Willow Wood

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


Deep in the wood of willow-trees
The summer sounds and whispering breeze
Bound me as if with glimmering arms
And spells of witchcraft, sorceries,
That filled the wood with phantom forms,
And held me with their faery charms.


Within the wood they laid their snare.
The invisible web was everywhere:
I felt it clasp me with its gleams,
And mesh my soul from feet to hair
In weavings of intangible beams,
Woven with dim and delicate dreams.


As dream by dream passed shadowy,
One came; an antique pageantry
Of Faeryland: it marched with pride
Of faery horns blown silverly
Around the Elf-prince and his bride,
Who rode on steeds of milk-white stride.


Then from the shadow of a pool
The water-fays rose beautiful;
I saw them wring their long green hair,
And felt their eyes gaze emerald-cool,
And from their fresh lips, everywhere,
Their rainy laughter dew the air.


And through the willow-leaves I saw,
As in a crystal without flaw,
Slim limbs and faces sly of eye,
Elves, piping on gnat-flutes of straw,
Thin as the violin of a fly,
Or clashing cricket-cymbals by.


And then I saw the warted gnomes
Creep, beetle-backed, from rocky combs,
Lamped with their jewelled talismans,
Rubies that torch their caverned homes,
Green grottoes, where their treasure-clans
Intrigue and thwart our human plans.


And near them, foam-frail, flower-fair,
Sun-sylphids shook their showery hair,
And from their blossom-houses blew
Musk wood-rose kisses everywhere,
Or, prisoned in a drop of dew,
Twinkled an eye of sapphire-blue.


And imps, wasp-bodied; ouphs, that guard
The Courts of Oberon, their lord,
Bee-bellied, hornet-headed things,
Went by, each with his whining sword,
Fanning the heat with courier wings,
Bound on some message of the King's.


And pansy-tunicked, gowned in down,
The lords and ladies of the crown,
Beautiful and bright as butterflies,
Passed, marching to some Faery Town,
While dragoned things, mailed to the eyes,.
Soldiered their way in knightly wise.


Then, suddenly, the finger-tips,
Faint, moth-like, and the flower-lips
Of some one on my eye-lids pressed:
And as a moonbeam, silvering, slips
Out of a shadow, tangle-tressed
A Dream, I'd known, stood manifest.


A Dream I'd known when but a child,
That lived within my soul and smiled
Far in the world of faery lore;
By whom my heart was oft beguiled,
And who invested sea and shore
With her fair presence evermore.


She drew me in that stately band
That marched with her to Faeryland:
Again her words I understood,
Who smiling reached to me her hand,
And filled me with beatitude....
This happened in the willow wood.

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