Conrad Potter Aiken

Here you will find the Long Poem The House Of Dust: Part 04: 06: Cinema of poet Conrad Potter Aiken

The House Of Dust: Part 04: 06: Cinema

As evening falls,
The walls grow luminous and warm, the walls
Tremble and glow with the lives within them moving,
Moving like music, secret and rich and warm.
How shall we live to-night, where shall we turn?
To what new light or darkness yearn?
A thousand winding stairs lead down before us;
And one by one in myriads we descend
By lamplit flowered walls, long balustrades,
Through half-lit halls which reach no end. . . .

Take my arm, then, you or you or you,
And let us walk abroad on the solid air:
Look how the organist's head, in silhouette,
Leans to the lamplit music's orange square! . . .
The dim-globed lamps illumine rows of faces,
Rows of hands and arms and hungry eyes,
They have hurried down from a myriad secret places,
From windy chambers next to the skies. . . .
The music comes upon us. . . .it shakes the darkness,
It shakes the darkness in our minds. . . .
And brilliant figures suddenly fill the darkness,
Down the white shaft of light they run through darkness,
And in our hearts a dazzling dream unwinds . . .

Take my hand, then, walk with me
By the slow soundless crashings of a sea
Down miles on miles of glistening mirrorlike sand,—
Take my hand
And walk with me once more by crumbling walls;
Up mouldering stairs where grey-stemmed ivy clings,
To hear forgotten bells, as evening falls,
Rippling above us invisibly their slowly widening rings. . . .
Did you once love me? Did you bear a name?
Did you once stand before me without shame? . . .
Take my hand: your face is one I know,
I loved you, long ago:
You are like music, long forgotten, suddenly come to mind;
You are like spring returned through snow.
Once, I know, I walked with you in starlight,
And many nights I slept and dreamed of you;
Come, let us climb once more these stairs of starlight,
This midnight stream of cloud-flung blue! . . .
Music murmurs beneath us like a sea,
And faints to a ghostly whisper . . . Come with me.

Are you still doubtful of me—hesitant still,
Fearful, perhaps, that I may yet remember
What you would gladly, if you could, forget?
You were unfaithful once, you met your lover;
Still in your heart you bear that red-eyed ember;
And I was silent,—you remember my silence yet . . .
You knew, as well as I, I could not kill him,
Nor touch him with hot hands, nor yet with hate.
No, and it was not you I saw with anger.
Instead, I rose and beat at steel-walled fate,
Cried till I lay exhausted, sick, unfriended,
That life, so seeming sure, and love, so certain,
Should loose such tricks, be so abruptly ended,
Ring down so suddenly an unlooked-for curtain.

How could I find it in my heart to hurt you,
You, whom this love could hurt much more than I?
No, you were pitiful, and I gave you pity;
And only hated you when I saw you cry.
We were two dupes; if I could give forgiveness,—
Had I the right,—I should forgive you now . . .
We were two dupes . . . Come, let us walk in starlight,
And feed our griefs: we do not break, but bow.

Take my hand, then, come with me
By the white shadowy crashings of a sea . . .
Look how the long volutes of foam unfold
To spread their mottled shimmer along the sand! . . .
Take my hand,
Do not remember how these depths are cold,
Nor how, when you are dead,
Green leagues of sea will glimmer above your head.
You lean your face upon your hands and cry,
The blown sand whispers about your feet,
Terrible seems it now to die,—
Terrible now, with life so incomplete,
To turn away from the balconies and the music,
The sunlit afternoons,
To hear behind you there a far-off laughter
Lost in a stirring of sand among dry dunes . . .
Die not sadly, you whom life has beaten!
Lift your face up, laughing, die like a queen!
Take cold flowers of foam in your warm white fingers!
Death's but a change of sky from blue to green . . .

As evening falls,
The walls grow luminous and warm, the walls
Tremble and glow . . . the music breathes upon us,
The rayed white shaft plays over our heads like magic,
And to and fro we move and lean and change . . .
You, in a world grown strange,
Laugh at a darkness, clench your hands despairing,
Smash your glass on a floor, no longer caring,
Sink suddenly down and cry . . .
You hear the applause that greets your latest rival,
You are forgotten: your rival—who knows?—is I . . .
I laugh in the warm bright light of answering laughter,
I am inspired and young . . . and though I see
You sitting alone there, dark, with shut eyes crying,
I bask in the light, and in your hate of me . . .
Failure . . . well, the time comes soon or later . . .
The night must come . . . and I'll be one who clings,
Desperately, to hold the applause, one instant,&mdas