Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.
I have not delved in the ruins of antiquity, nor moralized upon the past, as Byron did, but have kept, or tried to keep, two lines of Keats, two lines of Endymion, forever in mind while writing, and striven to the uttermost to make my lines worthy the text.
Lead me, thou Bard of Beauty, through those caves
Of pale Diana! let me hear the moan
Of Ocean, sorrowing with all his waves
As once he sorrowed on that Island lone
In siren moonlight. Here, where twilight paves
The woodland paths, I seem to hear her trail
Dim raiment; her, that damsel who enslaves
My soul; that Beauty, sad, divinely pale,
That haunts thy song, mastering the gamut whole
Of dreams and music; on whose easeful breast,
As once Endymion's head, soft-dreaming, pressed
That Indian maiden's bosom, rests my soul.
O let me sing as thou didst, Keats, and die!
With soul poured on the circling starry night;
When Dian's lune hangs dewy in the sky,
And the wild nightingale with anguished might
Bewails in some dense bramble's spicy dusk
Its old heart-sorrow to the wild rose wan;
Or let me, like thyself, drink in the musk
Of some dull draught from Lethe's waters drawn,
And sink, as thou didst, into dreamless sleep,
Where disappointment, heartache, grief and scorn,
And human misery can no longer heap
The soul that treads life's path set round with thorn;
Ay! fall asleep, as thou didst fall asleep
Under the alien skies, of hope forlorn!
In the forest of music often and often,
To the murmuring song of the winds and waters,
Have our spirits mingled and mixed
In the wildflower dance of the Hours
On the mossy carpet under the whispering leaves:
Or wandered, hand in shadowy hand,
Beneath the song-suggestive stillness of the moon:
Or leaned, listening,
Over deep glens of echoing green,
Carved in the ancient bosoms of the hills
By sonorous and impetuous waters,
Bearing upon their foamy crests
Crescents and points, starry and still,
Of reflected emerald flame,
When the heavens bloomed and blazed with a million quivering fires.
Dost thou know her name?
Fairest of the Daughters of Music is she,
Loveliest of all the Children of Art.
The puff-ball of the autumn ways is Puck's fat fist thrust threateningly out of the half-concealing weeds at the bee to whom the blossom offers her milk-white bosom.
When winter nights are cold and shrill,
And winds sit rocking wild their arms,
Far off, beyond the treeless hill,
Sound ghostly faint the owl's alarms.
Wail, wail, thou bird of ill omén,
Within thy freezing glen!
Screech, screech through all the frosty night
Where gleams the cold moonlight!
Well with man's mood thy song accords,
Thy song that knows but wailing words.
Lo, where the oats in barn are housed,
The screech-owl sits and croons and cries,
Until the cocks are all aroused
And know to-night some pullet dies.
Hush, hush, thou staring owl!
And leave the roosting fowl!
Go, seek the shivering wood,
And there, where wild winds brood,
Sing to the soul that hope has lost,
The soul that still is tempest-tost.
When snows drift deep the forest path,
And sleet bows down the strongest trees,
Like Edgar's fear and Lear's crazed wrath,
The screech-owl's voice makes wild the breeze.
Mourn, mourn, thou feathered witch
Above the frozen ditch!
Weep, weep, unto the icy gale,
Where icicles hang pale,
As weeps the heart, ingratitude
Makes winter of, the grief pursued.
Like a pearl, dissolving in a goblet of golden wine, is the new moon in the drowning deeps of the sunset.
The sea-pink and the tall wild bell-flower divide the honors of July; the one, pearly pink, the other, turquoise-azure, conspicuously placed in her flower-garland in fragrant fraternity, each proud of its showy loveliness and of the abundant beauty of the month that bore them.
Toadstools, large and little, overrun the woods to-day after a day and night of rain: red and yellow and white, green and saffron and gray; upright, sidewise; some with the woodland loam and leaves, upheaved with them, still strewing their tops; graceful and slender, or bloated and distorted they stand; poisonous-looking some of them, and of a blue mottled color, which, when broken, exude a thin cobalt-colored watery juice that stains whatever it touches; some of them a burnt-umber brown and of enormous size, looking like huge flat hats, rims turned up, swollen with rain, rotting and reeking in the underwoods and filling the air with a fetid fungous odor.
Great clumps of the Mayapples, beaten down and ruined by the rain here and there by the wayside, show the smooth green and ripening yellow of their oval fruit, often too large and heavy for the stalk to support.
The elecampane and the black-eyed Susan, with their frank, wide eyes of gold and bronze; the thimble-weed, with its terminal greenish white blossoms and stiff thyrsus-like thimbles of green thrust from and over the surrounding briers and weeds; and the lacy white of the wild-carrot together with the bugled scarlet of the trumpet-vine, make a perfect riot of color in an angle of an old worm-fence separating a bit of fallow-field from a bit of sown, wherein a bob-white keeps calling; repeatedly tying, as it were, with a thread of three notes, the stillness and the heat: the first two, soft, careful, and preliminary; the last one, whipped out emphatically, straight as a thread thrust through the eye of a needle, completing and forming the final knot to its own satisfaction and that also of the listening summer day.
Across a wooded vista a red-bird suddenly wings. Its flight is as the swift unfurling of a ribbon of living crimson uniting tree to tree, with a bright bowknot of silken song at either end.
In the careless shadow of a flowering tree she sat a witch whiter than a windflower. Her song was all of poison, hemlock, the squeezing of the dark juice through white fingers. A sound as of owlet wings kept time to her wild singing. At her feet lay a youth with closed eyes, whose lips and forehead she kissed repeatedly, each kiss leaving a mark as of a serpent's fang. He was dead, and yet he seemed to live, his heart and soul, through her kisses, ashes and dust within him. His face was pinched into smiles that were not smiles. She laughed, and beneath her laugh the monkshood and nightshade covered themselves with poison-dripping blossoms, and the wild-rose was slimed with snails.
The spirits of the tempest advance their embattled hosts, thunderous rank on rank, black with their shields of midnight. Beneath the flashings of their terrible helmets and the hissing and rebounding rain of their arrows, the hills lift up their writhing arms of trees, and the river, foaming with fear, hurls itself headlong at its banks.
Twilight with her dusky locks binds up the beautiful eyes of day, whose head she pillows on flaming flowers, tulip and poppy and rose. Her voice is plaintive as echo's amid the rocks where sleeping waves in dull green mantles lie beneath the caverned cliff; or billows climb, white-shouldered, with long fingers of foam.
Here are passion-flowers, purple of heart, bearing the cross, as it were, of some stainless flower-creed; acacias, too, spotless as the angel innocence of a babe, and expressing in fragrance what the poet thinks but cannot say.
The roar of winter through the palsied oaks,
Wind-tortured on the withered fields,
Is as the sound of giant chariot spokes,
And clashing of innumerable shields.
I've wooed soft sleep all night,
Clothed in her mantle white
And dim as rain;
I've lain all night and wept
For death, who past me crept,
To still this pain,
Heart's pain, but all in vain.
Why cam'st thou not, O death?
