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The thunder Bird
A Mark of Canadian Quality
OTHER LOVE POEMS
BY RAMÓN FRANCISCO
THE GRAPHIC PUBLISHERS, LIMITED
The Graphic Publishers, Limited
PRODUCED ENTIRELY IN THE DOMINION OF CANADA
So small a thing I ask—the hum of bees, The wayward melody of brook and trees, The azure blue. To me the fragrant violet never dies; Shadows are dreams through which my spirit flies To you. I ask so little of the world without: The song of birds to compass me about, The distant view, The snow in patches on the mountain side, The mystic stillness of even-tide— And you.
—Ramón Francisco. [unnumbered page]
Diana’s Gage (from the French)
[unnumbered page; includes illustration]
“the sons of God saw the daughters of men
that they were fair.”
R E B E L S
Hushed were the tender leaves, The very air Stood motionless In clammy calm, Not knowing where to go: A cricket chirped, Then ceased perplexed, For frighted birds Were piping out of tune At the appalling silence, And e’en a chirrup Seemed presumptuous: Then all the earth Was still. [page 3] For night black clouds With yellow edge Hung overhead, Sullen, omnipotent,— All charged to overflowing: And now, at last, Great drops of rain Soft as an angel’s tears Came splashing to the ground: The winds broke loose In a crescendo roar And, with a thund’rous peal, From heaven belched The fury of the Storm. [page 4] The giant cedars swayed, As if the hands Of God and Man In unity Were bent on their undoing; While livid lightning spat Scarred terror and Destruction To many an oak and elm— Stripping the bark In ragged lengths Down to the naked skin, Five clawed, and Horrible. [page 5] And, in a cottage, far From Man’s abode, A woman sat, For weary of The silent day She had prepared For slumber and Forgetfulness When rudely wakened By the storm,— So now she sat, To wait and watch, Indifferent! [page 6] The morn and even were drab to her For she had drunk, Yes, drained the glass, Of paltry life As it is lived in Man’s domain: But, if her path Were weary now, And one mean brute Had strangled love, And kindled hatred In her heart ‘Gainst all mankind, Her youthful beauty, And her soul, were still Her own. [page 7] So waited she, dispassionate And unconcerned To cracking branches And the threshing hail; Nor knew, nor cared, Where the next bolt Might strike,—herself? It was all one! And now the cannonade Was at its height Right overhead In one continuous roar,— When, at the door, A knock. [page 8] Someone abroad upon a night like this? It could not be!— An errant branch No doubt ‘twould prove Bent by the storm To clownish prank and ghostliness: Hark! there again, Rising above The pelting rain— Whereat the woman, In compassion, Threw wide the door To face, indeed, A man. [page 9] A man, with smiling eyes, Who wore a cloak Of fleecy white Wide open at the neck Unto his shoulders, With sandaled feet, And, who now stepped With easy grace Into the room: But when the woman Placed her hand upon his arm In sweet solicitude She started back Amazed. [page 10] Then glanced up at his eyes To read, perchance, The mystery, And caught instead His ardent gaze Bent on her form, entranced: And, so too late To save her shame Or stem the tide Of crimson blood That flooded to her cheeks— And only added to her loveliness, She turned in haste To flee. [page 11] But, with a cry of grief, He caught her hand In gentle clasp And stooping down Lifted it to his lips: Then looked into Her eyes, pleading Forgiveness— Lest,—dreadful thought!— He now might lose By eager haste His soul’s desire,— And, thus detaining and entreating, Spoke: [page 12] “Nay, leave me not beloved, For I have journeyed From afar To come to thee— Staking eternity upon a cast: O! I have watched Thy solitude With burning soul, Rebellious for The wasted love Of this thy hermitage: And, if my words Fail in their task, Thus, with thy hand Feel how my heart Is speaking eloquently, and so, Forgive. [page 13] “Forgive! in woman’s trust, And gentleness, If, lacking wisdom In Love’s ways, I have too roughly stormed Her citadel: In other Courts I am prepared— Aye, willingly— For punishment, But if my love Be fruitless too, O, luckless fate! then, am I doubly Damned. [page 14] “Though all I may not tell, Believe thou me For thee alone And for thy love Have I defied The judgment for the lost: Fairest of Earth! I ask thy love Which only can Repay the sacrifice: O! I am mad To hold thee in my arms, So, drive me not Away. [page 15] “To