Yokohama Garland, by Alfred Edgar Coppard

John Singer Sargent - Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
John Singer Sargent – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-6) – Tate Britain N01615

Alfred Edgar Coppard (1878–1957) was an English author, best known for his short stories, but who also wrote poetry. After a youth spent in poverty, around 1920 he joined a literary group in Oxford, then published his first book in 1921; he continued writing and publishing throughout his life.

Here the poet loves a young girl who said neither yes nor no, he waits for her, but she does not come. Although her little sister loves him tenderly, he cannot change the inclination of his heart.

Yokohama Garland
by Alfred Edgar Coppard

I BEGGED my young love to meet me,
But she would not come.

She has a jacket of blue velvet
That in a dim room looks like evening sky,
There are buttons of glass upon it,
Her yellow cap is plumed with a coiling feather;
But of her own beauty,
Tinge of brow, tender eye, modest tongue,
Let speech be diffident:
What the voice cannot utter fills the mind with echoes.

I waited, but she did not come;
I begged my love but she, in fear of me,
Denied not nor consented.
There is a folly in fear that has no fear of folly,
‘Tis true, ungentle love.
Pride and its circumstance
Tie a pert sinew to much barren bone;
The laughter of her companions,
The scorn of her father
Whose apothegms hopped about us like truculent fleas,
Was gall to that wound of fear.
Her elderly brother’s grand appearance shamed me,
Tho he had much to hide and so little to disclose.
Her young sister loved me kindly
With tenderness that waved about me like faint lilac,
A heaven immediate;
But the desire in my love’s own breast,
Quiet as a bird in its sanctuary bush,
Hid and was mute, alien, trembling, chill.

I begged my young love to meet me,
But she did not come:
Deep down, slow sun, your arc of beauty shone
On unseen stars and heavens no eye beholds
Now or for ever; day’s last bird rejoiced;
Night came, the shepherd moon, the coy flock,
And a bat with trickling flight above the dim road;
My heart was a hesitant moth that fluttered by a lighted door.

The half-moon, cold and placid as a virtue,
Surveyed me with its adamantine eye;
The stars poured out their glow serene and jubilant
Upon my empty world, my world
Void as time was but like time’s self complacent,
So endlessly complacent
That I longed for heaven to crack to its own last judgment,
The moon to become a dancing triangle
Or a flaring oven to scorch this crawling orb,
Instead of that dumb flame in chalice of blue oil.

I had a rose, a heavy crimson thing
I got from the farrier’s mate for a screw of tobacco:
I crushed the clumsy flower in a hole in a wall
And left it there.

O innocence and beauty
That I can never speak of without tears,
Long I have waited . . . . .
But you do not come.

Source: Hips & haws, Poems by A. E. Coppard, The Golden Cockerel Press (1922).

Previously published on Agapeta, 2018/03/10.

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