SABCL - Volume 5
III. Longer Poems
The Vigil of Thaliard
Where Time a sleeping dervish is
Or printed legend of Romance
Mid lilies and mid gold-roses
Of mediaeval France,
Where Life, a princely1 servitor
Mid alien faces cast,
Still wears in memory of her
The trappings of the Past,
Sweet Lily’s child, that golden grape
Girl prince of Avelion,
Thaliard by early plucking hap
Star-reaching Princeís2 son,
Kept vigil by the impious pool
Beyond the misty moaning sea
To win from warlock’s weird misrule
His soul’s sweet liberty.
For if throughout the monstrous night
Unblest by ave or by creed
By witchèd water Christian wight
Do finger bead by bead
His scarlet rosary of sins
And leave his soul ajar,
What hour the sleepy Evening pins
Her bodice with a star,
Until, the pitchy veil withdrawn
That swathes the looming3 dune,
The crowing trumpeter of dawn
Blows addio to the moon,
The awful record of his soul
Shall by God’s finger blotted be,
And o’er his drownèd past shall roll
Forgiveness like a sea.
The warden of the starry waste
Who walks with orange-coloured lamp
And weird eyes nursing fire, paced
Night’s silver-tented camp.
The rose-lipped golden-footed day,
A flower by maiden culled,
Beneath star-blossomed arras lay
In Evening’s4 bosom lulled.
The water seemed a damson crust
With golden sugar poured,
Or mirror caked with purple dust
In lady’s closet stored.
The hour like a weary snake
Coiled slowly gliding serpentine
Or drowsy nun perforce awake
To pace a pillared shrine.
The roses shuddered in their sleep,
The lilies drooped their silver fires,
The reeds upon the humming steep
Bowed low their tapering spires;
For tho’ no sob pulsed in the air,
No agony of wind,
Down Heaven’s moonlight-painted stair
Trod angels who had sinned.
Fireflies drizzled in the dark
Like drops of burning rain,
The glow-worm was a crawling spark,
The pool a purple stain;
The stars were grains of blazing sand,
A haunted soul the shadowy lea,
In forest-featured Broceliande
Beyond the echoing sea.
Sir Thaliard by the phantom edge
Heard rustling feet behind the trees
And the weird water lapped the sedge
With wistful symphonies:
Sometimes a thrill of voices broke
In runic tongues of old,
Sometimes pale fingers seemed to stroke
His curls of crisping gold:
Thin laughter sobbed he knew not where
Till God’s own candles paled,
Or else out in the moonless air
A golden5 infant wailed.
Now in the moon’s enchanted wake
Wild shadows ran a giant race,
And now the golden glassing lake
Was blotted with a face.
But when the naked moon rose clear
Above the ruins of the day,
Childe Thaliard saw a glinting spear
Across the milky way.
And when the white moon’s sliding feet
One rank of stars had passed,
Upon him smote the windy beat
And terror of a blast.
The tempest rippled thro’ the leaves,
New wine of evening sucked,
And at the water-lily sheaves
With nervous fingers plucked.
And in its wind-white arms it bore
A helmeted6 and sceptred thing,
The semblance of a man, that wore
The glory of a king.
An argent cincture studded thick
With opal and the blushing stone
Fine wrought of texture Arabic
About his middle shone:
And in its buckled girth did sit,
A fierce and cloudy star,
Of temper fine as poet’s wit
The Orient scimitar.
Morocco gave his wrathful dart,
The spring of widowed tears,
Tempered in Afric’s sultry heart
Or famous far Algiers.
His barb was hued like cedar’s core
In Aramaic7 mountains born,
Wild as the sea on storm-vexed shore
And fronted as the morn.
Upon his kingly head the crown
Was eloquent of Iran’s gold
Dropping fine threads of glory down
Upon the turban’s fold.
His eyes were drops of smelted ore
That in a foundry chase:
His lips a cruel promise wore,
A marble pride his face.
As shows thro’ gold caparison
Thro’ silks in Persian harem spun
His gorgeous body gleamed.
Or as a lithe and tropic snake
That from some fine mosaic glares
Or spotted panther by a lake
Beneath the Indian stars.
This Orient vision burning bright
Snapped close his bridle silver-lined
Between the moonlight and the night,
The water and the wind.
His cry sang like a stormy shower
Upon a thundering sea:
“O Thaliard, Thaliard, Britain’s flower,
Wilt break a lance with me?
The golden scythe of Mahomet
Gleams crescent on my shield,
My harvest upon thine is set,
A cross in argent field.
Prince-errant, prop of battle styled
And flawless glass of chivalry,
O Thaliard, Thaliard, golden childe,
Wilt break a lance with me?”
