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    Chamber Music

    by James Joyce
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    Strings in the earth and air
    Make music sweet;
    Strings by the river where
    The willows meet.

    There's music along the river
    For Love wanders there,
    Pale flowers on his mantle,
    Dark leaves on his hair.

    All softly playing,
    With head to the music bent,
    And fingers straying
    Upon an instrument.


    The twilight turns from amethyst
    To deep and deeper blue,
    The lamp fills with a pale green glow
    The trees of the avenue.

    The old piano plays an air,
    Sedate and slow and gay;
    She bends upon the yellow keys,
    Her head inclines this way.

    Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands
    That wander as they list -- -
    The twilight turns to darker blue
    With lights of amethyst.


    At that hour when all things have repose,
    O lonely watcher of the skies,
    Do you hear the night wind and the sighs
    Of harps playing unto Love to unclose
    The pale gates of sunrise?

    When all things repose, do you alone
    Awake to hear the sweet harps play
    To Love before him on his way,
    And the night wind answering in antiphon
    Till night is overgone?

    Play on, invisible harps, unto Love,
    Whose way in heaven is aglow
    At that hour when soft lights come and go,
    Soft sweet music in the air above
    And in the earth below.


    When the shy star goes forth in heaven
    All maidenly, disconsolate,
    Hear you amid the drowsy even
    One who is singing by your gate.
    His song is softer than the dew
    And he is come to visit you.

    O bend no more in revery
    When he at eventide is calling.
    Nor muse: Who may this singer be
    Whose song about my heart is falling?
    Know you by this, the lover's chant,
    'Tis I that am your visitant.


    Lean out of the window,
    I hear you singing
    A merry air.

    My book was closed,
    I read no more,
    Watching the fire dance
    On the floor.

    I have left my book,
    I have left my room,
    For I heard you singing
    Through the gloom.

    Singing and singing
    A merry air,
    Lean out of the window,


    I would in that sweet bosom be
    (O sweet it is and fair it is!)
    Where no rude wind might visit me.
    Because of sad austerities
    I would in that sweet bosom be.

    I would be ever in that heart
    (O soft I knock and soft entreat her!)
    Where only peace might be my part.
    Austerities were all the sweeter
    So I were ever in that heart.


    My love is in a light attire
    Among the apple-trees,
    Where the gay winds do most desire
    To run in companies.

    There, where the gay winds stay to woo
    The young leaves as they pass,
    My love goes slowly, bending to
    Her shadow on the grass;

    And where the sky's a pale blue cup
    Over the laughing land,
    My love goes lightly, holding up
    Her dress with dainty hand.


    Who goes amid the green wood
    With springtide all adorning her?
    Who goes amid the merry green wood
    To make it merrier?

    Who passes in the sunlight
    By ways that know the light footfall?
    Who passes in the sweet sunlight
    With mien so virginal?

    The ways of all the woodland
    Gleam with a soft and golden fire -- -
    For whom does all the sunny woodland
    Carry so brave attire?

    O, it is for my true love
    The woods their rich apparel wear -- -
    O, it is for my own true love,
    That is so young and fair.


    Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
    Dancing a ring-around in glee
    From furrow to furrow, while overhead
    The foam flies up to be garlanded,
    In silvery arches spanning the air,
    Saw you my true love anywhere?
    Welladay! Welladay!
    For the winds of May!
    Love is unhappy when love is away!


    Bright cap and streamers,
    He sings in the hollow:
    Come follow, come follow,
    All you that love.
    Leave dreams to the dreamers
    That will not after,
    That song and laughter
    Do nothing move.

    With ribbons streaming
    He sings the bolder;
    In troop at his shoulder
    The wild bees hum.
    And the time of dreaming
    Dreams is over -- -
    As lover to lover,
    Sweetheart, I come.


    Bid adieu, adieu, adieu,
    Bid adieu to girlish days,
    Happy Love is come to woo
    Thee and woo thy girlish ways -- -
    The zone that doth become thee fair,
    The snood upon thy yellow hair,

    When thou hast heard his name upon
    The bugles of the cherubim
    Begin thou softly to unzone
    Thy girlish bosom unto him
    And softly to undo the snood
    That is the sign of maidenhood.


    What counsel has the hooded moon
    Put in thy heart, my shyly sweet,
    Of Love in ancient plenilune,
    Glory and stars beneath his feet -- -
    A sage that is but kith and kin
    With the comedian Capuchin?

