Part 4 out of 4
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.
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.
From Bassora I came. We saw
Her eagle 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.
Lamenting caverns dark, that keep
Sonorous echoes of the deep,
Led upward to her castle steep....
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.
She was a queen. 'Midst mutes and slaves,
A mameluke, he loved her.----Waves
Dashed not more hopelessly the paves
Of her high marble palace-stair
Than lashed his love his heart's despair.--
As souls in Hell dream Paradise,
He suffered yet forgot it there
Beneath Rommaneh's houri eyes.
With passion eating at his heart
He served her beauty, but dared dart
No amorous glance, nor word impart.--
Taifi leather's perfumed tan
Beneath her, on a low divan
She lay 'mid cushions stuffed with down:
A slave-girl with an ostrich fan
Sat by her in a golden gown.
She bade him sing. Fair lutanist,
She loved his voice. With one white wrist,
Hooped with a blaze of amethyst,
She raised her ruby-crusted lute:
Gold-welted stuff, like some rich fruit,
Her raiment, diamond-showered, rolled
Folds pigeon-purple, whence one foot
Drooped in an anklet-twist of gold.
He stood and sang with all the fire
That boiled within his blood's desire,
That made him all her slave yet higher:
And at the end his passion durst
Quench with one burning kiss its thirst.--
O eunuchs, did her face show scorn
When through his heart your daggers burst?
And dare ye say he died forlorn?
He waited till within her tower
Her taper signalled him the hour.
He was a prince both fair and brave.--
What hope that he would love _her_ slave!
He of the Persian dynasty;
And she a Queen of Araby!--
No Peri singing to a star
Upon the sea were lovelier....
I helped her drop the silken rope.
He clomb, aflame with love and hope.
I drew the dagger from my gown
And cut the ladder, leaning down.
Oh, wild his face, and wild the fall:
Her cry was wilder than them all.
I heard her cry; I heard him moan;
And stood as merciless as stone.
The eunuchs came: fierce scimitars
Stirred in the torch-lit corridors.
She spoke like one who speaks in sleep,
And bade me strike or she would leap.
I bade her leap: the time was short:
And kept the dagger for my heart.
She leapt.... I put their blades aside,
And smiling in their faces--died.
In some quaint Nurnberg _maler-atelier_
Uprummaged. When and where was never clear
Nor yet how he obtained it. When, by whom
'Twas painted--who shall say? itself a gloom
Resisting inquisition. I opine
It is a Duerer. Mark that touch, this line;
Are they deniable?--Distinguished grace
Of the pure oval of the noble face
Tarnished in color badly. Half in light
Extend it so. Incline. The exquisite
Expression leaps abruptly: piercing scorn;
Imperial beauty; each, an icy thorn
Of light, disdainful eyes and ... well! no use!
Effaced and but beheld! a sad abuse
Of patience.--Often, vaguely visible,
The portrait fills each feature, making swell
The heart with hope: avoiding face and hair
Start out in living hues; astonished, "There!--
The picture lives!" your soul exults, when, lo!
You hold a blur; an undetermined glow
Dislimns a daub.--"Restore?"--Ah, I have tried
Our best restorers, and it has defied.
Storied, mysterious, say, perhaps a ghost
Lives in the canvas; hers, some artist lost;
A duchess', haply. Her he worshiped; dared
Not tell he worshiped. From his window stared
Of Nuremberg one sunny morn when she
Passed paged to court. Her cold nobility
Loved, lived for like a purpose. Seized and plied
A feverish brush--her face!--Despaired and died.
The narrow Judengasse: gables frown
Around a humpbacked usurer's, where brown,
Neglected in a corner, long it lay,
Heaped in a pile of riff-raff, such as--say,
Retables done in tempera and old
Panels by Wohlgemuth; stiff paintings cold
Of martyrs and apostles,--names forgot,--
Holbeins and Duerers, say; a haloed lot
Of praying saints, madonnas: these, perchance,
'Mid wine-stained purples, mothed; an old romance;
A crucifix and rosary; inlaid
Arms, Saracen-elaborate; a strayed
Niello of Byzantium; rich work,
In bronze, of Florence: here a murderous dirk,
There holy patens.
