Lilith. The Legend Of The First Woman. Book III.

A poem by Ada Langworthy Collier

Wide through her realm she walked, and glad or lorn
She mused. So, loitering, it chanced one morn
When lone she sat upon a mountain height,
One sudden stood anear, whose dark eyes bright
Upon her shone. Pallid his face, and red
His smileless lips. "Who art thou?" Lilith said,
And faint a hidden pain her hot heart stirred,
When low, and rarely sweet, his voice she heard.
She looked, half-pleased--and half in strange surprise
Shrank 'neath the gaze of those wild, starry eyes.
"Oh, dame," the stranger said, "where waters leap
Bright glancing down, I rested oft, where steep
Thy Eden o'er, bare-browed, a peak uprose.
Naught craving bloom or fruitage--nay, nor those
Frail joys Adam holds dear. One only boon
I sought of all his heritage. Fair 'neath the moon
I saw thee stand; and all about thy feet
The night her perfume spilled, soft incense meet.
Then low I sighed, when grew thy beauty on my sight,
'Some comfort yet remains, if that I might
From Adam pluck this perfect flower. Some morn--
If I (some dreamed-of morn, perchance slow-born)
This flawless bloom, white, fragrant, lustrous, pure
For ever on my breast might hold secure.'
Yea, for thy love, through darkling realms of night
I followed thee, sharing thy fearful flight
Unseen. Lo, when thy timid heart, behind
Heard echoing phantom feet upon the wind,
'Twas I, pursuing o'er the day's last brink;
Wherefore, I now am here. O Lilith, think
How over-much I love thee, and how sweet
Were life with thee! O weary naked feet,
With me each onward path wilt thou not tread?
Or, if thou endest here thy quest," he said,
"Let me too bide with thee."
Made answer low
Lilith thereto: "Meseems not long ago
One stood at Eden's gate like thee. But thy face
Is darker, red thy lips. Of kingly race
I know thee. Say, whence comest thou, O prince?"
"Nay, then," he sighed, "an outcast I, long since
From Heaven thrust out; yet now, the curse is past,
Nor mourn I Heaven lost, if at the last
Thy love I win. Yea, where thou art, I know
Is Heaven. And bliss, in sooth" (oh, soft and low,
He said), "lives ever in thy smile."
His speech
Thus ended. And toward the sandy beach
He passed. Though long her eyes the stranger sought
Where curved the distant shore, she saw him not.

Soft through the trees the mottled shadows dropped
When Lilith in her pleasance sat. Half-propped
'Gainst mossy trunk her slender length. Her hair
In sunny web, enmeshed her elbows bare.
Slowly the breeze swayed the mimosas slight
As Eblis pushed aside the bent boughs light.
"O dame," he said, "it seemeth surely meet
Earth's richest gifts to lay at Lilith's feet;
Therefore I said 'unto the fairest one,
Things loveliest beneath the shining sun
I bring.' Since of all crafts in this young earth
I am true master, unto her whose worth
So much deserves, I bear this marble sphere,
Whose hollowed husk, well polished, gleaming clear,
Hides rarest fruit." Therewith the globe he showed,
The half whereof smooth-sparkling was: Half glowed
With carven work; embossed with pale leaves light,
And delicately sculptured birds in flight,
And clustered flowers frail. Lilith drew near
With beaming eyes, and laid the graven sphere
Against her smiling lips; o'ertraced the vine
That circled it with fingers slim. "Mine, mine
Is it, O prince?" she cried. "I know not why
Its beauty doth recall the winds' long sigh
That surged among the palms. Methinks is dead
Some summer-tide, that in its own sweet stead
Hath left upon the stone its imaging."
Eblis replied: "On earth, is anything
More fair? If such thou knowest, Lilith, speak.
That I, for thee, surely would straightway seek.
Say, if indeed thou findest anywhere,
On land or sea, created things so rare?"
And Lilith answered, "On this earth so round,
Naught else so lovely anywhere I found.
So shames it meaner work--so had I said--
But see yon nodding palm that droops its head
Low sighing o'er the wave. Bring me a bough
So feathery-fine. Turn thy white sphere! Now
On its cold, fair surface, Eblis, canst thou
Such branches carve, or tender fronds, that we
Bright waving on the cocoa, these may see?"
And Eblis wrought till grew upon the stone
Such airy boughs as on the cocoa shone.
