From the rose of all roses
From the unfolded rose
Rose of all the world.
Admit that apples and strawberries and peaches and pears
Are all Rosaceae,
Issue of the explicit rose,
The open-countenanced, skyward-smiling rose.
What then of the vine?
Oh, what of the tendrilled vine?
Ours is the universe of the unfolded rose,
The candid revelation.
But long ago, oh, long ago
Before the rose began to simper supreme,
Before the rose of all roses, rose of all the world, was even
Before the glaciers were gathered up in a bunch out of the
unsettled seas and winds,
Or else before they had been let down again, in Noah’s flood,
There was another world, a dusky, flowerless, tendrilled
And creatures webbed and marshy,
And on the margin, men soft-footed and pristine,
Still, and sensitive, and active,
Audile, tactile sensitiveness as of a tendril which orientates
and reaches out,
Reaching out and grasping by an instinct more delicate than
the moon’s as she feels for the tides.
Of which world, the vine was the invisible rose,
Before petals spread, before colour made its disturbance,
before eyes saw too much.
In a green, muddy, web-foot, unutterably songless world
The vine was rose of all roses.
There were no poppies or carnations,
Hardly a greenish lily, watery faint.
Green, dim, invisible flourishing of vines
Look now even now, how it keeps its power of invisibility!
Look how black, how blue-black, how globed in Egyptian
Dropping among his leaves, hangs the dark grape!
See him there, the swart, so palpably invisible:
Whom shall we ask about him?
The negro might know a little.
When the vine was rose, Gods were dark-skinned.
Bacchus is a dream’s dream.
Once God was all negroid, as now he is fair.
But it’s so long ago, the ancient Bushman has forgotten more
utterly than we, who have never known.
For we are on the brink of re-remembrance.
Which, I suppose, is why America has gone dry.
Our pale day is sinking into twilight,
And if we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us
Out of the imminent night.
Nay, we find ourselves crossing the fern-scented frontiers
Of the world before the floods, where man was dark and evasive
And the tiny vine-flower rose of all roses, perfumed,
And all in naked communion communicating as now our
clothed vision can never communicate.
Vistas, down dark avenues
As we sip the wine.
The grape is swart, the avenues dusky and tendrilled, subtly
But we, as we start awake, clutch at our vistas democratic,
boulevards, tram-cars, policemen.
Give us our own back
Let us go to the soda-fountain, to get sober.
It is like the agonised perverseness of a child heavy with
sleep, yet fighting, fighting to keep awake;
Soberness, sobriety, with heavy eyes propped open.
Dusky are the avenues of wine,
And we must cross the frontiers, though we will not,
Of the lost, fern-scented world:
Take the fern-seed on our lips,
Close the eyes, and go
Down the tendrilled avenues of wine and the other world.