Hylas

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The cuckoo-sorrel paints with pink
The green page of the meadow-land
Around a pool where thrushes drink
As from a hollowed hand.
A hill, long-haired with leathered grass
Combed by the strong incessant wind,
Looks down upon the pool's pale glass
Like some old hag gone blind,
And on a forest grey of beech,
Reserved, mysterious, deep and wild,
That whispers to itself; its speech
Like some old man's turned child.

A forest, through which something speaks
Authoritative things to man,
A something that o'erawed the Greeks,
The universal Pan.
And through the forest falls a stream
Babbling of immemorial things
The myth, that haunts it like a dream,
The god, that in it sings.

And here it was, when I was young,
Across this meadow, sorrel-stained,
To this green place where willows wrung
Wild hands, and beech-trees strained
Their mighty strength with winds of spring,
That clutched and tore the wild-witch hair
Of yon gaunt hill, I heard them sing,
The hylas hidden there.

The slant gale played soft fugues of rain,
With interludes of sun between,
Where windflowers wove a twinkling chain
Through mosses grey and green.
From every coign of woodland peered
The starry eyes of Loveliness,
As reticently now she neared
Or stood in shy distress.

Then I remembered all the past
The ancient ships, the unknown seas;
And him, like some huge, knotted mast,
My master Herakles.
Again I saw the port, the wood
Of Cyzicus; the landing there;
The pool among the reeds; and, nude,
The nymphs with long green hair,
That swarmed to clasp me when I stooped
To that grey pool as clear as glass,
And round my body wrapped and looped
Their hair, like water-grass.

Hylas, the Argonaut, the lad
Beloved of Herakles, was I
Again with joy my heart grew sad,
Dreaming on days gone by.
Again I felt the drowning pain,
The kiss that slew me long ago;
The dripping arms drew down again,
And love cried all its woe.

The new world vanished! 'Twas the old.
Once more I knew the Mysian shore,
The haunted pool, the wood, the cold
Wild wind from sea and moor.
And then a voice went by; 'twas his,
The Demigod's who sought me: but
Cold mouths had closed mine with a kiss
And both mine eyes were shut....

And had the hylas ceased to sing?
Or what? For, lo! I stood again
Between the hill and wood; and Spring
Gazed at me through the rain.
And in her gaze I seemed to see
This was a dream she'd dreamed, not I;
A figment of a memory
That I had felt go by.

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