To that fair Elf-child other summers came;
But Lilith walked, heart-hungered, filled with shame,
Naught comforted. And in that shadow-land
She sorrowing bore, in after-time, a band
Of elfin babes, that waked dim echoes long
Forgotten there, and ghastly bursts of song.
Then Lilith saddened more, for that she knew
The curse was fallen now. And cried she through
Fast-falling tears, "Oh, me most desolate,
That shall not know in any time the fate
Of happier mothers! Nay, nor cool touch
Of baby hands. Oh, longed-for, loved so much!
Alas, my babes, ere yet hour-old ye fly,
Out-spreading shining wings with jeering cry,
Afar from me. Most hapless I, from whom
The crown of motherhood, yet white with bloom,
Falls blighted! Close in these empty arms fain
Would I clasp my babes! My tender pain
But once could ye not solace? Nay, 'tis vain;
I shall not kiss their lips, nor hear again,
As gladder mothers may, low-rippling, sweet,
The laughter children bring about their feet.
Oh, soulless ones, can ye not wait awhile,
'Till on your loveless lips I wake one smile?"
But merrily out-laughed the phantom crew;
On shining pinions white, swift seaward flew,
Or upward rose, slow-fading in the blue;
Or lured her trembling, green morasses through.
And 'mong the frothy waves they vanished fast;
Or shrieked with glee borne on the wintry blast,
And wilder raised their warlock song.
While fairer grew each day that elfin throng.
To pluck the mangoes brown, fair Lilith sped
One morn. Quick throbbed her heart. On mossy bed
Lay all her babes. With face like morning, shone
One there, and wide her yellow hair out-blown
As 'twere in play. Red-flushed her cheeks, and deep
About her lips the baby smiles. Asleep
Was one, white-gleaming, pure as pearl unseen
In sunless caves, close-shut. And one did lean
Against his fellow, lithe, sun-flushed and brown,
With rings of jetty hair that low adown
His bosom streamed. And one there was, whose dream
O'erflowed with laughter. And one did seem
Half-waking. One, with dimpled arms in sleep
Thrust elbow-deep in moss, that sure did weep
Ere yet he slept, and on his cheek scarce dried
The wilful tears.
Then low, pale Lilith cried
As near she drew, down-bending tender eyes:
"And are ye here, my babes; and will ye rise
If I but break your sleep?" His naked feet
One faintly moved as low she leant; and warm
His slumbrous breath stirred 'gainst her circling arm,
And slow aneath his closed lids slipped a waft
Of wind, that loosed a trickling tear. Its craft
The mother-heart forgot thereat. "At last,
Close to my breast, my babes," she cried, and fast
Laughing, outstretched her eager hands and strong.
Then lay with empty arms.
The elfin throng
Breasted the pulsing air with mocking song.
"Alas," she said, "could ye not give one kiss--
One tender clasp of hands! And must I miss
Your throbbing hearts from my cold, barren breast,
Ye soulless ones, that flout my lonely rest?"
There, prostrate, long lay Lilith, and there, late
'Mid dew-fall, Eblis found his stricken mate.
"O Eblis, say o'er me what curse hangs bare,
For now no more," she said, "this realm seems fair.
Its fruits grow bitter, all its light falls chill.
With thee, my prince, poor Lilith mates but ill--
Earth-born, with angel linked. Alas, is left
No joy to me, of my sweet ones bereft.
Methinks soft baby lips might erewhile drain
From Lilith's famished heart its wildest pain.
Wherefore, my Eblis, it were wise to seek
Surcease of grief. That Lilith, is so weak
Who wedded thee; and that she sinned, knew not.
Yet, if we part, mayhap may follow naught
Of other ills."
"Sweet love," he laughed, "o'er-late
Thou art so timorous. At Eden's gate
Not so, what time the angel barred her way
My Lilith stood. Shelter within my arms. Oh, say,
Was not our young love sweet? Hath it grown cold?
With me thou sharest endless life; nor old,
Nor shrivelled, shalt thou be. And not one trace
Of earth's decay (sure doom of thy sad race)
Shall taint thy babes. For lo, I give
Thy soulless ones immortal youth. They live
Without a pang. And yet, methinks the cry
Of Earth adown the ages sounds, when die
Its babes; and mothers bend dumb lips above,
And fold still hands, that answer not their love.
