A Twilight Moth

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Dusk is thy dawn; when Eve puts on its state
Of gold and purple in the marbled west,
Thou comest forth like some embodied trait,
Or dim conceit, a lily bud confessed;
Or of a rose the visible wish; that, white,
Goes softly messengering through the night,
Whom each expectant flower makes its guest.

All day the primroses have thought of thee,
Their golden heads close-haremed from the heat;
All day the mystic moonflowers silkenly
Veiled snowy faces, - that no bee might greet,
Or butterfly that, weighed with pollen, passed; -
Keeping Sultana charms for thee, at last,
Their lord, who comest to salute each sweet.

Cool-throated flowers that avoid the day's
Too fervid kisses; every bud that drinks
The tipsy dew and to the starlight plays
Nocturnes of fragrance, thy wing'd shadow links
In bonds of secret brotherhood and faith;
O bearer of their order's shibboleth,
Like some pale symbol fluttering o'er these pinks.

What dost them whisper in the balsam's ear
That sets it blushing, or the hollyhock's, -
A syllabled silence that no man may hear, -
As dreamily upon its stem it rocks?
What spell dost bear from listening plant to plant,
Like some white witch, some ghostly ministrant,
Some specter of some perished flower of phlox?

O voyager of that universe which lies
Between the four walls of this garden fair, -
Whose constellations are the fireflies
That wheel their instant courses everywhere, -
Mid faery firmaments wherein one sees
Mimic Bo├Âtes and the Pleiades,
Thou steerest like some faery ship of air.

Gnome-wrought of moonbeam-fluff and gossamer,
Silent as scent, perhaps thou chariotest
Mab or King Oberon; or, haply, her
His queen, Titania, on some midnight quest. -
Oh for the herb, the magic euphrasy,
That should unmask thee to mine eyes, ah me!
And all that world at which my soul hath guessed!

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