As trailing thunder dies in heaven
Thro’ silence trailed his latest word,
And fire like the bearded levin
Beneath his eyelids stirred.
Childe Thaliard saw the burning stars
Vermilion grown like blood,
Thrice drew the serpent cross of Mars,
Thrice clamoured where he stood.
But Thaliard saw a milk-white star
Grow large against the moon,
Quelled by whose candid flames, afar
Mars’ ruby paled in a swoon.
“Not here,” he faltered like the wind,
“Not here where murmurs poison sleep,
When haunted memories grown half blind
Their ghastly vigils keep.”
“Not here, when drifts past happy shores
From mortal vision far withdrawn
With lustrous sails and dripping8 oars
The hull that brings the dawn.
Seek me, but in the cloudy time
When ruin blazons forth
In sanguine hues the vaporous clime
And champaigns of the North.”
As wine that from the bubbling lips
Of some fine beaker falls,
This honeyed utterance largely slips
Like murmurs in vast halls.
The wimpled moon bent down her ear,
And in the granaries of light
The seedling splendours thrilled to hear,
And all the east grew bright.
The phantom like a burning page
Was furrowed with the ploughs of wrath,
And thro’ his wintry orbs white rage
Rolled like the dead sea-froth.
His lance poised slanting like a ray
Of ominous sunlight fell,
Astarte in the milky way
Saw death half-risen from hell:
And soon the cold hooves of his horse
On shivering lilies trod,
Till, yellow anguish borrowing force,
Childe Thaliard cried on God.
The phantom, withering thro’ the bars
Of Being like transitory sound,
Left but the murmur of the stars,
Left but the hush profound.
And now the naked wanton moon
Shed languorous glances on the lake
Whose ripples sobbing from their swoon
Grew golden for her sake:
The amorous stars were faint with love;
Earth’s awning seemed so light
That Hesper like a flying dove
Would tremble into sight.
When Thaliard saw in drooping skies
Large drops of beauty burn,
A white-winged chorus did arise,
The prayers that purely yearn.
But Thaliard saw the curling deep
With foamy moon-tints blaze and break,
Till the slack spirit longed to steep
Rich fancies in the lake.
The penitent chorus of his prayers
Were mingled with voluptuous speech
Of daedal images and airs
Luxurious wrapping each:
A blue papyrus-leaf designed
With fretted curls of fire,
A purple page with coronet lined
Or labyrinthine spire:
The fiery-coloured bee of night
With folded purple wing,
Or solitary chrysolite
Shut in an emerald ring:
The vellum binding of a book,
A scented volume spiced with Ind,
A magic purse by Genie shook
To loose a murmuring wind.
But9 hark! a wailing anguish woke
The silence with a fiery sting:
The foaming gulfs of clamour broke
Around a fallen king:
A distant moan of battle high
Above a phantom land,
And heron-weird a woman’s cry
Went shrilling down the strand.
While terror with a vulture’s force
Was plucking at his throat,
He heard the shrill hooves of a horse
Prick echoes less remote.
And like old accents Night may lend
On lips long hushed in endless sleep,
The voice of a familiar friend
Came shuddering from the deep.
“Thaliard, awake; the smiling morn
Forgets the cloud of yesterday:
The sceptre from thy house is torn,
Thy glory washed away.
Amid the reeling battle trod,
As a poppy in the mill,
With white face lifted up to God,
Thy sire lies very still.
Pendragon’s spear has stung him dead,
He sleeps among the slain;
The glorious princes heap his bed,
Like lilies in a plain.
Thy brothers Galert and Gyneth
Like toppling mountains whelmed I saw
Beneath the shadowy winds of death
In the rushing tide of war.
“Thy sister, fawn-eyed Guendolen,
Haled captive from thy tottering hall,
Lies helpless in the dragon’s den
Luxurious Gawain’s thrall.
His kisses tremble on her mouth
Like moonbeams on a rose,
For she is water to his drouth,
He sunlight to her snows:
Her flowering body to his love
A pleasance-garden10 sweet;
Her spirit, meeker than a dove,
Fawns blindly at his feet.
And with the pelting words of shame,
Like delicate pigments bleared by storm,
The gorgeous colouring of thy name
Is losing gloss and form.
“The night-wind in thy yawning dome
Has made her nest alive with song,
The humming wasps of Aeolus roam,
Low-flying in a throng:
The thunder like a flying stork
Clangs hoarsely but aloof,
And lightning with his vermil fork
Has written on thy roof.
The lion lodges in thy gate,
The werewolf is thy guest,
The night-owl, like a sombre fate,
Wails weirdly without rest.
