Poems In Dedication To Nora May French

Henry Anderson Lafler, George Sterling, Clark Ashton Smith and Donald Sidney-Fryer

Presented below are four poems dedicated to Nora May French. Three from her contemporaries - Henry Anderson Lafler, George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith and one from Donald Sidney-Fryer 'The Last of the Courtly Poets & Northern California's Only Neo-Elizabethan Poet-Entertainer".

 

The Pearl
by Henry Anderson Lafler

In the water pale and clear--
Wan, clear water of the sea--
Laving lands the sun is near
Whither soft and ceaselessly--
From the spicy islands--blow--
From the fragrant forests--go
Little winds to charm the sea,
Drifting perfumes to the bay
Where the red-sailed pearl-boats lay--
In a year remote and far,
On a gold and purple day,
When the iris-armored gar,
Breaking water in his play,
Glittered like a silver bar,
And the long, white, curving strand
Hitherside the sweet, green land
Was an ivory scimitar
On a cloak from Samarcand--
Purple with a green-gold band--
Bare brown divers found for me
(In the caverns of the sea--
In the water pale and clear--
Wan, clear water of the sea)
A great pear and mystery.

I can well remember yet
How with shining bodies wet
They came slowly and reverently
Bearing that great pearl to me.

They had found it where a wall
Cold and coral is and tall
Round whose gleaming parapet
Monstrous surges foam and fret,
And whose glimmering base is set
In a vast and dim sea-hall--
In a twilight violet--
In a sepulchre of ships--
On the flowerless ocean-floor,
Stiller than a dead girl's lips.

Night by night beneath the moon--
Night by night beneath the stars--
Listening the water's croon
Round the tropic river-bars,
My sad pearl I gazed upon--
Beautiful it was and wan--
All the sweet, warm nights it shone;

And from out its hidden heart
Faintest music seemed to start,
And sad, ghostly murmurings
Of strange sea-enchanted things
Dwelling in dim halls apart;

Murmurings of the galleon
Plunged to shadow from the sun,
And the dreams that drowned men dream
In their sleep but just begun--
Whispers of the brown seaweed
That the untilled levels breed,
Ever swaying in the stream
Like a dancer in a dream;
And the ships that, captainless,
Moored where with black marble mix
Porphyry and sardonyx,
Rot in deep forgetfulness;

And all delicate fair things
Such as some dim-dreaming pool
Hidden from sea-murmurings--
Round and clear and still and cool
In a hollow beautiful--
Marred not save with shadowings
Of the gulls' wide-spreading wings--
Stirred not save when, least of life,
Frail sea-things, ephemeral
In their dim and secret strife
Make a grain of sand to fall,
Opal-colored, fine and small.

Whiter than the whitest star--
Brighter in the bright moonlight
Than a girl's white eyelids are,
Kissed by lover in the night,
Was my pearl unto my sight,
Whispering ever unto me
The eternal mystery
Of the blue, unsceptered sea.

Lost forever is the pearl,
Staked and lost in high carouse
Where the naked dancers whirl
In the hell-hot gaming house;
And they bore it over-sea,
And they bore it over-land
For a great queen's treasury--
For a warm white woman's hand--
Far, oh far, from where the strand,
White as women's souls may be,
Takes beneath the fading moon
Cool caresses of the sea.

And its heart remembers not--
Well I know it hath forgot--
Where the flaring tapers shine
'Mid the fumes of yellow wine
And where clouded-warm it rests
'Twixt a woman's bared breasts--
All forgot, that pearl of mine,
The cool silence under sea,
Wonder, dream, and mystery
Whereof long it whispered me.

Nay, it murmurs now no more
How upon the coral floor
Of the still, empurpled bay
Dimmest, bluest shadows sped
Of the galleys overhead--
Of the silver fish that fled.
Of the golden fish that lay
Quiet all the azure day.