    Believe me rather that am wise
    In disregard of the divine,
    A glory kindles in those eyes
    Trembles to starlight. Mine, O Mine!
    No more be tears in moon or mist
    For thee, sweet sentimentalist.


    Go seek her out all courteously,
    And say I come,
    Wind of spices whose song is ever
    O, hurry over the dark lands
    And run upon the sea
    For seas and lands shall not divide us
    My love and me.

    Now, wind, of your good courtesy
    I pray you go,
    And come into her little garden
    And sing at her window;
    Singing: The bridal wind is blowing
    For Love is at his noon;
    And soon will your true love be with you,
    Soon, O soon.


    My dove, my beautiful one,
    Arise, arise!
    The night-dew lies
    Upon my lips and eyes.

    The odorous winds are weaving
    A music of sighs:
    Arise, arise,
    My dove, my beautiful one!

    I wait by the cedar tree,
    My sister, my love,
    White breast of the dove,
    My breast shall be your bed.

    The pale dew lies
    Like a veil on my head.
    My fair one, my fair dove,
    Arise, arise!


    From dewy dreams, my soul, arise,
    From love's deep slumber and from death,
    For lo! the treees are full of sighs
    Whose leaves the morn admonisheth.

    Eastward the gradual dawn prevails
    Where softly-burning fires appear,
    Making to tremble all those veils
    Of grey and golden gossamer.

    While sweetly, gently, secretly,
    The flowery bells of morn are stirred
    And the wise choirs of faery
    Begin (innumerous!) to be heard.


    O cool is the valley now
    And there, love, will we go
    For many a choir is singing now
    Where Love did sometime go.
    And hear you not the thrushes calling,
    Calling us away?
    O cool and pleasant is the valley
    And there, love, will we stay.


    Because your voice was at my side
    I gave him pain,
    Because within my hand I held
    Your hand again.

    There is no word nor any sign
    Can make amend -- -
    He is a stranger to me now
    Who was my friend.


    O Sweetheart, hear you
    Your lover's tale;
    A man shall have sorrow
    When friends him fail.

    For he shall know then
    Friends be untrue
    And a little ashes
    Their words come to.

    But one unto him
    Will softly move
    And softly woo him
    In ways of love.

    His hand is under
    Her smooth round breast;
    So he who has sorrow
    Shall have rest.


    Be not sad because all men
    Prefer a lying clamour before you:
    Sweetheart, be at peace again -- -
    Can they dishonour you?

    They are sadder than all tears;
    Their lives ascend as a continual sigh.
    Proudly answer to their tears:
    As they deny, deny.


    In the dark pine-wood
    I would we lay,
    In deep cool shadow
    At noon of day.

    How sweet to lie there,
    Sweet to kiss,
    Where the great pine-forest
    Enaisled is!

    Thy kiss descending
    Sweeter were
    With a soft tumult
    Of thy hair.

    O unto the pine-wood
    At noon of day
    Come with me now,
    Sweet love, away.


    He who hath glory lost, nor hath
    Found any soul to fellow his,
    Among his foes in scorn and wrath
    Holding to ancient nobleness,
    That high unconsortable one -- -
    His love is his companion.


    Of that so sweet imprisonment
    My soul, dearest, is fain -- -
    Soft arms that woo me to relent
    And woo me to detain.
    Ah, could they ever hold me there
    Gladly were I a prisoner!

    Dearest, through interwoven arms
    By love made tremulous,
    That night allures me where alarms
    Nowise may trouble us;
    But lseep to dreamier sleep be wed
    Where soul with soul lies prisoned.


    This heart that flutters near my heart
    My hope and all my riches is,
    Unhappy when we draw apart
    And happy between kiss and kiss:
    My hope and all my riches -- - yes! -- -
    And all my happiness.

    For there, as in some mossy nest
    The wrens will divers treasures keep,
    I laid those treasures I possessed
    Ere that mine eyes had learned to weep.
    Shall we not be as wise as they
    Though love live but a day?


    Silently she's combing,
    Combing her long hair
    Silently and graciously,
    With many a pretty air.

    The sun is in the willow leaves
    And on the dapplled grass,
    And still she's combing her long hair
    Before the looking-glass.

    I pray you, cease to comb out,
    Comb out your long hair,
    For I have heard of witchery
    Under a pretty air,

    That makes as one thing to the lover
    Staying and going hence,
    All fair, with many a pretty air
    And many a negligence.


    Lightly come or lightly go:
    Though thy heart presage thee woe,
    Vales and many a wasted sun,
    Oread let thy laughter run,
    Till the irreverent mountain air
    Ripple all thy flying hair.

