The Vale Of Tempe - The Hylas

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


I Heard the hylas in the bottomlands
Piping a reed-note in the praise of Spring:
The South-wind brought the music on its wing,
As 't were a hundred strands
Of guttural gold smitten of elfin hands;
Or of sonorous silver, struck by bands,
Anviled within the earth,
Of laboring gnomes shaping some gem of worth.

Sounds that seemed to bid
The wildflowers wake;
Unclose each dewy lid,
And starrily shake
Sleep from their airy eyes
Beneath the loam,
And, robed in d├Ždal dyes,
Frail as the fluttering foam,
In countless myriads rise.
And in my city home
I, too, who heard
Their reedy word,
Awoke, and, with my soul, went forth to roam.


And under glimpses of the cloud-white sky
My soul and I
Beheld her seated, Spring among the woods
With bright attendants,
Two radiant maidens,
The Wind and Sun: one robed in cadence,
And one in white resplendence,
Working wild wonders with the solitudes.

And thus it was,
So it seemed to me,
Where she sat apart
Fondling a bee,
By some strange art,
As in a glass,
Down in her heart
My eyes could see
What would come to pass:
How in each tree,
Each blade of grass,
Dead though it seemed,
Still lived and dreamed
Life and perfume,
Color and bloom,
Housed from the North
Like golden mirth,
That she with jubilation would bring forth,
Astonishing Earth.


And thus it was I knew
That though the trees were barren of all buds,
And all the woods
Of blossoms now, still, still their hoods
And heads of blue and gold,
And pink and pearl lay hidden in the mould;
And in a day or two,
When Spring's fair feet came twinkling through
The trees, their gold and blue,
And pearl and pink in countless bands would rise,
Invading all these ways
With loveliness; and to the skies,
In radiant rapture raise
The fragile sweetness of a thousand eyes.

When every foot of soil would boast
An ambuscade
Of blossoms; each green rood parade
Its flowery host;
And every acre of the woods,
With little bird-like beaks of leaves and buds,
Brag of its beauty; making bankrupts of
Our hearts of praise, and beggar us of love.


Here, when the snow was flying,
And barren boughs were sighing,
In icy January,
I stood, like some gray tree, lonely and solitary.
Now every spine and splinter
Of wood, washed clean of winter,
By hill and canyon
Makes of itself an intimate companion,
A confidant, who whispers me the dreams
That haunt its heart, and clothe it as with gleams.
And lonely now no more
I walk the mossy floor
Of woodlands where each bourgeoning leaf is matched,
Mated with music; triumphed o'er
Of building love and nestling song just hatched.


Washed of the early rains,
And rosed with ruddy stains,
The boughs and branches now make ready for
Their raiment green of leaves and musk and myrrh.
As if to greet her pomp,
The heralds of her state,
As 't were with many a silvery trump,
The birds are singing, singing,
And all the world's elate,
As o'er the hills, as 't were from Heaven's gate,
With garments, dewy-clinging,
Comes Spring, around whose way the budded woods are ringing
With redbird and with bluebird and with thrush;
While, overhead, on happy wings is swinging
The swallow through the heaven's azure hush:
And wren and sparrow, vireo and crow
Are busy with their nests, or high or low,
In every tree, it seems, and every bush.
The loamy odor of the turfy heat,
Breathed warm from every field and wood retreat,
Is as if spirits passed on flowery feet
That indescribable
Aroma of the woods one knows so well,
Reminding one of sylvan presences,
Clad on with lichen and with moss,
That haunt and trail across
The woods' dim dales and dells; their airy essences
Of racy nard and musk
Rapping at gummy husk
And honeyed sheath of every leaf and flower,
That open to their knock, each at the appointed hour:
And, lo!
Where'er they go
Behold a miracle
Too beautiful to tell!
Where late the woods were bare
The red-bud shakes its hair
Of flowering flame; the dogwood and the haw
Dazzle with pearl the shaw;
And the broad maple crimsons, sunset-red,
Through firmaments of forest overhead:
And of its boughs the wild-crab makes a lair,
A rosy cloud of blossoms, for the bees,
Bewildered there,
To revel in; lulling itself with these.
And in the whispering woods
The wildflower multitudes
Rise, star, and bell, and bugle, all amort
To everything save their own loveliness
And the soft wind's caress,
The wind that tip-toes through them: liverwort,
Spring-beauty, windflower and the bleedingheart,
And bloodroot, holding low
Its cups of stainless snow;
Sorrel and trillturn and the twin-leaf, too,
Twinkling, like stars, through dew:
And patches, as it were, of saffron skies,
Ranunculus; and golden eyes
Of adder's-tongue; and mines,
It seems, of grottoed gold, the poppy-celandines;
And, sapphire-spilled,
Bluets and violets,
Dark pansy-violets and columbines,
With rainy radiance filled;
And many more whose names my mind forgets,
But not my heart:
The Nations of the Flowers, making gay
In every place and part,
With pomp and pageantry
Of absolute Beauty, all the worlds of woods,
In congregated multitudes,
Assembled where
Unearthly colors all the oaks put on,
Velvet and silk and vair,
Vermeil and mauve and fawn,
Dim and auroral as the hues of dawn.

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