OLD SPOOKSES' PASS MALCOLM'S KATIE, AND OTHER POEMS,
ISABELLA VALANCY CRAWFORD.
AUTHOR OF A LITTLE BACCHANTE, OR SOME BLACK SHEEP, ETC., ETC., ETC.
TO JOHN IRWIN CRAWFORD, ESQ., M. D., R. N. THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED BY HIS NIECE ISABELLA VALANCY CRAWFORD.
OLD SPOOKSES' PASS.
We'd camp'd that night on Yaller Bull Flat— Thar was Possum Billy, an' Tom, an' me. Right smart at throwin' a lariat Was them two fellers, as ever I see; An' for ridin' a broncho, or argyin' squar With the devil roll'd up in the hide of a mule, Them two fellers that camp'd with me thar Would hev made an' or'nary feller a fool.
Fur argyfyin' in any way, Thet hed to be argy'd with sinew an' bone, I never see'd fellers could argy like them; But just right har I will hev to own Thet whar brains come in in the game of life, They held the poorest keerds in the lot; An' when hands was shown, some other chap Rak'd in the hull of the blam'd old pot!
We was short of hands, the herd was large, An' watch an' watch we divided the night; We could hear the coyotes howl an' whine, But the darn'd critters kept out of sight Of the camp-fire blazin'; an' now an' then Thar come a rustle an' sort of rush, A rattle a-sneakin' away from the blaze, Thro' the rattlin', cracklin' grey sage bush.
We'd chanc'd that night on a pootyish lot, With a tol'ble show of tall, sweet grass— We was takin' Speredo's drove across The Rockies, by way of "Old Spookses' Pass"— An' a mite of a creek went crinklin' down, Like a "pocket" bust in the rocks overhead, Consid'able shrunk, by the summer drought, To a silver streak in its gravelly bed.
'Twas a fairish spot fur to camp a' night; An' chipper I felt, tho' sort of skeer'd That them two cowboys with only me, Couldn't boss three thousand head of a herd. I took the fust of the watch myself; An' as the red sun down the mountains sprang, I roll'd a fresh quid, an' got on the back Of my peart leetle chunk of a tough mustang.
An' Possum Billy was sleepin' sound, Es only a cowboy knows how to sleep; An' Tommy's snores would hev made a old Buffalo bull feel kind o' cheap. Wal, pard, I reckin' thar's no sech time For dwind'lin' a chap in his own conceit, Es when them mountains an' awful stars, Jest hark to the tramp of his mustang's feet.
It 'pears to me that them solemn hills Beckin' them stars so big an' calm, An' whisper, "Make tracks this way, my friends, We've ring'd in here a specimen man; He's here alone, so we'll take a look Thro' his ganzy an' vest, an' his blood an' bone, An post ourselves as to whether his heart Is flesh, or a rotten, made-up stone!"
An' it's often seemed, on a midnight watch, When the mountains blacken'd the dry, brown sod, That a chap, if he shut his eyes, might grip The great kind hand of his Father-God. I rode round the herd at a sort of walk— The shadders come stealin' thick an' black; I'd jest got to leave tew that thar chunk Of a mustang tew keep in the proper track.
Ever see'd a herd ring'd in at night? Wal, it's sort of cur'us,—the watchin' sky, The howl of coyotes—a great black mass, With thar an' thar the gleam of a eye An' the white of a horn—an', now an' then, An' old bull liftin' his shaggy head, With a beller like a broke-up thunder growl— An' the summer lightnin', quick an' red,
Twistin' an' turnin' amid the stars, Silent as snakes at play in the grass, An' plungin' thar fangs in the bare old skulls Of the mountains, frownin' above the Pass. An' all so still, that the leetle creek, Twinklin' an crinklin' from stone to stone, Grows louder an' louder, an' fills the air With a cur'us sort of a singin' tone. It ain't no matter wharever ye be, (I'll 'low it's a cur'us sort of case) Whar thar's runnin' water, it's sure to speak Of folks tew home an' the old home place;
An' yer bound tew listen an' hear it talk, Es yer mustang crunches the dry, bald sod; Fur I reckin' the hills, an' stars, an' creek Are all of 'em preachers sent by God. An' them mountains talk tew a chap this way: "Climb, if ye can, ye degenerate cuss!" An' the stars smile down on a man, an say, "Come higher, poor critter, come up tew us!"
An' I reckin', pard, thar is One above The highest old star that a chap can see, An' He says, in a solid, etarnal way, "Ye never can stop till ye get to ME!" Good fur Him, tew! fur I calculate HE ain't the One to dodge an' tew shirk, Or waste a mite of the things He's made, Or knock off till He's finished His great Day's work!
We've got to labor an' strain an' snort Along thet road thet He's planned an' made; Don't matter a mite He's cut His line Tew run over a 'tarnal, tough up-grade; An' if some poor sinner ain't built tew hold Es big a head of steam es the next, An' keeps slippin' an' slidin' 'way down hill, Why, He don't make out that He's awful vex'd.
Fur He knows He made Him in that thar way, Somewhars tew fit In His own great plan, An' He ain't the Bein' tew pour His wrath On the head of thet slimpsy an' slippery man, An' He says tew the feller, "Look here, my son, You're the worst hard case that ever I see, But be thet it takes ye a million y'ars, Ye never can stop till ye git tew ME!"
Them's my idees es I pann'd them out; Don't take no stock in them creeds that say, Thar's a chap with horns thet's took control Of the rollin' stock on thet up-grade way, Thet's free to tote up es ugly a log Es grows in his big bush grim an' black, An' slyly put it across the rails, Tew hist a poor critter clar off the track.
An' when he's pooty well busted an' smash'd, The devil comes smilin' an' bowin' round, Says tew the Maker, "Guess ye don't keer Tew trouble with stock thet ain't parfactly sound; Lemme tote him away—best ye can do— Neglected, I guess, tew build him with care; I'll hide him in hell—better thet folks Shouldn't see him laid up on the track for repair!"
Don't take no stock in them creeds at all; Ain't one of them cur'us sort of moles Thet think the Maker is bound to let The devil git up a "corner" in souls. Ye think I've put up a biggish stake? Wal, I'll bet fur all I'm wuth, d'ye see? He ain't wuth shucks thet won't dar tew lay All his pile on his own idee!
Ye bet yer boots I am safe tew win, Es the chap thet's able tew smilin' smack The ace he's been hidin' up his sleeve Kerslap on top of a feller's jack! Es I wus sayin', the night wus dark, The lightnin' skippin' from star to star; Thar wa'n't no clouds but a thread of mist, No sound but the coyotes yell afar,
An' the noise of the creek as it called tew me, "Pard, don't ye mind the mossy, green spot Whar a creek stood still fur a drowzin' spell Right in the midst of the old home lot? Whar, right at sundown on Sabba'day, Ye skinn'd yerself of yer meetin' clothes, An dove, like a duck, whar the water clar Shone up like glass through the lily-blows?
"Yer soul wus white es yer skin them days, Yer eyes es clar es the creek at rest; The wust idee in yer head thet time Wus robbin' a bluebird's swingin' nest. Now ain't ye changed? declar fur it, pard; Thet creek would question, it 'pears tew me, Ef ye looked in its waters agin tew night, 'Who may this old cuss of a sinner be?'"
Thet wus the style thet thet thar creek In "Old Spookses' Pass," in the Rockies, talked; Drowzily list'nin' I rode round the herd. When all of a sudden the mustang balked, An' shied with a snort; I never know'd Thet tough leetle critter tew show a scare In storm or dark; but he jest scrouch'd down, With his nostrils snuffin' the damp, cool air,
An' his flanks a-quiver. Shook up? Wal, yes Guess'd we hev heaps of tarnation fun; I calculated quicker'n light That the herd would be off on a healthy run. But thar warn't a stir tew horn or hoof; The herd, like a great black mist, lay spread, While har an' thar a grazin' bull Loom'd up, like a mighty "thunder head."
