"Clifton and a Lad's Love"

John Addington Symonds

Page images include only pages of prose essay which contain the poem.




He was all beautiful: as fair

As summer in the silent trees;

As bright as sunshine on the leas;

As gentle as the evening air.


His voice was swifter than the lark;


Softer than thistle-down his cheek;

His eyes were stars that shyly break

At sundown ere the skies are dark.


I found him in a lowly place:


He sang clear songs that made me weep:

Long nights he ruled my soul in sleep:

Long days I thought upon his face.




""Alone: and must it then be so?

Why do you walk alone?"" she cried.

I answered with a smile, to hide

The undercurrent of my woe.


But had she known, dear friend, that thou


Art living still, she would have said:

""Oblivion should but shroud the dead;

Go, throw thy arms around him now!""


Then on my lips the smile had died:


""From deep to deeper depths I sink;

They bade me leave him on the brink,

And now hell's gulfs our paths divide"".




This time it is no dream that stirs

The ancient fever of my brain:

The burning pulses throb again,

The thirst I may not quench recurs.


In vain I tell my beating heart


How poor and worthless were the prize:

The stifled wish within me dies,

But leave an unextinguished smart.


It is not for the love of God


That I have done my soul this wrong;

'Tis not to make my reason strong

Or curb the currents of my blood.


But sloth, and fear of men, and shame


Impose their limit on my bliss:

Else had I laid my lips to his,

And called him by love's dearest name.




The gale is up, and far away

It comes o'er changeful sea and sand,

Where that dim distant borderland

Stands clear and doffs her mist to-day.


The broad brown woods are close to view;


Their crests are fringed with Orange sky,

And here a beech all russet dry,

And here a black rock-pluming yew.


The river swirls with muddy flow;


The wild white sea-gulls screaming sail

Round point and headland on the gale,

Down to the channel's golden glow.


Far up in the air the homeward rooks


Float dense against the liquid sky:

They hear the woods beneath the brooks.

They mark the swelling of the brooks.


Faint heart, why sad? They flout the breeze,


They care not though their nests be torn;

They laugh the drenching showers to scorn:

Wilt thou not wing thy way like these?




The chimes upon this troubles air

Went sighing, sobbing to the night.

Day drew the curtain from the light,

And left the new year bleak and bare.


A heaven impenetrably black;


Earth sullen, hard, and well defined:

No hope above; the clouds are blind,

And from the East fast whirls the wrack.




The stately ships are passing free,

Where scant light strikes along the flood;

Gaunt winter scowls o'er field and wood:

O who will bring my love to me?


White gulls fly screaming to the sea;


The bitter east wind sweeps the sky;

Faint snow streaks on the hill-sides lie:

O who will bring my love to me?


The hawthorn bough is bare and dree;


The spiky holly keeps him warm;

Brown brake shrills shivering in the storm:

O who will bring my love to me?


The bright blue sky is cold to see;


The frosty ground lies hard and bare;

So cold is hope, so hard is care:

O who will bring my love to me?




I saw a vision of deep eyes

In morning sleep when dreams are true:

Wide humid eyes of hazy blue,

Like seas that kiss the horizon skies.


Then as I gazed, I felt the rain


Of soft warm curls around my cheek,

And heard a whisper low and meek:

""I love, and canst thou love again?""


A gentle youth beside me bent;


His cool moist lips to mine were pressed,

That throbbed and burned with love's unrest:

When, lo, the powers of sleep were spent;


And noiseless on the airy wings


That follow after night's dim way,

The beauteous boy was gone for aye,

A theme of vague imaginings.


Yet I can never rest again:


The flocks of morning dreams are true;

And till I find those eyes of blue

And golden curls, I walk in pain.




Spring comes again: the blushing earth

Will deck herself with bridal flowers:

The birds among the leafy bowers

Will wake dumb winter's woods with mirth.


But I shall never find him, never:


Though winter's snow dissolve in dew,

And hyacinth's star-spangled blue

'Neath vernal breezes bend and shiver.


The field shall throb with marriage hymn,


And summer's wealth shall deck the grove,

Wherethrough my feet must lonely rove,

Disconsolately seeking him.


Seek on, seek on, till autumn dies


Like sunset in drear winter's night;

Seek on, seek on, for thy delight,

A mirage dream, before thee flies.




The tide is high, and stormy beams

Of sunlight scud across the down:

Above, the cloudy squadrons frown;

On their broad front a rainbow gleams.


Cease, boisterous wind. The west is grey


With glory-coated mists, that swell

From distant seas, and gathering tell

Of coming storm and darkened day.


Leave the dank clouds to droop, and guide


Toward their fair port yon sleeping sails:

Close-furled they wait the wakening gales;

Shower-sprinkled shines the pennon wide.


Said seaward, stately ship, and view


Some blesséd isle where love is bred,

Bring me again my love that's dead,

And all I have I'll give to you.




