First I asked the honeybee, Busy in the balmy bowers; Saying, "Sweetheart, tell it me: Have you seen her, honeybee? She is cousin to the flowers— All the sweetness of the south In her wild-rose face and mouth." But the bee passed silently.
Then I asked the forest bird, Warbling by the woodland waters; Saying, "Dearest, have you heard? Have you heard her, forest bird? She is one of music's daughters— Never song so sweet by half As the music of her laugh." But the bird said not a word.
Next I asked the evening sky, Hanging out its lamps of fire; Saying, "Loved one, passed she by? Tell me, tell me, evening sky! She, the star of my desire— Sister whom the Pleiads lost, And my soul's high pentecost." But the sky made no reply.
Where is she? ah, where is she? She to whom both love and duty Bind me, yea, immortally.— Where is she? ah, where is she? Symbol of the Earth-Soul's beauty. I have lost her. Help my heart Find her! her, who is a part Of the pagan soul of me.
THE GARDEN OF DREAMS
Not while I live may I forget That garden which my spirit trod! Where dreams were flowers, wild and wet, And beautiful as God.
Not while I breathe, awake, adream, Shall live again for me those hours, When, in its mystery and gleam, I met her 'mid the flowers.
Eyes, talismanic heliotrope, Beneath mesmeric lashes, where The sorceries of love and hope Had made a shining lair.
And daydawn brows, whereover hung The twilight of dark locks: wild birds, Her lips, that spoke the rose's tongue Of fragrance-voweled words.
I will not tell of cheeks and chin, That held me as sweet language holds; Nor of the eloquence within Her breasts' twin-mooned molds.
Nor of her body's languorous Wind-grace, that glanced like starlight through Her clinging robe's diaphanous Web of the mist and dew.
There is no star so pure and high As was her look; no fragrance such As her soft presence; and no sigh Of music like her touch.
Not while I live may I forget That garden of dim dreams, where I And Beauty born of Music met, Whose spirit passed me by.
THE PATH TO FAERY
When dusk falls cool as a rained-on rose, And a tawny tower the twilight shows, With the crescent moon, the silver moon, the curved new moon in a space that glows, A turret window that grows alight; There is a path that my Fancy knows, A glimmering, shimmering path of night, That far as the Land of Faery goes.
And I follow the path, as Fancy leads, Over the mountains, into the meads, Where the firefly cities, the glowworm cities, the faery cities are strung like beads, Each city a twinkling star: And I live a life of valorous deeds, And march with the Faery King to war, And ride with his knights on milk-white steeds.
Or it's there in the whirl of their life I sit, Or dance in their houses with starlight lit, Their blossom houses, their flower houses, their elfin houses, of fern leaves knit, With fronded spires and domes: And there it is that my lost dreams flit, And the ghost of my childhood, smiling, roams With the faery children so dear to it.
And it's there I hear that they all come true, The faery stories, whatever they do— Elf and goblin, dear elf and goblin, loved elf and goblin, and all the crew Of witch and wizard and gnome and fay, And prince and princess, that wander through The storybooks we have put away, The faerytales that we loved and knew.
The face of Adventure lures you there, And the eyes of Danger bid you dare, While ever the bugles, the silver bugles, the far-off bugles of Elfland blare, The faery trumpets to battle blow; And you feel their thrill in your heart and hair, And you fain would follow and mount and go And march with the Faeries anywhere.
And she—she rides at your side again, Your little sweetheart whose age is ten: She is the princess, the faery princess, the princess fair that you worshiped when You were a prince in a faerytale; And you do great deeds as you did them then, With your magic spear, and enchanted mail, Braving the dragon in his den.
And you ask again,—"Oh, where shall we ride, Now that the monster is slain, my bride?"— "Back to the cities, the firefly cities, the glowworm cities where we can hide, The beautiful cities of Faeryland. And the light of my eyes shall be your guide, The light of my eyes and my snow-white hand— And there forever we two will abide."
THERE ARE FAERIES
There are faeries, bright of eye, Who the wildflowers' warders are: Ouphes, that chase the firefly; Elves, that ride the shooting-star: Fays, who in a cobweb lie, Swinging on a moonbeam bar; Or who harness bumblebees, Grumbling on the clover leas, To a blossom or a breeze— That's their faery car. If you care, you too may see There are faeries.—Verily, There are faeries.
There are faeries. I could swear I have seen them busy, where Roses loose their scented hair, In the moonlight weaving, weaving,
Out of starlight and the dew, Glinting gown and shimmering shoe; Or, within a glowworm lair, From the dark earth slowly heaving Mushrooms whiter than the moon, On whose tops they sit and croon, With their grig-like mandolins, To fair faery ladykins, Leaning from the windowsill Of a rose or daffodil, Listening to their serenade All of cricket-music made. Follow me, oh, follow me! Ho! away to Faerie! Where your eyes like mine may see There are faeries.—Verily, There are faeries.
There are faeries. Elves that swing In a wild and rainbow ring Through the air; or mount the wing Of a bat to courier news To the faery King and Queen: Fays, who stretch the gossamers On which twilight hangs the dews;
Who, within the moonlight sheen, Whisper dimly in the ears Of the flowers words so sweet That their hearts are turned to musk And to honey; things that beat In their veins of gold and blue: Ouphes, that shepherd moths of dusk— Soft of wing and gray of hue— Forth to pasture on the dew.
There are faeries; verily; Verily: For the old owl in the tree, Hollow tree, He who maketh melody For them tripping merrily, Told it me. There are faeries.—Verily, There are faeries.
THE SPIRIT OF THE FOREST SPRING
Over the rocks she trails her locks, Her mossy locks that drip, drip, drip: Her sparkling eyes smile at the skies In friendship-wise and fellowship: While the gleam and glance of her countenance Lull into trance the woodland places, As over the rocks she trails her locks, Her dripping locks that the long fern graces.
She pours clear ooze from her heart's cool cruse, Its crystal cruse that drips, drips, drips: And all the day its limpid spray Is heard to play from her finger tips: And the slight, soft sound makes haunted ground Of the woods around that the sunlight laces, As she pours clear ooze from her heart's cool cruse, Its dripping cruse that no man traces.
She swims and swims with glimmering limbs, With lucid limbs that drip, drip, drip: Where beechen boughs build a leafy house, Where her eyes may drowse or her beauty trip: And the liquid beat of her rippling feet Makes three times sweet the forest mazes, As she swims and swims with glimmering limbs, With dripping limbs through the twilight hazes.
Then wrapped in deeps of the wild she sleeps, She whispering sleeps and drips, drips, drips: Where moon and mist wreathe neck and wrist, And, starry-whist, through the dark she slips: While the heavenly dream of her soul makes gleam The falls that stream and the foam that races, As wrapped in the deeps of the wild she sleeps, She dripping sleeps or starward gazes.
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.
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.
IN THE LANE
When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i' the rose; And the west is a red-streaked four-o'clock, And summer is near its close— It's oh, for the gate and the locust lane, And dusk and dew and home again!
When the katydid sings and the cricket cries, And ghosts of the mists ascend; And the evening star is a lamp i' the skies, And summer is near its end— It's oh, for the fence and the leafy lane, And the twilight peace and the tryst again!
When the owlet hoots in the dogwood tree, That leans to the rippling Run; And the wind is a wildwood melody, And summer is almost done— It's oh, for the bridge and the bramble lane, And the fragrant hush and her hands again!
When fields smell sweet with the dewy hay, And woods are cool and wan, And a path for dreams is the Milky Way, And summer is nearly gone— It's oh, for the rock and the woodland lane, And the silence and stars and her lips again!
When the weight of the apples breaks down the boughs, And muskmelons split with sweet; And the moon is a light in Heaven's house, And summer has spent its heat— It's oh, for the lane, the trysting lane, The deep-mooned night and her love again!
THE WINDOW ON THE HILL
Among the fields the camomile Seems blown mist in the lightning's glare: Cool, rainy odors drench the air; Night speaks above; the angry smile Of storm within her stare.
The way that I shall take to-night Is through the wood whose branches fill The road with double darkness, till, Between the boughs, a window's light Shines out upon the hill.
The fence; and then the path that goes Around a trailer-tangled rock, Through puckered pink and hollyhock, Unto a latch-gate's unkempt rose, And door whereat I knock.
Bright on the oldtime flower place The lamp streams through the foggy pane; The door is opened to the rain: And in the door—her happy face And outstretched arms again.
Above her, pearl and rose the heavens lay: Around her, flowers flattered earth with gold, Or down the path in insolence held sway— Like cavaliers who ride the king's highway— Scarlet and buff, within a garden old.
Beyond the hills, faint-heard through belts of wood, Bells, Sabbath-sweet, swooned from some far-off town: Gamboge and gold, broad sunset colors strewed The purple west as if, with God imbued, Her mighty palette Nature there laid down.
Amid such flowers, underneath such skies, Embodying all life knows of sweet and fair, She stood; love's dreams in girlhood's face and eyes, Fair as a star that comes to emphasize The mingled beauty of the earth and air.
Behind her, seen through vines and orchard trees, Gray with its twinkling windows—like the face Of calm old age that sits and dreams at ease— Porched with old roses, haunts of honeybees, The homestead loomed within a lilied space.
For whom she waited in the afterglow, Star-eyed and golden 'mid the poppy and rose, I do not know; I do not care to know,— It is enough I keep her picture so, Hung up, like poetry, in my life's dull prose.
A fragrant picture, where I still may find Her face untouched of sorrow or regret, Unspoiled of contact; ever young and kind; The spiritual sweetheart of my soul and mind, She had not been, perhaps, if we had met.
When by the wall the tiger-flower swings A head of sultry slumber and aroma; And by the path, whereon the blown rose flings Its obsolete beauty, the long lilies foam a White place of perfume, like a beautiful breast— Between the pansy fire of the west, And poppy mist of moonrise in the east, This heartache will have ceased.