Why cam'st thou not, O sleep?
Death's brother, calm of breath,
For whom I keep
Vigil the long night through:
At last the day breaks blue
And dim the dawn.
Would that you yet might hear,
And hearing me, draw near
Ere night be gone.
The night is wild; the bitter blasts sweep by;
The shrouded snows with ghostly fingers beat
The shuddering casements, and the candle flame
Seems fluttered of phantom lips whose kiss is death.
Next to children, birds and flowers are the most beautiful gifts of God.
A treasure seems concealed here where the moss is damp and deep, and the golden blossoms of the crowfoot and the wood-sorrel are spilled like little yellow coins.
As I reached up among the blossoming clusters of the elder copse, was it a faun concealed in the boscage who blinded me with a storm of white stars showered into my face, or was it merely the wind that passed, low laughing to itself, and whispering of forgotten things, lost long ago, and living now only in the land of dreams and song?
With its helm of silver and spur of gold
A fairy knight is the toad-flax bold,
Who takes this form to mortal eyes,
The form of a flower of golden dyes.
By the willow copse near the river shore,
Where the white waves hush their splash and roar,
With an idle sail and an idle oar
I seemed to drift into other streams,
Borne on by the sleepy current of dreams.
O wilding of the young, young June,
That this old rock holds fast,
Thy day is done too soon, too soon,
Too beautiful to last.
Water lily, do the Nisses weave from you their nuptial raiment of white? Or does the enamoured Necken pluck you for his hair to lure some maiden mortal to his arms? Or the mermaid dew you with her tears when lamenting that she cannot be redeemed? Speak! and with your white, sweet lips now tell me! I know the young Nisses weep because they cannot be saved. Often do I fancy them as seated on your broad green pads, harping and singing sad songs of sad mortality in the light of the setting moon, the vibrant silver of their strings and the hollow gold of their harps sobbing like some wild bird in the silence of the night. And often have you bent your pensive head in helpless meekness, making yourself a bud again, closing the wildness of their music into the imprisoning petals of your beautiful bosom, to give it forth again in perfume.
When all the orchards faded lie,
When roses drop and lilies die,
When fall's full moon makes deep the sky,
Lay me asleep,
Where breezes bend the sighing trees,
Lay me asleep.
When all the dusty autumn day
Is heard the locust's roundelay,
And, dropping leaves, the tree-tops sway
And wildflowers there,
Beneath the wildflowers let me rest,
The wildflowers there.
Let not thy hand disturb the grass
To plant an alien flower there;
Let those wild infants, free as fair,
Above me, sleeping, bloom and pass,
Forgotten as myself, alas!
Who 'neath them lie.
Gems and crystals lay scattered around him, on marble the color of fire: sea-green chrysoprase and copalite from Zanzibar; spar the color of amber; alexandrines green by day, by night purple or crimson from the Urals; iron, with red streaks of jasper through it; lapis-lazuli and chrysoberyl; fluorspar crystals, white, amethystine, pink and green; cairngorms, dark and clear as an Ethiope's eye; topazes, smoky and blue and wine-colored; and heaped high amid them, like violets smothered under the snows of spring, great sapphires mingled and mixed with the milky fire of many opals.
The great stars wax and wane, and the moon rises over gull-haunted crags, honeycombed with caves, in whose dark crevices the yellow mollusks cling like ingots of gold, and upon whose floors of green the red coral is strewn like branches of bleeding ruby.
I cannot help admiring the great gray hawk. How bold, how bright, how swift he is! Let him but show his shadow and the shrieking hens scatter, flying to cover; and the blood-red cock, that braggart of the barn-yard, hides his proud crest in fear.
To-day I found a flower unknown to me, a flower white as a pearl and spotted with crimson, as if some wild bird, stabbed with a thorn, had breathed its small life out upon the altar of its loveliness.
The moon is a lemon petal,
And the west a wild-rose red,
And the twilight twines her dusky locks
With lily-like stars o'erhead.
Deep down, deep down, deep, deep, deep!
Follow us! come with us! See how we leap!
Daughters of Æger, veiled white with the spray,
Beckoning, calling you. Oh, come away!
Children of Earth, come hither, where we
Dwell in Ran's realms of cerulean hue;
Where through her caverns of green and of blue
Echo our songs, our songs of the sea,
Dirging the dead, the sailors who sleep
Deep down, deep down, deep, deep, deep!
Come, where the dulse and the nautilus cling!
Come away, come away, here where we sing!
Where of your eyes we will fashion pale homes,
Hollow, for pearls and the glimmering foams.
The pale-haired Waves and the white-veiled Billows, daughters of Ran, hurry to meet Æger, King of Ocean, in his helmet of terrifying darkness, amid the roaring reefs and booming breakers. The demons of the deep, armored and helmeted with mist, swarm from the caves of the cliffs, howling to the legions of the storm, driving some vessel, helpless and tattered of sail, toward them.
Come, kiss me, beautiful Death,
And lull me with thy wings;
Breathe on me with thy breath,
And touch my soul with things
Unknown of life. Imbue
My body with thy dew
And bear me far away
Into a deeper dawn
Than lights life's shadowy lawn,
Some fairer break-of-day.
Life's sickness, long and old,
Cure in me; everything:
Life's greed for fame and gold
And love and suffering.
Yea, I am young and fair!
Come, take me by the hair
And kiss me on the eyes;
Then bear me through the deep,
As thy brother, dream-tossed Sleep,
Hath borne me loving-wise.
The new moon is the golden battlebow of a sylph; the evening star is the arrow with which it pierces the sunset.
I saw the Spirits of Day and of Darkness meet. Whiter than the bloom of crystal were his cheeks; and hers, a hectic flush that seemed the reflection of some inward fire, like the scarlet of the autumn woods. To grace her drowsy head he wove for her a chaplet of poppied clouds.
Cheerily rang the bugle horn,
Cheerily through the wood,
For the ten-tined buck by the hunt outworn
At bay 'neath the old oak stood.
The morn, like some blear-eyed beggar, came trailing her tatters in, streaming with vapor, dark and dismal, her sodden hair blinding her eyes.
The noon was clear; but now, as the sun sinks, the broadening black of one tremendous cloud breaks into peaks, creviced and ravined and rivered with burning gold, cascading and circling and cleaving their crags of storm. The thunder seems the sound of its mighty flowing. Nearer and nearer the blue lines of the rain shadow and streak the woods, the hills, and the heavens. Now they plunge, big-dropped, crackling, and resilient, clamoring on the reverberating stones; so thin the film of spray of the shattered drops that the white-tufted dandelion loses not one light seed in the shelter of this rock, where, like a host of fairy helms, the rose bush bristles against the rain a myriad green buds. Again, and yet again, the thunder, breaking, travels ponderously along the clouds, the gray-steel flash of the lightning like a torch before its rolling chariot.
And now yon crystal mount of clouds
Silvers with light as 't were of wings,
Whose base the thunder's blackness shrouds,
While to its summit brightness clings.