My own loved Clifton, jocund May

Hath decked thy banks and bowers again;

Thy populous elms that crowd the plain,

Thy birches, fountains of green spray.


Once more I pace the lonesome woods,


I hear the thrush and cuckoo call,

I hear the tinkling raindrops fall,

I smell the scent of hidden buds.


Star-spangled bluebell heavens are spread


‘Neath silky screens of tender beech;

The yews their dewy fingers reach

To lay them on the lily bed.


All that is fair, and sweet, and gay,


All brightest germs of happy thought,

To-day their freshest gifts have brought

To crown the brows of laughing May.


But I am lone, and sad, and dull,


My brain is sick, my heart is dry;

A weary longing dims the sky,

With bitter want my soul is full.


Ok, where, wherefore, is he gone?


He made my life one living spring;

My heart was then a joyous thing,

And brightened when the sunbeams shone.

I see the light, I see the flowers;

The tres are tremulous with praise;

One craving darkens all my days;

Dead love hath dulled the jocund hours.




It seems as though these years of pain

Had never made me man from boy,

So keenly do I feel the joy

That breathes in wakening spring again.


The rooks complain of coming showers;


The sharp fresh morning breezes blow;

The sunbeams on the river glow,

And kiss the brows of misty towers;


While I along our terrace stray,


I count the shadows on the lawn,

The clouds across the azure drawn

In dappled films of white and grey.


All silent signs of spring are rife:


My heart leaps up to hail the hours,

That guerdon bring of vernal flowers,

And swell our veins with love and life.


I leap, I cry, “O summer, trace


Thy hues along the deepening wood,

Thy fleecy vapours on the flood,

Thy lush green grasses o'er the chase!


“O summer, come! Voluptuous queen,


Bright mistress of a magic wand!

And stir me with thy fairy hand,

And make me what I once have been!


“For spring is fresh on mead and hill,


As fresh as those three Aprils gone;

But all my life is dead and wan,

My pulse of love is cold and still.


“I count the shadow, count the cloud,


And hail the growth of silent days;

But there were other notes of praise,

With which those springtide hours were loud.


“They sounded in the windy strife,


I heard them in the dim starlight,

They shouted through the landscape bright,

They made me one with nature's life.”




The light from yonder cliff is fled,

That yester morn so brightly shone;

They glory of thy love hath gone

From my dulled life, and left it dead.


Let sunshine fade from rock and sky,


Let Leigh's deep woodland walks be torn;

O'er ruined woods I will not mourn,

Which once were green, when you and I


Went hand in hand among the flowers,


Whose names I taught you, and I made

Rare crowns of columbines to shade

With purple buds the golden showers


Of your loved curls. At times we hung


Like eagles o'er the dizzy rock,

Where faintly boomed the hammer's shock,

And ever upward slowly swung


The sailor's melancholy chant;


While ships went gliding out to sea,

Sails furled and pennons floating free,

With sunlight on their sterns aslant;


Till evening yellowed over all


From Hesper in the dewy sky—

The woods may fall, I will not sigh;

Love's star hath set, ‘tis time they fall.




Three summers gone: and now once more

Pale autumn comes to pluck the leaf;

On every hill they bind the sheaf;

The oak-woods redden as of yore.


The woods may bronze; the golden ears


May gladden all the land with grain;

But I shall never feel again

The gladness of those bygone years.




How coldly steals the journeying night,

How silent sleeps, the garden spray:

Far down I hear the watch-dog bay;

I hear the sheep from yonder heights.


Swathed in thick mist the city lies:


Her lamps like myriad jewels peer

Through wreaths of vapour faintly clear;

Her chimes from muffled belfries rise.


Pale as the moon is memory's light,


Those April days as darkly lower,

As looms mid yonder mist the tower,

Which then with rays of morn were bright.


I hear his voice like yon thin chimes;


As those faint lamps his eyes are dim,

Deep midnight gloom encircles him,

Scarce can I dream of those dear times.




To thee far off, more far than death,

To thee I make my lonely rhyme,

Condemned to see thee not in time,

Though life and love still rule thy breath.


Our pulses beat, our hearts strike on;


They beat, but do not beat together;

Our years are young, but lusty weather

Wakes in our blood no unison.


We pace the self-same field and street,


We hear the same strong organ roll;

No music leaps from soul to soul,

Our paths are near, yet never meet.


Only in visions of the night


I seem with thee to watch the morn;

A tempest swells, and thou art borne

To lands I know not far from sight.



Title of volume of first printing
In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays
Elkin Matthews & John Lane, Macmillan & Company
Page numbers in original volume

Symonds, John Addington. "Clifton and a Lad's Love." In the Key of Blue and Other Prose Essays, E. Mathews & J. Lane, 1893, pp. 155-175