feel thy arms around my neck In kindliness, Were joy enough— Or, so I’ve thought Within my soul, in loving thee: For love will take The very least That love will give And be content; But, if thy heart Is womanly, Be kinder still to me Who am so hungry for thy greater Gifts. [page 16] “Dear, thou art beautiful to me Beyond all joys Celestial; My body burns With new delicious fires; Thy very nearness Thrills to passion Past all bearing, And I would know The sweets of love That thou can’st give: Soul of my soul! Look in my eyes, and yield me now Thy lips.” [page 17] And thus he took her to himself,— To know, at last, His heart’s desire, And kiss in turn Her cheek and throat in love’s delight: And now one hand Was round her shoulders White; the other cupped Her snowy breast— That to this day Had held, so cold, Her broken heart: Then, gave she him her lips— And willingly. [page 18] For she was glad! that he had come To ask her love, And kiss her lips To warm response, And hold her in his arms: Glad! that her heart Was throbbing now With eager joy Within her breast: Oh! she was glad! That he had come To smile into her eyes— And they were there Alone. [page 19] And, in the morns that followed, They would walk Within the woods Fragrant and cool In sweet communion and peace: And timorous birds Forgot their fear At his kind voice, And perched beside The squirrels on His knee and hands,— And, by his side The woman sat, and watched him Wonderingly. [page 20] Then, on a fateful eve, The distant boom Of thunder came To part their souls— For so he, in his anguish, told: And thus he went As he had come Into the night: But first he kissed Her dear soft lips— For that is love! And so defiant, and with longing eyes, Was gone. [page 21] Gone! in a storm, who in A storm had come— And greater love Could not well fall To woman’s lot—which well she knew! And so she sat In sweet content, And listened, as The thunderous host Passed on its way,— To sigh maybe At joys so short, Yet live in peace with sacred Memories. [page 22]
ECHO AND NARCISSUS
POETIC MOTIVE.—According to Greek mythology Pan was enamoured of Echo, but spurned by the Goddess. She in turn (as the legends have it) was in love with Narcissus, but rejected by him. Pan, seeking revenge, drove the shepherds of the district mad; and they tore Echo in pieces. While, Narcissus, seeing his reflection in the water—which the Gods had forbidden—fell in love with himself, and died. The whole story,—excepting Pan’s hateful passion and desire for revenge—rings untrue. Narcissus and Echo, famed for their beauty, were made for love and for one another. The following stanzas seek to tell the story in more poetic sequence. [unnumbered page]
E C HO A N D N A R C I S S U S
I sing of love in days of long ago, When young Narcissus first dear Echo met, And seeing, coveted her beauty so Without delay his passion’d purpose set; And won such sweets as only Gods may know, The flawless gems of love’s rich coronet! Truth’s very self shall guide my Muse’s rhyme Not legend tales despoiled by robber Time.
Where eagle soars in solitary pride, And soft-eyed deer upon Olympus roam, There, Ages gone, high on a mountain side The fair Narcissus made his modest home: Reading life’s message through the forests wide And love’s sweet secrets in the freshet’s foam: Thus, while he prayed Love’s Goddess for his mate, Did, with good grace, love’s loveliness await! [page 27]
His hut, upon a precipice, looked o’er A vale of painted flowers and woodland brake And, to rich treasures spread in countless store, The placid waters of a Dryad’s lake,— Wherein they bathe, and their fair selves adore, And Nymphic pleasure in sweet pastimes take,— Of scented balsam boughs his couch he made And, for love’s coming, soft robes soothly laid.
Here, in the moon’s bright fulness he would see In visioned sleep a phantom form divine, That peered into his dreams, then turned to flee Before he could the lovely face define,— As love will offer favours tauntingly Yet snatch away, and roguishly decline,— Still, happy lover—he may well rejoice Who read aright the pleading in that voice! [page 28]
For all the woods responded to her song, And knew the longing that the plaint expressed, The call of Spring! that warns the weak and strong To find a mate and hasted with the nest: The call of Love! that bids the joyous throng Gather the sweets by new-found loves confessed: Then to their holes the mateless creatures creep, Who, passed by love, can only red-eyed weep.