The witchcraft of soft music and sweet sleep— Let it beguile the burthen from my spirit, And white dreams reap me as strong reapers reap The ripened grain and full blown blossom near it; Let me behold how gladness gives the whole The transformed countenance of my own soul— Between the sunset and the risen moon Let sorrow vanish soon.
And these things then shall keep me company: The elfins of the dew; the spirit of laughter Who haunts the wind; the god of melody Who sings within the stream, that reaches after
The flow'rs that rock themselves to his caress: These of themselves shall shape my happiness, Whose visible presence I shall lean upon, Feeling that care is gone.
Forgetting how the cankered flower must die; The worm-pierced fruit fall, sicklied to its syrup; How joy, begotten 'twixt a sigh and sigh, Waits with one foot forever in the stirrup,— Remembering how within the hollow lute Soft music sleeps when music's voice is mute; And in the heart, when all seems black despair, Hope sits, awaiting there.
POPPY AND MANDRAGORA
Let us go far from here! Here there is sadness in the early year: Here sorrow waits where joy went laughing late: The sicklied face of heaven hangs like hate Above the woodland and the meadowland; And Spring hath taken fire in her hand Of frost and made a dead bloom of her face, Which was a flower of marvel once and grace, And sweet serenity and stainless glow. Delay not. Let us go.
Let us go far away Into the sunrise of a fairer May: Where all the nights resign them to the moon, And drug their souls with odor and soft tune, And tell their dreams in starlight: where the hours Teach immortality with fadeless flowers; And all the day the bee weights down the bloom, And all the night the moth shakes strange perfume, Like music, from the flower-bells' affluence. Let us go far from hence.
Why should we sit and weep, And yearn with heavy eyelids still to sleep? Forever hiding from our hearts the hate,— Death within death,—life doth accumulate, Like winter snows along the barren leas And sterile hills, whereon no lover sees The crocus limn the beautiful in flame; Or hyacinth and jonquil write the name Of Love in fire, for each passer-by. Why should we sit and sigh?
We will not stay and long, Here where our souls are wasting for a song; Where no bird sings; and, dim beneath the stars, No silvery water strikes melodious bars; And in the rocks and forest-covered hills No quick-tongued echo from her grotto fills With eery syllables the solitude— The vocal image of the voice that wooed— She, of wild sounds the airy looking-glass. Our souls are tired, alas!
What should we say to her?— To Spring, who in our hearts makes no sweet stir: Who looks not on us nor gives thought unto: Too busy with the birth of flowers and dew, And vague gold wings within the chrysalis; Or Love, who will not miss us; had no kiss To give your soul or the sad soul of me, Who bound our hearts to her in poesy, Long since, and wear her badge of service still.— Have we not served our fill?
We will go far away. Song will not care, who slays our souls each day With the dark daggers of denying eyes, And lips of silence! ... Had she sighed us lies, Not passionate, yet falsely tremulous, And lent her mouth to ours in mockery; thus Smiled from calm eyes as if appreciative; Then, then our love had taught itself to live Feeding itself on hope, and recompense. But no!—So let us hence.
So be the Bible shut Of all her Beauty, and her wisdom but A clasp for memory! We will not seek The light that came not when the soul was weak With longing, and the darkness gave no sign Of star-born comfort. Nay! why kneel and whine Sad psalms of patience and hosannas of Old hope and dreary canticles of love?— Let us depart, since, as we long supposed, For us God's book was closed.
A ROAD SONG
It's—Oh, for the hills, where the wind's some one With a vagabond foot that follows! And a cheer-up hand that he claps upon Your arm with the hearty words, "Come on! We'll soon be out of the hollows, My heart! We'll soon be out of the hollows."
It's—Oh, for the songs, where the hope's some one With a renegade foot that doubles! And a jolly lilt that he flings to the sun As he turns with the friendly laugh, "Come on! We'll soon be out of the troubles, My heart! We'll soon be out of the troubles!"
This was her home; one mossy gable thrust Above the cedars and the locust trees: This was her home, whose beauty now is dust, A lonely memory for melodies The wild birds sing, the wild birds and the bees.
Here every evening is a prayer: no boast Or ruin of sunset makes the wan world wroth; Here, through the twilight, like a pale flower's ghost, A drowsy flutter, flies the tiger-moth; And dusk spreads darkness like a dewy cloth.
In vagabond velvet, on the placid day, A stain of crimson, lolls the butterfly; The south wind sows with ripple and with ray The pleasant waters; and the gentle sky Looks on the homestead like a quiet eye.
Their melancholy quaver, lone and low, When day is done, the gray tree-toads repeat: The whippoorwills, far in the afterglow, Complain to silence: and the lightnings beat, In one still cloud, glimmers of golden heat.
He comes not yet: not till the dusk is dead, And all the western glow is far withdrawn; Not till,—a sleepy mouth love's kiss makes red,— The baby bud opes in a rosy yawn, Breathing sweet guesses at the dreamed-of dawn.
When in the shadows, like a rain of gold, The fireflies stream steadily; and bright Along the moss the glowworm, as of old, A crawling sparkle—like a crooked light In smoldering vellum—scrawls a square of night,—
Then will he come; and she will lean to him,— She,—the sweet phantom,—memory of that place,— Between the starlight and his eyes; so dim With suave control and soul-compelling grace, He cannot help but speak her, face to face.
INTIMATIONS OF THE BEAUTIFUL
The hills are full of prophecies And ancient voices of the dead; Of hidden shapes that no man sees, Pale, visionary presences, That speak the things no tongue hath said, No mind hath thought, no eye hath read.
The streams are full of oracles, And momentary whisperings; An immaterial beauty swells Its breezy silver o'er the shells With wordless speech that sings and sings The message of diviner things.
No indeterminable thought is theirs, The stars', the sunsets' and the flowers'; Whose inexpressible speech declares Th' immortal Beautiful, who shares This mortal riddle which is ours, Beyond the forward-flying hours.
It holds and beckons in the streams; It lures and touches us in all The flowers of the golden fall— The mystic essence of our dreams: A nymph blows bubbling music where Faint water ripples down the rocks; A faun goes dancing hoiden locks, And piping a Pandean air, Through trees the instant wind shakes bare.
Our dreams are never otherwise Than real when they hold us so; We in some future life shall know Them parts of it and recognize Them as ideal substance, whence The actual is—(as flowers and trees, From color sources no one sees, Draw dyes, the substance of a sense)— Material with intelligence.
What intimations made them wise, The mournful pine, the pleasant beech? What strange and esoteric speech?— (Communicated from the skies In runic whispers)—that invokes The boles that sleep within the seeds, And out of narrow darkness leads The vast assemblies of the oaks.
Within his knowledge, what one reads The poems written by the flowers? The sermons, past all speech of ours, Preached by the gospel of the weeds?— O eloquence of coloring! O thoughts of syllabled perfume! O beauty uttered into bloom! Teach me your language! let me sing!
Along my mind flies suddenly A wildwood thought that will not die; That makes me brother to the bee, And cousin to the butterfly: A thought, such as gives perfume to The blushes of the bramble-rose, And, fixed in quivering crystal, glows A captive in the prismed dew.
It leads the feet no certain way; No frequent path of human feet: Its wild eyes follow me all day; All day I hear its wild heart beat: And in the night it sings and sighs The songs the winds and waters love; Its wild heart lying tranced above, And tranced the wildness of its eyes.
Oh, joy, to walk the way that goes Through woods of sweet-gum and of beech! Where, like a ruby left in reach, The berry of the dogwood glows: Or where the bristling hillsides mass, 'Twixt belts of tawny sassafras, Brown shocks of corn in wigwam rows!
Where, in the hazy morning, runs The stony branch that pools and drips, The red-haws and the wild-rose hips Are strewn like pebbles; and the sun's Own gold seems captured by the weeds; To see, through scintillating seeds, The hunters steal with glimmering guns!
Oh, joy, to go the path which lies Through woodlands where the trees are tall! Beneath the misty moon of fall, Whose ghostly girdle prophesies A morn wind-swept and gray with rain; When, o'er the lonely, leaf-blown lane, The night-hawk like a dead leaf flies!
To stand within the dewy ring Where pale death smites the boneset blooms, And everlasting's flowers, and plumes Of mint, with aromatic wing! And hear the creek,—whose sobbing seems A wild-man murmuring in his dreams,— And insect violins that sing.
Or where the dim persimmon tree Rains on the path its frosty fruit, And in the oak the owl doth hoot, Beneath the moon and mist, to see The outcast Year go,—Hagar-wise,— With far-off, melancholy eyes, And lips that sigh for sympathy.
Towards evening, where the sweet-gum flung Its thorny balls among the weeds, And where the milkweed's sleepy seeds,— A faery Feast of Lanterns,—swung; The cricket tuned a plaintive lyre, And o'er the hills the sunset hung A purple parchment scrawled with fire.
From silver-blue to amethyst The shadows deepened in the vale; And belt by belt the pearly-pale Aladdin fabric of the mist Built up its exhalation far; A jewel on an Afrit's wrist, One star gemmed sunset's cinnabar.
Then night drew near, as when, alone, The heart and soul grow intimate; And on the hills the twilight sate With shadows, whose wild robes were sown With dreams and whispers;—dreams, that led The heart once with love's monotone, And memories of the living-dead.
All night the rain-gusts shook the leaves Around my window; and the blast Rumbled the flickering flue, and fast The storm streamed from the dripping eaves. As if—'neath skies gone mad with fear— The witches' Sabboth galloped past, The forests leapt like startled deer.
All night I heard the sweeping sleet; And when the morning came, as slow As wan affliction, with the woe Of all the world dragged at her feet, No spear of purple shattered through The dark gray of the east; no bow Of gold shot arrows swift and blue.