Lilith, doth not indeed my love outweigh
Caresses missed from phantom babes? Astray
From Eden long, here in this fair domain
To bide; and through long cycles fearless reign
Methinks were joy. In summer sheen
Wide spreads thy land. The marge of islets green
The palm-trees skirt. Soft shine the dusk lagoons
And inland mountains. Mirk the jungle's glooms,
And fair thy fertile plains. Oh, sweet the glow
When we together watch the day, that low
Among the winds lies still. Shut lilies blow
While here we wait. Come, for they fain would show
Their golden hearts. Or, love, with me to float
Were it not sweet, through flowery bays remote,
Past coves and peaks? Or pierce yon ocean's verge,
And through wild tumbling waves our sails to urge?"
"Yea, sweet is love," she said, "and sweet to roam
By listless currents lulled; or 'mid the foam
Low dip our feathery oars," she sighed, "yet sore
Is still the mother-heart that hears no more
The lisping tongues. And sad, when baby smiles
Have left it desolate. And baby wiles
Shall cheer it never more."
"Yet," Eblis said,
"Lilith, no longer mourn. For I have read
Upon a scroll as samite glistening white,
All coming fate, close hid from human sight,
Great peoples yet shall dwell in these dusk lands.
Then shall thy children, shadowy bands
That fly thy fond caress, with them abide
In closest fellowship. And though they hide
Sometimes from human ken their better selves,
Still loved, remain these tricksy elves.
Though yet indeed some quips and pranks they play,
'Tis but a jest, men know, when far away
The flickering marsh-fires swift they light
And children follow their false tapers bright
Among the spongy bogs. The ship-lad smiles,
When distant 'mid the waves the phantom isles
Rise green. 'Tis but a harmless jest that sets
On lonely plains, domes, mosques, and minarets,
And o'er the desert sands, mirage uplifts
When glimmering waves shine through deep rifts
Of crested palms.
"Still dearer they when wide
To undiscovered lands men boldly ride
Across new seas, and turn their venturous prows.
When tempests shriek, and wet about their brows
The salt spray dashes fierce, one, watching, cries,
'Good mates, no storm I fear, for yonder rise
The Elf-babes 'mid the foam. Ye goblin crew,
That sail these unknown seas, we follow you
To harbor safe. Ho, ho! With beckoning hands,
Wind-driven, loud they cry--My mates! the lands,
The golden lands we seek, are ours!'
"In Earth's brown bosom pent, the hardy wight
Long in deep caverns dwells; and hard doth smite
The rocky caves. Nor sees the golden spoil
Through weary days of wasted, lonely toil.
From his wild eyes, far-flying hides the prize,
Till desperate, angered, worn, aloud he cries:
'Vain, vain! The caves my labor answer not,
Nor yellow threads, that gleam in any grot.
Hard, cruel, silent hills, my strength ye mock,
And seal your treasures close in flinty rock;
So, after toilsome years, sweet wife, I bring
To thee no sparkling love-gift. Nay, nor anything
To cheer our failing time.'
"Then round him hears
He sturdy blows, and listening, almost fears
He dreams. But swift the echoes rise, and still
More loudly roll, and quick replies the hill.
Reverberant, through all the caverns round,
The uproar swells, and fills the world with sound.
Then lists he once again. 'With lusty shocks
Your hammers ring against the hard-ribbed rocks--
Goblins!' he boldly shouts, 'smite! smite! ye bring
My treasure forth, dark-beating goblin wing
Among the gleaming caves, whose dusk veins hold
The gold. At last! At last, the ruddy gold!'
"And lone, in stricken fields, the husbandman
Sits pale, with anxious eyes that hopeless scan
The burning sky. Hot lie the glimmering plain
And uplands parched. 'Behold, the bending grain,
Fair in the springtide, now is dead; and dry
The brooks. If yet the rainfall fail, we die
Of famine sore. No bleating lambs I hear in fold
Safe shut, nor lowing kine; nor on the wold
The whir of mounting bird: Nor thrives about me
Any living thing. So seemeth, end must be
Of striving. Since all the land is cursed,
What matter if by famine scorched, or thirst,
We die?' he saith.
"And thick the warlock swarm
Above his head, wide-spreading dark wings warm,
Fast flitted by. The waiting fields he stands
Among. And laughing, claps exultant hands.
'Good speed ye, Sprites! that bring the welcome cloud
And pile the vapors thick,' he shouts aloud.
