Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Waste Places
By James Stephens
 
I
AS a naked man I go
    Through the desert sore afraid,
Holding up my head although
    I’m as frightened as a maid.
 
The couching lion there I saw        5
    From barren rocks lift up his eye;
He parts the cactus with his paw,
    He stares at me as I go by.
 
He would follow on my trace
    If he knew I was afraid,        10
If he knew my hardy face
    Hides the terrors of a maid.
 
In the night he rises and
    He stretches forth, he snuffs the air;
He roars and leaps along the sand,        15
    He creeps and watches everywhere.
 
His burning eyes, his eyes of bale,
    Through the darkness I can see;
He lashes fiercely with his tail,
    He would love to spring at me.        20
 
I am the lion in his lair;
    I am the fear that frightens me;
I am the desert of despair
    And the nights of agony.
 
Night or day, whate’er befall,        25
    I must walk that desert land,
Until I can dare to call
    The lion out to lick my hand.
 
II
As a naked man I tread
    The gloomy forests, ring on ring,        30
Where the sun that’s overhead
    Cannot see what’s happening.
 
There I go: the deepest shade,
    The deepest silence pressing me;
And my heart is more afraid        35
    Than a maiden’s heart would be.
 
Every day I have to run
    Underneath the demon tree,
Where the ancient wrong is done
    While I shrink in agony.        40
 
I saw the demon hold a maid
    In his arms, and as she, daft,
Whimpered in fear he bent and laid
    His lips upon her lips and laughed.
 
And she beckoned me to run,        45
    And she called for help to me,
And the ancient wrong was done
    Which is done eternally.
 
I am the maiden and the fear;
    I am the sunless shade, the strife;        50
I the demon lips, the sneer
    Showing under every life.
 
I must tread that gloomy way
    Until I shall dare to run
And bear the demon with his prey        55
    From the forest to the sun.
 
 
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