Along the west, flashed through the dun,
Leaping, the angled lightnings fly,
Cleaving the deeps, where thunders run
Like mountain torrents down the sky.
Out of it rises, partly hid,
A cloud, rose-spar, all fair of form,
Like some sky-pointed pyramid,
Or pillar of light, above the storm.
MAY 23, 1885; 6 P. M.
The broad Ohio's darkening stream
Seems now as still as liquid glass,
In which the bridge's pillars dream
Unwavering where the still waves pass.
The shattered thunder fragments fly;
One cloud alone makes dark the west,
Low stooping to the evening sky,
A champion with a burning crest:
Through whose mailed breast of darkness dim
And ragged rents of vapors deep,
The sun sweeps lances, long and slim,
Of flame that fall on vale and steep.
Through stratas torn of windy rack
Full flashes now its crimson star,
Blazing blood-red through stormy black
And bronze of tempest scattered far.
MAY 23, 1885, 6.30 P. M.
O wind of eve, what spices, steeped
In some more aromatic clime,
Thou breathest, as from islands reaped
Of Summer, over seas of thyme.
Thou bearest odor on thy breath
Fresh as the scent of ocean's waves;
Cool as if thou hadst lain beneath,
All day, in dark and crystal caves.
Night comes, with sparkling fireflies
Like jewels tangled in her hair,
And all around her perfumes rise
Of rain, as 't were dim spirits there.
To-day I am like one drifting, drifting, and beholding, as in a dream, never nearer, never farther away, a line of dim shore, cliffed and pined and cascaded, against the sunset's luminous seas.
When eve casts on the day's dark bier
The rhododendrons of her light,
And trims her stars, like tapers clear,
At feet and head, how fair is night.
To-day I have learned with Keats "heart's lightness from the merriment" of late summer, instead of"May, " and wandered with Shakespeare
"Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier, "
and seen many things that the ordinary eye would refuse to consider: the Chickasaw plum, red as the cheek of an Oread; the jellied spawn of the frog in a pond, a flaccid white blotched with black like the freckled face of Caliban; mushrooms, low and leaning, Puck's own footstools; rocks, green with lichen, carved of the rain and frost and heat into fantastic shapes as of rebeck and of rose, fairer to my eyes than any templed frieze of old Greece, where the Amazons and Bacchantes still seem to live in marble; lethargic pawpaws, rotund and jolly as the bottle-belly of old Silenus; and blackberry-lilies, freaked and streaked with rose and ruby, like the hood of Ariel; morning glories, azure and crimson and crystal, finely fragile, and hung up like the petticoats of the fays, the fairies' own laundry, at the entrance to the wood, that holds in its green heart many a woodland spring, like a pure thought, framed in with rocks and ferns, the secret mirrors of glimmering shapes, the sylvan spirits of the solitude.
O my Kentucky, forest old!
Where Beauty dwells, the stalwart child
Of Love and Life, where I behold
The dreams still glow that long beguiled
The marble and the bronze of men,
Whose Art made fair the world of old,
Yet never held, of classic ken,
A form like thine which I would mould.
Around me now I turn and gaze:
The earth is green; the heaven is clear:
Where smile the stars, or bloom the days
More absolutely fair than here!
Young still is she, and fresh as morn,
Standing her sister States among;
Ah! would I were a poet born,
To sing her as she should be sung!
Bidding her keep beneath her heel
The lust for wealth, wrong's iron crown;
Her pioneer pride, a shield of steel,
A buckler that no foe may down.
Sister to Hospitality!
Mother of Lincoln and of Clay!
Make thyself worthy still to be
Mother of men as great as they.
Mother of loves and hopes that dare;
Of dreams and deeds that sing and toil,
Whose hands are open as the air,
Whose honor none on earth may soil!
Let mightier dreams be thine! arise!
Let all the world behold thee set
A constellation in the skies
Where all thy sister Stars are met!
The noisome hollow of the wood was fetid with toadstools. The trees were crippled and swollen with wormy galls, and twisted like tortured things with disease, and distorted with huge fungous growths. Nearby, surrounded with such trees, a rushless and reedless pool lay stagnant and sullen in the sun, where toads and newts and water-snakes abounded, breeding in the rankness of its slime and ooze. The horrible hillside, rising from the pool, was smothered with thistle and nettle and burdock and the evil-smelling jimsonweed; one wild-rose bush eked out a sickly existence amid this army of evils, its stems and leaves leprous with the mining larvæ, and labyrinthed with the web-white trails of the red spider. By the side of the pool, in the shadow of the rose-bush, like some lean yellow spider, or obscene larva, sat a man, hideous and old, with long, straggly gray beard and bristling eyebrows, through which his small eyes glittered like a snake's. Hatless and perfectly bald he sat, a mirthless, a cruel smile, repugnant and unchanging, wreathing his wrinkled face, watching a viper devour a toad.
A distant river glimpsed through deep-leaved trees.
A field of fragment flint, blue, gray, and red.
Rocks overgrown with twigs of trailing vines
Thick-hung with clusters of the green wild-grape.
Old chestnut groves the haunt of drowsy cows,
Full-uddered kine chewing a sleepy cud;
Or, at the gate, around the dripping trough,
Docile and lowing, waiting the milking-time.
Lanes where the wild-rose blooms, murmurous with bees,
The bumble-bee tumbling their frowsy heads,
Rumbling and raging in the bell-flower's bells,
Drunken with honey, singing himself asleep.
Old in romance a shadowy belt of woods.
A house, wide-porched, before which sweeps a lawn
Gray-boled with beeches and where elder blooms.
And on the lawn, whiter of hand than milk,
And sweeter of breath than is the elder bloom,
A woman with a wild-rose in her hair.
How long she had waited! It seemed ages since that morn, bloodshot of eye, arose from the couch of old Tithonos, and she, with kindred eyes of sleepless hours and tears, arose from Mark's hated side.
From her casement she sees the castle lake, lilied and fountained, and far beyond the moated walls the forested mountains where Tristram, it is whispered, runs naked, a madman amid swineherds.
Now sinks the sadder eve, bloodshot of gaze as morn, over the shadowy bier of day bowing her melancholy star. And so o'er their dead past her sorrowing fancy bends, lit with the light of tearful eyes. Tristram naked and lost among vile men and barren hills and savage woods. Why could she not die! Yes, she would die! To-morrow should not gaze upon her misery, the misery of Isoud the Beautiful! Why had God cursed her with this great, this sinful love? Yes, she would die. Morn would find her dead, morn that she loved, the fresh and radiant morn! Ah! she would miss the oxen's far-off low; the smell of early meadows tedded and deep with hay; the cock's clear clarion call; and under the eaved cottage thatch, as often she and Tristram rode afield, the twittering of sparrows. And, sighing, from the window slow she turned, and took her lute; touching its strings, she sang:
"No more for me shall gray-robed Dawn look through
Heaven's windows of the fog, or rain, or dew,
The maiden Dawn with eyes of beautiful blue, "
I saw sweet Summer go
Into a woodland green,
Unto a sliding stream,
A drowsy water;
With cheeks of sunset glow
Dreaming she seemed to lean,
Dreaming a wild-wood dream,
The wood's wild daughter.