But rain, that whipped the windows; filled The spouts with rushings; and around The garden stamped, and sowed the ground With limbs and leaves; the wood-pool filled With overgurgling.—Bleak and cold The fields looked, where the footpath wound Through teasel and bur-marigold.
Yet there's a kindness in such days Of gloom, that doth console regret With sympathy of tears, which wet Old eyes that watch the back-log blaze.— A kindness, alien to the deep Glad blue of sunny days that let No thought in of the lives that weep.
This dawn, through which the Autumn glowers,— As might a face within our sleep, With stone-gray eyes that weep and weep, And wet brows bound with sodden flowers,— Is sunset to some sister land; A land of ruins and of palms; Rich sunset, crimson with long calms,— Whose burning belt low mountains bar,— That sees some brown Rebecca stand Beside a well the camel-band Winds down to 'neath the evening star.
O sunset, sister to this dawn! O dawn, whose face is turned away! Who gazest not upon this day, But back upon the day that's gone! Enamored so of loveliness, The retrospect of what thou wast, Oh, to thyself the present trust! And as thy past be beautiful With hues, that never can grow less! Waiting thy pleasure to express New beauty lest the world grow dull.
Down in the woods a sorcerer, Out of rank rain and death, distills,— Through chill alembics of the air,— Aromas that brood everywhere Among the whisper-haunted hills: The bitter myrrh of dead leaves fills Wet valleys (where the gaunt weeds bleach) With rainy scents of wood-decay;— As if a spirit all the day Sat breathing softly 'neath the beech.
With other eyes I see her flit, The wood-witch of the wild perfumes, Among her elfin owls,—that sit, A drowsy white, in crescent-lit Dim glens of opalescent glooms:— Where, for her magic, buds and blooms Mysterious perfumes, while she stands, A thornlike shadow, summoning The sleepy odors, that take wing Like bubbles from her dewy hands.
Among the woods they call to me— The lights that haunt the wood and stream; Voices of such white ecstasy As moves with hushed lips through a dream: They stand in auraed radiances, Or flash with nimbused limbs across Their golden shadows on the moss, Or slip in silver through the trees.
What love can give the heart in me More hope and exaltation than The hand of light that tips the tree And beckons far from marts of man? That reaches foamy fingers through The broken ripple, and replies With sparkling speech of lips and eyes To souls who seek and still pursue.
Give me the streams, that counterfeit The twilight of autumnal skies; The shadowy, silent waters, lit With fire like a woman's eyes! Slow waters that, in autumn, glass The scarlet-strewn and golden grass, And drink the sunset's tawny dyes.
Give me the pools, that lie among The centuried forests! give me those, Deep, dim, and sad as darkness hung Beneath the sunset's somber rose: Still pools, in whose vague mirrors look— Like ragged gypsies round a book Of magic—trees in wild repose.
No quiet thing, or innocent, Of water, earth, or air shall please My soul now: but the violent Between the sunset and the trees: The fierce, the splendid, and intense, That love matures in innocence, Like mighty music, give me these!
When thorn-tree copses still were bare And black along the turbid brook; When catkined willows blurred and shook Great tawny tangles in the air; In bottomlands, the first thaw makes An oozy bog, beneath the trees, Prophetic of the spring that wakes, Sang the sonorous hylodes.
Now that wild winds have stripped the thorn, And clogged with leaves the forest-creek; Now that the woods look blown and bleak, And webs are frosty white at morn; At night beneath the spectral sky, A far foreboding cry I hear— The wild fowl calling as they fly? Or wild voice of the dying Year?
And still my soul holds phantom tryst, When chestnuts hiss among the coals, Upon the Evening of All Souls, When all the night is moon and mist, And all the world is mystery; I kiss dear lips that death hath kissed, And gaze in eyes no man may see, Filled with a love long lost to me.
I hear the night-wind's ghostly glove Flutter the window: then the knob Of some dark door turn, with a sob As when love comes to gaze on love Who lies pale-coffined in a room: And then the iron gallop of The storm, who rides outside; his plume Sweeping the night with dread and gloom.
So fancy takes the mind, and paints The darkness with eidolon light, And writes the dead's romance in night On the dim Evening of All Saints: Unheard the hissing nuts; the clink And fall of coals, whose shadow faints Around the hearts that sit and think, Borne far beyond the actual's brink.
I heard the wind, before the morn Stretched gaunt, gray fingers 'thwart my pane, Drive clouds down, a dark dragon-train; Its iron visor closed, a horn Of steel from out the north it wound.— No morn like yesterday's! whose mouth, A cool carnation, from the south Breathed through a golden reed the sound Of days that drop clear gold upon Cerulean silver floors of dawn.
And all of yesterday is lost And swallowed in to-day's wild light— The birth deformed of day and night, The illegitimate, who cost Its mother secret tears and sighs; Unlovely since unloved; and chilled With sorrows and the shame that filled Its parents' love; which was not wise In passion as the day and night That married yestermorn with light.
Down through the dark, indignant trees, On indistinguishable wings Of storm, the wind of evening swings; Before its insane anger flees Distracted leaf and shattered bough: There is a rushing as when seas Of thunder beat an iron prow On reefs of wrath and roaring wreck: 'Mid stormy leaves, a hurrying speck Of flickering blackness, driven by, A mad bat whirls along the sky.
Like some sad shadow, in the eve's Deep melancholy—visible As by some strange and twilight spell— A gaunt girl stands among the leaves, The night-wind in her dolorous dress: Symbolic of the life that grieves, Of toil that patience makes not less, Her load of fagots fallen there.— A wilder shadow sweeps the air, And she is gone.... Was it the dumb Eidolon of the month to come?
The song birds—are they flown away? The song birds of the summer time, That sang their souls into the day, And set the laughing hours to rhyme. No catbird scatters through the bush The sparkling crystals of its song; Within the woods no hermit-thrush Thridding with vocal gold the hush.
All day the crows fly cawing past: The acorns drop: the forests scowl: At night I hear the bitter blast Hoot with the hooting of the owl. The wild creeks freeze: the ways are strewn With leaves that clog: beneath the tree The bird, that set its toil to tune, And made a home for melody, Lies dead beneath the snow-white moon.
Far off a wind blew, and I heard Wild echoes of the woods reply— The herald of some royal word, With bannered trumpet, blown on high, Meseemed then passed me by:
Who summoned marvels there to meet, With pomp, upon a cloth of gold; Where berries of the bittersweet, That, splitting, showed the coals they hold, Sowed garnets through the wold:
Where, under tents of maples, seeds Of smooth carnelian, oval red, The spice-bush spangled: where, like beads, The dogwood's rounded rubies—fed With fire—blazed and bled.
And there I saw amid the rout Of months, in richness cavalier, A minnesinger—lips apout; A gypsy face; straight as a spear; A rose stuck in his ear:
Eyes, sparkling like old German wine, All mirth and moonlight; naught to spare Of slender beard, that lent a line To his short lip; October there, With chestnut curling hair.
His brown baretta swept its plume Red through the leaves; his purple hose, Puffed at the thighs, made gleam of gloom; His tawny doublet, slashed with rose, And laced with crimson bows,
Outshone the wahoo's scarlet pride, The haw, in rich vermilion dressed: A dagger dangling at his side, A slim lute, banded to his breast, Whereon his hands were pressed.
I saw him come.... And, lo, to hear The lilt of his approaching lute, No wonder that the regnant Year Bent down her beauty, blushing mute, Her heart beneath his foot.
Down through the woods, along the way That fords the stream; by rock and tree, Where in the bramble-bell the bee Swings; and through twilights green and gray The redbird flashes suddenly, My thoughts went wandering to-day.
I found the fields where, row on row, The blackberries hang dark with fruit; Where, nesting at the elder's root, The partridge whistles soft and low; The fields, that billow to the foot Of those old hills we used to know.
There lay the pond, all willow-bound, On whose bright face, when noons were hot, We marked the bubbles rise; some plot To lure us in; while all around Our heads,—like faery fancies,—shot The dragonflies without a sound.
The pond, above which evening bent To gaze upon her gypsy face; Wherein the twinkling night would trace A vague, inverted firmament; In which the green frogs tuned their bass, And firefly sparkles came and went.
The oldtime place we often ranged, When we were playmates, you and I; The oldtime fields, with boyhood's sky Still blue above them!—Naught was changed: Nothing.—Alas! then, tell me why Should we be? whom the years estranged.
With eyes hand-arched he looks into The morning's face; then turns away With truant feet, all wet with dew, Out for a holiday.
The hill brook sings; incessant stars, Foam-fashioned, on its restless breast; And where he wades its water-bars Its song is happiest.
A comrade of the chinquapin, He looks into its knotty eyes And sees its heart; and, deep within, Its soul that makes him wise.
The wood-thrush knows and follows him, Who whistles up the birds and bees; And round him all the perfumes swim Of woodland loam and trees.
Where'er he pass the silvery springs' Foam-people sing the flowers awake; And sappy lips of bark-clad things Laugh ripe each berried brake.
His touch is a companionship; His word an old authority: He comes, a lyric on his lip, The woodboy—Poesy.
O heart,—that beat the bird's blithe blood, The blithe bird's strain, and understood The song it sang to leaf and bud,— What dost thou in the wood?
O soul,—that kept the brook's glad flow, The glad brook's word to sun and moon,— What dost thou here where song lies low, And dead the dreams of June?
Where once was heard a voice of song, The hautboys of the mad winds sing; Where once a music flowed along, The rain's wild bugle's ring.
The weedy water frets and ails, And moans in many a sunless fall; And, o'er the melancholy, trails The black crow's eldritch call.
Unhappy brook! O withered wood! O days, whom Death makes comrades of! Where are the birds that thrilled the blood When Life struck hands with Love?
