Chiaroscuro: Rose


Conrad Aiken


Fill your bowl with roses: the bowl, too, have of crystal.

Sit at the western window. Take the sun

Between your hands like a ball of flaming crystal,

Poise it to let it fall, but hold it still,

And meditate on the beauty of your existence;

The beauty of this, that you exist at all.


The sun goes down, but without lamentation.

I close my eyes, and the stream of my sensation

In this, at least, grows clear to me:

Beauty is a word that has no meaning.

Beauty is naught to me.


The last blurred raindrops fall from the half-clear sky,

Eddying lightly, rose-tinged, in the windless wake of the sun.

The swallow ascending against cold waves of cloud

Seems winging upward over huge bleak stairs of stone.

The raindrop finds its way to the heart of the leaf-bud.

But no word finds its way to the heart of you.


This also is clear in the stream of my sensation:

That I am content, for the moment. Let me be.

How light the new grass looks with the rain-dust on it!

But heart is a word that has no meaning,

Heart means nothing to me.


To the end of the world I pass and back again

In flights of the mind; yet always find you here,

Remote, pale, unattached . . . O Circe-too-clear-eyed,

Watching amused your fawning tiger-thoughts,

Your wolves, your grotesque apes—relent, relent!

Be less wary for once: it is the evening.


But if I close my eyes what howlings greet me!

Do not persuade. Be tranquil. Here is flesh

With all its demons. Take it, sate yourself.

But leave my thoughts to me.

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