Soft stealing through the shade, and skirting swift
The walls of Paradise, through night's dark rift
Lilith fled far; nor stopped lest deadly snare
Or peril by the wayside lurked.
Grew chill. Loud beat her heart, as through the wind
Echoed, unseen, pursuing feet, behind.
Adown the pathway of the mist she passed,
And reached a weird, strange land at last.
When morning flecked the dappled sky with red,
And odors sweet from waking flowers were shed,
Lilith beheld a plain, outstretching wide,
With distant mountains seamed.
Afar, a silvery tide
The blue shore kissed. And in that tropic glow
Dim islands shone, palm-fringed, and low.
In nearer space, like scarlet arrows flew
Strange birds, or 'mong the reedy fens, or through
Tall trees, of unknown leafage, glancing, went.
Now Lilith seaward passed, and stooping, bent
Her hollowed hand above the wave, and quaffed;
For she was spent with wanderings wide. Loud laughed
She then, beholding on that silent shore
Rare shells, that still faint in their pink lips bore
Wild ocean-songs; and precious stones, that bright
That dim sea's marge, deep in the land of night
Then glad, she lifted shining eyes,
Loud crying there, "O Lilith, now arise,
Great queen-triumphant! See how wildly fair
Before me lies my realm! And from its air
Soft, sensuous, new life as ruddy wine,
My spirit drinks. Nor beauty so divine
Hath Eden's self. Look, where upon the sands
The garish mosses spread with dainty hands,
Like goblin network fine, each fairy frond.
And dusky trees shut in broad fields beyond,
And hang long trembling garlands, age-grown-gray,
From topmost boughs adown, athwart the day;
And sweet amid these wilds, bright dewy bells
Ring summer chimes. And soft in fragrant dells,
'Mong tender leaves, great spikes of scarlet flaunt
About the pools--the errant wild bees' haunt--
And thick with bramble-blooms pink petals starred,
And dew-stained buds of blue, the velvet sward.
Scarce ripple stirred the sea; and inland wend
Far bays and sedgy ponds; and rolling rivers bend.
A land of leaf and fruitage in the glow
Of palest glamours steeped. And far and low
Great purple isles; and further still a rim
Of sunset-tinted hills, that softly dim
Shine 'gainst the day. "O world, new found," she said,
"With treasures heaped and odors rare, 'mong flowers shed,
For whose dear sake I came o'er flinty ways,
And paths with danger fraught; 'mong brambly sprays,
With bleeding feet, and shoulders thorn-pierced deep.
But perils past, fade fast. And I will weep
My Eden lost no more." And sweet and low
As one who dreams, she said, "For now I know
These mountain heights, these level plains, are mine."
She ceased, and inland quickly turned. "Fair shine
Strange fruits thick-set, or blossoms lightly tossed
Low at my feet." Therewith, a dusk globe, crossed
With golden bands, from bent boughs, stripped she. Through
The gleaming sphere its nectrous juices drew,
And thirsting cried--as one grown drunken: "Mine
These fruits unknown, in thorny combs that shine,
Or gray-green spikes that glow, dull on the sands.
Fain would I pluck, out-reaching eager hands,
Save that a marvel grows of ruddier rind
Out-flinging fruity breath upon the wind,
Beneath harsh spines half-hid. Nor drains
My wilful spouse such nectars fine. Nor gains
His patient care the fruitage rare, these plains
That heaps unheeded. Nay, nor bearded grains
Golding this goodly land, where Lilith reigns."
So passed the glad years on, and o'er her home--
Its woods and mountains, its clear streams--to roam,
She loved. The inmost throb of Nature's heart
She felt amid the grass. Each daintiest part
Of Nature's work she knew; each gain, each loss.
And reverent watched on high the starry cross
Gleaming, mute symbol in that southern dome
Of One--the Promised One--of days to come.
The rifted sea-shell on the shingly beach
She scanned, pitying each inmate gone. Each
Named. 'Mong beetling crags, the sea-bird's home,
Light-footed, went. Or, idly, in the foam
Under the cocoa-palms, her fingers dipped,
Much marveling to see where featly slipped
Beneath the waves scaled creatures, crimson-dyed
Or luminous: Barred-yellow, purple pied,
Rose-tinted, opaline, or dight with stain,
Rich as the rainbow streaks, when through the rain
The Sun's kiss falls. Much wondered she when bright
By sedgy pools, flamingoes stalked. And light
The startled ostrich bent his headlong flight
O'er desert bare. And on the woody height
Trooped zebras, velvet-brown. The date's green crest
Beneath, the peaceful camels lay at rest.
And slender-straight camelopards the boughs
Down-drew, the lush-green leaves thereon to browse.
Or oft 'mong oozy bogs, or through the fens,
Fearless she went, when low, 'mong reedy dens
The water-courses by, huge creatures slept,
Or in the jungles spotted panthers crept,
And in the thickets deadly serpents wound
Like blossomed wreaths, their coils upon the ground.
All forms of life she saw; with tenderest care
Uplifting humblest sprays, or blooms most rare.
Pierced the deep heart of Nature's subtlest lore,
Touched highest knowledge, probed the inmost core
Of hidden things. She tracked each circling world
And the wide sweep of billows lightly curled.
