From this continual siege of the wolves’ hunger?
High above comfort, on the shrugging backs
Of downland, where the winds parch our skins, and frost
Kneads through our flesh until his fingers clamp
The aching bones, our scanty families
Hold out against the ravin of the wolves,
Fended by earthwork, fighting them with flint.
But if we keep the favour of our women,
They will breed sons to us so many and strong
We shall have numbers that will make us dare
Invade the weather-shelter’d woods, and build
Villages where now only wolves are denn’d;
Yea, to the beasts shall the man-folk become
Malice that haunts their ways, even as now
Our leaguer’d tribes must lurk and crouch afraid
Of wolfish malice always baying near.
And fires, stackt hugely high with timber, shall
With nightlong blaze make friendly the dark and cold,
Cheer our bodies, and roast great feasts of flesh,—
Ah, to burn trunks of trees, not bracken and ling!
This is what women are to me,—a fear
Lest the earth-hidden Awe, who unseen gives
The childing to their flesh, should make their minds
As darkly able as their wombs, with power
To think sorceries over us; and hope
That with their breeding they will dispossess
The beasts of the good lowlands, until man,
No longer fled to the hills, inhabit all
The comfort of the earth.
These are mine too,
But as great rivers own the brook’s young speed.
For in my soul, the women do not dwell
A torch going through darkness, with a troop
Of shadows gesturing after; but as the sun
Upon his height of golden blaze at noon,
With all the size of the blue air about him.
Fear that in women the unseen is seen
And the unknown power sits beside us known,—
This fear is good, but better is than this
Their beauty, and the wells of joy in women.
I speak dumb words to thee; but know thou, Gast,
My soul is looking at the time to come,
And seeing it not as a cavern lit
With smoky burning brandons of thy fear,
But as a day shining with my new joy.
Thou canst not fight with me for the coming heart
Of man,—fear cannot fight with joy. And I
Am setting such a war of joy against thee,
It shall be as man’s heart became a god
Murdering thy mind of weakling darkness.
All the hot happiness of being wroth
And seeing a stroke leave behind it wound,
The pleasures of wily hunting, and a feast
After long famine, and the dancing stored
Within the must of berries,—these, and all
Gladdenings that make thrill the being of man
Shall pour, mixt with an unknown rage of glee,
Into the meaning men shall find in women.
And if we have at all a fear of them,
It shall not be the old ignorant dismay,
But of their very potency to delight,
The way their looks make Will an enemy
Hating itself, shall men become afraid.
Women shall cause men know for why they have
Being in the earth;—not to be quailing slack
As if the whole world were a threat, but tuned
Ready for joy as harp-strings for the player.
And great desire of beauty and to be glad
Shall prompt our courages. Ha, what are those
Breaking from out the thickets?