The first De Herancour, esteemed by far
This piece most precious, most desirable;
Purchased and brought to Paris. It looked well
In the dark paneling above the old
Hearth of the room. The head's religious gold,
The soft severity of the nun face,
Made of the room an apostolic place
Revered and feared.--
Like some lived scene I see
That Gothic room: its Flemish tapestry;
Embossed within the marble hearth a shield,
Carved 'round with thistles; in its argent field
Three sable mallets--arms of Herancour--
Topped with the crest, a helm and hands that bore,
Outstretched, two mallets. On a lectern laid,--
Between two casements, lozenge-paned, embayed,--
A vellum volume of black-lettered text.
Near by a taper, winking as if vexed
With silken gusts a nervous curtain sends,
Behind which, haply, daggered Murder bends.
And then I seem to see again the hall;
The stairway leading to that room.--Then all
The terror of that night of blood and crime
Passes before me.--
It is Catherine's time:
The house De Herancour's. On floors, splashed red,
Torchlight of Medicean wrath is shed.
Down carven corridors and rooms,--where couch
And chairs lie shattered and black shadows crouch
Torch-pierced with fear,--a sound of swords draws near--
The stir of searching steel.
What find they here,
Torch-bearer, swordsman, and fierce halberdier,
On St. Bartholomew's?--A Huguenot!
Dead in his chair! Eyes, violently shot
With horror, glaring at the portrait there:
Coiling his neck a blood line, like a hair
Of finest fire. The portrait, like a fiend,--
Looking exalted visitation,--leaned
From its black panel; in its eyes a hate
Satanic; hair--a glowing auburn; late
A dull, enduring golden.
"Just one thread
Of the fierce hair around his throat," they said,
"Twisting a burning ray; he--staring dead."
THE BLACK KNIGHT
I had not found the road too short,
As once I had in days of youth,
In that old forest of long ruth,
Where my young knighthood broke its heart,
Ere love and it had come to part,
And lies made mockery of truth.
I had not found the road too short.
A blind man, by the nightmare way,
Had set me right when I was wrong.--
I had been blind my whole life long--
What wonder then that on this day
The blind should show me how astray
My strength had gone, my heart once strong.
A blind man pointed me the way.
The road had been a heartbreak one,
Of roots and rocks and tortured trees,
And pools, above my horse's knees,
And wandering paths, where spiders spun
'Twixt boughs that never saw the sun,
And silence of lost centuries.
The road had been a heartbreak one.
It seemed long years since that black hour
When she had fled, and I took horse
To follow, and without remorse
To slay her and her paramour
In that old keep, that ruined tower,
From whence was borne her father's corse.
It seemed long years since that black hour.
And now my horse was starved and spent,
My gallant destrier, old and spare;
The vile road's mire in mane and hair,
I felt him totter as he went:--
Such hungry woods were never meant
For pasture: hate had reaped them bare.
Aye, my poor beast was old and spent.
I too had naught to stay me with;
And like my horse was starved and lean;
My armor gone; my raiment mean;
Bare-haired I rode; uneasy sith
The way I'd lost, and some dark myth
Far in the woods had laughed obscene.
I had had naught to stay me with.
Then I dismounted. Better so.
And found that blind man at my rein.
And there the path stretched straight and plain.
I saw at once the way to go.
The forest road I used to know
In days when life had less of pain.
Then I dismounted. Better so.
I had but little time to spare,
Since evening now was drawing near;
And then I thought I saw a sneer
Enter into that blind man's stare:
And suddenly a thought leapt bare,--
What if the Fiend had set him here!--
I still might smite him or might spare.
I braced my sword: then turned to look:
For I had heard an evil laugh:
The blind man, leaning on his staff,
Still stood there where my leave I took:
What! did he mock me? Would I brook
A blind fool's scorn?--My sword was half
Out of its sheath. I turned to look:
And he was gone. And to my side
My horse came nickering as afraid.
Did he too fear to be betrayed?--
What use for him? I might not ride.