Oh! sweet shall bloom again the bending grain,
And clothe afresh the wide, the wasted plain.
The clouds sweep black. Ha, ha! Against my cheek
The big drops fall. Merry the goblins shriek.
Behold, they mount, they sink, they rise again.
Ho, friendly elves, that bring the longed-for rain!'"
Thereat, he, smiling, ceased. And when soft crept
The listening stars across the sky, they slept
Untroubled, 'neath the mango-trees.
But when midway
The night was spent, Prince Eblis waking lay.
Soft Lilith's breathing 'mong the droopt leaves stirred.
And he, sore troubled, mused on every word
That Lilith spake ere yet they slept. In all
Foreseeing much of ill that might befall
Their love. "O, queenly soul! Of finer grain
Thou art than angels are. And more in brain
Than man, I hold thee. Sooth, yet taints thee still
One touch of womankind. And since so chill
She finds her babes, must I forego my vow?
For one flaw, Hope's clear crystal break? Oh, how
Ally her cause with mine! So doth she long
For human love--a baby hand is strong
To hurl my empire down. From her soft heart
Red, baby lips can drain revenge, and start
Unbidden tears. And pity wakes to life
When 'mong dead embers she sits lone, and strife
"Then, at Regret's dull heels, lo, fast,
Retrieving follows. Happy days long past
She will recall. If so for love she yearn,
Back to her early home once more will turn,
Pardoning her wilful lord. And he again
Shall win the woman I so love, and fain
Would hold forever. Lilith, thou one balm
Of my lost soul in all this world! Shall calm
My sufferings, or love me, any one, save thee,
When thou in Adam's arms forgettest me?
My only love! Nay, then, 'twere surely wise
To shut these baby faces from her eyes,
New seeds of wrath to sow, her hate so feed
That all her rankling wounds afresh shall bleed.
And in her ears 'Good Adam!' will I cry,
Lest she forget Eden she lost thereby.
Yea, 'Adam!' I will laugh. Till her red lips with guile
O'erflow. And she shall curse him loud. With subtlest wile
Safe won, then shall she ever be mine own.
Soul-bound to me in hate, more terrible than death
In hate, that long outlasts Love's puny breath--
O cunning craft, that with the self-same blow
Forever wins my love, and smites my foe!
"Last night, when Lilith slept, lest I might mar
Her dreams, from our green couch I rose, and far
Passed silent. Know I not the spell that draws
My feet unwilling, Edenward. Its laws
I may not brave to rend my foe. Nor there
The Angel pass, unseen. The night so fair,
As prone among the glistening leaves I lay,
On Adam shone. Not sad, as on a day
Erstwhile he seemed. And I could almost swear
The sound of silvery laughter on the air
Fell soft. And a fleet footfall 'mong the flowers
Scattered the dew. Yet 'mid those silent bowers
Naught else I saw or heard save rippling flow
Of waters, and the moonshine white. Oh, low
Speak, Eblis, lest aloud the night may tell
Thy secret to the stars. Yet it were well
If lies the hidden cure for Lilith's woe
Close shut in Paradise.
"All would we know,
If we, close hid without those verdant walls,
Together watched. What fate soe'er befalls
I care not, if with me she bide."
He o'er her hair, thick with the night-dew sprent.
Soft kissed it, crying, "Love, the morn shines bright.
Waken, my Lilith, now. Through lands of night
Our happy course afar doth ever wend;
Past smiling shores where mighty rivers bend,
Past cove and cape and isle, and winding bay
And still blue mists, that hang athwart the day."
Thereat she rose, and joyously they sped
By broad lagoons where musky odors shed
New blooms. About them coiled long wreaths of vine,
And slim lianas drooped, and marish lichens fine.
And fared they on o'er many a slanting beach
And mountain crest; past many an open reach
And forest wild--till over Paradise
They saw the stars, clear, tender, loving, rise.
Then 'neath the screen of those rose-girdled walls
They hid without, listing the waterfalls,
Or bird belated, twittering to its nest.
So still the spot, the very grass to rest
The garden-close, a clinging rose o'ercrept.
Its lustrous stem without that drooping swept
Thick set with buds as tintless as the snows
On sunless hills, when wild the north wind blows.
Lilith a-tiptoe stood; upreaching, caught
The swaying boughs. Her eyes with longing fraught
Close scanned her old deserted home. Then came
Upon her spirit sadness, as if blame
Unuttered breathed through those remembered glades
And touched the odors moist 'mong mirky shades.