And Echo, wand’ring in the high hills, came With silent steps and forehead bent in thought; Her virgin lips murmured no lover’s name, Seeking no goal, nor knowing what she sought! Yet through the Ages is the power the same,— As flies resistless in the web are caught,— Creatures of Earth, or Goddess from above, Nature the Master: and the lodestone love! [page 29]
For every tender flower and furry beast, And every noble form or creeping thing, Must know the pulsing passion of the feast Of mate to mate if their power would bring To live again!—the greatest and the least!— And to Death’s ravages defiance fling! Love to the task is ever girt and sped, Should love grow cold, then all the World is dead.
So Echo, warming to the smold’ring fire, Pursued her way upon the hillside steep; A mountain Nymph, her footsteps never tire, Nor Fear’s clam fingers to her, dauntless, creep: The way is onward! onward her desire, Through coppice dark and cedar forest deep: Child of the sun—she would the sunlight see, But onward still, though sunless she must be. [page 30]
And then her mood would change and she would sing Full-throated notes sweet as a golden bell; And, quick returning, craggy cliffs would fling The gladsome answer through the wood and dell: No other voice could perfect concord bring To lesser muse, or croaking infidel: Crickets and frogs paused silent at her trill, The birds were hushed: and, listn’ing, all was still!
Such liquid song no silver flute could tone, Even by Pan its master truly played; The warm full column of her throat alone The haunting melodies of music made, Rising at will from wingèd insect’s drone To fitful passage of a soul betrayed: Proof ‘gainst his spell, the Wood-god she had spurned And he, hoofed monster, still resentful burned! [page 31]
Foul vengeance ‘gainst the Goddess he had sworn Whose beauty could his wanton lust inspire, Yet listen to his magic pipe forlorn Unmoved to passion by its subtle fire: And, laughing, raise her matchless voice in scorn At Hermes’ progeny and his desire,— Ah! lovely Echo, happier it had been If thee the hateful Pan had never seen.
Changing her course, she came upon the lake Wherein Narcissus cooled his God-like form; And stepping to the brink she too would take Refreshing ‘vantage of its waters warm, E’en though she must her modest cloak forsake, And maiden fancies take her heart by storm: First with her lily feet its warmth must try, And little knew what warmth was standing by! [page 32]
For love was there! shaded behind a tree, And watched the naked Goddess with delight; More beauteous still he would not have her be The sweet enchantress of the silent night,— Who in the past had oft evasively Sung in his dreams, yet hidden from his sight! Now the appointed day, the hour, the place When Love should meet her Lover face to face!
Oh, prize for love! Of bosom firm and pure As rain kissed marble gleaming in the sun; With round white arms, and pleasing curves to lure The adolescent senses one by one To quickening love; and smiling mouth demure Charmed to reward when wooer’s race is won: Oh prize indeed, and all sufficing bliss To win such Goddess, and such lips to kiss. [page 33]
And as she stepp’d again upon the shore He met her, smiling to allay her fear; While she, poor ‘frighted Nymph, was troubled sore The ardent passion in his voice to hear,— Yet found some comfort he his course forbore And held away to tell his love so dear: But Echo knew that love was by her side; That love had come, and would not be denied.
He told her that Narcissus was his name, And how he’d waited on the mountain side, Preparing for the day that Echo came To share love’s pleasures and to be his bride: And sought to hide his feelings all aflame, Till love her gentle modesty defied,— Now, with sweet mists, her lovely eyes were dim— Contented, gave her willing mouth to him. [page 34]
For there, without delay, he must enjoy His new found love with every sweet embrace; And kiss her eyes, her brow, still not employ All of love’s blandishments upon her face— With charms below sufficient to destroy The peace of lover in his joyous race: Nor knew Narcissus which he loved the best, His lips to hers, or crushed upon her breast.
His arms around her snowy shoulders crept— She, darling vassal, yielding to his will; While eager passions through their bodies leapt More than enough all perfect joys to fill— Yet, knowing all in love, knew that they kept Still further joys to dally and fulfil: Then led her to his hut through woodland sward To Nature’s ecstasies, and love’s award. [page 35]
And there they lived in perfect peace content, Finding each day new pleasures to pursue; Each, for dear love, their rich invention bent Or gave themselves to provèd joys anew: Fearing to give love’s wealth lest it be spent— Yet like a miser that is spendthrift too— Joyous to take love’s favours that they may In greater debt, have greater debts to pay.
The sunlit glades around their home they knew For every fragrance and for every flower; The columbine and nectared-larkspur blue, Or honeysuckle twined about their bower As their arms twined; and love triumphant grew To greater heights of consciousness and power: Then in her song the soul of love leapt free Crowning perfection with sublimity! [page 36]
When heated by the ardours of the chase Dear Echo to the Dryads’ lake is borne, To float becalmed, or swim with Triton grace With fair Narcissus in the golden morn; Racing cloud-shadows o’er the waters’ face, Their naked bodies radiant as the dawn! The eagle overhead his homage cries, And peeping elfins shade their dazzled eyes.
And so it came that near the reedy shore He chanced one day to see a picture clear Of sky and trees and overhanging tor Reflected in the waters of the mere: Then like a greedy lover must explore The mirror’s depths for glimpse of Echo dear, And looking, saw his own fair image too, The thing the Gods had willed he must not do! [page 37]
To Pan’s long ears the tale of love is borne By prying Mischief bent on evil deed; And in black jealousy his heart is torn With recollections of his lustful greed— For once defied, and lightly laughed to scorn Despite the music of his magic reed! O happy lovers! feast while ye may, For death, and worse than death, is on the way!
Then called to him the foulest of his horde, A giant and a dwarf of loathsome form, And told them what the venture might afford Till all their vilest passions were astorm— With Goddess fair for prey, and their reward, Of snowy loveliness and body warm: Thus evil is begot and vengeance bought— The hateful offspring of a hateful thought! [page 38]
In guise of shepherds these rude beasts appeared, And lay in wait to find love’s bride alone; Then, cunningly, her graceful presence neared Seeking to take the Goddess for their own,— Yet knowing well their crime, and greatly feared That all Pan’s power could not such deed condone: With frenzied strength she wrenched her mantle free, And cried aloud: “Narcissus, come to me!”
The note of terror in love’s voice he hears And turns in sudden anger and dismay; With wingèd feet, responsive to chill fears, He tramples thorn and bramble under way: Thus in brief time his dear one’s bower he nears Her wrongs to right, and her sweet tears to stay: In one swift glance the awful forms espied, And, for a moment’s grace, stepp’d to her side. [page 39]
Then at the giant’s throat Narcissus sprang With righteous wrath and fury glorified; The quick blows on his mighty foeman rang, And every throw Olympian he tried: Nor for himself finds sorrow in death’s pang But, to his love, like mercy is denied! So braving all, and locked in hate’s embrace, Titan and God, fell hurtling into space.
O Aphrodite! guide thy daughter fair, Who unprotected and in sorry plight, Must face alone in virtue and despair Worse than the fevered horrors of the night,— A living creeping thing of flesh and hair That seeks to clasp the shrinking form so white: O Zeus, Great God! defender thou must be In mercy’s name of gentle purity! [page 40]
But Mercy hath no sorcery to blind The eyes of love to that which is the end, Or subtle antidote to soothe the mind When poignant griefs the desolate offend: In no mid heaven may the stricken find Forgetfulness,—the broken life to mend! To love, aught else than love were path too rough, And love’s fulfilment happiness enough!
