Late November

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

Morning

Deep in her broom-sedge, burs and iron-weeds,
Her frost-slain asters and dead mallow-moons,
Where gray the wilding clematis balloons
The brake with puff-balls: where the slow stream leads
Her sombre steps: decked with the scarlet beads
Of hip and haw: through dolorous maroons
And desolate golds, she goes: the wailing tunes
Of all the winds about her like wild reeds.
The red wrought-iron hues that flush the green
Of blackberry briers, and the bronze that stains
The oak's sere leaves, are in her cheeks: the gray
Of forest pools, clocked thin with ice, is keen
In her cold eyes: and in her hair the rain's
Chill silver glimmers like a winter ray.

II.

Noon

Lost in the sleepy grays and drowsy browns
Of woodlands, smoky with the autumn haze,
Where dull the last leafed maples, smouldering, blaze
Like ghosts of wigwam fires, the Month uncrowns
Her frosty hair, and where the forest drowns
The road in shadows, in the rutted ways,
Filled full of freezing rain, her robe she lays
Of tattered gold, and seats herself and frowns.
And at her frown each wood and bushy hill
Darkens with prescience of approaching storm,
Her soul's familiar fiend, who, with wild broom
Of wind and rain, works her resistless will,
Sweeping the world, and driving with mad arm
The clouds, like leaves, through the tumultuous gloom.

III.

Evening

The shivering wind sits in the oaks, whose limbs,
Twisted and tortured, nevermore are still;
Grief and decay sit with it, they, whose chill
Autumnal touch makes hectic red the rims
Of all the oak leaves; desolating dims
The ageratum's blue that banks the rill,
And splits the milkweed's pod upon the hill,
And shakes it free of the last seed that swims.
Down goes the day despondent to its close:
And now the sunset's hands of copper build
A tower of brass, behind whose burning bars
The day, in fierce, barbarian repose,
Like some imprisoned Inca sits, hate-filled,
Crowned with the gold corymbus of the stars.

IV.

Night

There is a booming in the forest boughs:
Tremendous feet seem trampling through the trees:
The storm is at his wildman revelries,
And earth and heaven echo his carouse.
Night reels with tumult. And from out her house
Of cloud the moon looks, like a face one sees
In nightmare, hurrying with pale eyes that freeze,
Stooping above with white, malignant brows.
The isolated oak upon the hill,
That seemed, at sunset, in terrific lands
A Titan head black in a sea of blood,
Now seems a monster harp, whose wild strings thrill
To the vast fingering of innumerable hands,
The Spirits of Tempest and of Solitude.

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