So to a great bough there I tied,
And left him in the forest glade:
My spear and shield I left beside.
My sword was all I needed there.
It would suffice to right my wrongs;
To cut the knot of all those thongs
With which she'd bound me to despair,
That woman with her midnight hair,
Her Circe snares and Siren songs.
My sword was all I needed there.
And then that laugh again I heard,
Evil as Hell and darkness are.
It shook my heart behind its bar
Of purpose, like some ghastly word.
But then it may have been a bird,
An owlet in the forest far,
A raven, croaking, that I heard.
I loosed my sword within its sheath;
My sword, disuse and dews of night
Had fouled with rust and iron-blight.
I seemed to hear the forest breathe
A menace at me through its teeth
Of thorns 'mid which the way lay white.
I loosed my sword within its sheath.
I had not noticed until now
The sun was gone, and gray the moon
Hung staring; pale as marble hewn;--
Like some old malice, bleak of brow,
It glared at me through leaf and bough,
With which the tattered way was strewn.
I had not noticed until now.
And then, all unexpected, vast
Above the tops of ragged pines
I saw a ruin, dark with vines,
Against the blood-red sunset massed:
My perilous tower of the past,
Round which the woods thrust giant spines.
I never knew it was so vast.
Long while I stood considering.--
This was the place and this the night.
The blind man then had set me right.
Here she had come for sheltering.
That ruin held her: that dark wing
Which flashed a momentary light.
Some time I stood considering.
Deep darkness fell. The somber glare
Of sunset, that made cavernous eyes
Of those gaunt casements 'gainst the skies,
Had burnt to ashes everywhere.
Before my feet there rose a stair
Of oozy stone, of giant size,
On which the gray moon flung its glare.
Then I went forward, sword in hand,
Until the slimy causeway loomed,
And huge beyond it yawned and gloomed
The gateway where one seemed to stand,
In armor, like a burning brand,
Sword-drawn; his visor barred and plumed.
And I went toward him, sword in hand.
He should not stay revenge from me.
Whatever lord or knight he were,
He should not keep me long from her,
That woman dyed in infamy.
No matter. God or devil he,
His sword should prove no barrier.--
Fool! who would keep revenge from me!
And then I heard, harsh over all,
That demon laughter, filled with scorn:
It woke the echoes, wild, forlorn,
Dark in the ivy of that wall,
As when, within a mighty hall,
One blows a giant battle-horn.
Loud, loud that laugh rang over all.
And then I struck him where he towered:
I struck him, struck with all my hate:
Black-plumed he loomed before the gate:
I struck, and found his sword that showered
Fierce flame on mine while black he glowered
Behind his visor's wolfish grate.
I struck; and taller still he towered.
A year meseemed we battled there:
A year; ten years; a century:
My blade was snapped; his lay in three:
His mail was hewn; and everywhere
Was blood; it streaked my face and hair;
And still he towered over me.
A year meseemed we battled there.
"Unmask!" I cried. "Yea, doff thy casque!
Put up thy visor! fight me fair!
I have no mail; my head is bare!
Take off thy helm, is all I ask!
Why dost thou hide thy face?--Unmask!"--
My eyes were blind with blood and hair,
And still I cried, "Take off thy casque!"
And then once more that laugh rang out
Like madness in the caves of Hell:
It hooted like some monster well,
The haunt of owls, or some mad rout
Of witches. And with battle shout
Once more upon that knight I fell,
While wild again that laugh rang out.
Like Death's own eyes his glared in mine,
As with the fragment of my blade
I smote him helmwise; huge he swayed,
Then crashed, like some cadaverous pine,
Uncasqued, his face in full moonshine:
And I--I saw; and shrank afraid.
For, lo! behold! the face was mine.
What devil's work was here!--What jest
For fiends to laugh at, demons hiss!--
To slay myself? and so to miss
My hate's reward?--revenge confessed!--
Was this knight I?--My brain I pressed.--
Then who was he who gazed on this?--
What devil's work was here!----What jest!