To Echo’s self the loathsome dwarf crept nigh With leering mouth and gloating eyes aglee,— As snake will first its powers hypnotic try That all its victim’s terrors it may see, Unknowing that the pure would rather die And, in their love, live in eternity! One pit’ous cry from her proud lips is wrung, Then o’er the cliff her peerless form she flung! [page 41]
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(From the French)
D I A N A ‘ S G A G E
(From the French)
The day was sped full early, for the sky Was overcast, and eastern wind blew cold. New fallen leaves, storm tossed, were rustling by And, to the trav’ller, earth seemed growing old. An Englishman, he was, who, studies o’er, Would see fair France, with nothing but his pack: His guide—himself: too late did he deplore, He, falsely served, was sadly off the track. Then, midst the trees, a fine old chateau spied, Proud habitation! by new notions pressed Back to the wilds: while nobleness defied The march of days, and cawing crows protest. With anxious knuckles, he beat on the door: To face, in time, an ancient servitor. [page 47]
Within a vaulted dining hall, o’er hung With tapestries and battered armour rare, The Marquis greeted him with arms out-flung; And took his hand, and bid him welcome there. “The years have dealt unkindly, sir, with me; My house bereft, till heirless is my line. Another’s son! our roof shall shelter thee; Our cellar yield its best of vintage wine. This chateau, once so famous for its fêtes, Its chivalry, and battles knightly won, Now seldom honours guest within its gates; Has little grace, and entertainment—none. This is my daughter Dian, if you please: Last of our race! and, it may hap, a tease.” [page 48]
”Diana, for herself, would bid thee stay To charm her ear with gallantries of youth: That little to amuse doth come our way,” My lady sighed, “is, verily, the truth. Where two are deaf, alas, of household three, The third to Trappist silence must resign Her gift of speech, and live in constancy— Like burrowed mole within her close confine. To such extent, a daughter’s love must give Ungrudged devotion to an agèd sire: It does not follow that, provocative, She sainted is, or doth as nun aspire. Yonder, the board is set in glad display: Give me thine arm, and youth shall lead the way.” [page 49]
“I pray thee sit, young sir,” the Marquis said, “Where kings and princes have our table graced. ‘Tis true, indeed, such glorious days are fled— Yet, honouring thee, is honour not misplaced.” Beneath gold candelabra—opal rayed, Old glass and silver gave good proof of race; With Limoges china was the table laid, Fine cream-white napery and Cluny lace. The centrepiece, a crystal bowl, set high That scented fruits might o’er the senses steal: Where peach and apricot their sweetness vie With luscious nectarine, in flushed appeal. Of all of which the guest was unaware— Enthralled by Dian’s beauty, past compare! [page 50]
For here was beauty, ripe with warm desire To sip the visioned cup of passioned youth: To live the dreams sweet-scented nights inspire, And steal experience of mother Truth. Here, love denied, rebellion raised her head To whisper hope where loss and grief abide, To show where bravery and boldness led, And flush expectant cheek with crimson tide. Earth hath no beauty liken unto this: Her daughter Eve, as fragrant as a flower, With parted lips to tempt a lover’s kiss, Yet purposeful, aye, adamant with power. Thus, in his ear, her protestations flow— A woman’s tongue, unleashèd to her woe: [page 51]
“Within a convent’s sanctifièd walls Was I directed to my little gain: How Cæsar battled ‘gainst the ancient Gauls, And prosy history of France and Spain. But, with the lessons, ever, day by day,— That quiet persistence should our minds impress,— Were we extollèd in the narrow way Of soul of woman doomed to nothingness. No will must she possess; and mortal urge She must resist with aves meek and good, Though through her veins the pulsing passions surge To light the vision of her womanhood. No pictured hell, no punishment, no grief Could shake the logic of mine unbelief. [page 52]
“So, in the world without, with thin veneer Doth man, the master, hide his passions rude: Denying woman all, that he may hear The witless plaudits of the multitude. ‘Tis man, and ever man, who ruthlessly Dictates to mother-woman what is meet: She must not fall, but ever constant be— Unless she fall, as sop to his conceit. O! I am weary of such fate forlorn— For man-made laws and logic ill agree! Woman is able, through the tares and thorn, To steer the ploughshare of her destiny.” The startled guest turned to her with surprise: To note the dying anger in her eyes. [page 53]
