Modernist Canadian Poets
Rebels and Other Love Poems
7th Feb 2014Posted in: Modernist Canadian Poets 0

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REBELS
and OTHER
LOVE POEMS

The thunder Bird
A Mark of Canadian Quality

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REBELS
———and———
OTHER LOVE POEMS
BY RAMÓN FRANCISCO

THE GRAPHIC PUBLISHERS, LIMITED
OTTAWA                                      CANADA
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Copyright, 1929
The Graphic Publishers, Limited

PRODUCED ENTIRELY IN THE DOMINION OF CANADA
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DEDICATION


À toi

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]

 

CONTENTS

Page

Rebels

1

Echo and Narcissus

25

Diana’s Gage (from the French)

45

The Tropic Sun

69

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REBELS

“the sons of God saw the daughters of men

 

that they were fair.”

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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]

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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]

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E C HO   A N D   N A R C I S S U S

I.

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.

II.

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]

III.

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.

IV.

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]

V.

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.

VI.

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]

VII.

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.

VIII.

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]

IX.

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!

X.

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]

XI.

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.

XII.

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]

XIII.

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!

XIV.

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]

XV.

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.

XVI.

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]

XVII.

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.

XVIII.

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]

XIX.

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.

XX.

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]

XXI.

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.

XXII.

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]

XXIII.

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!

XXIV.

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]

XXV.

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!”

XXVI.

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]

XXVII.

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.

XXVIII.

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]

XXIX.

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!

XXX.

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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DIANA’S GAGE

(From the French)

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D I A N A ‘ S   G A G E

(From   the   French)

I.

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]

II.

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]

III.

”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]

IV.

“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]

V.

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]

VI.

“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]

VII.

“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]

VIII.

“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]

IX.

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]

X.

“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]

XI.

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]

XII.

“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]

XIII.

“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]

XIV.

“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]

XV.

“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]

XVI.

“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]

XVII.

“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]

XVIII.

“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]

XIX.

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]

XX.

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]

[2 blank pages]

 

THE TROPIC SUN

[unnumbered page]

[blank page]

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]

[5 blank pages]

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