I riz in my saddle an' star'd around— On the mustang's neck I felt the sweat; Thar wus nuthin' tew see—sort of felt the har Commencin' tew crawl on my scalp, ye bet! Felt kind of cur'us—own up I did; Felt sort of dry in my mouth an' throat. Sez I, "Ye ain't goin' tew scare, old hoss, At a prowlin' coss of a blamed coyote?"
But 'twan't no coyote nor prowlin' beast. Nor rattle a-wrigglin' through the grass, Nor a lurkin' red-skin—'twan't my way In a game like that to sing out, "I pass!" But I know'd when I glimps'd the rollin' whites, The sparks from the black of the mustang's eye, Thar wus somethin' waltzin' up thet way Thet would send them critters off on the fly!
In the night-air's tremblin', shakin' hands Felt it beatin' kerslap onto me, Like them waves thet chas'd thet President chap Thet went on the war-trail in old Judee. The air wus bustin'—but silent es death; An' lookin' up, in a second I seed The sort of sky thet allers looks down On the rush an' the roar of a night stampede.
Tearin' along the indigo sky Wus a drove of clouds, snarl'd an' black; Scuddin' along to'ards the risin' moon, Like the sweep of a darn'd hungry pack Of preairie wolves to'ard a bufferler, The heft of the herd, left out of sight; I dror'd my breath right hard, fur I know'd We wus in fur a'tarnal run thet night.
Quiet? Ye bet! The mustang scrounch'd, His neck stretch'd out an' his nostrils wide, The moonshine swept, a white river down, The black of the mighty mountain's side, Lappin' over an' over the stuns an' brush In whirls an' swirls of leapin' light, Makin' straight fur the herd, whar black an' still, It stretch'd away to the left an' right
On the level lot;—I tell ye, pard, I know'd when it touch'd the first black hide, Me an' the mustang would hev a show Fur a breezy bit of an' evenin' ride! One! it flow'd over a homely pine Thet riz from a cranny, lean an' lank, A cleft of the mountain;—reckinin' two, It slapp'd onto an' old steer's heavin' flank,
Es sound he slept on the skirt of the herd, Dreamin' his dreams of the sweet blue grass On the plains below; an' afore it touched The other wall of "Old Spookses' Pass" The herd wus up!—not one at a time, Thet ain't the style in a midnight run,— They wus up an' off like es all thair minds Wus roll'd in the hide of only one!
I've fit in a battle, an' heerd the guns Blasphemin' God with their devils' yell; Heerd the stuns of a fort like thunder crash In front of the scream of a red-hot shell; But thet thar poundin' of iron hoofs, The clatter of horns, the peltin' sweep Of three thousand head of a runnin' herd, Made all of them noises kind of cheap.
The Pass jest open'd its giant throat An' its lips of granite, an' let a roar Of answerin' echoes; the mustang buck'd, Then answer'd the bridle; an', pard, afore The twink of a fire-bug, lifted his legs Over stuns an' brush, like a lopin' deer— A smart leetle critter! An' thar wus I 'Longside of the plungin' leadin' steer!
A low-set critter, not much account For heft or looks, but one of them sort Thet kin fetch a herd at his darn'd heels With a toss of his horns or a mite of a snort, Fur a fight or a run; an' thar wus I, Pressin' clus to the steel of his heavin' flank, An' cussin' an' shoutin'—while overhead The moon in the black clouds tremblin' sank,
Like a bufferler overtook by the wolves, An' pull'd tew the ground by the scuddin' pack. The herd rush'd oh with a din an' crash, Dim es a shadder, vast an' black; Couldn't tell ef a hide wus black or white, But from the dim surges a-roarin' by Bust long red flashes—the flamin' light From some old steer's furious an' scareful eye.
Thet pass in the Rockies fairly roar'd; An sudden' es winkin' came the bang An rattle of thunder. Tew see the grit Of thet peart little chunk of a tough mustang! Not a buck nor a shy!—he gev a snort Thet shook the foam on his steamin' hide, An' leap'd along—Wal, pard, ye bet I'd a healthy show fur a lively ride.
An' them cowboys slept in the leetle camp, Calm es three kids in a truckle bed; Declar the crash wus enough tew put Life in the dust of the sleepin' dead! The thunder kept droppin' its awful shells, One at a minute, on mountain an' rock: The pass with its stone lips thunder'd back; An' the rush an' roar an' whirlin' shock Of the runnin' herd wus fit tew bust A tenderfoot's heart hed he chanc'd along; But I jest let out of my lungs an' throat A rippin' old verse of a herdsman's song,
An' sidl'd the mustang closer up, 'Longside of the leader, an' hit him flat On his steamin' flank with a lightsome stroke Of the end of my limber lariat; He never swerv'd, an' we thunder'd on, Black in the blackness, red in the red Of the lightnin' blazin' with ev'ry clap That bust from the black guns overhead!
The mustang wus shod, an' the lightnin' bit At his iron shoes each step he run, Then plung'd in the yearth—we rode in flame, Fur the flashes roll'd inter only one, Same es the bellers made one big roar; Yet thro' the whirl of din an' flame I sung an' shouted, an' call'd the steer I sidl'd agin by his own front name,
An' struck his side with my fist an' foot— 'Twas jest like hittin' a rushin' stone, An' he thunder'd ahead—I couldn't boss The critter a mossel, I'm free tew own. The sweat come a-pourin' down my beard; Ef ye wonder wharfor, jest ye spread Yerself far a ride with a runnin' herd, A yawnin' gulch half a mile ahead.
Three hundred foot from its grinnin' lips Tew the roarin' stream on its stones below. Once more I hurl'd the mustang up Agin the side of the cuss call'd Joe; Twan't a mite of use—he riz his heels Up in the air, like a scuddin' colt; The herd mass'd closer, an' hurl'd down The roarin' Pass, like a thunderbolt.
I couldn't rein off—seem'd swept along In the rush an' roar an' thunderin' crash; The lightnin' struck at the runnin' herd With a crack like the stroke of a cowboy's lash. Thar! I could see it; I tell ye, pard, Things seem'd whittl'd down sort of fine— We wasn't five hundred feet from the gulch, With its mean little fringe of scrubby pine.
What could stop us? I grit my teeth; Think I pray'd—ain't sartin of thet; When, whizzin' an' singin', thar came the rush Right past my face of a lariat! "Bully fur you, old pard!" I roar'd, Es it whizz'd roun' the leader's steamin' chest, An' I wheel'd the mustang fur all he was wuth Kerslap on the side of the old steer's breast.
He gev a snort, an' I see him swerve— I foller'd his shoulder clus an' tight; Another swerve, an' the herd begun To swing around.—Shouts I, "All right "Ye've fetch'd 'em now!" The mustang gave A small, leettle whinney. I felt him flinch. Sez I, "Ye ain't goin' tew weaken now, Old feller, an' me in this darn'd pinch?"
"No," sez he, with his small, prickin' ears, Plain es a human could speak; an' me— I turn'd my head tew glimpse ef I could, Who might the chap with the lariat be. Wal, Pard, I weaken'd—ye bet yer life! Thar wasn't a human in sight around, But right in front of me come the beat Of a hoss's hoofs on the tremblin' ground—
Steddy an' heavy—a slingin' lope; A hefty critter with biggish bones Might make jest sich—could hear the hoofs Es they struck on the rattlin', rollin' stones— The jingle of bit—an' clar an' shrill A whistle es ever left cowboy's lip, An' cuttin' the air, the long, fine hiss Of the whirlin' lash of a cowboy's whip.
I crowded the mustang back, ontil He riz on his haunches—an' I sed, "In the Maker's name, who may ye be?" Sez a vice, "Old feller, jest ride ahead!" "All right!" sez I, an' I shook the rein. "Ye've turn'd the herd in a hansum style— Whoever ye be, I'll not back down!" An' I didn't, neither,—ye bet yer pile!
Clus on the heels of that unseen hoss, I rode on the side of the turnin' herd, An' once in a while I answer'd back A shout or a whistle or cheerin' word— From lips no lightnin' was strong tew show. 'Twas sort of scareful, that midnight ride; But we'd got our backs tew the gulch—fur that I'd hev foller'd a curiouser sort of guide!
'Twas kind of scareful tew watch the herd, Es the plungin' leaders squirm'd an' shrank— Es I heerd the flick of the unseen lash Hiss on the side of a steamin' flank. Guess the feller was smart at the work! We work'd them leaders round, ontil They overtook the tail of the herd, An' the hull of the crowd begun tew "mill."
Round spun the herd in a great black wheel, Slower an' slower—ye've seen beneath A biggish torrent a whirlpool spin, Its waters black es the face of Death? 'Pear'd sort of like that the "millin'" herd We kept by the leaders—HIM and me, Neck by neck, an' he sung a tune, About a young gal, nam'd Betsey Lee!
Jine in the chorus? Wal, yas, I did. He sung like a regilar mockin' bird. An' us cowboys allus sing out ef tew calm The scare, ef we can, of a runnin' herd. Slower an' slower wheel'd round the "mill"; The maddest old steer of a leader slow'd; Slower an' slower sounded the hoofs Of the hoss that HIM in front of me rode.
Fainter an' fainter grow'd that thar song Of Betsey Lee an' her har of gold; Fainter an' fainter grew the sound Of the unseen hoofs on the tore-up mold. The leadin' steer, that cuss of a Joe Stopp'd an' shook off the foam an' the sweat, With a stamp and a beller—the run was done, Wus glad of it, tew, yer free tew bet!
The herd slow'd up;—an' stood in a mass Of blackness, lit by the lightnin's eye: An' the mustang cower'd es something swept Clus to his wet flank in passin' by. "Good night tew ye, Pard!" "Good night," sez I, Strainin' my sight on the empty air; The har riz rustlin' up on my head, Now that I hed time tew scare.
The mustang flinch'd till his saddle girth Scrap'd on the dust of the tremblin' ground— There cum a laugh—the crack of a whip, A whine like the cry of a well pleas'd hound, The noise of a hoss thet rear'd an' sprang At the touch of a spur—then all was still; But the sound of the thunder dyin' down On the stony breast of the highest hill!
The herd went back to its rest an' feed, Es quiet a crowd es ever wore hide; An' them boys in camp never heerd a lisp Of the thunder an' crash of that run an' ride. An' I'll never forget, while a wild cat claws, Or a cow loves a nibble of sweet blue grass, The cur'us pardner that rode with me In the night stampede in "Old Spookses Pass!"
Low the sun beat on the land, Red on vine and plain and wood; With the wine-cup in his hand, Vast the Helot herdsman stood.
Quench'd the fierce Achean gaze, Dorian foemen paus'd before, Where cold Sparta snatch'd her bays At Achaea's stubborn door.
Still with thews of iron bound, Vastly the Achean rose, Godward from the brazen ground, High before his Spartan foes.
Still the strength his fathers knew (Dauntless when the foe they fac'd) Vein and muscle bounded through, Tense his Helot sinews brac'd.
Still the constant womb of Earth, Blindly moulded all her part; As, when to a lordly birth, Achean freemen left her heart.
Still, insensate mother, bore Goodly sons for Helot graves; Iron necks that meekly wore Sparta's yoke as Sparta's slaves.
Still, O God mock'd mother! she Smil'd upon her sons of clay: Nurs'd them on her breast and knee, Shameless in the shameful day.
Knew not old Achea's fires Burnt no more in souls or veins— Godlike hosts of high desires Died to clank of Spartan chains.
Low the sun beat on the land, Purple slope and olive wood; With the wine cup in his hand, Vast the Helot herdsman stood.
As long, gnarl'd roots enclasp Some red boulder, fierce entwine His strong fingers, in their grasp Bowl of bright Caecuban wine.
From far Marsh of Amyclae, Sentried by lank poplars tall— Thro' the red slant of the day, Shrill pipes did lament and call.
Pierc'd the swaying air sharp pines, Thyrsi-like, the gilded ground Clasp'd black shadows of brown vines, Swallows beat their mystic round.
Day was at her high unrest; Fever'd with the wine of light, Loosing all her golden vest, Reel'd she towards the coming night.
Fierce and full her pulses beat; Bacchic throbs the dry earth shook; Stirr'd the hot air wild and sweet; Madden'd ev'ry vine-dark brook.
Had a red grape never burst, All its heart of fire out; To the red vat all a thirst, To the treader's song and shout:
Had the red grape died a grape; Nor, sleek daughter of the vine, Found her unknown soul take shape In the wild flow of the wine:
Still had reel'd the yellow haze: Still had puls'd the sun pierc'd sod Still had throbb'd the vine clad days: To the pulses of their God.
Fierce the dry lips of the earth Quaff'd the subtle Bacchic soul: Felt its rage and felt its mirth, Wreath'd as for the banquet bowl.
Sapphire-breasted Bacchic priest Stood the sky above the lands; Sun and Moon at East and West, Brazen cymbals in his hands.
Temples, altars, smote no more, Sharply white as brows of Gods: From the long, sleek, yellow shore, Oliv'd hill or dusky sod,
Gaz'd the anger'd Gods, while he, Bacchus, made their temples his; Flushed their marble silently With the red light of his kiss.
Red the arches of his feet Spann'd grape-gleaming vales; the earth Reel'd from grove to marble street, Mad with echoes of his mirth.
Nostrils widen'd to the air, As above the wine brimm'd bowl: Men and women everywhere Breath'd the fierce, sweet Bacchic soul.
Flow'd the vat and roar'd the beam, Laugh'd the must; while far and shrill, Sweet as notes in Pan-born dream, Loud pipes sang by vale and hill.
Earth was full of mad unrest, While red Bacchus held his state; And her brown vine-girdl'd breast Shook to his wild joy and hate.
Strife crouch'd red ey'd in the vine In its tendrils Eros strayed; Anger rode upon the wine; Laughter on the cup-lip play'd.
Day was at her chief unrest— Red the light on plain and wood Slavish ey'd and still of breast, Vast the Helot herdsman stood:
Wide his hairy nostrils blew, Maddning incense breathing up; Oak to iron sinews grew, Round the rich Caecuban cup.
"Drink, dull slave!" the Spartan said, "Drink, until the Helot clod "Feel within him subtly bred "Kinship to the drunken God!
"Drink, until the leaden blood "Stirs and beats about thy brain: "Till the hot Caecuban flood "Drown the iron of thy chain.
"Drink, till even madness flies "At the nimble wine's pursuit; "Till the God within thee lies "Trampled by the earth-born brute.
"Helot drink—nor spare the wine; "Drain the deep, the madd'ning bowl, "Flesh and sinews, slave, are mine, "Now I claim thy Helot soul.
"Gods! ye love our Sparta; ye "Gave with vine that leaps and runs "O'er her slopes, these slaves to be "Mocks and warnings to her sons!
"Thou, my Hermos, turn thy eyes, "(God-touch'd still their frank, bold blue) "On the Helot—mark the rise "Of the Bacchic riot through
"Knotted vein, and surging breast: "Mark the wild, insensate, mirth: "God-ward boast—the driv'ling jest, "Till he grovel to the earth.
"Drink, dull slave," the Spartan cried: Meek the Helot touch'd the brim; Scented all the purple tide: Drew the Bacchic soul to him.
Cold the thin lipp'd Spartan smiled: Couch'd beneath the weighted vine, Large-ey'd, gaz'd the Spartan child, On the Helot and the wine.
Rose pale Doric shafts behind, Stern and strong, and thro' and thro', Weaving with the grape-breath'd wind, Restless swallows call'd and flew.
Dropp'd the rose-flush'd doves and hung, On the fountains murmuring brims; To the bronz'd vine Hermos clung— Silver-like his naked limbs
Flash'd and flush'd: rich copper'd leaves, Whiten'd by his ruddy hair; Pallid as the marble eaves, Aw'd he met the Helot's stare.