“I’ll tell thee, since thou asketh, sir,” said she, “How I employ, with profit, leisure hours: ‘Tis in my garden, watching tirelessly The busy insects and the painted flowers. There, humble creatures live their little lives: With nature’s comedy the walks abound: And tragedy, when death too soon arrives, Or love’s entreaty falls on barren ground. But now the Marquis snoozes, head in hand; About my duties I must go, I fear— Romance, unheeded, wanders through the land— And thou, deserted, may await me here.” With sidelong glance, she placed beside his knees A vellumed tome of Ovid’s elegies. [page 54]
Returning, fair Diana curt’sied low With mock humility, but smiling lips; In one pale hand a candle all aglow Gleamed softly pink ‘neath shading finger tips. Thus stood a moment, feigning deep concern At the behaviour of her taper’s light: Posed to appeal and adoration earn— A beauteous thing, with pulsing bosom white. “I have, but now,” she sighed, “put those to bed Who should conduct our guest unto his keep: For they are old, and deaf, of heavy head— Full early pilgrims to the land of sleep. Yet must we all proud niceties observe: For better guide, thy servant, sir, must serve.” [page 55]
“More gracious guide, fair lady, none could ask Of kindly fate to lead him on the way. I only grieve that to thee falls a task For which my thanks, at best, can ill repay. Diana’s name, as goddess, long has stood For virtue and the chase, in dual part, But I’d re-write the classics if I could And add to these her kindliness of heart. As to her beauty, there I dare not tell— No goddess-guide I vow has greater wealth: But mortal man, so guarded, must as well Most virtuously guard against himself.” Diana laughed: “My thanks, kind sir, to thee. ‘Twas knightly put. And, for the rest—we’ll see.” [page 56]
Along a hall she led; up oaken stair Gaunt with the memories of other days, Till, of their wendings he was unaware, And pictured ancestors upon him gaze. “These are the past,” she said, “but I pretend They live again and throb with joy of life. To me, with grace, the stiffest knee will bend— Permit me, sir, the Marquis and his wife. This one was famous for his feats of arms; In times of peace an amorous lad, they say— Yet, as alternative to war’s alarms, To love a maid?—excuse me, sir, I pray.” “Oh, should we not,” he urged, “be moving on?” “They sleep,” she smiled, “and we do nothing wrong.” [page 57]
“And here’s Diana, after whom I’m named, Could’st thou not love her for her comely grace? ‘Tis written down, that she was justly famed For figure beautiful and winsome face. With powdered wig I cannot well compete, E’en though it set her lovers’ hearts awhirl; She has no vantage when it comes to feet, And, by my troth, my hair’s a natural curl. Her shoulders, I admit, are glossy too, Though, on the arms, the master’s paint seems thin— I’ve an idea—a thing that thou shall’st do, A Paris be, on texture of our skin.” And, saying so, her light went in eclipse: Her round, white arm she raised unto his lips. [page 58]
“A strange young man! Myself I deemed it fair: An arm, in truth, to give caresses play. He only sighed,—Diana could despair!— Sighed in dispraise, and turned his eyes away. Yet, time again, this ball-room knew the sight Of hot-head youth assembled for the dance; Then blood ran warm and laughing eyes flashed bright And love held revel in the land of France. Proud days were they, when valiant knights were bold And, of life’s pleasures, held love not the least: To-day our young Adonis is too cold And, to love’s table, laggard at the feast. Dream on, grey ghosts! and shades of love pursue. Romance is dead!—since gallant ceased to woo.” [page 59]
“I am reproved for striving hard to be That very thing at odds with my desire. I am ashamed, since now in guarding thee My pulses throb with passion’s every fire. Full well I know thy aim is but to tease, Though, in the teasing, cupid’s bow thou raise: Thus is poor honour stricken to his knees, And him made mock who virtue’s queen should praise. Love is no gentle spirit I prefer To be companion to defenseless maid. Tempt not, dear lady, for we greatly err To toy with rascal base and unafraid.” Diana smiled: “Of love, sir, speak no ill: Man’s Adam yet, and Eve is woman still.” [page 60]
“But now, ere patience fails thee with thy guide For speech emboldened by her knight’s distress, We reach the chamber where thou wilt abide And seek of sleep her blest forgetfulness. The couch I can commend: of feathers made With cunning skill to give tired knight repose; My own fair hands the linen sheets have laid, Sweetly perfumed with lavender and rose. So is the task performed, the journey o’er Through dismal night with memories astir: Thy serving maid hath brought thee to thy door— Nothing remains but to reward her, sir! ‘Tis rather fun,” she glanced into his eyes, “To win a kiss, and dally with the prize.” [page 61]
“Nay, craven knight, a kiss, I say, shall be The only thanks thy lips shall here express: ‘Twere prettier so and that, to hearten thee, Is to my liking I’ll, in truth, confess. My hand were fair to kiss—did I allow; My shoulder smooth to press warm lips upon: But I’ve no suff’rance for such trifles now, Give me true gage and I’ll give mine—anon. The choicest fruit, my mouth, the mirrors tell; What mirror tells, my veins more truly state— Why should’st we thirst when ‘twixt us is the well?— Thy servant, sir, and her soft mouth await.” Though her lips plead and his lips longed to stay, He kissed in haste: in haste he backed away. [page 62]
“To rob a kiss of sweetness were to steal Virtue’s reward, and shame what she would share. Since when hath Virtue’s charms lost their appeal, Or Love a rival found more truly fair? Whate’er the answer: thine a kiss to owe Of cupid’s measure and Diana’s gain: With tardy lover such a debt may grow— When love’s accounting must begin again. Through yonder casement window I can see The myriad stars atwinkle o’er the close, And, chastely white, yet peeking naughtily, The new-born moon expectant on her toes. Now, gentle sir, when ancients are abed, While owlets blink, and Time hath turned his head. [page 63]
“Be not so sad, pure knight, that maiden’s lips Must give in kind the sweets that they receive: What fault of thine if virtue’s goddess tips The scale of virtue in her make-believe? To bring thee peace, we e’en might play that we Were priestly wed, and this our wedding night; Or, if in darkness thou could’st loving be, ‘Tis simply done, I thus—blow out my light. For love the stage is set: the maid entreats No stint of payment by thy lips caressed. Thus, in thine arms; and, where her warm heart beats, With eager joy love’s finger-tips are pressed.” All prudence gone, he kissed her lips so red: Then, like a thief, into his chamber fled. [page 64]
Flushed with success, Diana, smiling lay Before the flaming courage of her fire Of apple boughs and ash and crackling may, Fragrant to charm and dreams of love inspire A silken wrap of lightest texture gave But added grace to that it did conceal: Unconscious she of every matter, save Some new delight of mischievous appeal. Her scheme replete, from china bowl she chose A smooth-skinn’d nectarine, for love befit; First, shyly, kissed the cheek all blushed with rose Then, pass’nately, the scented flesh she bit. By love consumed, she could dull time defy: Content to wait, she let an hour slip by. [page 65]
Her vigil o’er, once more to life she sprang, Eve’s very self portrayèd in her eyes: ‘Neath cloak of night, her merry laughter rang, Of mischief wrought!—and youthful love the prize. A sponge she filled with water icy cold, That love to love’s fulfilment she might shock. “I tryst,” quoth she, “I was not over bold To lodge our guest in room without a lock.” Thus, down the passage fair Diana crept, Intent her loveliness should love condone: So, to the door, where passioned mortal slept In discontent, that honour sleeps alone. To love’s soft lists, with Cupid as her page, Diana tossed her wet, awakening gage. [page 66]
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THE TROPIC SUN
T H E T R O P I C S U N
Alone! of all the luckless company Of foundered ship Broke by the storm: These, to escape the anger of the sea Upon a wave-washed raft, A man and maid In sodden rags Wild eyed with thirst And weary unto death: But, though he’d saved Her from the waves And borne her Staggeringly Upon the sands Of this, an Isle of palms, She hated him. [page 71] Despised him, as a stranger to Her blood and race With haughty pride— A wretched thing! Thrown in her path by unkind fate: Then should he do The daily tasks And serving, take Her will and scorn For recompense As she should please: Thus, would she feel Her soul her own, and he, Subjection. [page 72] And, guided by a kindly courtesy, He’d humoured her These many days With smiling eyes And gentleness: But, all the while, The tropic sun Was searing off Scale upon scale The thin veneer Of sanctity ‘Twixt man and maid: And, while the primal love Grew in his heart, She scorned. [page 73] So, hour by hour, the farce Neared to its end, As passioned thoughts Consumed his heart To ecstasy; Till all the laws Of God and man Were dead and gone,— Forgotten! neath The southern skies, And wind and sun Upon his naked breast, Forgotten! for— He laughed aloud in sleep— The latent joys Of savagery. [page 74] Then, on a certain eve, He came to her, And lying down Beside her On the sandy shore, Played with her hand,— To tease her first To pride and scorn, Which, when she snatched Away, seized once again And kissed the palm With burning lips; And, half in passion, and half mocking, Told her of Love. [page 75] “Joy of my heart! know you not love That you would keep In selfish pride And stoniness Such sweetness to yourself? For love is all!