The Last Song

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

She sleeps; he sings to her. The day was long,
And, tired out with too much happiness,
She fain would have him sing of old Provence;
Quaint songs, that spoke of love in such soft tones,
Her restless soul was straight besieged of dreams,
And her wild heart beleagured of deep peace,
And heart and soul surrendered unto sleep.--
Like perfect sculpture in the moon she lies,
Its pallor on her through heraldic panes
Of one tall casement's gulèd quarterings.--
Beside her couch, an antique table, weighed
With gold and crystal; here, a carven chair,
Whereon her raiment,--that suggests sweet curves
Of shapely beauty,--bearing her limbs' impress,
Is richly laid: and, near the chair, a glass,
An oval mirror framed in ebony:
And, dim and deep,--investing all the room
With ghostly life of woven women and men,
And strange fantastic gloom, where shadows live,--
Dark tapestry,--which in the gusts--that twinge
A grotesque cresset's slender star of light--
Seems moved of cautious hands, assassin-like,
That wait the hour.
She alone, deep-haired
As rosy dawn, and whiter than a rose,
Divinely breasted as the Queen of Love,
Lies robeless in the glimmer of the moon,
Like Danaë within the golden shower.
Seated beside her aromatic rest,
In rapture musing on her loveliness,
Her knight and troubadour. A lute, aslope
The curious baldric of his tunic, glints
With pearl-reflections of the moon, that seem
The silent ghosts of long-dead melodies.
In purple and sable, slashed with solemn gold,
Like stately twilight o'er the snow-heaped hills,
He bends above her.--
Have his hands forgot
Their craft, that they pause, idle on the strings?
His lips, their art, that they cease, speechless there?--
His eyes are set.... What is it stills to stone
His hands, his lips? and mails him, head and heel,
In terrible marble, motionless and cold?--
Behind the arras, can it be he feels,
Black-browed and grim, with eyes of sombre fire,
Death towers above him with uplifted sword?

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