It was myself on whom I gazed--
My darker self!--With fear I rose.--
I was right weak from those great blows.--
I stood bewildered, stunned and dazed,
And looked around with eyes amazed.--
I could not slay her now, God knows!--
Around me there a while I gazed.
Then turned and fled into the night,
While overhead once more I heard
That laughter, like some demon bird
Wailing in darkness.--Then a light
Made clear a woman by that knight.
I saw 'twas she, but said no word,
And silent fled into the night.
I remember, when a child,
How within the April wild
Once I walked with Mystery
In the groves of Arcady....
Through the boughs, before, behind,
Swept the mantle of the wind,
Thunderous and unconfined.
Overhead the curving moon
Pierced the twilight: a cocoon,
Golden, big with unborn wings--
Beauty, shaping spiritual things,
Vague, impatient of the night,
Eager for its heavenward flight
Out of darkness into light.
Here and there the oaks assumed
Satyr aspects; shadows gloomed,
Hiding, of a dryad look;
And the naiad-frantic brook,
Crying, fled the solitude,
Filled with terror of the wood,
Or some faun-thing that pursued.
In the dead leaves on the ground
Crept a movement; rose a sound:
Everywhere the silence ticked
As with hands of things that picked
At the loam, or in the dew,--
Elvish sounds that crept or flew,--
Beak-like, pushing surely through.
Down the forest, overhead,
Stammering a dead leaf fled,
Filled with elemental fear
Of some dark destruction near--
One, whose glowworm eyes I saw
Hag with flame the crooked haw,
Which the moon clutched like a claw.
Gradually beneath the tree
Grew a shape; a nudity:
Lithe and slender; silent as
Growth of tree or blade of grass;
Brown and silken as the bloom
Of the trillium in the gloom,
Visible as strange perfume.
For an instant there it stood,
Smiling on me in the wood:
And I saw its hair was green
As the leaf-sheath, gold of sheen:
And its eyes an azure wet,
From within which seemed to jet
Sapphire lights and violet.
Swiftly by I saw it glide;
And the dark was deified:
Wild before it everywhere
Gleamed the greenness of its hair;
And around it danced a light,
Soft, the sapphire of its sight,
Making witchcraft of the night.
On the branch above, the bird
Trilled to it a dreamy word:
In its bud the wild bee droned
Honeyed greeting, drowsy-toned:
And the brook forgot the gloom,
Hushed its heart, and, wrapped in bloom,
Breathed a welcome of perfume.
To its beauty bush and tree
Stretched sweet arms of ecstasy;
And the soul within the rock
Lichen-treasures did unlock
As upon it fell its eye;
And the earth, that felt it nigh,
Into wildflowers seemed to sigh....
Was it dryad? was it faun?
Wandered from the times long gone.
Was it sylvan? was it fay?--
Dim survivor of the day
When Religion peopled streams,
Woods and rocks with shapes like gleams,--
That invaded then my dreams?
Was it shadow? was it shape?
Or but fancy's wild escape?--
Of my own child's world the charm
That assumed material form?--
Of my soul the mystery,
That the spring revealed to me,
There in long-lost Arcady?
Whether it be that we in letters trace
The pure exactness of a wood bird's strain,
And name it song; or with the brush attain
The high perfection of a wildflower's face;
Or mold in difficult marble all the grace
We know as man; or from the wind and rain
Catch elemental rapture of refrain
And mark in music to due time and place:
The aim of Art is Nature; to unfold
Her truth and beauty to the souls of men
In close suggestions; in whose forms is cast
Nothing so new but 'tis long eons old;
Nothing so old but 'tis as young as when
The mind conceived it in the ages past.
This is the tomboy month of all the year,
March, who comes shouting o'er the winter hills,
Waking the world with laughter, as she wills,
Or wild halloos, a windflower in her ear.
She stops a moment by the half-thawed mere
And whistles to the wind, and straightway shrills
The hyla's song, and hoods of daffodils
Crowd golden round her, leaning their heads to hear.
Then through the woods, that drip with all their eaves,
Her mad hair blown about her, loud she goes
Singing and calling to the naked trees;
And straight the oilets of the little leaves
Open their eyes in wonder, rows on rows,
And the first bluebird bugles to the breeze.