Clang'd the brazen goblet down; Marble-bred loud echoes stirr'd: With fix'd fingers, knotted, brown, Dumb, the Helot grasp'd his beard.
Heard the far pipes mad and sweet. All the ruddy hazes thrill: Heard the loud beam crash and beat, In the red vat on the hill.
Wide his nostrils as a stag's Drew the hot wind's fiery bliss; Red his lips as river flags, From the strong, Caecuban kiss.
On his swarthy temples grew, Purple veins like cluster'd grapes; Past his rolling pupils blew, Wine-born, fierce, lascivious shapes.
Cold the haughty Spartan smiled— His the power to knit that day, Bacchic fires, insensate, wild, To the grand Achean clay.
His the might—hence his the right! Who should bid him pause? nor Fate Warning pass'd before his sight, Dark-robed and articulate.
No black omens on his eyes, Sinistre—God-sent, darkly broke; Nor from ruddy earth nor skies, Portends to him mutely spoke.
"Lo," he said, "he maddens now! "Flames divine do scathe the clod; "Round his reeling Helot brow "Stings the garland of the God."
"Mark, my Hermos—turn to steel The soft tendons of thy soul! Watch the God beneath the heel Of the strong brute swooning roll!
"Shame, my Hermos! honey-dew Breeds not on the Spartan spear; Steel thy mother-eyes of blue, Blush to death that weakling tear.
"Nay, behold! breed Spartan scorn Of the red lust of the wine; Watch the God himself down-borne By the brutish rush of swine!
"Lo, the magic of the drink! At the nimble wine's pursuit, See the man-half'd satyr sink All the human in the brute!
"Lo, the magic of the cup! Watch the frothing Helot rave! As great buildings labour up From the corpse of slaughter'd slave,
"Build the Spartan virtue high From the Helot's wine-dead soul; Scorn the wild, hot flames that fly From the purple-hearted bowl!
"Helot clay! Gods! what its worth, Balanc'd with proud Sparta's rock? Ours—its force to till the earth; Ours—its soul to gyve and mock!
"Ours, its sullen might. Ye Gods! Vastly build the Achean clay; Iron-breast our slavish clods— Ours their Helot souls to slay!
"Knit great thews—smite sinews vast Into steel—build Helot bones Iron-marrowed:—such will last Ground by ruthless Sparta's stones.
"Crown the strong brute satyr wise! Narrow-wall his Helot brain; Dash the soul from breast and eyes, Lash him toward the earth again.
"Make a giant for our need, Weak to feel and strong to toil; Dully-wise to dig or bleed On proud Sparta's alien soil!
"Gods! recall thy spark at birth, Lit his soul with high desire; Blend him, grind him with the earth, Tread out old Achea's fire!
"Lo, my Hermos! laugh and mark, See the swift mock of the wine; Faints the primal, God-born spark, Trodden by the rush of swine!
"Gods! ye love our Sparta—ye Gave with vine that leaps and runs O'er her slopes, these slaves to be Mocks and warnings to her sons!"
Cold the haughty Spartan smil'd. Madd'ning from the purple hills Sang the far pipes, sweet and wild. Red as sun-pierc'd daffodils
Neck-curv'd, serpent, silent, scaled With lock'd rainbows, stole the sea; On the sleek, long beaches; wail'd Doves from column and from tree.
Reel'd the mote swarm'd haze, and thick Beat the hot pulse of the air; In the Helot, fierce and quick, All his soul sprang from its lair.
As the drowzing tiger, deep In the dim cell, hears the shout From the arena—from his sleep Launches to its thunders out—
So to fierce calls of the wine (Strong the red Caecuban bowl!) From its slumber, deep, supine, Panted up the Helot soul.
At his blood-flush'd eye-balls rear'd, (Mad and sweet came pipes and songs), Rous'd at last the wild soul glar'd, Spear-thrust with a million wrongs.
Past—the primal, senseless bliss; Past—red laughter of the grapes; Past—the wine's first honey'd kiss; Past—the wine-born, wanton shapes!
Still the Helot stands—his feet Set like oak roots: in his gaze Black clouds roll and lightnings meet— Flames from old Achean days.
Who may quench the God-born fire, Pulsing at the soul's deep root? Tyrants! grind it in the mire, Lo, it vivifies the brute!
Stings the chain-embruted clay, Senseless to his yoke-bound shame; Goads him on to rend and slay, Knowing not the spurring flame.
Tyrants, changeless stand the Gods! Nor their calm might yielded ye! Not beneath thy chains and rods Dies man's God-gift, Liberty!
Bruteward lash thy Helots—hold Brain and soul and clay in gyves; Coin their blood and sweat in gold, Build thy cities on their lives.
Comes a day the spark divine Answers to the Gods who gave; Fierce the hot flames pant and shine In the bruis'd breast of the slave!
Changeless stand the Gods!—nor he Knows he answers their behest; Feels the might of their decree In the blind rage of his breast.
Tyrants! tremble when ye tread Down the servile Helot clods; Under despot heel is bred The white anger of the Gods!
Thro' the shackle-canker'd dust, Thro' the gyv'd soul, foul and dark Force they, changeless Gods and just! Up the bright eternal spark.
Till, like lightnings vast and fierce, On the land its terror smites; Till its flames the tyrants pierce, Till the dust the despot bites!
Day was at its chief unrest, Stone from stone the Helot rose; Fix'd his eyes—his naked breast Iron-wall'd his inner throes.
Rose-white in the dusky leaves, Shone the frank-ey'd Spartan child; Low the pale doves on the eaves, Made their soft moan, sweet and wild.
Wand'ring winds, fire-throated, stole, Sybils whisp'ring from their books; With the rush of wine from bowl, Leap'd the tendril-darken'd brooks.
As the leathern cestus binds Tense the boxer's knotted hands; So the strong wine round him winds, Binds his thews to iron bands.
Changeless are the Gods—and bred All their wrath divine in him! Bull-like fell his furious head, Swell'd vast cords on breast and limb.
As loud-flaming stones are hurl'd From foul craters—thus the gods Cast their just wrath on the world, From the mire of Helot clods.
Still the furious Helot stood, Staring thro' the shafted space; Dry-lipp'd for the Spartan blood, He of scourg'd Achea's race.
Sprang the Helot—roar'd the vine, Rent from grey, long-wedded stones— From pale shaft and dusky pine, Beat the fury of his groans.
Thunders inarticulate: Wordless curses, deep and wild; Reach'd the long pois'd sword of Fate, To the Spartan thro' his child.
On his knotted hands, upflung O'er his low'r'd front—all white, Fair young Hermos quiv'ring hung; As the discus flashes bright
In the player's hand—the boy, Naked—blossom-pallid lay; Rous'd to lust of bloody joy, Throbb'd the slave's embruted clay.
Loud he laugh'd—the father sprang From the Spartan's iron mail! Late—the bubbling death-cry rang On the hot pulse of the gale!
As the shining discus flies, From the thrower's strong hand whirl'd; Hermos cleft the air—his cries Lance-like to the Spartan hurl'd.
As the discus smites the ground, Smote his golden head the stone; Of a tall shaft—burst a sound And but one—his dying groan!
Lo! the tyrant's iron might! Lo! the Helot's yokes and chains! Slave-slain in the throbbing light Lay the sole child of his veins.
Laugh'd the Helot loud and full, Gazing at his tyrant's face; Low'r'd his front like captive bull, Bellowing from the fields of Thrace.
Rose the pale shaft redly flush'd, Red with Bacchic light and blood; On its stone the Helot rush'd— Stone the tyrant Spartan stood.
Lo! the magic of the wine From far marsh of Amyclae! Bier'd upon the ruddy vine, Spartan dust and Helot lay!
Spouse of Bacchus reel'd the day, Red track'd on the throbbing sods; Dead—but free—the Helot lay, Just and changeless stand the Gods!