She seemed to smile, then weep,
Then lift, then bow her head,
Deep with its golden hair,
Sad as some maiden
Who loveless falls asleep,
Her eyes to sorrow wed,
Her cheeks as wild flowers fair
With dewdrops laden.
I heard the streamlet moan;
I heard the wood-wind wail;
I heard the forest sob:
"Summer is dying!"
Whiter she lay than stone,
And down each dell and dale
I heard the wild heart-throb
Of Nature sighing:
"Come back! Oh, art thou dead,
Thou, thou my sweetest child?
Come back with all thy flowers!"
But naught she heeded,
Lying with wild-flowered head
In beauty undefiled,
While 'round her sad the Hours
Bowed down and pleaded.
Then through the woodland there,
With ribbons flying gay,
Mocking at Summer's death
With laughter hollow,
Tossing her gipsy hair,
In Romany array,
Autumn, all wild of breath,
Cried, "Follow! follow!"
Is it an iron harp smitten of iron hands? or only the winter wind in the palsied and ancient oaks, Lear-like, that toss their hoary arms on the withered hills? All day, all night, I hear them, rustling, warring, sighing or roaring with the wind, their few last, brown leaves beating their frantic tatters to and fro. The sound of their shriveled sorrow will not let me sleep. An ancient agony seems theirs, older than that which wrings the hearts of mortals.
When the jeweled lights of the fireflies gleam
In fairy revelry;
When the waning moon on the forest stream
Looks down, I love to sit and dream,
To dream her again with me.
We speak of the past; of the things once said;
Of the happiness long gone by;
While one blue star burns bright overhead:
For sweet it is to talk with the dead,
The dead that do not die.
With the dead that are never far away,
That are even as yonder star,
Whose light the darkness, ray on ray,
Makes visible, viewless all the day
Though shining still afar.
Like a lonely beautiful flower wild
In the limitless lands of space,
That star is, blossoming undefiled;
More beautiful for that loneness, mild
It shines on my upturned face.
'Mid the fairy lights of the fireflies,
In the light of the waning moon,
Born of the grief that never dies,
Into my eyes gaze her dark eyes,
The eyes death closed last June.
And I hear her speak, and I hear her sigh:
For, the dead they never forget:
Around my heart her white hands lie,
And she kisses my face and asks me why
My cheeks with tears are wet.
And as in life I clasp her and hold,
And meseems it is no dream
That here we meet, as oft of old,
When the lights of the fireflies' lamps gleam gold,
In the trysting place by the stream.
On autumn eves in the beautiful Indian Summer, sitting wrapt in contemplation of the sunset, the world seems compact of imagination. As the fancy bodies forth, thought gives substance to things, and unrolling the Nubian curtains of night, behold, it is not the sunset that I see, but a sea of gold dotted with islands vermilion as the continents of Mars; their bowers and streams burning rose and pearl, among and beside which, robed in shadowy silver, sylphid shapes wander, spirits, naked and beautiful as stars, flashing flame-like from the caverns of purple-pinnacled peaks, or leaning from the battlemented blue of ethereal cities. Changing, ever changing, now, behold, it is some mainland of isolated heaven, moving in mirage, forested with trees of ruby and silver, oozing and weeping gold and amber into lakes and rivers of gold, from whose crimson banks bronzed savages launch a crescent canoe.
Sleep came to me distilling dews of dreams, within whose diamond spheres an ethereal world lay of thought and scene. Methought that I was dead; that I was drowned; and, in a cavern vaster and bluer than night, before a shadowy presence of hoary foam and weedy shell, the presence of that Ancient of the Sea, I stood; the shadow of whose sceptre huge, a rib of cloudy pearl, lay white upon me. Around him circled and sang the mermaids, chanting that song whose mystery fills old and unchanging the mouths of the murmur-haunted shells of ocean. And, behold! I heard a mermaid tell in song, standing before that throned and ancient presence, how she had stolen and taken on the beauty and the likeness of a mortal maiden and lured with these the maiden's lover to save her apparently from the sea, dragging him down into its green depths. And at the Ancient's feet she laid a body, wan-faced with wide and ghastly eyes. I looked upon the face and, lo! the face was mine.
Here follows the synopsis of a poem that was partly completed and afterwards destroyed:
The gathering gloom of the sea; the revels of Storm and Tempest; the dancing of the winds with the daughters Of Æger, the waves, by the wild torches of the lightning. In the midst of it all, illuminated by the phosphorescent glow of mountainous waters, a barque is discovered, torn of sail, driving rudderless towards, and crashing thunderously upon opposing cliffs of granite, an island in a white whirl of booming surf. The vessel, overwhelmed and engulfed, is borne down, down, down into the wild waters by the daughters of Æger, to be plunged among the piled-up wrecks in the treasure caves of the Sea King.
Dawn. Near the shore of a tropical island a youth lies, awaking slowly from a swoon. His despair on finding himself the sole survivor of the vessel, and cast on a desert island. Wearily, in search of food, he wanders inland. Coming upon what seems to him a beautiful lake, but which is really the crater of an extinct volcano filled with the sea and connecting with the sea, he seats himself despondently beside it, lamenting his fate. A mermaid rises. Apparently all unconscious of his presence she proceeds to comb her hair, richly auburn as the auburn seaweed, with a comb of pearl, singing a song all the while such as only the shells and the caves of the deep have ever heard before. She sings of the bliss that is in store for all mortals who, weary of life in the world of earth and air, visit the world of waters, and become vassals of the Sea King, deep down in his wonder caves of coral and of crystal. In the ecstasy of the moment, dazed as it were by her chanting, the youth extends her his hand. It is seized instantly in a grasp that he cannot resist even if he desired to; and the creature, changing her song from one of love-longing to one of triumph, drags him, still unresisting, fathoms deep, into the emerald waters, casting him senseless upon the silvery sands of a coral cavern.
The green glimmer of the sea-cave, broken here and there with purple blurs and shafts of light, on his awakening, shows him where, at the far end of the mighty cavern, on a vast throne of piled-up, wave-welded gold and gems, treasures of wrecked ships, mingled with the skulls and bones of drowned men, looms a shadowy presence, weed-bearded and hoary with shells and pearls, crowned with a crown of ore set round, like gems, with the eyes of the drowned; his sceptre, a broken and mighty anchor of iron and gold. Combing their long locks and circling around him, many mermaids sing. Vast bulks, whales, cuttlefish, and sea-serpents, amorphous monsters of the deep, herds of ocean, pass and repass, driven of mermen from pasture to pasture of the underworld of waters. Storm and Tempest, chained and manacled with adamantine chains, lie restlessly beneath his throne.
Standing before this terrible presence the youth begs that his love, lost in the wreck of yesterday, be returned to him. The King promises that she will be restored on one condition that they remain his subjects forever beneath the sea. He consents. His love is brought to him by a mermaid. Pale as a pearl she stands before him, her beauty overshadowing even the beauty of the mermaids.
