That Night When I Came To The Grange

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The trees took on fantastic shapes
That night when I came to the grange;
The very bushes seemed to change;
This seemed a hag's head, that an ape's:
The road itself seemed darkly strange
That night when I came to the grange.

The storm had passed, but still the night
Cloaked with deep clouds its true intent,
And moody on its way now went
With muttered thunder and the light,
Torch-like, of lightning that was spent
Flickering the mask of its intent.

Like some hurt thing that bleeds to death,
Yet never moves nor heaves a sigh,
Some last drops shuddered from the sky:
The darkness seemed to hold its breath
To see the sullen tempest die,
That never moved nor heaved a sigh.

Within my path, among the weeds,
The glow-worm, like an evil eye,
Glared malice; and the boughs on high
Flung curses at me, menaced deeds
Of darkness if I passed them by:
They and the glow-worm's glaring eye.

The night-wind rose, and raved at me,
Hung in the tree beside the gate;
The gate that snarled its iron hate
Above the gravel, grindingly,
And set its teeth to make me wait,
Beside the one tree near the gate.

The next thing that I knew a bat
Out of the rainy midnight swept
An evil blow: and then there crept,
Malignant with its head held flat,
A hiss before me as I stept,
A fang, that from the midnight swept.

I drew my dagger then, the blade
That never failed me in my need;
'Twere well to be prepared; indeed,
Who knew what waited there? what shade,
Or substance, banded to impede
My entrance of which there was need.

The blade, at least, was tangible
Among the shadows I must face;
Its touch was real; and in case
Hate waylaid me, would serve me well;
I needed something in that place
Among the shadows I must face.

The dead thorn took me by surprise,
A hag-like thing with twisted clutch;
From o'er the wall I felt it touch
My brow with talons; at my eyes
It seemed to wave a knotted crutch,
A hag-like thing with twisted clutch.

A hound kept howling in the night;
He and the wind were all I heard:
The wind that maundered some dark word
Of wrong, that nothing would make right,
To every rain-drop that it stirred:
The hound and wind were all I heard.

The grange was silent as the dead:
I looked at the dark face of it:
Nowhere was any candle lit:
It looked like some huge nightmare head
With death's-head eyes. I paused a bit
To study the dark face of it.

And then I rang and knocked: I gave
The great oak door loud blow on blow:
No servant answered: wild below
The echoes clanged as in a cave:
The evil mansion seemed to know
Who struck the door with blow on blow.

Silence: no chink of light to say
That he and his were living there,
That sinful man with snow-white hair,
That creature, I had come to slay;
That wretched thing, who did not dare
Reveal that he was hiding there.

I broke my dagger on the door,
Yet woke but echoes in the hall:
Then set my hands unto the wall
And clomb the ivy as before
In boyhood, to a window tall,
That was my room's once in that hall.

At last I stood again where he,
That vile man with the sneering face,
That fiend, that foul spot on our race,
Had sworn none of our family
Should ever stand again: the place
Was dark as his own devil's face.

I stood, and felt as if some crime
Closed in on me, hedged me around:
It clutched at me from closets; bound
Its arms around me; time on time
I turned and grasped; but nothing found,
Only the blackness all around.

The darkness took me by the throat:
I could not hear but felt it hiss
"Take this, you hound! and this! and this!"
Then, all at once, afar, remote,
I heard a door clang. Murder is
More cautious yet, whose was that hiss?

Oh, for a light! The blackness jeered
And mouthed at me; its sullen face
Was as a mask on all the place,
From which two sinister sockets leered;
A death's-head, that my eyes could trace,
That stared me sullen in the face.

Then silence packed the hall and stair
And crammed the rooms from attic down,
Since that far door had clanged; its frown
Upon the darkness, everywhere,
Had settled; like a graveyard gown
It clothed the house from attic down.

And then I heard a groan and one
Long sigh then silence. Who was near?
Was it the darkness at my ear
That mocked me with a deed undone?
Or was it he, who waited here,
To kill me when I had drawn near?

I drew my sword then: stood and stared
Into the night, that was a mask
To all the house, that made my task
A hopeless one. Ah! had it bared
Its teeth at me what more to ask!
My sword had gone through teeth and mask!

It was not fair to me; my cause!
The villain darkness bound my eyes.
Why, even the moon refused to rise.
It might have helped me in that pause,
Before I groped the room, whose size
Seemed monstrous to my night-bound eyes.

What was it that I stumbled on?
God! for a light that I might see!
There! something sat that stared at me
Some loathsome, twisted thing the spawn
Of hell and midnight. Was it he?
God! for a light that I might see!

And then the moon! thank Heaven! the moon
Broke through the clouds, a face chalk-white:
Now then, at last, I had a light!
And then I saw the thing seemed hewn
From marble at the moment's sight,
Bathed in the full moon's wistful white.

He sat, or rather crouched, there dead:
Her dagger in his heart that girl's:
His open eyes as white as pearls
Malignant staring overhead:
One hand clutched full of torn-out curls.
Her dagger in his heart that girl's.

I knew the blade. Why, I had seen
The thing stuck in her gipsy hair,
Worn as they wear them over there
In Spain: its gold hilt crusted green
With jade-like gems of cruel glare.
She wore it in her gipsy hair.

She called it her"green wasp, " and smiled
As if of some such deed she dreamed:
And yet to me she always seemed
A child, a little timid child,
Who at a mouse has often screamed
And yet of deeds like this she dreamed.

Where was she now? Some pond or pool
Would yield her body up some day.
Poor little waif, that'd gone astray!
And I! oh God! how great a fool
To know so long and yet delay!
Some pond would yield her up some day.

The world was phantomed with the mist
That night when I came from the grange.
So, she had stabbed him. It was strange.
Who would have thought that she who kiss'd
Would kill him too! Well, women change.
Their curse is on the lonely grange!

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