I sing Wild Love, the bitterest of Time’s fruit,
born out of time, half angel and half brute,
fathered in Paradise, from there flung down
to haunt the fragrant gutters of the town –
Wild Love, the Lord’s unwanted, lacking bread,
who feeds on crumbs brushed out from Virtue’s bed,
whose blood is blue, whose bone is scullion bone,
the flesh-starved anarchist who walks in lone
pride in the wilderness with bleeding feet.
I sing Wild Love, and may my song be sweet.
Wild Love is handsome as the scarlet spray
of poison berries robbed by the birds all day
(poor birds, that have no souls) but death to men;
brave as a bull and timid as the wren,
as secret as the rat that lies in straw,
weak as a slave in chains, stronger than law;
more violent than the bursting avalanche;
lonely as Judas under the flowering branch;
as crammed with evil as the womb of Eve,
and yet so lovely that a saint will grieve
to cast him out, and lie three nights in prayer
doubting his God and fighting down despair.
Wild Love is proud and friendless, and must roam
for ever through the world and find no home;
he has no board, nor bed to rest his bones,
plunders the wild bees’ nest, sleeps on cold stones
and dreams of blood and flowers, of warm delight,
and pain dissolving in soft arms, all night –
sleeps as the hare sleeps in the tasseled corn,
one ear pricked up to catch the huntsman’s horn.
And oh, Wild Love is mournful in the sedges,
and haunts about the world’s forgotten edges
where the lost abide, unheard. Wild Love is sweet
as titheless beauty when the running feet
of Time grow faint, and sorrow wafts away,
and tears are all for joy. Wild love is gay,
and young, and desperate, and quick with grief,
immortal as the springtime, and as brief;
wears his green garland in the withering sun,
lights the world’s blinding dark, and then is done.
We are wild lovers, wantons of the night,
day’s fugitives, who feed on rich delight
as Christmas paupers, through the secular year
nibbling our iron ration of despair.
Across the smiling earth in sweat and dust
we run, and lay a reeking scent of lust
for the fanged pack. Now for an hour at best
the chase has lost us and we lie at rest,
panting, upon this hillside ringed with trees,
close to the sky, and take our long-sought ease.
O love, what ease can our poor arms enfold
that are so torn with brambles, and so cold
from wandering, and long-drawn-out defeat?
The moon is round more often than we meet,
two Arabs, in oases few and green,
with absence like a desert stretched between.
Hot-breathed like hunted animals we take
our hasty pleasure in the forest brake;
however starved for joy, however fond,
we never kiss but each will look beyond
to where the moving branches will betray
the hidden bowman or the beast of prey.
Had we such love as saints and martyrs give
to their eternal God, then might we live
to bask for ever in unchanging day;
alas, our hands were never taught to pray,
our lips and tongues have worshipped at no shrine,
have touched no sacramental bread or wine.
Our love’s unhallowed, all our acts profane,
and even your pure flesh must bear the stain
of sin and ripening death (close wed to mine),
more blackly damned the more it seems divine.
Our world’s a barren garden choked with weeds;
we have no children but our thoughts and deeds,
and small grandchildren memories, fading fast
(refreshed in action, faint when action’s past),
foredoomed with all your beauty, all my strength
(still wed) to rot upon the ground at length.
Even our souls, love’s creatures, then must die;
look in the flawless mirror of the sky,
you shall see our estate foreshadowed there
who love like mayflies in the glistening air.
Yet as we dream on this midsummer hill,
whispering our love (as if the world were still
in its first dewy dawn, Time at its youth)
I will forget all cold and mortal truth;
and like a starving bee that racks the flowers
to hoard wild honey for black winter hours
I’ll range your meadows, let my famished heart
feed on the beauty shining in each part.
Your eyes are love’s entreaty to the sun
that this day end as well as it’s begun,
let it end well, not ill (but end it will,
echo the sleeping stones upon the hill),
your breasts and thighs are light carved out of night,
your lips the living scripture of delight;
your heart a store of kindness that gives forth
warmth to the south and zephyrs to the north,
fragrance to east and west, and at its core
still holds all warmth and fragrance evermore.
© A.R.D. Fairburn