In Arcady

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I remember, when a child,
How within the April wild
Once I walked with Mystery
In the groves of Arcady....
Through the boughs, before, behind,
Swept the mantle of the wind,
Thunderous and unconfined.

Overhead the curving moon
Pierced the twilight: a cocoon,
Golden, big with unborn wings -
Beauty, shaping spiritual things,
Vague, impatient of the night,
Eager for its heavenward flight
Out of darkness into light.

Here and there the oaks assumed
Satyr aspects; shadows gloomed,
Hiding, of a dryad look;
And the naiad-frantic brook,
Crying, fled the solitude,
Filled with terror of the wood,
Or some faun-thing that pursued.

In the dead leaves on the ground
Crept a movement; rose a sound:
Everywhere the silence ticked
As with hands of things that picked
At the loam, or in the dew, -
Elvish sounds that crept or flew, -
Beak-like, pushing surely through.

Down the forest, overhead,
Stammering a dead leaf fled,
Filled with elemental fear
Of some dark destruction near -
One, whose glowworm eyes I saw
Hag with flame the crooked haw,
Which the moon clutched like a claw.

Gradually beneath the tree
Grew a shape; a nudity:
Lithe and slender; silent as
Growth of tree or blade of grass;
Brown and silken as the bloom
Of the trillium in the gloom,
Visible as strange perfume.

For an instant there it stood,
Smiling on me in the wood:
And I saw its hair was green
As the leaf-sheath, gold of sheen:
And its eyes an azure wet,
From within which seemed to jet
Sapphire lights and violet.

Swiftly by I saw it glide;
And the dark was deified:
Wild before it everywhere
Gleamed the greenness of its hair;
And around it danced a light,
Soft, the sapphire of its sight,
Making witchcraft of the night.

On the branch above, the bird
Trilled to it a dreamy word:
In its bud the wild bee droned
Honeyed greeting, drowsy-toned:
And the brook forgot the gloom,
Hushed its heart, and, wrapped in bloom,
Breathed a welcome of perfume.

To its beauty bush and tree
Stretched sweet arms of ecstasy;
And the soul within the rock
Lichen-treasures did unlock
As upon it fell its eye;
And the earth, that felt it nigh,
Into wildflowers seemed to sigh....

Was it dryad? was it faun?
Wandered from the times long gone.
Was it sylvan? was it fay? -
Dim survivor of the day
When Religion peopled streams,
Woods and rocks with shapes like gleams, -
That invaded then my dreams?

Was it shadow? was it shape?
Or but fancy's wild escape? -
Of my own child's world the charm
That assumed material form? -
Of my soul the mystery,
That the spring revealed to me,
There in long-lost Arcady?

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