Dionysia

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The day is dead; and in the west
The slender crescent of the moon--
Diana's crystal-kindled crest--
Sinks hillward in a silvery swoon.
What is the murmur in the dell?
The stealthy whisper and the drip?--
A Dryad with her leaf-light trip?
Or Naiad o'er her fountain well?--
Who, with white fingers for her comb,
Sleeks her blue hair, and from its curls
Showers slim minnows and pale pearls,
And hollow music of the foam.
What is it in the vistaed ways
That leans and springs, and stoops and sways?--
The naked limbs of one who flees?
An Oread who hesitates
Before the Satyr form that waits,
Crouching to leap, that there she sees?
Or under boughs, reclining cool,
A Hamadryad, like a pool
Of moonlight, palely beautiful?
Or Limnad, with her lilied face,
More lovely than the misty lace
That haunts a star and gives it grace?
Or is it some Leimoniad,
In wildwood flowers dimly clad?
Oblong blossoms white as froth;
Or mottled like the tiger-moth;
Or brindled as the brows of death;
Wild of hue and wild of breath.
Here ethereal flame and milk
Blent with velvet and with silk;
Here an iridescent glow
Mixed with satin and with snow:
Pansy, poppy and the pale
Serpolet and galingale;
Mandrake and anemone,
Honey-reservoirs o' the bee;
Cistus and the cyclamen,--
Cheeked like blushing Hebe this,
And the other white as is
Bubbled milk of Venus when
Cupid's baby mouth is pressed,
Rosy, to her rosy breast.
And, besides, all flowers that mate
With aroma, and in hue
Stars and rainbows duplicate
Here on earth for me and you.

Yea! at last mine eyes can see!
'Tis no shadow of the tree
Swaying softly there, but she!--
Mænad, Bassarid, Bacchant,
What you will, who doth enchant
Night with sensuous nudity.
Lo! again I hear her pant
Breasting through the dewy glooms--
Through the glow-worm gleams and glowers
Of the starlight;--wood-perfumes
Swoon around her and frail showers
Of the leaflet-tilted rain.
Lo, like love, she comes again,
Through the pale, voluptuous dusk,
Sweet of limb with breasts of musk.
With her lips, like blossoms, breathing
Honeyed pungence of her kiss,
And her auburn tresses wreathing
Like umbrageous helichrys,
There she stands, like fire and snow,
In the moon's ambrosial glow,
Both her shapely loins low-looped
With the balmy blossoms, drooped,
Of the deep amaracus.
Spiritual yet sensual,
Lo, she ever greets me thus
In my vision; white and tall,
Her delicious body there,--
Raimented with amorous air,--
To my mind expresses all
The allurements of the world.
And once more I seem to feel
On my soul, like frenzy, hurled
All the passionate past.--I reel,
Greek again in ancient Greece,
In the Pyrrhic revelries;
In the mad and Mænad dance
Onward dragged with violence;
Pan and old Silenus and
Faunus and a Bacchant band
Round me. Wild my wine-stained hand
O'er tumultuous hair is lifted;
While the flushed and Phallic orgies
Whirl around me; and the marges
Of the wood are torn and rifted
With lascivious laugh and shout.
And barbarian there again,--
Shameless with the shameless rout,
Bacchus lusting in each vein,--
With her pagan lips on mine,
Like a god made drunk with wine,
On I reel; and, in the revels,
Her loose hair, the dance dishevels,
Blows, and 'thwart my vision swims
All the splendor of her limbs....

So it seems. Yet woods are lonely.
And when I again awake,
I shall find their faces only
Moonbeams in the boughs that shake;
And their revels, but the rush
Of night-winds through bough and brush.
Yet my dreaming--is it more
Than mere dreaming? Is some door
Opened in my soul? a curtain
Raised? to let me see for certain
I have lived that life before?

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Dionysia' by Madison Julius Cawein

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy