A Geisha Song (1906)
At the sign of the Beckoning Kitten
We geishas dwell;
Over our doorway is written
“Hail and farewell.”
Broad is our gateway and litten,
Full of sounds as a shell and bright as a star,
That all men passing and pausing may surely tell
Here lightness and laughter are.
Than the foam of the sea we are lighter;
No souls have we
To lose, or to wane, or grow brighter
(Thus say the women that hear us, the men that see).
We laugh, though our way be wending,
Plain to all sight
Deathwards—away from delight;
We laugh, though our world be ending
This very night.
We dance on the edge of sorrow;
We make our song
Of yesterday’s roses tied with knotted thing,
Of joy that shall end to-morrow.
Joy lasts not long,
But grief is enduring, and wrong,
That man from his evil may borrow
Strength, and be strong.
We are harps by strange fingers smitten,
Broken, and soon cast by;
Cups emptied of wine, and dry.
We are lamps in the doorway litten
And the dawn draws nigh.
Soon is our story written
Who dance—and die—
At the sign of the Beckoning Kitten:
Hail and good-bye.
Nora Chesson (1871-1906)
was a London born Irish poet and short story writer who largely due to
Yeats’s admiration of her work became a noted figure in the fin
de siècle Irish Literary Movement. She published more than a dozen
volumes, initially under the name Nora Hopper—she married the critic
W. H. Chesson in 1901—and her work is included in a number of important
collections. ‘A Geisha Song’ appeared in A Dead Girl to
her Lover and Other Poems (London: Rivers, 1906).