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(1844 — 1929)
A leading disciple of Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter became an eloquent spokesman for libertarian socialism, feminism, Eastern Philosophy and homosexual liberation. His books, including The Intermediate Sex and the poetry collection Towards Democracy, were written at his country cottage in Millthorpe, where he lived openly with his lover, George Merrill. An influential and widely respected figure, his reputation faded after his death, to be revived by the Gay Liberation movement in the 1970s.
from Towards Democracy
Through the Long Night
You, proud curve-lipped youth, with brown sensitive face, Why, suddenly, as you sat there on the grass, did you turn full upon me those twin black eyes of yours, With gaze so absorbing so intense, I a strong man trembled and was faint? Why in a moment between me and you in the full summer afternoon did Love sweep—leading after it in procession across the lawn and the flowers and under the waving trees huge dusky shadows of Death and the other world? I know not. Solemn and dewy-passionate, yet burning clear and steadfast at the last, Through the long night those eyes of yours, dear, remain to me— And I remain gazing into them.
from A Mightier than Mammon
The love of men for each other—so tender, heroic, constant; That has come all down the ages, in every clime, in every nation,Always so true, so well assured of itself, overleaping barriers of age, of rank, of distance, Flag of the camp of Freedom; The love of women for each other—so rapt, intense, so confiding-close, so burning-passionate, To unheard deeds of sacrifice, of daring and devotion, prompting; And (not less) the love of men for women, and of women for men— on a newer greater scale than it has hitherto been conceived; Grand, free and equal—gracious yet ever incommensurable— The soul of Comradeship glides in.
The young heir goes to inspect the works of one of his tenants; [Once more the king's son loves the shepherd lad;] In the shed the fireman is shovelling coal into the boiler furnace. He is neither specially handsome nor specially intelligent, yet when he turns, from under his dark lids rimmed with coal dust shoots something so human, so loving-near, it makes the other tremble. They only speak a few words, and lo! underneath all the differences of class and speech, of muscle and manhood, their souls are knit together.
The Cinghalese cooly comes on board a merchant vessel at Colombo, every day for a week or more, to do some bits of cleaning. He is a sweet-natured bright intelligent fellow of 21 or so. One of the engineers is decently kind and friendly with him—gives him a knife and one or two little presents; But the Cinghalese gives his very soul to the engineer; and worships his white jacket and overalls as though they were the shining garment of a god. He cannot rest; but implores to be taken on the voyage; and weeps bitterly when he learns that the ship must sail without him. Ah! weep not, brown-bodied youth wandering lonely by the surf- ridden shore—as you watch your white friend's vessel gliding into the offing, under the sun and the sun-fringed clouds; Out, far out to sea, with your friend whom you will never see again; Weep not so heart-brokenly, for even your tears, gentle boy, poured now upon the barren sand are the prophecy of amity that shall be one day between all the races of the earth.
And here are two women, both doctors and mature in their profession, whose souls are knit in a curiously deep affection. They share a practice in a large town, and live in the same house together, exchanging all that they command, of life and affection and experience; And this continues for twenty-years—till the death of the elder one— after which the other ceases not to visit her grave, twice every week, till the time of her own last illness.
And this is of a poor lad born in the slums, who with aching lonely heart once walked the streets of London. Many spoke to him because he was fair—asked him to come and have a drink, and so forth; but still it was no satisfaction to him; for they did not give him that which he needed. Then one day he saw a face in which love dwelt. It was a man twice his own age, captain of a sailing vessel—a large free man, well acquainted with the world, capable and kindly. And the moment the lad saw him his heart was given to him, and he could not rest but must needs follow the man up and down—yet daring not to speak to him, and the other knowing nothing of it all. And this continued—till the time came for the man to go another voyage. Then he disappeared; and the youth, still not knowing who or whence he was, fell into worse misery and loneliness than ever, for a whole year. Till at last one day—or one evening rather—to his great joy he saw his friend going into a public house. It was in a little street off Mile-end Road. He slipped in and sat beside him. And the man spoke to him, and was kind, but nothing more. And presently, as the hour was getting late, got up and said Goodnight, and went out the door. And the lad, suddenly seized with a panic fear that he might never see his friend again, hurried after him, and when they came to a quiet spot, ran up and seized him by the hand, and hardly knowing what he was doing fell on his knees on the pavement, and held him. And the man at first thought this was a ruse or a mere conspiracy, but when he lifted the lad and looked in his face he understood, for he saw love written there. And he straightaway loved and received him.