A song, one soared against the blue; A song, one silvered in the leaves; A song, one blew where orchards grew Gold-appled to the eaves.
The birds are flown; the flowers, dead; And sky and earth are bleak and gray: Where Joy once went, all light of tread, Grief haunts the leaf-wild way.
DAYS AND DAYS
The days that clothed white limbs with heat, And rocked the red rose on their breast, Have passed with amber-sandaled feet Into the ruby-gated west.
These were the days that filled the heart With overflowing riches of Life, in whose soul no dream shall start But hath its origin in love.
Now come the days gray-huddled in The haze; whose foggy footsteps drip; Who pin beneath a gypsy chin The frosty marigold and hip.
The days, whose forms fall shadowy Athwart the heart: whose misty breath Shapes saddest sweets of memory Out of the bitterness of death.
Ah me! too soon the autumn comes Among these purple-plaintive hills! Too soon among the forest gums Premonitory flame she spills, Bleak, melancholy flame that kills.
Her white fogs veil the morn, that rims With wet the moonflower's elfin moons; And, like exhausted starlight, dims The last slim lily-disk; and swoons With scents of hazy afternoons.
Her gray mists haunt the sunset skies, And build the west's cadaverous fires, Where Sorrow sits with lonely eyes, And hands that wake an ancient lyre, Beside the ghost of dead Desire.
Secluded, solitary on some underbough, Or cradled in a leaf, 'mid glimmering light, Like Puck thou crouchest: Haply watching how The slow toadstool comes bulging, moony white, Through loosening loam; or how, against the night, The glowworm gathers silver to endow The darkness with; or how the dew conspires To hang, at dusk, with lamps of chilly fires Each blade that shrivels now.
O vague confederate of the whippoorwill, Of owl and cricket and the katydid! Thou gatherest up the silence in one shrill Vibrating note and send'st it where, half hid In cedars, twilight sleeps—each azure lid Drooping a line of golden eyeball still.— Afar, yet near, I hear thy dewy voice Within the Garden of the Hours apoise On dusk's deep daffodil.
Minstrel of moisture! silent when high noon Shows her tanned face among the thirsting clover And parching meadows, thy tenebrious tune Wakes with the dew or when the rain is over. Thou troubadour of wetness and damp lover Of all cool things! admitted comrade boon Of twilight's hush, and little intimate Of eve's first fluttering star and delicate Round rim of rainy moon!
Art trumpeter of Dwarfland? does thy horn Inform the gnomes and goblins of the hour When they may gambol under haw and thorn, Straddling each winking web and twinkling flower? Or bell-ringer of Elfland? whose tall tower The liriodendron is? from whence is borne The elfin music of thy bell's deep bass, To summon Faeries to their starlit maze, To summon them or warn.
He makes a roadway of the crumbling fence, Or on the fallen tree,—brown as a leaf Fall stripes with russet,—gambols down the dense Green twilight of the woods. We see not whence He comes, nor whither (in a time so brief) He vanishes—swift carrier of some Fay, Some pixy steed that haunts our child-belief— A goblin glimpse upon some wildwood way.
What harlequin mood of nature qualified Him so with happiness? and limbed him with Such young activity as winds, that ride The ripples, have, dancing on every side? As sunbeams know, that urge the sap and pith Through hearts of trees? yet made him to delight, Gnome-like, in darkness,—like a moonlight myth,— Lairing in labyrinths of the under night.
Here, by a rock, beneath the moss, a hole Leads to his home, the den wherein he sleeps; Lulled by near noises of the laboring mole Tunneling its mine—like some ungainly Troll— Or by the tireless cricket there that keeps Picking its rusty and monotonous lute; Or slower sounds of grass that creeps and creeps, And trees unrolling mighty root on root.
Such is the music of his sleeping hours. Day hath another—'tis a melody He trips to, made by the assembled flowers, And light and fragrance laughing 'mid the bowers, And ripeness busy with the acorn-tree. Such strains, perhaps, as filled with mute amaze (The silent music of Earth's ecstasy) The Satyr's soul, the Faun of classic days.
THE WILD IRIS
That day we wandered 'mid the hills,—so lone Clouds are not lonelier, the forest lay In emerald darkness round us. Many a stone And gnarly root, gray-mossed, made wild our way: And many a bird the glimmering light along Showered the golden bubbles of its song.
Then in the valley, where the brook went by, Silvering the ledges that it rippled from,— An isolated slip of fallen sky, Epitomizing heaven in its sum,— An iris bloomed—blue, as if, flower-disguised, The gaze of Spring had there materialized.
I have forgotten many things since then— Much beauty and much happiness and grief; And toiled and dreamed among my fellow-men, Rejoicing in the knowledge life is brief. "'Tis winter now," so says each barren bough; And face and hair proclaim 'tis winter now.
I would forget the gladness of that spring! I would forget that day when she and I, Between the bird-song and the blossoming, Went hand in hand beneath the soft May sky!— Much is forgotten, yea—and yet, and yet, The things we would we never can forget.
Nor I how May then minted treasuries Of crowfoot gold; and molded out of light The sorrel's cups, whose elfin chalices Of limpid spar were streaked with rosy white: Nor all the stars of twinkling spiderwort, And mandrake moons with which her brows were girt.
But most of all, yea, it were well for me, Me and my heart, that I forget that flower, The blue wild iris, azure fleur-de-lis, That she and I together found that hour. Its recollection can but emphasize The pain of loss, remindful of her eyes.
The hot sunflowers by the glaring pike Lift shields of sultry brass; the teasel tops, Pink-thorned, advance with bristling spike on spike Against the furious sunlight. Field and copse Are sick with summer: now, with breathless stops, The locusts cymbal; now grasshoppers beat Their castanets: and rolled in dust, a team,— Like some mean life wrapped in its sorry dream,— An empty wagon rattles through the heat.
Where now the blue wild iris? flowers whose mouths Are moist and musky? Where the sweet-breathed mint, That made the brook-bank herby? Where the South's Wild morning-glories, rich in hues, that hint At coming showers that the rainbows tint? Where all the blossoms that the wildwood knows? The frail oxalis hidden in its leaves; The Indian-pipe, pale as a soul that grieves; The freckled touch-me-not and forest rose.
Dead! dead! all dead beside the drouth-burnt brook, Shrouded in moss or in the shriveled grass. Where waved their bells, from which the wild-bee shook The dewdrop once,—gaunt, in a nightmare mass, The rank weeds crowd; through which the cattle pass, Thirsty and lean, seeking some meager spring, Closed in with thorns, on which stray bits of wool The panting sheep have left, that sought the cool, From morn till evening wearily wandering.
No bird is heard; no throat to whistle awake The sleepy hush; to let its music leak Fresh, bubble-like, through bloom-roofs of the brake: Only the green-gray heron, famine-weak,— Searching the stale pools of the minnowless creek,— Utters its call; and then the rain-crow, too, False prophet now, croaks to the stagnant air; While overhead,—still as if painted there,— A buzzard hangs, black on the burning blue.
Around, the stillness deepened; then the grain Went wild with wind; and every briery lane Was swept with dust; and then, tempestuous black, Hillward the tempest heaved a monster back, That on the thunder leaned as on a cane; And on huge shoulders bore a cloudy pack, That gullied gold from many a lightning-crack: One big drop splashed and wrinkled down the pane, And then field, hill, and wood were lost in rain.
At last, through clouds,—as from a cavern hewn. Into night's heart,—the sun burst angry roon; And every cedar, with its weight of wet, Against the sunset's fiery splendor set, Frightened to beauty, seemed with rubies strewn: Then in drenched gardens, like sweet phantoms met, Dim odors rose of pink and mignonette; And in the east a confidence, that soon Grew to the calm assurance of the moon.
Into the sunset's turquoise marge The moon dips, like a pearly barge Enchantment sails through magic seas To faeryland 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.
Small twilight singer Of dew and mist: thou ghost-gray, gossamer winger Of dusk's dim glimmer, How chill thy note sounds; how thy wings of shimmer Vibrate, soft-sighing, Meseems, for Summer that is dead or dying. I stand and listen, And at thy song the garden-beds, that glisten With rose and lily, Seem touched with sadness; and the tuberose chilly, Breathing around its cold and colorless breath, Fills the pale evening with wan hints of death.
I see thee quaintly Beneath the leaf; thy shell-shaped winglets faintly— (As thin as spangle Of cobwebbed rain)—held up at airy angle; I hear thy tinkle With faery notes the silvery stillness sprinkle;
Investing wholly The moonlight with divinest melancholy: Until, in seeming, I see the Spirit of Summer sadly dreaming Amid her ripened orchards, russet-strewn, Her great, grave eyes fixed on the harvest-moon.
As dewdrops beady; As mist minute, thy notes ring low and reedy: The vaguest vapor Of melody, now near; now, like some taper Of sound, far-fading— Thou will-o'-wisp of music aye evading. Among the bowers, The fog-washed stalks of Autumn's weeds and flowers, By hill and hollow, I hear thy murmur and in vain I follow— Thou jack-o'-lantern voice, thou pixy cry, Thou dirge, that tellest Beauty she must die.
And when the frantic Wild winds of Autumn with the dead leaves antic; And walnuts scatter The mire of lanes; and dropping acorns patter In grove and forest, Like some frail grief with the rude blast thou warrest, Sending thy slender Far cry against the gale, that, rough, untender, Untouched of sorrow, Sweeps thee aside, where, haply, I to-morrow Shall find thee lying—tiny, cold and crushed, Thy weak wings folded and thy music hushed.
THE WIND OF WINTER
The Winter Wind, the wind of death, Who knocked upon my door, Now through the keyhole entereth, Invisible and hoar: He breathes around his icy breath And treads the flickering floor.
I heard him, wandering in the night, Tap at my windowpane; With ghostly fingers, snowy white, I heard him tug in vain, Until the shuddering candlelight Did cringe with fear and strain.
