Summer Noontide

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The slender snail clings to the leaf,
Gray on its silvered underside;
And slowly, slowlier than the snail, with brief
Bright steps, whose ripening touch foretells the sheaf,
Her warm hands berry-dyed,
Comes down the tanned Noontide.

The pungent fragrance of the mint
And pennyroyal drench her gown,
That leaves long shreds of trumpet-blossom tint
Among the thorns, and everywhere the glint
Of gold and white and brown
Her flowery steps waft down.

The leaves, like hands with emerald veined,
Along her way try their wild best
To reach the jewel whose hot hue was drained
From some rich rose that all the June contained
The butterfly, soft pressed
Upon her sunny breast.

Her shawl, the lace-like elder bloom,
She hangs upon the hillside brake,
Smelling of warmth and of her breast's perfume,
And, lying in the citron-colored gloom
Beside the lilied lake,
She stares the buds awake.

Or, with a smile, through watery deeps
She leads the oaring turtle's legs;
Or guides the crimson fish, that swims and sleeps
From pad to pad, from which the young frog leaps;
And to its nest's green eggs
The bird that pleads and begs.

Then 'mid the fields of unmown hay
She shows the bees where sweets are found;
And points the butterflies, at airy play,
And dragonflies, along the water-way,
Where honeyed flowers abound
For them to flicker 'round.

Or, where ripe apples pelt with gold
Some barn around which, coned with snow,
The wild-potato blooms she mount its old
Mossed roof, and through warped sides, the knots have holed
Lets her long glances glow
Into the loft below.

To show the mud-wasp at its cell
Slenderly busy; swallows, too,
Packing against a beam their nest's clay shell;
And crouching in the dark the owl as well
With all her downy crew
Of owlets gray of hue.

These are her joys, and until dusk
Lounging she walks where reapers reap,
From sultry raiment shaking scents of musk,
Rustling the corn within its silken husk,
And driving down heav'n's deep
White herds of clouds like sheep.

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