MALCOLM'S KATIE: A LOVE STORY
Max plac'd a ring on little Katie's hand, A silver ring that he had beaten out From that same sacred coin—first well-priz'd wage For boyish labour, kept thro' many years. "See, Kate," he said, "I had no skill to shape Two hearts fast bound together, so I grav'd Just K. and M., for Katie and for Max." "But, look; you've run the lines in such a way, That M. is part of K., and K. of M.," Said Katie, smiling. "Did you mean it thus? I like it better than the double hearts." "Well, well," he said, "but womankind is wise! Yet tell me, dear, will such a prophecy Not hurt you sometimes, when I am away? Will you not seek, keen ey'd, for some small break In those deep lines, to part the K. and M. For you? Nay, Kate, look down amid the globes Of those large lilies that our light canoe Divides, and see within the polish'd pool That small, rose face of yours,—so dear, so fair,— A seed of love to cleave into a rock, And bourgeon thence until the granite splits Before its subtle strength. I being gone— Poor soldier of the axe—to bloodless fields, (Inglorious battles, whether lost or won). That sixteen summer'd heart of yours may say: "'I but was budding, and I did not know My core was crimson and my perfume sweet; I did not know how choice a thing I am; I had not seen the sun, and blind I sway'd To a strong wind, and thought because I sway'd, 'Twas to the wooer of the perfect rose— That strong, wild wind has swept beyond my ken— The breeze I love sighs thro' my ruddy leaves." "O, words!" said Katie, blushing, "only words! You build them up that I may push them down; If hearts are flow'rs, I know that flow'rs can root— "Bud, blossom, die—all in the same lov'd soil; They do so in my garden. I have made Your heart my garden. If I am a bud And only feel unfoldment—feebly stir Within my leaves: wait patiently; some June, I'll blush a full-blown rose, and queen it, dear, In your lov'd garden. Tho' I be a bud, My roots strike deep, and torn from that dear soil Would shriek like mandrakes—those witch things I read Of in your quaint old books. Are you content?" "Yes—crescent-wise—but not to round, full moon. Look at yon hill that rounds so gently up From the wide lake; a lover king it looks, In cloth of gold, gone from his bride and queen; And yet delayed, because her silver locks Catch in his gilded fringes; his shoulders sweep Into blue distance, and his gracious crest, Not held too high, is plum'd with maple groves;— One of your father's farms. A mighty man, Self-hewn from rock, remaining rock through all." "He loves me, Max," said Katie: "Yes, I know— A rock is cup to many a crystal spring. Well, he is rich; those misty, peak-roof'd barns— Leviathans rising from red seas of grain— Are full of ingots, shaped like grains of wheat. His flocks have golden fleeces, and his herds Have monarchs worshipful, as was the calf Aaron call'd from the furnace; and his ploughs, Like Genii chained, snort o'er his mighty fields. He has a voice in Council and in Church—" "He work'd for all," said Katie, somewhat pain'd. "Aye, so, dear love, he did; I heard him tell How the first field upon his farm was ploughed. He and his brother Reuben, stalwart lads, Yok'd themselves, side by side, to the new plough; Their weaker father, in the grey of life (But rather the wan age of poverty Than many winters), in large, gnarl'd hands The plunging handles held; with mighty strains They drew the ripping beak through knotted sod, Thro' tortuous lanes of blacken'd, smoking stumps; And past great flaming brush heaps, sending out Fierce summers, beating on their swollen brows. O, such a battle! had we heard of serfs Driven to like hot conflict with the soil, Armies had march'd and navies swiftly sail'd To burst their gyves. But here's the little point— The polish'd di'mond pivot on which spins The wheel of Difference—they OWN'D the rugged soil, And fought for love—dear love of wealth and pow'r, And honest ease and fair esteem of men; One's blood heats at it!" "Yet you said such fields Were all inglorious," Katie, wondering, said. "Inglorious? yes; they make no promises Of Star or Garter, or the thundering guns That tell the earth her warriors are dead. Inglorious! aye, the battle done and won Means not—a throne propp'd up with bleaching bones; A country sav'd with smoking seas of blood; A flag torn from the foe with wounds and death; Or Commerce, with her housewife foot upon Colossal bridge of slaughter'd savages, The Cross laid on her brawny shoulder, and In one sly, mighty hand her reeking sword; And in the other all the woven cheats From her dishonest looms. Nay, none of these. It means—four walls, perhaps a lowly roof; Kine in a peaceful posture; modest fields; A man and woman standing hand in hand In hale old age, who, looking o'er the land, Say: 'Thank the Lord, it all is mine and thine!' It means, to such thew'd warriors of the Axe As your own father;—well, it means, sweet Kate, Outspreading circles of increasing gold, A name of weight; one little daughter heir. Who must not wed the owner of an axe, Who owns naught else but some dim, dusky woods In a far land; two arms indifferent strong—" "And Katie's heart," said Katie, with a smile; For yet she stood on that smooth, violet plain, Where nothing shades the sun; nor quite believed Those blue peaks closing in were aught but mist Which the gay sun could scatter with a glance. For Max, he late had touch'd their stones, but yet He saw them seam'd with gold and precious ores, Rich with hill flow'rs and musical with rills. "Or that same bud that will be Katie's heart, Against the time your deep, dim woods are clear'd, And I have wrought my father to relent." "How will you move him, sweet? why, he will rage And fume and anger, striding o'er his fields, Until the last bought king of herds lets down His lordly front, and rumbling thunder from His polish'd chest, returns his chiding tones. How will you move him, Katie, tell me how?" "I'll kiss him and keep still—that way is sure," Said Katie, smiling. "I have often tried." "God speed the kiss," said Max, and Katie sigh'd, With pray'rful palms close seal'd, "God speed the axe!"
* * * * *
O, light canoe, where dost thou glide? Below thee gleams no silver'd tide, But concave heaven's chiefest pride.
* * * * *
Above thee burns Eve's rosy bar; Below thee throbs her darling star; Deep 'neath thy keel her round worlds are!
* * * * *
Above, below, O sweet surprise, To gladden happy lover's eyes; No earth, no wave—all jewell'd sides!
