new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

In a Silent House
Outside, drumming on roof-top, rain; not clear
Blue-green as wonted, but rain yellowing
In long, straight chords among as yellow grasses.
Summer derived and harvested, won Danae
Already in her womb the child shielding, turns back,
And for delight in Jupiter, her limbs
Steady and sure makes over unto rapture
While gold rain falls about her, not the sharp
And gleaming tokens of his first demands,
But ripe with satisfaction, languor, sorrow
God feeling godhead, woman trapped by womb,
Pledge they a mutual comfort and compassion,
While the small brazen marriage-gongs throb round them,
Cicadas’ song is yellow component flame,
And each love turns in his heart towards release.

But within autumn, clasped in consummation
Yet wayward from the seedings of the year,
The house stands; something built by us, who’re subject
To the self laws — who bud, quest, flower for fruit,
Or fruitless turn to bleak winds bleakly fronted,
Aching for snow. But set in it, the parts
Of stone a long time smoothed and healed together
Are Peace erect. It is ourselves, escaped
From the long flow and ebb of our demands,
From the impatience of the hotspur months
And leash of slow ones. Here in grace foregathers
Each comely day disgraced by its to-morrow,
And sunset, like the seal on a wise finger,
Presses the panes in crimson amnesty
For all that lacked. Here is the granary
Of ripe days double-harvested, two together
Breasting the wheat, and one to love the poppies;
Here is the silver of a solitude
Like a grove growing. In the dreaming eyes
Of its youthful tenants, crescent leaves reflected
Are rounded to reality.
                                   Yet more
That what we are, or seemed, or secretly
Wakened in dawns to dream, this house has learned
A tongue not wholly human. Built for men,
It searches than they deeper in the truths
Of what men live by. Now this silent room
Of brown and yellow, not entered for some time,
Is startled by the door that suddenly opens,
And caught in conversations of its own.
Dim-keyed piano; wood, the son of forest
And noble slave of man; rugs with great flowers
Of colours quieted like the hands that made them,
Therefore most subtle; cushions, well acquaint
With limbs and heads; fire-bricks, that saw the thoughts
Expand in the bent face, as from bright twigs
Of rosin-wood the flamy birds took flight;
Landscapes that eyes once saw, the hands recaptured
In misted colours set against the walls;
Old teacups, equal friends of either sense,
Pattern and paragon for sight or taste;
Frail webs in corners; and dust delicate
As Time’s light touch on laughing hair long dead —
These things, the faithful servants of the house,
Speak of us when afar. Comes their slight pause
At fault or weakness. Yet, compassionate,
So knowing our weariness, they will be kind.
Nothing we do outstarts them. No worst word
Can twist the smile to satire, on the lips
Of these most true, or free gall in their veins;
Who, long ago, implanted in the woods,
Drew with green mouths at the most innocent breast
And wide of all.
                        They triumph, they have seen
The warring flesh, the mind too eagerly winged,
From own kind exiled, and from its combattings
With other pride, a sore and spectral warrior,
Limp home to them. They know the broken face,
The locked face, and the face that dared to hope.
And, loving so, like beast or ghost, become
Things animate in our sight, their sterile souls
Made fertile by our need. Associates first,
Next intimate, then the beloved companions,
The mothers and the guardians, they who see
Torn wings, torn heart, on thresholds of despair —
It is their power to lead and counsel us,
Not unto action, but to policies
Of steadfastness. Their harmonies release
(As us from the dim keys of the piano,)
In us the certain pledge of melody.
They see us hour by hour, by that beyond
Ourselves upbuilded; console us, for the wreak
Of treacheries; for our raw architecture
Give promise that the days shall weather us,
Give speech of ivy, and of blue wings housing
Amongst us, emigrants from the isles of Heaven.

Thus her house spoke, as I in door half-opened
Stood listening to the room a long time shut.
And I, as long time homeless, took my way
Softly by corridors, and shed off clothes
Like chrysalids, with what had more oppressed me,
The victories of evil. Where green vines
Bent searching in, I laid me down. The rain
Beat on drums muffled, but the fierce cicadas
Burned, flame unquenched, and their whole flame was singing.
But deeper voice of roof-tree quieted me,
Arboreal and yet human. Lying so,
I watched the light finger perfected books,
And, turning cheek to childhood, fell asleep.


Last updated 21 September, 2003