Monday, June 10, 2019

Lionel Johnson and The Precept of Silence

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The precept of silence in a bottle of absinthe.

I Know you: solitary griefs
Desolate passions, aching hours!
I know you: tremulous beliefs,
Agonized hopes, and ashen flowers!

The winds are sometimes sad to me,
The starry spaces, full of fear;
Mine is the sorrow on the sea,
And mine the sigh of places drear.

Some players upon plaintive strings
Publish their wistfulness abroad;
I have not spoken of these things,
Save to one man, and unto God.

— Lionel Johnson

In 1893, Lionel Johnson published his greatest poem, Dark Angel. The poem preceded his three volumes of poetry: The art of Thomas Hardy (1894), Poems (1895), and Ireland: with other poems (1897). An alcoholic, it is said that Johnson died at age 35 in 1902 from a stroke after falling off a bar stool.

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