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A poem by Eric Mackay


Title:     Anteros
Author: Eric Mackay [More Titles by Mackay]


This is the feast-day of my soul and me,
For I am half a god and half a man.
These are the hours in which are heard by sea,
By land and wave, and in the realms of space,
The lute-like sounds which sanctify my span,
And give me power to sway the human race.


I am the king whom men call Lucifer,
I am the genius of the nether spheres.
Give me my Christian name, and I demur.
Call me a Greek, and straightway I rejoice.
Yea, I am Anteros, and with my tears
I salt the earth that gladdens at my voice.


I am old Anteros; a young, old god;
A sage who smiles and limps upon a crutch.
But I can turn my crutch into a rod,
And change my rod into a crown of wood.
Yea, I am he who conquers with a touch,
And plays with poisons till he makes them good.


The sun, uprising with his golden hair,
Is mine apostle; and he serves me well.
Thoughts and desires of mine, beyond compare,
Thrill at his touch. The moon, so lost in thought,
Has pined for love; and wanderers out of hell,
And saints from heaven, have known what I have taught.


Great are my griefs; my joys are multiplex;
And beasts and birds and men my subjects are;
Yea, all created things that have a sex,
And flies and flowers and monsters of the mere;
All these, and more, proclaim me from afar,
And sing my marriage songs from year to year.


There are no bridals but the ones I make;
For men are quicken'd when they turn to me.
The soul obeys me for its body's sake,
And each is form'd for each, as day for night.
'Tis but the soul can pay the body's fee
To win the wisdom of a fool's delight.


Yea, this is so. My clerks have set it down,
And birds have blabbed it to the winds of heaven.
The flowers have guessed it, and, in bower and town,
Lovers have sung the songs that I have made.
Give me your lives, O mortals, and, for leaven,
Ye shall receive the fires that cannot fade.


O men! O maidens! O ye listless ones!
Ye who desert my temples in the East,
Ye who reject the rays of summer suns,
And cling to shadows in the wilderness;
Why are ye sad? Why frown ye at the feast,
Ye who have eyes to see and lips to press?


Why, for a wisdom that ye will not prove,
A joy that crushes and a love that stings,
A freak, a frenzy in a fated groove,
A thing of nothing born of less than nought--
Why in your hearts do ye desire these things,
Ye who abhor the joys that ye have sought?


See, see! I weep, but I can jest at times;
Yea, I can dance and toss my tears away.
The sighs I breathe are fragrant as the rhymes
Of men and maids whose hearts are overthrown.
I am the God for whom all maidens pray,
But none shall have me for herself alone.


No; I have love enough, here where I stand,
To marry fifty maids in their degree;
Aye, fifty times five thousand in a band,
And every bride the proxy of a score.
Want ye a mate for millions? I am he.
Glory is mine, and glee-time evermore.


O men! O masters! O ye kings of grief!
Ye who control the world but not the grave,
What have ye done to make delight so brief,
Ye who have spurn'd the minstrel and the lyre?
I will not say: "Be patient." Ye are brave;
And ye shall guess the pangs of my desire.


There shall be traitors in the court of love,
And tears and torture and the bliss of pain.
The maids of men shall seek the gods above,
And drink the nectar of the golden lake.
Blessed are they for whom the gods are fain;
They shall be glad for love's and pity's sake.


They shall be taught the songs the syrens know,
The wave's lament, the west wind's psalmistry,
The secrets of the south and of the snow,
The wherewithal of day, and death, and night.
O men! O maidens! pray no prayer for me,
But sing to me the songs of my delight.


Aye, sing to me the songs I love to hear,
And let the sound thereof ascend to heaven.
And let the singers, with a voice of cheer,
Announce my name to all the ends of earth;
And let my servants, seventy times and seven,
Re-shout the raptures of my Samian mirth!


Let joy prevail, and Frenzy, like a flame,
Seize all the souls of men for sake of me.
For I will have Contention put to shame,
And all the hearts of all things comforted.
There are no laws but mine on land and sea,
And men shall crown me when their kings are dead.

[The end]
Eric Mackay's poem: Anteros