And this is of a boy who sat in school. The masters talked about Greek accidence and quadratic equations, and the boys talked about lobs and byes and bases and goals; but of that which was nearest to his heart no one said a word. It was laughed at—or left unspoken. Yet when the boy stood near some of his comrades in the cricket-field or sat next them in school, he stocked and stammered, because of some winged glorious thing which stood or sat between him and them. And again the laughter came, because he had forgotten what he was doing; and he shrank into himself, and the walls round him grew, so that he was pent and lonely like a prisoner. Till one day to him weeping, Love full-grown, all-glorious, pure, unashamed, unshackled, came like a god into his little cell, and swore to break the barriers. And when the boy through his tears asked him how he would so that, Love answered not, but turning drew with his finger on the walls of the cell. And as he drew, lo! beneath his finger sprang all forms of beauty, an endless host—outlines and colors of all that is, transfigured: And, as he drew, the cell-walls widened—a new world rose—and folk came trooping in to gaze, And the barriers had vanished.
Wonderful, beautiful, the Soul that knits the Body's life passed in, And the barriers had vanished.
(1863 — 1933)
One of the most important modern Greek poets, Constantine Cavafy spent
most of his life in Alexandria, Egypt, where he worked as a civil servant.
His poignant, often philosophical poems of erotic encounters, Alexandrian life,
and Greek history remain popular and influential, both in the originals and
in a variety of English translations.
(All translations by Gavin Dillard, except where noted.)
Picture of a Youth of Twenty-three Painted by His Friend of the Same Age, an Amateur (translated by Ian Young)
He studies it carefully now, the painting he completed yesterday noon. He has painted him in a coat of deep gray, unbuttoned, no vest or tie, a rose-coloured shirt open at the collar to show the beauty of his chest and neck. His hair falls over his right temple, his beautiful hair parted in the fashionable manner. The sensuous feeling is there that he wanted to portray when he painted the eyes, the lips ... That mouth, those lips so made for consummation, for choice love-making.
The Tobacco-Shop Window
They stood among many others near the lighted window of a tobacco shop. By chance their glances met and timidly, haltingly, expressed the illicit craving of their flesh. Then a few tentative steps along the street, until they smiled and discreetly nodded.
And after that the enclosed carriage, the physical closeness of their bodies, the joining of hands, the meeting of lips ...
At the Next Table
He must be barely twenty-two, and yet I am certain that just so many years ago I enjoyed that selfsame body:
No, it isn't merely inlovement, I only entered the tavern a moment ago and I've hardly had a thing to drink— but I have enjoyed that very body.
And if I can't recall where—one lapse of memory proves nothing.
There, see, now that he has sat at the next table, I'm familiar with every move that he makes— and beneath his clothes, I can envision those naked limbs that I have loved.
The consummation of their deviant, sexual delight complete, they arose from the mattress and quickly dressed without speaking.
They left the house one at a time, furtively, and as each walked uneasily up the street, it seemed as if something about himself perhaps did betray into what sort of bed he had fallen mere moments ago.
But for the life of the artist, look what's been gained— tomorrow, the next day, or years hence, the powerful verses will be composed that here had their beginning.
Two Young Men, 23 and 24 Years Old
He'd been sitting in the café since ten-thirty, expecting his friend to arrive any minute. Midnight came and went, and still he waited. And now it was after one-thirty and the café was almost empty. He was tired of reading the newspapers like a machine. Of his three sparse shillings only one remained: all that waiting, he had spent the other two on coffee and brandy. He'd smoked every last cigarette. And all the waiting had exhausted him; all those hours alone had weighed heavily on his mind about this wicked life that he was leading.
But when his friend at last arrived— weariness, boredom, his thoughts all vanished at once.
His buddy brought some unexpected news. He had just won sixty pounds at the casino.
Their exquisite faces, their sublime youth, the sensual love that each felt toward the other were refreshed, enlivened, strengthened by the sixty pounds just garnered at the gambling table.
And full of joy and vitality, feeling and expression they went—not to the houses of their respectable families (where they were no longer desired anyway)— but to a familiar and especially favored house of debauchery, where they asked for a bedroom and expensive drinks, and they drank some more.
And when the expensive drinks were finished, and since it was almost four in the morning, they joyfully surrendered to love.
In the 25th Year of His Life
He goes regularly to the tavern where they had met in the preceding month. He's made inquiries, but they've been unable to tell him anything specific. From what they've said, he's gathered that the young man he'd met was unknown to all, one of the many shady young waifs who frequent the place. Still he goes to the tavern faithfully, each night, and sits there watching the doorway, watching the doorway to the point of exhaustion— he may come walking in, tonight might be the night.