Corn-colored clouds upon a sky of gold,
And 'mid their sheaves,--where, like a daisy-bloom
Left by the reapers to the gathering gloom,
The star of twilight glows,--as Ruth, 'tis told,
Dreamed homesick 'mid the harvest fields of old,
The Dusk goes gleaning color and perfume
From Bible slopes of heaven, that illume
Her pensive beauty deep in shadows stoled.
Hushed is the forest; and blue vale and hill
Are still, save for the brooklet, sleepily
Stumbling the stone with one foam-fluttering foot:
Save for the note of one far whippoorwill,
And in my heart _her_ name,--like some sweet bee
Within a rose,--blowing a faery flute.
Those hewers of the clouds, the Winds,--that lair
At the four compass-points,--are out to-night;
I hear their sandals trample on the height,
I hear their voices trumpet through the air:
Builders of storm, God's workmen, now they bear,
Up the steep stair of sky, on backs of might,
Huge tempest bulks, while,--sweat that blinds heir sight,--
The rain is shaken from tumultuous hair:
Now, sweepers of the firmament, they broom,
Like gathered dust, the rolling mists along
Heaven's floors of sapphire; all the beautiful blue
Of skyey corridor and celestial room
Preparing, with large laughter and loud song,
For the white moon and stars to wander through.
LIGHT AND WIND
Where, through the myriad leaves of forest trees,
The daylight falls, beryl and chrysoprase,
The glamour and the glimmer of its rays
Seem visible music, tangible melodies:
Light that is music; music that one sees--
Wagnerian music--where forever sways
The spirit of romance, and gods and fays
Take form, clad on with dreams and mysteries.
And now the wind's transmuting necromance
Touches the light and makes it fall and rise,
Vocal, a harp of multitudinous waves
That speaks as ocean speaks--an utterance
Of far-off whispers, mermaid-murmuring sighs--
Pelagian, vast, deep down in coral caves.
The deep seclusion of this forest path,--
O'er which the green boughs weave a canopy;
Along which bluet and anemone
Spread dim a carpet; where the Twilight hath
Her cool abode; and, sweet as aftermath,
Wood-fragrance roams,--has so enchanted me,
That yonder blossoming bramble seems to be
A Sylvan resting, rosy from her bath:
Has so enspelled me with tradition's dreams,
That every foam-white stream that, twinkling, flows,
And every bird that flutters wings of tan,
Or warbles hidden, to my fancy seems
A Naiad dancing to a Faun who blows
Wild woodland music on the pipes of Pan.
The hornets build in plaster-dropping rooms,
And on its mossy porch the lizard lies;
Around its chimneys slow the swallow flies,
And on its roof the locusts snow their blooms.
Like some sad thought that broods here, old perfumes
Haunt its dim stairs; the cautious zephyr tries
Each gusty door, like some dead hand, then sighs
With ghostly lips among the attic glooms.
And now a heron, now a kingfisher,
Flits in the willows where the riffle seems
At each faint fall to hesitate to leap,
Fluttering the silence with a little stir.
Here Summer seems a placid face asleep,
And the near world a figment of her dreams.
AFTER LONG GRIEF
There is a place hung o'er of summer boughs
And dreamy skies wherein the gray hawk sleeps;
Where water flows, within whose lazy deeps,
Like silvery prisms where the sunbeams drowse,
The minnows twinkle; where the bells of cows
Tinkle the stillness; and the bobwhite keeps
Calling from meadows where the reaper reaps,
And children's laughter haunts an oldtime house:
A place where life wears ever an honest smell
Of hay and honey, sun and elder-bloom,--
Like some sweet, simple girl,--within her hair;
Where, with our love for comrade, we may dwell
Far from the city's strife, whose cares consume.--
Oh, take my hand and let me lead you there.
Bleak, in dark rags of clouds, the day begins,
That passed so splendidly but yesterday,
Wrapped in magnificence of gold and gray,
And poppy and rose. Now, burdened as with sins,
Their wildness clad in fogs, like coats of skins,
Tattered and streaked with rain; gaunt, clogged with clay,
The mendicant Hours take their somber way
Westward o'er Earth, to which no sunray wins.