Lost forever is the pearl--
Staked and lost in one wild night
Where the painted-dancers whirl
In a seeming mad delight.
I shall see it nevermore
Or its glory gaze upon
In the moonlight warm and wan
Of the island's scented night;
But a memory I keep,
Dear as dreams and soft as sleep,
Of its magic murmurings
Of the sea's most secret things,
Sweet and holy, treasured deep.

Sad are mine the silver dreams
As I walk in ways apart,
And the crystal memory
Of its lost and silent heart--
Heart that knew the golden gleams
And the blueness of the streams
And the mystic word, meseems,
Lips of loveliness impart.

Tremulous and silver clear,
Where the warm, soft sea-wind blew,
Listening my heart did hear
All things marvelous and dear,
Magical and sweet.  I knew,
There, the white sea-marge beside,
All its soul, before it died.

(Sunset, Oct. 1908)

 

The Ashes in the Sea
By George Sterling

N. M. F.

Whither, with blue and pleading eyes, --
     Whither, with cheeks that held the light
Of winter's dawn in cloudless skies,
     Evadne, was thy flight?

Such as a sister's was thy brow;
     Thy hair seemed fallen from the moon --
Part of its radiance, as now,
     Of shifting tide and dune.

Did Autumn's grieving lure thee hence,
     Or silence ultimate beguile?
Ever our things of consequence
     Awakened but thy smile.
Is it with thee that ocean takes
     A stranger sorrow to its tone?
With thee the star of evening wakes
     More beautiful, more lone?

For wave and hill and sky betray
     A subtle tinge and touch of thee;
Thy shadow lingers in the day,
     Thy voice in winds to be.

Beauty -- hast thou discovered her
     By deeper seas no moons control?
What stars have magic now to stir
     Thy swift and wilful soul?

Or may thy heart no more forget
     The grievous world that once was home,
That here, where love awaits thee yet,
     Thou seemest yet to roam?

For most, far-wandering, I guess
     Thy witchery on the haunted mind,
In valleys of thy loneliness,
     Made clean with ocean's wind.

And most thy presence here seems told,
     A waif of elemental deeps,
When, at its vigils unconsoled,
     Some night of winter weeps.

(The House of Orchids and Other Poems. San Francisco:  A. M. Robertson, 1911.)

 

To Nora May French
Clark Ashton Smith

Importunate, the lion-throated sea,
Blind with the mounting foam of winter, mourns
To cliffs where cling the wrenched and labored roots
Of cypresses, and blossoms granite-grown
Lose in the gale their tattered petals, cast
On bleak, tumultous cauldrons of the tide

Where fell thine ashes. Past the cobalt bay
The morning dunes a Just of marble seem—
Wrought from primeval fanes to Beauty reared,
And shattered by some vandal Titan's mace
To more than time's own ruin. Woods of pine
Above the dunes in Gothic gloom recede,
And climb the ridge that arches to the north
Long as a lolling dragon's chine. The gulls,
Like ashen leaves far off upon the wind,

Flutter above the broad and smouldering sea
That lightens with the fire-white foam. But thou,
Of whom the sea is urn and sepulcher,
Who hast thereof a blown tumultuous sleep
And stormy peace in gulfs impacable—
What carest thou if Beauty loiter there,
Clad with the crystal noon? What carest thou
If sharp and sudden balsams of the pine
Mingle for her in the air's bright thurible

With keener fragrance proffered by the deep
From riven gulfs resounding ? . . . Knowest thou
What solemn shores of crocus-colored light,
Reared by the sunset in its realm of change,
Will mock the dream-lost isles that sirens ward,
And charm the icy emerald of the seas
To unabiding iris ? Knowest thou
The waxing of the wan December foam—
A thunder-cloven veil that climbs and falls
Upon the cliffs forevermore ?

