The Mill-Water

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

The water-flag and wild cane grow
'Round banks whereon the sunbeams sow
Fantastic gold when, on its shores,
The wind sighs through the sycamores.

In one green angle, just in reach,
Between a willow-tree and beech,
Moss-grown and leaky lies a boat
The thick-grown lilies keep afloat.

And through its waters, half awake,
Slow swims the spotted water-snake;
And near its edge, like some gray streak,
Stands gaunt the still fly-up-the-creek.

Between the lily-pads and blooms
The water-spirits set their looms,
That weave the lace-like light that dims
The glimmering leaves of under limbs.

Each lily is the hiding-place
Of some dim wood-imp's elvish face,
That watches you with gold-green eyes
Where bubbles of its breathing rise.

I fancy, when the waxing moon
Leans through the trees and dreams of June,
And when the black bat slants its wing,
And lonelier the green-frogs sing;
I fancy, when the whippoorwill

In some old tree sings wild and shrill,
With glow-worm eyes that dot the dark,
Each holding high a firefly spark

To torch its way, the wood-imps come:
And some float rocking here; and some
Unmoor the lily leaves and oar
Around the old boat by the shore.

They climb through oozy weeds and moss;
They swarm its rotting sides and toss
Their firefly torches o'er its edge
Or hang them in the tangled sedge.

The boat is loosed. The moon is pale.
Around the dam they slowly sail.
Upon the bow, to pilot it,
A jack-o'-lantern gleam doth sit.

Yes, I have seen it in my dreams!
Naught is forgotten! naught, it seems!
The strangled face, the tangled hair
Of the drown'd woman trailing there.

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