To The Leaf-Cricket

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


Small twilight singer
Of dew and mist: thou ghost-gray, gossamer winger
Of dusk's dim glimmer,
How cool thy note sounds; how thy wings of shimmer
Vibrate, soft-sighing,
Meseems, for Summer that is dead or dying.

I stand and listen,
And at thy song the garden-beds, that glisten
With rose and lily,
Seem touched with sadness; and the tuberose chilly,
Breathing around its cold and colorless breath,
Fills the pale evening with wan hints of death.


I see thee quaintly
Beneath the leaf; thy shell-shaped winglets faintly
As thin as spangle
Of cobwebbed rain held up at airy angle;
I hear thy tinkle,
Thy fairy notes, the silvery stillness sprinkle;

Investing wholly
The moonlight with divinest melancholy:
Until, in seeming,
I see the Spirit of the Summer dreaming
Amid her ripened orchards, apple-strewn,
Her great, grave eyes fixed on the harvest-moon.


As dew-drops beady,
As mist minute, thy notes ring low and reedy:
The vaguest vapor
Of melody, now near; now, like some taper
Of sound, far fading
Thou will-o'-wisp of music aye evading.

Among the bowers,
The fog-washed stalks of Autumn's weeds and flowers,
By hill and hollow,
I hear thy murmur and in vain I follow
Thou jack-o'-lantern voice, thou elfin cry,
Thou dirge, that tellest Beauty she must die.


And when the frantic
Wild winds of Autumn with the dead leaves antic;
And walnuts scatter
The mire of lanes; and dropping acorns patter
In grove and forest,
Like some frail grief, with the rude blast thou warrest,

Sending thy slender
Far cry against the gale, that, rough, untender,
Untouched of sorrow,
Sweeps thee aside, where, haply, I to-morrow
Shall find thee lying, tiny, cold and crushed,
Thy weak wings folded and thy music hushed.

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