Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Immaterial Silver of Thy Voice

As much as I love the poetry of George Sterling, I was disappointed by his "dramatic poem" from 1920, Rosamund. Like Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Sterling lacked a sense of drama; unlike Beddoes, he was unable to compensate, here, with brilliant imagery, metaphor, word-play -- the skillful use of language that gives the rest of his work so much beauty and power.

Still, in isolated passages, he does bring the poem to life....

It is true
That I have wealth. Within my galley's hold
Are splendors. All the cities of the North
Were sacked by Alboin. In their vaults he found
Part of the drifting treasure of the world --
Plunder of Rome, by Goth and Visigoth,
Vandal and Hun despoiled in years agone
And scattered and regathered and uptorn
By all the winds of conquest. They abide
Awhile with me -- the looped and banded gems,
The rings, the ingots, and the massy plate,
The necklaces and jewelries and crowns,
The silver of the violated East
And gold upheaped like honey in the hive.

Thou art a wealth more precious, and this gold
More beautiful than all the Caesars' hoard!

(smiling) I please thee?

By the fortune of thy hair,
The immaterial silver of thy voice,
The gems that are thine eyes, speak not of gold.
For all thy treasures are not worth thy kiss!

* * * * * * * *

Now Heaven be refuge from these wolves that love!
The pack surrounds me, and their eyes are fixed
Upon this breast my cunning cannot save.
So must one seize me. But that one shall be
The captain of that band. The rest shall seek
Their food with Death. 'T is I against the pack.
There must be no compassion, no delay.
Why fall to lesser fangs? Longinus' lair
Is near a throne. I may be queen again,
And Lombardy be shaggy with our spears...
The stars are out like moths around the moon.
I will be moon to men. The northern star
Shall have my favor, since his throne is fixed
And he joins not this swarm around my fire.
But I will be perdition to the rest!

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