With wistful gaze, she traced each bosky dell,
Each winding path. And sweet youth's memories fell
Then was she ware of Adam, slow
Pacing the pleasance-ways. With ruddy glow
Fresh shone his cheeks, and crisp his hair out-blown
By wanton winds. His lips were mirthful grown.
Once he made pause hard by the coppice green
That hid the watcher. Once the leafy screen
So near he passed, from the overhanging edge
He brushed a rose. The hindering hedge
Quick through, in sudden blessing slim white hand
Fain had she reached. "O Eden mine! Dear land,"
She sighed. And springing warm the tender tide
Of teardrops gemmed the roses at her side.
So greets the weary wanderer once more
His early home. The lintels worn, the door
Age-stained; the iris clumps, in sheltered nook;
The mill-wheel rotting o'er the shrunken brook;
The sunny orchard, sloping west; and far
And cold, above his mother's grave, a star--
Then quick unbidden tears, the heart's warm rain,
O'erflow his soul, and leave it pure again.
So Lilith backward turned to holier days,
Watching through misty tears where trod those ways
Her feet in other times.
Sudden and sweet
Came down those paths a glimpse of flying feet;
A sound of girlish laughter smote the air.
In jealous rage, Lilith uprose to dare
The guarding Angel's wrath. But, silver clear,
The mocking laugh of Eblis caught her ear.
"Thou hast forgot," he said, "this peaceful land,
Living, thou canst not enter."
But her hand
Grasped once again the roses' shining strand,
And 'neath her guileful touch, like scarlet flame
The snowy flowers burned. So, first Earth's shame
Around them set the spikèd thorns.
Pale Lilith looked, as coldly still and fair
As carven stone. Then, with a fierce despair,
A sense of utter loss, downbending there,
With fingers hot she tore the hedge apart
And laid thereto her face. With sorer smart
She gazed again. For now, the twain at rest
Were laid. Pure as a dream, Eve's sinless breast
A babe close pressed. One pink foot, small and warm,
Among the leaves was hid. One dimpled arm
Aneath her head.
Low Eblis sneered. "I wot
In young Eve's arms my Lilith is forgot.
Oh, soon," he said, "these earth-worms changeful turn--
From the oped rose when red the shut buds burn."
But wild eyes on the babe she fixed. "Oh, blind,"
She cried, "was I. Yea, if the wanton wind
Doth mock, I will not chide. Was it for this
I wandered far, and bartered Eden's bliss?
For this have lost the very bloom of life?
So Adam comfort finds, not knowing strife!
Look you, that fragile thing at Adam's side--
I heed her not. But Lilith is denied
The treasure she so careless doth possess.
See how the babe, scarce waking, doth caress
The mother! Look! Oh, hear the mother croon
Above her child! Ah, Eblis, love, I swoon--
I shall not know such joy. Alas, to me
No babe shall come! Accurséd may she be,
Cursed Adam too. Thrice heavy on the head
Of this poor babe my wrong be visited."
So, trembling, she brake off.
"Fast fades the light,
Sweet love. Once more to our dark realm of night
Let us return," he said.
As on fared they
With merry jest, Eblis gan cheer the way.
"Nay, otherwhiles mirth pleased," she said. "Knowest thou
What name she bears, who dwells in Eden now?
When Lilith went, long tarried Adam lone?"
She said. Replied he, "All to me is known
Since that same hour you parted. What befell,
To thee as we wend onward I will tell.
"Calm morn in Eden streaked the skies with red,
And flushed the waiting hills above the grassy bed
Where Adam, joyless, saw new rise the sun,
Unwinding golden webs night-vapors spun
Athwart low meads. Slow, droning murmurs sent
The waking bees, with bloom and fragrance blent.
Unheeded poured her music blithesome Day
The reedy brooks beside and shallows gray.
For lone to Adam seemed the place, and cold;
The landscape dumb, as one aneath the mould.
For Lilith's sake, no more was Eden fair.
Bloomless the days, the nights bowed down with care.
Oft pacing pathways dim, he saw the gleam
Of strange-faced flowers beside the purling stream,
Or toyed with circling leaves; or plucked the grass,
And watched through rifted trees the clouds o'erpass;
Wide roaming, heard the waters idly break
Far 'gainst the curving beach.