    Lightly, lightly -- - ever so:
    Clouds that wrap the vales below
    At the hour of evenstar
    Lowliest attendants are;
    Love and laughter song-confessed
    When the heart is heaviest.


    Thou leanest to the shell of night,
    Dear lady, a divining ear.
    In that soft choiring of delight
    What sound hath made thy heart to fear?
    Seemed it of rivers rushing forth
    From the grey deserts of the north?

    That mood of thine
    Is his, if thou but scan it well,
    Who a mad tale bequeaths to us
    At ghosting hour conjurable -- -
    And all for some strange name he read
    In Purchas or in Holinshed.


    Though I thy Mithridates were,
    Framed to defy the poison-dart,
    Yet must thou fold me unaware
    To know the rapture of thy heart,
    And I but render and confess
    The malice of thy tenderness.

    For elegant and antique phrase,
    Dearest, my lips wax all too wise;
    Nor have I known a love whose praise
    Our piping poets solemnize,
    Neither a love where may not be
    Ever so little falsity.


    Gentle lady, do not sing
    Sad songs about the end of love;
    Lay aside sadness and sing
    How love that passes is enough.

    Sing about the long deep sleep
    Of lovers that are dead, and how
    In the grave all love shall sleep:
    Love is aweary now.


    Dear heart, why will you use me so?
    Dear eyes that gently me upbraid,
    Still are you beautiful -- - but O,
    How is your beauty raimented!

    Through the clear mirror of your eyes,
    Through the soft sigh of kiss to kiss,
    Desolate winds assail with cries
    The shadowy garden where love is.

    And soon shall love dissolved be
    When over us the wild winds blow -- -
    But you, dear love, too dear to me,
    Alas! why will you use me so?


    Love came to us in time gone by
    When one at twilight shyly played
    And one in fear was standing nigh -- -
    For Love at first is all afraid.

    We were grave lovers. Love is past
    That had his sweet hours many a one;
    Welcome to us now at the last
    The ways that we shall go upon.


    O, it was out by Donnycarney
    When the bat flew from tree to tree
    My love and I did walk together;
    And sweet were the words she said to me.

    Along with us the summer wind
    Went murmuring -- - O, happily! -- -
    But softer than the breath of summer
    Was the kiss she gave to me.


    Rain has fallen all the day.
    O come among the laden trees:
    The leaves lie thick upon the way
    Of memories.

    Staying a little by the way
    Of memories shall we depart.
    Come, my beloved, where I may
    Speak to your heart.


    Now, O now, in this brown land
    Where Love did so sweet music make
    We two shall wander, hand in hand,
    Forbearing for old friendship' sake,
    Nor grieve because our love was gay
    Which now is ended in this way.

    A rogue in red and yellow dress
    Is knocking, knocking at the tree;
    And all around our loneliness
    The wind is whistling merrily.
    The leaves -- - they do not sigh at all
    When the year takes them in the fall.

    Now, O now, we hear no more
    The vilanelle and roundelay!
    Yet will we kiss, sweetheart, before
    We take sad leave at close of day.
    Grieve not, sweetheart, for anything -- -
    The year, the year is gathering.


    Sleep now, O sleep now,
    O you unquiet heart!
    A voice crying "Sleep now"
    Is heard in my heart.

    The voice of the winter
    Is heard at the door.
    O sleep, for the winter
    Is crying "Sleep no more."

    My kiss will give peace now
    And quiet to your heart -- -
    Sleep on in peace now,
    O you unquiet heart!


    All day I hear the noise of waters
    Making moan,
    Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
    Forth alone,
    He hears the winds cry to the water's
    The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
    Where I go.
    I hear the noise of many waters
    Far below.
    All day, all night, I hear them flowing
    To and fro.


    I hear an army charging upon the land,
    And the thunder of horses plunging, foam about their knees:
    Arrogant, in black armour, behind them stand,
    Disdaining the reins, with fluttering ships, the charioteers.
    They cry unto the night their battle-name:
    I moan in sleep when I hear afar their whirling laughter.
    They cleave the gloom of dreams, a blinding flame,
    Clanging, clanging upon the heart as upon an anvil.
    They come shaking in triumph their long, green hair:
    They come out of the sea and run shouting by the shore.
    My heart, have you no wisdom thus to despair?
    My love, my love, my love, why have you left me alone?
    If you're writing a Chamber Music essay and need some advice, post your James Joyce essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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