For almost three weeks he's done this, his mind still sick with desire. Those kisses have stayed on his mouth, his very flesh suffers from lustful yearning. The touch of the other's body is all over him; he longs for that union again.
Of course he tries to act discreet, but at times he loses all caring. Besides, he knows full well what he's exposing himself to, he has resigned to the prospect—it is likely that this life he's chosen will end in a devastating scandal.
Before Time Alters Them
They were both deeply grieved at their separation. They did not want it, it was circumstance. An essential job obliged one to go far away— New York or Canada. It's true that their love wasn't as it had been, the attraction had gradually waned, as lust's attraction is wont to do. But they did not want to be separated. It was circumstance—
Or perhaps Destiny had appeared as an artist, separating them now before their feelings should fade altogether, before Time had had its way with them; so that each for the other will remain forever as he had been, a handsome young man of 24.
Days of 1901
There was something that set him apart from others, that despite his immoral behavior, and his vast experiences with love, despite the notable congruence between his attitude and his age, there happened to be moments—rare moments, to be sure—when he gave the impression of a flesh virtually untouched.
The beauty of his twenty-nine years, so tested by sexual indulgences, at moments strangely recalled a young man who—rather awkwardly—surrenders his virginal body to love for the very first time.
Days of 1903
I have never found them again—those things so quickly lost ... the poetic eyes, the pallid face ... in the dark of the road ...
I have never found them again—those so haphazardly met, that I gave up so easily, and much later in agony I craved. The poetic eyes, the pallid face ...
I never found those lips again.
He has lost him completely. And now he searches for his taste on the lips of each new lover; in the embrace of each new lover, he pretends that it is into his arms that he is falling.
He's lost him completely, as if he had never existed. He wanted, his lover had said, to save himself from the forbidden, the sick sexual passion; the forbidden, shameful sexual passion. There was still time, he had said, to save himself.
He's lost him completely, as if he had never existed. In his imaginings, in his fantasies, he is ever seeking those lips in the lips of another; he is longing to feel again the love that he has known.
Where I Lingered and Lay Upon The Beds
Whenever I went to the house of pleasure I never hung out in the front rooms where they politely celebrated the more accepted forms of love.
I went into the secret rooms where I lingered and lay upon the beds.
I went into the secret rooms that they are too ashamed to name. Yet not shameful to me—for if they were what kind of poet, what kind of an artist would I be? I'd rather be an ascetic. Such would be more in keeping, much more in keeping with my poetry, than for me to seek pleasures in the commonplace rooms.
The Bandaged Shoulder
He said that he'd hurt himself on a wall or that he'd fallen down. But there was probably another reason for the wounded, bandaged shoulder.
With a rather abrupt movement, while reaching for a shelf to bring down some photographs he wanted to view more closely, the bandage came undone and the blood again ran.
I rebandaged the shoulder, though taking my time; he was in no real pain, and I enjoyed looking at the blood. That blood was a part of my love.
After he had gone I found a blood-soaked rag in front of his chair, left to be tossed into the garbage, which I brought straightway to my mouth and held there for an endless amount of time— the blood of love upon my lips.
In the Taverns
I wallow in the taverns and in the brothels of Beirut. I didn't want to stay in Alexandria. Tamides left me; he went off with the Governor's son to earn himself a villa on the Nile, a mansion in the city. It wouldn't be acceptable for me to stay in Alexandria— I wallow in the taverns and in the brothels of Beirut. I live an abject life, devoted to cheap debauchery. The only thing that saves me, like immortal beauty, like a fragrance that remains forever on my skin, is that I possessed Tamides for two full years, the most exquisite of young men, mine completely, and not for a house or a villa on the Nile!
Hidden Things (translated by Gloria Brame and Gavin Dillard)
From everything that I have done and said let no one try to understand me. There was an obstacle which distorted the actions and the style of my life. An obstacle was there to silence me when I wanted to speak. From my least-known actions and my most cryptic poems— from these alone will I be understood. But perhaps it isn't worth my concern and my effort that they might someday discover who I really am. For later, in a more perfect society, some other fellow who is created like me most surely will appear and act freely.
Lord Alfred Douglas
(1870 — 1945)
Forever notorious as the lover who goaded Oscar Wilde into court, Lord Alfred Douglas was an accomplished minor poet; it was he who wined the phrase "the love that dare not speak its name." During the long years after Wilde's death, the waspish Douglas vacillated erratically between championing his old friend and vilifying him.
