A Sleet-Storm In May

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

On southern winds shot through with amber light,
Breathing soft balm and clothed in cloudy white,
The lily-fingered Spring came o'er the hills,
Waking the crocus and the daffodils.
O'er the cold Earth she breathed a tender sigh
The maples sang and flung their banners high,
Their crimson-tasselled pennons, and the elm
Bound his dark brows with a green-crested helm.
Beneath the musky rot of Autumn's leaves,
Under the forest's myriad naked eaves,
Life woke and rose in gold and green and blue,
Robed in the starlight of the twinkling dew.
With timid tread adown the barren wood
Spring held her way, when, lo! before her stood
White-mantled Winter wagging his white head,
Stormy his brow and stormily he said:
'The God of Terror, and the King of Storm,
Must I remind thee how my iron arm
Raised my red standards 'mid these conquered bowers,
Turning their green to crimson? Thou, with flowers,
Thou wouldst supplant me! nay! usurp my throne!
Audacious one!' And at her breast he tossed
A bitter javelin of ice and frost;
And left her lying on th' unfeeling mould.
The fragile blossoms, gathered in the fold
Of her warm bosom, fell in desolate rows
About her beauty, and, like fragrant snows,
Covered her lovely hands and beautiful feet,
Or on her lips lay like last kisses sweet
That died there. Lilacs, musky of the May,
And bluer violets and snowdrops lay
Entombed in crystal, icy dim and fair,
Like teardrops scattered in her heavenly hair.
Alas! sad heart, break not beneath the pain!
Time changeth all; the Beautiful wakes again.
We should not question such; a higher power
Knows best what bud is ripest or what flower,
And silently plucks it at the fittest hour.

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