Sonata in Pathos

Original Text: 
Conrad Aiken, Nocturne of Remembered Spring and other Poems (Boston: Four Seas, 1917): 39-46. Internet Archive
1Well, I am tired ... tired of all these years,
2The hazy mornings, the noons, the misty evenings,
3Tired of the spring, tired of the fall;
4The music starts again, I have heard it all,
5I cannot escape, it whispers in my ears ...
6I have pursued you in so many places,
7In a thousand times, with a thousand wistful faces,
8I have pursued you so many times in vain ...
9Wherever I turn you rise in the shadows again,
10Wherever I turn you are smiling there,
11Touching the one white rose that stars your hair.
12Why do you follow me, why do you seek me,
13Why do you rouse strange music in my heart?
14You laugh and enter the shadows and change once more,
15You step transformed from a lamplit door,
16You touch my arm and silently vanish away ...
17Why do you never stay? ...
18Only this afternoon, this rainy afternoon,
19There, in the darkness, where I listened to music,
20You came and sat beside me, with golden hair;
21Were you the music itself, come to betray me?
22For the music stopped, and you were no longer there;
23And I sought in the darkness for you, and touched but darkness,
24Reached out my hands and touched but air.
25And suddenly, in the evening, you came again,
26Sombre, in silver rain,
27And drew the darkness about you, and the gleam of lights ...
28Where have you gone? Through what succession of nights
29Must I pursue you from place to place,
30And face to face?
31You are like music, forever moving and changing,
32Forever weaving a lovelier melody ...
33You are like music, weaving and interweaving;
34You plead and sing, but will not wait for me.
35I have touched the moonlight whiteness of your hands,
36I have walked with you by the moonlight sea,
37We have sat and watched the waves slide up white sands,
38The waves that whispered at you and me;
39And the dark hair, the blue-black hair like midnight,
40And the soft bright golden hair,
41And the hair that ripples like sun on moving water,
42And the hair that is lighter than melody on soft air,
43I have known and touched them all, I have loved them all,
44I have played a ghostly music upon them,
45I have played a starlight magic upon them, and held them, and let them fall.
46You, the white-breasted one who danced before me,
47Bearing narcissus in your hands;
48You with the mouth like jasper, you with the feet like snow ...
49I have loved you all, I have loved you long ago,
50But you have faded before me, and left me nothing,
51And the caress of hands, the lips, the sighs,
52The starless night of darkened eyes,
53White throats that filled with laughter, -
54They have perished like music that leaves no echo after ...
55I cannot remember the softness of a kiss,
56The fleeting warmth of a breath.
57The evening falls, and brings me only this, -
58The melancholy of some forgotten death.
59The naked elms that lift their writhing branches
60In sinister patterns against the twilight sky,
61They are monstrous corals in the coldness of an ocean;
62And beneath them strange things creep and die.
63I am tired, I have come a long way from the sun,
64I have forgotten the wind on hills of blue.
65I walk in the twilight, under strange black branches,
66And try in vain to remember a face I knew.
67My soul is green with cold sea-slime,
68The slime of graceless lusts and awkward loves ...
69I would like to climb these frozen corals, climb
70To the shining waves where a bright wind moves ...
71I would like to climb these cold black boughs, and see
72A star above the waters ... But can that be? ...
73You who have sought me, whom I have sought so often, -
74Come down to me!
75I would like to rise to a room where yellow candles
76Shine in a golden row:
77I would like to sit with you, and hear soft music
78Intensely and persuasively flow ...
79I would like to hear you talking of simple things,
80Of the leaves that hang on trees and softly fall:
81I would like to have your hands touch mine like wings,
82And see your face, so white and young and fragile,
83Against the golden darkness of a wall ...
84This is the picture of you who died so young -
85You, whose dreams were the quietness of music,
86Whose life was a music abruptly brought to an end.
87I hold the candle above you, and search the shadows,
88You would have been my friend, my more than friend.
89I never saw you. But holding the candle above you,
90Striving to find the secret that lights your face.
91Something, some music, comes over me, and I love you,
92I desire to touch you, I desire to change this place
93From a room with candles, and a faded picture,
94To a room with you, a living music, there, -
95You, with the dark strange eyes and sombre depth of hair.
96You, the clear-browed - what are you wondering of
97That gives your innocent eyes the dusk of love?
98What is the music dreaming behind your mouth?
99Your lips are closed for a moment, you hold your breath,
100Waiting for your first kiss, the mouth of death ...
101And your young body, your young white body, is dead;
102And covered with earth; and turned to leaves; and fallen to earth again.
103And the music you dreamed is gone. And your swift steps are gone.
104And the wind blows over you; and the ghostly rain ...
105I will walk where you have walked, and think of you;
106And search on the earth for the music that you knew ...
107Yes, you are one more whom I have sought in vain;
108One who has beckoned to me and vanished away;
109One who has gone and will not come again,
110One who came, but would not stay.
111Why must the music move? Why will it never rest?
112Why will it never meet me, breast to breast?
113Perhaps it is death alone whom I shall love, -
114Death alone who will cling to me, never to let me move.
115Slow steps pass in the evening ... slow steps echo and pass,
116Like my own steps returning from other years;
117It is I, perhaps, pursuing the ghost of a dream,
118A dream that will end in a laugh, or a dazzle of tears ...
119I would like to cry "Come back!" but the steps are gone,
120My ghost pursues its ghostly end.
121It will pursue till the ghost is lost in the dawn;
122It will pursue and dream till the stars ascend.
123And the steps are woven gorgeously into a music,
124A slow reverberant monotone:
125I am weighed upon like one in a horrible fever;
126I bear the weight of the stars alone.
127And I must resurrect my dreams again,
128Resurrect them all.
129Endure them, like a tyrannous refrain, -
130Obedient to their measures rise and fall ...
131I have touched the moonlight whiteness of your hands
132And walked with you by a moonlight sea;
133We have sat and watched the waves slide up white sands,
134The waves that whispered to you and me.
135And the dark hair, the blue-black hair like midnight,
136And the soft bright golden hair,
137And the hair that ripples like sun on moving waters,
138And the hair that is lighter tfian melody on soft air, -
139I have known and touched them all, I have loved them all,
140I have played a ghostly music upon them,
141I have played a starlight music upon them, and held them, and let them fall ...
142... Yet there are none who love me, and none I love;
143And the mornings pass; and the noons; and the evenings die ...
144And I walk under freezing elms, whose branches writhe
145Like tortured corals against a clear green sky.
146And those who call me I follow; and those who leave me,
147I shall remember till I die.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: