The Poems of Madison Cawein, Volume 2 (of 5) by Madison Julius Cawein

THE POEMS OF
M A D I S O N C A W E I N
Volume II

NEW WORLD
IDYLLS AND POEMS
OF LOVE

Illustrated
WITH PHOTOGRAVURES AFTER PAINTINGS
BY ERIC PAPE

 

INDIANAPOLIS
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1901, 1902, 1905 and 1907, by Madison Cawein

Copyright, 1896, by Copeland and Day; 1898, by R. H Russell; 1901, by Richard G. Badger and Company

PRESS OF
BRAUNWORTH & CO.
BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS
BROOKLYN, N. Y.

WITH ENDURING FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND LOYALTY

TO

JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

NEW WORLD IDYLLS
O lyrist of the lowly and the true,
The song I sought for you
Still bides unsung. What hope for me to find,
Lost in the dædal mind,
The living utterance with lovely tongue,
To sing,—as once he sung,
Rare Ariosto, of Knight-Errantry,—
How you in Poesy,
Song’s Paladin, Knight of the Dream and Day,
The shield of magic sway!
Of that Atlantes’ power, sweet and terse,
The skyey-builded verse!
The shield that dazzles, brilliant with surprise,
Our unanointed eyes.—
Oh, could I write as it were worthy you,
Each word, a spark of dew,—
As once Ferdusi wrote in Persia,—
Would string each rosy spray
Of each unfolding flower of my song;
And Iran’s bulbul tongue
Would sob its heart out o’er the fountain’s slab
In gardens of Afrasiab.
{1}

ONE DAY AND ANOTHER

A Lyrical Eclogue
PART I

LATE SPRING
The mottled moth at eventide
Beats glimmering wings against the pane;
The slow, sweet lily opens wide,
White in the dusk like some dim stain;
The garden dreams on every side
And breathes faint scents of rain:
Among the flowering stocks they stand;
A crimson rose is in her hand.
I
Outside her garden. He waits musing:

Herein the dearness of her is;
The thirty perfect days of June
Made one, in maiden loveliness
Were not more sweet to clasp and kiss,
With love not more in tune.{2}
Ah me! I think she is too true,
Too spiritual for life’s rough way:
So say her eyes,—her soul looks through,—
Two bluet blossoms, watchet-blue,
Are not more pure than they.
So kind, so beautiful is she,
So soft and white, so fond and fair,
Sometimes my heart fears she may be
Not long for Earth, and secretly
Sweet sister to the air.
II
Dusk deepens. A whippoorwill calls.

The whippoorwills are calling where
The golden west is graying;
“’Tis time,” they say, “to meet him there—
Why are you still delaying?
“He waits you where the old beech throws
Its gnarly shadow over
Wood violet and the bramble rose,
Frail lady-fern and clover.
“Where elder and the sumac peep
Above your garden’s paling,{3}
Whereon, at noon, the lizards sleep,
Like lichen on the railing.
“Come! ere the early rising moon’s
Gold floods the violet valleys;
Where mists, like phantom picaroons
Anchor their stealthy galleys.
“Come! while the deepening amethyst
Of dusk above is falling—
’Tis time to tryst! ’tis time to tryst!”
The whippoorwills are calling.
They call you to these twilight ways
With dewy odor dripping—
Ah, girlhood, through the rosy haze
Come like a moonbeam slipping.
III
He enters the garden, speaking dreamily:

There is a fading inward of the day,
And all the pansy sunset clasps one star;
The twilight acres, eastward, glimmer gray,
While all the world to westward smoulders far.{4}
Now to your glass will you pass for the last time?
Pass! humming some ballad, I know.
Here where I wait it is late and is past time—
Late! and the moments are slow, are slow.
There is a drawing downward of the night;
The bridegroom Heaven bends down to kiss the moon:
Above, the heights hang silver in her light;
Below, the vales stretch purple, deep with June.
There in the dew is it you hiding lawny?
You? or a moth in the vines?—
You!—by your hand! where the band twinkles tawny!
You!—by your ring, like a glow-worm that shines!
IV
She approaches, laughing. She speaks:

You’d given up hope?
He
Believe me!{5}
She
Why! is your love so poor?
He
No. Yet you might deceive me!
She
As many a girl before.—
Ah, dear, you will forgive me?
He
Say no more, sweet, say no more!
She
Love trusts; and that’s enough, my dear.
Trust wins through love; whereof, my dear,
Love holds through trust: and love, my dear,
Is—all my life and lore.
He
Come, pay me or I’ll scold you.—
Give me the kiss you owe.—
You run when I would hold you?{6}
She
No! no! I say! now, no!—
How often have I told you,
You must not use me so?
He
More sweet the dusk for this is,
For lips that meet in kisses.—
Come! come! why run from blisses
As from a dreadful foe?
V
She stands smiling at him, shyly, then speaks:

How many words in the asking!
How easily I can grieve you!—
My “yes” in a “no” was a-masking,
Nor thought, dear, to deceive you.—
A kiss?—the humming-bird happiness here
In my heart consents…. But what are words,
When the thought of two souls in speech accords?
Affirmative, negative—what are they, dear?
I wished to say “yes,” but somehow said “no.”{7}
The woman within me knew you would know,
Knew that your heart would hear.
He speaks:
So many words in the doing!—
Therein you could not deceive me;
Some things are sweeter for the pursuing:
I knew what you meant, believe me.—
Bunched bells of the blush pomegranate, to fix
At your throat…. Six drops of fire they are….
Will you look—where the moon and its following star
Rise silvery over yon meadow ricks?
While I hold—while I bend your head back, so….
For I know it is “yes” though you whisper “no,”
And my kisses, sweet, are six.
VI
Moths flutter around them. She speaks:

Look!—where the fiery
Glow-worm in briery
Banks of the moon-mellowed bowers{8}
Sparkles—how hazily
Pinioned and airily
Delicate, warily,
Drowsily, lazily,
Flutter the moths to the flowers.
White as the dreamiest
Bud of the creamiest
Rose in the garden that dozes,
See how they cling to them!
Held in the heart of their
Hearts, like a part of their
Perfume, they swing to them
Wings that are soft as a rose is.
Dim as the forming of
Dew in the warming of
Moonlight, they light on the petals;
All is revealed to them;
All!—from the sunniest
Tips to the honiest
Heart, whence they yield to them
Spice, through the darkness that settles.
So to our tremulous
Souls come the emulous
Agents of love; through whose power{9}
All that is best in us,
All that is beautiful,
Selfless and dutiful,
Is manifest in us,
Even as the scent of a flower.
VII
Taking her hand he says:

What makes you beautiful?
Answer, now, answer!—
Is it that dutiful
Souls are all beautiful?
Is it romance or
Beauty of spirit,
Which souls, that merit,
Of heaven inherit?—
Have you an answer?
She, roguishly:
What makes you lovable?
Answer, now, answer!—
Is it not provable
That man is lovable
Just because chance, or
Nature, makes woman{10}
Love him?—Her human
Part’s to illumine.—
Have you an answer?
VIII
Then, regarding him seriously, she continues:

Could I recall every joy that befell me
There in the past with its anguish and bliss,
Here in my heart it hath whispered to tell me,—
They were no joys like this.
Were it not well if our love could forget them,
Veiling the Was with the dawn of the Is?
Dead with the past we should never regret them,
Being no joys like this.
Now they are gone and the Present stands speechful,
Ardent of word and of look and of kiss,—
What though we know that their eyes are beseechful!—
They were no joys like this.
Were it not well to have more of the spirit,
Living high Futures this earthly must miss?
Less of the flesh, with the Past pining near it?
Knowing no joys like this!
{11}

IX
Leaving the garden for the lane. He, with lightness of heart:

We will leave reason,
Sweet, for a season:
Reason were treason
Now that the nether
Spaces are clad, oh,
In silvery shadow—
We will be glad, oh,
Glad as this weather!
She, responding to his mood:

Heart unto heart! where the moonlight is slanted,
Let us believe that our souls are enchanted:—
I in the castle-keep; you are the airy
Prince who comes seeking me; love is the fairy
Bringing us two together.
He

Starlight in masses
Over us passes;
And in the grass is
Many a flower.—{12}
Now will you tell me
How ’d you enspell me?
What once befell me
There in your bower?
She

Soul unto soul!—in the moon’s wizard glory,
Let us believe we are parts in a story:—
I am a poem; a poet you hear it
Whispered in star and in flower; a spirit,
Love, puts my soul in your power.
X
He, suddenly and very earnestly:

Perhaps we lived in the days
Of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid;
And loved, as the story says
Did the Sultan’s favorite one
And the Persian Emperor’s son,
Ali ben Bekkar, he
Of the Kisra dynasty.
Do you know the story?—Well,
You were Haroun’s Sultana.
When night on the palace fell,{13}
A slave, through a secret door,—
Low-arched on the Tigris’ shore,—
By a hidden winding stair
Brought me to your bower there.
Then there was laughter and mirth,
And feasting and singing together,
In a chamber of wonderful worth;
In a chamber vaulted high
On columns of ivory;
Its dome, like the irised skies,
Mooned over with peacock eyes;
Its curtains and furniture,
Damask and juniper.
Ten slave girls—so many blooms—
Stand, holding tamarisk torches,
Silk-clad from the Irak looms;
Ten handmaidens serve the feast,
Each maid like a star in the east;
Ten lutanists, lutes a-tune,
Wait, each like the Ramadan moon.
For you, in a stuff of Merv
Blue-clad, unveiled and jeweled,
No metaphor made may serve:
Scarved deep with your raven hair,{14}
The jewels like fireflies there—
Blossom and moon and star,
The Lady Shemsennehar.
The zone that girdles your waist
Would ransom a Prince and Emeer;
In your coronet’s gold enchased,
And your bracelet’s twisted bar,
Burn rubies of Istakhar;
And pearls of the Jamshid race
Hang looped on your bosom’s lace.
You stand like the letter I;
Dawn-faced, with eyes that sparkle
Black stars in a rosy sky;
Mouth, like a cloven peach,
Sweet with your smiling speech;
Cheeks, that the blood presumes
To make pomegranate blooms.
With roses of Rocknabad,
Hyacinths of Bokhara,—
Creamily cool and clad
In gauze,—girls scatter the floor
From pillar to cedarn door.
Then, a pomegranate bloom in each ear,
Come the dancing-girls of Kashmeer.{15}
Kohl in their eyes, down the room,—
That opaline casting-bottles
Have showered with rose-perfume,—
They glitter and drift and swoon
To the dulcimer’s languishing tune;
In the liquid light like stars
And moons and nenuphars.
Carbuncles, tragacanth-red,
Smoulder in armlet and anklet:
Gleaming on breast and on head,
Bangles of coins, that are angled,
Tinkle: and veils, that are spangled,
Flutter from coiffure and wrist
Like a star-bewildered mist.
Each dancing-girl is a flower
Of the Tuba from vales of El Liwa.—
How the bronzen censers glower!
And scents of ambergris pour,
And of myrrh, brought out of Lahore,
And of musk of Khoten! how good
Is the scent of the sandalwood!
A lutanist smites her lute,
Sings loves of Mejnoon and Leila:—
Her voice is an Houri flute;—{16}
While the fragrant flambeaux wave,
Barbaric, o’er free and slave,
O’er fabrics and bezels of gems
And roses in anadems.
Sherbets in ewers of gold,
Fruits in salvers carnelian;
Flagons of grotesque mold,
Made of a sapphire glass,
Brimmed with wine of Shirâz;
Shaddock and melon and grape
On plate of an antique shape.
Vases of frosted rose,
Of alabaster graven,
Filled with the mountain snows;
Goblets of mother-of-pearl,
One filigree silver-swirl;
Vessels of gold foamed up
With spray of spar on the cup.
Then a slave bursts in with a cry:
“The eunuchs! the Khalif’s eunuchs!—
With scimitars bared draw nigh!
Wesif and Afif and he,
Chief of the hideous three,
Mesrour!—the Sultan ’s seen
’Mid a hundred weapons’ sheen!”{17}
Did we part when we heard this?—No!
It seems that my soul remembers
How I clasped and kissed you, so….
When they came they found us—dead,
On the flowers our blood dyed red;
Our lips together, and
The dagger in my hand.
XI
She, musingly:

How it was I can not tell,
For I know not where nor why;
But I know we loved too well
In some world that does not lie
East or west of where we dwell,
And beneath no earthly sky.
Was it in the golden ages?—
Or the iron?—that I heard,—
In the prophecy of sages,—
Haply, how had come a bird,
Underneath whose wing were pages
Of an unknown lover’s word.
I forget. You may remember
How the earthquake shook our ships;{18}
How our city, one huge ember,
Blazed within the thick eclipse:
When you found me—deep December
Sealed my icy eyes and lips.
I forget. No one may say
That such things can not be true:—
Here a flower dies to-day,
There, to-morrow, blooms anew….
Death is silent.—Tell me, pray,
Why men doubt what God can do?
XII
He, with conviction:

As to that, nothing to tell!
You being all my belief,
Doubt can not enter or dwell
Here where your image is chief;
Here where your name is a spell,
Potent in joy and in grief.
Is it the glamour of spring
Working in us so we seem
Aye to have loved? that we cling
Even to some fancy or dream,
Rainbowing everything,
Here in our souls, with its gleam?{19}
See! how the synod is met
There of the planets to preach us:—
Freed from the earth’s oubliette,
See how the blossoms beseech us!—
Were it not well to forget
Winter and death as they teach us?
Dew and a bud and a star,
All,—like a beautiful thought,
Over man’s wisdom how far!—
God for some purpose hath wrought.—
Could we but know why they are,
And that they end not in naught!
Stars and the moon; and they roll
Over our way that is white.—
Here shall we end the long stroll?
Here shall I kiss you good night?
Or, for a while, soul to soul,
Linger and dream of delight?
XIII
They reënter the garden. She speaks somewhat pensively:

Myths tell of walls and cities, lyred of love,
That rose to music.—Were that power my own,{20}
Had I that harp, that magic barbiton,
What had I builded for our lives thereof?—
In docile shadows under bluebell skies,
A home upon the poppied edge of eve,
Beneath pale peaks the splendors never leave,
’Mid lemon orchards whence the egret flies.
Where, pitiless, the ruined hand of death
Should never reach. No bud, no flower fade:
Where all were perfect, pure and unafraid:
And life serener than an angel’s breath.
The days should move to music: song should tame
The nights, attentive with their listening stars:
And morn outrival eve in opal bars,
Each preaching beauty with rose-tongues of flame.
O home! O life! desired and to be!
How shall we reach you?—Far the way and dim.—
Give me your hand, sweet! let us follow him,
Love with the madness and the melody.
{21}

XIV
He, observing the various dowers around them:

Violets and anemones
The surrendered Hours
Pour, as handsels, round the knees
Of the Spring, who to the breeze
Flings her myriad flowers.
Like to coins, the sumptuous day
Strews with blossoms golden
Every furlong of his way,—
Like a Sultan gone to pray
At a Kaaba olden.
Warlock Night, with spark on spark,
Clad in dim attire,
Dots with stars the haloed dark,—
As a priest around the Ark
Lights his lamps of fire.
These are but the cosmic strings
Of the harp of Beauty,
Of that instrument which sings,
In our souls, of love, that brings
Peace and faith and duty.
{22}

XV
She, seriously:

Duty?—Comfort of the sinner
And the saint!—When grief and trial
Weigh us, and within our inner
Selves,—responsive to love’s viol,—
Hope’s soft voice grows thin and thinner.
It is kin to self-denial.
Self-denial! Through whose feeling
We are gainer though we ’re loser;
All the finer force revealing
Of our natures. No accuser
Is the conscience then, but healing
Of the wound of which we ’re chooser.
Who the loser, who the winner,
If the ardor fail as preacher?—
None who loved was yet beginner,
Though another’s love-beseecher:
Love’s revealment ’s of the inner
Life and God Himself is teacher.
Heine said “no flower knoweth
Of the fragrance it revealeth;
Song, its heart that overfloweth,{23}
Never nightingale’s heart feeleth”—
Such is love the spirit groweth,
Love unconscious if it healeth.
XVI
He, looking smilingly into her eyes, after a pause, lightly:

An elf there is who stables the hot
Red wasp that sucks on the apricot;
An elf, who rowels his spiteful bay,
Like a mote on a ray, away, away;
An elf, who saddles the hornet lean
And dins i’ the ear o’ the swinging bean;
Who straddles, with cap cocked, all awry,
The bottle-green back o’ the dragon-fly.
And this is the elf who sips and sips
From clover-horns whence the perfume drips;
And, drunk with dew, in the glimmering gloam
Awaits the wild-bee’s coming home;
In ambush lies where none may see,
And robs the caravan bumblebee:
Gold bags of honey the bees must pay
To the bandit elf of the fairy-way.
Another ouphen the butterflies know,
Who paints their wings with the hues that glow{24}
On blossoms: squeezing from tubes of dew
Pansy colors of every hue
On his bloom’s pied pallet, he paints the wings
Of the butterflies, moths, and other things.
This is the elf that the hollyhocks hear,
Who dangles a brilliant in each one’s ear;
Teases at noon the pane’s green fly,
And lights at night the glow-worm’s eye.
But the dearest elf, so the poets say,
Is the elf who hides in an eye of gray;
Who curls in a dimple or slips along
The strings of a lute to a lover’s song;
Who smiles in her smile and frowns in her frown,
And dreams in the scent of her glove or gown;
Hides and beckons, as all may note,
In the bloom or the bow of a maiden’s throat.
XVII
She, pensively, standing among the flowers:

Soft through the trees the night wind sighs,
And swoons and dies.
Above, the stars hang wanly white;
Here, through the dark,{25}
A drizzled gold, the fireflies
Rain mimic stars in spark on spark.—
’Tis time to part, to say good night.
Good night.
From fern to flower the night-moths cross
At drowsy loss.
The moon drifts, veiled, through clouds of white;
And pearly pale,
In silvery blurs, through beds of moss,
Their tiny moons the glow-worms trail.—
’Tis time to part, to say good night.
Good night.
XVIII
He, at parting, as they proceed down the garden:

You say we can not marry, now
That roses and the June are here?
To your decision I must bow.—
Ah, well!—perhaps ’t is best, my dear.
Let’s swear again each old love vow
And love another year.
Another year of love with you!
Of dreams and days, of sun and rain!{26}
When field and forest bloom anew,
And locust clusters pelt the lane,
When all the song-birds wed and woo,
I’ll not take “no” again.
Oft shall I lie awake and mark
The hours by no clanging clock,
But, in the dim and dewy dark,
Far crowing of some punctual cock;
Then up, as early as the lark
To meet you by our rock.
The rock, where first we met at tryst;
Where first I wooed and won your love.—
Remember how the moon and mist
Made mystery of the heaven above
As now to-night?—Where first I kissed
Your lips, you trembling like a dove.
So, then, we will not marry now
That roses and the June are here,
That warmth and fragrance weigh each bough?
And, yet, your reason is not clear …
Ah, well! We ’ll swear anew each vow
And wait another year.
{27}

PART II

EARLY SUMMER
The cricket in the rose-bush hedge
Sings by the vine-entangled gate;
The slim moon slants a timid edge
Of pearl through one low cloud of slate;
Around dark door and window-ledge
Like dreams the shadows wait.
And through the summer dusk she goes,
On her white breast a crimson rose.
I
She delays, meditating. A rainy afternoon.

Gray skies and a foggy rain
Dripping from streaming eaves;
Over and over again
Dull drop of the trickling leaves:
And the woodward-winding lane,
And the hill with its shocks of sheaves
One scarce perceives.{28}
Shall I go in such wet weather
By the lane or over the hill?—
Where the blossoming milkweed’s feather
The diamonded rain-drops fill;
Where, draggled and drenched together,
The ox-eyes rank the rill
By the old corn-mill.
The creek by now is swollen,
And its foaming cascades sound;
And the lilies, smeared with pollen,
In the dam look dull and drowned.
’Tis the path I oft have stolen
To the bridge; that rambles round
With willows bound.
Through a bottom wild with berry,
And packed with the ironweeds
And elder,—washed and very
Fragrant,—the fenced path leads
Past oak and wilding cherry,
Where the tall wild-lettuce seeds,
To a place of reeds.
The sun through the sad sky bleaches—
Is that a thrush that calls?—
A bird in the rain beseeches:{29}
And see! on the balsam’s balls,
And leaves of the water-beeches—
One blister of wart-like galls—
No rain-drop falls.
My shawl instead of a bonnet!…
’Though the woods be dripping yet,
Through the wet to the rock I’ll run it!—
How sweet to meet in the wet!—
Our rock with the vine upon it,—
Each flower a fiery jet,—
Where oft we ’ve met.
II
They meet. He speaks:

How fresh the purple clover
Smells in its veil of rain!
And where the leaves brim over
How musky wild the lane!
See, how the sodden acres,
Forlorn of all their rakers,
Their hay and harvest makers,
Look green as spring again.
Drops from the trumpet-flowers
Rain on us as we pass;{30}
And every zephyr showers,
From tilted leaf or grass,
Clear beads of moisture, seeming
Pale, pointed emeralds gleaming;
Where, through the green boughs streaming,
The daylight strikes like glass.
She speaks:

How dewy, clean and fragrant
Look now the green and gold!—
And breezes, trailing vagrant,
Spill all the spice they hold.
The west begins to glimmer;
And shadows, stretching slimmer,
Make gray the ways; and dimmer
Grow field and forest old.
Beyond those rainy reaches
Of woodland, far and lone,
A whippoorwill beseeches;
And now an owlet’s moan
Drifts faint upon the hearing.—
These say the dusk is nearing.
And, see, the heavens, clearing,
Take on a tender tone.{31}
How feebly chirps the cricket!
How thin the tree-toads cry!
Blurred in the wild-rose thicket
Gleams wet the firefly.—
This way toward home is nearest;
Of weeds and briers clearest….
We ’ll meet to-morrow, dearest;
Till then, dear heart, good-by.
III
They meet again under the greenwood tree. He speaks:

Here at last! And do you know
That again you ’ve kept me waiting?
Wondering, anticipating
That your “yes” meant “no.”
Now you ’re here we ’ll have our day….
Let us take this daisied hollow,
And beneath these beeches follow
This wild strip of way
To the stream; wherein are seen
Stealing gar and darting minnow;
Over which snake-feeders winnow
Wings of black and green.{32}
Like a cactus flames the sun;
And the mighty weaver, Even,
Tenuous colored, there in heaven,
His rich weft ’s begun….
How I love you! from the time—
You remember, do you not?—
When, within your orchard-plot,
I was reading rhyme,
As I told you. And ’t was thus:—
“By the blue Trinacrian sea,
Far in pastoral Sicily
With Theocritus”—
That I answered you who asked.
But the curious part was this:—
That the whole thing was amiss;
That the Greek but masked
Tales of old Boccaccio:
Tall Decameronian maids
Strolled for me among the glades,
Smiling, sweet and slow.
And when you approached,—my book
Dropped in wonder,—seemingly{33}
To myself I said, “’Tis she!”
And arose to look
In Lauretta’s eyes and—true!
Found them yours.—You shook your head,
Laughing at me, as you said,
“Did I frighten you?”
You had come for cherries; these
Coatless then I climbed for while
You still questioned with a smile,
And still tried to tease.
Ah, love, just two years have gone
Since then…. I remember, you
Wore a dress of billowy blue
Muslin.—Was it “lawn”?—
And your apron still I see—
All its whiteness cherry-stained—
Which you held; wherein I rained
Ripeness from the tree.
And I asked you—for, you know,
To my eyes your serious eyes
Said such deep philosophies—
If you ’d read Rousseau.{34}
You remember how a chance,
Somewhat like to mine, one June
Happened him at castle Toune,
Over there in France?
And a cherry dropping fair
On your cheek, I, envying it,
Cried—remembering Rousseau’s wit—
“Would my lips were there!” …
Here we are at last. We ’ll row
Down the stream.—The west has narrowed
To one streak of rose, deep-arrowed.—
There ’s our skiff below.
IV
Entering the skiff, she speaks:

Waters flowing dark and bright
In the sunlight or the moon,
Fill my soul with such delight
As some visible music might;
As some slow, majestic tune
Made material to the sight.
Blossoms colored like the skies,
Sunset-hued and tame or wild,
Fill my soul with such surmise{35}
As the mind might realize
If one’s thoughts, all undefiled,
Should take form before the eyes.
So to me do these appeal;
So they sway me every hour:
Letting all their beauty steal
On my soul to make it feel
Through a rivulet or flower,
More than any words reveal.
V
He speaks, rowing:

See, sweetheart, how the lilies lay
Their lambent leaves about our way;
Or, pollen-dusty, bob and float
Their nenuphars around our boat.—
The middle of the stream is reached
Three strokes from where our boat was beached.
Look up. You scarce can see the sky,
Through trees that lean, dark, dense and high;
That, coiled with grape and trailing vine,
Build vast a roof of shade and shine;
A house of leaves, where shadows walk,
And whispering winds and waters talk.{36}
There is no path. The saplings choke
The trunks they spring from. There an oak,
Floods from the Alleghanies bore,
Lies rotting; and that sycamore,
Which lays its bulk from shore to shore,—
Uprooted by the rain,—perchance
May be the bridge to some romance:
Its heart of punk, a spongy white,
Glows, ghostly foxfire, in the night.
Now opening through a willow fringe
The waters creep, one tawny tinge
Of sunset; and on either marge
The cottonwoods make walls of shade,
With breezy balsam pungent: large,
The gradual hills loom; darkly fade
The waters wherein herons wade,
Or wing, like Faëry birds, from grass
That mats the shore by which we pass.
She speaks:

On we pass; we rippling pass,
On sunset waters still as glass.
A vesper-sparrow flies above,
Soft twittering, to its woodland love.
A tufted-titmouse calls afar;
And from the west, like some swift star,{37}
A glittering jay flies screaming. Slim
The sand-snipes and kingfishers skim
Before us; and some twilight thrush—
Who may discover where such sing?—
The silence rinses with a gush
Of limpid music bubbling.
He speaks:

On we pass.—Now let us oar
To yonder strip of ragged shore,
Where, from a rock with lichens hoar,
A ferny spring falls, babbling frore
Through woodland mosses. Gliding by
The sulphur-colored firefly
Lights its pale lamp where mallows gloom,
And wild-bean and wild-mustard bloom.—
Some hunter there within the woods
Last fall encamped, those ashes say
And campfire boughs.—The solitudes
Grow dreamy with the death of day.
VI
She sings:

Over the fields of millet
A young bird tries its wings;
And wild as a woodland rillet,{38}
Its first mad music rings rings—
Soul of my soul, where the meadows roll
What is the song it sings?
“Love, and a glad good-morrow,
Heart where the rapture is!
Good-morrow, good-morrow!
Adieu to sorrow!
Here is the road to bliss:
Where all day long you may hearken my song,
And kiss, kiss, kiss;”
Over the fields of clover,
Where the wild bee drones and sways,
The wind, like a shepherd lover,
Flutes on the fragrant ways—
Heart of my heart, where the blossoms part,
What is the air he plays?
“Love, and a song to follow,
Soul with the face a-gleam!
Come follow, come follow,
O’er hill and through hollow,
To the land o’ the bloom and beam:
Where, under the flowers, you may listen for hours,
And dream, dream, dream!”{39}
VII
He speaks, letting the boat drift:

Here the shores are irised; grasses
Clump the water gray, that glasses
Broken wood and deepened distance.
Far the musical persistence
Of a field-lark lingers low
In the west’s rich tulip-glow.
White before us flames one pointed
Star; and Day hath Night anointed
King; from out her azure ewer
Pouring starry fire, truer
Than pure gold. Star-crowned he stands
With the starlight in his hands.
Will the moon bleach through the ragged
Tree-tops ere we reach yon jagged
Rock that rises gradually,
Pharos of our homeward valley?—
All the west is smouldering red;
Embers are the stars o’erhead.
At my soul some Protean elf is:
You ’re Simætha; I am Delphis,
You are Sappho and your Phaon,{40}
I.—We love.—There lies our way, on,—
Let us say,—Æolian seas,
To the violet Lesbian leas.
On we drift. I love you. Nearer
Looms our Island. Rosier, clearer,
The Leucadian cliff we follow,
Where the temple of Apollo
Shines—a pale and pillared fire….
Strike, oh, strike the Lydian lyre!—
Out of Hellas blows the breeze
Singing to the Sapphic seas.
VIII
Landing, he sings:

Night, night, ’t is night. The moon drifts low above us,
And all its gold is tangled in the stream:
Love, love, my love, and all the stars, that love us,
The stars smile down and every star ’s a dream.
In odorous purple, where the falling warble
Of water cascades and the plunged foam glows,
A columned ruin lifts its sculptured marble
Friezed with the chiselled rebeck and the rose.
{41}

She sings:

Sleep, sleep, sweet sleep sleeps at the drifting tiller,
And in our sail the Spirit of the Rain—
Love, love, my love, ah, bid thy heart be stiller,
And, hark! the music of the singing main.
What flowers are those that blow their balm unto us,
From mouths of wild aroma, each a flame?—
Or is it Love that breathes? sweet Love who drew us,
Who kissed our eyes and made us see the same?
He speaks:

Dreams; dreams we dream! no dream that we would banish!
The temple and the nightingale are there!
Our love hath made them, nevermore to vanish,
Real as yon moon, this wild-rose in your hair.
Night, night, ’tis night!—and Love’s own star ’s before us,
Its starred reflection in the starry stream.—
Yes, yes, ah yes! his presence shall watch o’er us,
To-night, to-night, and every night we dream.
{42}

IX
Homeward through flowers; she speaks:

Behold the offerings of the common hills!
Whose lowly names have made them three times dear:
One evening-primrose and an apron-full
Of violets; and there, in multitudes,
Dim-seen in moonlight, sweet cerulean wan,
The bluet, making heaven of every dell
With morn’s ambrosial blue: dew-dropping plumes
Of the mauve beard’s-tongue; and the red-freaked cups
Of blackberry-lilies all along the creek,
Where, lulled, the freckled silence sleeps, and vague
The water flows, when, at high noon, the cows
Wade knee-deep, and the heat is honied with
The drone of drowsy bees and dizzy flies.
How bright the moon is on that fleur-de-lis;
Blue, streaked with crystal like a summer day:
And is it moonlight there? or is it flowers?
White violets? lilies? or a daisy bed?
And now the wind, with softest lullaby,
Swings all their cradled heads and rocks-to-sleep{43}
Their fragrant faces and their golden eyes,
Curtained, and frailly wimpled with the dew.
Simple suggestions of a life most fair!
Flowers, you speak of love and untaught faith,
Whose habitation is within the soul,
Not of the Earth, yet for the Earth indeed….
What is it halcyons my heart? makes calm,
With calmness not of knowledge, all my soul
This night of nights?—Is ’t love? or faith? or both?—
The lore of all the world is less than these
Simple suggestions of a life most fair,
And love most sweet that I have learned to know!
X
He speaks, musingly:

Yes, I have known its being so;
Long ago was I seeing so—
Beckoning on to a fairer land,
Out of the flowers it waved its hand;
Bidding me on to life and love,
Life with the hope of the love thereof.{44}
What is the value of knowing it,
If you are shy in showing it?—
Need of the earth unfolds the flower,
Dewy sweet, at the proper hour;
And, in the world of the human heart,
Love is the flower’s counterpart.
So when the soul is heedable,
Then is the heart made readable.—
I in the book of your heart have read
Words that are truer than truth hath said:
Measures of love, the spirit’s song,
Writ of your soul to haunt me long.
Love can hear each laudable
Thought of the loved made audible,
Spoken in wonder, or joy, or pain,
And reëcho it back again:
Ever responsive, ever awake,
Ever replying with ache for ache.
XI
She speaks, dreamily:

Earth gives its flowers to us
And heaven its stars. Indeed,
These are as lips that woo us,{45}
Those are as lights that lead,
With love that doth pursue us,
With hope that still doth speed.
Yet shall the flowers lie riven,
And lips forget to kiss;
The stars fade out of heaven,
And lights lead us amiss—
As love for which we ’ve striven;
As hope that promises.
XII
He laughs, wishing to dispel her seriousness:

If love I have had of you, you had of me,
Then doubtless our loving were over;
One would be less than the other, you see;
Since what you returned to your lover
Were only his own; and—
XIII
She interrupts him, speaking impetuously:

But if I lose you, if you part with me,
I will not love you less
Loving so much now. If there is to be
A parting and distress,—{46}
What will avail to comfort or relieve
The soul that’s anguished most?—
The knowledge that it once possessed, perceive,
The love that it has lost.
You must acknowledge, under sun and moon
All that we feel is old;
Let morning flutter from night’s brown cocoon
Wide wings of flaxen gold;
The moon burst through the darkness, soaring o’er,
Like some great moth and white,
These have been seen a myriad times before
And with renewed delight.—
So ’tis with love;—how old yet new it is!—
This only should we heed,—
To once have known, to once have felt love’s bliss,
Is to be rich indeed.—
Whether we win or lose, we lose or win,
Within our gain or loss
Some purpose lies, some end unseen of sin,
Beyond our crown or cross.
XIV
Nearing her home, he speaks:

True, true!—Perhaps it would be best
To be that lone star in the west;{47}
Above the earth, within the skies,
Yet shining here in your blue eyes.
Or, haply, better here to blow
A flower beneath your window low;
That, brief of life and frail and fair,
Finds yet a heaven in your hair.
Or well, perhaps, to be the breeze
That sighs its soul out to the trees;
A voice, a breath of rain or drouth,
That has its wild will with your mouth.
These things I long to be. I long
To be the burthen of some song
You love to sing; a melody,
Sure of sweet immortality.
XV
At the gate. She speaks:

Sunday shall we ride together?
Not the root-rough, rambling way
Through the wood we went that day,
In last summer’s sultry weather.
Past the Methodist camp-meeting,
Where religion helped the hymn{48}
Gather volume; and a slim
Minister, with textful greeting,
Welcomed us and still expounded.—
From the service on the hill
We had passed three hills and still
Loud, though far, the singing sounded.
Nor that road through weed and berry
Drowsy days led me and you
To the old-time barbecue,
Where the country-side made merry.
Dusty vehicles together;
Darkies with the horses near
Tied to trees; the atmosphere
Redolent of bark and leather,
And of burgoo and of beef; there
Roasting whole within the trench;
Near which spread the long pine bench
Under shading limb and leaf there.
As we went the homeward journey
You exclaimed, “They intermix
Pleasure there and politics,
Love and war: our modern tourney.”{49}
And the fiddles!—through the thickets,
How they thumped the old quadrille!
Scraping, droning on the hill,
It was like a swarm of crickets….
Neither road! The shady quiet
Of that path by beech and birch,
Winding to the ruined church
Near the stream that sparkles by it.
Where the silent Sundays listen
For the preacher—Love—we bring
In our hearts to preach and sing
Week-day shade to Sabbath glisten.
XVI
He, at parting:

Yes, to-morrow. Early morn.—
When the House of Day uncloses
Portals that the stars adorn,—
Whence Light’s golden presence throws his
Flaming lilies, burning roses,
At the wide wood’s world of wall,
Spears of sparkle at each fall:
Then together we will ride
To the wood’s cathedral places;{50}
Where, like prayers, the wildflowers hide,
Sabbath in their fairy faces;
Where, in truest, untaught phrases,
Worship in each rhythmic word,
God is praised by many a bird.
Look above you.—Pearly white,
Star on star now crystallizes
Out of darkness: Afric night
Hangs them round her like devices
Of strange jewels. Vapor rises,
Glimmering, from each wood and dell.—
Till to-morrow, then, farewell.
XVII
She tarries at the gate a moment, watching him disappear down the lane. He sings, and the sound of his singing grows fainter and fainter and at last dies away in the distance:

Say, my heart, O my heart,
These be the eves for speaking!
There is no wight will work us spite
Beneath the sunset’s streaking.
Yes, my sweet, O my sweet,
Now is the time for telling!{51}
To walk together in starry weather
Down lanes with elder smelling.
O my heart, yes, my heart,
Now is the time for saying!
When lost in dreams each wildflower seems
And every blossom praying.
Lean, my sweet, listen, sweet,—
No sweeter time than this is,—
So says the rose, the moth that knows,—
To take sweet toll in kisses.
{52}

PART III

LATE SUMMER
Heat lightning flickers in one cloud,
As in a flower a firefly;
Some rain-drops, that the rose-bush bowed,
Jar through the leaves and dimly lie:
Among the trees, now low, now loud,
The whispering breezes sigh.
The place is lone; the night is hushed;
Upon the path a rose lies crushed.
I
Musing, he strolls among the quiet lanes by farm and field:

Now rests the season in forgetfulness,
Careless in beauty of maturity;
The ripened roses round brown temples, she
Fulfils completion in a dreamy guess.
Now Time grants night the more and day the less:
The gray decides; and brown,{53}
Dim golds and drabs in dulling green express
Themselves and redden as the year goes down.
Sadder the fields where, thrusting hoary high
Their tasseled heads, the Lear-like corn-stocks die,
And, Falstaff-like, buff-bellied pumpkins lie.—
Deeper to tenderness,
Sadder the blue of hills that lounge along
The lonesome west; sadder the song
Of the wild red-bird in the leafage yellow.—
Deeper and dreamier, ay!
Than woods or waters, leans the languid sky
Above lone orchards where the cider-press
Drips and the russets mellow.
Nature grows liberal: from the beechen leaves
The beech-nuts’ burrs their little pockets thrust,
Bulged with the copper of the nuts that rust;
Above the grass the spendthrift spider weaves
A web of silver for which dawn designs
Thrice twenty rows of pearls: beneath the oak,
That rolls old roots in many gnarly lines,—
The polished acorns, from their saucers broke,
Strew oval agates.—On sonorous pines
The far wind organs; but the forest near
Is silent; and the blue-white smoke{54}
Of burning brush, beyond that field of hay,
Hangs like a pillar in the atmosphere;
But now it shakes—it breaks and all the
vines And tree-tops tremble;—see! the wind is here!
Billowing and boisterous; and the smiling day
Rejoices in its clamor. Earth and sky
Resound with glory of its majesty,
Impetuous splendor of its rushing by.—
But on those heights the forest still is still,
Expectant of its coming…. Far away
Each anxious tree upon each waiting hill
Tingles anticipation, as in gray
Surmise of rapture. Now the first gusts play,
Like laughter low, about their rippling spines;
And now the wildwood, one exultant sway,
Shouts—and the light at each tumultuous pause,
The light that glooms and shines,
Seems hands in wild applause.
How glows that garden! though the white mists keep
The vagabonding flowers reminded of
Decay that comes to slay in open love,{55}
When the full moon hangs cold and night is deep;
Unheeding still, their cardinal colors leap
And laugh encircled of the scythe of death,—
Like lovely children he prepares to reap,—
Staying his blade a breath
To mark their beauty ere, with one last sweep,
He lays them dead and turns away to weep.—
Let me admire,—
Before the sickle of the coming cold
Shall mow them down,—their beauties manifold:
How like to spurts of fire
That scarlet salvia lifts its blooms, which heap
Yon square of sunlight. And, as sparkles creep
Through charring parchment, up that window’s screen
The cypress dots with crimson all its green,
The haunt of many bees.
Cascading dark those porch-built lattices,
The nightshade bleeds with berries; drops of blood,
Hanging in clusters, ’mid the blue monk’s-hood.{56}
There, in that garden old,
The bright-hued clumps of zinnias unfold
Their formal flowers; and the marigold
Lifts its pinched shred of orange sunset caught
And elfed in petals. The nasturtium,
All pungent leaved and acrid of perfume,
Hangs up its goblin bonnet, fairy-brought
From Gnomeland. There, predominant red,
And arrogant, the dahlia lifts its head,
Beside the balsam’s rose-stained horns of honey,
Deep in the murmuring, sunny,
Dry wildness of the weedy flower-bed;
Where crickets and the weed-bugs, noon and night,
Shrill dirges for the flowers that soon will die,
And flowers already dead.—
I seem to hear the passing Summer sigh:
A voice, that seems to weep,
“Too soon, too soon the Beautiful passes by!
And soon, amid her bowers,
Will dripping Autumn mourn with all her flowers.”—
If I, perchance, might peep
Beneath those leaves of podded hollyhocks,
That the bland wind with odorous whispers rocks,{57}
I might behold her,—white
And weary,—Summer, ’mid her flowers asleep,
Her drowsy flowers asleep,
The withered poppies knotted in her locks.
II
He is reminded of another day with her:

The hips were reddening on this rose,
Those haws were hung with fire,
That day we went this way that goes
Up hills of bough and brier.
This hooked thorn caught her gown and seemed
Imploring her to linger;
Upon her hair a sun-ray streamed
Like some baptizing finger.
This false-foxglove, so golden now
With yellow blooms, like bangles,
Was bloomless then. But yonder bough,—
The sumac’s plume entangles,—
Was like an Indian’s painted face;
And, like a squaw, attended
That bush, in vague vermilion grace,
With beads of berries splendid.{58}
And here we turned to mount that hill,
Down which the wild brook tumbles;
And, like to-day, that day was still,
And mild winds swayed the umbels
Of these wild-carrots, lawny gray:
And there, deep-dappled o’er us,
An orchard stretched; and in our way
Dropped ripened fruit before us.
With muffled thud the pippin fell,
And at our feet rolled dusty;
A hornet clinging to its bell,
The pear lay bruised and rusty:
The smell of pulpy peach and plum,
From which the juice oozed yellow,—
Around which bees made sleepy hum,—
Made warm the air and mellow.
And then we came where, many-hued,
The wet wild morning-glory
Hung its balloons in shadows dewed
For dawning’s offertory:
With bush and bramble, far away,
Beneath us stretched the valley,
Cleft of one creek, as clear as day,
That rippled musically.{59}
The brown, the bronze, the green, the red
Of weed and brier ran riot
To walls of woods, whose pathways led
To nooks of whispering quiet:
Long waves of feathering goldenrod
Ran through the gray in patches,
As in a cloud the gold of God
Burns, that the sunset catches.
And there, above the blue hills rolled,
Like some far conflagration,
The sunset, flaming marigold,
We watched in exultation:
Then, turning homeward, she and I
Went in love’s sweet derangement—
How different now seem earth and sky,
Since this undreamed estrangement.
III
He enters the woods. He sits down despondently:

Here where the day is dimmest,
And silence company,
Some might find sympathy
For loss, or grief the grimmest,
In each great-hearted tree—{60}
Here where the day is dimmest—
But, ah, there ’s none for me!
In leaves might find communion,
Returning sigh for sigh,
For love the heavens deny;
The love that yearns for union,
Yet parts and knows not why.—
In leaves might find communion—
But, ah, not I, not I!
My eyes with tears are aching.—
Why has she written me?
And will no longer see?—
My heart with grief is breaking,
With grief that this should be.—
My eyes with tears are aching—
Why has she written me?
IV
He proceeds in the direction of a stream:

Better is death than sleep,
Better for tired eyes.—
Why do we weep and weep
When near us the solace lies?
There, in that stream, that, deep,—{61}
Reflecting woods and skies,—
Could comfort all our sighs.
The mystery of things,
Of dreams, philosophies,
To which the mortal clings,
That can unriddle these.—
What is ’t the water sings?
What is ’t it promises?—
End to my miseries!
V
He seats himself on a rock and gazes steadily into the stream:

And here alone I sit and it is so!—
O vales and hills! O valley-lands and knobs!
What cure have you for woe?
What balm that robs
The brain of thought, the knowledge of its woe?
None! none! ah me! that my sick heart may know!—
The wearying sameness!—yet this thing is so!
This thing is so, and still the waters flow,
The leaves drop slowly down; the daylight throbs
With sun and wind, and yet this thing is so!{62}
There is no sympathy in heaven or earth
For human sorrow! all we see is mirth,
Or madness; cruelty or lust;
Nature is heedless of her children’s grief;
Man is to her no more than is a leaf,
That buds and has its summer, that is brief,
Then falls, and mixes with the common dust.
Here, at this culvert’s mouth,
The shadowy water, flowing toward the south,
Seems deepest, stagnant-stayed.—
What is it yonder that makes me afraid?
Of my own self afraid?—I do not know!—
What power draws me to the striate stream?
What evil? or what dream?
Me! dropping pebbles in the quiet wave,
That echoes, strange as music in a cave,
Hollow and thin; vibrating in the shade,
As if ’t were tears that fell, and, falling, made
A crystal sound, a shadow wail of woe,
Wrung from the rocks and waters there below;
An ailing phantom that will not be laid;
Complaining ghosts of sobs that fill my breast,—
That will not forth,—and give my heart no rest.{63}
There, in the water, how the lank sword-grass
Mats its long blades, each blade a crooked kris,
Making a marsh; ’mid which the currents miss
Their rock-born melodies.
But there and there, one sees
The wide-belled mallow, as within a glass,
Long-pistiled, leaning o’er
The root-contorted shore,
As if its own pink image it would kiss.
And there the tangled wild-potato vine
Lifts beakered blossoms, each a cup of wine,
As pale as moonlight is:—
No mandrake, curling convolutions up,
Loops heavier blossoms, each a conical cup
That swoons moon-nectar and a serpent’s hiss.—
And there tall gipsy lilies, all a-sway,
Of coppery hue
Streaked as with crimson dew,
Mirror fierce faces in the deeps,
O’er which they lean, bent in inverted view.—
And where the stream around those rushes creeps,
The dragon-fly, in endless error, keeps
Sewing the pale-gold gown of day
With tangled stitches of a burning blue:{64}
Its brilliant body is a needle fine,
A thread of azure ray,
Black-pinioned, shuttling the shade and shine.
But here before me where my pensive shade
Looks up at me, the stale stream, stagnant, lies,
Deep, dark, but clear and silent; streaked with hues
Of ragweed pollen, and of spawny ooze,
Through which the seeping bubbles, bursting, rise.—
All flowers here refuse
To grow or blossom; beauties, too, are few,
That haunt its depths: no glittering minnows braid
Its sleepy crystal; and no gravels strew
With colored orbs its bottom. Half afraid
I shrink from my own eyes
There in its cairngorm of reflected skies.—
I know not why, and yet it seems I see—
What is ’t I see there moving stealthily?
I know not what!—But where the kildees wade,
Slim in the foamy scum,
From that direction hither doth it come,
Whate’er it is, that makes my soul afraid.{65}
Nearer it draws to where those low rocks ail,
Warm rocks, on which some water-snake hath clomb,
Basking its spotted body, coiling numb,
Brown in the brindled shade.—
At first it seemed a prism on the grail,
A bubble’s prism, like the shadow made
Of water-striders; then a trail,
An angled sparkle in a webby veil
Of duckweed, green as verdigris, it swayed
Frog-like through deeps, to crouch, a flaccid, pale,
Squat bulk below….
I gaze, and though I would, I can not go.
Reflected trees and skies,
And breeze-blown clouds that lounge at sunny loss,
Seem in its stolid eyes,
Its fishy gaze, that holds me in strange wise.
Ghoul-like it seems to rise,
And now to sink; its eldritch features fail,
Then come again in rhythmic waviness,
With arms like tentacles that seem to press
Thro’ weed and water: limbs that writhe and fade,
And clench, and twist, and toss,{66}
Root-like and gnarled, and cross and inter-cross
Through flabby hair of smoky moss.
How horrible to see this thing at night!
Or when the sunset slants its brimstone light
Above the pool! when, blue, in phantom flight,
The will-o’-the-wisps, perhaps, above it reel.
Then, haply, would it rise, a rotting green,
Up, up, and gather me with arms of steel,
Soft steel, and drag me where the wave is white,
Beneath that boulder brown, that plants a keel
Against the ripple there, a shoulder lean.—
No, no! I must away before ’tis night!
Before the fireflies dot
The dark with sulphur blurrings bright!
Before, upon that height,
The white wild-carrots vanish from the sight;
And boneset blossoms, tossing there in clusters,
Fade to a ridge, a streak of ghostly lustres:
And, in that sunlit spot,
Yon cedar tree is not!
But a huge cap instead, that, half-asleep,
Some giant dropped while driving home his sheep:
And ’mid those fallow browns{67}
And russet grays, the fragrant peak
Of yonder timothy stack,
Is not a stack, but something hideous, black,
That threatens and, grotesquely demon, frowns.
I must away from here.—
Already dusk draws near.
The owlet’s dolorous hoot
Sounds quavering as a gnome’s wild flute;
The toad, within the wet,
Begins to tune its goblin flageolet:
The slow sun sinks behind
Those hills; and, like a withered cheek
Of Quaker quiet, sorrow-burdened, there
The spectral moon ’s defined
Above those trees,—as in a wild-beast’s lair
A golden woman, dead, with golden hair,—
Above that mass of fox-grape vines
That, like a wrecked appentice, roofs those pines.—
Oh, I am faint and weak.—
I must away, away!
Before the close of day!—
Already at my back
I feel the woods grow black;
And sense the evening wind,{68}
Guttural and gaunt and blind,
Whining behind me like an unseen wolf.
Deeper now seems the gulf
Into whose deeps I gaze;
From which, with madness and amaze,
That seems to rise, the horror there,
With webby hands and mossy eyes and hair.—
Oh, will it pierce,
With all its feelers fierce,
Beyond the pool’s unhallowed water-streak?—
Yes; I must go, must go!
Must leave this ghastly creek,
This place of hideous fear!
For everywhere I hear
A dripping footstep near,
A voice, like water, gurgling at my ear,
Saying, “Come to me! come and rest below!
Sleep and forget her and with her thy woe!”—
I try to fly.—I can not.—Yes, and no!—
What madness holds me!—God! that obscene, slow,
Sure mastering chimera there,
Perhaps, has fastened round my neck,
Or in my matted hair,
Some horrible feeler, dire, invisible!—
Off, off! thou hoop of Hell!{69}
Thou devil’s coil!…
Back, back into thy cesspool! Off of me!—
See, how the waters thrash and boil!
At last! at last! thank God! my soul is free!
My mind is freed of that vile mesmerism
That drew me to—what end? my God! what end?
Haply ’twas merely fancy, that strange fiend:
My fancy, and a prism
Of sunset in the stream, a firefly fleck,
That now, a lamp of golden fairy oil,
Lights me my homeward way, the way I flee.
No more I stare, magnetic-fixed; nor reck,
Nor little care to foil
The madness there! the murder there! that slips
Back to its lair of slime, that seeps and drips,
That sought in vain to fasten on my lips.
VI
Taking a letter from his pocket, he hurries away:

What can it mean for me? what have I done to her?
I, in our season of love as a sun to her:
She, all my heaven of silvery, numberless{70}
Stars and its moon, shining golden and slumberless;
Who on my life, that was thorny and lowery,
Came—and made beautiful; smiled—and made flowery.
She, to my heart and my soul a divinity!
She, who—I dreamed!—seemed my spirit-affinity!—
What have I done to her? what have I done?
What can she mean by this?—what have I said to her?
I, who have idolized, worshiped, and pled to her;
Sung with her, laughed with her, sorrowed and sighed for her;
Lived for her only; and gladly had died for her!
See! she has written me thus! she has written me—
Sooner would dagger or serpent had smitten me!—
Would you had shriveled ere ever you’d read of it,
Eyes, that are wide to the grief and the dread of it!—
What have I said to her? what have I said?{71}
What shall I make of it? I who am trembling,
Fearful of losing.—A moth, the dissembling
Flame of a taper attracts with its guttering,
Flattering on till its body lies fluttering,
Scorched in the summer night.—Foolish, importunate,
Why didst thou quit the cool flowers, unfortunate!—
Such has she been to me, making me such to her!—
Slaying me, saying I never was much to her!—
What shall I make of it? what can I make?
Love, in thy everglades, moaning and motionless,
Look, I have fallen; the evil is potionless:
I, with no thought but the day that did lock us in,
Set naked feet ’mid the cottonmouth-moccasin,
Under the roses, the Cherokee, eying me:—
I,—in the heav’n with the egrets that, flying me,
Winging like blooms from magnolias, rose slenderly,
Pearl and pale pink: where the mocking-bird tenderly{72}
Sang, making vistas of mosses melodious,
Wandered,—unheeding my steps,—in the odious
Ooze and the venom. I followed the wiry
Violet curve of thy star falling fiery—
So was I lost in night! thus am undone!
Have I not told to her—living alone for her—
Purposed unfoldments of deeds I had sown for her
Here in the soil of my soul? their variety
Endless—and ever she answered with piety.
See! it has come to this—all the tale’s suavity
At the ninth chapter grows hateful with gravity;
Cruel as death all our beautiful history—
Close it!—the final is more than a mystery.—
Yes; I will go to her; yes; and will speak.
VII
After the final meeting; the day following:

I seem to see her still; to see
That blue-hung room. Her perfume comes
From lavender folds, draped dreamily,—{73}
A-blossom with brocaded blooms,—
Some stuff of orient looms.
I seem to hear her speak; and back,
Where sleeps the sun on books and piles
Of porcelain and bric-à-brac,
A tall clock ticks above the tiles,
Where Love’s framed profile smiles.
I hear her say, “Ah, had I known!—
I suffer too for what has been—
For what must be.”—A wild ache shone
In her sad gaze that seemed to lean
On something far, unseen.
And as in sleep my own self seems
Outside my suffering self.—I flush
’Twixt facts and undetermined dreams,
And stand, as silent as that hush
Of lilac light and plush.
Smiling, but suffering, I feel,
Beneath that face, so sweet and sad,
In those pale temples, thoughts, like steel,
Pierce burningly…. I had gone mad
Had I once thought her glad.—{74}
Unconsciously, with eyes that yearn
To look beyond the present far,
For one faint future hope, I turn—
There, in her garden, one fierce star,
A cactus, red as war,
Vermilion as a storm-sunk sun,
Flames torrid splendor,—brings to life
A sunset; memory of one
Rich eve she said she ’d be my wife;
An eve with beauty rife.
Again amid the heavy hues,
Soft crimson, seal, and satiny gold
Of flowers there, I stood ’mid dews
With her; deep in her garden old,
While sunset’s flame unrolled.
And now!… It can not be! and yet
To see ’tis so!—In heart and brain
To know ’tis so!—While, warm and wet,
I seem to smell those scents again,
Verbena scents and rain.
I turn, in hope she ’ll bid me stay.
Again her cameo beauty mark
Set in that smile.—She turns away.{75}
No farewell! no regret! no spark
Of hope to cheer the dark!
That sepia sketch—conceive it so—
A jaunty head with mouth and eyes
Tragic beneath a rose-chapeau,
Silk-masked, unmasking—it denies
The look we half surmise,
We know is there. ’Tis thus we read
The true beneath the false; perceive
The ache beneath the smile.—Indeed!
Whose soul unmasks?… Not mine!—I grieve,—
Oh God!—but laugh and leave….
VIII
He walks aimlessly on:

Beyond those knotted apple-trees,
That partly hide the old brick barn,
Its tattered arms and tattered knees
A scarecrow tosses to the breeze
Among the shocks of corn.
My heart is gray as is the day,
In which the rain-wind drearily{76}
Makes all the rusty branches sway,
And in the hollows, by each way,
The dead leaves rustle wearily.
And soon we ’ll hear the far wild-geese
Honk in frost-bitten heavens under
Arcturus; when my walks must cease,
And by the fireside’s log-heaped peace
I ’ll sit and nod and ponder.—
When every fall of this loud creek
Is silent with the frost; and tented
Brown acres of the corn stretch bleak
And shaggy with the snows, that streak
The hillsides, hollow-dented;
I ’ll sit and dream of that glad morn
We met by banks with elder snowing;
That dusk we strolled through flower and thorn,
By tasseled meads of cane and corn,
To where the stream was flowing.
Again I ’ll oar our boat among
The dripping lilies of the river,
To reach her hat, the grape-vine long
Struck in the stream; we ’ll row to song;
{77}And then … I ’ll wake and shiver.
Why is it that my mind reverts
To that sweet past? while full of parting
The present is: so full of hurts
And heartache, that what it asserts
Adds only to the smarting.
How often shall I sit and think
Of that sweet past! through lowered lashes
What-might-have-been trace link by link;
Then watch it gradually sink
And crumble into ashes.
Outside I ’ll hear the sad wind weep
Like some lone spirit, grieved, forsaken;
Then, shuddering, to bed will creep,
To lie awake, or, haply, sleep
A sleep by visions shaken.
By visions of the past, that draw
The present in a hue that’s wanting;
A scarecrow thing of sticks and straw,—
Like that just now I, passing, saw,—
Its empty tatters flaunting.
IX
He compares the present day with a past one:

The sun a splintered splendor was
In trees, whose waving branches blurred{78}
Its disc, that day we went together,
’Mid wild-bee hum and whirring buzz
Of locusts, through the fields that purred
With summer in the perfect weather.
So sweet it was to look, and lean
To her young face and feel the light
Of eyes that met my own unsaddened!
Her laugh that left lips more serene;
Her speech that blossomed like the white
Life-everlasting there and gladdened.
Maturing summer, you were fraught
With more of beauty then than now
Parades the pageant of September:
Where What-is-now contrasts in thought
With What-was-once, that bloom and bough
Can only help me to remember.
X
He pauses before a deserted house by the wayside:

Through ironweeds and roses
And scraggy beech and oak,
Old porches it discloses
Above the weeds and roses
The drizzling raindrops soak.{79}
Neglected walks a-tangle
With dodder-strangled grass;
And every mildewed angle
Heaped with dead leaves that spangle
The paths that round it pass.
The creatures there that bury
Or hide within its rooms
And spidered closets—very
Dim with old webs—will hurry
Out when the evening glooms.
Owls roost on beam and basement;
Bats haunt its hearth and porch;
And, by each ruined casement,
Flits, in the moon’s enlacement,
The wisp, like some wild torch.
There is a sense of frost here,
And winds that sigh alway
Of something that was lost here,
Long, long ago was lost here,
But what, they can not say.
My foot, perhaps, would startle
Some owl that mopes within;
Some bat above its portal,{80}
That frights the daring mortal,
And guards its cellared sin.
The creaking road winds by it
This side the dusty toll.—
Why do I stop to eye it?
My heart can not deny it—
The house is like my soul.
XI
He proceeds on his way:

I bear a burden—look not therein!
Naught will you find save sorrow and sin;
Sorrow and sin that wend with me
Wherever I go. And misery,
A gaunt companion, my wretched bride,
Goes ever with me, side by side.
Sick of myself and all the earth,
I ask my soul now: Is life worth
The little pleasure that we gain
For all our sorrow and our pain?
The love, to which we gave our best,
That turns a mockery and a jest?
{81}

XII
Among the twilight fields:

The things we love, the loveliest things we cherish,
Pass from us soonest, vanish utterly.
Dust are our deeds, and dust our dreams that perish
Ere we can say They be!
I have loved man and learned we are not brothers—
Within myself, perhaps, may lie the cause;—
Then set one woman high above all others,
And found her full of flaws.
Made unseen stars my keblahs of devotion;
Aspired to knowledge, and remained a clod:
With heart and soul, led on by blind emotion,
The way to failure trod.
Chance, say, or fate, that works through good and evil;
Or destiny, that nothing may retard,
That to some end, above life’s empty level,
Perhaps withholds reward.
{82}

PART IV

LATE AUTUMN
They who die young are blest.—
Should we not envy such?—
They are Earth’s happiest,
God-loved and favored much!—
They who die young are blest.
I
Sick and sad, propped with pillows, she sits at her window:

When the dog’s-tooth violet comes
With April showers,
And the wild-bee haunts and hums
About the flowers,
We shall never wend as when
Love laughed leading us from men
Over violet vale and glen,
Where the red-bird sang for hours,
And we heard the flicker drum.{83}
Now November heavens are gray:
Autumn kills
Every joy—like leaves of May
In the rills.—
Here I sit and lean and listen
To a voice that has arisen
In my heart; with eyes that glisten
Gazing at the happy hills,
Fading dark blue, far away.
II
She looks down upon the dying garden:

There rank death clutches at the flowers
And drags them down and stamps in earth.
At morn the thin, malignant hours,
Shrill-voiced, among the wind-torn bowers,
Clamor a bitter mirth—
Or is it heartbreak that, forlorn,
Would so conceal itself in scorn.
At noon the weak, white sunlight crawls,
Like feeble age, once beautiful,
From mildewed walks to mildewed walls,
Down which the oozing moisture falls
Upon the cold toadstool:—
Faint on the leaves it drips and creeps—
Or is it tears of love who weeps?{84}
At night a misty blur of moon
Slips through the trees,—pale as a face
Of melancholy marble hewn;—
And, like the phantom of some tune,
Winds whisper in the place—
Or is it love come back again,
Seeking its perished joy in vain?
III
She muses upon the past:

When, in her cloudy chiton,
Spring freed the frozen rills,
And walked in rainbowed light on
The blossom-blowing hills;
Beyond the world’s horizon,
That no such glory lies on,
And no such hues bedizen,
Love led us far from ills.
When Summer came, a sickle
Stuck in her sheaf of beams,
And let the honey trickle
From out her bee-hives’ seams;
Within the violet-blotted
Sweet book to us allotted,—
Whose lines are flower-dotted,—
Love read us many dreams.{85}
Then Autumn came,—a liar,
A fair-faced heretic;—
In gypsy garb of fire,
Throned on a harvest rick.—
Our lives, that fate had thwarted,
Stood pale and broken-hearted,—
Though smiling when we parted,—
Where love to death lay sick.
Now is the Winter waited,
The tyrant hoar and old,
With death and hunger mated,
Who counts his crimes like gold.—
Once more, before forever
We part—once more, then never!—
Once more before we sever,
Must I his face behold!
IV
She takes up a book and reads:

What little things are those
That hold our happiness!
A smile, a glance; a rose
Dropped from her hair or dress;
A word, a look, a touch,—
These are so much, so much.{86}
An air we can’t forget;
A sunset’s gold that gleams;
A spray of mignonette,
Will fill the soul with dreams,
More than all history says,
Or romance of old days.
For, of the human heart,
Not brain, is memory;
These things it makes a part
Of its own entity;
The joys, the pains whereof
Are the very food of love.
V
She lays down the book, and sits musing:

How true! how true!—but words are weak,
In sympathy they give the soul,
To music—music, that can speak
All the heart’s pain and dole;
All that the sad heart treasures most
Of love that ’s lost, of love that ’s lost.—
I would not hear sweet music now.
My heart would break to hear it now.{87}
So weary am I, and so fain
To see his face, to feel his kiss
Thrill rapture through my soul again!—
There is no hell like this!—
Ah, God! my God, were it not best
To give me rest, to give me rest!—
Come, death, and breathe upon my brow.
Sweet death, come kiss my mouth and brow.
VI
She writes to her lover to come to her:

Dead lie the dreams we cherished,
The dreams we loved so well;
Like forest leaves they perished,
Like autumn leaves they fell.
Alas! that dreams so soon should pass!
Alas! alas!
The stream lies bleak and arid,
That once went singing on;
The flowers once that varied
Its banks are dead and gone:
Where these were once are thorns and thirst—
The place is curst.{88}
Come to me. I am lonely.
Forget all that occurred.
Come to me; if for only
One last, sad, parting word:
For one last word. Then let the pall
Fall over all.
The day and hour are suited
For what I ’d say to you
Of love that I uprooted.—
But I have suffered, too!—
Come to me; I would say good-by
Before I die.
VII
The wind rises; the trees are agitated:

Woods that beat the wind with frantic
Gestures and sow darkly round
Acorns gnarled and leaves that antic
Wildly on the rustling ground,
Is it tragic grief that saddens
Through your souls this autumn day?
Or the joy of death that gladdens
In exultance of decay?{89}
Arrogant you lift defiant
Boughs against the moaning blast,
That, like some invisible giant,
Wrapped in tumult, thunders past.
Is it that in such insurgent
Fury, tossed from tree to tree,
You would quench the fiercely urgent
Pangs of some old memory?
As in toil and violent action,
That still help them to forget,
Mortals drown the dark distraction
And insistence of regret.
VIII
She sits musing in the gathering twilight:

Last night I slept till midnight; then woke, and, far away,
A cock crowed; lonely and distant I heard a watch-dog bay:
But lonelier yet the tedious old clock ticked on to’ards day.
And what a day!—remember those morns of summer and spring,{90}
That bound our lives together! each morn a wedding-ring
Of dew, aroma, and sparkle, and buds and birds a-wing.
Clear morns, when I strolled my garden, awaiting him, the rose
Expected too, with blushes,—the Giant-of-battle that grows
A bank of radiance and fragrance, and the Maréchal-Niel that glows.
Not in vain did I wait, departed summer, amid your phlox!
’Mid the powdery crystal and crimson of your hollow hollyhocks;
Your fairy-bells and poppies, and the bee that in them rocks.
Cool-clad ’mid the pendulous purple of the morning-glory vine,
By the jewel-mine of the pansies and the snapdragons in line,
I waited, and there he met me whose heart was one with mine.
Around us bloomed my mealy-white dusty-millers gay,{91}
My lady-slippers, bashful of butterfly and ray;
My gillyflowers, spicy, each one, as a day of May.
Ah me! when I think of the handfuls of little gold coins, amass,
My bachelor’s-buttons scattered over the garden grass,
The marigolds that boasted their bits of burning brass;
More bitter I feel the autumn tighten on spirit and heart;
And regret those days, remembered as lost, that stand apart,
A chapter holy and sacred, I read with eyes that smart.
How warm was the breath of the garden when he met me there that day!
How the burnished beetle and humming-bird flew past us, each a ray!—
The memory of those meetings still bears me far away:
Again to the woods a-trysting by the water-mill I steal,{92}
Where the lilies tumble together, the madcap wind at heel;
And meet him among the flowers, the rocks and the moss conceal:
Or the wild-cat gray of the meadows that the black-eyed Susans dot,
Fawn-eyed and leopard-yellow, that tangle a tawny spot
Of languid panther beauty that dozes, summer-hot….
Ah! back again in the present! with the winds that pinch and twist
The leaves in their peevish passion, and whirl wherever they list;
With the autumn, hoary and nipping, whose mausolean mist
Entombs the sun and the daylight: each morning shaggy with fog,
That fits gray wigs on the cedars, and furs with frost each log;
That velvets white the meadows, and marbles brook and bog.—
Alone at dawn—indifferent: alone at eve—I sigh:{93}
And wait, like the wind complaining: complain and know not why:
But ailing and longing and pining because I can not die.
How dull is that sunset! dreary and cold, and hard and dead!
The ghost of those last August that, mulberry-rich and red,
The wine of God’s own vintage, poured purple overhead.
But now I sit with the sighing dead dreams of a dying year;
Like the fallen leaves and the acorns, am worthless and feel as sere,
With a soul that ’s sick of the body, whose heart is one big tear.
As I stare from my window the daylight, like a bravo, its cloak puts on.
The moon, like a cautious lanthorn, glitters, and then is gone.—
Will he come to-night? will he answer?—Ah, God! would it were dawn!
{94}

IX
He enters. Taking her in his arms he speaks:

They said you were dying.—
You shall not die!…
Why are you crying?
Why do you sigh?—
Cease that sad sighing!—
Love, it is I.
All is forgiven!—
Love is not poor;
Though he was driven
Once from your door,
Back he has striven,
To part nevermore!
Will you remember
When I forget
Words, each an ember,
That you regret,
Now in November,
Now we have met?
What if love wept once!
What though you knew!
What if he crept once{95}
Pleading to you!—
He never slept once,
Nor was untrue.
Often forgetful,
Love may forget;
Froward and fretful,
Dear, he will fret;
Ever regretful,
He will regret.
Life is completer
Through his control;
Lifted, made sweeter,
Filled and made whole,
Hearing love’s metre
Sing in the soul.
Flesh may not hear it,
Being impure;
But in the spirit,
There we are sure;
There we come near it,
There we endure.
So when to-morrow
Ceases and we
Quit this we borrow,{96}
Mortality,
What chastens sorrow
So it may see?—
(When friends are sighing;
Round one, and one
Nearer is lying,
Nearer the sun,
When one is dying
And all is done?
When there is weeping,
Weary and deep,—
God’s be the keeping
Of those who weep!—
When our loved, sleeping,
Sleep their long sleep?—)
Love! that is dearer
Than we’re aware;
Bringing us nearer,
Nearer than prayer;
Being the mirror
That our souls share.
Still you are weeping!
Why do you weep?—
Are tears in keeping{97}
With joy so deep?
Gladness so sweeping?
Hearts so in keep?
Speak to me, dearest!
Say it is true!
That I am nearest,
Dearest to you.—
Smile, with those clearest
Eyes of gray blue.
X
She smiles on him through her tears; holding his hand she speaks:

They did not say I could not live beyond this weary night,
But now I know that I shall die before the morning’s light.
How weak I am!—but you ’ll forgive me when I tell you how
I loved you—love you; and the pain it is to leave you now?
We could not wed!—Alas! the flesh, that clothes the soul of me,
Ordained at birth a sacrifice to this heredity,{98}
Denied, forbade.—Ah, you have seen the bright spots in my cheeks
Glow hectic, as before comes night the west burns blood-red streaks?
Consumption.—“But I promised you my hand?”—a thing forlorn
Of life; diseased!—O God!—and so, far better so, forsworn!—
Oh, I was jealous of your love. But think: if I had died
Ere babe of mine had come to be a solace at your side!
Had it been little then—your grief, when Heaven had made us one
In everything that’s good on earth and then the good undone?
No! no! and had I had a child—what grief and agony
To know that blight born in him, too, against all help of me!
Just when we cherished him the most, and youthful, sunny pride
Sat on his curly front, to see him die ere we had died.—{99}
Whose fault?—Ah, God!—not mine! but his, that ancestor who gave
Escutcheon to our sorrowful house, a Death’s-head and a Grave.
Beneath the pomp of those grim arms we live and may not move;
Nor faith, nor truth, nor wealth avail to hurl them down, nor love!
How could I tell you this?—not then! when all the world was spun
Of morning colors for our love to walk and dance upon.
I could not tell you how disease hid here a viper germ,
Precedence slowly claiming and so slowly fixing firm.
And when I broke my plighted troth and would not tell you why,
I loved you, thinking, “time enough when I have come to die.”
Draw off my rings and let my hands rest so … the wretched cough
{100}Will interrupt my feeble speech and will not be put off …
Ah, anyhow, my anodyne is this: to know that you
Are near and love me!—Kiss me now, as you were wont to do.
And tell me you forgive me all; and say you will forget
The sorrow of that breaking-off, the fever and the fret.—
Now set those roses near me here, and tell me death’s a lie—
{101}Once it was hard for me to live … now it is hard to die.
PART V

WINTER
We, whom God sets a task,
Striving, who ne’er attain,
We are the curst!—who ask
Death, and still ask in vain.
We, whom God sets a task.
I
In the silence of his room. After many days:

All, all are shadows. All must pass
As writing in the sand or sea:
Reflections in a looking-glass
Are not less permanent than we.
The days that mold us—what are they?
That break us on their whirling wheel?
What but the potters! we the clay
They fashion and yet leave unreal.{102}
Linked through the ages, one and all,
In long anthropomorphous chain,
The human and the animal
Inseparably must remain.
Within us still the monstrous shape
That shrieked in air and howled in slime,
What are we?—partly man and ape—
The tools of fate, the toys of time!
II
The bitterness of his bereavement speaks in him:

Vased in her bedroom window, white
As her glad girlhood, never lost,
I smelt the roses—and the night
Outside was fog and frost.
What though I claimed her dying there!
God nor one angel understood
Nor cared, who from sweet feet to hair
Had changed to snow her blood.
She had been mine so long, so long!
Our harp of life was one in word—
Why did death thrust his hand among
The chords and break one chord!{103}
What lily lilier than her face!
More virgin than her lips I kissed!
When morn, like God, with gold and grace,
Broke massed in mist! broke massed in mist!
III
Her dead face seems to rise up before him:

The face that I said farewell to,
Pillowed a flower on flowers,
Comes back, with its eyes to tell to
My soul what my heart should quell to
Calm, that is mine at hours.
Dear, is your soul still daggered
There by something amiss?
Love—is he ever laggard?
Hope—is her face still haggard?
Tell me what it is!
You, who are done with to-morrow!
Done with these worldly skies!
Done with our pain and sorrow!
Done with the griefs we borrow!
Joys that are born of sighs!
Must we say “gone forever?”
Or will it all come true?{104}
Does mine touch your thought ever?
And, over the doubts that sever,
Rise to the fact that ’s you?
Love, in my flesh so fearful,
Medicine me this pain!—
Love, with the eyes so tearful,
How can my soul be cheerful,
Seeing its joy is slain!…
Gone!—’t was only a vision!—
Gone! like a thought, a gleam!—
Such to our indecision
Utter no empty mission;—
Truth is in all we dream!
IV
He sinks into deep thought:

There are shadows that compel us,
There are powers that control:
More than substance these can tell us,
Speaking to the human soul.
In the moonlight, when it glistened
On my window, white of glow,
Once I woke and, leaning, listened
To a voice that sang below.{105}
Full of gladness, full of yearning,
Strange with dreamy melody,
Like a bird whose heart was burning,
Wildly sweet it sang to me.
I arose; and by the starlight,
Pale beneath the summer sky,
There I saw it, full of far light,—
My dead joy go singing by.
In the darkness, when the glimmer
Of the storm was on the pane,
Once I sat and heard a dimmer
Voice lamenting in the rain.
Full of parting and unspoken
Heartbreak, faint with agony,
Like a bird whose heart was broken,
Moaning low it cried to me.
I arose; and in the darkness,
Wan beneath the winter sky,
There I saw it, cold to starkness,—
My dead love go wailing by.
{106}

V
He arouses from his abstraction, buries his face in his hands and thinks:

So long it seems since last I saw her face,
So long ago it seems,
Like some sad soul in unconjectured space,
Still seeking happiness through perished grace
And unrealities, a little while
Illusions lead me, ending in the smile
Of Death, triumphant in a thorny place,
Among Love’s ruined roses and dead dreams.
Since she is gone, no more I feel the light,—
Since she has left all dark,—
Cleave, with its revelation, all the night.
I wander blindly, on a crumbling height,
Among the fragments and the wrecks and stones
Of Life, where Hope, amid Life’s skulls and bones,
With weary face, disheartened, wild and white,
Trims her pale lamp with its expiring spark.
Now she is dead, the Soul, naught can o’erawe,—
Now she is gone from me,—
Questions God’s justice that seems full of flaw,
As is His world, where misery is law,{107}
And all men fools, too willing to be slaves.—
My House of Faith, built up on dust of graves,
The wind of doubt sweeps down as made of straw,
And all is night and I no longer see.
VI
He looks from his window toward the sombre west:

Ridged and bleak the gray, forsaken
Twilight at the night has guessed;
And no star of dusk has taken
Flame unshaken in the west.
All day long the woodlands, dying,
Moaned, and drippings as of grief
Rained from barren boughs with sighing
Death of flying twig and leaf.
Ah, to live a life unbroken
Of the flings and scorns of fate!
Like that tree, with branches oaken,
Strength’s unspoken intimate.—
Who can say that we have never
Lived the life of plants and trees?—
Not so wide the lines that sever
Us forever here from these.{108}
Colors, odors, that are cherished,
Haply hint we once were flowers:
Memory alone has perished
In this garnished world that’s ours.
Music,—that all things expresses,
All for which we’ve sought and sinned,—
Haply in our treey tresses
Once was guesses of the wind.
But I dream!—The dusk, dark braiding
Locks that lack both moon and star,
Deepens; and, the darkness aiding,
Earth seems fading, faint and far.
And within me doubt keeps saying—
“What is wrong, and what is right?
Hear the cursing! hear the praying!
All are straying on in night.”
VII
He turns from the window, takes up a book, and reads:

The soul, like Earth, hath silences
Which speak not, yet are heard:
The voices mute of memories
Are louder than a word.{109}
Theirs is a speech which is not speech;
A language that is bound
To soul-vibrations, vague, that reach
Deeper than any sound.
No words are theirs. They speak through things,
A visible utterance
Of thoughts—like those some sunset brings,
Or withered rose, perchance.
The heavens that once, in purple and flame,
Spake to two hearts as one,
In after years may speak the same
To one sad heart alone.
Through it the vanished face and eyes
Of her, the sweet and fair,
Of her the lost, again shall rise
To comfort his despair.
And so the love that led him long
From golden scene to scene,
Within the sunset is a tongue
That speaks of what has been.—
How loud it speaks of that dead day,
The rose whose bloom is fled!{110}
Of her who died; who, clasped in clay,
Lies numbered with the dead.
The dead are dead; with them ’tis well
Within their narrow room;—
No memories haunt their hearts who dwell
Within the grave and tomb.
But what of those—the dead who live!
The living dead, whose lot
Is still to love—ah, God forgive!—
To live and love, forgot!
VIII
The storm is heard sounding wildly outside with wind and hail:

The night is wild with rain and sleet;
Each loose-warped casement claps or groans:
I hear the plangent woodland beat
The tempest with long blatant moans,
Like one who fears defeat.
And sitting here beyond the storm,
Alone within the lonely house,
It seems that some mesmeric charm
Holds all things—even the gnawing mouse
Has ceased its faint alarm.{111}
And in the silence, stolen o’er
Familiar objects, lo, I fear—
I fear—that, opening yon door,
I ’ll find my dead self standing near,
With face that once I wore.
The stairway creaks with ghostly gusts:
The flue moans; all its gorgon throat
One wail of winds: ancestral dusts,—
Which yonder Indian war-gear coat
With gray, whose quiver rusts,—
Are shaken down.—Or, can it be,
That he who wore it in the dance,
Or battle, now fills shadowy
Its wampumed skins? and shakes his lance
And spectral plume at me?—
Mere fancy!—Yet those curtains toss
Mysteriously as if some dark
Hand moved them.—And I would not cross
The shadow there, that hearthstone’s spark,
A glow-worm sunk in moss.
Outside ’t were better!—Yes, I yearn
To walk the waste where sway and dip
Deep, dark December boughs—where burn
Some late last leaves, that drip and drip
No matter where you turn.{112}
Where sodden soil, you scarce have trod,
Fills oozy footprints—but the blind
Night there, though like the frown of God,
Presents no fancies to the mind,
Like those that have o’erawed.—
The months I count: how long it seems
Since summer! summer, when with her,
When on her porch, in rainy gleams
We watched the flickering lightning stir
In heavens gray as dreams.
When all the west, a sheet of gold,
Flared,—like some Titan’s opened forge,—
With storm; revealing, manifold,
Vast peaks of clouds with crag and gorge,
Where thunder-torrents rolled.
Then came the wind: again, again
Storm lit the instant earth—and how
The forest rang with roaring rain!—
We could not read—where is it now?—
That tale of Charlemagne:
That old romance! that tale, which we
Were reading; till we heard the plunge
Of distant thunder sullenly,
And left to watch the lightning lunge,
And storm-winds toss each tree.{113}
That summer!—How it built us there,
Of sorcery and necromance,
A mental-world, where all was fair;
A land like one great pearl, a-trance
With lilied light and air.
Where every flower was a thought;
And every bird, a melody;
And every fragrance, zephyr brought,
Was but the rainbowed drapery
Of some sweet dream long sought.
’Mid which we reared our heart’s high home,
Fair on the hills; with terraces,
Vine-hung and wooded, o’er the foam
Of undiscovered fairy seas,
All violet in the gloam.
O land of shadows! shadow-home,
Within my world of memories!
Around whose ruins sweeps the foam
Of sorrow’s immemorial seas,
To whose dark shores I come!
How long in your wrecked halls, alone
With ghosts of joys must I remain?
Between the unknown and the known,
Still hearing through the wind and rain
My lost love moan and moan.
{114}

IX
He sits by the slowly dying fire. The storm is heard with increased violence:

Wild weather. The lash of the sleet
On the gusty casement, clapping—
The sound of the storm like a sheet
My soul and senses wrapping.
Wild weather. And how is she,
Now the rush of the rain falls serried
There on the turf and the tree
Of the place where she is buried?
Wild weather. How black and deep
Is the night where the mad winds scurry!—
Do I sleep? do I dream in my sleep
That I hear her footsteps hurry?
Hither they come like flowers—
And I see her raiment glisten,
Like the robes of one of the hours
Where the stars to the angels listen.
Before me, behold, how she stands!
With lips high thoughts have weighted,
With testifying hands,
And eyes with glory sated.{115}
I have spoken and I have kneeled:
I have kissed her feet in wonder—
But, lo! her lips—they are sealed,
God-sealed, and will not sunder.
Though I sob, “Your stay was long!
You are come,—but your feet were laggard!—
With mansuetude and song
For the heart your death has daggered.”
Never a word replies,
Never, to all my weeping—
Only a sound of sighs,
And of raiment past me sweeping….
I wake; and a clock tolls three—
And the night and the storm beat serried
There on the turf and the tree
Of the place where she is buried.
{116}

RED LEAVES AND ROSES
I
And he had lived such loveless years
That suffering had made him wise;
And she had known no graver tears
Than those of girlhood’s eyes.
And he, perhaps, had loved before—
One, who had wedded, or had died;—
So life to him had been but poor
In love for which he sighed.
In years and heart she was so young
Love paused and beckoned at the gate,
And bade her hear his songs, unsung;
She laughed that “love must wait.”
He understood. She only knew
Love’s hair was faded, face was gray—
Nor saw the rose his autumn blew
There in her heedless way.
{117}

II
If he had come to her when May
Danced down the wildwood,—every way
Marked with white flow’rs, as if her gown
Had torn and fallen,—it might be
She had not met him with a frown,
Nor used his love so bitterly.
Or if he had but come when June
Set stars and roses to one tune,
And breathed in honeysuckle throats
Clove-honey of her spicy mouth,
His heart had found some loving notes
In hers to cheer his life’s long drouth.
He came when Fall made mad the sky,
And on the hills leapt like a cry
Of battle; when his youth was dead;
To her, the young, the wild, the white;
Whose symbol was the rose, blood-red,
And his the red leaf pinched with blight.
He might have known, since youth was flown,
And autumn claimed him for its own;
And winter neared with snow, wild whirled,
His love to her would seem absurd;
To youth like hers; whose lip had curled
Yet heard him to his last sad word.{118}
Then laughed and—well, his heart denied
The words he uttered then in pride;
And he remembered how the gray
Was his of autumn, ah! and hers,
The rose-hued colors of the May,
And May was all her universe.
And then he left her: and, like blood,
In her deep hair, the rose; whose bud
Was badge to her: while unto him,
His middle-age, must still remain
The red-leaf, withering at the rim,
As symbol of the all-in-vain.
III
“Such days as these,” she said, and bent
Among her marigolds, all dew,
And dripping zinnia stems, “were meant
For spring not autumn; days we knew
In childhood; these endearing those;
Much dearer since they have grown old:
Days, once imperfect with the rose,
Now perfect with the marigold.”
“Such days as these,” he said, and gazed
Long with unlifted eyes that held{119}
Sad autumn nights, “our hopes have raised
In futures that are mist-enspelled.
And so it is the fog blows in
Days dearer for the death they paint
With hues of life and joy,—as sin,
At death, puts off all earthly taint.”
IV
Like deeds of hearts that have not kept
Their riches, as a miser, when
Sad souls have asked, with eyes that wept,
Among the toiling tribes of men,
The summer days gave Earth sweet alms
In silver of white lilies, while
Each night, with healing, outstretched palms
Stood Christ-like with its starry smile.
Will she remember him when dull
Months drag their duller hours by?
With feet that crush the beautiful
And leave the beautiful to die?
Or never see? nor sit with lost
Dreams withered, ’mid hope’s empty husks,
And wait, heart-counting-up the cost
Of love’s illusions ’mid life’s dusks?
{120}

V
He is as one who, treading salty scurf
Of lonely sea-sands, hears the roaring rocks
Of some lost isle of misty crags and lochs;
Who sees no sea, but, through a world of surf,
Gray ghosts of gulls and screaming petrel flocks:
When, from the deep’s white ruin and wild wreck,
Above the fog, beneath the ghostly gull,
The iron ribs of some storm-shattered hull
Loom, packed with pirate treasure to the deck
A century rotten: feels his wealth replete,
When long-baulked ocean claims it; and one dull
Wave flings, derisive at despondent feet,
A skull, one doubloon rattling in the skull.
VI
And when full autumn sets the dahlia stems
On fire with flowers, and the chill dew turns
The maple trees, above geranium urns,
To Emir tents, and strings with flawless gems
The moon-flower and the wahoo-bush that burns;
Calmly she sees the year grow sad and strange,{121}
And stands with one among the wilted walks
Of the old garden of the gray, old grange,
And feels no sorrow for the frost-maimed stalks
Since—though the wailing autumn to her talks—
Youth marks swift spring on life’s far mountain-range.
Or she will lean to her old harpsichord;
A youthful face beside her; and the glow
Of hickory on the hearth will balk the blow
Of blustering rain that beats the casement hard;
And sing of summer and so thwart the snow.
“Haply, some day, she yet may sit alone,”
He thinks, “within the shadow-saddened house,
When round the gables stormy echoes moan,
And in the closet gnaws the lonesome mouse;
And Memory come stealing down the stair
From dusty attics where is piled the Past—
Like so much rubbish that we hate to keep—
And turn the knob; and, framed in frosty hair,
A grave, forgotten face look in at last,
And she will know, and bow her head and weep.”{122}
WILD THORN AND LILY
I
That night, returning to the farm, we rode
Before a storm. Uprolling from the west,
Incessant with distending fire, loomed
The multitudes of tempest: towering here
A shadowy Shasta, there a cloudy Hood,
Veined as with agonies, aurora-born,
Of torrent gold; resplendent heaven to heaven,
Far peak to peak, terrific spoke; the vast
Sierras of the storm, within which beat
The caverned thunder like a mighty stream:
Vibrating on, with rushing wind and flame,
Now th’ opening welkin shone, one livid sheet
Of instantaneous gold, a giant’s forge,
Wild-clanging; now, with streak on angled streak
Of momentary light, a labyrinth
Where shouting Darkness stalked with Titan torch:
Again the firmament hung hewn with fire{123}
Whence leapt the thunder; and it seemed that hosts
Of Heaven rushed to war with blazing shields
And swords of splendor. And before the storm
We galloped, while the frantic trees above
Went wild with rain, through whose mad limbs and leaves
Splashed black the first big drops. On, on we drove,
And gained the gates, pillaring the avenue
Of ancient beech, at whose far, flickering end,
At last, beaconed the lights of home.
And she?
Was it the lightning that lent lividness
And terror to her countenance? or fear
Of her own heart? revulsion? memory?
Did deep regret, that, now the thing was done,
That she was mine, a yearning to be free,
Away from me, assail her? or, the thought,
The knowledge, that she did not love the man
Whom she had wedded? knowing better now
That all her heart was Julien’s from the first,
And would be Julien’s until the end.
And did she now look backward on the past?
Or forward—on the barrier that the church{124}
For all the future years had placed between
The possible and impossible? God knows!
Yet I had won her honestly with words
Love, only, uttered out of its soul’s truth;
Had won her—was it openly?—perhaps!—
Although engaged to Julien.—What else
Had led us to elopement?—Well, ’t was done!
The whole, mad, lovely, miserable affair
Of love and youthful folly. Being done
We must abide the reckoning. That is,
I would; and she?—she saw her duty there
Beside her husband. And within myself,
When we alighted from the carriage, thus,—
Beneath the porch,—my mind resolved the thing:
“I am her husband now, and she my wife.
Less than her husband, I, much less a man,
Were I not able to regain and keep
The love she gave me, that she thinks is his,
That is not his. ’T is pity merely now
That makes her pensive. I am pensive, too,
For Julien, the poet and the friend;
The dreamer and the lover.—But all ’s fair
In love they say; and I,—well, willingly
I’ll bear the burthen of the blame of all.”{125}
Scarce had we entered when high heaven oped
Vast gates of bronze and doors of booming brass
That dammed a deluge, and the deluge poured.—
I thought of him still; for I felt that she
Was thinking too of Julien and his moods,
That often swept his soul with storm like this,
Yet oftener with sunlight than with storm;
That soul of sun and tempest, ray and rain,
My school-friend Julien! whom once she won
To think she loved—I know not how. My play
Was open as the morning, and as fair.
His poverty and genius here, and here
My wealth and—platitude; and I had won.
But it was hard for him. I did not dream
That it would end so. And when Gwendolyn
Used every gentleness—and that is much—
I did not dream his poet’s temperament
Were so affected of a love affair,
A wrong or right; he, whose sole aim seemed song.
I did not dream he ’d take it desperately,
And end so tragically. Who ’d have thought
His character, although so sensitive,
Would fall into extremes of morbidness{126}
And melancholy! Had it now been I,
Whose heart had lost in the great game of love,
None would have wondered; for I am of those
Whose vigorous iron does not bend, but break
At one decisive blow: his should have sprung—
Or so I think, not broken as it had—
Elastic as fine-tempered steel that bends
And then resumes its usual usefulness.
A pale smile strained the corners of her mouth
When, from the porch, into the parlor’s blaze
I led her. And her mother met us there,
Her mother and her father. And I saw
The slow reflection of their happiness
Make glad her eyes, as their approval grew
From half-severe rebukes, that were well meant,
To open, glad avowal of their joy.
She had done well, and we were soon forgiven….
But I resumed his letter when alone:
His letter written her three months before,
When all was over, and we two were one,
And well upon our way to Italy{127}
For six sweet months of honeymoon. His word,
His letter, all of her, that came to me
At Venice, that I opened in mistake,
Amid a lot of papers sent from home.
She had not read, and never should while I
Had power to conceal until I ’d read.
I would not let the dead scrawl mar or soil
My late-won joy, my testament of love.
No! I would read it, afterwards destroy.
Thoughts made of music for a last farewell,
When he knew all and asked her to perpend
Expressions of past things her gift of love
Had given speech to in the happy days.
And so I read:—
II
“The rhyme is mine, but yours
The thought and all the music, springing from
The rareness of the love that dawned on me
A little while to make my sad life glad.
Should I regret the sunset it refused,
Since all my morn was richer than the world?
Or that my day should stride without a change
Of crimson, or of purple, or of gold,
Into the barren blackness where the moon{128}
And all God’s stars lay dead? Should I complain,
Upbraid or censure or one moment curse,
I with my morning? ’T is a memory
That stains the midnight now: one wild-rose ray
Laid like a finger pointing me the path
I follow, and I go rejoicingly.
Our love was very young (nor had it aged—
If we had lived long lifetimes—here in me),
When one day, strolling in the sun, you spoke
Words I perceived should hint a coming change:
I made three stanzas of the thought, you see:
But now ’t is like the sea-shell that suggests,
And still associates us with the sea
In its vague song and elfland workmanship.
Yet it has lost a something that it had
There by the far sand’s foaming; something rare,
A different beauty like an element:
I wonder on what life will do
When love is loser of all love;
When life still longs to love anew
And has not love enough:—
I ’ll turn my heart into a ray,
And wait—a day?
I wonder on what love will hold
When life is weary of all life;{129}
And life and love have both grown old
With scars of sin and strife:—
I’ll change my soul into a flower,
And wait—an hour?
I wonder on why men forget
The life that love made laugh; and why
Weak women will remember yet
The life that love made sigh:—
I’ll sing my thought into a song,
And wait—how long?
III
“And once you questioned of our mocking-bird,
And of the German nightingale, and I
Knowing a sweeter bird than those sweet two,
Made fast associates of birds and brooks
And learned their numbers. Middle April made
The path of lilac leading to your porch
A rift of fallen Paradise; a blue
So full of fragrance that the birds that built
Among the lilacs thought that God was there,
And of God’s goodness they would sing and sing,
Till every throat seemed bursting with its song,{130}
Note on wild note, diviner each than each.
And waiting by the gate, that reached the lane,
For you, who gave sweet eloquence to all,
The afternoon, the lilacs and the spring,
My heart was singing and it sang of you:
Two glow-worms are the jewels in
Her ears; and underneath her chin
A diamond like a firefly:
There is no starlight in the sky
When Gwendolyn stands in the maze
Of woodbine, near the portico;
For all the stars are in her gaze,
The night and stars I know.
A clinging dream of mist the lawn
She wears; and like a bit of dawn
Her fan with one red jewel pinned:
Among the boughs there breathes no wind
When Gwendolyn comes down the path
Of lilacs from the portico;
For all the breeze her coming hath,
The beam and breeze I know.
Two locust-blooms her hands; and slips
Of eglantine her cheeks and lips;
Her hair, a hyacinth of gloom:{131}
The balmy buds give no perfume
When Gwendolyn draws near to me,
The gate beyond the portico;
For all aroma sweet is she,
All fragrance that I know.
Life, love, and faith are in her face,
And in her presence all their grace:
And my religion is a word,
A wish of hers. No mocking-bird,
When Gwendolyn laughs near, dare float
One bubble from the portico;
For all of song is in her throat,
All music that I know.
IV
“The mocking-bird! and then weird fancy filled
My soul with vision, and I saw a song
Pursue a bird that was no bird—a voice
Concealed in dim expressions of the spring,—
Who sits among the forests and the fields,
With dark-blue eyes smiling to life the flowers,—
Where we strolled happy as the April hills:
A sunbeam, all the day that fell
Upon the fountain,—{132}
Like laughter gurgling in the dell
Below the mountain,—
Drank, with its sparkle, one by one,
The water-words that, in the sun,
Made melody,—the sun-rays tell,—
That never yet was done.
A moon-ray, that had gone astray
’Mid wildwood alleys,
Where Echo haunts the forest way
Among the valleys,
The livelong night upon the rocks
Slept, hid among girl Echo’s locks,
And stole her voice,—the moonbeams say,—
That mocks and only mocks.
A shadow, that had made its seat
Amid the roses
And thorns—the bitter and the sweet
That life discloses—
Mixed with the rose-balm and the dew
And crimson thorns that pierced it through,
Until its soul,—the shades repeat,—
Was portion of them, too.
A Fairy found the beam of gold,
And ray of glitter;{133}
The shadow, whose dim soul did hold
Both sweet and bitter;
And made a bird, that haunts the morn
And night; that flits from flower to thorn,
A voice of laughter,—it is told,—
Love, mockery, and scorn.
V
“Among the white haw-blossoms, where the creek
Droned under drifts of dogwood and of haw,
The red-bird, like a crimson blossom blown
Against the snow-white bosom of the Spring,
The chaste confusion of her lawny breast,
Sang on, prophetic of serener days,
As confident as June’s completer hours.
And I stood listening like a hind, who hears
A wood-nymph breathing in a forest flute
Among gray beech-trees of myth-haunted ways:
And when it ceased, the memory of the air
Blew like a syrinx in my brain: I made
A lyric of the notes that men might know:
He flies with flirt and fluting—
As flies a falling star{134}
From flaming star-beds shooting shooting—
From where the roses are.
Wings past and sings; and seven
Notes, sweet as fragrance is,—
That turn to sylphs in heaven,—
Float round him full of bliss.
He sings; each burning feather
Thrills, throbbing at his throat;
A song of glow-worm weather,
And of a firefly boat:
Of Elfland and a princess
Who, born of a perfume,
His music lulls,—where winces
That rose’s cradled bloom.
No bird is half so airy,
No bird of dusk or dawn,
O masking King of Fairy!
O red-crowned Oberon.
VI
“Alas! the nightingale I never heard.
Yet I, remembering how your voice would thrill
Me with exalted expectation, felt{135}
The passion-throated nightingale would win
Into my soul in some wild way like this,
With reminiscences of dusks long dead,
Presentiments of nights, that mate the flowers
And the prompt stars, and marry them with song.
Of such,—love whispered me when deep in dreams,—
I made my nightingale. It is a voice
Heard in the April of our year of love:
Between the stars and roses
There lies a path no man may see,
Where every breeze that blows is
A wandering melody;
Down which each bright star gazes
Upon each rose that raises
Its face up lovingly,
As if with prayers and praises.
The star and rose are wiser
Than all but love beneath the skies;
No hoard of any miser
Is rich as these are wise:
No bee may reach or rifle,
No mist may cloud or stifle
Their love that never dies,
That knows nor trick nor trifle.{136}
There is a bird that carries
Love-messages; and comes and goes
Between each star that tarries,
And every rose that blows:
A bird that can not tire,
Whose throat ’s a throbbing lyre,
Whose song is now a rose,
And now a starry fire.
VII
“O May-time woods! O May-time lanes and hours!
And stars, that knew how often there at night
Beside the path, where woodbine odors blew
Between the drowsy eyelids of the dusk,—
When, like a great, white, pearly moth, the moon
Hung, silvering long windows of your room,—
I stood among the shrubs! The dark house slept.
I watched and waited for—I know not what—
Some tremor of your gown: a velvet leaf’s
Unfolding to caresses of the spring:
A rustle of your footsteps: or the dew
That softly rolled, a syllable of love,{137}
In sweet avowal, from a rose’s lips
Of odorous scarlet: or the whispered word
Of something lovelier than new leaf or rose—
The word young lips half murmur in a dream:
Serene with sleep, light visions load her eyes;
And underneath her window blooms a quince.
The night is a sultana who doth rise
In slippered caution, to admit a prince,
Love, who her eunuchs and her lord defies.
Are these her dreams? or is it that the breeze
Pelts me with petals of the quince, and lifts
The Balm-of-Gilead buds? and seems to squeeze
Aroma on aroma through sweet rifts
Of Eden, dripping from the rainy trees?
Along the path the buckeye trees begin
To heap their hills of blossoms.—Oh, that they
Were Romeo ladders, whereby I might win
Her chamber’s sanctity,—where love must pray
And guard her soul!—so stainless of all sin!{138}
There might I see the balsam scent erase
Its sweet intrusion; and the starry night
Conclude majestic pomp; the virgin grace
Of every bud abashed before the white,
Pure passion-flower of her sleeping face.
VIII
“And once, in early May, a sparrow sang
Among the garden bushes; and you asked
If the suave song stayed knocking at my heart.
I smiled some answer, and, behold, that night
Found that my heart had locked this fancy in:
Rain, rain, and a ribbon of song
Uncurled where the blossoms are sprinkled;
The song-sparrow sings, and I long
For, the silver-sweet throat, that has tinkled,
To sing in the bloom and the rain,
Sing again, and again, and again,
Under my window-pane.
Rain, rain, and the trickling tips
Of the million pink blooms of the quinces;
And I hear the song rill from the lips,
The lute-haunted lips of my princess:
O love! in the rain and the bloom,{139}
Sing again in the pelting perfume,
Sweetheart, under my room.
Rain, rain, and the dripping of drops
From cups of the blossoms they load, or
Tilt over with tipsiest tops:
And eyes as of sun-beam and odor,
There, under the bloom-blowing tree—
A face like a flower to see,
Love is looking at me.
IX
“Once in the village I had heard a song,
A melody which I wrote down for you,
And which you sang. But, there among your hills,
The dawns and sunsets and the serious stars
Made trite its thought and words, that seemed as stale
As musty parlors of the commonplace.
I changed its words, and here and there its thought,
But, though you praised, you never sang it more,
And so I knew, like some poor poet, it
Had fallen on disfavor, God knows why,
With its high patron. Thus its metre ran:{140}
Look, happy eyes, and let me know
The timid flower her love hath cherished
Fades not before the fruit shall show,
Seen in the clear truth of your glow
Where naught of love hath perished.
Lift, happy lips, and let me take
The sacred secret of her spirit
To mine in kisses, that shall make
Mute marriage of our souls, and wake
The heart’s sweet silence near it.
X
“And so I wrote another filled with birds,
Deliberate twilight and eve’s punctual star;
And made the music of that song obey
The metre of my own and melody:
Only to hear that you love me,
Only to feel it is true;
Stars and the gloaming above me,
I in the gloaming with you.
Staining through violet fire,
A sunset of poppy and gold,
Red as a heart with desire,
Rich with a secret untold.{141}
Deep where the shadows are doubled,
Deep where the blossoms are long,
Listen!—deep love in the bubbled
Breath of a mocking-bird’s song.
You, who have made them the dearer,
Drawing them near from afar!—
Stars and the heaven the nearer,
Sweet, through the joy that you are.
XI
“Confronted with the certainty that I
Had no approval for my love from you,
No visible sign, but my own prompting hope’s,
Conforming with my heart’s one wild desire,
Who had not dreaded disappointment there!
The shadow of a heart’s unformed denial,
That should take form and soon confirm the doubt:
The doubt that would content itself with this:
If I might hold her by the hand,—
Her hands so full of soothing peace!—
Her heart would hear and understand
My heart’s demand,
And all her idling cease.{142}
If she would let my eyes look in
Her eyes, whose deeps are full of truth,
Her soul might see how mine would win
Her, without sin,
In all her happy youth.
If I might kiss her mouth, and lead
The kiss up to her eyes and hair,
There is no prayer that so could plead,—
And find sure heed,—
My love’s divine despair.
XII
“And, uninstructed, smiled and wrote ‘despair,’
Enamoured, yet fearful of the shade that should
Some day come stealing through my silent door
To sit unbidden through the lonely hours.—
I cast the shudder off, and in the fields
Found hope again, and beauty born of dreams:
For it was summer, and all living things,
The common flowers and the birds and bees,
Became interpreters of love for me:
Say that he can not tell her how he loves her—
Words, for such adoration, often fail,—{143}
When but a bow of ribbon, glove that gloves her,
Clothes her fair femininity in mail.
So many ways and wisdoms to express what
To th’ language of devotion is denied;
Ambassadors to make the maiden guess what
Before her heart’s high fortress long has sighed.
A bird to sing his secret—she’ll perpend him:
A bee to bid her soul to hear and see:
A blossom, like a sweet appeal, to bend him,
Before her there, upon a worshiping knee.
XIII
“So was my love confessed to you. I thought
You loved me as love led me to believe:
And so, no matter where I, dreaming, went
Among the hills, the woods, and quiet fields,
All had a poetry so intimate,
So happy and so ready that, for me,
’Twas but to stoop and gather as I went,
As one goes reaching roses in the June.
Three withered wild ones that I gathered then
I send you now. Their scent and bloom are dust:
{144}

1
What wild-flower shows perfection
Such as thy face, no blemish mars?
I leave to the selection
Of all the wild-flower stars:
To every wildwood bloom that blows,
Wild phlox, wild daisy, and wild rose.
What cascade hath suspicion
O’ the marvel that thy whiteness is?
I leave to the decision
Of each proclaiming breeze:
To winds that kiss the buds awake,
And roll the ripple on the lake.
What bird can sing the naming
Of all the music that thou art?
I leave to the proclaiming
Of that within my heart:
My heart, wherein, the whole day long,
Sits adoration rapt in song.
2
What witch then hast thou met,
Who wrought this amulet?
This charm, that makes each look, love,
Of thine a rose;{145}
Thy face an open book, love,
Where beauty gleams and glows,
And thought to music set.
What fairy of the wood,
To whom thou once wast good,
Gave thee this gift?—Thy words, love,
Should be pure gold;
And all thy songs as bird’s, love,
Sweet as the Mays of old
With youth and love imbued.
What elfin of the glade
This white enchantment made,
That filled thee with the essence
Of all the Junes?
That made thy soul, thy presence,
Like to the moon’s
Above a far cascade.
What wizard of the cave
Hath made my heart thy slave?
That dreams of thee when sleeping,
And, when awake,
My anxious spirit keeping
’Neath spells I can not break,
Sweet spells, whence naught can save.
{146}

3
Dear, (though given conclusion to),
Songs,—no memory surrenders,—
Still their music breathe in you;
Silence meditation renders
Audible with notes it knew.
Sweet, when all the flowers are dead,
Perfumes,—that the heart remembers
Made of them a marriage-bed,—
Shall not fail me in December’s
Gloom, but from your face be shed.
Dear, when night denies a star,
Darkness will not suffer, seeing
Song and fragrance are not far;
Starlight of the summer being
In the loveliness you are.
XIV
“Revealing distant vistas where I thought
I saw your love stand as ’mid lily blooms,
Long, angel goblets molded out of stars,
Pouring aroma at your feet: and life
Took fire with thoughts your soul must help you read:{147}
A song; and songs (who does not know?)
Reveal no music but is thine.
Thou singest, and the waters flow,
The breezes blow,
The sunbeams shine,
And all the earth grows young, divine.
Low laughter; and I look away;
Whate’er the time of year, I dream
I walk beneath sweet skies of May
On ways where play
Both gloom and gleam,
And hear a bird and forest stream.
A thought; and straight it seems to me,
However dark, the stars arise,
And rain down memories of thee,—
As, it may be,
From Paradise
One feels an angel-lover’s eyes.
XV
“But is it well to tell you what I felt
When I beheld no change beyond the moods
That gloomed or glistened in your raven eyes?
When I sat singing ’neath one steadfast star{148}
Of morning with no phantoms of strange fears
To slay the look or word that helped me sing:
When song came easier than come buds in spring,
That make the barren boughs one pomp of pearls:
Oh, let the happy day go past,
And let the night be short or long,
When life and love are one at last,
And hearts are full of song,
’Tis sweet midsummer of the dream,
And all the dreams thou hast
Are truer than they seem.
And once I dreamt in autumn of
Death with cadaverous eyes that gazed
From out a shadow…. It was love
Whose deathless eyes were raised
From the deep darkness that unrolled
Wild splendor; and, amazed,
Thy soul I did behold.
And then it seemed that some one said,
The dead are nearer than dost know.
And when they tell thee love is dead,—
Although it seems ’t is so,—{149}
Still shalt thou feel in every beat
And heart-throb of thy woe
Love breathing, bitter-sweet.
XVI
“One evening when I came to talk with you,
Impatience hurt me in your brief replies.
And I who had refused,—because we dread
Approaching horror of our lives made maimed,—
The inevitable, could not help but see
Some change in you to’ards me.—That night I dreamed
I wandered ’mid old ruins, where the snake
And scorpion crawled in poison-spotted heat;
Plague-bloated bulks of hideous vine and root
Wrapped fallen fanes; and bristling cacti bloomed
Blood-red and death-white on forgotten tombs.
And from my soul went forth a bitter cry
That pierced the silence that was packed with death
And pale presentiment. And so I went,
A white flame beckoning before my face,
And in my ears sounds of primordial seas
That boasted preadamic gods and men:{150}
A flame before me and, beyond, a voice:
But, lo, the white flame when I reached for it
Became thin ashes like a dead man’s dust;
And when I thought I should behold the sea,
Stagnation, turned to filth and rottenness,
Rolled out a swamp: the voice became a stench.
If we should pray together now
For sunshine and for rain,
And thou shouldst get fair weather now,
And I the clouds again,
Would ray and rain keep single,
Or for the rainbow mingle?
Dear, if this should be made to me,
That I had asked for light,
And God had given shade to me,
And all to thee that’s bright,
Wouldst thou go by with scorning,
Refusing darkness morning?
If all my life were winter, love,
And all thy life were spring,
And mine with frost should splinter, love,
While thine with birds should sing,
Wouldst thou walk past and glitter,
Forgetful mine is bitter?
{151}

XVII
“Still on the anguish of a dying hope
An infant hope was nourished; all in vain.
For, at the last, although we parted friends,
The friendship lay like sickness on my soul,
That saw all gladness perish from the world
With loss of thee; and, ’mid the future years,
Love building high a sepulchre for hope.
Ah, could you learn forgetfulness,
And teach my heart how to forget;
And I unlearn all fretfulness,
And teach your soul that still will fret;
The mornings of the world would burn
Before us and we would not turn,
For we would not regret.
Did you but know what sorrow keeps,
That drives the joy of life away,
And I what each to-morrow keeps
For us until it is to-day;
No grief or change would then surprise
Our lives with what our lives were wise,
And nothing could betray.
If you could be interior to
My dreams that are all love’s desire;{152}
And I could be superior to
Myself and such in you inspire;
Long stairways would the years unroll
To lift us upward, soul to soul,
To what celestial fire!
XVIII
“There came no words of comfort from your lips.
Not that I asked for pity! that had been
As fire unto the scalded or dry bread
Unto the famished fallen ’mid the sands!
But all your actions said that I was wrong,
But how, I know not and have ceased to care;
Still standing like one stricken blind at noon,
Who gropes and fumbles, feeling all grow strange
That once was so familiar; cursing God
Who locks him in with darkness and despair.—
Your judgment had been juster had it had
A lesser love than mine to judge.—O love,
Where lay the justice of thy judge in this?—
‘If thou hadst praised thy God as long
As thou hast praised a woman’s eyes,{153}
Perhaps thou hadst not suffered wrong,
As now, and sat with sighs:
But, through thy prayer and praise made strong,
Perhaps thou hadst grown wise.
‘If thou hadst bade thy God be more
Than I, thy life had not been sad;
His love to thee had not been poor
As mine. But thou wast mad,
And cam’st, a beggar, to my door,
And had more than I had.
‘If thou hadst taught me how to love,
Nor played with love as monarchs play,
My heart had learned right soon enough,
From thine, love’s lowlier way.
But all thy love stood far above,
Nor touched my soul to sway.’
XIX
“Thus did you write me, or in words like these,
When all was over and your heart was led,
Through pity, haply, thus to justify
Yourself, that needed not to justify,
Since all your reason lay in four small words,{154}
Enough to wreck my world and all my life,
You did not love: what more is there to tell?—
Yet, haply, it was this: One soul, that still
Demanded more than it could well return;
And, searching inward, yet could never pierce
Beyond its superficiality.
You did not know; yet I had felt in me
The rich fulfillment of a rare accord,
And could not, though the longing lay like song
And music on me, win your soul’s response.
Were it well, lifting me
Eyes that give heed,
Down in your soul to see
Thought, the affinity
Of act and deed?
Knowing what naught may tell
Of heart and soul:
Yet were the knowledge whole,
And were it well?
Were it well, giving true
Love all enough,
Still to discover new
Depths of true love for you,
Infinite love?{155}
Feeling what naught may tell
Of heart and soul:
Yet were the knowledge whole,
And were it well?
XX
“What else but, laboring for some good, to lift
Ourselves above the despotism of self,
All egoism strangling strength and hope,
To work and work, and, in the love of work,
Which takes the place, in some, of love’s real self,
To quench the flame that eats into the heart?
Art, our intensest and our truest love,
Immaculateness that has never led
One of her lovers wrong, his love all soul!
I followed beauty, and my ardor prayed
Your memory would, feature and form and face,
Be blotted out within me; rise no more
To mar the labor that I owed to Art.
I prayed, yea, to forget you, you I loved:
I prayed; and, see!—how Heaven answered me:
I have no song to tell thee
The love that I would sing;{156}
The song that should enspell thee
With words, and so compel thee
That thou, with love, must wing
Into my life to-morrow—
For all my songs are sorrow.
My strength is not a giant
To hold thee with strong hands,
To make thee less defiant;
Thy spirit more compliant
With all my love demands:
Alas! my love is meekness,
And all my strength is weakness.
What hope have I to hover—
When wings refuse to rise—
Within thy heart’s close cover,
And there to play the lover,
Concealed from mortal eyes?
What hope! to give me boldness,
When all thy looks are coldness?
XXI
“I prayed; and for a time felt strong as strength,
And held both hands out to the loveliness
That lured in the ideal. And I felt{157}
Compelling power upon me that would lift
My face to heaven, now, to see the stars,
Now bend it back to earth to see the flowers.
I learned long lessons ’twixt a look and look:
Breezes and linden blooms,
Sunshine and showers;
Rain, that the May perfumes,
Cupped in the flowers:
Clouds and the leaves that patter
Raindrops that glint and glare—
Or be they gems that scatter?
Sapphires the sylphides shake,
When their loose fillets break,
Out of their radiant hair?
Now is my heart a lute!
Now doth it pinion
Song in love’s swift pursuit
In thought’s dominion!
Dreaming of all thou meanest,
Thou, with uneager eyes,
Nature! of worlds thou queenest,
Whither thy mother hand
Draws us from land to land,
Far from the worldly wise!
{158}

XXII
“Thus would I scatter grain around my life,
Gold grain of song, to lure them down to me,
Cloud-colored doves of peace to fill my soul,
And find them turn to ravens while they flew,
Black ravens of despair that would not out.
The old, dull, helpless aching at the heart,
As if some scar had turned a wound again.
While idle grief stared at the brutal past,
Which held a loss that made the past more rich
Than all Earth’s arts: that marveled how it came
Such puny folly should usurp love’s high
Proud pedestal of life that held your form,
In Parian, sculptured by the hands of thought.
And oft I shook myself,—for nightmares weighed
Each sense,—and seemed to wake; yet evermore
Beheld a death’s-head grinning at my eyes.
So when the opening of the door doth thrill
My soul with sudden knowledge death is come,
Let me forget you or remember still,
It will not matter then that life went ill,
When death bends to me and my lips are dumb.{159}
Then I shall not remember: and shall leave
No memory behind me, and no trace
Of aught my life accomplished. Let none grieve.
There is no heart my passing will bereave;
And there are thousands who can fill my place.
Who knocks?—The night camps on each hill and heath:
And round my door are minions of the night:
And like a weapon, riven from its sheath,
The wind sweeps, and the tempest grinds its teeth
Around me and my wild, hand-hollowed light.
Who knocks?—the door is open!—And I see
The Darkness threatening, with distorted fists
Of cloudy terror, Courage on her knee:
Shine far, O candle! for it so may be
Love is bewildered in the night and mists.—
No wandering wisp art thou, that haunts the rain
With pallid flicker, fading as it flies!—{160}
The door is open!—Will he knock again?—
The door is open!—Shall it be in vain?—
Come in! delay not! thou, whose ways are wise!
Who knocked has entered: let the darkness pass,
The door be closed!—Now morning lights shall thrust
It open; and the sunlight shine and mass
Its splendor here where once but darkness was,
And in its rays—motes and a little dust.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

XXIII
And I had read, read to the bitter end;
Half hearing lone surmises of the rain
And trouble of the wind. At last I rose
And went to Gwendolyn. She did not know
The kiss I gave her had a shudder in it;
Nor how the form of Julien rose between
Me and her lips, a blood-stain o’er his heart.
{161}

THE IDYLL OF THE STANDING-STONE
I
She knows its windings and its crooks;
The wildflowers of its lovely woods;
The crowfoot’s golden sisterhoods,
That crowd its sunny nooks:
The iris, whose blue blossoms seem
Mab’s bonnets; and, each leaf a-gleam,
The trillium’s fairy-books.
He knows its shallows and its pools,
Its stair-like beds of rock that go,
Foaming, with waterfall and flow,
Where dart the minnow schools;
Its grassy banks that herons haunt,
Or where the woodcock call; and gaunt
The mushrooms lift their stools.
She seeks the columbine and phlox,
The bluebell, where the bushes fill
The old stones of the ruined mill;{162}
She wades among the rocks:
Her feet are rose-pearl in the stream;
Her eyes are bluet-blue; a beam
Lies on her nut-brown locks.
He comes with fishing-reel and line
To angle in the darker deeps,
Where the reflected forest sleeps
Of sycamore and pine:
And now and then a shadow swoops
Above him of a hawk that stoops
From skies as clear as wine.
And will he see, if they should meet,
That she is fairer than each flower
Her apron fills? and in that hour
Feel life less incomplete?…
He stops below: she walks above—
The brook floats down, as white as love,
One blossom to his feet.
And she?—should she behold the tan
Of manly face and honest eyes,
Would all her soul idealize
Him? make him more than man?…
She dropped one blossom when she heard
Soft whistling—was it man or bird,
Whose notes so sweetly ran?
[Image unavailable.]
Where the woodcock call Page 161
The Idyll of the Standing-Stone
{163}

They knew before they came to meet;
For some divulging influence
Had touched them thro’ the starry lens
God holds to bring in beat
Two hearts—her heart one haunting wish,
And his—forgetful of the fish,
Her flower at his feet.
II
The sassafras twigs had just lit up
The yellow stars of their fragrant candles,
And the dogwood brimmed each blossom-cup
With spring to its brown-tipped handles;
When down the orchard, ’mid apple blooms—
Say, ho, the hum o’ the honey-bee!—
A glimpse of Spring in the sprinkled glooms?
Or only a girl? with the warm perfumes
Blown round her breezily.
The maple, as red as the delicate flush
Of an afterglow, was airy crimson;
And the haw-tree, white in the wing-whipped hush,
Gleamed cool as a cloud that the moonlight dims on;
And under the oak, whose branches strung—
Say, heigh, the rap o’ the sapsuckér!—{164}
Gray buds in tassels that sweetly swung,
They stood and listened a bird that sung,
As glad as the heart in her.
Yellow the bloom of the rattle-weed,
And white the bloom of the plum and cherry;
And red as a stain the red-bud’s brede,
And clover the color of sherry:
And a wren sings there in the orchard drift,—
And, ho! the dew from the web that slips!—
And a thrush sings there in the woodland rift,
Where he to his face her face doth lift,
Her face with the willing lips.
For a while they sat on the moss and grass,
Where the forest bloomed a great wild garden;—
Then the beam from the hollow—it seemed to pass,
And the ray on the hills to harden,
When she rose to go, and his joy fell flat;—
And, heigh, the wasp i’ the pawpaw bell!—
As she waved her hand—why, it seemed at that
’Twas Spring’s own self he was gazing at,
And the life of his life as well.
{165}

III
The teasel and the horsemint spread
The hillsides, as with sunset sown,
Blooming along the Standing-Stone
That ripples in its rocky bed:
There are no treasuries that hold
Gold yellower than the marigold
That crowds its mouth and head.
’T is harvest-time: a mower stands
Among the morning wheat and whets
His scythe, and for a space forgets
The labor of the ripening lands;
Then bends, and through the dewy grain
His long scythe hisses, and again
He swings it in his hands.
And she beholds him where he mows
On acres whence the water sends
Faint music of reflecting bends
And falls that interblend with flows:
She stands among the old bee-gums,—
Where all the apiary hums,—
Like some sweet bramble-rose.
She hears him whistling as he leans,
And, reaping, sweeps the ripe wheat by;
She sighs and smiles and knows not why:—{166}
These are but simple country scenes:
He whets his scythe again, and sees
Her smiling near the hives of bees
Beneath the flowering beans.
The peacock-purple lizard creeps
Along the rail; and deep the drone
Of insects makes the country lone
With summer where the water sleeps:
She hears him singing as he swings
His scythe; he thinks of other things—
Not toil, and, singing, reaps.
IV
Into the woods they went again,
Over the wind-blown oats;
Out of the acres of golden grain,
In where the light was a violet stain,
In where the lilies’ throats
Were brimmed with the summer rain.
Hung on a bough a reaper’s hook,
Over the wind-blown oats;
A girl’s glad laugh and a girl’s glad look,
And the hush and ripple of tree and brook,
And a wild bird’s silvery notes,
And a kiss that a strong man took.{167}
Out of the woods the lovers went,
Over the wind-waved wheat;
She with a face, where love was blent,
Like to an open testament;
He, from his head to feet,
Dazed with his hope that was eloquent.
Here how oft had they come to tryst,
Over the wind-waved wheat!
Here how oft had they laughed and kissed!
Talked and tarried where no one wist,
Here where the woods are sweet,
Dim and deep as a dewy mist.
V
Her pearls are blossoms-of-the-vale,
Her only diamonds are the dews;
Such jewels never can grow stale,
Nor any value lose.
Among the millet beards she stands:
The languid wind lolls everywhere:
There are wild roses in her hands,
One wild rose in her hair.
To-morrow, where the shade is warm,
Among the unmown wheat she’ll stop,{168}
And from one daisy-loaded arm
One ox-eyed daisy drop.
She’ll meet his brown eyes, true and brave,
With blue eyes, false yet dreamy sweet:
He is her lover and her slave,
Who mows among the wheat.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

When buds broke on the apple trees
She wore an apple-blossom dress,
And laughed with him across the leas,
And love was all a guess.
When goose-plums ripened in the rain,
Plum-colored was her gown of red;
He kissed her in the creek-road lane—
She was his life, he said.
When apples thumped the droughty land,
A russet color was her gown:
Another came, and—won her hand?—
Nay! carried off to town….
When grapes hung purple in the hot,
None missed her and her simple dress,{169}
Save one, whom, haply, she forgot,
Who loved her none the less.
When snow made white each harvest sheaf,
He sought her out amid her show;
Her rubies, redder than the leaf
That autumn forests sow.
Not one regret her shame reveals;
She smiles at him, then puts him by;
He pleads; and she? she merely steels
Her heart and—lives her lie.
VI
And he returned when poppies strewed
Their golden blots o’er moss and leaf,—
Blond little Esaus of the wood,
So fair of face, of life so brief.—
Did he forget?—Not he, in truth!—
“No month,” he thought, “holds so much grace,
No month of spring, such grace and youth,
As the sweet April of her face.”
In fall the frail gerardia
Hung hints of sunset and of dawn
On root and rock, as if to draw{170}
Her lips, remind him of one gone:—
Of one unworthy, in pursuit
Of butterflies, who does not dream
A flower, broken by her foot,
Sweeps, helpless, with her down the stream.
{171}

SOME SUMMER DAYS
I
If you had seen her waiting there
Among the tiger-lily blooms,—
That sowed their jewels everywhere
Among the woodland gleams and glooms,—
You had confessed her very fair,
And sweeter than the wood’s perfumes.
A country girl with bare brown feet,
She waits, while day slopes down the deeps:
The afternoon is dead with heat,
And all the weary shadow sleeps
Like toil, arm-pillowed in the wheat,
Beside the scythe with which he reaps.
There is no sound more distant than
The cow-bell on the vine-hung hill;
No nearer than the locust’s span
Of noise that makes the silence shrill:
And now there comes a sun-browned man
Through tiger-lilies of the rill.{172}
Long will they talk: till, in the end,
The clear west glows, the east grows pale;
Until the glow and pallor blend
Like moonlight on a shifting sail;
And then he ’ll clasp her; she will bend
Her head, consenting. Day will fail:
The west will flame, then fade away
Through heavy orange, rose, and red,
And leave the heavens violet gray
Above a gypsy-lily bed:
Then they will go; and he will say
Such words to her as none has said.
A million stars the night will win
Above them; and one firefly
Pulse like a tangled starbeam in
The cedar dark against the sky:
Then he will lift her dimpled chin
And take the kiss she ’ll not deny.
And when the moon, like the great book
Of Judgment, golden with the light
Of God, lies open o’er yon nook
Of darkest wood and wildest height,
Together they will cross the brook
And reach the gate and kiss good night.
{173}

II
And now he wipes his hand along
The beaded fire of his brow
Hard toil has heated; and the strong
Face flushes fuller health as now
He fills his hay-fork to the prong,
And, tossing it, again doth bow.
And now he rests, and looks away
Across the sun-fierce hills and meads
No rolling cloud has cooled to-day;
And from his face the brawny beads
Drip; and he marks the heaps of hay,
The fields of corn, the fields of weeds.
At last he sees the tempest build
Black battlements along the west,
Black breastworks that are thunder filled;
And bares his brow; and on his chest
The sweat of toil is cooled; and stilled
The pulse of toil within his breast.
A strong wind brings the odorous death
Of far hay-meadows, and the scent
Is good within his nostrils’ breath:
The mighty trees are bowed, that leant
For no man, as when Power saith
“Bow down!” and stalwart men are bent.{174}
He laughs, long-gazing as he goes
Along the elder-sweetened lane:
He feels the storm wind as it blows
Across the sheaves of golden grain,
And stops to pull one bramble-rose,
And watch the swiftly coming rain.
And there, ’mid locust trees, the farm
Dreams in a martin-haunted place:
He marks the far-off streaks of storm
That, driven of the thunder, race:
He sees his child upon her arm,
And in the door his wife’s fair face.
III
Below the sunset’s range of rose,
Below the heaven’s bending blue,
Down woodways where the balsam blows,
And milkweed tufts hang, gray of hue,
A Jersey heifer stops and lows—
The cows come home by one, by two.
There is no star yet: but the smell
Of hay and pennyroyal mix
With herb-aromas of the dell;
And the root-hidden cricket clicks:{175}
Among the ironweeds a bell
Clangs near the rail-fenced clover-ricks.
She waits upon the slope beside
The windlassed well the plum-trees shade,
The well-curb that the goose-plums hide;
Her light hand on the bucket laid,
Unbonneted she waits, glad-eyed,
Her dress as simple as her braid.
She sees fawn-colored backs among
The sumacs now; a tossing horn;
A clashing bell of brass that rung:
Long shadows lean upon the corn,
And all the day dies scarlet-stung,
The cloud in it a rosy thorn.
Below the pleasant moon, that tips
The tree-tops of the hillside, fly
The evening bats; the twilight slips
Some fireflies like spangles by;
She meets him, and their happy lips
Touch; and one star leaps in the sky.
He takes her bucket, and they speak
Of married hopes while in the grass
The plum lies glowing as her cheek;{176}
The patient cows look back or pass;
And in the west one golden streak
Burns like a great cathedral glass.
IV
The skies are amber, blue, and green
Before the coming of the sun;
And all the deep hills sleep, serene
As if enchanted; every one
Is ribbed with morning mists that lean
On woods through which vague whispers run.
Birds wake: and on the vine-hung knobs,
Above the brook, a twittering
Confuses songs; one warbler robs
Another of its note; a wing
Beats by; and now a wild throat throbs
Triumphant; all the woodlands sing.
The sun is up: the hills are heaped
With instant splendor; and the vales
Surprised with shimmers that are steeped
In purple where the thin mist trails;
The water-fall, the rock it leaped,
Are burning gold that foams and fails.{177}
He drives his horses to the plow
Along the vineyard slopes, where bask
Dew-heavy grapes, half-ripened now,
In sun-shot shafts of shade: no mask
Of joy he wears; his face and brow
Glow as he enters on his task.
Before him, soaring through the mist,
The gray hawk wildly wings and screams;
Its dewy back gleams, sunbeam-kissed,
Above the wood that drips and dreams;
He guides the plow with one strong fist;
The soil rolls back in level seams.
Packed to the right the sassafras
Lifts leafy walls of spice that shade
The blackberries, whose tendrils mass
Big berries in the coolness made;
And drop their ripeness on the grass
Where trumpet-flowers fall and fade.
White on the left the fence and trees
That mark the garden; and the smoke,
Uncurling in the early breeze,
Tells of the roof beneath the oak;
He turns his team, and, turning, sees
The damp, dark soil his coulter broke.{178}
Bees hum; and o’er the berries poise
Lean-bodied wasps; loud blackbirds turn
Following the plow: there is a noise
Of insect wings that buzz and burn;—
And now he hears his wife’s low voice,
The song she sings to help her churn.
V
There are no clouds that drift around
The moon’s pearl-kindled crystal, (white
As some sky-summoned spirit wound
In raiment lit with limbs of light),
That have not softened like the sound
Of harps when Heaven forgets to smite.
The vales are deeper than the dark,
And darker than the vales the woods
That shadowy hill and meadow mark
With broad, blurred lines, whereover broods
Deep calm; and now a fox-hound’s bark
Upon the quietude intrudes.
And though the night is never still,
Yet what we name its noises makes
Its silence:—now a whippoorwill;
A frog, whose hoarser tremor breaks{179}
The hush; then insect sounds that fill
The night; an owl that hoots and wakes.
They lean against the gate that leads
Into the lane that lies between
The yard and orchard; flowers and weeds
Smell sweeter than the odors keen
That day distils from hotness; beads
Of dew make cool the gray and green.
Their infant sleeps. They feel the peace
Of something done that God has blessed,
Still as the pulse that will not cease
There in the cloud that lights the west:
The peace of love that shall increase
While soul to soul still gives its best.
{180}

AN EPIC OF SOUTH-FORK
I
The wild brook gleams on the sand and ripples
Over the rocks of the riffle; brimming
Under the elms like a nymph who dripples,
Dips and glimmers and shines in swimming:
Under the linns and the ash-trees lodging,
Loops of the limpid waters lie,
Shaken of schools of the minnows, dodging
The glancing wings of the dragon-fly.
Lower, the loops are lines of laughter
Over the stones and the crystal gravel;
Afar they gloom, like a face seen after
Mirth, where the waters slowly travel;
Shadowy slow where the Fork is shaken
Of the dropping bark of the sycamore,
Where the water-snake, that the footsteps waken,
Slides like a crooked root from shore.{181}
Peace of the forest; and silence, dimmer
Than dreams. And now a wing that winnows
The willow leaves, with their shadows slimmer
In the shallow there than a school of minnows:
Calm of the creek; and a huge tree twisted,
Ringed, and turned to a tree of pearl;
A gray-eyed man, who is farmer-fisted,
And a dark-eyed, sinewy country girl.
The brow of the man is gnarled and wrinkled
With the weight of the words that have just been spoken;
And the girl has smiled and her eyes have twinkled,
Though the bonds and the bands of their love lie broken:
She smiles, nor knows how the days have knotted
Her to the heart of the man who says:
“Let us follow the paths that we think allotted.
I will go my ways and you your ways.
“And the man between us is your decision.
Worse or better he is your lover.—
Shall I say he ’s worse since the sweet Elysian
Prize he wins where I discover{182}
Only the hell of the luckless chooser?—
Shall I say he ’s better than I, or more,
Since he is winner and I am loser,
His life ’s made rich and mine made poor?”
“I tell you now as I oft and ever
Have told,” she answered, the laughter dying
Down in her eyes, “that his arms have never
Held me!—no!—but you think me lying,
And you are wrong. And I think it better
To part forever than still to dwell
With the sad distrust, like an evil tetter,
On our lives forever, and so farewell.”
And she turned away; and he watched her going,
The girlish pride in her eyes a-smoulder:
He saw her go, and his lips were glowing
Fever that parched. And he stood, one shoulder
Slouched to the tree; and he saw her stooping,
There by the bank, with a reckless foot;
Straighten; and tear from her breast his drooping
Lilies and fasten the pleurisy-root.{183}
With its orange fire he saw her passing
On and on; and the blood beat, burning
His brain to madness; and seemingly massing
The weight of the world on his heart in yearning …
Butterflies swarmed in the moist sand-alleys;
A fairy fleet of Ionian sails
They seemed with their wings, or of pirate galleys,
Maroon and yellow, for Elfland gales.
He watched her going; and harder, thicker
The pulse of his breath and his heart’s hard throbbing.—
How should he know that her heart was sicker?
How should he know that her soul was sobbing?—
She never looked back: and he saw her vanish
In swirls of the startled butterflies,
Like a storm of flowers; and he could not banish
The thought he had lost his all through lies.
II
He heard the cocks crow out the lonely hours.
How long the night! how far away the dawn!{184}
It seemed long months since he had seen the flowers,
The leaves, the sunlight, and the bee-hived lawn;
Had heard the thrush flute in the tangled showers.
His burning eyes ached, staring at the black
Stolidity of midnight. Would God send
No cool relief unto his mind,—a rack
Of inquisition,—tortures to unbend,
That stretched him forward and now strained him back?
Incomprehensible and undivulged,
The thought that took him back, retraced their walks,
Through woods, on which the sudden perfumes bulged,
The bird-songs and the brilliant-blossomed stalks;
And all the freedom which their talk indulged.
Oh, strong appeal! And he would almost yield;
When, firmly forward, he could feel her fault{185}
Oppose the error of a rock-like shield,
And to resisting phalanxes cry halt—
And, lo! bright cohorts broken on the field.
O mulct of morning! to the despot night
Count down unminted gold, and let the day
Walk free from dungeons of the dark; delight
Herself on mountains of the violet ray,
Clad in white maidenhood and morning white!
A melancholy coast, plunged deep in dream
And death and silence, stretched the drowsy dark,
Wherein he heard a round-eyed screech-owl scream,
In lamentation, and a watch-dog bark,
Vague as oblivion, lost in night’s deep stream.
And then hope moved him to divide the blinds
To see if those bright sparkles were a star’s,
Or but his feverish eyelids, which the mind’s
Commotion weighed.—No hint of morning bars
With glimmer heaven’s swart tapestry he finds.
So he remained, impatient, till the first
Exploring crevices of Aztec morn,{186}
Dim cracks of treasure, Eldorados burst:
Then could he face his cowardice and scorn
His jealousy that thus his life had cursed.
Love knew no barriers now. And where he went
Each woodland path was musical with birds;
Each flow’r was richer, more divine of scent;
For love sought love with such expressive words
That dawn’s delivery was less eloquent.
III
Who is it hunts with his dog
There where the heron is flying
Gray through the feathering fog
Over the Fork, where is lying,
Bridge-like, a butternut log,
There where the horsemint is drying?
Who is it hunts in the brush,
Under the linns and the beeches,
Here where the water-falls rush,
Dark, where the noon never reaches?
Here where the Fork is one crush
Of flags with a bloom like the peach’s?{187}
He is handsome and supple and tall,
Blond-haired and vigorous-chested,
Blue-eyed as the bud by the fall
Where he listens,—his rifle half rested,
Half leaned on the crumbling stone wall,—
Whose briers he lately has breasted.
He waits; and the sun on the dew
Of the cedars and leaves of the bushes
Strikes glittering frostiness through …
If a covey of partridges flushes
What good will a Winchester do,
Or the dog to his feet that he crushes?
Then a man breaks strong through the weeds
Where the buck-bushes toss and the spires
Of the white-blossomed cohosh; ’mid reeds
Wild-carrots, and trammelling briers:
It is he! to his loved one who speeds—
And the man in the bushes—he fires….
From leaves of the wind-shaken wood
The dew of the dawn is still falling:
He is gone from the place where he stood,
Just there where the black crow is calling:
There is blood on the weeds: is it blood
On the face of the man who is crawling?{188}
Red blood or a smudge of the dawn?—
Now he lies with his gray eyes wide, staring,
Stiff, still at the sun: he has drawn
His limbs in a heap: and the faring
Bee-martins light near or pass on,
Not one of them knowing or caring.
It is noon: and the wood-dove is deep
In the calm of its cooing: and over
The tops of the forest trees sweep
The shadows of buzzards that hover:
Wide-winged they sail on as asleep:
And the bob-white is whistling from cover.
It is dusk: and the heat, that made wilt
The leaves and the wildflowers’ faces,
Gives place to the dew-drops that tilt
With coolness the weeds where are traces
Of horror and darkness and guilt,
That nothing can wash from those places.
It is night: and the hoot-owlet mocks
The dove of the day with wild weeping,
The Fork is scarce heard on its rocks
Where the man is so quietly sleeping:
Through the woods snaps the bark of a fox;
The lightning is fitfully leaping.
{189}

IV
All day, ’twixt hope and fear,
She waited at the gate,
Looking for him, more dear
Now that he made her wait:
Day went and night draws near:
Stormy it grows and late.
Still, still she waits: great limbs
The winds rend from the ridge;
Each swollen shallow swims
Head-deep below the bridge;
The drift, that breaks and brims
Swirls lighter than the midge.
The night grows wildly gray
With lightning-litten rain;
The forests sound and sway,
An oak is rent in twain;
The thunder rolls away
Like some vast bolt and chain.
The Fork is whirling wreck
Of field and farm and wood;
And many a foaming fleck
Drives where the rock-fence stood;—
A torrent sweeps break-neck
Above the washed-out blood.{190}
Night deepens: still she waits
Expectant in despair:
The Fork has reached the gates,
The wood’s wreck everywhere.
But when the storm abates,
She thinks, he will be there.
She sees the lightning rush
Its blazing hells above;
She hears the thunder crush
Heaven as if earthquake-clove—
Loud in the tempest’s hush
She calls with all her love.
He comes, she feels; and stands
The rushing waters o’er
Her feet, and on her hands
And hair the wild down-pour,
The lightnings are wild brands
To light him to her door.
Night deepens: but she knows
God will not fail to send
Her love to soothe her woes,
And one day’s errors mend.—
The wild stream foams and flows
Booming in fall and bend.{191}
Again the lightnings light
The night like some wild torch;
The waters foam and fight;
And one uprooted larch
Sweeps down, with something white
Wedged in it, by her porch.
She stoops: the lurid rain
Beats on her back and head—
Ay! he hath come again!
With livid lips once red!
A bullet in his brain
The night hath brought him—dead!
{192}

A NIELLO
I
It is not early spring and yet
Of bloodroot blooms along the stream,
And blotted banks of violet,
My heart will dream.
Is it because the wind-flower apes
The beauty that was once her brow,
That the white thought of it still shapes
The April now?
Because the wild-rose learned its blush
From her fresh cheeks of maidenhood,
Their thought makes June of barren brush
And empty wood?
And then I think how young she died—
Straight, barren death stalks down the trees,
The hard-eyed hours by his side
That kill and freeze.
{193}

II
When orchards are in bloom again
My heart will bound, my blood will beat,
To hear the red-bird so repeat,
On boughs of rosy stain,
His blithe, loud song,—like some far strain
From out the past,—among the bloom,—
(Where bee, and wasp, and hornet boom)—
Fresh, redolent with rain.
When orchards are in bloom once more,
Invasions of lost dreams will draw
My feet, like some insistent law,
Through blossoms to her door:
In dreams I’ll ask her, as before,
To let me help her at the well;
And fill her pail; and long to tell
My love as once of yore.
I shall not speak until we quit
The farm-gate, leading to the lane
And orchard, all in bloom again,
’Mid which the wood-doves sit
And coo; and through whose blossoms flit
The cat-birds crying while they fly:
Then tenderly I’ll speak, and try
To tell her all of it.{194}
And in my dream again she’ll place
Her hand in mine, as oft before,—
When orchards are in bloom once more,—
With all her old-time grace:
And we will tarry till a trace
Of sunset dyes the heav’ns; and then—
We’ll part, and, parting, I again
Will bend and kiss her face.
And homeward, dreaming, I will go
Along the cricket-chirring ways,
While sunset, like one crimson blaze
Of blossoms, lingers low:
And my lost youth again I’ll know,
And all her love, when spring is here—
Hers! hers! now dead this many a year
Whose love still haunts me so.
III
I would not die when Springtime lifts
The white world to her maiden mouth,
And heaps its cradle with gay gifts,
Breeze-blown from out the singing South:
Too full of life and loves that cling,
Too heedless of all mortal woe,
The young, unsympathetic Spring,
That death should never know.{195}
I would not die when Summer shakes
Her daisied locks below her hips,
And, naked as a star that takes
A cloud, into the silence slips.
Too rich is Summer; poor in needs;
Wrapped in her own warm loveliness
Her pomp goes by, and never heeds
If one be more or less.
But I would die when Autumn goes,
The sad rain dripping from her hair,
Through forests where the wild wind blows
Death and the red wreck everywhere:
Sweet as love’s last farewells and tears
’T would be to die, when heavens are gray,
In the old autumn of my years,
Like a dead leaf borne far away.
{196}

DEEP IN THE FOREST
I
SPRING ON THE HILLS

Ah, shall I follow, on the hills,
The Spring, as wild wings follow?
Where wild-plum trees make wan the hills,
Crab-apple trees the hollow,
Haunts of the bee and swallow?
In red-bud brakes and flowery
Acclivities of berry;
In dogwood dingles, showery
With dew, where wrens make merry?
Or drifts of swarming cherry?
In valleys of wild-strawberries,
And of the clumped May-apple;
Or cloud-like trees of hawberries,
With which the south-winds grapple,
That brook and pathway dapple?{197}
With eyes of far forgetfulness,—
Like some white wood-thing’s daughter,
Whose feet are bee-like fretfulness,—
To see her run like water
Through boughs that slipped or caught her.
O Spring, to seek, yet find you not,
To search and still continue;
To glimpse, to touch, but bind you not,
To lose and then to win you,
All sweet evasion in you.
In pearly, peach-blush distances
You gleam; the woods are braided
Of myths, of dream-existences;—
There, where the brook is shaded,
Some splendor surely faded.
O presence, like the primrose’s,
Once more I feel your power!
In rainy scents of dim roses
I breathe you for an hour,
Elusive as a flower.
II
THE WOOD SPIRIT

Ah me! I still remember
How flushed, before the shower,{198}
The dusk was; like a scarlet rose,
Or blood-red poppy-flower.
Now heaven is starred; the moonlight
Lays blurs upon the grain—
You may not know it from white frost,
The moonlight on the rain.
And all the forest utters
A restless moan in rest,
For all the deep, dark shadow lies
Like iron on its breast.
I mark the moveless shadow,
I mark the unreaped corn,
Then something whispers overhead,
“Come to me, mortal-born.”
I sit alone and listen;
The low leaves sound and sigh;
The dew drips from the bearded grain,
A mist slips from the sky.—
I hear her whisper, whisper,
And breathe in some dim place;
Her feet are easier than the dew,
And than the mist her face.{199}
I may not clasp her ever,
This spirit made for song,
Who dwelleth in the young, young oak
The old, old oaks among.
Her limbs are molded moonlight;
Her breasts are silver moons:
She glimmers and she glitters where
The purple shadow swoons.
And since she knows I love her,
She says my soul has died,
And laughs and mocks me in the mist
That haunts the forest-side.
When winds run mad in woodlands
And all the great boughs swing,
I see her wild hair blow and blow
Black as a raven’s wing.
When winds are tamed and tethered
And stars are keen as frost,
I search and seek within the wood,
There where my soul was lost.
I seek her, and she flies me;
I follow; and the whole
Dim woodland echoes with her voice,
Soft calling to my soul.
{200}

III
OWL ROOST

The slope is a mass of vines:
If you walk in the daylight there,
A gleam as of twilight shines
Through the vines massed everywhere:
Each trunk, that a creeper twines,
Is a column, strong to bear
The dome of its leaves that wave,
Cathedral-dim and grave.
Black moss makes silent the feet:
And, above, the fox-grapes lace
So thick that the noonday heat
Is chill as a murdered face:
And the winds for miles repeat
The fugue of a rolling bass:
The deep leaves twinkle and turn
But over no flower or fern.
An angular spider weaves
Great webs between the trees,
Webs that are witches’ sieves:
And honey-and bumblebees
Go droning among the leaves,
Like the fairies’ oboës:{201}
At dark the owlets croon
To the stars and the sickle-moon.
At dark I will not go
There where the branches sigh;
Where naught but the glow-worms glow,
Each one like a demon’s eye:
O’er which, like a battle-bow,
With an arrow that it lets fly,
The new-moon and one star
Hang and glimmer afar.
At dawn, if my mood be dim,
And the day be a cloudless one,
There where the sad winds hymn
I ’ll walk, but its shade will shun;
Its shade, where I feel the grim
Horror of something done
Here in the years long past,
That the place conceals to the last.
IV
MOSS AND FERN

Where rise the brakes of bramble there,
Wrapped with the trailing rose,{202}
Through cane where waters ramble, there
Where deep the green cress grows,
Who knows?
Perhaps, unseen of eyes of man,
Hides Pan.
Perhaps the creek, whose pebbles make
A foothold for the mint,
May bear,—where soft its trebles make
Confession,—some vague hint—
(The print,
Goat-hoofed, of one who lightly ran)—
Of Pan.
Where, in the hollow of the hills
Ferns deepen to the knees,
What sounds are those above the hills,
And now among the trees?—
No breeze!—
The syrinx, haply, none may scan,
Of Pan.
In woods where waters break upon
The hush like some soft word;
Where sun-shot shadows shake upon
The moss, who has not heard—
No bird!—{203}
The flute, as breezy as a fan,
Of Pan?
Far in, where mosses lay for us
Still carpets, cool and plush;
Where bloom and branch and ray for us
Swoon in the noonday flush,
The hush
May sound the satyr hoof a span
Of Pan.
In woods where thrushes sing to us,
And brooks dance sparkling heels;
Where wild aromas cling to us,
And all our worship kneels,—
Who steals
Upon us, haunch and face of tan,
But Pan?
V
WOODLAND WATERS

Through leaves of the nodding trees,
Where blossoms sway in the breeze,
Pink bag-pipes made for the bees,
Whose slogan is droning and drawling:
Where the columbine scatters its bells,{204}
And the wild bleeding-heart its shells,
O’er mosses and rocks of the dells
The brook of the forest is falling.
You can hear it under the hill
When the wind in the wood is still,
And, strokes of a fairy drill,
Sounds the bill of the yellow-hammer:
By the solomon’s-seal it slips,
Cohosh and the grass that drips—
Like the words of an Undine’s lips,
Is the sound of its falls that stammer.
I lie in the woods: and the scent
Of the honeysuckle is blent
With the sound: and a Sultan’s tent
Is my dream, with the East enmeshéd:—
A slave-girl sings; and I hear
The languor of lute-strings near,
And a dancing-girl of Cashmere
In the harem of good Er Reshid.
From ripples of Irak lace
She flashes the amorous grace
Of her naked limbs and her face,
While her golden anklets tinkle:
Then over mosaic floors{205}
Open seraglio doors
Of cedar: by twos, by fours,—
Like stars that tremble and twinkle,—
While the dulcimers sing, unseen,
The handmaids come of the Queen
’Neath silvern lamps, one sheen
Of jewels of Afrite treasure:
And I see the Arabia rise
Of the Nights that were rich and wise,
Beautiful, dark, in the eyes
Of Zubeideh, the Queen of Pleasure.
VI
THE THORN-TREE

The night is sad with silver and the day is glad with gold,
And the woodland silence listens to a legend never old,
Of the Lady of the Fountain, whom the fairy people know,
With her limbs of samite whiteness and her hair of golden glow,
Whom the boyish South-wind seeks for and the girlish-stepping rain,{206}
Whom the sleepy leaves still whisper men shall never see again;
She whose Vivien charms were mistress of the magic Merlin knew,
That could change the dew to glow-worms and the glow-worms into dew.
There’s a thorn-tree in the forest, and the fairies know the tree,
With its branches gnarled and wrinkled as a face with sorcery;
But the May-time brings it clusters of a rainy fragrant white,
Like the bloom-bright brows of beauty or a hand of lifted light.
And all day the silence whispers to the sun-ray of the morn
How the bloom is lovely Vivien and how Merlin is the thorn:
How she won the doting wizard with her naked loveliness
Till he told her demon secrets that but made his magic less.
How she charmed him and enchanted in the thorn-tree’s thorns to lie
Forever with his passion that should never dim or die:{207}
And with wicked laughter looking on this thing that she had done,
Like a visible aroma lingered sparkling in the sun;
How she stooped to kiss the pathos of an elf-lock of his beard,
All in mockery, at parting, and mock pity of his weird:
But her magic had forgotten that “who bends to give a kiss
Will bring down the curse upon them of the person whose it is”:
So the silence tells the secret.—And at night the fairies see
How the tossing bloom is Vivien, who is struggling to be free,
In the thorny arms of Merlin, who, forever, is the tree.
VII
THE HAMADRYAD

She stood among the longest ferns
The valley held; and in her hand
One blossom like the light that burns,
Vermilion, o’er a sunset land;
And round her hair a twisted band{208}
Of pink-pierced mountain-laurel blooms:
And darker than dark pools, that stand
Below the star-communing glooms,
Her eyes beneath her hair’s perfumes.
I saw the moon-pearl sandals on
Her flower-white feet, that seemed too chaste
To tread pure gold: and, like the dawn
On splendid peaks that lord a waste
Of solitude lost gods have graced,
Her face: she stood there, faultless-hipped,
Bound with the cestused silver,—chased
With acorn-cup and crown, and tipped
With oak-leaves,—whence her chiton slipped.
Limbs that the gods call loveliness!—
The grace and glory of all Greece
Wrought in one marble form were less
Than her perfection!—’Mid the trees
I saw her; and time seemed to cease
For me—And, lo! I lived my old
Greek life again of classic ease,
Barbarian as the myths that rolled
Me back into the Age of Gold.
{209}

WRECKAGE
I
Love and the drift of many dreams,
Under the moon of a Florida night,
Over the beach with its silvery seams
White as a sail is white.
Love that entered into two lives
Out of the dreams that the nights have borne,
Over the waves where the vapor drives,
Mists that the stars have torn.
Love that welded two hearts and hands
There by the sea, ’neath the shell-white moon,
Like to the stars and the mists and the sands
Setting two lives in tune.
Nights of love that one still keeps
Sacred;—nights, that the faith of one
Heartened there in the treacherous deeps,
Under a tropic sun.
{210}

II
Parting he said to her: “Let us be true to them,—
All of our dreams, of the night, of the morning:
What is our present, its hope, but a clew to them?
What is our past but a dream and a warning?
Have you considered the life that regretfully
Foldeth weak arms to the fate it might master?—
Had I been true to my dreams, never fretfully
Halted, my future and joy had been faster.”
They had come down to the ocean that, bellowing,
Boiled on the sand and the shells that were broken;
All of the summer was fading and yellowing;
Now they must part and their vows had been spoken.
It had befallen that heaven was lowering;
Over the sea, like the wraith of a wrecker,
Clamored the gull; and the mist in the showering
East seemed the ghost of a lofty three-decker.{211}
Infinite foam; and the boom of the hollowing
Breakers that buried the rocks to their shoulders;
Battle and boast of the deep in the wallowing
World of the waves where the red sunset smoulders.
Long was the leap of the foam on the thunderous
Beach; and each end of the beach was a flying
Fog of the spray: and she said, “Let it sunder us!
Still we will love, for love is undying!”
Yet, if it comes to the thing he has said to her?—
Wreckage and death?—the love she has given
Turned into sorrow?—Oh, that was a dread to her!
He, like a weed, by the waters far driven!
Weeping, her bosom with shudders was shaken as
She for a moment hard clung to her sailor,
Kissed him and—parted. His boat had been taken; as
Paler it grew the woman grew paler.
{212}

III
All day the rain drove, falling
Upon the sombre sea;
All day, his wet sail hauling,
The sailor tacked a-lea;
And through the wild rain calling,
What was it?—was it he?
At dusk the gull clanged, drifting
Above the boiling brine;
And, through the wan west sifting,
Streamed one red sunset line;
And in its wild light shifting,
His far sail seemed to shine.
All night the wind wailed, sighing
Along the wreck-strewn coast;
All night the surf, defying,
Rolled thunder in and boast;
All night she heard a crying—
The sea? or some lost ghost?
IV
The balm of the night and the glory,
The music and scent of the sea,
Are as song to her heart or a story
Of the never-to-be.{213}
The stars and the night and the whiteness
Of foam on the stretch of the sand;
Faint foam that is tossed, like the brightness
Of a mermaiden’s hand.
No sail on the ocean; no sailor
On shore, and the winds all asleep;
And her face in the starlight far paler
Than women who weep.
A mist on the deep; and the ghostly
White moon in the deep of the night;
And a light that is neither; that mostly
Is shadow not light.
No sea-gull, that vanished with gleaming
Of wings, in the swing of the spray;
Perhaps it was only her dreaming,
Or merely a ray
Of moonlight; the glimmering essence
Of all that is grayest and dim—
But never his face, or his presence
That dripped in each limb.
And she cried through the night, “Let perish!
O God, let me die of despair!
If he whom I love, whom I cherish,
Is weltering there!”{214}
She seemed but a sea-mist made woman,
And he but a sound of the sea
Made man where nothing was human,
And never would be.
V
Long he sailed the deep that glasses
The face of God and His majesty;
Passed the Horn and the Seas of Grasses,
Drifting aimlessly.
Time went by with its days that ever
Burden the hearts of those who be
Far away from their love; whom sever
Leagues of the shapeless sea.
Land at last, whose reefs rolled broken
Foam of the balked waves everywhere;
Land; one tangle of weeds and oaken
Wreck and of rocks laid bare.
Here and there the sand stretched livid
Leagues of famine, one blinding glare;
Crags, o’er which gaunt birds winged vivid,
Harsh in the earthquake air.
A little cloud in the sunset’s splendor;
A little cloud that the sunset stains:
Night, and a wisp of a moon that, slender,
Dreams of the hurricanes.{215}
Winds that stride as with sounding sandals;
Winds that the tempest has loosed from chains:
Light that leaps like a spear he handles,
Shaking his thunder-manes.
Wrenching the world in wreck asunder,
Black rebellion of hell and night;
Wrath and roar of the rocks and thunder,
Flame and the winds that fight …
Beating the drift and the hush together,
Waves and winds that the morn makes white;
Calm and peace of the tropic weather
After the typhoon’s might.
Clouds blow by and the storm’s forgotten.
Savage coasts where the sea-cow feeds.
Wash of weeds and the sea-weeds rotten.
And a dead face in the weeds.
None to know him or name him brother;
Only the savage in feathers and beads;
The South-Sea Islander, fitting another
Barb in the shaft he speeds.
Far away where the sea-gulls gather;
Far away where the evening falls,
Lone she stands where the wild waves lather,
Rolling the sea in walls.—{216}
Who shall tell her, the lonely tryster?
Tell her of him on whom she calls?—
Suns that beat on his face and blister?
Stars? or the sea that crawls?
VI
She dreamed that there, beside the ocean sitting,
Alone she watched, when, at her feet, behold!
Between the foam-ridge and the sea-gull’s flitting,
His body rolled.
All was not as it was before they parted;
She dreamed he had remembered, she forgot;
He ’d said he would forget her, angry-hearted,
And yet could not.
And then it seemed that, had she known, she surely
Had given pity when she could not give
Her love to him, who loved her madly, purely,
And bade him live.
And then she dreamed she looked upon the slanted
Hulk of a wreck: and high above the wave,
Worn of the wind and of the cactus planted,
His nameless grave.
{217}

SIREN SANDS
I
The rhododendrons bloom and shake
Their petals wide and gleam and sway
Among palmettoes, by the lake,
Beyond the bay.
Shores where we watched the eve reveal
Her cloudy sanctuaries, while
The bay lay lavaed into steel
For mile on mile.
We watched the purple coast confuse
Soft outlines with the graying light;
And towards the gulf a vessel lose
Itself in night.
We saw the sea-gulls dip and soar;
The wild-fowl gather past the pier;
And from rich skies, as from God’s door,
Gold far and near.{218}
Two foreign seamen passed and we
Heard mellow Spanish; like twin stars,
Where they lounged smoking, we could see
Their faint cigars.
Night; and the heavens stained and strewn
With stars the waters idealized,
Until their light the rising moon
Epitomized.
Morn; and the pine-wood balms awake;
Winds roll the dew-drop from the rose;
The wide lake burns; and, on the lake,
The ripple glows.
Far coasts detach deep purple from
The blue horizon, and the day
Beholds the sunburnt sailor come
And sail away.
The bird that slept at dusk, at dawn
Awakes again within the thorn.—
Sweet was the night to it, now gone;
And sweet is morn.
II
Through halls of columned scarlet,
Like some dark queen, the Dusk
Trails skirts of myrrh and musk,{219}
Hung in each ear, a starlet
Gleams,—gems the clouds’ gaunt Jinn
Guard; and, beneath her chin,
The moon, an opal tusk.
There lies a ghostly glory
Upon the sea and sand;
A gleam, as of a hand,
Stretched from the realms of story,
Of rosy golden ray;
Pointing the world the way
To some far Fairyland.
As fades the west’s vermilion
Above the distant coasts,
The stars come out in hosts;
Within the night’s pavilion,
As flower speaks to flower,
Dim hour calls to hour,
Pale with the past’s sweet ghosts.
III
Music that melts through moonlight,
Faint on the summer breeze;
Fireflies, moonlight, and foaming
Susurrus of the seas.{220}
Music that drifts like perfume,
And touches like a hand;
Dreams and stars and the ocean,
And we alone on the sand.
Glimmers and vague reflections,
And the white swirl of the foam;
Pale on the purple a vessel,
And a light that beckons home.
And I seem to see the music,
On a moonbeam bar that floats,
For the music is moonlight magic,
And the flies are its golden notes.
And I seem to hear one singing
Of a brown old coast and sea,
Of lives that were filled with passion,
And old-world tragedy.
And I hear the harsh reef’s calling
For a noble ship at sea,
And the winds of the ocean singing
A dirge for the dead to be.
Till it seems that I am the pilot,
And you are the mermaidén,
Who lures him on to the wrecking
And into her arms again.
{221}

Song
Over the hills where the winds are waking
All is lone as the soul of me;
Over the hills where the stars are shaking,
Breton hills by the sea.
These were with me to tell me often
How she pined in her Croisic home,
Winds that sing and the stars that soften
Over the miles of foam.
Fishers’ nets and the sailor faces;
Sad salt marshes and granite piers;
Brown, loud coast where the long foam races—
And a parting full of tears.
A gray sail’s ghost where the autumn lies on
Wraiths of the mist and the squall-blown rain;
Her dark girl eyes that search the horizon,
Grave with a haunting pain.
Stars may burn and the wild winds whistle
Over the rocks where the sea-gulls rave—
My heart is bleak as the wind-worn thistle
on her seaside grave.
{222}

IV
Sad as sad eyes that ache with tears
The stars of night shine through the leaves;
And shadowy as the Fates’ dim shears
The weft that twilight weaves.
The summer sunset marched long hosts
Of gold adown one golden peak,
That flamed and fell; and now gray ghosts
Of mist the far west streak.
They seem the shades of things that weep,
Wan things the heavens would conceal;
Blood-stained; that bear within them, deep,
Red wounds that will not heal.
Night comes, and with it storm, that slips
Wild angles of the jagged light:—
I feel the wild rain on my lips,—
A wild girl is the Night.
A moaning tremor sweeps the trees;
And all the stars are packed with death:—
She holds me by the neck and knees,
I feel her wild, wet breath.{223}
Hell and its hags drive on the rain:—
Night holds me by the hair and pleads;
Her kisses fall like blows again;
My brow is dewed with beads.
The thunder plants wild beacons on
Each volleying height.—My soul seems blown
Far out to sea. The world is gone,
And night and I alone.
Tampa, Florida, February, 1893.{224}
WAR-TIME SILHOUETTES.
I
THE BATTLE

The night had passed. The day had come,
Bright-born, into a cloudless sky:
We heard the rolling of the drum,
And saw the war-flags fly.
And noon had crowded upon morn
Ere Conflict shook her red locks far,
And blew her brazen battle-horn
Upon the hills of War.
Noon darkened into dusk—one blot
Of nightmare lit with hell-born suns;—
We heard the scream of shell and shot
And booming of the guns.
On batteries of belching grape
We saw the thundering cavalry
Hurl headlong,—iron shape on shape,—
With shout and bugle-cry.{225}
When dusk had moaned and died, and night
Came on, wind-swept and wild with rain,
We slept, ’mid many a bivouac light,
And vast fields heaped with slain.
II
IN HOSPITAL

Wounded to death he lay and dreamed
The drums of battle beat afar,
And round the roaring trenches screamed
The hell of war.
Then woke; and, weeping, spoke one word
To the kind nurse who bent above;
Then in the whitewashed ward was heard
A song of love.
The song she sang him when she gave
The portrait that he kissed; then sighed,
“Lay it beside me in the grave!”
And smiled and died.
III
THE SOLDIER’S RETURN

A brown wing beat the apple leaves and shook
Some blossoms on her hair. Then, note on note,{226}
The bird’s wild music bubbled. In her book,
Her old romance, she seemed to read. No look
Betrayed the tumult in her trembling throat.
The thrush sang on. A dreamy wind came down
From one white cloud of afternoon and fanned
The dropping petals on her book and gown,
And touched her hair, whose braids of quiet brown
Gently she smoothed with one white jeweled hand.
Then, with her soul, it seemed, from feet to brow
She felt him coming: ’t was his heart, his breath
That stirred the blossom on the apple bough;
His step the wood-thrush warbled to. And now
Her cheek went crimson, now as white as death.
Then on the dappled page his shadow—yes,
Not unexpected, yet her haste assumed
Fright’s startle; and low laughter did confess
His presence there, soft with his soul’s caress
And happy manhood, where the rambo bloomed.{227}
Quickly she rose and all her gladness sent
Wild welcome to him. Her his unhurt arm
Drew unresisted; and the soldier leant
Fond lips to hers. She wept. And so they went
Deep in the orchard towards the old brick farm.
IV
THE APPARITION

A day of drought, foreboding rain and wind,
As if stern heaven, feeling earth had sinned,
Frowned all its hatred. When the evening came,
Along the west, from bank on bank unthinned
Of clouds, the storm unfurled its oriflamme.
Then lightning signaled, and the thunder woke
Its monster drums, and all God’s torrents broke.—
She saw the wild night when the dark pane flashed;
Heard, where she stood, the disemboweled oak
Roar into fragments when the welkin crashed.
Long had she waited for a word. And, lo!
Anticipation still would not say “No:”
He has not written; he will come to her;{228}
At dawn!—to-night!—Her heart hath told her so;
And so expectancy and love aver.
She seems to hear his fingers on the pane—
The glass is blurred, she can not see for rain:
Is that his horse?—the wind is never still:
And that his cloak?—ah, surely that is plain!—
A torn vine tossing at the window-sill.
She hurries forth to meet him; pale and wet,
She sees his face; the war-soiled epaulet;
A sabre-scar that bleeds from brow to cheek;
And now he smiles, and now their lips have met,
And now … Dear heart, he fell at Cedar Creek!
V
WOUNDED
It was in August that they brought her news
Of his bad wounds; the leg that he must lose.
And August passed, and when October raised
Red rebel standards on the hills that blazed,
They brought a haggard wreck; she scarce knew whose,
Until they told her, standing stunned and dazed.{229}
A shattered shadow of the stalwart lad,
The five-months husband, whom his country had
Enlisted, strong for war; returning this,
Whose broken countenance she feared to kiss,
While health’s remembrance stood beside him sad,
And grieved for that which was no longer his.
They brought him on a litter; and the day
Was bright and beautiful. It seemed that May
In woodland rambles had forgot her path
Of season, and, disrobing for a bath,
By the autumnal waters of some bay,
With her white nakedness had conquered Wrath.
Far otherwise she wished it: wind and rain;
The sky, one gray commiserative pain;
Sleet, and the stormy drift of frantic leaves;
To match the misery that each perceives
Aches in her hand-clutched bosom, and is plain
In eyes and mouth and all her form that grieves.
Theirs, a mute meeting of the lips; she stooped
And kissed him once: one long, dark side-lock drooped{230}
And brushed against the bandage of his breast;
With feeble hands he held it and caressed;
Then all his happiness in one look grouped,
Saying, “Now I am home, I crave but rest.”
Once it was love! but then the battle killed
All that sweet nonsense of his youth, and filled
His heart with sterner passion.—Ah, well! peace
Must balm its pain with patience; whose surcease
Means reconcilement; e’en as God hath willed,
With war or peace who shapes His ends at ease.—
What else for these but, where their mortal lot
Of weak existence drags rent ends, to knot
The frail unravel up!—while love (afraid
Time will increase the burthen on it laid),
Seeks consolation, that consoleth not,
In toil and prayer, waiting what none evade.
VI
THE MESSAGE

Long shadows toward the east: and in the west{231}
A blaze of garnet sunset, wherein rolled
One cloud like some great gnarly log of gold;
Each gabled casement of the farm seemed dressed
In ghosts of roses blossoming manifest.
And she had brought his letter there to read,
There on the porch, that faced the locust glade;
To watch the summer sunset burn and fade,
And breathe the twilight scent of wood and weed,
Forget all care and her soul’s hunger feed.
And on his face her fancy mused a while:
“Dark hair, dark eyes.—And now he has a beard
Dark as his hair.”—She smiled; yet almost feared
It changed him so she could not reconcile
Her heart to that which hid his lips and smile.
Then tried to feature, but could only see
The beardless man who bent to her and kissed
Her and their child and left them to enlist:
She heard his horse grind in the gravel: he
Waved them adieu and rode to fight with Lee.{232}
Now all around her drowsed the hushful hum
Of evening insects. And his letter spoke
Of love and longings to her: nor awoke
One echo of the bugle and the drum,
But all their future in one kiss did sum.
The stars were thick now; and the western blush
Drained into darkness. With a dreamy sigh
She rocked her chair.—It must have been the cry
Of infancy that made her rise and rush
To where their child slept, and to hug and
hush.
Then she returned. But now her ease was gone.
She knew not what, she felt an unknown fear
Press, tightening, at her heart-strings; then a tear
Scalded her eyelids, and her cheeks grew wan
As helpless sorrow’s, and her white lips drawn.
With stony eyes she grieved against the skies,
A slow, dull, aching agony that knew
Few tears, and saw no answer shining to{233}
Her silent questions in the stars’ still eyes
“Where Peace delays and where her soldier lies.”
They could have told her. Peace was far away,
Beyond the field that belched black batteries
All the red day. ’Mid picket silences,
On woodland mosses, in a suit of gray,
Shot through the heart, he by his rifle lay.
VII
THE WOMAN ON THE HILL

The storm-red sun, through wrecks of wind and rain,
And dead leaves driven from the frantic boughs,
Where, on the hill-top, stood a gaunt, gray house,
Flashed wildest ruby on each rainy pane.
Then woods grew darker than unburdened grief;
And, crimson through the woodland’s ruin, streamed
The sunset’s glare—a furious eye, which seemed
Watching the moon rise like a yellow leaf.{234}
The rising moon, against which, like despair,
High on the hill, a woman, darkly drawn,
The wild leaves round her, stood; with features wan,
And tattered dress and wind-distracted hair.
As still as death, and looking, not through tears,
For the young face of one she knows is lost,
While in her heart the melancholy frost
Gathers of all the unforgotten years.
What if she heard to-night a hurrying hoof,
Wild as the whirling of the withered leaf,
Bring her a more immedicable grief,
A shattered shape to live beneath her roof!
The shadow of him who claimed her once as wife;
Her lover!—no!—the wreck of all their past
Brought back from battle!—Better to the last
A broken heart than heartbreak all her life!
{235}

MOSBY AT HAMILTON
Down Loudon lanes, with swinging reins,
And clash of spur and sabre,
And bugling of the battle-horn,
Six score and eight we rode that morn,
Six score and eight of Southern born,
All tried in war’s hot labor.
Full in the sun, at Hamilton,
We met the South’s invaders;
Who, over fifteen hundred strong,
’Mid blazing homes had marched along
All night, with Northern shout and song,
To crush the rebel raiders.
Down Loudon lanes, with streaming manes,
We spurred in wild March weather;
And all along our war-scarred way
The graves of Southern heroes lay—
Our guide-posts to revenge that day,
As we rode grim together.{236}
Old tales still tell some miracle
Of Saints in holy writing—
But who shall say why hundreds fled
Before the few that Mosby led,
Unless it was that even the dead
Fought with us then when fighting.
While Yankee cheers still stunned our ears,
Of troops at Harper’s Ferry;
While Sheridan led on his Huns,
And Richmond rocked to roaring guns,
We felt the South still had some sons
She would not scorn to bury.
{237}

THE FEUD
Rocks, trees and rocks; and down a mossy stone
The murmuring ooze and trickle of a stream
Through brambles, where the mountain spring lies lone,—
A gleaming cairngorm where the shadows dream,—
And one wild road winds like a saffron seam.
Here sang the thrush, whose pure, mellifluous note
Dropped golden sweetness on the fragrant June;
Here cat-and blue-bird and wood-sparrow wrote
Their presence on the silence with a tune;
And here the fox drank ’neath the mountain moon.
Frail ferns and dewy mosses and dark brush,—
Impenetrable briers, deep and dense,
And wiry bushes;—brush, that seemed to crush
The struggling saplings with its tangle, whence
Sprawled out the ramble of an old rail-fence.{238}
A wasp buzzed by; and then a butterfly
In orange and amber, like a floating flame;
And then a man, hard-eyed and very sly,
Gaunt-cheeked and haggard and a little lame,
With an old rifle, down the mountain came.
He listened, drinking from a flask he took
Out of the ragged pocket of his coat;
Then all around him cast a stealthy look;
Lay down; and watched an eagle soar and float,
His fingers twitching at his hairy throat.
The shades grew longer; and each Cumberland height
Loomed, framed in splendors of the dolphin dusk.
Around the road a horseman rode in sight;
Young, tall, blond-bearded. Silent, grim, and brusque,
He in the thicket aimed—Quick, harsh, then husk,
The echoes barked among the hills and made
Repeated instants of the shot’s distress.—
Then silence—and the trampled bushes swayed:—
Then silence, packed with murder and the press
Of distant hoofs that galloped riderless.
{239}

LYNCHERS
At the moon’s down-going, let it be
On the quarry hill with its one gnarled tree.
The red-rock road of the underbrush,
Where the woman came through the summer hush.
The sumac high and the elder thick,
Where we found the stone and the ragged stick.
The trampled road of the thicket, full
Of footprints down to the quarry pool.
The rocks that ooze with the hue of lead,
Where we found her lying stark and dead.
The scraggy wood; the negro hut,
With its doors and windows locked and shut.{240}
A secret signal; a foot’s rough tramp;
A knock at the door; a lifted lamp.
An oath; a scuffle; a ring of masks;
A voice that answers a voice that asks.
A group of shadows; the moon’s red fleck;
A running noose and a man’s bared neck.
A word, a curse, and a shape that swings;
The lonely night and a bat’s black wings.
At the moon’s down-going, let it be
On the quarry hill with its one gnarled tree.
{241}

DEAD MAN’S RUN
He rode adown the autumn wood,
A man dark-eyed and brown;
A mountain girl before him stood
Clad in a homespun gown.
“To ride this road is death for you!
My father waits you there;
My father and my brother, too—
You know the oath they swear.”
He holds her by one berry-brown wrist,
And by one berry-brown hand;
And he hath laughed at her and kissed
Her cheek the sun hath tanned.
“The feud is to the death, sweetheart:
But forward must I ride.”—
“And if you ride to death, sweetheart,
My place is by your side.”{242}
Low hath he laughed again and kissed
And helped her with his hand;
And they have galloped into the mist
That belts the autumn land.
And they had passed by Devil’s Den,
And come to Dead Man’s Run,
When in the brush rose up two men,
Each with a levelled gun.
“Down! down! my sister!” cries the one;—
She gives the reins a twirl.—
The other shouts, “He shot my son!
And now he steals my girl!”
The rifles crack: she will not wail:
He will not cease to ride:
But, oh! her face is pale, is pale,
And the red blood stains her side.
“Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The road is rough to ride!”—
The road is rough by gulch and bluff,
And her hair blows wild and wide.
“Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The bank is steep to ride!”{243}—
The bank is steep for a strong man’s leap,
And her eyes are staring wide.
“Sit fast, sit fast by me, sweetheart!
The Run is swift to ride!”—
The Run is swift with mountain drift,
And she sways from side to side.
Is it a wash of the yellow moss,
Or drift of the autumn’s gold,
The mountain torrent foams across
For the dead pine’s roots to hold?
Is it the bark of the sycamore,
Or peel of the white birch-tree,
The mountaineer on the other shore
Hath followed and still can see?
No mountain moss or leaves, wild rolled,
No bark of birchen-gray!—
Young hair of gold and a face death-cold
The wild stream sweeps away.
{244}

THE RAID
I
Far in the forest, where the rude road winds
Through twisted briers and weeds, stamped down and caked
With mountain mire, the clashing boughs are raked
Again with rain whose sobbing frenzy blinds.
There is a noise of winds; a gasp and gulp
Of swollen torrents; and the sodden smell
Of woodland soil, dead trees—that long since fell
Among the moss—red-rotted into pulp.
Fogged by the rain, far up the mountain glen,
Deep in a cave, an elfish wisp of light;
And stealthy shadows stealing through the night
With strong, set faces of determined men.
{245}

II
’Twixt fog and fire, in pomps of chrysoprase,
Above vague peaks, the morning hesitates
Ere, o’er the threshold of her golden gates,
Speeds the wild splendor of her chariot’s rays.
A gleaming glimmer in the sun-speared mist,
A cataract, reverberating, falls:
Upon a pine a gray hawk sits and calls,
Then soars away no bigger than a fist.
Along the wild path, through the oaks and firs,—
Rocks, where the rattler coils himself and suns,—
Big-booted, belted, and with twinkling guns,
The posse marches with its moonshiners.
{246}

THE BROTHERS
Not far from here, it lies beyond
That low-hilled belt of woods. We ’ll take
This unused lane where brambles make
A wall of twilight, and the blond
Brier-roses pelt the path and flake
The margin waters of a pond.
This is its fence—or that which was
Its fence once—now, rock rolled from rock,
One tangle of the vine and dock,
Where bloom the wild petunias;
And this its gate, the ragweeds block,
Hot with the insects’ dusty buzz.
Two wooden posts, wherefrom has peeled
The weather-blistered paint, still rise;
Gaunt things—that groan when some one tries
The gate whose hinges, rust-congealed,
Snarl open:—on each post still lies
Its carven panther with a shield.{247}
We enter; and between great rows
Of locusts winds a grass-grown road;
And at its glimmering end,—o’erflowed
With quiet light,—the white front shows
Of an old mansion, grand and broad,
With grave, Colonial porticoes.
Grown thick around it, dark and deep,
The locust trees make one vast hush;
Their brawny branches crowd and crush
Its very casements, and o’ersweep
Its rotting roofs: their tranquil rush
Haunts all its spacious rooms with sleep.
Still is it called The Locusts; though
None lives here now. A tale ’s to tell
Of some dark thing that here befell;
A crime that happened years ago,
When past its walls, with shot and shell,
The war swept on and left it so.
For one black night, within it, shame
Made revel, while, all here about,
With prayer or curse or battle-shout,
Men died and homesteads leapt in flame:
Then passed the conquering Northern rout,
And left it silent and the same.{248}
Why should I speak of what has been?
Or what dark part I played in all?
Why ruin sits in porch and hall
Where pride and gladness once were seen;
And why beneath this lichened wall
The grave of Margaret is green.
Heart-broken Margaret! whose fate
Was sadder far than his who won
Her hand—my brother Hamilton—
Or mine, who learned to know too late;
Who learned to know, when all was done,
And naught I did could expiate.
To expiate is still my lot!—
And, like the Ancient Mariner,
To show to others how things were,
And what I am, still helps me blot
A little from that crime’s red blur,
That on my life is branded hot.
He was my only brother. She
A sister of my brother’s friend.
They met, and married in the end.
And I remember well when he
Brought her rejoicing home, the trend
Of war moved towards us sullenly.{249}
And scarce a year of wedlock when
Its red arms tore him from his bride.
With lips by hers thrice sanctified
He left to ride with Morgan’s men.
And I—I never could decide—
Remained behind. It happened then.
Long days went by. And, oft delayed,
A letter came of loving word
Scrawled by some camp-fire, sabre-stirred,
Or by a pine-knot’s fitful aid,
When in the saddle, armed and spurred
And booted for some hurried raid.
Then weeks went by. I do not know
How long it was before there came,
Blown from the North, the clarion fame
Of Morgan, who, with blow on blow,
Had drawn a line of blood and flame
From Tennessee to Ohio.
Then letters ceased; and days went on.
No word from him. The war rolled back,
And in its turgid crimson track
A rumor grew, like some wild dawn,
All ominous and red and black,
With news of our lost Hamilton.{250}
News hinting death or capture. Yet
No word was sure; till one day,—fed
By us,—some men rode up who said
They’d been with Morgan and had met
Disaster, and that he was dead,
My brother.—I and Margaret
Believed them. Grief was ours too:
But mine was more for her than him:
Grief, that her eyes with tears were dim:
Grief, that became the avenue
For love, who crowned the sombre brim
Of death’s dark cup with rose-red hue.
In sympathy,—unconsciously
Though it be given,—I hold, doth dwell
The germ of love that time shall swell
To blossom. Sooner then in me—
When close relations so befell—
That love should spring from sympathy.
Our similar tastes and mutual bents
Combined to make us intimates
From our first meeting. Different states
Of interest then our temperaments
Begot. Then friendship, that abates
No love, whose soul it represents.{251}
These led to talks and dreams: how oft
We sat at some wide window while
The sun sank o’er the hills’ far file,
Serene; and of the cloud aloft
Made one vast rose; and mile on mile
Of firmament grew sad and soft.
And all in harmony with these
Dim clemencies of dusk, afar
Our talks and dreams went; while the star
Of evening brightened through the trees:
We spoke of home; the end of war;
We dreamed of life and love and peace.
How on our walks, in listening lanes
Or confidences of the wood,
We paused to hear the dove that cooed;
Or gathered wildflowers, taking pains
To find the fairest; or her hood
Filled with wild fruit that left deep stains.
No echo of the drum or fife,
No hint of conflict entered in
Our thoughts then. Will you call it sin—
Indifference to a nation’s strife?
What side might lose, what side might win,
Both immaterial to our life.{252}
Into the past we did not look:
Beyond what was we did not dream;
While onward rolled the thunderous stream
Of war, that, in its torrent, took
One of our own. No crimson gleam
Of its wild course around us shook.
At last we knew. And when we learned
How he had fallen, Margaret
Wept; and, albeit my eyes were wet,
Within my soul I half discerned
A joy that mingled with regret,
A grief that to relief was turned.
As time went on and confidence
Drew us more strongly each to each,
Why did no intimation reach
Its warning hand into the dense
Soul-silence, and confuse the speech
Of love’s unbroken eloquence!
But, no! no hint to turn the poise,
Or check the impulse of our youth;
To chill it with the living truth
As with the awe of God’s own voice;
No hint, to make our hope uncouth;
No word, to warn us from our choice.{253}
To me a wall seemed overthrown
That social law had raised between;
And o’er its ruin, broad and green
A path went, I possessed alone;
The sky above seemed all serene;
The land around seemed all my own.
What shall I say of Margaret
To justify her part in this?
That her young heart was never his?
But had been mine since first we met?
So would you say!—Enough it is
That when he left she loved him yet.
So passed the spring, and summer sped;
And early autumn brought the day
When she her hand in mine should lay,
And I should take her hand and wed:
And still no hint that might gainsay,
No warning word of quick or dead.
The day arrived; and with it born,
A battle, sullying the East
With boom of cannon, that increased,
And throb of musket and of horn:
Until at last, towards dusk, it ceased;
And men with faces wild and worn,{254}
In fierce retreat, swept past; now groups;
Now one by one: now sternly white,
Or blood-stained; now with looks whose fright
Said all was lost: then sullen troops
That, beaten, still kept up the fight.—
Then came the victors: shadowy loops
Of men and horse, that left a crowd
Of officers in hall and porch….
While through the land, around, the torch
Circled, and many a fiery cloud
Marked out the army’s iron march
In furrows red that pillage plowed,
Here were we wedded…. Ask the years
How such could be, while over us
A sword of wrath swung ominous,
And on our cheeks its breath struck fierce!—
All I remember is—’t was thus;
And Margaret’s eyes were wet with tears.
No other cause my memory sees
Save this, that night was set; and when
I found my home filled with armed men
With whom were all my sympathies
Of Union—why postpone it then?
So argued conscience into peace.{255}
And then it was, when night had passed,
There came to me an orderly
With word of a Confederate spy
Just taken; who, with head downcast,
Had asked one favor, this: “That I
Would see him ere he breathed his last.”
I stand alone here. Heavily
My thoughts go back. Had I not gone,
The dead had still been dead! (for none
Had yet believed his story) he,
My dead-deemed brother, Hamilton,
Who in the spy confronted me.
O you who never have been tried,
How can you judge me!—In my place
I saw him standing,—who can trace
My heart-thoughts then!—I turned aside,
A son of some unnatural race,
And did not speak: and so he died….
In hospital or prison, when
It was he lay; what had forbid
His home return so long: amid
What hardships he had suffered, then
I dared not ask; and when I did,
Long afterwards, inquire of men,{256}
No thing I learned. But this I feel—
He who had so returned to life
Was not a spy. Through stress and strife,—
This makes my conscience hard to heal!—
He had escaped: he sought his wife;
He sought his home that should conceal.
And Margaret! Oh, pity her!
A criminal I sought her side,
Still thinking love was justified
In all for her—whatever were
The price: a brother thrice denied,
Or thrice a brothers murderer.
Since then long years have passed away.
And through those years, perhaps, you ’ll ask
How to the world I wore my mask
Of honesty?—I can but say
Beyond my powers it was a task;
Before my time it turned me gray.
And when at last the ceaseless hiss
Of conscience drove, and I betrayed
All to her, she knelt down and prayed:
Then rose: and ’twixt us an abyss
Was opened; and she seemed to fade
Out of my life: I came to miss{257}
The sweet attentions of a bride:
For each appealing heart’s caress
In me her heart assumed a dress
Of dull indifference; till denied
To me was all responsiveness;
And then I knew her love had died.
Ah, had she loaded me, perchance,
With wild reproach or even hate,
Such would have helped me hope and wait
Forgiveness and returned romance:
But ’twixt our souls, instead, a gate
She closed of silent tolerance.
Yet, ’t was for love of her I lent
My soul to crime…. I question me
Often, if less entirely
I’d loved her, then, in that event
She had been justified to see
The deed alone stand prominent.
The deed alone! But love records
In his own heart, I will aver,
No depth I did not feel for her
Beyond the plummet-reach of words:
And though there may be worthier,
No truer love this world affords{258}
Than mine was, though it could not rise
Above itself. And so ’t was best,
Perhaps, that she saw manifest
The crime, so I,—as saw her eyes,—
Might see; and so, in soul confessed,
Some life atonement might devise.
Sadly my heart one comfort keeps,
That, towards her end, she took my hands
And said,—as one who understands,—
“Had I but seen!—But love that weeps
Sees only as its loss commands.”
And sighed.—Beneath this stone she sleeps.
Yes; I have suffered for that sin:
Yet in no instance would I shun
What I should suffer. Many a one,
Who heard my tale, has tried to win
Me to believe that Hamilton
It was not; and, though proven kin,
This had not saved him. Still the stain
Of the intention—had I erred
And ’t was not he—had writ the word
Red on my soul that branded Cain:
For still my error had incurred
The fact of guilt that would remain.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

{259}

Ah, love at best is insecure,
And lives with doubt and vain regret;
And hope and faith, with faces set
Upon the past, are never sure;
And through their fever, grief, and fret
The heart may fail that should endure.
For in ourselves, however blend
The passions that make heaven and hell,
Is evil not accountable
For most the good we comprehend?
And through these two,—or ill, or well,—
Man must evolve his spiritual end.
It is with deeds that we must ask
Forgiveness: for, upon this earth,
Life walks alone from very birth
With death, hope tells us is a mask
For life beyond of vaster worth,
Where sin no more sets love a task.
{260}

EPILOGUE
Would I could sing of joy I only
Remember as without alloy:
Of life full-filled, that once was lonely:
Of love a treasure, not a toy:
Of grief, regret but makes the keener,
Of aspiration, failure mars—
These would I sing, and sit serener.
Than song among the stars.
Would I could sing of faith unbroken;
Of heart-kept vows, and not of tears:
Of promised faith and vows love-spoken,
That have been kept through many years:
Of truth, the false but leaves the truer;
Of trust, the doubt makes doubly sure—
These would I sing, the noble doer
Whose dauntless heart is pure.
I would not sing of time made hateful;
Of hope that only clings to hate:
Of charity, that grows ungrateful;
And pride that will not stand and wait.—{261}
Of humbleness, care hath imparted;
Of resignation, born of ills,
These would I sing, and stand high-hearted
As hope upon the hills.
Once on a throne of gold and scarlet
I touched a harp and felt it break;
I dreamed I was a king—a varlet,
A slave, who only slept to wake!—
Still on that harp my memory lingers,
While on a tomb I lean and read,
“Dust are our songs, and dust we singers,
And dust are all who heed.”
{263}

{262}

POEMS OF LOVE
{264}

{265}

What though I dreamed of mountain heights,
Of peaks, the barriers of the world,
Around whose tops the Northern Lights
And tempests are unfurled!
Mine are the footpaths leading through
Life’s lowly fields and woods,—with rifts,
Above, of heaven’s Eden blue,—
By which the violet lifts
Its shy appeal; and, holding up
Its chaliced gold, like some wild wine,
Along the hillside, cup on cup,
Blooms bright the celandine.
Where soft upon each flowering stock
The butterfly spreads damask wings;
And under grassy loam and rock
The cottage cricket sings.
Where overhead eve blooms with fire,
In which the new moon bends her bow,
And, arrow-like, one white star by her
Burns through the afterglow.{266}
I care not, so the sesame
I find; the magic flower there,
Whose touch unseals each mystery
In water, earth, and air.
That in the oak tree lets me hear
Its heart’s deep speech, its soul’s dim words;
And to my mind makes crystal clear
The messages of birds.
Why should I care, who live aloof
Beyond the din of life and dust,
While dreams still share my humble roof,
And love makes sweet my crust.
{267}

GERTRUDE
When first I gazed on Gertrude’s face,
Beheld her loveliness and grace;
Her brave gray eyes, her raven hair,
Her ways, more winsome than the spring’s;
Her smile, like some sweet flower, that flings
Its fragrance on the summer air;
And when, like some wild-bird that sings,
I heard her voice,—I did declare,—
And still declare!—there is no one,
No girl beneath the moon or sun,
So beautiful to look upon!
And to my heart, as I know well,
Nothing seems more desirable,—
Not Ophir gold, nor Orient pearls—
Than seems this jewel-girl of girls.
{268}

LOVE
For him, who loves, each mounting morn
Breathes melody more sweet than birds’;
And every wind-stirred flower and thorn
Whispers melodious words:—
Would you believe that everything
Through her loved voice is made to sing?
For her, the faultless skies of day
Grow nearer in eternal blue,
Where God is felt as wind and ray,
And seen as fire and dew:—
Would you believe that all the skies
Are Heaven only through his eyes?
For them, the dreams that haunt the night
With mystic beauty and romance,
Are presences of starry light,
And moony radiance:—
Would you believe this love of theirs
Could make for them a universe?
{269}

HEART OF MY HEART
I
Here where the season turns the land to gold,
Among the fields our feet have known of old,—
When we were children who would laugh and run,
Glad little playmates of the wind and sun,—
Before came toil and care and years went ill,
And one forgot and one remembered still;
Heart of my heart, among the old fields here,
Give me your hands and let me draw you near,
Heart of my heart.
II
Stars are not truer than your soul is true;
What need I more of heaven then than you?
Flowers are not sweeter than your face is sweet—
What need I more to make my world complete?{270}
O woman nature, love that still endures,
What strength hath ours that is not born of yours?
Heart of my heart, to you, whatever come,
To you the lead, whose love hath led me home.
Heart of my heart.
{271}

STROLLERS
I
We have no castles,
We have no vassals,
We have no riches, no gems and no gold:
Nothing to ponder;
Nothing to squander—
Let us go wander
As minstrels of old.
II
You with your lute, love;
I with my flute, love,
Let us make music by mountain and sea:
You with your glances,
I with my dances,
Singing romances
Of old chivalry.
{272}

III
“Derry down derry!
Good folk, be merry!
Hither! and hearken where happiness is!
Never go borrow
Care of to-morrow,
Never go sorrow
While life hath a kiss!”
IV
Let the day gladden,
Or the night sadden,
We will be merry in sunshine or snow:
You with your rhyme, love,
I with my chime, love,
We will make Time, love,
Dance as we go.
V
Nothing is ours;
Only the flowers,
Meadows, and stars, and the heavens above:
Nothing to lie for,
Nothing to sigh for,
Nothing to die for
While still we have love.
{273}

VI
“Derry down derry!
Good folk, be merry!
Hither! and hearken a word that is sooth:—
Care ye not any,
If ye have many,
Or not a penny,
If still ye have youth!”{274}
THE BURDEN OF DESIRE
I
In some dim way I know thereof:
A garden glows down in my heart,
Wherein I meet and often part
With many an ancient tale of love.
A Romeo garden, banked with bloom,
And trellised with the eglantine;
In which a rose climbs to a room,
A balcony one mass of vine,
Dim, haunted of perfume.
A balcony, whereon she gleams,
The soft Desire of all Dreams,
And smiles and bends like Juliet,
Year after year,
While to her side, all dewy wet,
A rose stuck in his ear,
Love climbs to draw her near.
{275}

II
And in another way I know,
Down in my soul a graveyard lies,
Wherein I meet, in ghostly wise,
With many an ancient tale of woe.
A graveyard of the Capulets,
Deep-vaulted with ancestral gloom,
Through whose dark yews the moonlight jets
On many a wildly carven tomb,
That mossy mildew frets.
A graveyard where the Soul’s Desire
Sleeps, pale-entombed; and, kneeling by her,
Love, like that hapless Montague,
Year after year,
Weary and worn and wild of hue,
Within her sepulchre,
Falls bleeding on her bier.
{276}

THE TRYST
At dusk there fell a shower:
The leaves were dripping yet:
Each fern and rain-weighed flower
Around was gleaming wet,
When, through the evening glower,
His feet towards her were set.
The dust’s damp odor sifted
Around him, cool with rain,
Mixed with the musk that drifted
From woodland and from plain,
Where white her garden lifted
Its pickets down the lane.
And there she stood! ’mid scattered
Clove-pink and pea and whorl
Of honeysuckle,—flattered
To sweetness wild,—a girl,
O’er whom the clouds hung shattered
In moonlit peaks of pearl.{277}
She made the night completer
For him; and earth and air,
In that small spot, far sweeter
Than heaven or anywhere.—
Swift were his lips to greet her,
Her lips love lifted there.
{278}

GYPSYING
Your heart ’s a-tune with April and mine a-tune with June,
So let us go a-roving beneath the summer moon.
Oh, was it in the sunlight, or was it in the rain,
We met among the blossoms within the locust lane?
All that I can remember ’s the bird that sang aboon,
And with its music in our hearts we ’ll rove beneath the moon.
A love-word of the wind, dear, of which we ’ll read the rune,
While we two go a-roving beneath the summer moon.
A love-word of the water we ’ll often stop to hear—
The echoed words and whispers of our own hearts, my dear.{279}
And all our paths shall blossom with wild-rose sweets that swoon,
And with their fragrance in our hearts we ’ll rove beneath the moon.
It will not be forever; yet merry goes the tune
While we two still are rovers beneath the summer moon.
A cabin, in the clearing, of flickering firelight,
When old-time lanes we strolled in the winter snows make white:
Where we can dream together above the logs and croon
The songs we sang when roving beneath the summer moon.
{280}

UNCERTAINTY

“‘He cometh not,’ she said.”—Mariana.
It will not be to-day and yet
I think and dream it will; and let
The slow uncertainty devise
So many sweet excuses, met
With the old doubt in hope’s disguise.
The panes were sweated with the dawn;
Yet through their dimness, shriveled drawn,
The aigret of one princess-feather,
One monk’s-hood tuft with oilets wan,
I glimpsed, dead in the slaying weather.
This morning when my window’s chintz
I drew, how gray the day was!—Since
I saw him, yea, all days are gray!—
I gazed out on my dripping quince,
Defruited, torn; then turned away{281}
To weep, but did not weep: but felt
A colder anguish than did melt
About the tearful-visaged Year!—
Then flung the lattice wide and smelt
The autumn sorrow. Rotting near
The rain-drenched sunflowers bent and bleached,
Up which the frost-nipped gourd-vines reached
And morning-glories, seeded o’er
With ashen aiglets; whence beseeched
One last bloom, frozen to the core.
The podded hollyhocks—that Fall
Had stripped of finery—by the wall
Rustled their tatters; dripped and dripped,
The fog thick on them: near them, all
The tarnished, hag-like zinnias tipped.
I felt the death and loved it: yea,
To have it nearer, sought the gray,
Chill, fading garth. Yet could not weep,
But wandered in an aimless way,
And yearned with weariness to sleep.
Mine were the fog, the frosty stalks,
The weak lights on the leafy walks,
The shadows shivering with the cold;
The breaking heart; the lonely talks;
The last, dim, ruined marigold.{282}
But when, to-night, the moon swings low—
A great marsh-marigold of glow—
And all my garden with the sea
Moans, then, through moon and mist, I know
His ghost will come to comfort me.
{283}

LOST LOVE
I loved her madly. For—so wrought
Young Love, divining Isles of Truth
Large in the central seas of Youth—
“Love will win love,” I thought.
Once when I brought a rare wild pink
To place among her plants, the wise,
Soft lifting of her speaking eyes
Said more than thanks, I think….
She loved another.—Yes, I know
All you would say of woman. You,
Like other men, would comfort too….
But then I loved her so.
She loved another.—Ah! too well
I know the story of her soul!—
A weary tale the weary whole
Of how she loved and fell.{284}
I loved her so!… Remembering now
My mad grief then, I wonder why
Grief never kills…. I could not die.—
She died—I know not how.
Strange, is it not? For she was dear
To me as life once.—A regret
She is now; just to make eyes wet
And bring a fullness here.
Yet, had she lived as dead in shame
As now in death, Love would have used
Pride’s pitying pencil and abused
The memory of her name.
This helps me thank my God, who led
My broken life in sunlight of
This pure affection, that my love
Lives through her being dead.
{285}

OVERSEAS

Non numero horas nisi serenas.
When fall drowns morns in mist, it seems
In soul I am a part of it;
A portion of its humid beams,
A form of fog, I seem to flit
From dreams to dreams.
An old chateau sleeps ’mid the hills
Of France: an avenue of sorbs
Conceals it: drifts of daffodils
Bloom by a ’scutcheoned gate with barbs
Like iron bills.
I pass the gate unquestioned, yet,
I feel, announced. Broad holm-oaks make
Dark pools of restless violet.
Between high bramble banks a lake,—
As in a net.{286}
The tangled scales twist silver,—shines …
Gray, mossy turrets swell above
A sea of leaves. And where the pines
Shade ivied walls, there lies my love,
My heart divines.
I know her window, dimly seen
From distant lanes with hawthorn hedged:
Her garden, with the nectarine
Espaliered, and the peach-tree, wedged
’Twixt walls of green.
Cool-babbling a fountain falls
From gryphons’ mouths in porphyry;
Carp haunt its waters; and white balls
Of lilies dip it that the bee
Sucks in and drawls.
And butterflies, each with a face
Of faëry on its wings, that seem
Beheaded pansies, softly chase
Each other down the gloom and gleam
Trees interspace.
And roses! roses, soft as vair,
Round sylvan statues and the old
Stone dial—Pompadours that wear
Their royalty of purple and gold
With queenly air….{287}
Her scarf, her lute, whose ribbons breathe
The perfume of her touch; her gloves,
Modeling the daintiness they sheathe;
Her fan, a Watteau, gay with loves,
Lie there beneath
A bank of eglantines that heaps
A rose-strewn shadow.—Naïve-eyed,
With lips as suave as they, she sleeps;
The romance by her, open wide,
O’er which she weeps.
{288}

AT THE STILE
Young Harry leapt over the stile and kissed her,
Over the stile when the sun was sinking;
’T was only Carrie; just Mary’s sister!—
And love hath a way of thinking.
“Thy pail, sweetheart, I will take and carry.”
Over the stile one star hung yellow.—
“Just to the spring, my dearest Harry.”—
And Love is a heartless fellow.
“Thou saidst me ‘yea’ in an April shower
Under this tree with leaves a-quiver.”—
“I say thee nay now the cherry ’s in flower,
And love is taker and giver.”
“O false! thou art false to me, sweetheart!”—
The light in her eyes grew trist and trister:
“To thee, the stars, and myself, sweetheart,
I never was aught but Mary’s sister.{289}
“Sweet Mary’s sister! just little Carrie!—
But what avail my words or weeping?—
Next month, perhaps, you two will marry—
And I in my grave be sleeping.”
Alone she stands ’mid the meadow millet,
Wan as the petals the wind is strewing:
Some tears in her pail as she stoops to fill it—
And love hath a way of doing.
{290}

FERN-SEED

“We have the receipt of fern-seed; we walk invisible.”—Henry IV.
And you and I have met but thrice!—
Three times enough to make me love!—
I praised your hair once; then your glove;
Your eyes; your gown—you were like ice.
And yet this might suffice, my love,
And yet this might suffice.
I know now what it is I’ll do:
I’ll search and find the ferns that grow,
The fern-seed that the fairies know,
And sprinkle fern-seed in my shoe,
And haunt the steps of you, my dear,
And haunt the steps of you.
You ’ll see the poppy-pods dip here,
The blow-ball of the thistle slip,
And no wind breathing—but my lip
Next to your anxious cheek and ear,
To tell you I am near, my love,
To tell you I am near.{291}
On wood-ways I will tread your gown—
You ’ll know it is no brier!—then
I’ll whisper words of love again,
And smile to see your quick face frown;
And then I ’ll kiss it down, my dear,
And then I ’ll kiss it down.
You ’ll sit at home and read or knit,
When suddenly the page is blotted—
My hands!—or all your needles knotted:
And in your rage you ’ll cry a bit:
But I—I ’ll laugh at it, my love,
But I—I ’ll laugh at it.
The secrets which you say at prayer
I too will hear; or, when you sing,
I too will sing, and whispering
Bend down and kiss your eyes and hair,
And you will know me there, my dear,
And you will know me there.
Would it were true what people say!—
Would I could find that faëry seed!
Then would I win your love, indeed,
By being near you night and day:—
There is no other way, my love,
There is no other way.
{292}

PORPHYROGENITA
I
Was it when Kriemhild was queen
That we rode by ways forgotten
Through the Rhineland, dimly seen
’Neath a low moon white as cotton?
I, a knight? or troubadour?
Thou, a princess?—or a poor
Damsel of the Royal Closes?—
For, I met thee—somewhere sure!…
Was it ’mid Kriemhilda’s roses?
II
Or in Venice, by the sea?—
What romance grew up between us?
Thou, a doge’s daughter?—She,
Titian painted once as Venus?—
I, a gondolier whose barque
Glided past thy palace dark?—
Near St. Mark’s? or Casa d’Oro?—
From thy casement didst thou hark
To my barcarolle’s “Te oro”?
{293}

III
Klaia wast, of Egypt: yea,
Languid as its sacred lily.
Didst with me a year and day
Love upon the Isle of Philæ?
I, a priest of Isis?—Sweet,
’Neath the date-palms did we meet
By a temple’s pillared marble?
While, from its star-still retreat,
Sank the nightingale’s wild warble?
IV
Have I dreamed that I, thy slave,
From thy lattice, my sultana,
Beckoning, thy white hand did wave,
Dropped me once a rose? sweet manna
Of thy kiss warm in its heart?
That, through my Chaldæan art,
With thy Khalif’s bags of treasure,
From Damascus we did start,
Fled to some far land of pleasure?
V
Was I one? another thou?—
Let it be. What of it, dearest?—{294}
Haply ’tis the memory now
Of these passions dead thou fearest?—
Nay! those loves are portions of,
Evolutions of this love,
Present love, where thou appearest
To combine them all and prove.
{295}

THE CASTLE OF LOVE

He speaks
I
Now listen! ’tis time that you knew it.—
Like the prince in the Asian tale,
I wandered on deserts that panted
With noon to a castle enchanted,
That Afrits had built in a vale;
A vale where the sunlight lay pale
As moonlight. And round it and through it
I searched and I searched. Like the tale,
II
No eunuch, black-browed as a Marid,
Prevented me. Shadows it seemed
Were the slaves there, with kohl and with henné
In eyes and on fingers; and many
The phantoms of beauty, that dreamed
Where censers of ambergris steamed.
And I came on a colonnade, quarried
From silvery marble it seemed.
{296}

III
And here, in a court, wide, estraded,
Rich tulips, like carbuncles, bloomed,
And jonquils and roses:—and lories,
And cockatoos, brilliant in glories
Of plumes, like great blossoms illumed,
Winged, splashed in a fountain perfumed:
Kept captive by network of braided,
Spun gold where stone galleries gloomed.
IV
From nipples of back-bending Peris
Of gold, glowing auburn, in rays
The odorous fountain sprang calling:
I heard through the white water’s falling,—
As soft as the zephyr that plays
With moonlight on bloom-haunted ways,—
A music; a sound, as if fairies
Touched wind-harps whose chords were of rays.
V
I followed: through corridors paneled
With sandal; through doorways deep-draped
With stuffs of Chosroës, rich-garded{297}
With Indian gold; up the corded
Stone stairway, bronze-dragoned, wing-shaped:
Through moon-spangled hangings escaped—
’Twixt pillars of juniper channeled—
To a room constellated and draped.
VI
As in legends of witchcraft: a vassal
Of visions beholds naught yet hears
Sweet voices that call and he follows,—
So me, like the fragrance of aloes,
That chamber with song, it appears,
Surrounded; the song of the spheres …
My soul found your soul such a castle—
Your love is the music it hears.
{298}

CONSECRATION

She speaks.
Last night you told me, where we, parting, waited,
Of love somehow I’d known before you told.—
Long, long ago, perhaps, this love was fated,
For why was it made suddenly so old?
Is it because the love we have and cherish
Born with us seems, and as ourselves shall last?
Part of our lives, we can not let it perish
Out of our present’s future or its past?
Yet, all was changed; and, still, I did not wonder
That, robed in vaster splendor, broke the dawn:
Nor marvel that, beside my feet and under,
Each flower seemed fairer than the flower gone.{299}
The wild bird’s silvery warble seemed completer;
A whiter magic filled the morn and noon,
And night—each night!—seemed holier grown and sweeter
With Babylonian witchcraft of the moon.—
Is love an emanation? whose ideal
Communicates its beauty?—Is it moved
Through some strange means to consecrate the real?
Making the world the worthier to be loved?
{300}

ROMANTIC LOVE
I
Is it not sweet to know?—
The moon hath told me so—
That in some lost romance, love,
Long lost to us below,
A knight with casque and lance, love,
A thousand years ago,
I kissed you from a trance, love?—
The moon hath told me so.
II
Or were it strange to wis?—
The stars have told me this—
That once a nightingale, love,
Sang on an Isle of Greece;
From whose melodious wail, love,
Its song’s wild harmonies,
Was born a spirit-woman—
Yourself! whom I, a human,
Made mine!… So goes the tale, love!—
The stars have told me this.
{301}

III
Is it not quaint to tell?—
The flowers remember well—
How once a wild-rose blew, love,
Dim in a haunted dell;
To which a bee was true, love.
The bee, so it befell,
Was I: the rose was you, love!…
The flowers remember well.
IV
To moon and flower and star
We are not what we are.—
Sometimes, from o’er that sea, love,
Whose golden sands are far,—
From shores of Destiny, love,—
The dreams that know no bar,
Will waft a truth that glistens
To Memory who listens,
Reminding you and me, love,
We are not what we are.
{302}

PASTORAL LOVE
The pied pinks tilt in the wind that worries—
Sing, Oh, the wind and the red o’ her cheek!—
And the slow sun creeps on the rye nor hurries—
And what shall a lover speak?
The toad-flax brightens the flaxen hollows—
Sing, Ay, the bloom and her yellow hair!—
And the greenwood brook a wood-way follows—
And what shall a lover dare?
The deep woods gleam that the sunlight sprinkles—
Sing, Hey, the day and her laughing eye!—
And a brown bird pipes and a wild fall tinkles—
And what may a maid reply?{303}
Hey, the hills when the evening settles!
Oh, the heavens within her eyes!
What will he ask ’mid the dropping petals?
And what will she say with sighs?—
“Look, where the west is a blur of roses!”—
“There’s naught like the rose o’ the cheeks I see!”—
“Look, where the first star’s eye uncloses!”—
“But what of your eyes, my destiny?”{304}
ANDALIA AND THE SPRINGTIME
I
Blow, winds, and waken her!
You, who have taken her,
Never forsaken her,
Filled her with spring!
My mad and merriest
Part of the veriest
Season and cheeriest:
Blow, winds! and sing,
Birds of the spring! that taught her
Airs of the woods; this daughter
Wild of the winds, that waft her
Into my heart with laughter,
Wild as a wildwood thing.
II
She, who is fraught with it,
Thrilled with it, brought with it,
Spring!—like a thought, with it
Beautiful too!{305}
Now like a dream of it;
Filled with the gleam of it;
Now a bright beam of it,
Piercing me through,
Sweet, with her eyes that are often
Laughter and languor; that soften
Dreamily, drowsily, slowly,
Then, on a sudden, are wholly
Dancing as dew.
III
Face,—like the sweetest of
Perfumes,—completest of
Flowers God’s fleetest of
Months ever bear!—
Listen, O lisper wind,—
Lighter and crisper wind,—
Have you a whisper, wind,
Soft as her hair?
Night and the stars did spin it;
Darkness and brightness are in it:
Let but a ray of it bind me,
Wrap it around me and wind me,
Blind as the blind are and blinder,
Yet through my heart would I find her,
Lost though I were.
{306}

OLIVIA IN THE AUTUMN
Not redder than her lips
This weather!
Not rosier two rose-hips
Together!
As she comes carolling
Down wildwood ways, where sing
The birds, and flowers swing
In many a feather.
Of her belovéd cheeks
October
Makes flame-flushed leaves, and speaks,—
Now sober,
Now wild,—its happiness
In gold, and on her dress
Lays many a bright caress
As if to robe her.
The wild-birds praise her eyes
Each hour;
Above her bend the skies
And shower{307}
Around her, there and here,
Strays of the passing year,
Azure and gold and sere
Of weed and flower.
The wood-winds kiss her hair
And wonder
What flower blossoms there:
And, under
Its deeps of acorn-brown,
Her glory and her crown,
The sunbeams lay them down,
And dream and ponder.
And I—I take her hands,
Her lover;
And kiss her where she stands;
And over
Our heads the soft winds call,
And heav’n smiles down; and all
The golden dreams of Fall
Around us hover.
{308}

SYLVIA OF THE WOODLAND
I
O you, who know our Mays that blow
The bluets by the ways;
The Indian-pink,—whose bloom you ’d think
Was blood for some wild bee to drink,—
How—can you say—in their wise way
Is it you ’re like our Mays?—
In gleam and gloom and wild perfume
Of moods that run from shade to sun:—
While in you seems the light that dreams
In thoughts of other days.
II
Meseems some song, for which I long,
From you to me takes wing
Each time you speak; a bird, whose beak
Is in my heart; whose wildwood art
Makes every beat say “Sweet, sweet, sweet,”
And all its pulses sing.{309}
And when I gaze upon your face,
I seem to look into a brook,
That laughs through buds and leafing woods,
Reflecting all the spring.
III
You spoke but now—and, lo! I vow,
From haunts of hart and hind
I seemed to hear Romance draw near,
White hand in hand with Song, and stand,
In some green aisle of wood, and smile,
Beguiling soul and mind:
You laugh—and, lo! I seem to go
In Mirth’s young train; and bird-songs rain
Around, above; and Joy and Love
Come dancing down the wind.
{310}

WITNESSES
I
You say I do not love you!—Tell me why,
When I have gazed a little on your face,
And then gone forth into the world of men,
A beauty, neither of the earth nor sky,
A glamour, that transforms each common place,
Attends my spirit then?
II
You say I do not love you!—Yet, I know,
When I have heard you speak and dwelt upon
Your words a while, my heart has gone away
Filled with strange music, very soft and low,
A dim companion, touching with sweet tone
The discords of the day.
III
You say I do not love you!—Yet, it seems,
When I have kissed your hand and said farewell,{311}
A fragrance, wilder than the wood’s wild bloom,
Companions dim my soul and fills, with dreams,
The sad and sordid streets where people dwell,
Dreams of spring’s wild perfume.
{312}

A PUPIL OF PAN
My love’s adorable and wise
As heaven and the winds of spring:
Go thou and gaze into her eyes—
Such scholars of the starry skies!
—Canst marvel at the thing?
My love is like a bud that blows
With fragrant honey in its heart:
Go, watch her smile—Wouldst not suppose
She from some warm, white, serious rose
Had learned the happy art?
The thoughts she speaks are pearls unstrung
That strew her fancy’s golden floor:
Go listen—For, the woods among,
She met with Pan, when very young,
Who taught her all his lore.
{313}

LORA OF THE VALES
Lora is her name that slips
Soft as love between the lips:
You must know she is so wise
All she does is lift her eyes,—
Larkspur-blue as April skies,—
At her name—and that replies—
She ’s so wise, is Lora.
Lora is her name whose sound
Hedges all my heart around
With the gold of happiness:
When she speaks, you will confess,
Music’s self her words express,
Every vowel a caress—
She ’s so kind, is Lora.
Lora is her name that brings
Thoughts to me of morning things:
Songs of birds; of bees that creep
In the rumpled bluebells deep;
Butterflies, that, half asleep,
On some rose their vigil keep—
She ’s so young, is Lora.{314}
Lora, lean to mine your face;
So; and round you let me lace
One firm arm, and gently woo
Your small mouth, as fresh as dew,
Till it says your heart is true,
True to me as mine to you,
Sunny-hearted Lora!
{315}

PLEDGES
I
What the May-apple or
Woodland anemone—
Star-perfect as a star—
Says to the honey-bee:
Or to the winds that woo,
Filling their hearts with dew:
What says the bluet’s blue
To the sun’s ray—do you
Know or do I?—
II
Listen, and you may hear
What the oxalis says
Into the downy ear
Of the pale moth that sways
There on its heart and drinks:
Or what the forest-pinks
Say to the dew that winks,
Butterfly-wing that blinks—
Glimmering by.
{316}

III
They say: “When April trod
By in a blowing blush,—
Wise as a word of God
Holding all Heaven a-hush,—
Singing a song of love,
We, as she passed above,
Sprang from the notes thereof,
Filling with joy each grove,
Beauty and mystery.”{317}
ORIENTAL ROMANCE
I
Beyond lost seas of summer she
Dwelt on an island of the sea,
Last scion of that dynasty,
Queen of a race forgotten long,—
With eyes of light and lips of song,
From seaward groves of blowing lemon,
She called me in her native tongue,
Low-leaned on some rich robe of Yemen.
II
I was a king. Three moons we drove
Across green gulfs, the crimson clove
And cassia spiced, to claim her love.
Packed was my barque with gums and gold;
Rich fabrics; sandalwood, grown old
With odor; gems; and pearls of Oman,—
Than her white breasts less white and cold;—
And myrrh, less fragrant than this woman.
{318}

III
From Bassora I came. We saw
Her condor castle on a claw
Of soaring precipice, o’erawe
The surge and thunder of the spray:
Like some great opal, far away
It shone, with battlement and spire,
Wherefrom, with wild aroma, day
Blew splintered lights of sapphirine fire.
IV
Lamenting caverns, dark and deep,
That catacombed the haunted steep,
Led upward to her castle-keep …
Fair as the moon, whose light is shed
In Ramadan, was she, who led
My love unto her island bowers,
To find her … lying young and dead
Among her maidens and her flowers.
{319}

THE TOLLMAN’S DAUGHTER
She stood waist-deep among the briers:
Above, in twisted lengths, were rolled
The sunset’s tangled whorls of gold,
Blown from the west’s cloud-pillared fires.
And in the hush, no sound did mar,
You almost heard, o’er hill and dell,
Deep, bubbling over, star on star,
The night’s blue cisterns slowly well.
A crane, a shadowy crescent, crossed
The sunset, winging ’thwart the west;
While up the east her silver breast
Of light the moon brought, white as frost.
So have I painted her, you see,
The tollman’s daughter.—What an arm
And throat were hers! and what a form!
—Art dreams of such divinity.
What braids of night to smooth and kiss!—
There is no pigment anywhere
A man might use to picture this—
The splendor of her raven hair.{320}
A face as beautiful and bright,
As rosy fair as twilight skies,
Lit with the stars of hazel eyes
And eyebrowed black with penciled night.
For her, I know, where’er she trod
Each dewdrop raised a looking-glass,
To catch her image, from the grass;
That wildflowers bloomed along the sod,
And whispered perfume when she smiled;
The wood-bird hushed to hear her song,
Or, heart-enamoured, tame though wild,
Before her feet flew fluttering long:
The brook went mad with melody,
Eddied in laughter when she kissed
With naked feet its amethyst—
And I—she was my world, ah me!
{321}

CREOLE SERENADE
Under moss-draped oak and pine,
Murmuring, falls the fountained stream;
In its pool the lilies shine,
Silvery, each a glimmering gleam.
Roses bloom and roses die
In the warm rose-scented dark,
Where the firefly, like an eye,
Winks and glows, a golden spark.
Amber-belted through the night
Drifts the alabaster moon,
Like a big magnolia white
On the fragrant heart of June.
With a broken syrinx there,
With bignonia overgrown,
Is it Pan in hoof and hair?—
Or his image carved from stone?{322}
See! her casement’s jessamines part;—
Through their stars and swooning scent
Like the moon she leans. O heart,
’T is another firmament!
Sings:
The dim verbena drugs the dusk
With lemon odors; everywhere
Wan heliotropes breathe drowsy musk
Into the jasmine-heavy air;
The moss-rose bursts its dewy husk
And spills its attar there.
The orange at thy casement flings
Star-censers oozing rich perfumes;
The clematis, long-petaled, swings
Deep clusters of dark purple blooms;
With flowers, like moons or sylphide wings,
Magnolias light the glooms.
Awake, awake from sleep!
Thy balmy hair,
Unbounden, deep on deep,
Like blossoms there,—
That dew and fragrance weep,—
Will fill the night with prayer.
Awake, awake from sleep!{323}
And dreaming here it seems to me
A dryad’s bosom grows confessed,
Nude in the dark magnolia tree,
That rustles with the murmurous West—
Or is it but some bloom I see,
White as thy virgin breast?
Through Southern heavens above are rolled
A million feverish stars, that burst,
Like gems, from out the caskets old
Of night, with fires that throb and thirst:
An oleander, showering gold,
The heav’n seems, star-immersed.
Unseal, unseal thine eyes!—
Too long her rod
Queen Mab sways o’er their skies
In realms of Nod!—
Their starry majesties
Will fill the night with God.
Unseal, unseal thine eyes!
{324}

IDEAL DIVINATION
How I have thought of her,
Her I have never seen!—
Now from a raying air
She, like the Magdalene,
Flowers—a face serene,
Radiant with raven hair.
Now in a balsam scent
Laughs from the stars that gleam;
Naked and redolent,
Bends to me breasts of beam,
Eyes that were made to dream,
Throat that the dimples dent.
Would she were real, ah me!
Would she were real and here!
And no “impossible she”!
But one to draw me near,
Hold me and name me dear!—
But, that can never be!{325}
“Living, each learns to know
Life is not worth its pain;
Loving, each finds a woe
Or, at the end, a chain:
Fardled of hope we strain
Whither no hope may know.
“Life is too credulous
Of time that beckons on.
Memory still serves us thus—
Gauging each coming dawn
By a day dead and gone,
Day that ’s a part of us.”
So says my soul, that ’s mocked
Here of the flesh and held;
Ever rebellion rocked,
Fighting, forever quelled;
Titan-like, fate-compelled,
Yearning to rise, but locked
Supine where torrents pour
Hellward; on crags that, high,
Scarred of the thunder, gore
Heaven…. The vulture’s eye
Swims, and the harpies’ cry
Clangs through the ocean’s roar….{326}
Then, like æolian light,
Calling, it hears her lips:
Scorched by her burning white
Splendor of arms and hips,
Slimy each horror slips
Back to its native night….
Rul’st thou some brighter star?
Inviolable queen
Of what the destinies are?
Thou, with thy light unseen
Filling my life with sheen,
Leading my soul afar!
Thou, who oft leav’st thy skies,
Comest in dreams to me,
With amaranthine eyes,
Asphodel shadowy
Hair, and mysteriously
Say’st to my heart, “Arise!
“Be not afraid to dare
All of life’s tyranny!
I will reward thee there!
There, where my love shall be
Thine to eternity!—
Only be brave and bear!”{327}
APOCALYPSE
Before I found her I had found
Within my heart, as in a brook,
Reflections of her: now a sound
Of imaged beauty, now a look.
So when I found her, gazing in
Those Bibles of her eyes, above
All earth, I saw no word of sin;
Their holy chapters all were love.
I read them through. I read and saw
The soul impatient of the sod—
Her soul, that through her eyes did draw
Mine—to the higher love of God.
{328}

CAN I FORGET?
Can I forget how Love once led the ways
Of our two lives together, joining them;
How every hour was his anadem,
And every day a tablet in his praise!
Can I forget how, in his garden’s place,
Among the purple roses, stem to stem,
We heard the rumor of his robe’s bright hem,
And saw the aureate radiance of his face!—
Though I beheld my soul’s high dreams down-hurled,
And Falsehood sit where Truth once towered white,
And in Love’s place usurping Lust and Shame,
Though flowers be dead within the winter world,
Are flowers not there? and starless though the night,
Are stars not there, eternal and the same?
{329}

MY ROSE
There was a rose in Eden once: it grows
On Earth now, sweeter for its rare perfume:
And Paradise is poorer by one bloom,
And Earth is richer. In this blossom glows
More loveliness than old seraglios
Or courts of kings did ever yet illume:
More purity than ever yet had room
In soul of nun or saint.—O human rose!—
Who art initial and sweet period of
My heart’s divinest sentence; where I read
Love, first and last, and in the pauses, love;
Who art the dear ideal of each deed
Through which my life is strong to attain its goal,—
Set in the mystic garden of my soul!
{330}

RESTRAINT
Dear heart and love! what happiness is it
To watch the firelight’s varying shade and shine
On thy young face; and through those eyes of thine—
As through clear windows—to behold them flit,
In sumptuous chambers of thy mind’s chaste wit,
Thy soul’s fair fancies! then to take in mine
Thy hand, whose pressure brims my heart’s divine
Hushed rapture as with music exquisite!
When I remember how thy look and touch
Sway, like the moon, my blood with ecstasy,
I dare not think to what fierce heaven might lead
Thy soft embrace; or in thy kiss how much
Sweet hell,—beyond all help of me,—might be,
Where I were lost, where I were lost indeed!
{331}

IN JUNE
I
Hotly burns the amaryllis,
Starred with ruby red:
Coolly stand the snowy lilies
In the lily-bed:
Emerald gleams the wild May-apple,
’Neath its parasol,
And where gold the sunbeams dapple
Woods, and thrushes call,
Marion strolls with Moll,
Singing, “Fol-de-rol;
Fol-de, fol-de-rol.
II
“March was but a blustering liar;
April, sad as night:
May, a milkmaid from the byre,
Full of love but light.
June, sweet June!—ah! she’s My Lady,
Fair and fine and tall,{332}
Strolling down the woodways shady—
June is best of all!
She is like my Moll!
Fol-de-rol-de-rol!
She is like sweet Moll!”{333}
WILL O’ THE WISPS
Beyond the barley meads and hay,
What was the light that beckoned there?
That made her young lips smile and say:
“Oh, busk me in a gown of May,
And knot red poppies in my hair.”
Over the meadow and the wood
What was the voice that filled her ears?
That sent into pale cheeks the blood,
Until each seemed a wild-brier bud
Mowed down by mowing harvesters?…
Beyond the orchard, down the hill,
The water flows, the water swirls;
And there they found her past all ill,
Her pale dead face, sweet, smiling still,
The cresses caught among her curls.
At twilight in the willow glen
What sound is that the silence hears,
When deep the dusk is hushed again,
And homeward from the fields strong men
And women go, the harvesters?{334}
One seeks the place where she is laid,
Where violets bloom from year to year—
“O sunny head! O bird-like maid!
The orchard blossoms fall and fade
And I am lonely, lonely here.”
Two stars look down upon the vale;
They seem to him the eyes of Ruth:
The low moon rises very pale
As if she, too, had heard the tale,
All heartbreak, of a maid and youth.
{335}

IN A GARDEN
The pink rose drops its petals on
The moonlit lawn, the moonlit lawn;
The moon, like some wide rose of white,
Drops down the summer night.
No rose there is
As sweet as this—
Thy mouth, that greets me with a kiss.
The lattice of thy casement twines
With jasmine vines, with jasmine vines;
The stars, like jasmine blossoms, lie
About the glimmering sky.
No jasmine tress
Can so caress
Like thy white arms’ soft loveliness.
About thy door magnolia blooms
Make sweet the glooms, make sweet the glooms;
A moon-magnolia is the dusk
Closed in a dewy husk.
However much,
No bloom gives such
Soft fragrance as thy bosom’s touch.{336}
The flowers blooming now will pass,
And strew the grass, and strew the grass;
The night, like some frail flower, dawn
Will soon make gray and wan.
Still, still above,
The flower of
True love shall live forever, Love.
{337}

“IF I WERE HER LOVER”
I
If I were her lover,
I’d wade through the clover
Over the fields before
The gate that leads to her door;
Over the meadows,
To wait, ’mid the shadows,
The shadows that circle her door,
For the heart of my heart and more.
And there in the clover
Close by her,
Over and over
I’d sigh her:
“Your eyes are as brown
As the Night’s, looking down
On waters that sleep
With the moon in their deep” …
If I were her lover to sigh her.
{338}

II
If I were her lover,
I’d wade through the clover
Over the fields before
The lane that leads to her door;
I’d wait, ’mid the thickets,
Or there by the pickets,
White pickets that fence in her door,
For the life of my life and more.
I’d lean in the clover—
The crisper
For the dews that are over—
And whisper:
“Your lips are as rare
As the dewberries there,
As ripe and as red,
On the honey-dew fed” …
If I were her lover to whisper.
III
If I were her lover,
I’d wade through the clover
Over the fields before
The pathway that leads to her door;
And watch, in the twinkle
Of stars that sprinkle{339}
The paradise over her door,
For the soul of my soul and more.
And there in the clover
I’d reach her;
And over and over
I’d teach her—
A love without sighs,
Of laughterful eyes,
That reckoned each second
The pause of a kiss,
A kiss and … that is
If I were her lover to teach her.
{340}

NOËRA
Noëra, when sad fall
Has grayed the fallow,
Leaf-cramped the wood-brook’s brawl
In pool and shallow;
When, by the wood-side, tall
Stands sere the mallow:
Noëra, when gray gold
And golden gray
The crackling hollows fold
By every way,
Shall I thy face behold,
Dear bit of May?
When webs are cribs for dew,
And gossamers
Streak past you, silver-blue;
When silence stirs
One leaf, of rusty hue,
Among the burrs:{341}
Noëra, thro’ the wood,
Or thro’ the grain,
Come, with the hoiden mood
Of wind and rain
Fresh in thy sunny blood,
Sweetheart, again!
Noëra, when the corn,
Heaped on the fields,
The asters’ stars adorn—
And purple shields
Of ironweeds lie torn
Among the wealds:
Noëra, haply then,
Thou being with me,
Each ruined greenwood glen
Will bud and be
Spring’s with the spring again,
The spring in thee.
Thou of the breezy tread,
Feet of the breeze:
Thou of the sunbeam head,
Heart like a bee’s:
Face like a woodland-bred
Anemone’s.{342}
Thou to October bring
An April part!
Come, make the wild-birds sing,
The blossoms start!
Noëra, with the spring
Wild in thy heart!
Come with our golden year;
Come as its gold:
With the same laughing, clear,
Loved voice of old:
In thy cool hair one dear
Wild marigold.
{343}

AMONG THE ACRES OF THE WOOD
I
“I know, I know;
The way doth go
Athwart a greenwood glade, oh!
White bloom the wild-plums in that glade,
White as the bosom of the maid
Who, stooping, sits, and milks and sings
Among the dew-dashed clover rings,
When fades the flush, the henna blush,
The orange-glow of sunset low,
And all the winds are laid, oh!”
II
“I wot, I wot.—
And is it not
Right o’er the viney hill?—”
“Yea: where the wild-grapes mat and make
Penthouses of each bramble-brake,
And dangle plumes of fragrant blooms:{344}
Where threads of sunbeams string the glooms
With beaded gold; and flowers unfold
Their eyes of blue;—and all night through
Sings, wildly shrill, one whippoorwill.”
III
“I ween, I ween,
The path is green
’Neath beechen boughs that let
Soft glimpses of the sapphire sky
Gleam downward like a wood-nymph’s eye:
At night one far and lambent star
Shines o’er it, like a watching Lar,
’Mid branching buds a tangled bud
Among the acres of the wood,
Where blooms the wet wild violet
And only we have, trysting, met.”{345}
WORDS
I can not tell what I would tell thee,
What I would say, what thou shouldst hear;
Words of the soul that should compel thee,
Words of the heart to draw thee near.
For when thou smilest, thou, who fillest
My life with joy, and I would speak,
’Tis then my lips and tongue are stillest,
Knowing all language is too weak.
Look in my eyes: read there confession:
The truest love hath least of art:
Nor needs it words for its expression
When soul speaks soul and heart speaks heart.
{346}

THE SIRENS
Wail! wail! and smite your lyres’ sonorous gold,
And beckon naked beauty; luring me
With arms and breasts and hips of godly mold,
Dark, wind-wild locks seen through the surf-blown sea!
Vain all your magic! dull in unclosed ears!
Beside one voice sweet-calling o’er the foam,
That, in my heart, like some strong hand appears
To gently, firmly draw my vessel home.
{347}

WHY?
Why are the bright stars brighter after rain?
Why is strong love the stronger after pain?
Reply, reply!
Why sings the wild swan heavenliest when it dies?
Why is fair love the fairest when it flies?
Oh why! Oh why!
Why are sweet kisses sweetest when they’re dead?
Why is love loveliest when ’tis buriéd?
Reply, reply!
{348}

NOCTURNE
A disc of violet blue,
Rimmed with a thorn of fire,
The new moon hangs in a sky of dew;
And under the vines, where the sunset’s hue
Is blent with blooms, first one, then two,
Begins the crickets’ choir.
Bright blurs of golden white,
With points of pearly glimmer,
The first stars wink in the web of night;
And through the flowers the moths take flight,
In the honeysuckle-colored light,
Where the shadowy shrubs grow dimmer.
Soft through the dim and dying eve,
Sweet through the dusk and dew,
Come, while the hours their witchcraft weave,
Dim in the House of the Soul’s-sweet-leave,
Here in the pale and perfumed eve,
Here where I wait for you.{349}
A great, dark, radiant rose,
Dripping with starry glower,
Is the night, whose bosom overflows
With the balsam musk of the breeze that blows
Into the heart, as each one knows,
Of every nodding flower.
A voice that sighs and sighs,
Then whispers like a spirit,
Is the wind, that kisses the drowsy eyes
Of the primrose open, and, rocking, lies
In the lily’s cradle, and soft unties
The rose-bud’s crimson near it.
Sweet through the deep and dreaming night,
Soft through the dark and dew,
Come, where the moments their magic write,
Deep in the Book of the Heart’s-delight,
Here in the hushed and haunted night,
Here where I wait for you.
{350}

METAMORPHOSIS
Before Love’s lofty goddess—Life hath toiled
To mold from burning dew and dewy fire—
Who kneel and worship with a heart sin-soiled,
Within the secret Temple of Desire;
Their curse is such: that, even while they pray,—
They shall not see, nor shall they know thereof!—
Their Deity is changed from fire to clay—
Lust! fashioned in the very form of Love.
{351}

AT TWENTY-ONE
The rosy hills of her high breasts,
Whereon, like misty morning, rests
The breathing lace; her auburn hair,
Wherein, a star-point sparkling there,
One jewel burns: her eyes, that keep
Recorded dreams of love and sleep:
Her mouth, with whose comparison
The richest rose were poor and wan:
Her throat, her form—what masterpiece
Of man can picture half of these!—
She comes! a classic from the hand
Of God! wherethrough I understand
What Nature means and Art and Love,
And all the immortal myths thereof.
{352}

KINSHIP
There is no flower of wood or lea,
No April flower, as fair as she:
O white anemone, who hast
The wind’s wild grace,
Know her a cousin of thy race,
Into whose face
A presence like the wind’s hath passed.
There is no flower of wood or lea,
No May-day flower, as fair as she:
O bluebell, tender with the blue
Of sapphire skies,
Thy lineage hath kindred ties
In her, whose eyes
The heaven’s own qualities imbue.
There is no flower of wood or lea,
No June-time flower, as fair as she:
Rose,—odorous with beauty of
Her lips that pressed,—
Behold thy sister here confessed!
Whose maiden breast
Is fragrant with the dreams of love.
{353}

“SHE IS SO MUCH”
She is so much to me, to me,
And, oh, I love her so,
I look into my soul and see
How comfort keeps me company
In hopes she, too, may know.
I love her, I love her, I love her,
This I know.
So dear she is to me, so dear,
And, oh, I love her so,
I listen in my heart and hear
The voice of gladness singing near
In thoughts she, too, may know.
I love her, I love her, I love her,
This I know.
So much she is to me, so much,
And, oh, I love her so,
In heart and soul I feel the touch
Of angel callers, that are such
Dreams as she, too, may know.
I love her, I love her, I love her,
This I know.
{354}

HER EYES
In her dark eyes dreams poetize;
The soul sits lost in love:
There is no thing in all the skies,
To gladden all the world I prize,
Like the deep love in her dark eyes,
Or one sweet dream thereof.
In her dark eyes, where thoughts arise,
Her soul’s soft moods I see:
Of hope and faith, that make life wise;
And charity, whose food is sighs—
Not truer than her own true eyes
Is truth’s divinity.
In her dark eyes the knowledge lies
Of an immortal sod,
Her soul once trod in angel guise,
Nor can forget its heavenly ties,
Since, there in Heaven, upon her eyes
Once gazed the eyes of God.
{355}

MESSENGERS
The wind, that gives the rose a kiss,
With murmured music of the south,
Hath kissed a sweeter thing than this;—
The wind, that gives the rose a kiss,—
Hath kissed the red rose of her mouth.
The brook, that mirrors skies and trees,
And echoes in a grottoed place,
Hath held a fairer thing than these;—
The brook, that mirrors skies and trees,
Hath held the image of her face.
O happy wind! O happy brook!
What message from her do you bear?—
“We bear from her her kiss and look—”
O happy wind! O happy brook!—
“That blessed us unaware.”{356}
APART
I
While sunset burns and stars are few,
And roses scent the fading light;
And, like a slim urn, dripping dew,
A spirit carries through the night,
The pearl-pale moon hangs new,—
I think of you, of you.
II
While waters flow, and soft winds woo
The golden-hearted bud with sighs;
And, like a flower an angel threw,
Out of the momentary skies
A star falls, burning blue,—
I dream of you, of you.
III
While love believes and hearts are true,
So let me think, so let me dream;
The thought and dream so wedded to
Your face, that, far apart, I seem
To see each thing you do,
And be with you, with you.
{357}

THE BLIND GOD
I know not if she be unkind;
If she have faults, I do not care.
Search through the world—where will you find
A face like hers, a form, a mind?—
I love her to despair!
If she be cruel, cruelty
Is a great virtue, I will swear:
If she be proud, then pride must be
Better than all humility.—
I love her to despair!
Why speak to me of that or this?
All you may say weighs not a hair!
To me, naught but perfection is
In her, whose lips I may not kiss!—
I love her to despair!
{358}

CARA MIA
I
Sweet lips, where kisses sleep,
Soft eyes, so filled with dreams,
Waken, oh waken!
Open your blossoms deep,
Sweet lips, where kisses sleep:
Unfold your brightest beams,
Soft eyes, so filled with dreams:
Waken, oh, waken!
II
Sweet lips, that give perfume,
Soft eyes, that kindle light,
Come, let me kiss you!—
To every flower in bloom,
Sweet lips, you lend perfume!
In every star at night,
Soft eyes, you kindle light!—
Come, let me kiss you!
{359}

III
Who would not love to rest?
Who would not love to lie?
Who would not love them?
Of such sweet flowers caressed,
Who would not love to rest?
With such stars in their sky,
Who would not love to lie?
Who would not love them?
{360}

MARGERY
I
When spring is here and Margery
Goes walking in the woods with me,
She is so white, she is so shy,
The little leaves clap hands and cry—
“Perdie;
So white is she, so shy is she,
Ah me!
The maiden May hath just passed by!”
II
When summer ’s here and Margery
Goes walking in the fields with me,
She is so pure, she is so fair,
The wildflowers eye her and declare—
“Perdie!
So pure is she, so fair is she,
Just see,
Where our sweet cousin takes the air!”{361}
III
Why is it that my Margery
Hears nothing that these say to me?
She is so good, she is so true,
My heart it maketh such ado,
Perdie!
So good is she, so true is she,
You see,
She can not hear the other two.
{362}

CONSTANCE
Beyond the orchard, in the lane,
The crested red-bird sings again—
O bird, whose song says, “Have no care,”
Should I not care when Constance there,—
My Constance with the bashful gaze,
Pink-gowned like some sweet hollyhock,—
If I declare my love, just says
Some careless thing as if in mock?
Like—“Past the orchard, in the lane,
Hark! how the red-bird sings again!”
There, while the red-bird sings his best,
His listening mate sits on the nest—
O bird, whose patience says, “All ’s well,”
How can it be with me, come, tell?
When Constance, with averted eyes,—
Soft-bonneted as some sweet-pea,—
If I talk marriage, just replies
With some such quaint irrelevancy,
As, “While the red-bird sings his best,
His loving mate sits on the nest.”{363}
What shall I say? what can I do?
Would such replies mean aught to you,
O birds, whose music says, “Be glad”?
Have I not reason to be sad
When Constance, with demurest glance,
Her face all poppied with distress,
If I reproach her, pouts, perchance,
And answers thus in waywardness?—
“What shall I say? what can I do?
My meaning should be plain to you!”{364}
LYDIA
When Autumn’s here and days are short,
Let Lydia laugh and, hey!
Straightway ’t is May-day in my heart,
And blossoms strew the way.
When Summer ’s here and days are long,
Let Lydia sigh and, ho!
December’s fields I walk among,
And shiver in the snow.
No matter what the seasons are,
My Lydia is so dear,
My heart admits no calendar
Of Earth when she is near.
{365}

HELEN
Heaped in raven loops and masses
Over temples smooth and fair,
Have you marked it, as she passes,
Night and starlight mingled there,—
Braided strands of midnight air,—
Helen’s hair?
Deep with dreams and moony mazes
Of the thought that in them lies,
Have you seen them, as she raises
Them in question or surprise,—
Two gray gleams of daybreak skies,—
Helen’s eyes?
Fresh as dew and honied wafters
Of a music sweet that slips,
Have you marked them, brimmed with laughter’s
Song and sunshine to their tips,—
Blossoms whence the perfume drips,—
Helen’s lips?{366}
He who sees her needs must love her:
But, beware, whoe’er thou art!
Lest like me thou shouldst discover
Nature overlooked one part,
In this masterpiece of art—
Helen’s heart.
{367}

MIGNON
Oh, Mignon’s mouth is like a rose,
A red, red rose, that half uncurls
Sweet petals o’er a crimson bee:
Or like a shell, that, opening, shows
Within its rosy curve white pearls,
White rows of pearls,
Is Mignon’s mouth that smiles at me.
Oh, Mignon’s eyes are like blue gems,
Two azure gems that gleam and glow,
Soft sapphires set in ivory:
Or like twin violets, whose stems
Bloom blue beneath the covering snow,
The lidded snow,
Are Mignon’s eyes that laugh at me.
O mouth of Mignon, Mignon’s eyes!
O eyes of violet, mouth of fire!—
Within which lies all ecstasy
Of tears and kisses and of sighs:—
O mouth, O eyes, and O desire,
O love’s desire,
Have mercy on the soul of me!
{368}

TRANSUBSTANTIATION
I
A sunbeam and a drop of dew
Lay on a red rose in the South:
God took the three and made her mouth,
Her sweet, small mouth,
So red of hue,—
The burning baptism of His kiss
Still fills my heart with heavenly bliss.
II
A dream of truth and love come true
Slept on a star in daybreak skies:
God mingled these and made her eyes,
Her dear, clear eyes,
So gray of hue,—
The high communion of His gaze
Still fills my soul with deep amaze.
{369}

LOVE AND A DAY
I
In girandoles of gladioles
The day had kindled flame;
And Heaven a door of gold and pearl
Unclosed, whence Morning,—like a girl,
A red rose twisted in a curl,—
Down sapphire stairways came.
Said I to Love: “What must I do?
What shall I do? what can I do?”
Said I to Love: “What must I do,
All on a summer’s morning?”
Said Love to me: “Go woo, go woo.”
Said Love to me: “Go woo.
If she be milking, follow, O!
And in the clover hollow, O!
While through the dew the bells clang clear,
Just whisper it into her ear,
All on a summer’s morning.”{370}
II
Of honey and heat and weed and wheat
The day had made perfume;
And Heaven a tower of turquoise raised,
Whence Noon, like some pale woman, gazed—
A sunflower withering at her waist—
Within a crystal room.
Said I to Love: “What must I do?
What shall I do? what can I do?”
Said I to Love: “What must I do,
All in the summer nooning?”
Said Love to me: “Go woo, go woo.”
Said Love to me: “Go woo.
If she be ’mid the rakers, O!
Among the harvest acres, O!
While every breeze brings scents of hay,
Just hold her hand and not take ‘nay,’
All in the summer nooning.”
III
With song and sigh and cricket cry
The day had mingled rest;
And Heaven a casement opened wide{371}
Of opal, whence, like some young bride,
The Twilight leaned, all starry eyed,
A moonflower on her breast.
Said I to Love: “What must I do?
What shall I do? what can I do?”
Said I to Love: “What must I do,
All in the summer gloaming?”
Said Love to me: “Go woo, go woo.”
Said Love to me: “Go woo,
Go meet her at the trysting, O!
And ’spite of her resisting, O!
Beneath the stars and afterglow,
Just clasp her close and kiss her—so,
All in the summer gloaming.”{372}
LOVE IN A GARDEN
I
Between the rose’s and the canna’s crimson,
Beneath thy window in the night I stand;
The jeweled dew hangs little stars, in rims, on
The white moonflowers; each a spirit hand
That points the path to mystic Shadowland.
Awaken, sweet and fair!
And add to night thy grace!
Suffer its loveliness to share
The white moon of thy face,
The dark cloud of thy hair.
Awaken, sweet and fair!
II
A moth, like down, swings on th’ althea’s pistil,—
Ghost of a tone that haunts its bell’s deep dome;—{373}
And in the August-lily’s cone of crystal
A firefly hangs the lantern of a gnome,
Green as a gem that gleams through hollow foam.
Approach! the moment flies!
O sweetheart of the South!
Come! mingle with night’s mysteries
The red rose of thy mouth,
The dark stars of thine eyes.—
Approach! the moment flies!
III
Dim through the dusk, like some unearthly presence,
The night-song silvers of a dreaming bird;
And with it borne, faint on a breeze-blown essence,
The rainy whisper of a fountain’s heard—
As if young lips had breathed a perfumed word.
How long, my love, my bliss!
How long must I await
With night—that all impatience is—
Thy greeting at the gate,
And at the gate thy kiss?
How long, my love, my bliss!
{374}

FLORIDIAN
I
The cactus and the aloe bloom
Beneath the window of your room;
That window where, at evenfall,
Beneath the twilight’s first pale star,
You linger, tall and spiritual,
And hearken my guitar.
It is the hour
When every flower
Is wooed of moth or bee—
Would, would you were the flower, dear,
And I the moth to draw you near,
To draw you near to me,
My dear,
To draw you near to me!
II
The jasmine and bignonia spill
Their balm about your windowsill;{375}
That sill where, when magnolia-white,
In foliage mists, the moon hangs far,
You lean with bright deep eyes of night,
And hearken my guitar.
It is the hour
When from each flower
The wind woos essences—
Would, would you were the flower, love,
And I the wind to breathe above,
To breathe above and kiss,
My love,
To breathe above and kiss!
{376}

WHEN SHIPS PUT OUT TO SEA
I
It’s “Sweet, good-by,” when pennants fly
And ships put out to sea;
It ’s a loving kiss, and a tear or two
In an eye of brown or an eye of blue:—
And you’ll remember me,
Sweetheart,
And you’ll remember me.
II
It’s “Friend or foe?” when signals blow
And ships sight ships at sea;
It’s “Clear for action! and man the guns!”
As the battle nears and the battle runs;—
And you’ll remember me,
Sweetheart,
And you’ll remember me.
III
It’s deck to deck, and wrath and wreck,
When ships meet ships at sea;{377}
It’s scream of shot and shriek of shell,
And hull and turret a roaring hell;—
And you’ll remember me,
Sweetheart,
And you’ll remember me.
IV
It’s doom and death, and pause a breath,
When ships go down at sea;
It’s hate is over and love begins,
And war is cruel whoever wins;—
And you’ll remember me,
Sweetheart,
And you’ll remember me.
{378}

A CHRISTMAS CATCH
When roads are mired with ice and snow,
And the air of morn is crisp with rime;
When the holly hangs by the mistletoe,
And bells ring in the Christmas-time:—
It’s—Saddle, my Heart! and ride away
To the sweet-faced girl with eyes of gray!
Who waits with a smile for the gifts you bring—
A man’s strong love and a wedding-ring—
It’s—Saddle, my Heart, and ride!
When vanes veer north and storm-winds blow,
And the sun at noon is a blur o’erhead;
When the holly hangs by the mistletoe,
And the Christmas service is sung and said:—
It’s—Come, O my Heart, and wait a while,
Where the organ peals, in the altar aisle,
For the gifts that the church now gives to you—
A woman’s hand and a heart that’s true.
It’s—Come, O my Heart, and wait!{379}
When rooms gleam warm with the fire’s glow,
And the sleet raps sharp on the window-pane:
When the holly hangs by the mistletoe,
And Christmas revels begin again:—
It’s—Home, O my Heart, and love, at last!
And her happy breast to your own held fast:
A song to sing and a tale to tell,
A good-night kiss and all is well.
It’s—Home, O my Heart, and love!
{380}

A SONG FOR YULE
I
Sing, Hey, when the time rolls round this way,
And bells peal out, ’Tis Christmas Day!
The world is better then by half,
For joy, for joy:
In a little while you will see it laugh—
For a song’s to sing and a glass to quaff,
My boy; my boy.
So here ’s to the man who never says nay!—
Sing, Hey, a song of Christmas Day!
II
Sing, Ho, when roofs are white with snow,
And homes are hung with mistletoe:
Old Earth is not half bad, I wis—
What cheer! what cheer!
How it ever seemed sad the wonder is—
With a gift to give and a girl to kiss,
My dear; my dear.
So here ’s to the girl who never says no!
Sing, Ho, a song of the mistletoe!
{381}

III
No thing in the world to the heart seems wrong
When the soul of a man walks out with song;
Wherever they go, glad hand in hand,
And glove in glove,
The round of the land is rainbow-spanned,
And the meaning of life they understand
Is love; is love.
Let the heart be open, the soul be strong,
And life will be glad as a Christmas song.
{382}

CHORDS
I
When love delays, when love delays and joy
Steals like a shadow o’er the happy hills;
When hope is gone; and no to-morrow fills
The promise of to-day; still I employ
My soul with thoughts of thee,
Who ’rt not for me, for me!
When love delays, when love delays and song
Aches at wild lips, unutterable, as the sound
Of ocean strives, within the shell’s mouth bound;
And hope is gone for ever, slain of wrong;
Still in my heart one word
Keeps calling like a bird.
When love delays, when love delays and sleep
Seals tired eyelids,—like the sound of foam,
Heard ’mid familiar flowers far from home,—{383}
When hope lies dead; in dreams, in dreams I keep
Feeling thy lips’ sweet touch,—
And, oh! it is too much!
When love delays, when love delays and sorrow
Drinks her own tears that add but to her thirst;
When song and sleep and love itself seem curst,
And hope lies dead; still, still I dream to-morrow
Will bring some word of cheer
From thee who art not here.
Will love delay, will love delay till death
Hath sealed these lips and locked these eyes in night?
Till unto love and hate indifferent quite
This form shall lie? Then wilt thou, wild of breath,
Bend down and kiss me there
When I no more shall care?
II
If thou wouldst know the Beautiful that breathes
And beckons through the World, far must thou seek!…{384}
She is no shadow wreathed with hemlock wreaths;
No drowsy sorrow whose wan eyes are weak
With melancholy vigils; and no shade
Of tragic sin of the sweet sun afraid:
No tearful anger torn of truthless love,
Who stabs her sick heart to the dagger’s hilt
For vengeance sweet; no miser mood, or maid,
In owlet towers!—Nay! she sings above
On morning meads ’mid flowers that never wilt.
If thou dost seek the Beautiful, beware!
Lest thou discover her, nor know ’tis she;
And she enslave thee to thy heart’s despair,
And fill thy soul with yearning, utterly,
For that wild-rose which is her mouth, that brings
Dew-odors of the dawn; for those twin springs
Of light, her eyes; the bloom of her white brow,
O’er which the foliage of her dark hair lies:
The melody which is her heart, that sings
The poetry of love, to which all bow,
Both gods and men, the love that never dies.
Lost art thou then, lost as the first lone star
Set in the splendor of the sunset’s wave;{385}
Lost in thy loneliness of searching far,
Striving to clasp her, evermore her slave:
Lost—gladly lost! a devotee to her
Who, in the end, perhaps may let thee share
A portion of her bliss, her heritage
Of happiness in the same way and wise
As woods and waters share it.—Then prepare
Thy soul,—made perfect,—for its final wage,
Her kiss, whose touch shall apotheosize.
III
Now that the orchard’s leaves are sere,
And drip with rain instead of dew,
No moon-bright fruit hangs moon-like here,
And dead your long white lilies too,—
And dead the heart that broke for you:
How comes the dim touch of your arm?
Your faint lips on my feverish cheek?
Your eyes near mine? deep as a charm,
And gray, so gray! till I am weak,
Weak with wild tears and can not speak.
I am as one who walks in dreams;
Sees, as in youth, his father’s home;
Hears from his native mountain streams
Far music of continual foam,
And one sweet voice that bids him come.
{386}

AT HER GRAVE
I
With your eyes of April blue,
And your mouth
Like a May-rose, fresh with dew,
Of the South,
With your hair as golden sweet
As the ripples of ripe wheat,
How you make my old heart beat!—
Who are you?
II
There is something that I knew,
Long ago,
In your voice that thrills me through
With the glow
Of remembered happiness;
And your look—I can not guess
What it is there, nor express.—
Who are you?
{387}

III
You are like her! even the hue
Of her eyes!—
It is strange you stop here, too,
Where she lies!—
Where she lies who was, you see,
All to me a girl could be—
But no wife.—You stare at me.—
Who are you?
IV
Well, I left her. That ’s not new—
God above!
Men, who live so, often do.
’T is n’t love.
So I broke her heart, they say,—
And been wretched since that day:
And our child—don’t turn away!—
Who are you?
{388}

A CONFESSION
These are the facts:—I was to blame.
I brought her here and wrought her shame.
She came with me all trustingly.
Lovely and innocent her face:
And in her perfect form, the grace
Of purity and modesty.
I think I loved her then: would dote
On her ambrosial breast and throat,
Young as a wildflower’s tenderness:
Her eyes, that were both glad and sad:
Her cheeks and chin, that dimples had:
Her mouth, red-ripe to kiss and kiss.
Three months passed by; three moons of fire;
When in me sickened all desire:
And in its place a devil,—who
Filled all my soul with deep disgust,
And on the victim of my lust
Turned eyes of loathing,—swiftly grew.{389}
One night, when by my side she slept,
I rose: and leaning, while I kept
The dagger hid, I kissed her hair
And mouth: and, when she smiled asleep,
Into her heart I drove it deep—
And left her dead, still smiling there.
{390}

LAST DAYS
Ah! heartbreak of the tattered hills,
And heartache of the autumn sky!
Heartbreak and heartache, since God wills,
Are mine, and God knows why!
I held one dearer than each day
Of life God sets in sunny gold—
But Death hath ta’en that gem away,
And left me poor and old.
The heartbreak of the hills is mine,
Of trampled twig and rain-beat leaf,
Of wind that sobs through thorn and pine
An unavailing grief.
The sorrow of the loveless skies’
“Farewells” are wild as those I said
When last I kissed my child’s blue eyes
And lips, ice-dumb and dead.
{391}

AT TWILIGHT
Once more she holds me with her pensive eyes;
Once more I feel her voice’s witchery
Within my heart unfountain tears and sighs,
And fill the soul of me.
Once more she bends a silent face above;
Once more I feel her hands’ soft touches shake
My life, unbinding long-imprisoned love,
Bidding my lost dreams wake.
Once more I see her serious smile; and touch
Once more the lips of her whose kisses say—
“The night was long, and thou hast suffered much:
At last, dear heart, ’t is day!”{392}
DAY AND NIGHT
They said to me, “The days are not so far off
When she will come, who gave her heart to thee;”
And still I wait, while twilight’s lonely star, off
Her long-loved hills, dips dewy to the sea.
And I recall that night, which gave its soul of
Calm beauty to the earth, when she did give
Her love’s white starlight to the rugged whole of
My barren life and bade me see and live.
The days go by, and my sick soul recalls but
The revelation of that evening sky:
The days! whose hours are as narrow walls,—but
Of whiter shadow,—where hearts break and die.
The day is error’s: it can but deceive us
With shows of Earth, blind with the primal curse.
The night is truth’s: its myriad fires weave us
The thoughts of God, the visible universe.
{393}

THREE BIRDS
A red bird sang upon the bough
When wind-flowers nodded in the dew:
My spring of bird and flower wast thou,
O tried and true!
A brown bird warbled on the wing
When poppy buds were hearts of heat:
I wooed thee with a golden ring,
O sad and sweet!
A black-bird twittered in the mist
When nightshade blooms were filled with frost:
The leaves upon thy grave are whist,
O loved and lost!
{394}

UNREQUITED
Passion? not hers! who held me with pure eyes:
One hand among the deep curls of her brow,
I drank the girlhood of her gaze with sighs:
She never sighed, nor gave me kiss or vow.
So have I seen a clear October pool,
Cold, liquid topaz, set within the sere
Gold of the woodland, tremorless and cool,
Reflecting all the heartbreak of the year.
Sweetheart? not she! whose voice was music-sweet;
Whose face was sweeter than melodious prayer.
Sweetheart I called her.—When did she repeat
Sweet to one hope, or heart to one despair!
So have I seen a wildflower’s fragrant head
Sung to and sung to by a longing bird,
And at the last, albeit the bird lay dead,
No blossom wilted, for it had not heard.
{395}

THE HEART’S DESIRE
God made her body out of foam and flowers,
And for her hair the dawn and darkness blent;
Then called two planets from their heavenly towers,
And in her face, divinely eloquent,
Gave them a firmament.
God made her heart of rosy ice and fire,
Of snow and flame, that freezes while it burns;
And of a starbeam and a moth’s desire
He made her soul, to’ards which my longing turns,
And all my being yearns.
So is my life a prisoner unto passion,
Enslaved of her who gives nor sign nor word;
So in the cage her loveliness doth fashion
Is love endungeoned, like a golden bird
That sings but is not heard.{396}
Could it but once convince her with beseeching!
But once compel her as the sun the south!
Could it but once, fond arms around her reaching,
Upon the red carnation of her mouth
Dew its eternal drouth!
Then might I rise victorious over sadness,
O’er fate and change, and, with but little care,
Torched by the glory of that moment’s gladness,
Breast the black mountain of my life’s despair,
And die, or do and dare.
{397}

OUT OF THE DEPTHS
I
Let me forget her face!
So fresh, so lovely! the abiding place
Of tears and smiles that won my heart to her;
Of dreams and moods that moved my soul’s dim deeps,
As strong winds stir
Dark waters where the starlight glimmering sleeps.—
In every lineament the mind can trace,
Let me forget her face!
II
Let me forget her form!
Soft and seductive, that contained each charm,
Each grace the sweet word maidenhood implies;
And all the sensuous youth of line and curve,
That makes men’s eyes
Bondsmen of beauty, eager still to serve.—{398}
In every part that memory can warm,
Let me forget her form!
III
Let me forget her, God!
Her who made honeyed love a bitter rod
To scourge my heart with, barren with despair;
To tear my soul with, sick with vain desire!—
Oh, hear my prayer!
Out of the hell of love’s unquenchable fire
I cry to thee, with face against the sod,
Let me forget her, God!
{399}

“THIS IS THE FACE OF HER”
This is the face of her
I’ve dreamed of long
That in my heart I bear:
This is the face of her
Pictured in song.
Look on the lily lids,
The eyes of dawn,—
Deep as a Nereid’s,
Swimming with dewy lids
In waters wan.
Look on the brows of snow,
The locks of night:
Only the gods can show
Such brows of placid snow,
Such locks of light.
The cheeks, like rosy moons;
The lips of fire:
Love sighs no sweeter tunes
Under romantic moons
Than these suspire.{400}
Loved lips and eyes and hair!
Look, this is she!
She, who sits smiling there,
Throned in my heart’s despair,
Never for me!
{401}

INDIFFERENCE
She is so dear the wildflowers near
Each path she passes by,
Are over fain to kiss again
Her feet and then to die.
She is so fair the wild birds there
That sing upon the bough,
Have learned the staff of her sweet laugh,
And sing no other now.
Alas! that she should never see,
Should never care to know,
The wildflower’s love, the bird’s above,
And his, who loves her so.
{402}

GHOST WEATHER
Wild gusts of drizzle hoot and hiss
Through writhing lindens torn in two—
The dead’s own days are days like this!
Yea; let me sit and be with you.
Here in your willow chair, whose seat
Spreads purple plush.—Hark! how the gusts
Seem moaning voices that repeat
Some grief here; in this room, where dusts
Make dim each ornament and chair;
This locked-in memory where you died:
Since angels stood here, saintly fear
Guards each dark corner, mournful-eyed.
Through this dim light bend your dim face;
Or, like a rain-mist, gray of gleam,
A soft, dim cloudiness of lace,
Stand near me while I dream, I dream.
{403}

THE FOREST POOL
One memory persuades me when
Dusk’s lonely star burns overhead,
To take the gray path through the glen—
That finds the forest pool, made red
With sunset—and forget again,
Forget that she is dead.
Once more I look into the spring,
That on one rock a finger white
Of foam that beckons still doth bring—
Some moon-wan spirit of the night,
Who dwells within its murmuring,
Her life the sad moonlight.
I see the red dusk touch it here
With fire like a blade of blood;
One star reflected, white and clear,
Like a wood-blossom’s drowning bud;
While all my grief stands very near,
Pale in the solitude.{404}
And then, behold, while yet the moon
Hangs—silver as a twisted horn
Blown out of Elfland—sweet with June,
White in white clusters of the thorn,
Slow, in the water as a tune,
An image pale is born:
That has her throat of frost; her lips—
Her mouth where God’s anointment lies;
Her eyes, wherefrom love’s arrow-tips
Break, like the starlight from dark skies;
Her hair, a hazel heap that slips;
Her throat and hair and eyes.
And then I stoop; the water kissed,
The face fades from me into air;
And in the pool’s dark amethyst
My own pale face returns my stare:
Then night and mist—and in the mist
One dead leaf drifting there.
{405}

AT SUNSET
Into the sunset’s turquoise marge
The moon dips, like a pearly barge
Enchantment sails through magic seas,
To fairyland Hesperides,
Over the hills and away.
Into the fields, in ghost-gray gown,
The young-eyed dusk comes slowly down;
Her apron filled with stars she stands.
And one or two slip from her hands
Over the hills and away.
Above the wood’s black caldron bends
The witch-faced Night and, muttering, blends
The dew and heat, whose bubbles make
The mist and musk that haunt the brake
Over the hills and away.
Oh, come with me, and let us go
Beyond the sunset lying low,
Beyond the twilight and the night,
Into Love’s kingdom of long light,
Over the hills and away.
{406}

DEAD AND GONE
Can you tell me how he rests,
Flowers, growing o’er him there?
His a right warm heart, my sweets,—
So, cover it with care.
Can you tell me how he lies
Such nights out in the cold,
O cricket, with your plaintive call,
O glow-worm, with your gold?
If my eyes are sorrowful,
Well may they weep, I trow,—
Since his dead eyes gazed into them,
They have been sad enow.
If my heart make moan and ache,
Well may it break, I’m sure—
For his dead love is more, ah me!
More than it can endure.
{407}

ONE NIGHT
I
A night of rain. The wind is out.
And I had wished it otherwise:
A calm, still night; no scudding skies;
Or, in the scud, above the rout,
The moon; by whose pale light my eyes
Might meet her eyes; the smile that tries
To come but will not; lips, that pout
With seeming anger, all surmise,
When I have said “I love your lies”—
Lips I shall kiss before she dies.
II
What force this wind has! As it runs
Around each unprotecting tree
It seems some beast; and now I see
Its form, its eyes; a woman’s once:—
Dark eyes! that blaze as lionly
As some bayed beast’s, that will not flee{408}
The pine-knots and derides the guns.—
Or is it but the thought in me!
The thought of that which is to be,
The deed, that rises shadowy?
III
And now the trees and whipping rain
Confuse them…. I must drive it hence,
The memory of her eyes! the tense
Wild look within them of hard pain!…
Yet she must die—with every sense
Strung to beholding knowledge, whence
My heart shall be made whole again.—
Here I will wait where night is dense.
Soon she will come, like Innocence,
Thinking her youth is her defense.
IV
And when she leaves,—and none perceives,—
The old gray manor, where the eight
Old locusts, (twisted shadows), freight
With mossy murmurings its eaves,
One moment at the iron gate
She ’ll tarry. Then, with breath abate,{409}
Come rustling through the autumn leaves.
And I will take both hands and sate
My mouth on hers and say, “You ’re late”;
She ’ll laugh to hear I had to wait….
V
O passion of past vows, revive
Imagination, and renew
The ardor of love’s language you
For love’s rose-altar kept alive!
Repeat the oaths that rang with dew
And starlight!—Tell her she is true
As beautiful.—I will contrive
To make her think I have no clue
To all her falseness. I will woo
As once I wooed before I knew.
VI
And we will walk against the wind;
The shuffling leaves about our feet;
Our ruin, as the wood’s, complete,
Because one woman so hath sinned
And never suffered. She shall meet
No murder in my eyes; no heat{410}
Of fate in holding hand that ’s pinned
To hers. To make her trust to beat,
I ’ll kiss her hand, her hair,—like wheat
Of affluent summer,—saying “Sweet.”
VII
And should I bungle in this thing,
This purpose that must see her dead
To cure this fever in my head?—
What other thing is there to bring
Soul satisfaction? when is shed
No real blood, save what makes red
The baulked intention?—I will fling
The mask aside!—But hate hath led
Desire too far now to be fed
With failure. I have naught to dread.
VIII
When we have reached the precipice
That thwarts the battling of the sea,
And wallows out great rocks, that knee
The giant foam with roar and hiss,
I will not cease to coax and be
The anxious lover. Trusting she{411}
Will not suspect my farewell kiss
Until it turns a curse, and we
Sway for an instant totteringly,
And she has shrieked some prayer at me.
IX
O let me see wild terror there
Upon her face! the wilder frown
Of crime’s apprisal, and renown
Of my life’s injury, that bare
This horror with its bloody crown!—
No pity, God! For, if her gown,
Suspending looseness of her hair,
Delay the plunge … the night is brown …
My heel must crush her white face down,
And Hell and Heaven see her drown.
{412}

THE PARTING
She passed the thorn-trees, whose gaunt branches tossed
Their spider-shadows round her; and the breeze,
Beneath the ashen moon, was full of frost,
And mouthed and mumbled in the sickly trees,
Like some starved hag who sees her children freeze.
Dry-eyed she waited by the sycamore.
Some stars made misty blotches in the sky.
And all the wretched willows on the shore
Looked faded as a jaundiced cheek or eye.
She felt deep sorrow yet could only sigh.
She heard his skiff grind on the river rocks
Whistling he came into the shadow made
By the great tree. He kissed her on her locks;
And round her form his eager arms were laid.
Passive she stood her purpose unbetrayed.
And then she spoke, while still his greeting kiss
Stung in her hair. She did not dare to lift
Her face to his; her anguished eyes to his{413}
While tears smote crystal in her throat. One rift
Of weakness humored might set all adrift.
Anger and shame were his. She meekly heard.
And then the oar-locks sounded, and her brain
Remembered he had said no farewell word;
And swift emotion swept her; and again
Left her as silent as a carven pain….
She, in the old sad farm-house, wearily
Resumed the drudgery of her common lot,
Regret remembering.—’Midst old vices, he,
Who would have trod on, and somehow did not,
The wildflower, that had brushed his feet, forgot.
{414}

THE DAUGHTER OF THE SNOW
Though the panther’s footprints show,
And the wild-cat’s, in the snow,
You will never find a trace
Of the footsteps of a certain
Maiden with a paler face
Than the drifts that fill and curtain
Hillside, valley, and the wood,
Where the hunter’s wigwam stood
In the winter solitude.
What white beast hath grown the fur
For the whiter limbs of her?—
Raiment of the frost and ice
To her supple beauty fitting;
Wampum strouds, as white as rice,
Of the frost’s fantastic knitting,
Wrap her form and face complete;
Glove her hands with ice; her feet
Moccasin with beaded sleet.{415}
’Though he knew she made a haunt
Of the dell, it did not daunt:
Where the hoar-frost mailed each tree
In soft, phantom alabaster,
And hung ghosts of bud and bee
On each autumn-withered aster;
By the frozen waterfall,
There she stood, beneath its wall,
In the ice-sheathed chaparral.
Where the beech-tree and the larch
Built a white triumphal arch
For the Winter, marching down
With his icy-armored leaders;
Where each hemlock had a crown,
And pale diadems the cedars;
Where the long icicle shone,
There he saw her, standing lone,
Like a mist-wraith turned to stone.
And she led him many a mile
With her hand-wave and her smile,
And the printless swiftness of
Feet of frost, and snowy flutter
Of her raiment; now above,
Now below, the boughs of utter
Winter whiteness. Led him on{416}
Till the dawn and day were gone,
And the evening star hung wan….
Hunters found him dead, they tell,
In the winter-wasted dell,
With his quiver and his bow,
Where the cascade ran a rafter,
White, of crystal and of snow;
Where he listened to her laughter,
Promises, that were as far
As the secrets of a star,
And her love that naught could mar.
And her countenance is this
Stamped on his: and this her kiss,
Haunting still his mouth and eyes,
Colder than the cold December:
This her passion, that defies
All control, the stars remember
Filled him, killed him: this is she
Clinging to him, neck and knee,
Where his limbs sank wearily.
{417}

THE SPIRIT OF THE STAR

(Love Spiritual)
“This union of the human soul with the divine æthereal substance of the universe, is the ancient doctrine of Pythagoras and Plato.”—Divine Legation.

There is love for love: the heaven
Teems with possibilities:
And, when love is purely given,
Love returns from where none sees:
And such love becomes a ladder
Reaching heavenward, from the sadder
Night of Earth; from out the driven
Darkness of its miseries.
There is love for love: and Beauty,
From her star above the Earth,
Smiles, and straight each cloud of sooty
Night takes on celestial worth:
And, like some white flower unfolding,
Love is born; and softly holding
Up its face, as if in duty,
Grows to that which gave it birth.{418}
Earth and Heaven are prolific
Of love’s wonders: and the sky
Teems with spirits, fair, terrific,
Who, if loved, shall never die:
Dæmons, haggard as their mountains;
Naiads, sparkling as their fountains;
Sylphids of the winds, pacific
As the stars they tremble by….
Such was I; who long had waited
For the everlasting sleep:
Where, around me, worlds dilated,
Waned or waxed within the deep:
Where, beneath my star, a planet
Whirled and shone, like glowing granite,
While around it ne’er abated
One white satellite its sweep.
I was sad: my beauty wearied,
Useless as a scentless bud
Fading ere it blooms. The serried
Mists of worlds, as red as blood,
Streamed beneath me. And the starry
Firmament above bent, barry
With the wild auroras, ferried
Of the meteors’ sisterhood.
[Image unavailable.]
Something drew me, unreturning,
Filled me with a finer flame
Page 418
The Spirit of the Star
{419}

I was loveless with a yearning
After love that never came;
All my astral being burning
Towards that world without a name,
World I knew not: till, with splendor
Of compulsion that was tender,
Something drew me, unreturning,
Filled me with a finer flame.
So I left my star, whose lances
Pierced with arrowy gold the heat
Of heaven’s hyacinth; its glances
Saddened me. No more to meet,
Then I left my star; and, beating
Downward, heard it still repeating
Far farewells; and through the trances
Of dark space its face looked sweet.
Passed your moon: a melancholy
Disc at first; then, vast and sharp,
Lo, a world, all white and holy!
Where, upon the crystal scarp
Of a mountain,—like a story
Of high Heaven revealed in glory,—
Gradual, as if music slowly
Built it, rolling from a harp,—{420}
Rose a city: cloudy nacre
Were its walls, that towered round
Acre upon arch-piled acre
Of a marble-terraced ground:
Caryatids alternated
With Atlantes, sculpture-weighted:
And its gates—some god the maker—
Rhombs of symboled diamond.
In the white light glittered swimming
Domes of dazzle: swirl on swirl,
Temples lifted columns, brimming
Crystal flame, that seemed to whirl:
Battlemented moonstone darkled;
Palaces, pale-pillared, sparkled,
Cloudy opal: and, far dimming,
Aqueducts of ghostly pearl.
Streaming steeples shone, of dædal
Emblem; each an obelisk:
Minarets, each one a needle,
Balancing a bubble-disc;
Some of diamond, like a blister
Frozen; some of topaz-glister,
Vinous; in whose blinding middle
Blazed an orb of burning bisque.{421}
And I saw where, silvery slanted,
A vast pyramidic heap
Rose of spar; whereon was planted
The acropolis of Sleep,—
God of these:—that, looming higher,
Wrought of seeming ice and fire,
Where pale rainbow-colors panted,
Gleamed above the lunar deep.
Robed in white simarre and chiton,
Visions filled its every square,
Moving like a finer light on
Light: and in the glory there
Music rang and golden laughter;
And before each shape, and after,
Radiance went, that shadowed white, on
Temple and on palace stair.
Though they called me, I descended
Earthward. For great longing drew
Me and, drawing me, was blended
With your world. I never knew
It was Earth, until,—forsaking
Heaven,—I beheld it taking,—
A great azure sphere,—its splendid
Way along the singing blue.{422}
And when night came, here, above you,—
Sleeping by your folded sheep
On the hills,—I stooped: whereof you
Dreamed: I kissed you in your sleep:
I, your destiny, who wrought it
So you knew me: you, who thought it
Not so strange that I should love you,
I a spirit of the deep.
’Twas your love that sought and found me,
Drew me from that star-life sad;
Won my soul to yours and bound me
With such love as none hath had:
I am she, you may remember,
That fair star that seemed an ember
O’er you, that you loved.—Around me
Wrap your arms now and be glad.
Look above: what seems a petal,
Burning, of a rose; that far
Point of radiance, bright as metal,
Fiery silver, is your star!
Look above you: rise unto it.
Let it lead you now who drew it
Down to Earth, where shadows settle!—
On that star no shadows are!
{423}

THE SPIRIT OF THE VAN

(Love Ideal)
“Among the mountains of Carmarthen, lies a beautiful and romantic piece of water, named The Van Pools. Tradition relates, that after midnight, on New Year’s Eve, there appears on this lake a being named The Spirit of the Van. She is dressed in a white robe, bound by a golden girdle; her hair is long and golden; her face is pale and melancholy.”—Keightley’s “Fairy Mythology.”

Midsummer-night; the Van. Through night’s wan noon,
Wading the storm-scud of an eve of storm,
Pale o’er Carmarthen’s peaks the mounting moon.—
Wilds of Carmarthen! sombre heights, that swarm
Girdling this water, as old giants might
Crouch, guarding some enchanted gem of charm,—{424}
Wilds of Carmarthen, that for me each night
Reëcho prayers and pleadings,—all the year
Unanswered,—made to listening waters white!
Mountains, behold me yet again! Bend near!
Behold her lover! hers, that shape of snow,
Who dwells amid these pools; who will not hear
My heart’s wild pleading, calling loud, now low,
Unhappy, to her, ’mid the lonely hills.
Whene’er a ripple trembles into glow,
Where yeasty moonshine scuds the foam, straight thrills
Heart’s expectation through my veins, and high
With “she!” each pulse the exultation fills.
But she ’tis never. Once … and then! would I,
Would I had perished, so beholding!—World,
’Twas you, O world, who would not let me die!{425}
Once I beheld her!—If some fiend had curled
Stiff talons in my hair, and, twisting tight,
Had raised me high, then into Hell had hurled;
Fresh from that vision of her beauty white,
With Heaven in my soul, I, unamerced,
Shackled with tortures, yet might mock Hell’s spite.
Immortal memory, quench in me this thirst!—
O starlike vision, that a moment clove
My sight, and then for ever left me curst!
Oh, make me mad with love, with all thy love!
Me, me, who seek thee ’mid these wilds when gloom
Storms or drip gold the sibylline stars above!—
Let thy high coming in a flash consume
The light of all the stars! and make me mad,
Mad with love’s madness! fill me with sweet doom!
Sleep will I not now, for my soul is sad:
For, should I sleep, there might come other dreams,—{426}
Sadder than thou art,—in thy beauty clad
And all thy tyranny. To me it seems
Better to wake here, underneath this pine,
Until thy face upon my vision gleams.—
Thou, who art wrought of elements divine,
And I of crasser clay, clay that will think,
“Since I am hers, why should she not be mine?”
Again, its usual phantom, on the brink
Of thy lone lake, I ask thee: “Must I yearn
Forever, haunted of that vision’s wink?”—
When, glassing out great circles, which did urn
Some intense essence of interior light,
(As clouds, that clothe the moon, unbinding, burn,
Riven, erupt her orb, triumphant white,)
I saw, midmost the Van, a feathering fire
Dilating ivory-wan.—Expectant night
Tiptoed attentive, fearful to suspire.—
Wherefrom arose—what white divinity?
What godhead sensed with glory and desire?
Born for the moment for the eyes of me!
Then re-absorbed into the brassy gloom
Of whispering waves that sighed their ecstasy.{427}
Thou! in whose path harmonious colors bloom,
Pale pearl and lilac, asphodel and rose,—
Like many flow’rs auroral of perfume,—
Thou leftst me thus, to marvel as who knows
He is not dead and yet it seems he is,
Since all his soul with spirit-rapture glows.—
O sylph-like brow! lips like an angel’s kiss!
High immortality! whose face was such
As starlight in a lily’s loveliness!…
The gold that bound thee seemed too base to clutch
Thy chastity, though clear as golden gum
That almugs sweat, and fragrance to the touch!
Thy hair—not hair!—seemed rays, like those that come
Strained through the bubble of a chrysolite.—
No word I said: thy beauty struck me dumb.
Thy face, that is upon my soul’s quick sight
Eternal seared, hath made of me a shade,
A wandering shadow of the day and night:
A seeker ’mid the hoary hills for aid,
The sole society of my sick heart, who
Shuns all companionship of man and maid:{428}
Who, comrade of the mountain blossoms blue,
And intimate of old trees, goes dreaming they,—
As in that legendary world that drew
Oracles from lips in oaks—, may sometime say
Prophetic precepts to it: how were won
A spirit loved to love a mortal;—yea,
In vain.—
But one day, frog-like in the sun,
Beside a cave,—the nightshade vines made rank
And hairy henbane, where huge spiders spun,—
Wrinkled as Magic, I a grizzled, lank,
Squat something startled, naught save skin and hair;
With eyes wherein dwelt demons; flames, that shrank
And grew;—familiars, who fixed me with glare
As, raising claw-like hands when I drew near,
Frog-like he croaked, “Thou fool! go seek her there!
Woo her with thy heart’s actions! making clear{429}
Thy soul’s white passage for her coming feet!—
In! in! thou fool! plunge in! Fear naught but fear!”
Yet I have waited many weeks. Repeat.
Acts of the heart with passionate offering
Of love whose anguish makes it seven times sweet.
Still all in vain, in vain. To-night I bring
My self alone; my soul unfearing, see!
My soul unto thee!—Shall the clay still cling
Clogging fulfillment? and achievement be
Balked still by flesh?—no! let me in—to die,
Haply; or, for a moment’s mystery,
Gaze in thine eyes: one splendid instant lie
In thy white arms and bosom; and thy kiss,
My elemental immortality!—
Part of thy breathing waves, to laugh or hiss
In foam; or winds, that rock the awful deeps,
Or build with song vast temples for thy bliss.
Wherein, responsive as thy white hand sweeps
The chords of some sad shell, I’ll dream and roam{430}
Through glaucous chambers where the green day sleeps.
Dead not with death, what secrets hath thy home
Not mine then, epoched in exultant foam?…
Deeper, down deeper! yea, at last I come!
{431}

THE CAVERNS OF KAF

(Love Sensual)
“‘Where am I?’ cried he; ‘what are these dreadful rocks? these valleys of darkness? are we arrived at the horrible Kaf?’”—Vathek.

One, Benreddin, I have heard,
Near the town of Mosul sleeping,
In a dream beheld a bird,
Wonderful, with plumes of sweeping
Whiteness, crowned pomegranate-red:
And, it seemed, his soul it led,
Brilliant as a blossom, keeping
Near the Tigris as it fled.
Following, at last he came
To a haggard valley, shouldered
Under peaks that had no name:
Where it vanished. ’Mid the bouldered
Savageness a woman, fair,{432}
In a white simarre, stood there,
Auburn-haired; around whom smoldered
Pensive lights of purple air.
And she led him down to vast
Caves of sardonyx, whose ceiling
Domed one chrysoberyl. Blast
On blast of music,—stealing
Out of aural atmospheres,—
Beat like surf upon his ears;
Then receded, faintly pealing
Psalteries and dulcimers.
Living figures seemed to heave
High the walls, where, wild, embattled,
Warred Amshaspand and the Deev:
Over all two splendors rattled
Arms of Heaven, arms of Hell;
Forms of flame that seemed to swell
Godlike: Aherman who battled
With Ormuzd he could not quell.
There she left him wond’ring; till
The reverberant music, drifting,
Strong beyond his utmost will,
Drew him onward where, high lifting{433}
Pillar and entablature,
Vast with emblem, yawned a door—
Valves of liquid lightning, shifting
In and out and up and o’er.
Through the door he swept: deep-domed,
Green with serpentine and beryl,
Loomed a cavern, crusted, foamed,
Tortuous with gems of peril:
Difficult, a colonnade
Seemed, of satin-spar, to braid
Deeps of labyrinthed and sterile
Tiger-spar that, twisting, rayed.
Dizzy stones of magic price
Crammed volute and loaded corbel:
Irridescent shafts of ice
Leapt: with long reëchoed warble
Waters unto waters sang:
Crystal arc and column sprang
Into fire as each marble
Fountain flung its foam that rang.
And around him, filled with sound,
Streams of resonant colors jetted:
Rainbow surf that interwound
Crypts and arcades, crescent-fretted:{434}
Mists of citron and of roon;
Lemon lights that mocked the moon;
Shot with scarlet, veined and netted,
Beating golden hearts of tune.
Suns arose, of blinding blue;
Moons of green-dilating splendor:
In whose centers slowly grew
Spots like serpents’ eyes that, slender,
Glared; at first, prismatic beams;
Then, intolerable gleams;
Hissing trails of fire, tender
As an houri’s breath that dreams.
Characters of Arabic,
Cabalistic, red as coral,
Flashed through violet veils, so quick
None might read: as if, in quarrel,
Iran wrote of Turan there
Hate and scorn, or, everywhere,
Wrought some talisman of moral
Strength no Afrit’s heart would dare.
Sounding splendors drew him on
To another cavern; hollow;
Hewn of alabastar wan;
Lucid; where his gaze could follow{435}
Caves in caves; transparent flights
Rolling, lost in moving lights,
Glaucous gold: he like a swallow
O’er a lake the morning smites.
Down the dome flashed out and in
Instant faces of the Peris:
Restless eyes of Deevs and Jinn
In the walls watched: unseen Faeries
Out of rainbows rained and tossed
Flowers of fire full of frost;
Blossoms where the fire varies,
Gold and green and crimson-mossed.
Then there met him, face to face,
Seven odalisques of Heaven,
Swinging in a silver space
Flaming censers: and the seven,
Crowned with stars of burning green,
Seemed to turn to incense; seen,
As it rose, to be a driven
Hippogrif, or rosmarine.
Aloes, Nard, and Ambergris,
Sandal, Frankincense, and Civet,—
Genii of the fragrances,—
Rein each winged aroma; give it{436}
Spurs and race it down the lull
Of the caverns, clouded dull
With wild manes of musk; now vivid,
Vaporous white and wonderful.
And Benreddin’s aching soul,
In each sense intoxicated,
Reached, at last, what seemed the goal
Of all passion: golden-gated,
Vast, a fountain: where he saw
Limbs of light without a flaw;
Breasts and arms of bloom; that waited
For his soul to nearer draw.
Houri faces shimmered there;
Fluid forms.—It, with a thunder
Of wild music, like the hair
Of a genie, flamed from under
Caverns of the demon-world:
Filled with voices, high it hurled,
Calling him, with beckoning wonder
Of cœrulean forms that swirled.
And with burning lips and eyes
In he plunged: hoarse laughter greeted,
Demon laughter: then sad sighs,
Dying downward: passion-heated{437}
Hands seemed drawing him away,
Downward: where a rocking ray
Flamed and swung, and Eblis-sheeted
Shadows wandered ghostly gray.
. . . . . . . . . .
And, ’tis said, that he was young,
Young that morning. When the darting,
Anguish-throated bulbuls sung,
In the silent starlight starting,
One, a Baghdad merchant, led
By the hoarness of its head,
Found what seemed a mummy: parting
Hair from brow, Benreddin—dead.
{438}

THE SALAMANDER

(Love Dæmonic)
“The Fire-Philosophers, and the Rosicrucians, or Illuminati, taught that all knowable things (both of the soul and of the body) were evolved out of fire, and finally resolvable into it: and that fire was the last and the only-to-be known God: as that all things were capable of being searched down into it, and all things were capable of being thought up into it.”—The Rosicrucians.

Once she breathed upon my eyes,
Touched the soul that dreamed within me;
All the magic that might win me
Whispered to my heart with sighs—
Darkness can not make them lies!…
Bring me moly, hellebore!
Mix them for my soul’s nepenthe,
For my spirit’s dread Amenti,
For the curse that comes once more
With unutterable lore!{439}
Sunlight, starlight or the moon,
Stormlight, firelight or the sheening
Witchlight intimate no meaning
Of her glory’s plenilune;
Of her soul’s unriddled rune,
And most awful beauty! nor
Actual, nor yet ideal!—
Insubstantial and yet real;
Partly flame and partly star,
Yet no part of what these are.
I am hers and—woe is mine!…
Has she drugged me with the sadness
Of some elemental madness?—
Like a demigod I pine
’Twixt the mortal and divine….
When I see her, lo, she stands
In the luminous electre
Of a star: a smiling spectre
With white scintillating hands
Luring to unhallowed lands.
Then, behold, in fearful file,
A mirage of tower and terrace,
Lawn and mountain range,—that buries{440}
Flame in frost,—looms! mile on mile
Of her crescent-glowing Isle:
Where the lurid waters lull
Shores that roll the rainbow fire;
Where, with living lute and lyre,
Rose-red, swiftly as a gull,
Glides her star-like galley’s hull.
And, behold, before I know,
I am where her walls of amber,
Towers of limpid ruby, clamber
Over terraces below
Summits of refulgent snow.
Lambent lazuli and shell
Colonnade her courts of marble;
Where, of lightning, fountains warble
Out of basined pearl, or well
Into hollowed carbuncle.
Rosy silver seems her skin,
And a flame her arm commanding,
With its gleaming hand, me, standing
At her gates, to enter in,
Burning as a Seraphin.{441}
Lucid darkness are her eyes,
Where the frozen fire smolders;
And upon her shining shoulders,
Like a tangible glitter, lies
Auburn hair like sunset skies.
Mouth of sibilant soft flame;
Lilith lips, whose roses lighten
With illusive love; and brighten
With wild passion and the name
Of desire no man may tame.
Passion, and the thoughts that wed
Love and loathing; such caresses
Of sweet touch as naught expresses
Here on Earth, yet full of dread,
Madness, whereof death is bred.
She hath drawn me to her lips;
Borne me through her palace portal;
And the fire, which is immortal,
From me like a garment slips—
Ah, the spirit-part’s eclipse!
As when moon and planet swoon
Unto each, my body kindles,
Strangely, while my spirit dwindles,{442}
Like the Earth-o’ershadowed moon,
Darkening from lune to lune.
Then she laughs; and leads me where
Cloudy, wild, chameleon color
Marbles halls with hues, the duller
For her astral presence there,
Beaming white with beaming hair:
Where, in roses purple pale,—
Dropping like a ruby bubble
Through the moon dust,—“double double,”
Throbs the crimson nightingale,
There she lures me with some tale.
Or to where the scarlet snake
Coils beneath great flaming flowers;
Where the musk mimosa bowers
Roll their rosy clouds, and make
Sunset heavens of each lake.
Where the bees and moths go by,
Fiery diamond; opal-burning
Butterflies, and iris-turning
Peacock-painted birds, that vie
With the flow’rs, like fragments fly{443}
Of wild rainbow: Where, in rills,
Down the rocks, that lichens redden,
Constellated moss and leaden
Fungus glow; and all the hills,
As with flames, the orchid fills.
Where, in coruscating light,
Glare the golden-checkered zinnias;
And the bugle-bloomed gloxinias,
Making morning of each height,
Float like mists of ruby white.
There, beneath some blazing vine,
Where the liquid moonlight glitters
Of a river,—coral litters
Red with grail,—like prisms in wine
I have watched the fishes shine.
Or, o’er sunset-colored moss,
Glow-worms trail their beryls; sprinkling
Green the smouldering shade; while, twinkling,
With convulsive sapphire gloss,
Fireflies rained blue lights across.
Where the reeds seemed rays of rose,
And white mirrored moons, the lotus—{444}
Each a spirit giving notice
Of the inner light that glows
Where the under water flows—
Shapes arose of flashing spray:—
Where, a wild auroral splendor,
Rolled the forest,—emerald-tender
As the light of breaking day,—
Beckoned forms of starry ray.
Through the violetish light,
Winged with nautilus and lily
Flame, adown the forests stilly
Vistas, moony whirls of white,
Floated shapes with eyes of night.
I must follow where she leads.—
Blinding portals of her castle
To my entering feet are facile….
Love no terrible trumpet needs
At her gates to bugle deeds….
Lo, my being never veils
Aught from her. To her caresses
All my heart knows it confesses
With a faith that never fails,
Though it hears the truth that wails{445}
In its soul’s admonishment,
Of the curse that sits in session
In each amorous expression
Of her love; its violent
Flame, by which my life is rent.
I have drained the feverish cup
Of all darkness. Made a leman
Of an elemental demon;
And my soul lies, staring up,
Draining poison at each sup.—
While she smiles on me ’tis well:
I shall follow, though she make me
What her self is; never wake me
From the dream I can not tell,
That is neither heaven nor hell:
Where I drink mesmeric gold
Of wild vision,—that romances
In informing Protean fancies
With a beauty never old,
And emotion never cold.—
Let me drink and never wake
From the trances that environ
Me, and ’neath the subtle siren{446}
See the demon, like a snake,
With destroying eyes that ache.
While the slow laconic look
Of her eyes express no censure,
Gazing in them, I adventure,—
Far beyond the wisest book,—
Ways her serpent fancy took.
Yet I know I reverence
One whose gaze in God’s negation;
One who, like an emanation
Of all evil, chains my sense
With satanic influence.
Yet, while still I hear her say,
“One more kiss before the morning!
One more bliss for love’s adorning!
One more kiss ere break of day,”
Still my soul with her must stay.
Stay, nor know, nor ever see!
Till her basilisk beauty flashes,
And the curse, from out the ashes
Of her passion, fiery,
Strikes—destroying utterly.
{447}

LYANNA.
“These elementary beings, we are told, were by their constitution more long-lived than man, but with this essential disadvantage, that at death they wholly ceased to exist. In the meantime they were inspired with an earnest desire for immortality; and there was one way left for them, by which this desire might be gratified. If they were so happy as to awaken in any of the initiated (Rosicrucians) a passion, the end of which was marriage, then the sylph became immortal.”—Godwin’s “Lives of the Necromancers.”

Summer came over the Indian Ocean
Girdled with fire, tiaraed with light;
Her eyes all languor, her lips—a potion
To quaff—of poppy. And gold and white
She flashed and sparkled; all gleam and motion,
All blush and blossom she came; and I,
Of the race of the sylphs, o’er the Indian Ocean
Followed her through the sky.{448}
Self-exiled so from the sylphs that cluster,
Pulsing with pearl and burning with blue,
In domes of the dawn,—where the organs bluster
Low of the winds,—where they glow like dew
As the day dreams up, and their armies muster,
Ranges of glitter, in cloudy gold,
At the gates of the Dawn, of blinding luster,
To forth when her gates unfold.
For Summer murmured me, “Follow! follow!”
Whispered one word that was all of love.—
Winged with the speed of the sweeping swallow,
I followed the word she had breathed above:
“Follow! follow!”—the god Apollo
Never followed, with speed as strong
The flying nymph through holt and hollow,
As I that word of song.
Fleet as the winds are fleet, yea, and fleeter
Far than the stars that throb, like foam,
Through the firmament’s blue, in musical metre{449}
Winnowed my wings; and the golden gloam
Rang; and life was a passion, completer
Than a life in Eden; and love,—a lyre
That sang in my heart and made life sweeter
With hope,—a leaping fire.
Thus to the north my wings went maying
Radiant ways, till a castle shone
Gaunt on great cliffs, with the late skies graying
O’er walls of war and their towers lone,
With tortuous steps to the sea, where, spraying,
Thundered the breakers; and terrace and stair,
Rock o’er the waters, rose rosy and raying
Deep in the sunset’s glare.
A dewdrop burns when the dawn lights prickle:
And all my being tingled with light,
Bloomed when I saw her, tarrying fickle,
White on the castled height:
Slender she shone as the moon in sickle,
The slim new-moon, like a pearl-pale streak;
And golden, too, as the honey-trickle
Of combs where the wax is weak.{450}
In dreams I came to her, lo! as a vision:
Yea, by her side as a dream I stood;
To her innermost spirit I sighed my mission,
In the vestal ear of her maidenhood:
And she deemed me a dream; and I made a prison
Of my arms for her soul while she, smiling, slept:
Her body lay still, but her soul had arisen,
And looked on my face and wept:
“Lyanna, I hoop thee with arms of fire!”—
My words were music, a harp afloat,—
“Lyanna, my heart is a vibrant wire,
Thy love is its only note.
Let it sing forever. Let it sound entire,
Full as the angels’ who hover and harp
To the glory that’s God, like a golden lyre
Borne in a beam that is sharp….
“Behold me, thy rose! full of flame and splendor!
Thy rose to pluck: thy ruby bloom:
Thy sylphid rose, with eyes that are tender;
Lips that are fire; and limbs of perfume
And fragrant fire: thy heart’s defender!{451}
Thy airy lover!” … And, bending above,
Sweeter my speech than a flower’s that, slender,
Tells to the stars its love.
Lo, as I spoke, with thoughts that thicken,
Her heart seemed filled; and she spoke; but sleep
Shadowed her words, till my kiss did quicken
And free, like stars from the night that leap:—
“Long I have waited; and long did sicken
To clasp thee thus, O my rose of love!
Oft have I dreamed of thee, yea, and was stricken
With joy at the thought thereof.
“White are the clouds; but I saw thee whiter
’Mid dazzling domes of the dawn; and knew
Tho’ bright are God’s stars, that thine eyes were brighter,
Brighter and burning blue.
And my heart was thine, though it held thee slighter{452}
Than hues that the mists of the morning take:
And waited and yearned, and the yearning tighter
Than tears in the hearts that break.
“‘Lyanna! Lyanna!’ I heard thee ever
Calling ‘Lyanna,’ a ripple of flame:
‘Lyanna! Lyanna!’ like song forever;
And I marveled at my name.
The sound was such—that if stars could sever
And silver-syllable a word of beams,
So would it sound.—I turned; but never
Beheld thee, only in dreams.
“Thou walkedst a beauty afar: a glitter
Of gleaming aroma: and I, with moan,
Reached thee my arms: but thy gaze was bitter,
Calmer and sterner than stone:
Avoiding thou passedst in scorn: a sitter,
I seemed, on the uttermost bounds of bliss:
When, lo! on the wind,—a flame, a flitter
Of fire,—thy laugh, and thy kiss!”—
I had won her love. And, behold! the thunder{453}
Trumpeted tempest: I heard the seas
Lunge at the walls like a roaring wonder,
And the rain-wind sing in the trees.—
Lyanna my bride.—And the heavens asunder
Rushed—chasms of glaring storm, where poured
The thunder’s cataracts, rolling under—
And showed me, horde on horde,
The shouting spirits of storm.—The portal
Of sleep was riven; she rose, and saw:
And I said to her soul, “Of the utterly mortal
Mine the eternal lot and law.”—
“I love thee!” she answered.—And I, “Immortal
Am I through thy love!” … And so we fled….
Behold! when they came in the morn, astartle,
Men whispered—“Lyanna is dead!”{454}
THE SPIRITS OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS
Voices of Darkness

Ere the birth of Death and of Time,
And of Hell, with its tears and its torments:
Ere the waves of heat and of rime,
And the winds to the heavens were as garments:
Cloud-like in the womb of Space,
Mist-like from her monster womb,
We sprang, a myriad race
Of thunder and tempest and gloom.
Voices of Light

As from the evil good
Springs, and desire:
As the white lily’s hood
Buds from the mire:
So from this midnight brood
Sprang we with fire.
{455}

Voices of Darkness

We had lain for long ages asleep
In her bosom, a bulk of torpor,
When down through the vasts of the deep
Clove a sound, like the notes of a harper:
Clove a sound, and the horrors grew
Tumultuous with turbulent night,
With whirlwinds of blackness that blew,
And storm that was godly in might.
And the walls of our dungeon were shattered
Like the crust of a fire-wrecked world:
As torrents of clouds that are scattered,
From the womb of the deep we were hurled.
Voices of Light

Us in unholy thought
Patiently lying,
Eöns of violence wrought,
Violence defying;
When, on a mighty wind,
Voiced of a godly mind,
Big with a motive kind,
Girdled with wonder,
Flame and a strength of song,
Rolling vast light along,{456}
Thundered the Word, and Wrong
Vanished,—and we were strong,
Strong as the thunder.
Voices of Darkness

We people the lower spaces,
Where our cities of silence make scorn
Of the sun, and our shadowy faces
Are safe from the splendors of morn.
Our homes are wrecked worlds and each planet
Whose sun is a light that is sped;
Bleak moons, whose cold bodies of granite
Are hollow and flameless and dead.
Voices of Light

We in the living sun
Live like a passion:
Ere the sad Earth begun
We and the sun were one,
As God did fashion.
Lo! from our burning hands,
Flung like inspired brands,
Sowed we the worlds, like sands,
Countless as ocean:{457}
And ’tis our breath gives life,
Life to those stars, all rife
With iridescent strife,
Music and motion.
Voices of Darkness

We joy in the hate of all mortals;
Inspire their crimes and the thought
That falters and halts at the portals
Of actions, intentions unwrought.
We cover the face of to-morrow:
We frown in the hours that be:
We breathe in the presence of sorrow:
And death and destruction are we.
Voices of Light

We are man’s hope and ease,
Joy and his pleasure;
Authors of love and peace,
Love that shall never cease,
Free as the azure.
Lo! we but look, and light
Heartens the world with might,
Vanquishes death and night
Hate and its burnings:{458}
And from our bosoms stream
Beauty and yearnings
For a diviner dream,
Higher discernings.
Voices of the Break of Day

Morning and birth are ours;
Light that is blown
From our fair lips; and flowers,
Dropped from our hands in showers,
Seeds that are sown:
Song and the bursting buds,
Life of the fields and floods;
Strength that’s full-grown:
And, from our beryl jars,
Filled with the clouds and stars,
Pour we the winds and dew;
While by our eyes of blue
Darkness is rent in two,
Conquered and strown.
Voices of the Dawn

Ye in your darkness are
Dark and infernal;
Subject to death and mar!
But in the spaces far,
Like our effulgent star,
We are eternal.
{459}

THE WATER WITCH
See! the milk-white doe is wounded.
He will follow as it bounds
Through the woods. His horn has sounded,
Echoing, for his men and hounds.
But no answering bugle blew.
He has lost his retinue
For the shapely deer that bounded
Past him when his bow he drew.
Not one hound or huntsman follows.
Through the underbrush and moss
Goes the slot; and in the hollows
Of the hills, that he must cross,
He has lost it. He must fare
Over rocks where she-wolves lair;
Wood-pools where the wild-boar wallows:
So he leaves his hunter there.
Through his mind then flashed an olden
Legend told him by the monks:—
Of a girl, whose hair is golden,
Haunting fountains and the trunks{460}
Of the woodlands; who, they say,
Is a white doe all the day,
But when woods are night-enfolden
Turns into an evil fay.
Then the story once his teacher
Told him: of a mountain lake
Demons dwell in; vague of feature,
Human-like; but each a snake,
She is queen of.—Did he hear
Laughter at his startled ear?
Or a bird?—And now, what creature
Is it,—or the wind,—stirs near?
Fever of the hunt! This water,
Falling here, will cool his head.
Through the forest, dyed in slaughter,
Slants the sunset; ruby-red
Are the drops that slip between
Hollowed hands, while on the green,—
Like the couch of some wild daughter
Of the forest,—he doth lean.
But the runnel, bubbling, dripping,
Seems to bid him to be gone;
As with crystal words and tripping
Steps of sparkle luring on.{461}
Now a spirit in the rocks
Calls him; now a face that mocks,
From behind some boulder slipping,
Laughs at him through lilied locks.
And he follows through the flowers,
Blue and gold, that blossom there;
Thridding twilight-haunted bowers
Where each ripple seems the bare
Beauty of white limbs that gleam
Rosy through the running stream;
Or bright-shaken hair, that showers
Starlight in the sunset’s beam.
Till, far in the forest, sleeping
Like a luminous darkness, lay
A deep water, wherein, leaping,
Fell the Fountain of the Fay,
With a singing, sighing sound,
As of spirit things around,
Musically laughing, weeping
In the air and underground.
Not a ripple o’er it merried:
Like the round moon in a cloud,
In its rocks the lake lay buried:
And strange creatures seemed to crowd{462}
Its dark depths: dim limbs and eyes
To the surface seemed to rise
Spawn-like; or, all formless, ferried
Through the water shadow-wise.
Foliage things with woman faces,
Demon-dreadful, pale and wild
As the forms the lightning traces
On the clouds the storm has piled
In the darkness.—On the strand—
What is that which now doth stand?—
’Tis a woman: and she places
On his arm a spray-white hand.
Ah! two mystic worlds of sorrow
Were her eyes; her hair, a place
Whence the moon its gold might borrow;
And a dream of ice her face:
Round her hair and throat in rims
Pearls of foam hung; and through whims
Of her robe, as breaks the morrow,
Gleamed the rose-light of her limbs.
Who could help but gaze with gladness
On such beauty? though within,
Deep within the beryl sadness
Of those eyes, the serpent sin{463}
Seemed to coil.—She placed her cheek
Chilly upon his, and weak
With love-longing and its madness
Grew he. Then he heard her speak:—
“Dost thou love me?”—“If surrender
Of the soul means love, I love.”
“Dost not fear me?”—“Fear?—more slender
Art thou than a wildwood dove.
Yet I fear—I fear to lose
Thee, thy love.”—“And thou dost choose
Aye to be my heart’s defender?”—
“Take me. I am thine to use.”
“Follow then.—Ah, love, no lowly
Home I give thee.”—With fixed eyes
To the water’s edge she slowly
Drew him…. Nor did he surmise
Who this creature was, until
O’er his face the foam closed chill,
Whispering, and the lake unholy
Rippled, rippled and was still.
{464}

THE SUCCUBA
I have dreams where I believe
That a queen of some dim palace,
One, whose name is Genevieve,
Weighs me with her love or malice:
She is dead and yet my bride:
And she glimmers at my side
Offering a crystal chalice
Filled with fire, diamond-dyed.
I have dreams. Ah, would that I
Might forget them!—I remember
How her gaze, all icily
Draws me, like a glowing ember,
Up her castle-stair’s pale-paved
Alabaster, from the waved
Ocean, grayer than November,
Where I linger, soul-enslaved.
Walls of shadow and of night
Lit with casements full of fire,
Somber red or piercing white:
As the wind breathes lower, higher,{465}
Round the towers spirit-things
Whisper, and the haunted strings
Moan of each huge, plangent lyre
Set upon its four chief wings.
In its corridors at tryst
Flame-eyed phantoms meet. Its sparry
Halls are misty amethyst:
Battlemented ’neath the starry
Skies it looms; the strange unknown
Skies where, green as glow-worms, sown,
Gloom the stars; the moon hangs barry
Beryl, low and large and lone….
Can it be a witch is she?
Or a vampire? she, far whiter
Than the spirits of the sea!—
She whose eyes are cold, yet brighter
Than her throat’s pale jewels. Lo!
Flame she is though seeming snow:
And her love lies tighter, tighter
On my heart than utter woe.
Though I dream, it seems I live;
And my heart is sick with sorrow
Of the love that it must give
To her; passion, it must borrow{466}
Of herself, unhallowed, vain;
Then return it her again:
Thus she holds me; and to-morrow
Still will hold with sweetest pain.
In her garden’s moon-white space
Strangest flowers bloom: huge lilies,
Each one with a human face;
Knots of spirit-amaryllis;
Cactus-bulks with pulpy blooms
Gnome-like in the silver glooms;
And dim deeps of daffadillies,
Fay-like, brimming faint perfumes.
But to me their fragrance seems
Poison; and their lambent lustre,
Spun of twilight and of dreams,
Poison; and each pearly cluster
Hides a serpent’s fang. And I,
Looking from an oriel, sigh;
For my soul is fain to muster
Heart to breathe of them and die.
Then I feel big eyes, as bright
As the sea-stars. Gray with glitter,
She behind me, moony white,
Smiles, ’mid hangings wherein flitter{467}
Loves and deeds of Amadis
Darkly worked. And then her kiss
On my mouth falls; sweet and bitter
With a bliss that is not bliss.
And I kiss her eyes and hair;
Smooth her tresses till their golden
Glimmer sparkles. Everywhere
Shapes of strange aromas, holden
Of the walls, around us troop;
And in golden loop on loop,—
Of the lull’d eyes vague beholden,—
Forms of music o’er us stoop.
Yet I see beneath it all,
All this sorcery, a devil,
Beautiful, and white, and tall,
Broods with shadowy eyes of evil:
She, who must resume with morn
Her true shape: a cactus-thorn,
Monstrous, on some lonely level
Of that demon-world forlorn.
I have dreams where I believe
That a queen of some dim palace,
One, whose name is Genevieve,
Weighs me with her love or malice:{468}
And all night I am her slave
There beside the demon wave,
Where I drain the loathsome chalice
Of her love, that is my grave.
{469}

MASKS

Cucullus non facit monachum
Live it down! as you have spoken
You could live it ere you knew
What love was—“a bauble broken,
Foolish, of a thing untrue.”—
You, Viola, with your beauty,
Cloistered, die a nun? No! you—
You must wed: it is your duty.
There’s your poniard; for the second
In this tazza dropped: the blood
On it scarcely hard…. I reckoned
Happily that hour we stood
There upon your palace-stairway,
How, with the Franciscan hood
Cowled, I said, there was a bare way.
In the minster there I found it—
Our revenge. I saw him, wild,
Stalking towards the church: around it{470}
Dogged him, marking how he smiled
In the moonlight where I waited.
When the great clock, beating, dialed
Ten, I knew he would be mated.
Heaven or my better devil!—
Hardly had his sword and plume
Vanished in the dark, when, level
On the long lagoon, did loom,
Under moonlight-woven arches,
Her slim gondola: all gloom:
One tall gondolier: no torches.
Dusky gondolas kept bringing
Revellers: and far the night
Rang with instruments and singing.—
From the imbricated light
Of the oar-vibrating water,
Gliding up the stairway, white,
Velvet-masked,—the count’s own daughter!
Quick I met her: whispered, “Flora,
Gaston.—Mia, till they go,
One brief moment here, Siora.—
She’ll perceive us—she, below,
See! the duchess’ diamonds sparkling
Round the inviolable glow
Of her throat—there, dimly darkling:{471}
“That’s Viola!” … Thus I drew her
In the church’s ancient pile—
Under her black mask I knew her,
By her chin, her lips, her smile.
Through one marble-foliated
Window fell the moon-rays. While
All the maskers passed we waited.
I had drawn the dagger. Turning
Called her by her name. Some lie
Of a passion sighed, her burning
Hand in mine; when, stalking by,
In the square, his form bejeweled
Gleamed. My very blood burned dry
With the hate his presence fueled.
Our revenge! up-pushing slightly
Cowl, the mask fell, and revealed
Balka, as the poniard whitely
Flashed. The hollow nave re-pealed
One long shriek the loft repeated.
Swift, I stabbed her thrice. She reeled
Dead. I thought of you, the heated
Horror on my hands; and tarried
Still as silence. Drawn aside
On her face the mask hung, married{472}
To its camphor-pallor: wide
Eyes with terror—stone. One second
I regretted; then defied
All remorse. Your promise beckoned;
And I left her. Love had pointed
Me this way. I walked the way
Clear-eyed and … it has anointed
Us fast lovers?—Do not say,
Now, that you will go and nun it!
For this man who scorned you?—Nay!—
Live to hate him! You ’ve begun it.
{473}

CARMEN
La Gitanilla, tall dragoons
In Andalusian afternoons,
With ogling eye and compliment,
Smiled on you as along you went
Some sleepy street of old Seville;
Twirled with a military skill
Moustaches; buttoned uniforms
Of Spanish yellow bowed your charms.
Proud, wicked head, and hair blue-black,
Whence the mantilla, half thrown back,
Discovered shoulders and bold breast
Bohemian brown. And you were dressed
In some short skirt of gypsy red
Of smuggled stuff; and stockings,—dead
White silk,—that, worn with many a hole,
Let the plump leg peep through; while stole,
Now in, now out, your dainty toes,
Sheathed in morocco shoes, with bows
Of scarlet ribbon.—Flirtingly
You walked by me; and I did see{474}
Your oblique eyes, your sensuous lip
That gnawed the rose I saw you flip
At bashful José’s nose while loud
The gaunt guards laughed among the crowd.
And in your brazen chemise thrust,
Heaved with the swelling of your bust,
A bunch of white acacia blooms
Whiffed past my nostrils hot perfumes.
As in a cool neveria
I ate an ice with Mérimée,
Dark Carmencita, very gay
You passed, with light and lissome tread,
All holiday bedizenéd;
A new mantilla on your head:
Your crimson dress gleamed, spangled fierce;
And crescent gold, hung in your ears,
Shone, wrought Morisco; and each shoe,
Of Cordovan leather, buckled blue,
Glanced merriment; and from large arms
To well-turned ankles all your charms
Blew flutterings and glitterings
Of satin bands and beaded strings:
Around each tight arm, twisted gold
Coiled serpents, and, a single fold,
Wreathed wrists; each serpent’s jeweled head,
With rubies set, convulsive red.{475}
In flowers and trimmings, to the jar
Of mandolin and gay guitar,
You in the grated patio
Danced: the curled coxcombs’ staring row
Rang pleased applause. I saw you dance,
With wily motion and glad glance,
Voluptuous, the wild romalis,
Where every movement was a kiss,
A song, a poem, interwound
With your Basque tambourine’s dull sound.
I,—as the ebon castanets
Clucked out dry time in unctuous jets,—
Saw angry José through the grate
Glare on us, a pale face of hate,
When some indecent officer
Presumed too lewdly to you there.
Some still night in Seville: the street
Candilejo: two shadows meet:
Swift sabres flash within the moon—
Clash rapidly.—A dead dragoon.
{476}

AT NINEVEH
There was a princess once, who loved the slave
Of an Assyrian king, her father; known
At Nineveh as Hadria; o’er whose grave
The sands of centuries have long been blown;
Yet sooner shall the night forget its stars
Than love her story:—How, unto his throne,
One day she came, where, with his warriors,
The King sat in his hall of audience,
’Mid pillared trophies of barbaric wars,
And, kneeling to him, asked, “O father, whence
Comes love and why?”—He, smiling on her said,—
“O Hadria, love is of the gods, and hence
Divine, is only soul-interpreted.
But why love is, ah, child, we do not know,
Unless ’t is love that gives us life when dead.”—
And then his daughter, with a face aglow{477}
With all the love that clamored in her blood
Its sweet avowal, lifted arms of snow,
And, like Aurora’s rose, before him stood,
Saying,—“Since love is of the powers above,
I love a slave, O Asshur!—Let the good
The gods have giv’n be sanctioned.—Speak not of
Dishonor and our line’s ancestral dead!
They are imperial dust. I live and love.”—
Black as black storm then rose the King and said,—
A lightning gesture sweeping at her there,—
“Enough! ho, Rhana, strike me off her head!”
And at the mandate, with his limbs half bare
A slave strode forth. Majestic was his form
As some young god’s. He, gathering up her hair,
Wound it three times around his sinewy arm;
Then drew his sword. It for one moment shone
A semicircling light, and, dripping warm,
Lifting the head he stood before the throne.
Then said the despot, “By the horn of Bel!
This was no child of mine!”—Like chiseled stone
Stern stood the slave, a son of Israel.{478}
Then striding towards the monarch, in his eye
The wrath of heaven and the hate of hell,
Shrieked, “Beast! I loved her! look on us and die!”
Swifter than fire clove him to the brain.
Then kissed her face, and, holding it on high,
Cried out, “Judge thou, O God, between us twain!”
And, fifty daggers in his heart, fell slain.
{479}

SENORITA
An agate black, her roguish eyes
Claim no proud lineage of the skies,
No starry blue; but of good earth
The reckless witchery and mirth.
Looped in her raven hair’s repose,
A hot aroma, one red rose
Droops; envious of that loveliness,
Through being near which, its is less.
Twin sea-shells hung with pearls, her ears;
Whose delicate rosiness appears
Part of the pearls; whose pallid fire
Binds the attention these inspire.
One slim hand crumples up the lace
About her bosom’s swelling grace;
A ruby at her samite throat
Lends the required color-note.{480}
The moon brings up the violet night
An urn of pearly-chaliced light;
And from the dark-railed balcony
She stoops and waves her fan at me.
O’er orange blossoms and the rose
Vague, odorous lips the South Wind blows,
Peopling the night with whispers of
Romance and palely passionate love.
And now she speaks; and seems to reach
My soul like song that learned its speech
From some dim instrument—who knows?—
Or flow’r, a dulcimer or rose.
{481}

SINCE THEN
I found myself among the trees
What time the reapers ceased to reap;
And in the sunflower-blooms the bees
Huddled brown heads and went to sleep,
Rocked by the balsam-breathing breeze.
I saw the red fox leave his lair,
A shaggy shadow, on the knoll;
And, tunnelling his thoroughfare
Beneath the soil, I watched the mole—
Stealth’s own self could not take more care.
I heard the death-moth tick and stir,
Slow-honeycombing through the bark;
I heard the cricket’s drowsy chirr,
And one lone beetle burr the dark—
The sleeping woodland seemed to purr.
And then the moon rose: and a white
Low bough of blossoms—grown almost
Where, ere you died, ’t was our delight
To tryst,—dear heart!—I thought your ghost:
{482}—The wood is haunted since that night.
AFTER DEATH
At moonset, when ghost speaks with ghost
And spirits meet where once they sinned,
Between the whispering wood and coast,
My soul met her soul on the wind,
My late-lost Evalind.
I kissed her mouth. Her face was wild.
Two burning shadows were her eyes,
Wherein the love,—that once had smiled
A heartbreak smile,—in some strange wise,
I did not recognize.
Then suddenly I seemed to see
How sin had damned my soul and doomed
To wander thus eternally
With love and loathing, that assumed
The form of her entombed.
{483}

THE OLD MAN DREAMS
The blackened walnut in its spicy hull
Rots where it fell;
And, in the orchard, where the trees stand full,
The pear’s brown bell
Drops; and the log-house in the bramble lane,
From whose low door
Stretch yellowing acres of the corn and cane,
He sees once more.
The cat-bird sings upon its porch of pine;
And o’er its gate,
All slender-podded, twists the trumpet-vine
Its leafy weight:
And in the woodland, by the spring, mayhap,
With eyes of joy
Again he bends to set a rabbit-trap,
A brown-faced boy.
Then, whistling, through the underwoods he goes,
Out of the wood,{484}
Where, with young cheeks, red as an autumn rose,
In gingham hood,
His sweetheart waits, her school-books on her arm:
And now it seems
Beside his chair bends down his wife’s fair form—
The old man dreams.
{485}

MEMORIES
Here where Love lies perishéd,
Look not in upon the dead,
Lest the shadowy curtains, shaken
In my Heart’s dark chamber, waken
Ghosts, beneath whose garb of sorrow
Whilom gladness bows his head:
When you come at morn, to-morrow,
Look not in upon the dead,
Here where Love lies perishéd.
Here where Love lies cold interred,
Let no syllable be heard,
Lest the hollow echoes, housing
In my Soul’s deep tomb, arousing
Wake a voice of woe, once laughter
Claimed and clothed in joy’s own word:
When you come at dusk, or after,
Let no syllable be heard,
Here where Love lies cold interred.
{486}

MARCH AND MAY
Windy the sky and mad;
Surly the gray March day;
Bleak the forests and sad,—
Oh, that it only were May!
On maples, tasseled with red,
No blithe bird, fluting, swung;
The brook, in its swollen bed,
Raved on in an unknown tongue.
We walked in the wind-tossed wood:
Her face as the May’s was fair;
Her blood was the May’s own blood;
And May’s her radiant hair.
And we found in the woodland wild
One cowering violet,
Like a frail and timorous child,
In the caked leaves bowed and wet.
And I said, “We have walked in vain!
To find but this shivering bud,
Weighed down with its weight of rain,
Crouched here in the wild March wood.”{487}
But she said, “Though the day be sad,
And the skies be dark with fate,
There is always something glad
That will help our hearts to wait.
“Look, now, at this beautiful thing,
In this wood’s wild hollow curled!
’Tis a promise of joy and spring,
And of love, to the waiting world.
“Ah, the sinless Earth is fair,
And man’s are the sin and the gloom—
Come, bury the days that were,
And look to’ard the days to come!”
. . . . . . . . . .
And the May came on with her charms,
With twinkle and rustle of feet;
Blooms stormed from her luminous arms
And songs that were wildly sweet.
Now I think of her words that day,
This day that I longed so to see,
That finds her dead with the May,
And my life but a withered tree.
{488}

IN AUTUMN
I
Sunflowers wither and lilies die,
Poppies are pods of seeds;
The first red leaves on the pathway lie,
Like blood of a heart that bleeds.
Weary alway will it be to-day,
Weary and wan and wet;
Dawn and noon will the clouds hang gray,
And the autumn wind will sigh and say,
“He comes not yet, not yet,
Weary alway, alway!”
II
Hollyhocks bend all tattered and torn,
Marigolds all are gone;
The last pale rose lies all forlorn,
Like love that is trampled on.
Weary, ah me! to-night will be,
Weary and wild and hoar;
Rain and mist will blow from the sea,
And the wind will sob in the autumn tree,
“He comes no more, no more.
Weary, ah me! ah me!”{489}
“WHEN SHE DRAWS NEAR”
I
When she draws near,
I seem to hear
The shy approach of some wild innocence:
As if—in acorn crown—
A dryad should step down
From some dim oak-tree where the woods are dense.
II
When she’s with me,
I seem to see
The brambles blossom where just touched her dress:
As, with her love’s perfume,
She touches into bloom
The thorns of life and gives them loveliness.
{490}

REED CALL FOR APRIL
I
When April comes, and pelts with buds
And apple-blooms each orchard space,
And takes the dogwood-whitened woods
With rain and sunshine of her moods,
Like your fair face, like your sweet face:
It’s honey for the bud and dew,
And honey for the heart!
And, oh, to be away with you
Beyond the town and mart.
II
When April comes and tints the hills
With gold and beryl that rejoice,
And from her airy apron spills
The laughter of the winds and rills,
Like your young voice, like your sweet voice:{491}
It’s gladness for God’s bending blue,
And gladness for the heart!
And, oh, to be away with you
Beyond the town and mart.
III
When April comes, and binds and girds
The world with warmth that breathes above,
And to the breeze flings all her birds,
Whose songs are welcome as the words
Of you I love, O you I love:
It’s music for all things that woo,
And music for the heart!
And, oh, to be away with you
Beyond the town and mart.
{492}

HER VIOLIN
I
Her violin!—Again begin
The dream-notes of her violin;
And tall and fair, with gold-brown hair,
I seem to see her standing there,
Soft-eyed and sweetly slender:
The room again, with strain on strain,
Vibrates to Love’s melodious pain,
As, sloping slow, is poised her bow,
While round her form the golden glow
Of sunset spills its splendor.
II
Her violin!—Now deep, now thin,
Again I hear her violin;
And, dream by dream, again I seem
To see the love-light’s tender gleam
Beneath her eyes’ long lashes:
While to my heart she seems a part{493}
Of her pure song’s inspired art;
And, as she plays, the rosy grays
Of twilight halo hair and face,
While sunset burns to ashes.
III
O violin!—Cease, cease within
My soul, O haunting violin!
In vain, in vain, you bring again,
Back from the past, the blissful pain
Of all the love then spoken;
When on my breast, at happy rest,
A sunny while her head was pressed—
Peace, peace to these wild memories!
For, like my heart naught remedies,
Her violin lies broken.
{494}

MEETING IN SUMMER
A tranquil bar
Of rosy twilight under dusk’s first star.
A glimmering sound
Of whispering waters over grassy ground.
A sun-sweet smell
Of fresh-reaped hay from dewy field and dell.
A lazy breeze
Jostling the ripeness from the apple-trees.
A vibrant cry,
Passing, then gone, of bullbats in the sky.
And faintly now
The katydid upon the shadowy bough.
And far off then
The little owl within the lonely glen.{495}
And soon, full soon,
The silvery arrival of the moon.
And, to your door,
The path of roses I have trod before.
And, sweetheart, you!
Among the roses and the moonlit dew.
{496}

HER VIVIEN EYES
Her Vivien eyes,—beware! beware!—
Though they be stars, a deadly snare
They set beneath her night of hair.
Regard them not! lest, drawing near—
As sages once in old Chaldee—
Thou shouldst become a worshiper,
And they thy evil destiny.
Her Vivien eyes,—away! away!—
Though they be springs, remorseless they
Gleam underneath her brow’s bright day.
Turn, turn aside, whate’er the cost!
Lest in their deeps thou lures behold,
Through which thy captive soul were lost,
As was young Hylas once of old.
Her Vivien eyes,—take heed! take heed!—
Though they be bibles, none may read
Therein of God or Holy Creed.
Look, look away! lest thou be cursed,—
As Merlin was, romances tell,—
And in their sorcerous spells immersed,
Hoping for Heaven thou chance on Hell.
[Image unavailable.]
I look into thy heart and then I know
The wondrous poetry of the long-ago
Page 496
Reasons
{497}

REASONS
I
Yea, why I love thee let my heart repeat:
I look upon thy face and then divine
How men could die for beauty, such as thine,—
Deeming it sweet
To lay my life and manhood at thy feet,
And for a word, a glance,
Do deeds of old romance.
II
Yea, why I love thee let my heart unfold:
I look into thy heart and then I know
The wondrous poetry of the long-ago,
The Age of Gold,
That speaks strange music, that is old, so old,
Yet young, as when ’t was born,
With all the youth of morn.
{498}

III
Yea, why I love thee let my heart conclude:
I look into thy soul and realize
The undiscovered meaning of the skies,—
That long have wooed
The world with far ideals that elude,—
Out of whose dreams, maybe,
God shapes reality.
{499}

HER VESPER SONG
The summer lightning comes and goes
In one white cloud above the hill,
As if within its soft repose
A burning heart were never still—
As in my bosom pulses beat
Before the coming of his feet.
All drugged with odorous sleep, the rose
Breathes dewy balm about the place,
As if the dreams the garden knows
Arose, in immaterial grace—
As in my heart sweet thoughts arise
Beneath the ardour of his eyes.
The moon above the darkness shows
An orb of silvery snow and fire,
As if the night would now disclose
To heav’n her one divine desire—
As in the rapture of his kiss
All my glad soul is drawn to his.{500}
The cloud divines not that it glows;
The rose knows nothing of its scent;
Nor knows the moon that it bestows
Light on our earth and firmament—
So is the soul unconscious of
The beauties it reveals through love.
{501}

THE GLORY AND THE DREAM
There in the past I see her as of old,
Blue-eyed and hazel-haired, within a room
Dim with a twilight of tenebrious gold;
Her white face sensuous as a delicate bloom
Night opens in the tropics. Fold on fold
Pale laces drape her; and a frail perfume,
As of a moonlit lily brimmed with rain,
Breathes from her presence, drowsing heart and brain.
Her head is bent; some red carnations glow
Deep in her heavy hair; her large eyes gleam;—
Bright sister stars of those twin worlds of snow,
Her breasts, through which the veinéd violets stream.—
I hold her hand; her smile comes sweetly slow
As thoughts of love that haunt a poet’s dream:
And at her feet once more I sit and hear
Wild words of passion—dead this many a year.
{502}

SNOW AND FIRE
Deep-hearted roses of the purple dusk
And lilies of the morn;
And cactus, holding up a slender tusk
Of fragrance on a thorn;
All heavy flowers, sultry with their musk,
Her presence puts to scorn.
For she is like the pale, pale snowdrop there,
Scentless and chaste of heart;
The moonflower, making spiritual the air,
Like some pure work of art;
Divine and holy, exquisitely fair,
And virtue’s counterpart.
Yet when her eyes gaze into mine, and when
Her lips to mine are pressed,—
Why are my veins all fire then? and then
Why should her soul suggest
Voluptuous perfumes, maddening unto men,
And prurient with unrest?
{503}

IN MAY
I
When you and I in the hills went Maying,
You and I in the bright May weather,
The birds, that sang on the boughs together,
There in the green of the woods, kept saying
All that my heart was saying low,
“I love you! love you!” soft and low;—
And did you know?
When you and I in the hills went Maying.
II
There where the brook on its rocks went winking,
There by its banks where the May had led us,
Flowers, that bloomed in the woods and meadows,
Azure and gold at our feet, kept thinking
All that my soul was thinking there,
“I love you! love you!” softly there;—
And did you care?
There where the brook on its rocks went winking.
{504}

III
Whatever befalls through fate’s compelling,
Should our paths unite or our pathways sever,
In the Mays to-come I shall feel forever
The wildflowers thinking, the wild-birds telling,
In words as soft as the falling dew,
The love that I keep here still for you,
As deep and true,
Whatever befalls through fate’s compelling.
{505}

“WERE I AN ARTIST”
Were I an artist, Lydia, I
Would paint you as you merit,
Not as my eyes, but dreams descry;
Not in the flesh, but spirit.
The canvas I would paint you on
Should be a strip of heaven;
My brush, a sunbeam; pigments, dawn
And night and starry even.
Your form and features to express
Likewise your soul’s chaste whiteness,
I’d take the primal essences
Of darkness and of brightness.
I’d take pure night to paint your hair;
Stars for your eyes; and morning
To paint your skin—the rosy air
Which is your limbs’ adorning.{506}
To paint the love-bows of your lips,
I’d mix, for colors, kisses;
And for your breasts and finger-tips,
Sweet odors and soft blisses.
And to complete the picture well,
I’d temper all with woman,—
Some tears, some laughter; heaven and hell,
To show you yet are human.
{507}

THE RIDE
She rode o’er hill, she rode o’er plain,
She rode by fields of barley,
By morning-glories filled with rain,
Along the wood-side gnarly.
She rode o’er plain, she rode o’er hill,
By orchard land and berry;
Her eyes were sparkling as the rill,
Cheeks, redder than the cherry.
A bird sang here, a bird sang there,
Then blithely sang together;
Sang sudden greeting everywhere,
“Good-morrow!” and “Good weather!”
The sunlight’s laughing radiance
Laughed in her radiant tresses;
The bold breeze made her wild curls dance,
And flushed her face with kisses.{508}
“Why ride you here, why ride you there,
Why ride you here so merry?
The sunlight living in your hair,
And in your cheek the berry?
“Why ride you with your sea-green plumes,
Your sea-green silken habit,
By balmy bosks of faint perfumes,
And haunts of roe and rabbit?”
“The morning ploughed the east with gold,
And planted it with holly;
And I was young and he was old,
And rich, and melancholy.
“A wife they ’d have me to his bed,
And to the church they hurried;
But now, gramercy! he is dead!
Thank God! is dead and buried.
“I ride by tree, I ride by rill,
I ride by rye and clover,
For by the church beyond the hill
Awaits my first true lover.”{509}
AT PARTING
What is there left for us to say,
Now it is time to speak good-by?
And all our dreams of yesterday
Are one with yester-evening’s sky—
What is there left for us to say,
Now different ways before us lie?
A word of hope, a word of cheer,
A word of love, whose help shall last,
When we are far to bring us near
Through memories of the happy past;
A word of hope, a word of cheer,
To keep our young hearts true and fast.
What is there left for us to do,
Now it is time to say farewell?
And care, that bade us once adieu,
Returns again with us to dwell—
What is there left for us to do,
Now different ways our fates compel?{510}
Clasp hands and kiss, touch lips and smile,
And look the love that shall remain—
When severed so by many a mile—
The sweetest balm for bitterest pain:
Clasp hands and kiss, touch lips and smile,
And trust to God to meet again.
{511}

IN THE GARDEN OF GIRLS
Serious, but smiling, stately and serene,
And lovelier than a flower,
She stands; in whom all sympathies convene
As perfumes in a bower;
Through whom I feel what soul and heart must mean,
And all their love and power.
Eyes, that commune with the frank skies of truth,
Beneath their cloud-like curls;
Lips of immortal rose, where joy and youth
Nestle like priceless pearls;
Hair, that suggests the Bible braids of Ruth,
Deeper than any girl’s.
When first I saw her, ’t was as if within
My gaze took shape some song—
Played by a master of the violin—
A music, pure and strong,
That rapt my soul above all earthly sin
To heights that know no wrong.
{512}

“COME TO THE HILLS”
Come to the hills, the woods are green—
The heart is high when lovers meet—
There is a brook that flows between
Mossed rocks where we will make our seat,
Where we will sit and speak unseen.
I hear you laughing in the lane—
The heart is high when lovers meet—
The clover smells of sun and rain
And spreads a carpet for our feet,
Where we will walk and dream again.
Come to the woods, the dusk is here—
The heart is high when lovers meet—
A bird upon the branches near
Sets music to our hearts’ sweet beat,
Our hearts that beat with something dear.
I hear your step; the lane is passed—
The heart is high when lovers meet—
The little stars come bright and fast,
Like happy eyes that watch us, Sweet,
That see us greet and kiss at last.
{513}

EVASION
I
Why do I love you, who have never given
My heart encouragement or any cause?
Is it because, as earth is held of heaven,
Your soul holds mine by some mysterious laws?
Perhaps, unseen of me, within your eyes
The answer lies.
II
From your sweet lips no word hath ever fallen
To tell my heart its love is not in vain—
The bee that woos the flow’r hath honey and pollen
To cheer him on and bring him back again:
But what have I, your other friends above,
To feed my love?
{514}

III
Still, still you are my dream and my desire;
Your love is an allurement and a dare
Set for attainment, like a shining spire,
Far, far above me in the starry air:
And gazing upward, ’gainst the hope of hope,
I breast the slope.
{515}

WILL YOU FORGET?
In years to come, will you forget,
Dear girl, how often we have met?
And I have gazed into your eyes
And there beheld no sad regret
To cloud the gladness of their skies,
While in your heart—unheard as yet—
Love slept, oblivious of my sighs?—
In years to come, will you forget?
Ah, me! I only pray that when,
In other days, some man of men
Has taught those eyes to laugh and weep
With joy and sorrow, hearts must ken
When love awakens in their deep,—
I only pray some memory then,
Or sad or sweet, you still will keep
Of me and love that might have been.
{516}

CONTRASTS
No eve of summer ever can attain
The gladness of that eve of late July,
When ’mid the roses, dripping with the rain,
Against the wondrous topaz of the sky,
I met you, leaning on the pasture bars,—
While heaven and earth grew conscious of the stars.
No night of blackest winter can repeat
The bitterness of that December night,
When, at your gate, gray-glittering with sleet,
Within the glimmering square of window-light,
We parted,—long you clung unto my arm,—
While heaven and earth surrendered to the storm.
{517}

CARISSIMA MEA
I look upon my sweetheart’s face,
And, in the world about me, see
No face like hers in any place.
It is not made, as others sing
Of their young loves, like ivory,
But like a wild-rose in the spring.
Her brow is low and very fair,
And o’er it, smooth and shadowy,
Lies deep the darkness of her hair.
Beneath her brows her eyes gleam gray,
And gaze out glad and fearlessly—
Their wonder haunts me night and day.
Her eyebrows, arched and delicate,—
Twin curves of penciled ebony,—
Within their spans contain my fate.
Her mouth, that was for kisses curved,—
So small and sweet!—it well may be
That it for me is yet reserved.{518}
Between her hair and rounded chin,
Calm with her soul’s calm purity,
There lies no shadow of a sin.
Of perfect form, she is not tall,—
Just higher than the heart of me,
O’er which I place her, all in all.
She is not shaped, as some have sung
Of their young loves, like some slim tree,
But like the moon when it is young.
Her hands, that smell of violet,
So white and fashioned fragrantly,
Have woven round my heart a net.
Yea, I have loved her many a day;
And though for me she may not be,
Still at her feet my love I lay.
Albeit she be not for me,
God send her grace and grant that she
Know naught of sorrow all her days,
And help me still to sing her praise!
{519}

AN AUTUMN NIGHT
Some things are good on autumn nights,
When with the storm the forest fights,
And in the room the heaped hearth lights
Old-fashioned press and rafter:
Plump chestnuts hissing in the heat,
A mug of cider, sharp and sweet,
And at your side a face petite,
With lips of laughter.
Upon the roof the rolling rain,
And, tapping at the window-pane,
The wind that seems a witch’s cane
That summons spells together:
A hand within your own a while;
A mouth reflecting back your smile;
And eyes, two stars, whose beams exile
All thoughts of weather.{520}
And, while the wind lulls, still to sit
And watch her fire-lit needles flit
A-knitting, and to feel her knit
Your very heart-strings in it:
Then, when the old clock ticks “’t is late,”
To rise, and at the door to wait
Two words, or, at the garden-gate,
A kissing minute.
{521}

A DAUGHTER OF THE STATES
She has the eyes of some barbarian Queen
Leading her wild tribes into battle; eyes,
Wherein th’ unconquerable soul defies,
And Love sits throned, imperious and serene.
And I have thought that Liberty, alone
Among her mountain stars, might look like her,
Kneeling to God, her only emperor,
Kindling her torch on Freedom’s altar-stone.
For in her self, regal with riches of
Beauty and youth, again those Queens seem born—
Boadicea, meeting scorn with scorn,
And Ermengarde, returning love for love.
{522}

THE QUARREL
An instant only and her eyes
Flashed lightning like the angry skies;
And o’er her forehead, curving down,
Fell dark the shadow of a frown;
Then backward, deep and stormy fair,
She tossed the tempest of her hair;
Then of her lips’ full rose disdain
Made a pink-folded bud again;
Then quicker than all utterance,
All changed: and at a word, a glance,
Her anger rained its tears, then passed;
And she was in my arms at last;
The austere woman, doubly dear,
And lovelier for each falling tear:
But why we quarreled, how it grew,
I can not tell, I never knew:{523}
Perhaps ’t was Love; he, who, with tears,
Would show how fair a face appears;
As, after storm, the sky ’s more blue,
A wildflower ’s fairer for the dew.
{524}

MIRIAM
What better praise for all her ways
Than that all days her ways illume?
Such brightness as the maiden year
Knows, when God’s kindness seems as near
As flowers whose wisdom ’s but to bloom.
Hers the deep hair: a face more fair
Than roses June sets blossoming:
The sunshine of her gladness gleams
In bloom-bright lips and cheeks, and dreams
Upon her throat’s soft coloring.
Her voice is sweet as birds that greet
With song the coming of the light:
The serious happy gleam that lies
In the dark lustre of her eyes
Is as the starlight to the night.
Beyond the sea such girls as she
It was whom Titian loved to paint,
With calm Madonna eyes, and hair
Rich auburn; robed in gold and vair,
Fair as the vision of a saint.
{525}

THE SUMMER SEA
Over the summer sea,
When the white-eyed stars look pale,
And the moonbeams make a trail
Of gold through the waves for me,
I turn my ghostly sail
Away, away,
And follow the form I see
Over the summer sea.
Over the misty sea,
Ere the cliff which highest soars
From the billow-beaten shores
Reddens all rosily,
Where the witch-white water roars,
Far on, far on.
Through the foam she beckons me
Over the summer sea.
Over the haunted sea,
When the great, gold moon low lies
On the rim of the western skies,
’Twixt the moon, she comes, and me,{526}
And gazes in my eyes;
Low down, low down,
’Twixt the orbéd moon and me,
Over the summer sea.
Deep in the bitter sea,
Wilt thou drag me down, O sweet?
Down, down! from hair to feet
Filled with thee utterly?
Against thy heart’s wild beat?—
At last! at last!
Wilt drag me down with thee,
Deep in the summer sea?
{527}

FINALE
So let it be. Thou dare not say ’t was I!—
Here in life’s temple, where thy soul can see,
Look where the beauty of our love doth lie,
Shattered in shards, a dead divinity!—
Approach: kneel down: yea, render up one sigh!
This is the end. What need to tell it thee!
So let it be.
So let it be. Care, who hath stood with him,
And sorrow, who sat by him deified,—
For whom his face made comfort,—lo! how dim
They heap his altar which they can not hide,
While memory’s lamp swings o’er it, burning slim.—
This is the end. What shall be said beside?
So let it be.{528}
So let it be. Did we not drain the wine,
Red, of love’s sacramental chalice, when
He laid sweet sanction on thy lips and mine?
Dash it aside! Lo, who will fill again
Now it is empty of the god divine!—
This is the end. Yea, let us say Amen.
So let it be.
{529}

CONCLUSION
The songs Love sang to us are dead:
Yet shall he sing to us again,
When the dull days are wrapped in lead,
And the red woodland drips with rain.
The lily of our love is gone,
That graced our spring with golden scent:
Now in the garden low upon
The wind-stripped way its stalk is bent.
Our rose of dreams is passed away,
That lit our summer with sweet fire:
The storm beats bare each thorny spray,
And its dead leaves are trod in mire.
The songs Love sang to us are dead:
Yet shall he sing to us again,
When the dull days are wrapped in lead,
And the red woodland drips with rain.{530}
The marigold of memory
Shall fill our autumn then with glow:
Haply its bitterness will be
Sweeter for love of long-ago.
The cypress of forgetfulness
Shall haunt our winter with its hue:
Its apathy to us not less
Dear for the dreams love’s summer knew.