Quiet Lanes

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

From the lyrical eclogue"One Day and Another"
Now rests the season in forgetfulness,
Careless in beauty of maturity;
The ripened roses round brown temples, she
Fulfills completion in a dreamy guess.
Now Time grants night the more and day the less:
The gray decides; and brown
Dim golds and drabs in dulling green express
Themselves and redden as the year goes down.
Sadder the fields where, thrusting hoary high
Their tasseled heads, the Lear-like corn-stocks die,
And, Falstaff-like, buff-bellied pumpkins lie.
Deepening with tenderness,
Sadder the blue of hills that lounge along
The lonesome west; sadder the song
Of the wild redbird in the leafage yellow.
Deeper and dreamier, aye!
Than woods or waters, leans the languid sky
Above lone orchards where the cider press
Drips and the russets mellow.
Nature grows liberal: from the beechen leaves
The beech-nuts' burrs their little purses thrust,
Plump with the copper of the nuts that rust;
Above the grass the spendthrift spider weaves,
A web of silver for which dawn designs
Thrice twenty rows of pearls: beneath the oak,
That rolls old roots in many gnarly lines,
The polished acorns, from their saucers broke,
Strew oval agates. On sonorous pines
The far wind organs; but the forest near
Is silent; and the blue-white smoke
Of burning brush, beyond that field of hay,
Hangs like a pillar in the atmosphere:
But now it shakes it breaks, and all the vines
And tree tops tremble; see! the wind is here!
Billowing and boisterous; and the smiling day
Rejoices in its clamor. Earth and sky
Resound with glory of its majesty,
Impetuous splendor of its rushing by.
But on those heights the woodland dark is still,
Expectant of its coming.... Far away
Each anxious tree upon each waiting hill
Tingles anticipation, as in gray
Surmise of rapture. Now the first gusts play,
Like laughter low, about their rippling spines;
And now the wildwood, one exultant sway,
Shouts and the light at each tumultuous pause,
The light that glooms and shines,
Seems hands in wild applause.
How glows that garden! Though the white mists keep
The vagabonding flowers reminded of
Decay that comes to slay in open love,
When the full moon hangs cold and night is deep;
Unheeding still their cardinal colors leap
Gay in the crescent of the blade of death,
Spaced innocents whom he prepares to reap,
Staying his scythe a breath
To mark their beauty ere, with one last sweep,
He lays them dead and turns away to weep.
Let me admire,
Before the sickle of the coming cold
Shall mow them down, their beauties manifold:
How like to spurts of fire
That scarlet salvia lifts its blooms, which heap
With flame the sunlight. And, as sparkles creep
Through charring vellum, up that window's screen
The cypress dots with crimson all its green,
The haunt of many bees.
Cascading dark old porch-built lattices,
The nightshade bleeds with berries; drops of blood
Hanging in clusters 'mid the blue monk's-hood.
There is a garden old,
Where bright-hued clumps of zinnias unfold
Their formal flowers; where the marigold
Lifts a pinched shred of orange sunset caught
And elfed in petals; the nasturtium,
Deep, pungent-leaved and acrid of perfume,
Hangs up a goblin bonnet, pixy-brought
From Gnomeland. There, predominant red,
And arrogant, the dahlia lifts its head,
Beside the balsam's rose-stained horns of honey,
Lost in the murmuring, sunny
Dry wildness of the weedy flower bed;
Where crickets and the weed-bugs, noon and night,
Shrill dirges for the flowers that soon shall die,
And flowers already dead.
I seem to hear the passing Summer sigh:
A voice, that seems to weep,
"Too soon, too soon the Beautiful passes by!
And soon, among these bowers
Will dripping Autumn mourn with all her flowers."
If I, perchance, might peep
Beneath those leaves of podded hollyhocks,
That the bland wind with odorous murmurs rocks,
I might behold her, white
And weary, Summer, 'mid her flowers asleep,
Her drowsy flowers asleep,
The withered poppies knotted in her locks.

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