The fire, awakened by his voice, Leapt up with frantic arms, Like some wild babe that greets with noise Its father home who storms, With rosy gestures that rejoice, And crimson kiss that warms.
Now in the hearth he sits and, drowned Among the ashes, blows; Or through the room goes stealing round On cautious-creeping toes, Deep-mantled in the drowsy sound Of night that sleets and snows.
And oft, like some thin faery-thing, The stormy hush amid, I hear his captive trebles sing Beneath the kettle's lid; Or now a harp of elfland string In some dark cranny hid.
Again I hear him, implike, whine, Cramped in the gusty flue; Or knotted in the resinous pine Raise goblin cry and hue, While through the smoke his eyeballs shine, A sooty red and blue.
At last I hear him, nearing dawn, Take up his roaring broom, And sweep wild leaves from wood and lawn, And from the heavens the gloom, To show the gaunt world lying wan, And morn's cold rose a-bloom.
When dusk is drowned in drowsy dreams, And slow the hues of sunset die; When firefly and moth go by, And in still streams the new moon seems Another moon and sky: Then from the hills there comes a cry, The owlet's cry: A shivering voice that sobs and screams, With terror screams:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o? Who rides through the dusk and dew, With a pair of horns, As thin as thorns, And face a bubble-blue?— Who, who, who! Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
When night has dulled the lily's white, And opened wide the moonflower's eyes; When pale mists rise and veil the skies, And round the height in whispering flight The night-wind sounds and sighs: Then in the wood again it cries, The owlet cries: A shivering voice that calls in fright, In maundering fright:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o? Who walks with a shuffling shoe 'Mid the gusty trees, With a face none sees, And a form as ghostly, too?— Who, who, who! Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
When midnight leans a listening ear And tinkles on her insect lutes; When 'mid the roots the cricket flutes, And marsh and mere, now far, now near, A jack-o'-lantern foots: Then o'er the pool again it hoots, The owlet hoots: A voice that shivers as with fear, That cries with fear:—
"Who is it, who is it, who-o-o? Who creeps with his glowworm crew Above the mire With a corpse-light fire, As only dead men do?— Who, who, who! Who is it, who is it, who-o-o?"
EVENING ON THE FARM
From out the hills where twilight stands, Above the shadowy pasture lands, With strained and strident cry, Beneath pale skies that sunset bands, The bull-bats fly.
A cloud hangs over, strange of shape, And, colored like the half-ripe grape, Seems some uneven stain On heaven's azure; thin as crape, And blue as rain.
By ways, that sunset's sardonyx O'erflares, and gates the farm-boy clicks, Through which the cattle came, The mullein-stalks seem giant wicks Of downy flame.
From woods no glimmer enters in, Above the streams that, wandering, win To where the wood pool bids, Those haunters of the dusk begin,— The katydids.
Adown the dark the firefly marks Its flight in gold and emerald sparks; And, loosened from his chain, The shaggy mastiff bounds and barks, And barks again.
Each breeze brings scents of hill-heaped hay; And now an owlet, far away, Cries twice or thrice, "T-o-o-w-h-o-o"; And cool dim moths of mottled gray Flit through the dew.
The silence sounds its frog-bassoon, Where, on the woodland creek's lagoon,— Pale as a ghostly girl Lost 'mid the trees,—looks down the moon With face of pearl.
Within the shed where logs, late hewed, Smell forest-sweet, and chips of wood Make blurs of white and brown, The brood-hen cuddles her warm brood Of teetering down.
The clattering guineas in the tree Din for a time; and quietly The henhouse, near the fence, Sleeps, save for some brief rivalry Of cocks and hens.
A cowbell tinkles by the rails, Where, streaming white in foaming pails, Milk makes an uddery sound; While overhead the black bat trails Around and round.
The night is still. The slow cows chew A drowsy cud. The bird that flew And sang is in its nest. It is the time of falling dew, Of dreams and rest.
The beehives sleep; and round the walk, The garden path, from stalk to stalk The bungling beetle booms, Where two soft shadows stand and talk Among the blooms.
The stars are thick: the light is dead That dyed the west: and Drowsyhead, Tuning his cricket-pipe, Nods, and some apple, round and red, Drops over-ripe.
Now down the road, that shambles by, A window, shining like an eye Through climbing rose and gourd, Shows Age and young Rusticity Seated at board.
Thou pulse of hotness, who, with reedlike breast, Makest meridian music, long and loud, Accentuating summer!—Dost thy best To make the sunbeams fiercer, and to crowd With lonesomeness the long, close afternoon— When Labor leans, swart-faced and beady-browed, Upon his sultry scythe—thou tangible tune Of heat, whose waves incessantly arise Quivering and clear beneath the cloudless skies.
Thou singest, and upon his haggard hills Drouth yawns and rubs his heavy eyes and wakes; Brushes the hot hair from his face; and fills The land with death as sullenly he takes Downward his dusty way. 'Midst woods and fields At every pool his burning thirst he slakes: No grove so deep, no bank so high it shields A spring from him; no creek evades his eye: He needs but look and they are withered dry.
Thou singest, and thy song is as a spell Of somnolence to charm the land with sleep; A thorn of sound that pierces dale and dell, Diffusing slumber over vale and steep. Sleepy the forest, nodding sleepy boughs; Sleepy the pastures with their sleepy sheep: Sleepy the creek where sleepily the cows Stand knee-deep; and the very heaven seems Sleepy and lost in undetermined dreams.
Art thou a rattle that Monotony, Summer's dull nurse, old sister of slow Time, Shakes for Day's peevish pleasure, who in glee Takes its discordant music for sweet rhyme? Or oboe that the Summer Noontide plays, Sitting with Ripeness 'neath the orchard tree, Trying repeatedly the same shrill phrase, Until the musky peach with weariness Drops, and the hum of murmuring bees grows less?
THE DEAD DAY
The west builds high a sepulcher Of cloudy granite and of gold, Where twilight's priestly hours inter The Day like some great king of old.
A censer, rimmed with silver fire, The new moon swings above his tomb; While, organ-stops of God's own choir, Star after star throbs in the gloom.
And Night draws near, the sadly sweet— A nun whose face is calm and fair— And kneeling at the dead Day's feet Her soul goes up in mists like prayer.
In prayer, we feel through dewy gleam And flowery fragrance, and—above All earth—the ecstasy and dream That haunt the mystic heart of love.
THE OLD WATER MILL
Wild ridge on ridge the wooded hills arise, Between whose breezy vistas gulfs of skies Pilot great clouds like towering argosies, And hawk and buzzard breast the azure breeze. With many a foaming fall and glimmering reach Of placid murmur, under elm and beech, The creek goes twinkling through long gleams and glooms Of woodland quiet, summered with perfumes: The creek, in whose clear shallows minnow-schools Glitter or dart; and by whose deeper pools The blue kingfishers and the herons haunt; That, often startled from the freckled flaunt Of blackberry-lilies—where they feed or hide— Trail a lank flight along the forestside With eery clangor. Here a sycamore Smooth, wave-uprooted, builds from shore to shore A headlong bridge; and there, a storm-hurled oak Lays a long dam, where sand and gravel choke The water's lazy way. Here mistflower blurs Its bit of heaven; there the ox-eye stirs Its gloaming hues of pearl and gold; and here, A gray, cool stain, like dawn's own atmosphere, The dim wild carrot lifts its crumpled crest: And over all, at slender flight or rest, The dragonflies, like coruscating rays Of lapis-lazuli and chrysoprase, Drowsily sparkle through the summer days: And, dewlap-deep, here from the noontide heat The bell-hung cattle find a cool retreat; And through the willows girdling the hill, Now far, now near, borne as the soft winds will, Comes the low rushing of the water-mill.
Ah, lovely to me from a little child, How changed the place! wherein once, undefiled, The glad communion of the sky and stream Went with me like a presence and a dream. Where once the brambled meads and orchardlands, Poured ripe abundance down with mellow hands Of summer; and the birds of field and wood Called to me in a tongue I understood; And in the tangles of the old rail-fence Even the insect tumult had some sense, And every sound a happy eloquence: And more to me than wisest books can teach The wind and water said; whose words did reach My soul, addressing their magnificent speech,— Raucous and rushing,—from the old mill-wheel, That made the rolling mill-cogs snore and reel, Like some old ogre in a faerytale Nodding above his meat and mug of ale.
How memory takes me back the ways that lead— As when a boy—through woodland and through mead! To orchards fruited; or to fields in bloom; Or briery fallows, like a mighty room, Through which the winds swing censers of perfume, And where deep blackberries spread miles of fruit;— A wildwood feast, that stayed the plowboy's foot When to the tasseling acres of the corn He drove his team, fresh in the primrose morn; And from the liberal banquet, nature lent, Plucked dewy handfuls as he whistling went.—
A boy once more, I stand with sunburnt feet And watch the harvester sweep down the wheat; Or laze with warm limbs in the unstacked straw Near by the thresher, whose insatiate maw Devours the sheaves, hot-drawling out its hum— Like some great sleepy bee, above a bloom, Made drunk with honey—while, grown big with grain, The bulging sacks receive the golden rain. Again I tread the valley, sweet with hay, And hear the bobwhite calling far away, Or wood-dove cooing in the elder-brake; Or see the sassafras bushes madly shake As swift, a rufous instant, in the glen The red fox leaps and gallops to his den: Or, standing in the violet-colored gloam, Hear roadways sound with holiday riding home From church or fair, or country barbecue, Which half the county to some village drew.