"And grieving, spake,
'Oh, sweet with thee each hour--each wilding way,
And sweet the memory of each gathered spray.
Could you not wait, dear love? Or come once more?
Yea, 'till you come, vain doth great Nature pour
Her richest gifts.' He paused, and heard alone
Respondent fall, the wood-dove's plaintive moan,
And the spent winds among the scented glades.
Moss-couched beneath the glinting forest shades,
He gazed, when shadows o'er the hills crept light,
Quick vanishing, like phantom fingers white,
Until on mead, and mere, and sounding shore
Eden found voice, sad plaining, 'Never-more!'
Long time he pondered on blue peaks remote
When slow, as stranded ships that listless float,
Moved by the sunset clouds. Or the white rack
Swept o'er the garden walls.
"'Would I their track
Might take,' he said, 'Lilith, so long you stay.
Whom my soul follows sorrowing--alway.'
Thus ever mourned he, comfortless; that so
In after days the Master, in the glow
Of morning-tide, the mother of the race
Gave for his solacement.
"Oh, fair the face
Young Eve bent o'er his sleep. Ere down the glade
The startled fawn leaps swift, her glance dismayed
Questions the hunter, mute. Such eyes--so brown,
So soft, so winning, shy--that looked adown
When Adam waked. Like vagrant tendrils, tossed
Dark hair about her brows. And quaintly crossed
Her hands upon her breast. Less red the dart
That deepest cleaves the folded rose's heart,
Than her round cheeks. Not hers the regal air
Of Lilith lost, the white arms, lissom, bare,
The slender throat; the elbows dimpled deep, whereto
Might scarcely reach Eve's head.
"Yet soft, as through
Some pleasant dream, the summer's spicy air
Stirs odorous 'mong seaward gardens fair,
In southland hid; so, gently, Eve straightway
To Adam's life unbidden came, to stay
Forever there. Sure entrance then made she
Into that heart untenanted by thee.
"So, to some olden house, from whose shut doors
One went erewhile, another comes. Its floors
All empty sees. The lowly threshold worn,
The moss-grown roof, the casements left forlorn.
Amid the shadows round about him stands,
Missing the footsteps passed to other lands,
And whispers tenderly, 'Since here no more
The owner bides, what harm if on the floor
I pass? Good chance it were the clambering vine
About the porch with fingers deft to twine--
To draw the curtains, ope the door. For who
May know how soon these paths untended, through,
He comes again, with weary, way-worn feet,
Who made aforetime, other days so sweet.
Wherefore, I enter now. For whose dear sake
These vacant rooms, white, fragrant, clean, I make.
And when, world-wearied, he returns, we twain
Perchance together bide. Nor part again.'
So Eve found refuge. Tender love, the spell
Whereby she ruled. Peaceful the pair did dwell.
Fast fled the happy years, till softly laid
In her glad arms the babe--a winsome maid."
He ended there. Between them silence deep
Fell, as they journeyed. And the furthest steep
They crossed, that o'er their shadow-world rose high.
Then saw they level plains, their home, anigh.
And now, seeking her pleasance once again,
They came to their own land. But all in vain
His care. Silent she was, and oft did grieve,
Till Eblis wrathful cried: "Because this Eve
Adam holds dear, art mourning? Still dost yearn
To mate his sordid soul? Or wouldst thou turn
From summer land to Eden walls?
Belike, ne'er loved thee. So is it young Eve can
His pulses sway. Is she not passing fair?
Her fancies wild, it is her daily care
To bend beneath his ever fickle will.
Red-lipped and soft, she deftly rules him still,
Though he wist not. Yet sweeter Lilith's frown
Than archest smile she wears. Great Soul! The crown
Thou bearest of fadeless life. For fleeting dreams
In Paradise, beside the winding streams,
Wilt thou resign such boon? Thou art, in sooth,
Of mold too firm for Adam's love. In truth
A prince--though fallen--consorts best with thee
Say which were wise, with Eden's lord to be,
Or, shining high, the purer soul, the star
That fadeless burns, and Eblis lights afar?
Were it not grand through endless spaces hurled
With me to drive, above a shrinking world
Our chariot, wide?
"For I foresee when dawn
Dark days upon our foes, and hope is gone.
Wherefore, my Lilith, now, as seems thee good,
Make choice." Thereat she, turning where she stood,
With kisses hung about his neck, and smiled,
Crying, "Thine, Eblis, thine!" So were they reconciled.