Catkins

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Misty are the far-off hills
And misty are the near;
Purple hazes dimly lie
Veiling hill and field and sky,
Marshes where the hylas cry,
Like a myriad bills
Piping, "Spring is here!"

II.

A redbird flits,
Then sings and sits
And calls to his mate,
"She is late! she is late!
How long, how long must the woodland wait
For its emerald plumes
And its jewelled blooms?
She is late! she is late!"

III.

Along the stream,
A cloudy gleam,
The pussy-willows, tufted white,
Make of each tree a mighty light;
Pearl and silver and glimmering gray
They tassel the boughs of the willow way;
And as they swing they seem to say,
With mouths of bloom
And warm perfume:

IV.

"Awake! awake!
For young Spring's sake,
O little brown bees in hive and brake!
Awake! awake!
For sweet Spring's sake,
O butterflies whose wild wings ache
With colors rare
As flowers wear!
And hither, hither,
Before we wither!
Oh, come to us,
All amorous
With honey for your mouths to buss.

V.

"Hearken! hearken!
Last night we heard
A wondrous word:
When dusk did darken
The rain and the wind sat in these boughs,
As in a great and shadowy house.
At first we deemed
We only dreamed,
And then it seemed
We heard them whisper of things to be,
The wind and the rain in the willow tree,
A sweet, delicious conspiracy,
To take the world with witchery:
They talked of the fairy brotherhoods
Of blooms and blossoms and leaves and buds,
That ambushed under the winter mold
And under the bark of the forest old:
And they took our breath
With the shibboleth,
The secret word that casts off death,
That word of life no man may guess;
That wondrous word
Which we then heard,
That bids life rise
Beneath the skies;
Rise up and fill
Far wood and hill
With myriad hosts of loveliness,
Invading beauty that love shall bless.

VI.

"Then in our ears,
Our woolly ears,
Our little ears of willow bloom,
Like wild perfume
We seemed to hear dim woodland cheers
Of hosts of flowers
That soon would run
Through fields and bowers,
And to the sun
Lift high their banners of blue and gold,
And storm the ways of the woodland old.

VII.

"Awake! awake!
For young Spring's sake,
O hylas sleeping in marsh and lake!
Tune up your pipes and play, play, play!
Tune, tune your reeds in ooze and clay,
And pipe and sing
Till everything
Knows, gladly knows,
Sowing the rose,
The lily and rose,
With her breast blown bare
And the wind in her hair,
And the birds around her everywhere,
The Spring, the Spring.
The young witch Spring,
With lilt and laughter, and rain and ray,
Comes swiftly, wildly up this way."

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