How spilled with berries were its summer hills, And strewn with walnuts all its autumn rills!— And chestnuts too! burred from the spring's long flowers; June's, when their tree-tops streamed delirious showers Of blossoming silver, cool, crepuscular, And like a nebulous radiance shone afar.— And maples! how their sappy hearts would pour Rude troughs of syrup, when the winter hoar Steamed with the sugar-kettle, day and night, And, red, the snow was streaked with firelight. Then it was glorious! the mill-dam's edge One slope of frosty crystal, laid a ledge Of pearl across; above which, sleeted trees Tossed arms of ice, that, clashing in the breeze, Tinkled the ringing creek with icicles, Thin as the peal of far-off elfin bells: A sound that in my city dreams I hear, That brings before me, under skies that clear, The old mill in its winter garb of snow, Its frozen wheel like a hoar beard below, And its west windows, two deep eyes aglow.
Ah, ancient mill, still do I picture o'er Thy cobwebbed stairs and loft and grain-strewn floor; Thy door,—like some brown, honest hand of toil, And honorable with service of the soil,— Forever open; to which, on his back The prosperous farmer bears his bursting sack, And while the miller measures out his toll, Again I hear, above the cogs' loud roll,— That makes stout joist and rafter groan and sway,— The harmless gossip of the passing day: Good country talk, that says how so-and-so Lived, died, or wedded: how curculio And codling-moth play havoc with the fruit, Smut ruins the corn and blight the grapes to boot: Or what is news from town: next county fair: How well the crops are looking everywhere:— Now this, now that, on which their interests fix, Prospects for rain or frost, and politics. While, all around, the sweet smell of the meal Filters, warm-pouring from the rolling wheel Into the bin; beside which, mealy white, The miller looms, dim in the dusty light.
Again I see the miller's home between The crinkling creek and hills of beechen green: Again the miller greets me, gaunt and brown, Who oft o'erawed my boyhood with his frown And gray-browed mien: again he tries to reach My youthful soul with fervid scriptural speech.— For he, of all the countryside confessed, The most religious was and goodliest; A Methodist, who at all meetings led; Prayed with his family ere they went to bed. No books except the Bible had he read— At least so seemed it to my younger head.— All things of Heaven and Earth he'd prove by this, Be it a fact or mere hypothesis: For to his simple wisdom, reverent, "The Bible says" was all of argument.— God keep his soul! his bones were long since laid Among the sunken gravestones in the shade Of those dark-lichened rocks, that wall around The family burying-ground with cedars crowned: Where bristling teasel and the brier combine With clambering wood-rose and the wildgrape-vine To hide the stone whereon his name and dates Neglect, with mossy hand, obliterates.
With argosies of dawn he sails, And triremes of the dusk, The Seas of Song, whereon the gales Are myths that trail wild musk.
He hears the hail of Siren bands From headlands sunset-kissed; The Lotus-eaters wave pale hands Within a land of mist.
For many a league he hears the roar Of the Symplegades; And through the far foam of its shore The Isle of Sappho sees.
All day he looks, with hazy lids, At gods who cleave the deep; All night he hears the Nereids Sing their wild hearts asleep.
When heaven thunders overhead, And hell upheaves the Vast, Dim faces of the ocean's dead Gaze at him from each mast.
He but repeats the oracle That bade him first set sail; And cheers his soul with, "All is well! Go on! I will not fail."
Behold! he sails no earthly bark And on no earthly sea, Who down the years into the dark,— Divine of destiny,—
Holds to his purpose,—ships of Greece,— Ideal-steered afar, For whom awaits the Golden Fleece, The fame that is his star.
"THE MORN THAT BREAKS ITS HEART OF GOLD"
From an ode "In Commemoration of the Founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony."
The morn that breaks its heart of gold Above the purple hills; The eve, that spills Its nautilus splendor where the sea is rolled; The night, that leads the vast procession in Of stars and dreams,— The beauty that shall never die or pass:— The winds, that spin Of rain the misty mantles of the grass, And thunder raiment of the mountain-streams; The sunbeams, penciling with gold the dusk Green cowls of ancient woods; The shadows, thridding, veiled with musk, The moon-pathed solitudes, Call to my Fancy, saying, "Follow! follow!" Till, following, I see,— Fair as a cascade in a rainbowed hollow,— A dream, a shape, take form, Clad on with every charm,—
The vision of that Ideality, Which lured the pioneer in wood and hill, And beckoned him from earth and sky; The dream that cannot die, Their children's children did fulfill, In stone and iron and wood, Out of the solitude, And by a stalwart act Create a mighty fact— A Nation, now that stands Clad on with hope and beauty, strength and song, Eternal, young and strong, Planting her heel on wrong, Her starry banner in triumphant hands....
Within her face the rose Of Alleghany dawns; Limbed with Alaskan snows, Floridian starlight in her eyes,— Eyes stern as steel yet tender as a fawn's,— And in her hair The rapture of her rivers; and the dare, As perishless as truth, That o'er the crags of her Sierras flies, Urging the eagle ardor through her veins, Behold her where, Around her radiant youth,
The spirits of the cataracts and plains, The genii of the floods and forests, meet, In rainbow mists circling her brow and feet: The forces vast that sit In session round her; powers paraclete, That guard her presence; awful forms and fair, Making secure her place; Guiding her surely as the worlds through space Do laws sidereal; edicts, thunder-lit, Of skyed eternity, in splendor borne On planetary wings of night and morn.
* * * * *
From her high place she sees Her long procession of accomplished acts, Cloud-winged refulgences Of thoughts in steel and stone, of marble dreams, Lift up tremendous battlements, Sun-blinding, built of facts; While in her soul she seems, Listening, to hear, as from innumerable tents, AEonian thunder, wonder, and applause Of all the heroic ages that are gone; Feeling secure That, as her Past, her Future shall endure, As did her Cause When redly broke the dawn Of fierce rebellion, and, beneath its star, The firmaments of war Poured down infernal rain, And North and South lay bleeding mid their slain. And now, no less, shall her great Cause prevail, More so in peace than war, Through the thrilled wire and electric rail, Carrying her message far: Shaping her dream Within the brain of steam, That, with a myriad hands, Labors unceasingly, and knits her lands In firmer union; joining plain and stream With steel; and binding shore to shore With bands of iron;—nerves and arteries, Along whose adamant forever pour Her concrete thoughts, her tireless energies.
A VOICE ON THE WIND
She walks with the wind on the windy height When the rocks are loud and the waves are white, And all night long she calls through the night, "O my children, come home!" Her bleak gown, torn as a tattered cloud, Tosses around her like a shroud, While over the deep her voice rings loud,— "O my children, come home, come home! O my children, come home!"
Who is she who wanders alone, When the wind drives sheer and the rain is blown? Who walks all night and makes her moan, "O my children, come home!" Whose face is raised to the blinding gale; Whose hair blows black and whose eyes are pale, While over the world goes by her wail,— "O my children, come home, come home! O my children, come home!"
She walks with the wind in the windy wood; The dark rain drips from her hair and hood, And her cry sobs by, like a ghost pursued, "O my children, come home!" Where the trees loom gaunt and the rocks stretch drear, The owl and the fox crouch back with fear, As wild through the wood her voice they hear,— "O my children, come home, come home! O my children, come home!"
Who is she who shudders by When the boughs blow bare and the dead leaves fly? Who walks all night with her wailing cry, "O my children, come home!" Who, strange of look, and wild of tongue, With wan feet wounded and hands wild-wrung, Sweeps on and on with her cry, far-flung,— "O my children, come home, come home! O my children, come home!"
'Tis the Spirit of Autumn, no man sees, The mother of Death and of Mysteries, Who cries on the wind all night to these, "O my children, come home!" The Spirit of Autumn, pierced with pain, Calling her children home again, Death and Dreams, through ruin and rain,— "O my children, come home, come home! O my children, come home!"
No more for him, where hills look down, Shall Morning crown Her rainy brow with blossom bands!— The Morning Hours, whose rosy hands Drop wildflowers of the breaking skies Upon the sod 'neath which he lies.— No more for him! No more! No more!
No more for him, where waters sleep, Shall Evening heap The long gold of the perfect days! The Eventide, whose warm hand lays Great poppies of the afterglow Upon the turf he rests below.— No more for him! No more! no more!
No more for him, where woodlands loom, Shall Midnight bloom The star-flowered acres of the blue! The Midnight Hours, whose dim hands strew Dead leaves of darkness, hushed and deep, Upon the grave where he doth sleep.— No more for him! No more! No more!
The hills, that Morning's footsteps wake: The waves that take A brightness from the Eve; the woods And solitudes, o'er which Night broods, Their Spirits have, whose parts are one With him, whose mortal part is done. Whose part is done.
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.
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.
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 to 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 their pity and could only sigh.
And then his skiff ground on the river rocks. Whistling he came into the shadow made By that dead tree. He kissed her dark brown locks; And round her form his eager arms were laid. Passive she stood, her secret unbetrayed.
And then she spoke, while still his greeting kiss Ached in her hair. She did not dare to lift Her eyes to his—her anguished eyes to his, While tears smote crystal in her throat. One rift Of weakness humored might set all adrift.
Fields over which a path, overwhelmed with burrs And ragweeds, noisy with the grasshoppers, Leads,—lost, irresolute as paths the cows Wear through the woods,—unto a woodshed; then, With wrecks of windows, to a huddled house, Where men have murdered men.
A house, whose tottering chimney, clay and rock, Is seamed and crannied; whose lame door and lock Are bullet-bored; around which, there and here, Are sinister stains.—One dreads to look around.— The place seems thinking of that time of fear And dares not breathe a sound.
Within is emptiness: The sunlight falls On faded journals papering the walls; On advertisement chromos, torn with time, Around a hearth where wasps and spiders build.— The house is dead: meseems that night of crime It, too, was shot and killed.
We have sent him seeds of the melon's core, And nailed a warning upon his door: By the Ku Klux laws we can do no more.
Down in the hollow, 'mid crib and stack, The roof of his low-porched house looms black; Not a line of light at the door-sill's crack.
Yet arm and mount! and mask and ride! The hounds can sense though the fox may hide! And for a word too much men oft have died.
The clouds blow heavy toward the moon. The edge of the storm will reach it soon. The kildee cries and the lonesome loon.
The clouds shall flush with a wilder glare Than the lightning makes with its angled flare, When the Ku Klux verdict is given there.
In the pause of the thunder rolling low, A rifle's answer—who shall know From the wind's fierce hurl and the rain's black blow?
Only the signature, written grim At the end of the message brought to him— A hempen rope and a twisted limb.
So arm and mount! and mask and ride! The hounds can sense though the fox may hide!— For a word too much men oft have died.
The white moth-mullein brushed its slim Cool, faery flowers against his knee; In places where the way lay dim The branches, arching suddenly, Made tomblike mystery for him.
The wild-rose and the elder, drenched With rain, made pale a misty place,— From which, as from a ghost, he blenched; He walking with averted face, And lips in desolation clenched.
For far within the forest,—where Weird shadows stood like phantom men, And where the ground-hog dug its lair, The she-fox whelped and had her den,— The thing kept calling, buried there.
One dead trunk, like a ruined tower, Dark-green with toppling trailers, shoved Its wild wreck o'er the bush; one bower Looked like a dead man, capped and gloved, The one who haunted him each hour.
Now at his side he heard it: thin As echoes of a thought that speaks To conscience. Listening with his chin Upon his palm, against his cheeks He felt the moon's white finger win.
And now the voice was still: and lo, With eyes that stared on naught but night, He saw?—what none on earth shall know!— Was it the face that far from sight Had lain here, buried long ago?
But men who found him,—thither led By the wild fox,—within that place Read in his stony eyes, 'tis said, The thing he saw there, face to face, The thing that left him staring dead.
THE MAN HUNT
The woods stretch deep to the mountain side, And the brush is wild where a man may hide.
They have brought the bloodhounds up again To the roadside rock where they found the slain.
They have brought the bloodhounds up, and they Have taken the trail to the mountain way.
Three times they circled the trail and crossed; And thrice they found it and thrice they lost.
Now straight through the trees and the underbrush They follow the scent through the forest's hush.
And their deep-mouthed bay is a pulse of fear In the heart of the wood that the man must hear.
The man who crouches among the trees From the stern-faced men who follow these.
A huddle of rocks that the ooze has mossed, And the trail of the hunted again is lost.
An upturned pebble; a bit of ground A heel has trampled—the trail is found.
And the woods re-echo the bloodhounds' bay As again they take to the mountain way.
A rock; a ribbon of road; a ledge, With a pine tree clutching its crumbling edge.
A pine, that the lightning long since clave, Whose huge roots hollow a ragged cave.
A shout; a curse; and a face aghast; The human quarry is laired at last.
The human quarry with clay-clogged hair And eyes of terror who waits them there.
That glares and crouches and rising then Hurls clods and curses at dogs and men.
Until the blow of a gun-butt lays Him stunned and bleeding upon his face.
A rope; a prayer; and an oak-tree near, And a score of hands to swing him clear.
A grim, black thing for the setting sun And the moon and the stars to gaze upon.
If it so befalls that the midnight hovers In mist no moonlight breaks, The leagues of the years my spirit covers, And my self myself forsakes.
And I live in a land of stars and flowers, White cliffs by a silvery sea; And the pearly points of her opal towers From the mountains beckon me.
And I think that I know that I hear her calling From a casement bathed with light— Through music of waters in waters falling Mid palms from a mountain height.
And I feel that I think my love's awaited By the romance of her charms; That her feet are early and mine belated In a world that chains my arms.
But I break my chains and the rest is easy— In the shadow of the rose, Snow-white, that blooms in her garden breezy, We meet and no one knows.
And we dream sweet dreams and kiss sweet kisses; The world—it may live or die! The world that forgets; that never misses The life that has long gone by.
We speak old vows that have long been spoken; And weep a long-gone woe: For you must know our hearts were broken Hundreds of years ago.
A MAID WHO DIED OLD
Frail, shrunken face, so pinched and worn, That life has carved with care and doubt! So weary waiting, night and morn, For that which never came about! Pale lamp, so utterly forlorn, In which God's light at last is out.
Gray hair, that lies so thin and prim On either side the sunken brows! And soldered eyes, so deep and dim, No word of man could now arouse! And hollow hands, so virgin slim, Forever clasped in silent vows!
Poor breasts! that God designed for love, For baby lips to kiss and press; That never felt, yet dreamed thereof, The human touch, the child caress— That lie like shriveled blooms above The heart's long-perished happiness.
O withered body, Nature gave For purposes of death and birth, That never knew, and could but crave Those things perhaps that make life worth,— Rest now, alas! within the grave, Sad shell that served no end of Earth.
BALLAD OF LOW-LIE-DOWN
John-A-Dreams and Harum-Scarum Came a-riding into town: At the Sign o' the Jug-and-Jorum There they met with Low-lie-down.
Brave in shoes of Romany leather, Bodice blue and gypsy gown, And a cap of fur and feather, In the inn sat Low-lie-down.
Harum-Scarum kissed her lightly; Smiled into her eyes of brown: Clasped her waist and held her tightly, Laughing, "Love me, Low-lie-down!"
Then with many an oath and swagger, As a man of great renown, On the board he clapped his dagger, Called for sack and sat him down.
So a while they laughed together; Then he rose and with a frown Sighed, "While still 'tis pleasant weather, I must leave thee, Low-lie-down."
So away rode Harum-Scarum; With a song rode out of town; At the Sign o' the Jug-and-Jorum Weeping tarried Low-lie-down.
Then this John-a-dreams, in tatters, In his pocket ne'er a crown, Touched her, saying, "Wench, what matters! Dry your eyes and, come, sit down.
"Here's my hand: we'll roam together, Far away from thorp and town. Here's my heart,—for any weather,— And my dreams, too, Low-lie-down.
"Some men call me dreamer, poet: Some men call me fool and clown— What I am but you shall know it, Only you, sweet Low-lie-down."
For a little while she pondered: Smiled: then said, "Let care go drown!" Up and kissed him.... Forth they wandered, John-a-dreams and Low-lie-down.
Thus have I pictured her:—In Arden old A white-browed maiden with a falcon eye, Rose-flushed of face, with locks of wind-blown gold, Teaching her hawks to fly.
Or, 'mid her boar-hounds, panting with the heat, In huntsman green, sounding the hunt's wild prize, Plumed, dagger-belted, while beneath her feet The spear-pierced monster dies.
Or in Breceliand, on some high tower, Clad white in samite, last of her lost race, My soul beholds her, lovelier than a flower, Gazing with pensive face.
Or, robed in raiment of romantic lore, Like Oriana, dark of eye and hair, Riding through realms of legend evermore, And ever young and fair.
Or now like Bradamant, as brave as just, In complete steel, her pure face lit with scorn, At giant castles, dens of demon lust, Winding her bugle-horn.
Another Una; and in chastity A second Britomart; in beauty far O'er her who led King Charles's chivalry And Paynim lands to war....
Now she, from Avalon's deep-dingled bowers,— 'Mid which white stars and never-waning moons Make marriage; and dim lips of musk-mouthed flowers Sigh faint and fragrant tunes,—
Implores me follow; and, in shadowy shapes Of sunset, shows me,—mile on misty mile Of purple precipice,—all the haunted capes Of her enchanted isle.
Where, bowered in bosks and overgrown with vine, Upon a headland breasting violet seas, Her castle towers, like a dream divine, With stairs and galleries.
And at her casement, Circe-beautiful, Above the surgeless reaches of the deep, She sits, while, in her gardens, fountains lull The perfumed wind asleep.
Or, round her brow a diadem of spars, She leans and hearkens, from her raven height, The nightingales that, choiring to the stars, Take with wild song the night.
Or, where the moon is mirrored in the waves, To mark, deep down, the Sea King's city rolled, Wrought of huge shells and labyrinthine caves, Ribbed pale with pearl and gold.
There doth she wait forever; and the kings Of all the world have wooed her: but she cares For none but him, the Love, that dreams and sings, That sings and dreams and dares.
AMADIS AND ORIANA
From "Beltenebros at Miraflores"
O sunset, from the springs of stars Draw down thy cataracts of gold; And belt their streams with burning bars Of ruby on which flame is rolled: Drench dingles with laburnum light; Drown every vale in violet blaze: Rain rose-light down; and, poppy-bright, Die downward o'er the hills of haze, And bring at last the stars of night!
The stars and moon! that silver world, Which, like a spirit, faces west, Her foam-white feet with light empearled, Bearing white flame within her breast: Earth's sister sphere of fire and snow, Who shows to Earth her heart's pale heat, And bids her mark its pulses glow, And hear their crystal currents beat With beauty, lighting all below.
O cricket, with thy elfin pipe, That tinkles in the grass and grain; And dove-pale buds, that, dropping, stripe The glen's blue night, and smell of rain; O nightingale, that so dost wail On yonder blossoming branch of snow, Thrill, fill the wild deer-haunted dale, Where Oriana, walking slow, Comes, thro' the moonlight, dreamy pale.
She comes to meet me!—Earth and air Grow radiant with another light. In her dark eyes and her dark hair Are all the stars and all the night: She comes! I clasp her!—and it is As if no grief had ever been.— In all the world for us who kiss There are no other women or men But Oriana and Amadis.
The tripod flared with a purple spark, And the mist hung emerald in the dark: Now he stooped to the lilac flame Over the glare of the amber embers, Thrice to utter no earthly name; Thrice, like a mind that half remembers; Bathing his face in the magic mist Where the brilliance burned like an amethyst.
"Sylph, whose soul was born of mine, Born of the love that made me thine, Once more flash on my eyes! Again Be the loved caresses taken! Lip to lip let our forms remain!— Here in the circle sense, awaken! Ere spirit meet spirit, the flesh laid by, Let me touch thee, and let me die."
