Friday, May 1, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

The Golden Journey to Samarkand 
By James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)


We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage
And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,
We Poets of the proud old lineage
Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why,—

What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,
Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales,
And winds and shadows fall towards the West:

And there the world's first huge white-bearded kings
In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep,
And closer round their breasts the ivy clings,
Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep.

And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

And now they wait and whiten peaceably,
Those conquerors, those poets, those so fair:
They know time comes, not only you and I,
But the whole world shall whiten, here or there;

When those long caravans that cross the plain
With dauntless feet and sound of silver bells
Put forth no more for glory or for gain,
Take no more solace from the palm-girt wells.

When the great markets by the sea shut fast
All that calm Sunday that goes on and on:
When even lovers find their peace at last,
And Earth is but a star, that once had shone.

I decided to revisit the lovely James Elroy Flecker this week. I love his poetry for being so musical, so visual and so romantic all at once.

I particularly love those first four lines of this one, describing what poets do. Oh yes, I'll wear that!

And, in a week of sad and horrible things happening around the world even more than usual, some of them in regions not so far from Samarkand, I feel a need for the peace Flecker arrives at. Here, the end of the world is far past — no longer catastrophic, but a way of leaving all our earthly troubles behind.

I also featured Flecker in February last year, so rather than repeat everything I already said, here is the link to that post.


  1. I like his self-respect and respect for all poets as well as his peaceful view of the world not ending but sort of living dead, like the title of your article. I read the one from February too. He was an excellent observer of life. I enjoyed this thoroughtly Rosemary. Thanks again for giving exposure to so many wonderful poets.

  2. Oh, lovely, Rosemary, to lift us off to Samarkand in such lyrical lines. I, too, adore his four opening lines. We need such flights of beauty now as never before. What a gorgeous building in the photo, too.

    1. It's actually from an ad for a modern hotel in Samarkand, Sherry, but of course mimics traditional architecture and design, and was free of copyright. :)

  3. I could have added that in my part of the world we've just had the seasonal festival of Samhain (not Beltane as in the Northern Hemisphere) in which people traditionally honour their ancestors. So it's fitting that I chose one of my particular favourites whom I've loved since childhood, one who inspired me to write my own poetry.

  4. What a fine feature, Rosemary. I like the first four lines too...And, so true, we know not why! Flecker's poetry is indeed so VERY musical. I am so happy that you introduced us to it.

  5. I think Shakespeare would have written like this had he lived in a different clime. This could then be part of Othello or Romeo an Juliet, singing us to peace again after forever disturbing our souls.


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