Then Lilith cried: "Skilled craftsman, proven thou!
Didst thou, then, make my cocoa-tree? Thy bough
Pale graven give the grace of its green crown
When through it night winds gently slip adown.
No charm of color, nor of change, nor glow
Of blue noon sky, thy carven work doth show;
Let dusk bees visit it--or sip the breath
From thy chill marble buds." Then, Lilith saith,
"Eblis hath wroughten noblest on this earth."
He answered quick, "Poor bauble, little worth
To Lilith! Ope thy slighted husk, reveal
The miracle thy rough rind doth conceal!"

He touched a hidden spring, and wide apart
The riven sphere showed its white hollow heart,
And in the midst a gem; the which he laid
Within her hand. "Behold," he said, "I made
Most fair for thee this lustrous blood-red sard,
And deftly traced its gleaming surface hard
With carvings thick of bright acacias slim,
Pomegranates lush and river-reeds. Its rim
A spray of leaves enchased, white as with rime
Night fallen. 'Slow drags the lagging time,'
I said, 'till one day shines upon the breast
Of her, whose perfect beauty worthiest
It decks, this gem.' The token, Lilith, take;
If lovelier there be, for Eblis' sake
Keep silent; yet with me, oh Lilith, go
Awhile from thine own land. Then shall I know
The gem finds favor in thine eyes."
Then she
Turned from her pleasance and all silently
Passed to the sea, across the yellow strand
That, glimmering, ringed her shadowy land.
"Oh cool," he said, "the lucent waves that fret
The barren shore, and curl their scattered spray wet
'Gainst thy hand. Come! my longing pinnace waits
To bear thee far. Her slender keel now grates
Upon the beach; and swift her shapely prow
Will skim the deep, as swallows' fleet wing. Thou
Seest! comely and strong it is. For thee
Its golden sails, its purple canopy.
With skin of spotted pard, I cushioned it.
Ere the fresh breeze doth die, light let us flit
Across the sea. No craft so proud, so staunch,
Goes glancing through the foam. I safely launch
Her now, and speed to fairy isles. Come thou
With me." And glad she crossed the burnished prow;
And 'mong the thick furred rugs sat down. "Oh craft,
Fair fashioned, lightly built, speed far," she laughed;
"To other lands bear Lilith safe."
As sailed
They idly on, her slender hand she trailed
Among the waves, and sudden cried, "Indeed,
A craft stauncher than thine floats by. What need
Hath it of helm, or prow, or silken sail,
Sure harbor finding when the ocean gale
Fast drives it onward?" A nut she drew, round,
Rough, coarse-husked, forth from the wave. "Lo, I found,"
She said, "this boat well built. The cocoa-tree
Cast it amid the foam. Its pilot free,
The summer wind; its port, the misty shore
Of ocean isles. It fades from sight. 'No more,'
We say, 'it sails the wild uncertain main,'
But when the drifting days are gone, again
We turn our prow, and reach the barren isles
Where, stranded as we went, the nut. Now smiles
Above; a bending tree. Aloud we cry,
'A miracle is wrought!' We draw anigh.
Behold, the cocoa, towering, doth spring
Forth from the brown nut's heart. About it cling
Sweet odors faint; and far stars trembling peep.
When through its bowers cool the breezes creep.
Strong, indeed, thy boat, well builded! I wis
There be yet other craft as firm, Eblis,
That o'er these trackless waters boldly glide.
Brave Nautilus afar, doth fearless ride,
With sails of gossamer. So, too, doth spread,
To summer airs, his silken gleaming thread,
The water-spider fleet, free sailor true
That in the sunshine floats, beneath the blue,
Glad skies. And through the deep, all sparkling, slip
A thousand insect-swarms, that, rippling, dip
Amid the merry waves. Bright voyagers
That roam the sultry seas! Look, the wind stirs
Our creaking sails! Thy pinnace flying o'er
The ocean's swell, fast leaves the fading shore;
Yet faster still the Nautilus sails by,
And darts the spider quick. And swifter fly
The insect-fleets among the foam; yet think
Not when among the billows wild doth sink
Thy bounding boat, I fear. Nor would I slight
Thy skill, that made it strong, and swift, and light,
And trimmed it gayly, for my sake."
Now near
A jutting shore Prince Eblis drew, where sheer
The brown rocks rose. And just beyond, a slim
Beach of white sand curved to the ocean's brim.