Their splashing sandals ooze; their foosteps drip,
Puddle and brim with moisture; their sad hair
Is tagged with haggard drops, that with their eyes'
Slow streams are blent; each sullen fingertip
Rivers; while round them, in the grief-drenched air
Wearies the wind of their perpetual sighs.
THE END OF SUMMER
Pods the poppies, and slim spires of pods
The hollyhocks; the balsam's pearly bredes
Of rose-stained snow are little sacs of seeds
Collapsing at a touch: the lote, that sods
The pond with green, has changed its flowers to rods
And discs of vesicles; and all the weeds,
Around the sleepy water and its reeds,
Are one white smoke of seeded silk that nods.
Summer is dead, ay me! sweet Summer's dead!
The sunset clouds have built her funeral pyre,
Through which, e'en now, runs subterranean fire:
While from the east, as from a garden bed,
Mist-vined, the Dusk lifts her broad moon--like some
Great golden melon--saying, "Fall has come."
The shivering wind sits in the oaks, whose limbs,
Twisted and tortured, nevermore are still;
Grief and decay sit with it; they, whose chill
Autumnal touch makes hectic-red the rims
Of all the oak leaves; desolating, dims
The ageratum's blue that banks the rill;
And splits the milkweed's pod upon the hill,
And shakes it free of the last seed that swims.
Down goes the day despondent to its close:
And now the sunset's hands of copper build
A tower of brass, behind whose burning bars
The day, in fierce, barbarian repose,
Like some imprisoned Inca sits, hate-filled,
Crowned with the gold corymbus of the stars.
There is a booming in the forest boughs;
Tremendous feet seem trampling through the trees:
The storm is at his wildman revelries,
And earth and heaven echo his carouse.
Night reels with tumult; and, from out her house
Of cloud, the moon looks,--like a face one sees
In nightmare,--hurrying, with pale eyes that freeze
Stooping above with white, malignant brows.
The isolated oak upon the hill,
That seemed, at sunset, in terrific lands
A Titan head black in a sea of blood,
Now seems a monster harp, whose wild strings thrill
To the vast fingering of innumerable hands--
Spirits of tempest and of solitude.
THE DEATH OF LOVE
So Love is dead, the Love we knew of old!
And in the sorrow of our hearts' hushed halls
A lute lies broken and a flower falls;
Love's house stands empty and his hearth lies cold.
Lone in dim places, where sweet vows were told,
In walks grown desolate, by ruined walls
Beauty decays; and on their pedestals
Dreams crumble and th' immortal gods are mold.
Music is slain or sleeps; one voice alone,
One voice awakes, and like a wandering ghost
Haunts all the echoing chambers of the Past--
The voice of Memory, that stills to stone
The soul that hears; the mind, that, utterly lost,
Before its beautiful presence stands aghast.
How long ago it is since we went Maying!
Since she and I went Maying long ago!--
The years have left my forehead lined, I know,
Have thinned my hair around the temples graying.
Ah, time will change us: yea, I hear it saying--
"She too grows old: the face of rose and snow
Has lost its freshness: in the hair's brown glow
Some strands of silver sadly, too, are straying.
The form you knew, whose beauty so enspelled,
Has lost the litheness of its loveliness:
And all the gladness that her blue eyes held
Tears and the world have hardened with distress."--
"True! true!" I answer, "O ye years that part!
These things are chaned--but is her heart, her heart?"
As one, who, journeying westward with the sun,
Beholds at length from the up-towering hills,
Far-off, a land unspeakable beauty fills,
Circean peaks and vales of Avalon:
And, sinking weary, watches, one by one,
The big seas beat between; and knows it skills
No more to try; that now, as Heaven wills,
This is the helpless end, that all is done:
So 'tis with him, whom long a vision led
In quest of Beauty; and who finds at last
She lies beyond his effort; all the waves
Of all the world between them: while the dead,
The myriad dead, who people all the past
With failure, hail him from forgotten graves.