— The whisp’ring spirit Of the breeze; The soul of nature Moving o’er the earth; The force that sways The rooted oak To scatter wide her acorns For productiveness: [page 76] “That cozens hov’ring flies And vagrant bees To give to flowers Their honey’s worth In sweet and luscious fruits; That bids the salmon Leave the sea— The briny plenty Of his ocean cool— For tepid shallows Of the river,— For love to starve, And, if it chance, To die: [page 77] “For Love must vanquish Death, Who, else, would be The conqueror — And all would pass Disconsolate,— The beasts and birds, And baby things, And tenderness Of nest and lair; And fertilizing dews Would fall on earth Barren of consequence, And all would be Abominable: [page 78] “But, if you have no patience With philosophy,— Then, only think Of love’s desire, And passioned nights Within my arms, And my warm kisses On your lips In plenteousness: For so I love With heart and soul Your body fair, Given to you To win and hold a mate eternally, Speak, is the answer Yes?” [page 79] Then sprang she to her feet With flaming eyes, And tore her hand Out of his grasp With angry hate and scorn: But, in a bound He was beside Her form again, And, with one wrench, Caught her poor rags And stripped them all away; Then grinned—as youth And savage grin,—and threw them in The sea. [page 80] “So there, at last, my dear, Go hate and scorn”— He chided her, “The wretched shreds That have so cramped The blossoming Of woman’s love Within your heart And, in all truth, You could not fairer be Than nature planned— Nor need such things Here, on our sunny Isle, Where”—and he grinned again, “There are no fertilizing dews— But me: [page 81] “So, now I’ll kiss you to My heart’s content, And hold you fast Within my arms All passionate,— Nay, do not scream Or you will wake The noisy gulls Out of their sleep To spoil our solitude; And, if you struggle, darling, From my love, For comfort sake I needs must tie Your lovely hair Behind my neck To bind your lips To mine.” [page 82] Thus, would he kiss her With a love Unquenchable Eve upon eve At twilight hour— Her cheek and throat And wond’rous arms From wrist to shoulder smooth, And her proud mouth— Then, to deaf ears, He’d whisper words Of burning love, And stroke her hair With an amazing Tenderness. [page 83] And sometimes she would sullenly submit, And sometimes fight; Again, at his approach, She’d turn and run, Whereat he’d laugh, And follow fast To catch an ankle slim With outstretched hand— So that she’d fall On the soft sands— And pull her back to him With gentle strength— Back to his longing Arms. [page 84] So lived they till the day An evil storm Came to them From the sea: Then knew she fear And lay upon Her face, and safe, Half buried In the sand: And over her, With legs astride, Hurling defiance in the face of death, Her tyrant stood, Protectingly. [page 85] Then, as the typhoon passed, She sought and found The huddled form Of him who she despised, — A piteous thing With limbs outstretched, And bloody wounds Made by the rocks As he was thrown— The plaything of the storm: “Oh! she was free! And could rejoice That from this hour She would not know His hateful lips!” So, gave an awful cry— And fell upon Her knees. [page 86] “Dead! O Great God be merciful And give him back!— She had not meant Such horrid thought In her half spoken prayers: For he was young— Too young and strong For punishment— So soon, and cruel, And terrible! And, if he’d erred,— His only fault had been In loving her Too much.” [page 87] And thus, with sick’ning doubts, And hurried prayer, She turned his body o’er, And put her ear Down to his naked skin, And, when she knew That he still lived, With all her strength She dragged him to A shaded spot Beneath a palm, And washed his wounds With gentle pattering Hands. [page 88] And begged that he Would open once again His smiling eyes,— That she had known So well, and loathed So fervently— She would not scorn! No! she would take His kisses with Humility: And, if her breasts Could coax his heart In love’s response To quickening beat, Thus, on his breast, They lay. [page 89] And so, he came, at last, Out of the depths, To find his head Pillowed and cool Upon her bosom soft, And his poor hand Knowing the gifts Of her proud lips, And wondered, as She told once more Of woman’s lot And sacrifice,— And, though he stirred To let her know That he was listening now— She told the tale Again. [page 90] “If I have erred in selfish pride Or ignorance And held my body dear, My love, from you, For love, forgive! And I’ll, in turn, forgive— As woman must— The burning passage Of your lips, E’en though they strayed In blinded course To pastures far afield,— But, if you wantonly Had shamed my soul, I would have hated you Unto the end: [page 91] “For love is to a woman Wrapped in mystery, A sacred thing— Her purity— That she can give but once, So, she must know Within her heart The hour has come With certainty: Then, will she cast All doubts away And give herself Unto her mate With joyousness,— Though, for high altar, There be only rocks, And bridal march, The waves: [page 92] “Then, my dear love, rejoice And be at peace, For, on my soul, My future rests on love And festival Within your arms: And we will spend Our honeymoon On this our Isle With sleeping gulls For company: So haste to strength To know the willing sweetness Of my lips— And happiness.” [page 93]
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