Thereto he came, and high upon the strand
Drew the boat's keel. "Welcome, fair queen, to land
That Eblis rules," he said. "I fain would show
Thee what thou hast not seen in the warm glow
Of thy glad home. This blighted shore of mine
No verdure hath, nor bloom, nor fruits that shine
'Mong drooping boughs. Far inland gloom lone peaks
O'er blackened meads; or from their bare cones leaps
Gaunt, crackling flame; or crawl like ashen veins
The smouldering fires across the stricken plains.
Deep in these yawning caves black shadows lie
That shall be lifted never more. Come, I
Enter! Know thou what treasure by the sea
I gathered other time." Therewith showed he
Hid 'mong the high heaped rocks a dusky grot
Where never sunshine fell. A dismal spot
Where dank the sea-weeds coiled and cold the air
Swept through. And stooping, Eblis downward rolled
Before her webs of woven stuff, in fold
Of purple sheen, enwrought with flecks of gold.
Great wefts of scarlet and of blue, thick strewn
With pearls, or cleft with discs of jacinth stone;
And drifts of silky woof and samite white,
And warps of Orient hues. Eblis light
Wound round her neck a scarf of amber. Wide
Its smooth folds sweeping flowed; and proud he cried,
"Among these hills, in the still loom of night,
I wrought for Lilith's pleasing, all. And bright
Have spun these webs, in blended morning hues
And noontide shades and trail of silver dews--
Hereon have set fair traceries of cloud-shine
And tints of the far vales. The textures fine
Glow with sweet thoughts of thee. And otherwhere
Hast thou such fabrics seen, or colors rare
As these?" Dawned in her eyes a swift delight,
And low she cried, "Oh, wondrous is the sight,
And much it pleaseth me. But yet," she said,
"Beside my knee one morn, its hooded head
A Hagè reared. Its gliding shape so near
To subtler music moved, than my dull ear
Could catch. Its velvet skin I gently strake,
Watching the light that o'er its heaped coils brake
In glittering waves. Within its small, wise glance,
Flame silent slept, or quick in baleful dance
Before my startled gaze quivering did wake.
Fair is thy woof, soft woven, yet the snake
Out-dazzles it. The beetle that doth boom
Its dull life out among the tangled gloom,
Lift his wide wing above thy weft, or trail
His splendor there, and thy poor web will pale;
Yea, the red wayside lily that doth snare
The girdled bee, is softer still, more fair
Than finest woven cloth." But tenderly
She smoothed the gleaming folds. "Much pleaseth me,
Natlhess," she said, "such loveliness." Then brought
He tapestries of fleeces fine, well wrought
In colors soft as woodland mosses' tinge,
Or glow of autumn blooms: Heavy with fringe
Of downward sweeping gold; arras, where through
Showed mottled stripes, or arabesques of blue,
Broad zones of red, and tender grays, and hue
Of dropping leaves. "Lilith," he said, "when rolled
The storm-tossed billows round these caves, behold
I spun these daintily. 'Twere hard to find
Such twisted weft or woven strand." "Oh, kind,"
She said, "is Eblis, unto whom I fain
Would give due thanks. His gorgeous train
But yesterday I saw the peacock spread;
Bright in the sun gleamed his small crested head;
His haughty neck wrinkled to green and blue,
And since I needs must truly speak, I knew
Not color rich as his: and I have seen
The curious nest among the branches green,
The busy weaver-bird plaits of thick leaves,
And in and out its pliant meshes weaves;
And since thou sayest 'twere hard to match thy fine,
Strong, woven fabrics, watch the weaver twine
His cunning wefts. Though still," she said, "think not
I scorn thy gifts, Prince Eblis; for I wot
Their worth is greater than my tongue can say."
Then Eblis deeper in the cave led her a little way,
And showed a stately screen of such fine art
One almost felt the breeze that seemed to part
The pictured boughs. And o'er the stirless lake
Dreamed the swift, wimpling waters sudden brake
Among the willows on its brink--and flowers
Of scarlet, shining-clean from summer showers;
And Eblis said, "Cold praise a friend should spare
This picture true. Certain naught else will dare
Vie with such beauty."
Archly Lilith took
The rose from her bright hair, and lightly shook
The dewdrop from its heart. "I loving, touch,"
She said, "these petals smooth. O, Eblis, such
Give to thy painted blooms; give its cool sheen
Of morningtide, the mossy, lush leaves green
That fold it round. Give its faint, fragrant breath,
When with the fickle breeze it dallieth.
Nay, fairer still my rose than gilded screen,
Though it be limned with perfect art, I ween."
Thereat smiled Eblis bitterly. "I bring
One parting gift," he said, "a dainty thing;
Perchance in other time it will recall
One who strove long and patiently through all
These days to win thy praise." An oval plane
Of crystal gave he her; of fleck or stain
Clear-gleaming. Of ivory carven fine
The frame. And when she looked, "Divine,"
He laughed, "the beauty it enshrines. Canst claim
Aught else is fairer?" And Lilith again
Gazed in the glass, her face beholding there,
Her pink flushed cheeks, her yellow streaming hair.
Quick came her breath. "O prince," she slowly said,
"Fair is the stranger. Bid those lips so red
Speak once to Lilith. For methinks the voice
Of such in music flowed. Let me rejoice
Therein." "O glorious counterfeit!" cried
He. "Lovelier is not on this earth wide!
Behold, sweet Lilith, 'tis thine own pure face
That lends my happy mirror perfect grace
It else had not. Bid thou thine image speak!
No other happiness I elsewhere seek,
If the soft tale she whispers be of me."
And Lilith answered gravely, "I know thee,
Eblis. Master indeed of all crafts thou--
Red Sard, and marble sphere, and agile prow
Of pinnace light well wroughten were by thee
And decked full fair. And, beauteous to see,
Fine woven weft and web, and the tall screen
O'errun with painted bloom, crystal, with gleam
Of Lilith's face--thou madest these. Mayhap
Beetle and asp likewise didst tint--didst wrap
The green about my rose, and richly fringe
My cocoa-tree, or peacock's train didst tinge
With dazzling hues. Methought thou wert a prince,
But now Lilith should humbly kneel, since
Thou art far higher than she deemed, if thou
Madest these wondrous things." And lowly now
As she would kneel, she drew anigh. But he
Cried, shrinking, "Nay, I made them not." And she
Low questioned, "Eblis, tell me who then, did make
Them all. Who set the creeping hooded snake
And stealthy pard within the thorny brake,
And spread the sea, and wreathed the waterfall
With foam? Who reared the hoar hills, towering tall
Above the lands?" With eyes wild flashing, low
He groaned: "O Lilith, ask me not. My foe
He was--he is. Trembles with wrath my frame
If I but faintly breathe his awful name."
Lilith replied, "Meseemeth, master true
Of every craft is He."
Forth the two
From that drear cavern passed. Ere the water's brim
They gained, he plucked the wilding reeds, that slim
Stood by a brook. "My pipe I make, one strain
Harmonious to wake. Nor yet again
Shalt thou such fresh notes hear. Music like mine
Methinks thou hast not known in any time."
He laid his pipe unto his lips, and blew
A blast, wild, piercing, sweet. The far hills through
It rung. And softer fell, yet wild and clear.
It ceased. With drooping eyes, "Once I did hear
A song as wildly clear, as sad," she said,
"In mine own realm." And as she spoke, dark dread
The sky grew with a coming storm. "Oh, haste,"
He cried; "seek refuge ere this dreary waste
Reeks with the rain!" And fast they sped
Back to his ocean-cave. There safe, o'erhead
They watched the piling clouds. With angry roar
The baffled billows broke upon the rocks. O'er
Them rushed the shrieking storm. Wild through the grot
Wandered the prisoned wind, a troubled ghost that sought
Repose. Or low did moan, and trembling, wail,
Like some sore-hearted thing that hideth, pale,
And dare not front the day; and wilder still,
In chords melodious, swelled or sank, until
She sighed, "Oh, this weird harp among the caves,
Strange players hath! For loud as one that raves,
It rises. Now more sweetly fade away
Its mellow notes than thy thin pipes." "One day,"
He said, "mayhap my strain may please, when wind
Doth not outpipe my slighted reeds. Unkind
Thou art." "The storm is past; to mine own land
I would return," she said. And Eblis o'er the strand
Led her. And homeward silent turned his prow
That swiftly through the swirling waves did plow.
But when they parted, Eblis mused, "I know
No gift soever winneth her, rich though
It be and seemly. Into this pure soul,
Through fear of ill, I enter; or by goal
Of future gain before it set."