Two loves I have of comfort and despair Which like two spirits do suggest me still, The better angel is a man right fair, The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
I dreamed I stood upon a little hill, And at my feet there lay a ground, that seemed Like a waste garden, flowering at its will With flowers and blossoms. There were pools that dreamed Black and unruffled; there were white lilies A few, and crocuses, and violets Purple or pale, snake-like fritillaries Scarce seen for the rank grass, and through green nets Blue eyes of shy pervenche winked in the sun. And there were curious flowers, before unknown, Flowers that were stained with moonlight, or with shades Of Nature's wilful moods; and here a one That had drunk in the transitory tone Of one brief moment in a sunset; blades Of grass that in an hundred springs had been Slowly but exquisitely nurtured by the stars, And watered with the scented dew long cupped In lilies, that for rays of sun had seen Only God's Glory, for never a sunrise mars The luminous air of heaven. Beyond, abrupt, A gray stone wall, o'ergrown with velvet moss, Uprose. And gazing I stood long, all mazed To see a place so strange, so sweet, so fair. And as I stood and marvelled, lo! across The garden came a youth, one hand he raised To shield him from the sun, his wind-tossed hair Was twined with flowers, and in his hand he bore A purple bunch of bursting grapes, his eyes Were clear as crystal, naked all was he, White as the snow on pathless mountains frore, Red were his lips as red wine-spilth that dyes A marble floor, his brow chalcedony. And he came near me, with his lips uncurled And kind, and caught my hand and kissed my mouth, And gave me grapes to eat, and said `Sweet friend, Come, I will shew thee shadows of the world And images of life. See, from the south Comes the pale pageant that hath never an end.' And lo! within the garden of my dream I saw two walking on a shining plain Of golden light. The one did joyous seem And fair and blooming, and a sweet refrain Came from his lips; he sang of pretty maids And joyous love of comely girl and boy, His eyes were bright, and 'mid the dancing blades Of golden grass his feet did trip for joy. And in his hands he held an ivory lute, With strings of gold that were as maidens' hair, And sang with voice as tuneful as a flute, And round his neck three chains of roses were. But he that was his comrade walked aside; He was full sad and sweet, and his large eyes Were strange with wondrous brightness, staring wide With gazing; and he sighed with many sighs That moved me, and his cheeks were wan and white Like pallid lilies, and his lips were red Like poppies, and his hands he clenchèd tight, And yet again unclenchèd, and his head Was wreathed with moon-flowers pale as lips of death. A purple robe he wore, o'erwrought in gold With the device of a great snake, whose breath Was fiery flame: which when I did behold I fell a-weeping and I cried, `Sweet youth, Tell me why, sad and sighing, thou dost rove These pleasant realms? I pray thee speak me sooth What is thy name?' He said, `My name is Love.' Then straight the first did turn himself to me And cried, `He lieth, for his name is Shame, But I am Love, and I was wont to be Alone in this fair garden, till he came Unasked by night; I am true Love, I fill The hearts of boy and girl with mutual flame.' Then sighing said the other, `Have thy will, I am the Love that dare not speak its name.'
In Praise of Shame
Unto my bed last night, methought there came Our lady of strange dreams, and from an urn She poured live fire, so that mine eyes did burn At sight of it. Anon the floating flame Took many shapes, and one cried, `I am Shame That walks with Love, I am most wise to turn Cold lips and limbs to fire; therefore discern And see my loveliness, and praise my name.'
And afterward, in radiant garments dressed, With sound of flutes and laughing and glad lips, A pomp of all the passions passed along, All the night through; till the white phantom ships Of dawn sailed in. Whereat I said this song, `Of all sweet passions Shame is loveliest.'
|Lord Alfred Douglas||17|
|Federico García Lorca||29|
|Edward A Lacey||151|
|Gavin G Dillard||254|
|Michael Gregg Michaud||265|
Posted May 31, 2000
I was litlle put off by the title of this anthology....A Day for a Lay...I know it's taken from an undergroud poem of Auden's..but it seemed a bit promiscuous with the emphasis on sex.....I don't mean to be a prude, but although there are many erotic powms in this collection, for example the long poem by Takahashi......but there are just as many that deal with tenderness and love as opposed to just lust. Among my favorites in this collection are Carpenter and Lorca, both of which deep down inside of their writings, express beauty that transends the outward shell of a person. I am very honored to be included in this collection, and thank Gavin Dillard for this strong showing of international gay poets. In closing, I realize that a sexy title might sell books and I understand that dynamic, but would like to close with a suggestion for a subtitle for this collection..'A day for the Heart.' My eamil is firstname.lastname@example.orgWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.