Gathering gradually, far above, a muttering is heard; a calling, as it were, to the over-deeps. Storm and Tempest rise on their hideous feet, shaking their tremendous chains. Mournful echoes, wave-like and wind-like sigh through the glimmering cavern, labyrinthed like a shell: a far, wild sound as of a voice, sonorous and deep as thunder, calling and summoning Storm and Tempest to rise. They strain at their huge gyves, howling to be set free. Æger smites them mightily down, again and yet again, with his terrible sceptre of gold and iron. The voice above seems multiplied into myriad voices, pleading, insistent, importunate. Storm and Tempest rend their chains asunder; the cavern is lashed into furious foam, and the throne is lost in whirling and overwhelming waters. Storm and Tempest reign supreme 'mid darkness and foam and thunder. The lovers borne on the backs of the billows are cast, clasped in each other's arms, naked and cold in death, on the shores of the desert island.
Thus in the dusk as ghosts they met,
Culling the pansy-violet,
The violet of sweet regret
And memory, dim and dewy wet.
These are not bees, my child, but fairies disguised, seeking the souls of little children in the cups of the wild flowers. There it was, closed in the bud of a wild rose, that they found thine. Therefore is it that thou art so fair and sunny and fragrant and pink. See, as this sweet bud closes in all its perfume, so does thy loveliness contain thy innocence.
In dimly lighted cloisters of the heart
I met with one whose face was like to thine,
The ghost-face of the love that once I wronged.
All day the world has swooned with heat. Now, shaking back his raven locks of storm, lit with the lightning of terrific eyes, comes on the storm.
Amid the summer fields and flowers,
Let us be children for a day,
Where laughter speeds the joyful hours
And drives dull care away.
Keep thou my face engraven in thine heart,
Now that we part;
Forget me not; or if thou dost forget
Hold me to blame,
Who leave thee now, without one heart's regret,
Forgotten even thy name.
One milk-white hand she stretched to me,
My heart sobbed, "O beware!"
But both my arms reached out to her
Despite my soul's despair.
Her soul, after a night of tears, is like a butterfly after a night of rain: attempting to fly, little by little, to rise to the blossoms, the joys above it, as the sun, the warmth of affection, dries the moisture on its wings.
Now that the dawn is up, is up,
And your vine drips dewy with cup on cup,
Lean out, lean out, rare Marguerite,
Lean out of your window over the street,
Where Love stands waiting, sweet, for you,
Like a rose 'mid roses wet with dew.
Joy, shaking his chubby sides, in a dewdrop of the dawning, laughs at me out of the wild-rose blossoms.
From the tears of Cypris (Aphrodite), when she wept over dead Adonis, sprang the purple wind-flower: and from the tears of love mourning over loss spring the fairest flowers of poesy.
Dark woodland ways of drowsy rustlings
Where, in the road, the clay-red nodules lie;
And where the wild grape, green with clusters, swings,
Dimmer than rain, the cool noon hours steal by.
The thunder boomed from cloudy ridge to ridge,
Trailing the terror of sonorous arms;
Making the lightning for his wrath a bridge,
Planting his banners on the heights of storms.
Who now hath understood,
Whose art may ever reach
The velvet blush of the bud,
The velvet bloom of the peach?
High up she glides, high up, the quartz-white moon,
Tipping the mountains with exultant fire,
And in her light each pine becomes a lyre,
And every wind an Oread-whispered tune.
The hope, the hate, the bitterness of love
Were in her eyes that levelly looked at me,
While th' rebel blood went storming up her cheek.
Devil and angel was she in a breath,
Cursing and kissing me whom she wished dead.
Barbaric burgonets, heavy with gems,
And armor wrought of wondrous alchemy,
The Spirits of the sunset don, and sweep,
Vast, cloudy-charioted, along the skies.
Some demon, hidden in the arras, shakes its figured folds; I seem to see his narrow eyes, two slits of cat-like flame, glaring or is it the sunset raying a rent with gold?
Thou hast no thought for one who walks 'mid flowers,
Whiling away the humming-bird-like hours,
Nay, nay, not thou!
Nor think I now of thee who sittest where
The vine leaves wreathe thy beautiful brow and hair,
The fragrance of a dead flower fills this dingle of the forest as the fragrant memory of some beautiful girl, long dead, haunts some old room. Wait a while and we may see its essence take form, as a spirit takes form in the twilight of a haunted chamber.
The pink-blossomed wild mint, hot and pungent as the breath of an oriental harem, and the chicory, odorless blue, paint with patches of opposing color the sparsely treed hillside, whose thin grass, especially around the old and blackened stumps, is hot with the sunlight and the oily-smelling pennyroyal. The September heaven is a vast, a fleckless chicory blossom; a deep and cloudless azure.
The bronze-tinted, amber-emerald blur of shadowy daylight that strikes upon and shimmers through the tall, tufted grass of the fallow, mingled with the gold-green budded masses of the goldenrod, is like the light that shines unearthly through some strange, some wonderful crystal, smoky gold and green, cairngorm and chrysoberyl: a vitreous, lunar light like that, I imagine, which glimmers eerily over the World of Faery, the Land of Gnomes, where forever on the twilighted hills, swiftly and soundlessly, whirls and circles the never-ending dance.
The gerardia, frailly hung with its harebell-like blossoms, delicately pink, seems to me too slight a flower for the chill winds of these October days; too slender a life to withstand the icy dews and mists that whiten and drench these October nights. It reminds me of some women, who, slight and delicate, yet are able to stand more than those their sisters who are stouter and seemingly stronger.
Thou art to me the whole of heaven,
Its sun, its stars, its golden moon;
Thou art to me as music given,
As song that holds the world in tune.
Two unshed tears made beautiful her eyes
Lighting their liquid turquoise sorrowful;
Yet was she false, in spite of all her tears,
And with sin pregnant as the seeds of hell.
How shall I describe the sunset at which I am now looking? The clouds, broken and black, are ragged rocks veined here and there with molten and running ore, pooling golden in glittering crevices and edging with ingot flame their opaque darkness.
A gerfalcon, peregrine falcon, and tiercelet were usually borne with jesses or leather thongs about the legs; sometimes with a hood and bell. They were then jessed, hooded, and belled. When feeding the hawks were"at prey." The lure was a bunch of feathers toward which the bird was taught to return. It was the custom to slip over the claws of the young birds a gold or silver ring which could not afterwards be removed.
Thou art the wild falcon of my heart. An untamed eyas, unjessed, unhooded, rebellious. Oh, could I but slip the golden ring, coercing, binding, compelling, upon thy hand, then might I tame thee, wild falcon of my heart!
The bar-lachi is a loadstone with which, the gypsies say, one may work charms when one knows how to make use of it. Give a woman a pinch of it, grated, in a glass of water and she will not be able to resist you. Now will I make intimates of the gypsies, and with their assistance seek out this loadstone. Thou shalt yet come to love me as no woman has ever loved before and I I will ruin and cast thee aside. May God have mercy upon thee, for I will have none.
