Psyche | A poem by Gérard D’Houville, 1875-1963

max Beckman Still Life with Large Shell 1939 detail

Max Beckman, Still Life with Large Shell, 1939 (detail)

Noiselessly through the silent mansion treading,
She bears a lamp and guards its flickering light;
Her saffroned veil floats through the green dusk, shedding
The perfume of a flower that scents by night. Noiselessly through the house of dream she paces;
Childlike must be her visage shadowed o’er;
And her divine leg, pale and slender, places
A prudent foot upon the naked floor. Her knees through her transparent linen presses;
Sometimes her belly glimpses its smooth charm;
Or else, to heighten her shed auburn tresses,
Kindles and rounds itself her supple arm. Upon her narrow, polished shoulder, binding
Her long neck to her hips curved like a bell,
Her airy scarf is ravelling or unwinding
The spiral of a great and nacreous shell. Her hand that guards the frail, rose wick is painted
By a pure flame of crimson; and, as rests
On a dark rose a butterfly half fainted,
Her kindled fingers hide her darkling breasts. Now, as in dread, her curious search she hastens;
No more is seen her hesitating light;
Her errant beauty, which the darkness chastens,
Is lost in the enchanted mansion’s night.. At dawn returning with a face of paleness,
She hears her bosom in the silence beat;
Her veil floats through the irised dawn its frailness,
And the smooth floor is cold to her bare feet. For she has seen, on skins of beasts still dreaming,
Love terrible, mysterious, and grim,
With ready arrows in his clasped fist, seeming
All bloody in the dusk and lamplight dim. And she has seen his mouth’s inhuman smiling,
In which his lustful hate and anger stir,
And felt, beside his couch, an unbeguiling
Invincible, swift horror seize on her. She flees, the folly of her heart bewailing;
Her yellow veil swells in the morn’s blue shine;
Her eyes are frantic, and her strength is failing
With having seen Love.. Whom she deemed divine!

Gérard D’Houville

[Gérard d’Houville was the pen-name of Marie de Régnier, 1875-1963]

Marie de Régnier / Nude | Photos by Pierre Louÿs, 1898

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