* * * * *
The South Wind laid his moccasins aside, Broke his gay calumet of flow'rs, and cast His useless wampun, beaded with cool dews, Far from him, northward; his long, ruddy spear Flung sunward, whence it came, and his soft locks Of warm, fine haze grew silver as the birch. His wigwam of green leaves began to shake; The crackling rice-beds scolded harsh like squaws: The small ponds pouted up their silver lips; The great lakes ey'd the mountains, whisper'd "Ugh!" "Are ye so tall, O chiefs? Not taller than Our plumes can reach." And rose a little way, As panthers stretch to try their velvet limbs, And then retreat to purr and bide their time. At morn the sharp breath of the night arose From the wide prairies, in deep struggling seas, In rolling breakers, bursting to the sky; In tumbling surfs, all yellow'd faintly thro' With the low sun—in mad, conflicting crests, Voic'd with low thunder from the hairy throats Of the mist-buried herds; and for a man To stand amid the cloudy roll and moil, The phantom waters breaking overhead, Shades of vex'd billows bursting on his breast, Torn caves of mist wall'd with a sudden gold, Reseal'd as swift as seen—broad, shaggy fronts, Fire-ey'd and tossing on impatient horns The wave impalpable—was but to think A dream of phantoms held him as he stood. The late, last thunders of the summer crash'd, Where shrieked great eagles, lords of naked cliffs. The pulseless forest, lock'd and interlock'd So closely, bough with bough, and leaf with leaf, So serf'd by its own wealth, that while from high The moons of summer kiss'd its green-gloss'd locks; And round its knees the merry West Wind danc'd; And round its ring, compacted emerald; The south wind crept on moccasins of flame; And the fed fingers of th' impatient sun Pluck'd at its outmost fringes—its dim veins Beat with no life—its deep and dusky heart, In a deep trance of shadow, felt no throb To such soft wooing answer: thro' its dream Brown rivers of deep waters sunless stole; Small creeks sprang from its mosses, and amaz'd, Like children in a wigwam curtain'd close Above the great, dead, heart of some red chief, Slipp'd on soft feet, swift stealing through the gloom, Eager for light and for the frolic winds. In this shrill moon the scouts of winter ran From the ice-belted north, and whistling shafts Struck maple and struck sumach—and a blaze Ran swift from leaf to leaf, from bough to bough; Till round the forest flash'd a belt of flame. And inward lick'd its tongues of red and gold To the deep, tranied inmost heart of all. Rous'd the still heart—but all too late, too late. Too late, the branches welded fast with leaves, Toss'd, loosen'd, to the winds—too late the sun Pour'd his last vigor to the deep, dark cells Of the dim wood. The keen, two-bladed Moon Of Falling Leaves roll'd up on crested mists And where the lush, rank boughs had foiled the sun In his red prime, her pale, sharp fingers crept After the wind and felt about the moss, And seem'd to pluck from shrinking twig and stem The burning leaves—while groan'd the shudd'ring wood. Who journey'd where the prairies made a pause, Saw burnish'd ramparts flaming in the sun, With beacon fires, tall on their rustling walls. And when the vast, horn'd herds at sunset drew Their sullen masses into one black cloud, Rolling thund'rous o'er the quick pulsating plain, They seem'd to sweep between two fierce red suns Which, hunter-wise, shot at their glaring balls Keen shafts, with scarlet feathers and gold barbs, By round, small lakes with thinner, forests fring'd, More jocund woods that sung about the feet And crept along the shoulders of great cliffs; The warrior stags, with does and tripping fawns, Like shadows black upon the throbbing mist Of Evening's rose, flash'd thro' the singing woods— Nor tim'rous, sniff'd the spicy, cone-breath'd air; For never had the patriarch of the herd Seen limn'd against the farthest rim of light Of the low-dipping sky, the plume or bow Of the red hunter; nor when stoop'd to drink, Had from the rustling rice-beds heard the shaft Of the still hunter hidden in its spears; His bark canoe close-knotted in its bronze, His form as stirless as the brooding air, His dusky eyes too, fix'd, unwinking, fires; His bow-string tighten'd till it subtly sang To the long throbs, and leaping pulse that roll'd And beat within his knotted, naked breast. There came a morn. The Moon of Falling Leaves, With her twin silver blades had only hung Above the low set cedars of the swamp For one brief quarter, when the sun arose Lusty with light and full of summer heat, And pointing with his arrows at the blue, Clos'd wigwam curtains of the sleeping moon, Laugh'd with the noise of arching cataracts, And with the dove-like cooing of the woods, And with the shrill cry of the diving loon And with the wash of saltless, rounded seas, And mock'd the white moon of the Falling Leaves. "Esa! esa! shame upon you, Pale Face! "Shame upon you, moon of evil witches! "Have you kill'd the happy, laughing Summer? "Have you slain the mother of the Flowers "With your icy spells of might and magic? "Have you laid her dead within my arms? "Wrapp'd her, mocking, in a rainbow blanket. "Drown'd her in the frost mist of your anger? "She is gone a little way before me; "Gone an arrow's flight beyond my vision; "She will turn again and come to meet me, "With the ghosts of all the slain flowers, "In a blue mist round her shining tresses; "In a blue smoke in her naked forests— "She will linger, kissing all the branches, "She will linger, touching all the places, "Bare and naked, with her golden fingers, "Saying, 'Sleep, and dream of me, my children "'Dream of me, the mystic Indian Summer; "'I, who, slain by the cold Moon of Terror, "'Can return across the path of Spirits, "'Bearing still my heart of love and fire; "'Looking with my eyes of warmth and splendour; "'Whisp'ring lowly thro' your sleep of sunshine? "'I, the laughing Summer, am not turn'd "'Into dry dust, whirling on the prairies,— "'Into red clay, crush'd beneath the snowdrifts. "'I am still the mother of sweet flowers "'Growing but an arrow's flight beyond you— "'In the Happy Hunting Ground—the quiver "'Of great Manitou, where all the arrows "'He has shot from his great bow of Pow'r, "'With its clear, bright, singing cord of Wisdom, "'Are re-gather'd, plum'd again and brighten'd, "'And shot out, re-barb'd with Love and Wisdom; "'Always shot, and evermore returning. "'Sleep, my children, smiling in your heart-seeds "'At the spirit words of Indian Summer!'" "Thus, O Moon of Falling Leaves, I mock you! "Have you slain my gold-ey'd squaw, the Summer?" The mighty morn strode laughing up the land, And Max, the labourer and the lover, stood Within the forest's edge, beside a tree; The mossy king of all the woody tribes, Whose clatt'ring branches rattl'd, shuddering, As the bright axe cleav'd moon-like thro' the air, Waking strange thunders, rousing echoes link'd From the full, lion-throated roar, to sighs Stealing on dove-wings thro' the distant aisles. Swift fell the axe, swift follow'd roar on roar, Till the bare woodland bellow'd in its rage, As the first-slain slow toppl'd to his fall. "O King of Desolation, art thou dead?" Thought Max, and laughing, heart and lips, leap'd on The vast, prone trunk. "And have I slain a King? "Above his ashes will I build my house— No slave beneath its pillars, but—a King!" Max wrought alone, but for a half-breed lad, With tough, lithe sinews and deep Indian eyes, Lit with a Gallic sparkle. Max, the lover, found The labourer's arms grow mightier day by day— More iron-welded as he slew the trees; And with the constant yearning of his heart Towards little Kate, part of a world away, His young soul grew and shew'd a virile front, Full-muscl'd and large statur'd, like his flesh. Soon the great heaps of brush were builded high, And like a victor, Max made pause to clear His battle-field, high strewn with tangl'd dead. Then roar'd the crackling mountains, and their fires Met in high heaven, clasping flame with flame. The thin winds swept a cosmos of red sparks Across the bleak, midnight sky; and the sun Walk'd pale behind the resinous, black smoke. And Max car'd little for the blotted sun, And nothing for the startl'd, outshone stars; For Love, once set within a lover's breast, Has its own Sun—it's own peculiar sky, All one great daffodil—on which do lie The sun, the moon, the stars—all seen at once, And never setting; but all shining straight Into the faces of the trinity,— The one belov'd, the lover, and sweet Love! It was not all his own, the axe-stirr'd waste. In these new days men spread about the earth, With wings at heel—and now the settler hears, While yet his axe rings on the primal woods, The shrieks of engines rushing o'er the wastes; Nor parts his kind to hew his fortunes out. And as one drop glides down the unknown rock And the bright-threaded stream leaps after it, With welded billions, so the settler finds His solitary footsteps beaten out, With the quick rush of panting, human waves Upheav'd by throbs of angry poverty; And driven by keen blasts of hunger, from Their native strands—so stern, so dark, so dear! O, then, to see the troubl'd, groaning waves, Throb down to peace in kindly, valley beds; Their turbid bosoms clearing in the calm Of sun-ey'd Plenty—till the stars and moon, The blessed sun himself, has leave to shine And laugh in their dark hearts! So shanties grew Other than his amid the blacken'd stumps; And children ran, with little twigs and leaves And flung them, shouting, on the forest pyres, Where burn'd the forest kings—and in the glow Paus'd men and women when the day was done. There the lean weaver ground anew his axe, Nor backward look'd upon the vanish'd loom, But forward to the ploughing of his fields; And to the rose of Plenty in the cheeks. Of wife and children—nor heeded much the pangs Of the rous'd muscles tuning to new work. The pallid clerk look'd on his blister'd palms And sigh'd and smil'd, but girded up his loins And found new vigour as he felt new hope. The lab'rer with train'd muscles, grim and grave, Look'd at the ground and wonder'd in his soul, What joyous anguish stirr'd his darken'd heart, At the mere look of the familiar soil, And found his answer in the words—"Mine own!" Then came smooth-coated men, with eager eyes, And talk'd of steamers on the cliff-bound lakes; And iron tracks across the prairie lands; And mills to crush the quartz of wealthy hills; And mills to saw the great, wide-arm'd trees; And mills to grind the singing stream of grain; And with such busy clamour mingled still The throbbing music of the bold, bright Axe— The steel tongue of the Present, and the wail Of falling forests—voices of the Past. Max, social-soul'd, and with his practised thews, Was happy, boy-like, thinking much of Kate, And speaking of her to the women-folk; Who, mostly, happy in new honeymoons Of hope themselves, were ready still to hear The thrice told tale of Katie's sunny eyes And Katie's yellow hair, and household ways: And heard so often, "There shall stand our home— "On yonder slope, with vines about the door!" That the good wives were almost made to see The snowy walls, deep porches, and the gleam Of Katie's garments flitting through the rooms; And the black slope all bristling with burn'd stumps Was known amongst them all as "Max's House."
