The Screech-Owl.

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

When, one by one, the stars have trembled through
Eve's shadowy hues of violet, rose, and fire
As on a pansy-bloom the limpid dew
Orbs its bright beads; and, one by one, the choir
Of insects wakes on nodding bush and brier:
Then through the woods where wandering winds pursue
A ceaseless whisper like an eery lyre
Struck in the Erl-king's halls, where ghosts and dreams
Hold revelry, your goblin music screams,
Shivering and strange as some strange thought come true.

Brown as the agaric that frills dead trees,
Or those fantastic fungi of the woods
That crowd the dampness are you kin to these
In some mysterious way that still eludes
My fancy? you, who haunt the solitudes
With witch-like wailings? voice, that seems to freeze
Out of the darkness, like the scent which broods,
Rank and rain-sodden, over autumn nooks,
That, to the mind, might well suggest such looks,
Ghastly and gray, as pale clairvoyance sees.

You people night with weirdness: lone and drear,
Beneath the stars, you cry your wizard runes;
And in the haggard silence, filled with fear,
Your shuddering hoot seems some bleak grief that croons
Mockery and terror; or, beneath the moon's
Cloud-hurrying glimmer, to the startled ear,
Crazed, madman snatches of old, perished tunes,
The witless wit of outcast Edgar there
In the wild night; or, wan with all despair,
The mirthless laughter of the Fool in Lear.

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