All day I have wandered in the woods seeing but two birds; only two birds. Surely these beech trees, bountiful and beautiful granaries of the birds, with arms so full and so abundantly bestowing, should lure myriads into these woods. Is that a fragment of the western glow? or only the orange berries of the bittersweet, whose pods imprison the scarlet of autumnal sunsets?
Oh, for the gods of the Greeks,
The oaks of Dodona!
For the white-bosomed gods of the Greeks!
The gods whom my fancy seeks
'Mid these woods whence is blown a
Murmur of Naiad creeks;
Here where this old oak speaks,
To my soul, like a god of the Greeks,
An oak of Dodona!
How often in the old garden, grandmother's garden of oldfashioned flowers, have you come upon a clove-pink, a clump of heliotrope, a verbena or petunia, the pungent perfume of which excited a hunger, as it were, a desire not only to smell but to taste to test its quality of flavor!
A languid land of lazy moons and stars
I wander in, watching the ripple bars
Rocking the hyacinths and nenuphars.
The haymakers' sickles
Flash wet on the leas;
The wild honey trickles
From tops of the trees,
The noon is a poppy, the winds are its bees.
She whom I loved too well,
Crowned with the pomegranate bell
Sits empress now in Hell;
My soul sits by her, kissing her eyes and hair.
Tell me, do you love to lie
With the dipping boughs above you,
Where blue glimpses of the sky
Greet you like the eyes that love you?
The dim dawn broke with drizzling rain. The bleached sunflower, weighed heavily with the wet, rotting in the autumn garden, held up by a morning-glory vine, blue with blossoms and hung thick with the dangling aiglets of its seeds, reminded me of decrepit old age supported by sturdy youth.
What gladness of the young, young Earth
Conceived the lily and rose?
What sweetness of her soul's deep thought
Into their fragrance flows?
Maid Marian rose in the morn betime,
Looked in her glass and hummed a rhyme.
I saw her walk by the blossoming bean
Busked in a gown of bombazine.
Look at me over your shoulder, lass,
As you often look in your looking-glass,
And trill to me that merry rhyme,
That rhyme of love and the glad springtime,
With a fol-de-rol-de-rey oh!
Oh, could I only grieve you,
And grieve you more and more!
I who no more believe you,
You, falser than before!
Ah, could I but deceive you,
You, whom I still adore!
Oh! would I were a bee, my love,
And you a wild-rose tree, my love,
I'd sip the sweets I see, my love,
And be no longer poor.
When apple buds are breaking,
And winds with musk o'erflow;
When wren and thrush are making
Sweet song where'er we go,
The kiss I'll then be taking
Is the kiss that still you owe.
You who would not have me
Now may not save me;
Now you pursue me,
I will not woo thee:
Love is grown cold;
Love is grown old.
Dim gleam and gloom
And breezy boom
Of wild bees in the mustard bloom
Swoon through the windows of my room,
As if the young Spring trailed her raiment of perfume
Through the old house, rustling from room to room.
Along the west a cloud-wrought crimson cloth
The curtained sunset draws, to which one star
Clings, fluttering silver, like a glimmering moth,
Pale and crepuscular.
What voice is that which wanders in the wood?
Is it the Twilight murmuring to the hills?
Or, wrapped in mystery of the solitude,
The far-off whippoorwills?
With my whole soul to the soul of her whose perfection I know that I know not, only knowing that I love her more than I do my own soul, I strive to attain to a knowledge of what she is the unattainable, the divinely beautiful.
What of the sea when the storm clouds thicken?
What of the soul when its loved hopes sicken?
Look in my eyes and tell me this,
What of our lives when our hearts are stricken,
Given and taken our love's last kiss?
Between the meads of millet
The soft wind breathes and blows;
Between the meads of millet
I kissed her mouth's warm rose,
And on her hand I placed the band,
Where all my future glows.
The Khalif appeared preceded by nearly a hundred eunuchs with drawn swords, and compassed about with a score of damsels, as they were moons about a sun, holding each a lighted flambeau; on each one's head glimmered a crown set with rubies. Mesrour, Afif, and Wesif went before him. Shemsennehar and her damsels rose to receive him. Clapping her hands, slaves with lighted flambeaux and perfumes and essences and instruments of music entered, and Gheram, the sweetest lutanist of them all, smote her lute, singing like a bulbul in the Vale of Cashmere.
A table of juniper inlaid with gems and pearls was set with dishes of silver full of all manner of meats. The table removed, they washed their hands in rose-water, brought by waiting women in castingbottles of mother-of-pearl, from which they sprinkled them, perfuming them then with aloes and ambergris and other perfumes from swinging censers of filigree silver.
After which were placed before them dishes of graven gold, containing all manner of sherbets, fruits, and confections; and a slave brought a flagon of cornelian full of wine of Shirâz. After which they retired to a chamber vaulted on four pillars, as it were the pavilion of Paradise, where ten handmaids and ten singing women awaited them, high-bosomed, of an equal age, with dark and languorous eyes, cheeks like blood-red anemones, and skin like the bloom of fragrant camomile, joined eyebrows, and hands stained with henna; and these, fair as houris, played and sang and recited verses.
Shemsennehar, scarved with the luxuriance of her dark hair and dressed in a blue robe and a veil of silk embroidered with gold and jewels, about her waist a girdle set with various kinds of precious stones, lay under a canopy of peacock plumes on a couch strewn with roses of Rocknabad. Her words were more enscorcelling than Harout and Marout (two fallen angels employed to tempt men by teaching them the art of magic). And the play of her glances more misleading than Tahhout (an idol of the Arabs before Mohammed). And hearkening her words and gazing into her eyes Haroun reclined near her on a mattress of satin embroidered both sides with gold and quilted with Irak silk; under his head a pillow stuffed with ostrich down.
Eyes were hers pure as crystal drops, and clear as the topaz-colored pools of October forests.
Her eyes were dark with the darkness of hell
And sweet with the sweetness of sin,
And I was a dream of love, they tell,
To her eyes that entered in.
Was it Demosthenes who said:
"You write; the scroll remains:
Think, student, what's to come"?
Would that more writers of the present day would remember this when they set pen to paper, myself, for instance.
Night came, treading the darkness into burning stars,
And in my heart waking again old wars.
The shadow of the past lay on my mind's sick gloom
As on a waste the shadow of a tomb.
Here among the autumn fields the stubble, between the tent-like shocks of corn, is strewn with pumpkins, a golden yellow; as if some army, inconceivably rich, had, before departing, bombarded this particular spot, leaving the ground strewn thick with great balls and shells of gold.
All day the great, gaunt cactus, bristling with thorns, blazed its blood-red blossoms; all night the cereus, trailing over the rocks, orbed its pale and fragrant moons; and day and night, like lost souls, we wandered weeping among them.
On the sunset's cloudy tide
Triremes of the storm did sit,
All their hundred ports flung wide
With wild battle lanterns lit.
Looking into her eyes he said:"The materials of my life, too, for the past few years would make matter for a tragedy, a soul's tragedy, unspeakably sad, sadder even than yours. For what agonizes more than the knowledge that you cannot obtain that which you would obtain? That effort avails not? That work is not rewarded with success?
