III. The Shadow Of Lilith

Christopher John Brennan 1870 (Haymarket, New South Wales) – 1932 (Lewisham, New South Wales)

The tuberose thickens the air: a swoon
lies close on open'd calyx and slipt sheath
thro' all the garden bosom-bound beneath
dense night that hangs, her own perturbing moon:
no star: and heaven and earth, seeking their boon,
meet in this troubled blood whereunder seethe
cravings of darkling bliss whose fumes enwreathe
some rose of rare-reveal'd delight: oh, soon! —
Ay, surely near — the hour consents to bless! —
and nearer yet, all ways of night converge
in that delicious dark between her breasts
whom night and bloom and wayward blood confess,
where all the world's desire is wild to merge
its multitude of single suffering nests.

Cloth'd now with dark alone, O rose and balm,
whence unto world-sear'd youth is healing boon,
what lures the tense dark round thy pulsing calm?
Or does that flood-tide of luxurious noon,
richly distill'd for thy sweet nutriment,
now traitor, hearken to some secret moon.
Eve's wifely guise, her dower that Eden lent,
now limbeck where the enamour'd alchemist
invokes the rarer rose, phantom descent;
thy dewy essence where the suns persist
is alter'd by occult yet natural rite:
among thy leaves it was the night we kiss'd.
Rare ooze of odour drowns our faint delight,
some spilth of love that languishes unshared,
a rose that bleeds unseen, the heart of night;
whose sweetness holds us, wondering, ensnared:
for cunning she, the outcast, to entice
to wake with her, remembering how she fared
in times before our time, when Paradise
shone once, the dew-gem in her heart, and base
betrayal gave her to the malefice
that all thro' time afflicts her lonely face,
and all the mournful widowhood of night
closed round her, and the wilderness of space:
O bleeding rose, alone! O heart of night!

This is of Lilith, by her Hebrew name
Lady of Night: she, in the delicate frame
that was of woman after, did unite
herself with Adam in unblest delight;
who, uncapacious of that dreadful love,
begat on her not majesty, as Jove,
but the worm-brood of terrors unconfest
that chose henceforth, as their avoided nest,
the mire-fed writhen thicket of the mind.
She, monsterward from that embrace declined,
could change her to Chimera and inspire
doubt of his garden-state, exciting higher
the arrowy impulse to dim descried
o'erhuman bliss, as after, on the wide
way of his travail, with enticing strain
and hint of nameless things reveal'd, a bane
haunted, the fabled siren, and was seen
later as Lamia and Melusine,
and whatsoe'er of serpent-wives is feign'd,
or malice of the vampire-witch that drain'd
fresh blood of fresh-born babes, a wicked blast:
faces of fear, beheld along the past
and in the folk's scant fireside lore misread,
of her that is the august and only dread,
close-dwelling, in the house of birth and death,
and closer, in the secrets of our breath -
or love occult, whose smile eludes our sight
in her flung hair that is the starry night

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 19, 2023

2:33 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,894
Words 496
Stanzas 3
Stanza Lengths 14, 25, 28

Christopher John Brennan

Christopher John Brennan was an Australian poet, scholar and literary critic. more…

All Christopher John Brennan poems | Christopher John Brennan Books

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