Thou art still
As they that sleep in the eldest pyramid-
Or mounded with Mesopotamia
And immemorial deserts! Thou hast part
In the wordless, dumb conspiracy of death—
Silence wherein the warrior kings accord
And all the wrangling seers ! If now thy voice

In any wise return, and word of thee,
It is a lost, incognizable sigh
Upon the wind's oblivious woe, or blown,
Antiphonal, from wave to plangent wave,
In the vast unhuman sorrow of the main
On tides that lave the city-laden shores
Of lands wherein the eternal vanities
Are served at many altars; tides that wash
Lemuria's unfathomable walls,

And idly sway the weed-involvèd oars
Rotting amid the moles of orichalchum
In deep Atlantis; tides resurgent ever
From coral-coffered bones of all the drowned,
And sunless tombs of pearl that krakens guard.

II

As none shall roam the sad Leucadian rock

Above the sea's immitigable moan,
But in his heart a song that Sappho sang,
And flame-like murmur of the muted lyres
That time has not extinguished, and the cry
Of nightingales two thousand years ago
Shall mix with those remorseful chords that break
To endless foam and thunder; and he learn
The unsleeping woe that lives in Mytelene
Till wave and deep arc dumb with ice, and rime

Has paled the rose for ever—even thus,
Daughter of Sappho, passion-souled and fair,
Whose face the lutes of Lesbos would have sung
And white Erinna followed—even thus
The western wave is eloquent of thee,
And half the wine-like fragrance of the foam
Is attar of thy spirit, and the pines,
From breasts of darkling, melancholy green,

Release remembered echoes of thy song
To airs importunate. No wraith of fog,
Twice-ghostly with the Hecatean moon,
Nor rack of blown, phantasmal spume shall rise,
But I will dream thy spirit walks the sea,
Unpacifed with Lethe. Thou art grown
A part of alt sad beauty, and my soul
Has found thy buried sorrow in its own,
Inseparable for ever. Moons that pass

Immaculate, to solemn pyres of snow,
And meres whereon the broken lotus dies,
Are kin to thee, as wine-lipped autumn is,
With suns of swift irreparable change,
And lucid evenings eager-starred. Of thee
The pearlèd fountains tell, and winds that take
In one white swirl the petals of the plum
And leave the branches lonely. Royal blooms

Of the magnolia, pale as beauty's brow,
And foam-white myrtles, and the fiery, bright
Pomegranate-flowers, will subtly speak of thee
While spring has speech and meaning. Music has
Her fugitive and uncommanded chords,
That thrill with tremors of thy mystery,
Or turn the void thy fleeing soul has left
To murmurs inenarrable, that hold
Epiphanies of blind, conceiveless vision,

And things we dare not know, and dare not dream.

(Ebony and Crystal, Auburn Journal 1922) [an alternative early manuxript version ofthis poem can be found on The Eldritch Dark]

 

"Thy Spirit Walks the Sea"
by Donald Sidney-Fryer

Dedicated to Nora May French, in memoriam.

"What shifting films of distance fold you, blind you,
This windy eve of dreams, I cannot tell.
I know they grope through some strange mist to find you,
My hands that give you Greeting and Farewell."
 -- Nora May French, Ave Atque Vale

Standing upon this lyric promontory
Which rises up beside the western sea,
We muse on Phyllis and her Sapphic glory:
Since that same time when you but seemed to flee
And in these waves they cast your ashes free,
Now more than half a hundred years have passed:
Beyond this world, its impure grief and glee,
You hold a greater world . . . the ocean's vast . . .
With whose untrammeled realms your spirit shall outlast:
Within what sunken colonnades and gardens do you roam,
Amid what palaces of some deep Atlantean past? . . .
Whose regal ways you have returned to claim once more as home:

And have you found – beyond this planet's barriers and bars –
Those greater spheres and realms . . . deep in the Ocean Sea of stars?

(Point Lobos: 31 December 1968)  

Missing from the above is :Cann, Louise Gebhard. SONNET, NORA MAY FRENCH, IN MEMORIAM, Ainslees Magazine, November, 1919. If any one could provide this poem i would greatly appreciate it.