Deep in the hollow wood he found a way
Winding unto a water, dim and gray,
Grayer and dimmer than the break of day;
By which a wildrose blossomed; flower on flower
Leaning above its image hour on hour,
Musing, it seemed, on its own loveliness,
And longing with sweet longing to express
Some thought to its reflection.
Bee-shaken pollen from th' o'erburdened bough,
And now a petal, delicate as a blush,
It seemed to sigh or whisper to the hush
The dreams, the myths and marvels it had seen
Tip-toeing dimly through the woodland green:
Faint shapes of fragrance; forms like flowers, that go
Footing the moss; or, shouldered with moonbeam glow,
Through starlit waves oaring an arm of snow.
He sat him down and gazed into the pool:
And as he gazed, two petals, silken cool,
Fell, soft as starbeams fall that arrow through
The fern-hung trembling of a drop of dew;
And, pearly-placid, on the water lay,
Two curves of languid ruby, where, rose-gray,
The shadow of a willow dimmed the stream.
And suddenly he saw or did he dream
He saw? the rose-leaves change to rosy lips,
A laughing crimson. And, with silvery hips,
And eyes of luminous emerald, full of sleep
And all the stillness of the under deep,
The shadow of the tree become a girl,
A shadowy girl, who shook from many a curl
Faint, tangled glimmerings of shell and pearl.
A girl who called him, beckoned him to come,
Waving a hand whiter than moonlit foam,
And pointing, minnowy fingered, to her home
A bubble, rainbow-built, beneath the wave,
Dim-domed, and murmurous as the deep-sea cave,
Columned of coral and of grottoed foam,
Where the pale mermaids never cease to comb
Their weed-green hair with fingers crystal-cold,
Sighing forever 'round the Sea King old
Throned. on his throne of shell and ribbéd gold.
Laughing, she lured him, lipped like some wild rose;
Bidding him follow; come to her; repose
Upon her bosom and forever dream
Lulled by the wandering whisper of the stream.
But him mortality weighed heavily on
And earthly love: and, sorrowful and wan,
He shook his head, motioning, "I cannot rise";
But still he felt the magic of her eyes
Drawing him to her; felt her hands of foam
Around his heart; her lips, that bade him come
With smiling witchery, and with laughing looks
Like those that lured us in the fairy books
Our childhood dreamed on.
Then, as suddenly,
A wind, it seemed, from no where he could see,
Wrinkled the water; ruffled its smooth glass;
And there again, behold! when it did pass
The rose-leaves lay and shadow, dimly seen;
The willow's shadow, and no thing between.