* * * * *
O, Love builds on the azure sea, And Love builds on the golden sand; And Love builds on the rose-wing'd cloud, And sometimes Love builds on the land.
* * * * *
O, if Love build on sparkling sea— And if Love build on golden strand— And if Love build on rosy cloud— To Love these are the solid land.
* * * * *
O, Love will build his lily walls, And Love his pearly roof, will rear,— On cloud or land, or mist or sea— Love's solid land is everywhere!
* * * * *
The great farm house of Malcolm Graem stood Square shoulder'd and peak roof'd upon a hill, With many windows looking everywhere; So that no distant meadow might lie hid, Nor corn-field hide its gold—nor lowing herd Browse in far pastures, out of Malcolm's ken. He lov'd to sit, grim, grey, and somewhat stern, And thro' the smoke-clouds from his short clay pipe Look out upon his riches; while his thoughts Swung back and forth between the bleak, stern past, And the near future, for his life had come To that close balance, when, a pendulum, The memory swings between me "Then" and "Now"; His seldom speech ran thus two diff'rent ways: "When I was but a laddie, this I did"; Or, "Katie, in the Fall I'll see to build "Such fences or such sheds about the place; "And next year, please the Lord, another barn." Katie's gay garden foam'd about the walls, 'Leagur'd the prim-cut modern sills, and rush'd Up the stone walls—and broke on the peak'd roof. And Katie's lawn was like a Poet's sward, Velvet and sheer and di'monded with dew; For such as win their wealth most aptly take Smooth, urban ways and blend them with their own; And Katie's dainty raiment was as fine As the smooth, silken petals of the rose; And her light feet, her nimble mind and voice, In city schools had learn'd the city's ways, And grafts upon the healthy, lonely vine They shone, eternal blossoms 'mid the fruit. For Katie had her sceptre in her hand And wielded it right queenly there and here, In dairy, store-room, kitchen—ev'ry spot Where women's ways were needed on the place. And Malcolm took her through his mighty fields, And taught her lore about the change of crops; And how to see a handsome furrow plough'd; And how to choose the cattle for the mart; And how to know a fair day's work when done; And where to plant young orchards; for he said, "God sent a lassie, but I need a son— "Bethankit for His mercies all the same." And Katie, when he said it, thought of Max— Who had been gone two winters and two springs, And sigh'd, and thought, "Would he not be your son?" But all in silence, for she had too much Of the firm will of Malcolm in her soul To think of shaking that deep-rooted rock; But hop'd the crystal current of his love For his one child, increasing day by day, Might fret with silver lip, until it wore Such channels thro' the rock, that some slight stroke Of circumstance might crumble down the stone. The wooer, too, had come, Max prophesied; Reputed wealthy; with the azure eyes And Saxon-gilded locks—the fair, clear face, And stalwart form that most women love. And with the jewels of some virtues set On his broad brow. With fires within his soul He had the wizard skill to fetter down To that mere pink, poetic, nameless glow, That need not fright a flake of snow away— But if unloos'd, could melt an adverse rock Marrow'd with iron, frowning in his way. And Malcolm balanc'd him by day and night; And with his grey-ey'd shrewdness partly saw He was not one for Kate; but let him come, And in chance moments thought: "Well, let it be— "They make a bonnie pair—he knows the ways "Of men and things: can hold the gear I give, "And, if the lassie wills it, let it be." And then, upstarting from his midnight sleep, With hair erect and sweat upon his brow, Such as no labor e'er had beaded there; Would cry aloud, wide-staring thro' the dark— "Nay, nay; she shall not wed him—rest in peace." Then fully waking, grimly laugh and say: "Why did I speak and answer when none spake?" But still lie staring, wakeful, through the shades; List'ning to the silence, and beating still The ball of Alfred's merits to and fro— Saying, between the silent arguments: "But would the mother like it, could she know? "I would there was a way to ring a lad "Like silver coin, and so find out the true; "But Kate shall say him 'Nay' or say him 'Yea' "At her own will." And Katie said him "Nay," In all the maiden, speechless, gentle ways A woman has. But Alfred only laugh'd To his own soul, and said in his wall'd mind: "O, Kate, were I a lover, I might feel "Despair flap o'er my hopes with raven wings; "Because thy love is giv'n to other love. "And did I love—unless I gain'd thy love, "I would disdain the golden hair, sweet lips, "Air-blown form and true violet eyes; "Nor crave the beauteous lamp without the flame; "Which in itself would light a charnel house. "Unlov'd and loving, I would find the cure "Of Love's despair in nursing Love's disdain— "Disdain of lesser treasure than the whole. "One cares not much to place against the wheel "A diamond lacking flame—nor loves to pluck "A rose with all its perfume cast abroad "To the bosom of the gale. Not I, in truth! "If all man's days are three score years and ten, "He needs must waste them not, but nimbly seize "The bright consummate blossom that his will "Calls for most loudly. Gone, long gone the days "When Love within my soul for ever stretch'd "Fierce hands of flame, and here and there I found "A blossom fitted for him—all up-fill'd "With love as with clear dew—they had their hour "And burn'd to ashes with him, as he droop'd "In his own ruby fires. No Phoenix he, "To rise again because of Katie's eyes, "On dewy wings, from ashes such as his! "But now, another Passion bids me forth. "To crown him with the fairest I can find, "And makes me lover—not of Katie's face, "But of her father's riches! O, high fool, "Who feels the faintest pulsing of a wish "And fails to feed it into lordly life! "So that, when stumbling back to Mother Earth, "His freezing lip may curl in cold disdain "Of those poor, blighted fools who starward stare "For that fruition, nipp'd and scanted here. "And, while the clay, o'ermasters all his blood— "And he can feel the dust knit with his flesh— "He yet can say to them, 'Be ye content; "'I tasted perfect fruitage thro' my life, "'Lighted all lamps of passion, till the oil "'Fail'd from their wicks; and now, O now, I know "'There is no Immortality could give "'Such boon as this—to simply cease to be! "'There lies your Heaven, O ye dreaming slaves, "'If ye would only live to make it so; "'Nor paint upon the blue skies lying shades "'Of—what is not. Wise, wise and strong the man "'who poisons that fond haunter of the mind, "'Craving for a hereafter with deep draughts "'Of wild delights—so fiery, fierce, and strong, "'That when their dregs are deeply, deeply drain'd, "'What once was blindly crav'd of purblind Chance, "'Life, life eternal—throbbing thro' all space "'Is strongly loath'd—and with his face in dust, "'Man loves his only Heav'n—six feet of Earth!' "So, Katie, tho' your blue eyes say me 'Nay,' "My pangs of love for gold must needs be fed, "And shall be, Katie, if I know my mind." Events were winds close nest'ling in the sails Of Alfred's bark, all blowing him direct To his wish'd harbour. On a certain day, All set about with roses and with fire; One of three days of heat which frequent slip, Like triple rubies, in between the sweet, Mild, emerald days of summer, Katie went, Drawn by a yearning for the ice-pale blooms, Natant and shining—firing all the bay With angel fires built up of snow and gold. She found the bay close pack'd with groaning logs, Prison'd between great arms of close hing'd wood. All cut from Malcolm's forests in the west, And floated hither to his noisy mills; And all stamp'd with the potent "G." and "M.," Which much he lov'd to see upon his goods, The silent courtiers owning him their king. Out clear beyond the rustling ricebeds sang, And the cool lilies starr'd the shadow'd wave. "This is a day for lily-love," said Kate, While she made bare the lilies of her feet; And sang a lily song that Max had made, That spoke of lilies—always meaning Kate.
