold flutes and clear
Pipes with such fury down the street,
My hands grow moist with fear.

And there’s a hall in Bloomsbury
No more I dare to tread,
For all the stone men shout at me
And swear they are not dead;
And once I touched a broken girl
And knew that marble bled.

But when I walk in Athens town
That swims in dust and sun
Perverse, I think of London then
Where massive work is done,
And with what sweep at Westminster
The rayless waters run.

I ponder how from Attic seed
There grew an English tree,
How Byron like her heroes fell,
Fighting a country free,
And Swinburne took from Shelley’s lips
The kiss of Poetry.

And while our poets chanted Pan
Back to his pipes and power,
Great Verral, bending at his desk,
And searching hour on hour
Found out old gardens, where the wise
May pluck a Spartan flower.

When I go down the Gloucester lanes
My friends are dumb and blind:
Fast as they turn their foolish eyes
The Maenads leap behind,
And when I hear the fire-winged feet,
They only hear the wind.

Have I not chased the fluting Pan
Through Cranham’s sober trees?
Have I not sat on Painswick Hill
With a nymph upon my knees,
And she as rosy as the dawn,
And naked as the breeze?

But when I lie in Grecian fields,
Smothered in asphodel,
Or climb the blue and barren hills,
Or sing in woods that smell
With such hot spices of the South
As mariners might sell–

Then my heart turns where no sun burns,
To lands of glittering rain,
To fields beneath low-clouded skies
New-widowed of their grain,
And Autumn leaves like blood and gold
That strew a Gloucester lane.

Oh well I know sweet Hellas now,
And well I knew it then,
When I with starry lads walked out–
But ah, for home again!
Was I not bred in Gloucestershire,
One of the Englishmen!


Leave a Reply