"I often ask myself,
'Will fortune never come with both hands full,
But write her fair words still in foulest letters?'
"However, let me still go on dreaming; searching for the philosopher' s stone of success: the powder of projection; elixir vitæ: attempting still the transmutation of mental metals, thoughts that seemingly have no value, through spiritual alembics, cucurbites and pelicans of language and expression, like Albertus Magnus of old."
The buckbush now is covered with cranberry-colored berries. The bind-weed with small blue conical blossoms. From the marshes rise the seal-brown spear-heads of the cat-tails; and the herb-Robert tinges with bluish red the autumn hillside. Overhead the morning widens, pearly-pink, like some gigantic mussel-shell, slowly opening, showing between its luminous valves the sun like a huge red pearl.
How correct is the fire of the stars; the crow of a cock; the color and the shape of a flower. How accurate Nature is. How punctual in timing the appearance of a flower or a star. As regular as the beating of her own great heart.
Poetry is the rhythmical expression of the relation of the ideal, which is the beautiful, to the actual. And here in the April woods what poetry addresses me in voices of the wind! What does it say, rushing and roaring by? tossing and tumbling, until distracted, the heads of the towering trees on the Indiana hilltops? within their fibrous hearts the responding timbre of a mighty music. Voices of jubilation, of acclaim, epic, elemental, shouting their message over the barriers of the world, bidding it prepare itself for the advent of Loveliness; to doff its ashen-colored garb of penitence and don rejoicing vestments of azure and gold. Shawms, cymbals and sackbuts unite in the voices to produce one voice, loud, imperious, sonorous as some million-stringed instrument, to which the forests yield themselves up, rocking to and fro, like wild fanatics filled with the frenzy of some mad god whose rites they celebrate, Corybantic, the sere leaves of last year whirling and swirling around and around them like rent and riven raiment.
How much happier are the little things, the lowly things of life, how much more secure from the buffetings of fate than are the mighty, the aspiring things! This wildflower, for instance; slight, unassuming, and safe, entirely unaffected, fluttering delicately and tranquilly at the foot of this huge oak that the same wind, which merely bowed the bluet's head, a moment ago crashingly overthrew.
I heard the trees in the silence of the spring night whispering, murmuring among themselves, gossiping of the radiant garments, bud and blossom and leaf, which they were soon to don. And then I heard them quietly laughing, as old people might, telling quaint stories of their little ones, and speaking gently, crooningly to the tiny wildflowers nestling at their feet: flowers which the singing of the sap in their old hearts and roots had awakened, ere the rain and wind had called to them and the sunbeam had pointed them a place wherein to rise: blossoms that even now were gazing wonderingly around them, or at the stars thro' their branches, as listening children might at the eyes of their loving parents telling them legends and tales of faery.
Alas! how hearts go groping
For that which may not be!
Braving the gates where hoping,
'T is written, none shall see!
In ways of blind endeavor
And darkness of the never
The gates are closed once open;
The end is misery.
Why is it thus with me as days go by?
Oh, why, oh, why?
Less frequent is the smile, more often now the sigh.
Swift as the poplar, with its lordly height,
To clothe itself in green when Springtime calls,
When forests still are bare, is hope to come
Into our lives when love has said"prepare."
From the hilltop here in Kentucky, under the Aprilian blue of a perfect afternoon, a great blur of glimmering amber, gold tinged with auburn, shows me where the budded but still blossomless black-haw stands covered with young leaves; as tenderly tinted as the festal raiment of some sylvan of the woods, or haunter of the valleys: some Dryad or Auloniad, who has come forth, slenderly and delicately, from her tree or bower to greet and meet the young-eyed Year.
Or is it the Rapunzel Spring herself, delicate and divine, odorous of fable, who has let down her tawny hair, its magnificent mane of abundant and beautiful gold, for her lover, the Wind, to clasp, to overwhelm himself with; to kiss and climb by into her enchanted tower, there to deliver himself over forever to her love?
Wild-ginger, under these leafing wahoos, almost covers the April-wet hillside with its low, lush leaves; its belled, or chaliced blossom, huddled in the fork of its succulent stem, divided into three pointed lobes, is the color of the nearby wake-robin, a clear, brown, port-wine red.
The silvern and golden flowers of the adder's-tongue star the brier-buried and bushy banks of the creeks. What is more beautiful than a great bed of these dog's-tooth violets with their gracefully bending and curving-petaled blossoms, pearl and topaz colored, fairly illuminating, as with fairy lamps, the sodden and turfless soil of the creek-rivage! These are gems indeed that any one can have for the stooping and gathering. And their spiritual value, if not their material, is, at least to me, even greater than that of real pearls and topazes.
Apple blossoms and bees; pelting petals; honeyed hummings. What glory! what memorable music! what beauty redolent of immortal memories! A mountain of blooms, large and white, delicately tinged with pink, with occasional clusters of rosy, puckered buds, waving in and perfuming the balmy wind of April. How this old tree, with its million blossoms and its murmuring bees, brings back vividly the memory of my boyhood passed among the Indiana hills! Every falling petal, every bee murmur is fraught with the fragrance of remembered happiness. And now, drowned in its deeps of blossoming and exultant snow, a catbird goes mad with music. Or is it the voice of my lost dreams singing to me in words that only my soul can understand? And there where, whispers of pearl, little silvery sighs of happiness breathed by the pure lips of Spring, the dog's-tooth violets blur gray the creek banks, I seem to see a presence passing, dimly, a bright shadow with windflowers in its hair. The materialized memory of a spring long gone; a spring of my earliest youth; with cheeks and mouth a brier-rose red, her eyes a pansy-violet azure, singing a song of home.
Or there, asway on a carpet of celandine gold and bluebell blue, now with a"wick, wick, wick, " of a flicker fiddle; now with a"cheer, cheer, cheer, " of a redbird reed, I seem to see and hear her, that long-lost Spring, playing an air to which the chipmunks dance the little ground-squirrels their blood a-beat with the intoxication of springtime.
She is the same as she was when, with whippoorwill words, she lured and led my boyhood into her twilight woods at dewy dusk; her forests filled with faery fancies; to a sequestered and vine-embowered spot, where the first Mayapples unfolded their miniature moons under the young May moon; and amid whose parasols and blossoms she seated me in the whippoorwill-haunted hush, and, to the music of the cricket, told me wonder stories, elfin tales, my heart shall never forget.
On a low fern-based rock, mossy shrine of the wood-god who has this particular forest under his protection, before which, like a candelabrum before an altar, burning with many silken flames of greenish gold, a young hickory lifted up its hundred pointed leaf-sheaths, and a paw-paw shook its sacramental bells of bronze, I laid an offering of wild flowers this last day of April: Mayapples, with their milky moons; trilliums, stainless of star and whiter than alabaster; the belled ivory of the bellwort; the lavender and lilac bonnets of the iris; the hooded green and mulberry-purple of the Indian-turnip; the disced amber and gold of the crowfoot and the hawkweed; the hollow sapphire of the polemonium or Jacob's-ladder; the bugled crimson of the columbine; the crystal and azure of the wild dwarf larkspur; and the constellated loveliness of a myriad bluets, starflowers, and bird's-foot violets.