Thy deeds are grown a haunting rhyme,
A fragment breaking from the past,
An atom, which the meteor, Time,
In his fiery flight has cast.”
With sobs of shuddering agony bled
The silence as with stinging whips,
But Thaliard felt slim fingers laid
Upon his writhen lips.
The soul’s redoubts flung each to each
A ringing challenge round,
To clench the ruby gates of speech
On the corridors of sound.
In dancing dithyrambs thro’ each vein
A dizzy echo sang,
While on the anvil of his brain
The steely syllables rang:
And from the avenues of the heart
Thro’ which the river of being pours,
The torpid life with a sudden start
Recoiled upon its doors.
The voice was now a violin
Shrill-winding, now a startled bat,
And now as linnet’s warble thin,
Now wailful as a gnat,
But gathered volume as of yore
Until with refluent tide,
Like Ocean ebbing from her shore,
The murmur ebbed and died.
Like beauty losing maidenhood
Undid the crocus-coloured snood
That bound her glimmering hair.
And up the ladder of the moon,
As white smoke curls upon a glass,
He saw with flakes of glory strewn
A radiant figure pass.
Again12 the stealthy minutes crept
On tiptoe to the breathless hour
And loud suspense her riot kept
Till budding doom should flower.
The yellow moon, whom Heaven once more
From silver cowl did shake,
With golden letters scribbled o’er
The purple-written lake.
But when to Heaven’s polished breast
Her rounded amulet clung
Below in the blue palimpsest
A slit, a chasm sprung.
A meteor from the purple brink,
A vivid star no eye may lose,
A pictured bowl of nectarous drink,
An apparition rose.
And in the bridal pomp of hell
Walked beauty hand in hand with sin,
And Thought, the glorious infidel,
A helmèd Paladin;
When shuttering13 under cloudy bars
Astarte’s radiant eye,
God sowed with multitudinous stars
His peacock in the sky,
The diamonds perished from the deep,
The moon-tints from the edge,
The wrinkled water smoothed in sleep
His locks of ruffled sedge.
Imagination, like a sponge
Wrung very pure of beauty, wept,
As from his pores with a tired plunge
His flakes of fancy leaped.
Astarte from her cloudy chair
Paced with her troop of star-sweet girls;
Unfilleted her glorious hair
Hung loose in cowslip curls.
And like the flower-song of a bee
On April’s daffodil skirt,
A whisper from the smiling sea
In her crocus gown did flirt.
The waters quivering to her wiles
Among the rushes whipped,
As thro’ the network of her smiles
Her visible murmur slipped.
But when they wooed her to repeat
Her primrose-painted pilgrimage,
She dipped the white palms of her feet
In beds of bubbling sedge.
Her body lapped in cloth of gold
A wave disguised in moonlight seemed,
Whose every curve and curious fold
With opal facets gleamed.
Her nestling mass of rounded curls
Were soft as velvet cloths
Once fingered by Arabian girls
Or piled in Syrian booths.
She was an ebon-framèd lyre
Where wind-waked murmurs dance,
A tinted statue of Desire
In studios of Romance.
Her glowing cheeks just ripe with youth,
The purple passion of her eyes,
Half seemed a splendid mock at truth,
A brilliant mesh of lies.
Below with balmy sobs that drank
The must of life thro’ thirsty lips,
Her painèd bosom heaved and sank
Like Ocean-cradled ships.
And as bee-blossoms sapphire-looped,
The humming waves that kiss,
Her creamy forehead almost drooped
Burthened with too much bliss.
The artist Grace who limned her fair
With moist and liberal brush
Painted a glory in her hair
And mixed a gorgeous blush
To tint her cheeks with a flowery14 bloom,
To touch her lips with scarlet fire,–
An empire’s beauty in small room,
A vision of desire.
A fairy witch by painful charms
Had burgeoned this refulgent flower,
Embraced by wild and wanton arms
In weird and midnight hour.
She on the amber milk of bees
By magic mother nursed,
In laurel-sheltered libraries
Cons rudiments accurst,
The most familiar things of hell
The mightiest names inherits,
And learns what iron syllable
Compels reluctant spirits.
A perilous thorn on fire with bloom,
A poppied spell, an empress snake,
She rose, the alchemist of doom,
The Lady of the Lake.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volume 2.- Collected Poems.- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2009.- 751 p.
1 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: faithful
2 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: Madorís
5 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: goblin
8 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: dipping
9 In 2009 ed. the part No 22 is placed before this one
10 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: pleasaunce-garden
11 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: debonnair
12 In 2009 ed. the part No 23 is placed before this one
13 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: shutting
14 2009 ed. CWSA, vol.2: with flowery