So came
He to her pleasance yet again. A flame
Leaped high above a brazier that he bore,
Its sweet, white, scented wood quick lapping o'er.
With darkened face Eblis above her hung.
"This hath, than my poor pipe, a keener tongue,"
Smileless and stern, he said. "Oh, dame,
List how the wild, crisp, crackling ruby flame
Eats through the tender boughs. A trusty knave
It is, that serves me well, and loud doth rave
As tiger caged. When I do set it free,
With angry fangs leaps on its prey. But see,
It now sleeps harmlessly, till Eblis calls
His faithful servant back. Lilith, when falls
The red fire at thy feet, dost fear?" "Nay, nay,"
She cried, and drew her white neck up. "A way
To tame it thou hast found. Believe me, since
It is thy slave I too will bind it, prince.
Should Lilith fear? Unfaltering, these eyes
Have watched when rushing storm-clouds heaped the skies,
And the black whirlwind, with loud, deafening roar,
Beat the torn waves; or whirled against the shore
The tumbling billows, with fierce lips that bit
The shrinking land. And the wreathed lightnings split
The cloud with thunder dread: or wildly burst
Upon the sea the water-spout. Shall first
She fear thy flame, who feared not these?" "Fit mate
Art thou for Eblis," answered he. "His fate
Share, great-souled one. Thou wouldst not meanly shrink,
Though his strong heart did fail. O Lilith, think!
The crown of clustered worlds thou mayest find,
If thou with him who loveth thee wilt bind
Thy life." "Nay, far happier seems to me
Than eagle caged, the wild lark soaring free,"
She said. And through her rose-pleached alleys strayed
They to the sea. And tender music made
That guileful voice; yet slow his wooing sped
Those summer days. But when were dead
And brown the crisping leaves, "Oh, love," he said,
"Of all the centuries, thou rarest bloom,
Thy shut heart open wide. Its sweet perfume,
Though I should die, fain would I parting drink.
Sleeps yet thy love? From me no longer shrink,
My Lilith. Oh, lift up thy tender eyes;
In their blue depths doth happy morning rise;
'Tis night if they be closed."
She softly sighed;
And ancient strife recalling, thus replied:
"When dwelt a prince discrowned, well satisfied?
And fallen, loving, still art thou a prince,
And otherwhiles might sorrow bring me, since
It might hap thou wouldst much desire her realm,
Were Lilith thine; for princes seize the helm
When Love lies moored, and bid the shallop seek
Across the waves new lands. But Love is weak,
And so, alas, the craft upon the sands
Is dashed, while one, on-looking, wrings her hands.
Such days I have outlived. Like Adam, thou
Perchance will seek to bind the loosed. Then how
(If one hath drunken wine of liberty)
Shall she, athirst, rejoice; no longer free,
Be glad?"
"My love," he said, "large-hearted lives,
Full dowers thee, and royal bounty gives,
Nor knoweth law, save Lilith's wish alone."
"Why, then," she answered, "on the polished stone
That fronts yon hill, write, Eblis, in full day,
That other time we read it clear, and say,
'Hereon are graven all those early vows
We whispered low aneath the summer boughs,'
Write every word. That so the stone shall be
Ever a witness mute twixt thee and me.
Then shall I know thou seekest in me no thrall
For after-days, if thou make compact. All
Thou hast said, write now."
Then on the stone,
As she had said, graved Eblis, and thereon
Did set his seal. So wedded they: and hand
In hand the wide world roamed. Or in her land
Abode. And oft, of hours, ere yet on earth
He walked, she questioned. Or he loosed with mirth
Her yellow hair, down-streaming o'er his arm;
And 'gainst his cheek her breath came sweet and warm;
As through his dusky locks caressing played
Her fingers slim; and shadows, half afraid,
She saw in his wild eyes.
Or paths remote
They trod, watching the white clouds rise and float
Athwart the sky. Or by the listless main,
Or 'neath the lotus bough, slow paced the twain.
Or dragon-trees spread their cool leafy screen.
And faint crept odors through the mangroves green,
Where paused the pair upon the sandy shore.
Love-tranced, unheeded, swiftly passed them o'er
Glad summer days: till one hour softly laid
At Lilith's feet a fair, lone babe, that strayed
From distant Dreamland far. So might one deem
That looked upon its face. Or, it might seem
From other climes, a rose-leaf blown apart,
Down-fluttered there, to gladden Lilith's heart.

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