Each page the Master writ she read, close furled
In lotus blooms, or, 'mong the storm-clouds whirled;
Or traced, star-lettered, on the flaming scroll
The night unwinds toward the southern pole.
And sometimes wiling idle days, she wove
In quaint device, gems from her treasure-trove,
Rare garlanded, or set in flashing zone
Soft emerald, sapphire pale, and many a stone
Out-gleaming amethyst. Her yellow hair
Among, the glinting diamonds shone. And there
The sultry topaz burned. And laughing, twined
She round her bare white throat red rubies shrined
Or she among the haunts would rove
That sheltered island birds; or in the grove,
Or 'mong the rocky cliffs, where dainty nests
They fashioned swift. She scaled the seaward crests,
And on the sands piled turtle eggs, when all
About hoarse-shrieked the water-fowl, or call
Of plovers fell among the tangled glens,
Or lonely bitterns' boom came o'er the fens.
So traversed she her realm, when mangoes green
Baobabs by, showed freshest hues; and sheen
Of silver touched acacias slight; and lone
The solitary aloes, dreamed. The moan
Of that far sea against the shore brake soft.
And through that blossom-burdened land as oft
She roamed and far, sweet sped the passing days.
Till one dawned fairest, in whose noon-tide haze
Sweet slumbering she lay; and dreamed-steeped still,
Half conscious, caught the tinkle of a rill
In far-off Paradise. More silver clear
Across her thoughts, as once she loved to hear,
Rippled the waters, low against the stones
Where poised gemmed dragon-flies; and sudden moans
Shook 'mong blue flags. Waked, vague unrest
And tender yearning rose within her breast,
And longing love, that she ne'er more might still.
When late upon her parting day smiled chill,
Pensive she gazed upon the darkling land,
With lingering feet o'er-passed the shining strand,
And silent sat on an o'erhanging ledge,
The sea o'erlooking. Far the horizon's edge
Athwart her gaze a rim of blue hills cleft,
Whereat she sighed. "So rose, ere I them left,
So smiled, the dim hills round my Eden home.
But I--wherefore recall, when far I roam,
Dreams vanished--gone? And now since long time dead
Is that fair past, I fain would lay it low
Where soft about it memories sweet may blow
As summer winds the fallen leaves among."
Then passed her tender thoughts, and loud and glad
As our morn wakens, strong that yesternight slept sad,
She sang. The song triumphant upward swelled,
Unsorrowed by soft dreams or thoughts of eld--
As fresh the full, free, mellow notes did rise
As the blithe skylark's strain, anear the skies:
High, high, bold Eagle, soar;
I watch thy flight, above thy craggèd rock.
Below thee, torrents roar,
Down-bursting wild with angry shock
Upon the vales. O proud bird, free,
My spirit, mounting, follows thee,
Still follows thee, still follows thee.
O Sea--O Sea so wide!
Far roll thy waves ere yet they find thy shore.
I hear thy sullen tide
Break 'neath the beetling cliffs with muffled roar.
Afar, afar, O moaning Sea,
My roving soul still follows thee,
Still follows thee, still follows thee.
O Whirlwind black--O strong!
Thy scorching breath fierce burns the crouching land
And thou dost sweep along
The raveled clouds. O Whirlwind, see--
My spirit rising, follows thee,
Still follows thee, still follows thee.
Nay, nay! My dauntless soul,
Still higher than thy wing, O Eagle, soars,
And wider still than roll
Thy waves, and further than thy shores,
My spirit flees--O Sea--O Sea
No more it follows, follows thee.
Whirlwind, more strong than thou
My soul, that fearless leaps to thine embrace
And thy stern, wrinkled brow
Doth tender touch and soothingly,
And vassal art thou still to me,
That no more, Whirlwind, follows thee.
Swift changed her mood, and darkened in her face.
As sometimes in an open, sunny place
The sudden dusks o'er crinkling waters run,
So fell her thoughts to music. And as one
That grieves, she sang. That lay--soft, weirdly clear,
The babbling waves made murmurous pause to hear:
Fair land (she sang), O sun-steeped realm of mine,
The Sun, thy lover, hath his farewell kiss.
I only pine
While dim stars shine.
Strong is thy Day-god! yet his parting kiss
Falls soft upon thy faltering lips. O land,
Thou hast a bliss
I ever miss.
Fast comes the night, and warm, for thy dear sake,
The shadows curtain dusk, thy lonely rest.
I only wake
My plaint to make.
Fair land, my lover cold, doth careless take
From my shut lips his flight. Here leaves me lone
My moan to make,
My heart to break.
She ceased. But still the song did float and fade,
As failing sunshine soft, in woodland glade.
And Lilith, listening, heard--so wild, so shrill,
Yet dream-like, far, again that tinkling rill
In Paradise. And o'er her spirit swept
A sadness bitter-sweet, as 'neath the green palms crept
The wind, low-sighing, faint. As from lone nest
A bird torn pinion lifts, striving to soar
To shelter safe, so, Edenward once more
Turned Lilith's drooping thoughts.
Uprose she then,
And brooding, homeward slowly went again.