Let us follow this path, that leads us past wild crabapple trees, huge bouquets of shell-pink blooms, through wild strawberries starring their blossoms under budded blackberry briers, to a heron-haunted creek, a ribbon of silver winding around a woodland where the cuckoo, the chat, and the thrush keep up a continual calling; and at whose entrance the haw-tree and dogwood, in full flower, stand like white-stoled worshippers before the entrance to a great green temple, a temple whose floor is marbled with green and mosaiced with pearl and gold and azure; oxalis, ranunculus, and houstonia; and lamped with the veined feldspar of the wild geranium and the silken sapphire of the spiderwort.
While lone I stood
Within the wood
I heard the feet of Silence edge
And stumble on a rocky ledge
A sound of waters foaming down
Between mossed banks of green and brown:
And through the trees, that leaned to listen,
I caught a momentary glisten
Of her white limbs all interwound
With white confusion of her gown,
That made a dim and glimmering sound.
What a queer bird is the whippoorwill! that has, or seems to have, no sense of concealment, so far as its nest is concerned. Perhaps this is because it usually selects the most unfrequented parts of the forest to brood in. To-day I startled one from its hover. Soundlessly it flew before me, clothed like the night in russet and sable, a drowsy flutter of wings, trying to lure me away from the two cream-white eggs, the customary number, brown-and blue-spotted, lying where I could not help but see them, without the sign of a nest, on the dead oak leaves right before me, partly protected by the dead branch of a tree.
A little farther on, in a different part of the forest, at the foot of a huge beech, sat a great, dark brown owl, a hawk-like owl; round-headed and round-eyed; a day owl. Almost as silently as the whippoorwill it arose at my approach, disappearing, downy of flight, dark and swift, into the green and gray of the deep beeches, like some impish evil.
WHERE the spring is sunken in the damp gray rock, mossy with moisture, the wild larkspur, petunia, morning-glory and wild potato bloom. And there, at the end of the path, like a terra-cotta-colored torch, the pleurisy-root flames; the snake-root, with its evil-smelling flowers, like long white candles, seems to wish to light me further on; on to where the butternut and water-beech embrace one another above the stream, like lovers parted by some petty spite, locking arms above its gossip, in the foliage sanctity of their hearts nesting a cooing dove.
The small gray-blue heron, the fly-up-the-creek, frightened from its fishing, rises gracefully from its pool, winging and fading, shadow-like, a soft and silent flight, far down the creek.
In a swirl of butterflies, mottled maroon, pied yellow and gray, and velvety gold and seal, I pass along the creek, where, startled by my footsteps, the water-snake slides soundless, like a crooked root, from the shore; and the silvery minnows, as with one impulse, twinkle instantly and swiftly out of sight.
The tufted titmouse fusses in the buckeye tree near by; and the shadows of the slender willow leaves appear, imaged in the shallow pool, to be the silverless phantoms of a minnow-school. Here the blossoming horsemint and teasel blur with pink the weedy hillside. Along the creek banks and amid the pebbles and rocks of its dry watercourse the blackberry-lilies mass themselves, a mottled ruddy red, reflected here and there in the lazy-running water; lazier than the small white summer clouds that float above, or the brilliant dragon-flies that haunt its banks.
A vagabond foot and a vagabond road,
And the love in our hearts our only load.
An easy foot in an easy shoe,
And who is it cares where the road leads to?
An old plank gate at a lane's green end,
And who is it cares where the lane may wend?
A bowl of milk and a bit of bread,
Who richer fares or is better fed?
A crust, a spring and a blackberry,
And who is it sups as well as we?
A hut by the road and a girl to kiss,
What man hath greater joy than this?
The night, the stars, and a pillow of hay,
Whose bed is sweeter than this, I say?
Whose dreams are deeper? whose sleep as pure?
The heart that's heavy finds here its cure.
FINLEY WOODS, JULY 15th.
The cawing of crows reminds me of the carping of critics; whether their voices be raised in praise or blame it is all the same a lot of noise that leads to nothing. The world jogs along just as usual in spite of what they consider their own importance, and in a little while all their fussing is forgotten; the world, like the woods around, has heard but has it heeded? It will judge for itself later on when their cawings have ceased.
Art is a virgin whose children are all immaculately conceived and born.
Along the St. John's River soft maples, ruddily tufted, made bright the sombre banks, showing only occasionally a pine or palmetto amid the wilderness of cypress trees trailing with moss. Cherokee roses too rarely ran a rambling riot of great white blossoms around the bole of some live-oak. The water, of a sullen blackness, had no more current than a pond or lagoon. The furrow of our little steamer fell away from the stern in a sort of yeasty, smoky-topaz foam. Water-lilies laid long banks of blossoms along either shore. An alligator, a squamous and sluggish bulk, slowly crossed a lily-paven inlet.
Lilies; more lilies; interminatingly at times they seemed to spread over the entire river a cloth of gold. Hemlocks, cypresses, and black-gums seemed to welcome us with the waving of funereal banners, long streamers of Spanish moss, as we entered the Ocklawaha, passing a leaky-looking rowboat with an old negro in it, picturesque among the yellow lilies of a lagoon. Lilies; lilies, holding up everywhere innumerable fists tight full of gold. The dogwood and jessamine, in full bloom, diversified with white and gold the seemingly impenetrable woods. Here and there on the high-lifted, desolate branches of twisted trees, looking like the huge nests of unknown birds of prey, great clumps and masses of mistletoe were seen. The Everglades could hardly look more forbidding than the forested swamp that stretched out on either side of our boat.
One would imagine that the Ocklawaha was entirely destitute of current, until, gazing downward, deep into the clear but dark-brown depths, one beheld, at intervals, the long water-grasses, growing on its bottom, streaming green, streaks of copperas inclosed in crystal. In its placid, mirror-like depths the skies and woods are so exactly reproduced that you are often deceived as to which is the real and which is the reflection. Bittern and heron and egret haunt here; often winging slowly over the ivied and creepered solitudes. And startled by our approach crane and kingfisher swing along its surface, beneath which swim their images amid the green streaks of grass, that reminds one of the streaming hair of kelpies. Hell-divers or didappers rise, flash away, and the teal, with their instant wings, skip the water into ripples. At twilight the limpkins begin their wild wailing, plaintive as that of a lost child; and like a vulture, silent and solitary, on the dead limb of a tree the water-turkey sits, sombre above the uncurling, ghostly spider-lilies, hanging, long strips of white, among the cypress-knees.
In the darkness, before the coming of the moon, we seemed passing between immaterial walls of phantom forest, clothed in the fluttering cerements of the dead, the dark wild-trailing moss or was it the waving of spectral arms, ghostly strouds and mantles of dead Seminoles? Enormous hands, taloned and crooked of finger, seemed clutching up at us out of the unseen waters, or impended, threateningly, above, eager and waiting