Unmasked

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Was it a dream,
Or a whim of the night?
Or did they gleam
Upon my sight
An instant there in the wan moonlight?
I saw them all, I think,
Under the bowers,
The faery folk, in a moonbeam wink,
Disguised as flowers.
First came the Bleeding-Hearts, that hang like bells
Or delicate shells;
Who, gowned in white and red,
Hooped skirts and furbelows,
A long procession led
Of Faery Ladies and their beaux,
Such as the Violet and Early Rose,
Into the ball-room of the flower-bed,
Where they began a Pixy minuet.
Then suddenly, from whence nobody knows,
The Johnny-Jump-Ups glimmered in that set,
Tipping about on tiny flower-toes,
All dressed in twinkling velvet, black and blue,
Faint-jeweled with the dew:
Stout sons of Faërie, Yeomen of the Night,
Glittering, each one, a rapier-ray of light:
Then, bowing two by two,
While all the Bleeding-Hearts stood by and fanned,
They, silken hand in hand,
Began a faery saraband,
That wound and interwound, and went and came again.
And then,
In ruffed and ribboned lines,
The gold-and-ruby gleaming Columbines,
Fair Maids-of-Honor to the Faery Queen,
Who still remained unseen,
Trailed twinkling into view.
And then a trumpet blew
A beetle-blast and there!
Adown a glowworm-lanthorned avenue,
Tall two by two,
With sapphire-helméd hair,
Proud Knights and minions of the moon,
The Larkspurs, to a cricket tune,
Marched with a haughty air.
And golden-cuirassed, blowing a wild fanfare
Of fragrant notes
From honey-crystaled throats,
Snapdragons, Trumpeters of the Faery King,
With pomp and glittering
Of many an elfin prince and peer,
Drew near.
And when I felt secure,
And sure
The King and Queen of Faerie would appear,
My dear,
A cockerel crew, a thwarting cockerel crew,
And, presto! whew!
The whole scene went in air,
Leaving it there,
The garden, glimmering with the moon and dew,
Looking demure
With all its flowers. But I knew,
Nay, I was sure,
It was not quite as innocent as it seemed.
It could not fool me with its looks demure.
I knew I had not dreamed.

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