Sunset heavens may burn, but never Know such splendor! There bloomed an ever Opaline orb, where the sylphid rose A shape of luminous white; diviner White than the essence of light that sows The moons and suns through space; and finer Than radiance born of a shooting-star, Or the wild Aurora that streams afar.
"Look on the face of the soul to whom Thou givest thy soul like added perfume! Thou, who heard'st me, who long had prayed, Waiting alone at morning's portal!— Thus on thy lips let my lips be laid, Love, who hast made me all immortal! Give me thine arms now! Come and rest Weariness out on my beaming breast!"
Was it her soul? or the sapphire fire That sang like the note of a seraph's lyre? Out of her mouth there fell no word— She spake with her soul, as a flower speaketh.
Fragrant messages none hath heard, Which the sense divines when the spirit seeketh.... And he seemed alone in a place so dim That the spirit's face, who was gazing at him, For its burning eyes he could not see: Then he knew he had died; that she and he Were one; and he saw that this was she.
THE AGE OF GOLD
The clouds that tower in storm, that beat Arterial thunder in their veins; The wildflowers lifting, shyly sweet, Their perfect faces from the plains,— All high, all lowly things of Earth For no vague end have had their birth.
Low strips of mist that mesh the moon Above the foaming waterfall; And mountains, that God's hand hath hewn, And forests, where the great winds call,— Within the grasp of such as see Are parts of a conspiracy;
To seize the soul with beauty; hold The heart with love: and thus fulfill Within ourselves the Age of Gold, That never died, and never will,— As long as one true nature feels The wonders that the world reveals.
BEAUTY AND ART
The gods are dead; but still for me Lives on in wildwood brook and tree Each myth, each old divinity.
For me still laughs among the rocks The Naiad; and the Dryad's locks Drop perfume on the wildflower flocks.
The Satyr's hoof still prints the loam; And, whiter than the wind-blown foam, The Oread haunts her mountain home.
To him, whose mind is fain to dwell With loveliness no time can quell, All things are real, imperishable.
To him—whatever facts may say— Who sees the soul beneath the clay, Is proof of a diviner day.
The very stars and flowers preach A gospel old as God, and teach Philosophy a child may reach;
That cannot die; that shall not cease; That lives through idealities Of Beauty, ev'n as Rome and Greece.
That lifts the soul above the clod, And, working out some period Of art, is part and proof of God.
THE SEA SPIRIT
Ah me! I shall not waken soon From dreams of such divinity! A spirit singing 'neath the moon To me.
Wild sea-spray driven of the storm Is not so wildly white as she, Who beckoned with a foam-white arm To me.
With eyes dark green, and golden-green Long locks that rippled drippingly, Out of the green wave she did lean To me.
And sang; till Earth and Heaven seemed A far, forgotten memory, And more than Heaven in her who gleamed On me.
Sleep, sweeter than love's face or home; And death's immutability; And music of the plangent foam, For me!
Sweep over her! with all thy ships, With all thy stormy tides, O sea!— The memory of immortal lips For me!
"Succinctae sacra Dianae".—OVID
There the ragged sunlight lay Tawny on thick ferns and gray On dark waters: dimmer, Lone and deep, the cypress grove Bowered mystery and wove Braided lights, like those that love On the pearl plumes of a dove Faint to gleam and glimmer.
There centennial pine and oak Into stormy cadence broke: Hollow rocks gloomed, slanting, Echoing in dim arcade, Looming with long moss, that made Twilight streaks in tatters laid: Where the wild hart, hunt-affrayed, Plunged the water, panting.
Poppies of a sleepy gold Mooned the gray-green darkness rolled Down its vistas, making Wisp-like blurs of flame. And pale Stole the dim deer down the vale: And the haunting nightingale Throbbed unseen—the olden tale All its wild heart breaking.
There the hazy serpolet, Dewy cistus, blooming wet, Blushed on bank and bowlder; There the cyclamen, as wan As first footsteps of the dawn, Carpeted the spotted lawn: Where the nude nymph, dripping drawn, Basked a wildflower shoulder.
In the citrine shadows there What tall presences and fair, Godlike, stood!—or, gracious As the rock-rose there that grew, Delicate and dim as dew, Stepped from boles of oaks, and drew Faunlike forms to follow, who Filled the forest spacious!—
Guarding that Boeotian Valley so no foot of man Soiled its silence holy With profaning tread—save one, The Hyantian: Actaeon, Who beheld, and might not shun Pale Diana's wrath; undone By his own mad folly.
Lost it lies—that valley: sleeps In serene enchantment; keeps Beautiful its banished Bowers that no man may see; Fountains that her deity Haunts, and every rock and tree Where her hunt goes swinging free As in ages vanished.
THE DEAD OREAD
Her heart is still and leaps no more With holy passion when the breeze, Her whilom playmate, as before, Comes with the language of the bees, Sad songs her mountain cedars sing, And water-music murmuring.
Her calm white feet,—erst fleet and fast As Daphne's when a god pursued,— No more will dance like sunlight past The gold-green vistas of the wood, Where every quailing floweret Smiled into life where they were set.
Hers were the limbs of living light, And breasts of snow; as virginal As mountain drifts; and throat as white As foam of mountain waterfall; And hyacinthine curls, that streamed Like crag-born mists, and gloomed and gleamed.
Her presence breathed such scents as haunt Moist, mountain dells and solitudes; Aromas wild as some wild plant That fills with sweetness all the woods: And comradeships of stars and skies Shone in the azure of her eyes.
Her grave be by a mossy rock Upon the top of some wild hill, Removed, remote from men who mock The myths and dreams of life they kill: Where all of beauty, naught of lust May guard her solitary dust.
The joys that touched thee once, be mine! The sympathies of sky and sea, The friendships of each rock and pine, That made thy lonely life, ah me! In Tempe or in Gargaphie.
Such joy as thou didst feel when first, On some wild crag, thou stood'st alone To watch the mountain tempest burst, With streaming thunder, lightning-sown, On Latmos or on Pelion.
Thy awe! when, crowned with vastness, Night And Silence ruled the deep's abyss; And through dark leaves thou saw'st the white Breasts of the starry maids who kiss Pale feet of moony Artemis.
Thy dreams! when, breasting matted weeds Of Arethusa, thou didst hear The music of the wind-swept reeds; And down dim forest-ways drew near Shy herds of slim Arcadian deer.
Thy wisdom! that knew naught but love And beauty, with which love is fraught; The wisdom of the heart—whereof All noblest passions spring—that thought As Nature thinks, "All else is naught."
Thy hope! wherein To-morrow set No shadow; hope, that, lacking care And retrospect, held no regret, But bloomed in rainbows everywhere, Filling with gladness all the air.
These were thine all: in all life's moods Embracing all of happiness: And when within thy long-loved woods Didst lay thee down to die—no less Thy happiness stood by to bless.
THE PAPHIAN VENUS
With anxious eyes and dry, expectant lips, Within the sculptured stoa by the sea, All day she waited while, like ghostly ships, Long clouds rolled over Paphos: the wild bee Hung in the sultry poppy, half asleep, Beside the shepherd and his drowsy sheep.
White-robed she waited day by day; alone With the white temple's shrined concupiscence, The Paphian goddess on her obscene throne, Binding all chastity to violence, All innocence to lust that feels no shame— Venus Mylitta born of filth and flame.
So must they haunt her marble portico, The devotees of Paphos, passion-pale As moonlight streaming through the stormy snow; Dark eyes desirous of the stranger sail, The gods shall bring across the Cyprian Sea, With him elected to their mastery.
A priestess of the temple came, when eve Blazed, like a satrap's triumph, in the west;
And watched her listening to the ocean's heave, Dusk's golden glory on her face and breast, And in her hair the rosy wind's caress,— Pitying her dedicated tenderness.
When out of darkness night persuades the stars, A dream shall bend above her saying, "Soon A barque shall come with purple sails and spars, Sailing from Tarsus 'neath a low white moon; And thou shalt see one in a robe of Tyre Facing toward thee like the god Desire.
"Rise then! as, clad in starlight, riseth Night— Thy nakedness clad on with loveliness! So shalt thou see him, like the god Delight, Breast through the foam and climb the cliff to press Hot lips to thine and lead thee in before Love's awful presence where ye shall adore."
Thus at her heart the vision entered in, With lips of lust the lips of song had kissed, And eyes of passion laughing with sweet sin, A shimmering splendor robed in amethyst,— Seen like that star set in the glittering gloam,— Venus Mylitta born of fire and foam.
So shall she dream until, near middle night,— When on the blackness of the ocean's rim The moon, like some war-galleon all alight With blazing battle, from the sea shall swim,— A shadow, with inviolate lips and eyes, Shall rise before her speaking in this wise:
"So hast thou heard the promises of one,— Of her, with whom the God of gods is wroth,— For whom was prophesied at Babylon The second death—Chaldaean Mylidoth! Whose feet take hold on darkness and despair, Hissing destruction in her heart and hair.
"Wouldst thou behold the vessel she would bring?— A wreck! ten hundred years have smeared with slime: A hulk! where all abominations cling, The spawn and vermin of the seas of time: Wild waves have rotted it; fierce suns have scorched; Mad winds have tossed and stormy stars have torched.
"Can lust give birth to love? The vile and foul Be mother to beauty? Lo! can this thing be?— A monster like a man shall rise and howl Upon the wreck across the crawling sea, Then plunge; and swim unto thee; like an ape, A beast all belly.—Thou canst not escape!"
Gone was the shadow with the suffering brow; And in the temple's porch she lay and wept, Alone with night, the ocean, and her vow.— Then up the east the moon's full splendor swept, And dark between it—wreck or argosy?— A sudden vessel far away at sea.
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.