* * * * *
"While Lady of the silver'd lakes, Chaste Goddess of the sweet, still shrines. The jocund river fitful makes, By sudden, deep gloom'd brakes, Close shelter'd by close weft and woof of vine, Spilling a shadow gloomy-rich as wine, Into the silver throne where thou dost sit, Thy silken leaves all dusky round thee knit!
* * * * *
"Mild soul of the unsalted wave! White bosom holding golden fire Deep as some ocean-hidden cave Are fix'd the roots of thy desire, Thro' limpid currents stealing up, And rounding to the pearly cup Thou dost desire, With all thy trembling heart of sinless fire, But to be fill'd With dew distill'd From clear, fond skies, that in their gloom Hold, floating high, thy sister moon, Pale chalice of a sweet perfume, Whiter-breasted than a dove— To thee the dew is—love!"
* * * * *
Kate bared her little feet, and pois'd herself On the first log close grating on the shore; And with bright eyes of laughter, and wild hair— A flying wind of gold—from log to log Sped, laughing as they wallow'd in her track, Like brown-scal'd monsters rolling, as her foot Spurn'd each in turn with its rose-white sole. A little island, out in middlewave, With its green shoulder held the great drive brac'd Between it and the mainland; here it was The silver lilies drew her with white smiles; And as she touch'd the last great log of all, It reel'd, upstarting, like a column brac'd, A second on the wave—and when it plung'd Rolling upon the froth and sudden foam, Katie had vanish'd, and with angry grind The vast logs roll'd together,—nor a lock Of drifting yellow hair—an upflung hand, Told where the rich man's chiefest treasure sank Under his wooden wealth. But Alfred, laid With pipe and book upon the shady marge, Of the cool isle, saw all, and seeing hurl'd Himself, and hardly knew it, on the logs; By happy chance a shallow lapp'd the isle On this green bank; and when his iron arms Dash'd the bark'd monsters, as frail stems of rice, A little space apart, the soft, slow tide But reach'd his chest, and in a flash he saw Kate's yellow hair, and by it drew her up, And lifting her aloft, cried out, "O, Kate!" And once again said, "Katie! is she dead?" For like the lilies broken by the rough And sudden riot of the armor'd logs, Kate lay upon his hands; and now the logs Clos'd in upon him, nipping his great chest, Nor could he move to push them off again For Katie in his arms. "And now," he said, "If none should come, and any wind arise "To weld these woody monsters 'gainst the isle, "I shall be crack'd like any broken twig; "And as it is, I know not if I die, "For I am hurt—aye, sorely, sorely hurt!" Then look'd on Katie's lily face, and said, "Dead, dead or living? Why, an even chance. "O lovely bubble on a troubl'd sea, "I would not thou shoulds't lose thyself again "In the black ocean whence thy life emerg'd, "But skyward steal on gales as soft as love, "And hang in some bright rainbow overhead, "If only such bright rainbow spann'd the earth." Then shouted loudly, till the silent air Rous'd like a frighten'd bird, and on its wings Caught up his cry and bore it to the farm. There Malcolm, leaping from his noontide sleep, Upstarted as at midnight, crying out, "She shall not wed him—rest you, wife, in peace!' They found him, Alfred, haggard-ey'd and faint, But holding Katie ever towards the sun, Unhurt, and waking in the fervent heat. And now it came that Alfred being sick Of his sharp hurts and tended by them both, With what was like to love, being born of thanks, Had choice of hours most politic to woo, And used his deed as one might use the sun, To ripen unmellow'd fruit; and from the core Of Katie's gratitude hop'd yet to nurse A flow'r all to his liking—Katie's love. But Katie's mind was like the plain, broad shield Of a table di'mond, nor had a score of sides; And in its shield, so precious and so plain, Was cut, thro' all its clear depths—Max's name! And so she said him "Nay" at last, in words Of such true sounding silver, that he knew He might not win her at the present hour, But smil'd and thought—"I go, and come again! "Then shall we see. Our three-score years and ten "Are mines of treasure, if we hew them deep, "Nor stop too long in choosing out our tools!"
* * * * *
From his far wigwam sprang the strong North Wind And rush'd with war-cry down the steep ravines, And wrestl'd with the giants of the woods; And with his ice-club beat the swelling crests. Of the deep watercourses into death, And with his chill foot froze the whirling leaves Of dun and gold and fire in icy banks; And smote the tall reeds to the harden'd earth; And sent his whistling arrows o'er the plains, Scatt'ring the ling'ring herds—and sudden paus'd When he had frozen all the running streams, And hunted with his war-cry all the things That breath'd about the woods, or roam'd the bleak Bare prairies swelling to the mournful sky. "White squaw," he shouted, troubl'd in his soul, "I slew the dead, wrestl'd with naked chiefs "Unplum'd before, scalped of their leafy plumes; "I bound sick rivers in cold thongs of death, "And shot my arrows over swooning plains, "Bright with the Paint of death—and lean and bare. "And all the braves of my loud tribe will mock "And point at me—when our great chief, the Sun, "Relights his Council fire in the moon "Of Budding Leaves." "Ugh, ugh! he is a brave! "He fights with squaws and takes the scalps of babes! "And the least wind will blow his calumet— "Fill'd with the breath of smallest flow'rs—across "The warpaint on my face, and pointing with "His small, bright pipe, that never moved a spear "Of bearded rice, cry, 'Ugh! he slays the dead!' "O, my white squaw, come from thy wigwam grey, "Spread thy white blanket on the twice-slain dead; "And hide them, ere the waking of the Sun!"
* * * * *
High grew the snow beneath the low-hung sky, And all was silent in the Wilderness; In trance of stillness Nature heard her God Rebuilding her spent fires, and veil'd her face While the Great Worker brooded o'er His work.
* * * * *
"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree, What doth thy bold voice promise me?"
* * * * *
"I promise thee all joyous things, That furnish forth the lives of kings!
* * * * *
"For ev'ry silver ringing blow, Cities and palaces shall grow!"
* * * * *
"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree, Tell wider prophecies to me."
* * * * *
"When rust hath gnaw'd me deep and red; A nation strong shall lift his head!
* * * * *
"His crown the very Heav'ns shall smite, Aeons shall build him in his might!"
* * * * *
"Bite deep and wide, O Axe, the tree; Bright Seer, help on thy prophecy!"
* * * * *
Max smote the snow-weigh'd tree and lightly laugh'd. "See, friend," he cried to one that look'd and smil'd, "My axe and I—we do immortal tasks— We build up nations—this my axe and I!" "O," said the other with a cold, short smile, "Nations are not immortal! is there now "One nation thron'd upon the sphere of earth, "That walk'd with the first Gods, and saw "The budding world unfold its slow-leav'd flow'r? "Nay; it is hardly theirs to leave behind "Ruins so eloquent, that the hoary sage "Can lay his hand upon their stones, and say: "'These once were thrones!' The lean, lank lion peals "His midnight thunders over lone, red plains, "Long-ridg'd and crested on their dusty waves, "With fires from moons red-hearted as the sun; "And deep re-thunders all the earth to him. "For, far beneath the flame-fleck'd, shifting sands, "Below the roots of palms, and under stones "Of younger ruins, thrones, tow'rs and cities "Honeycomb the earth. The high, solemn walls "Of hoary ruins—their foundings all unknown "(But to the round-ey'd worlds that walk "In the blank paths of Space and blanker Chance). "At whose stones young mountains wonder, and the seas' "New-silv'ring, deep-set valleys pause and gaze; "Are rear'd upon old shrines, whose very Gods "Were dreams to the shrine-builders, of a time "They caught in far-off flashes—as the child "Half thinks he can remember how one came "And took him in her hand and shew'd him that "He thinks, she call'd the sun. Proud ships rear high "On ancient billows that have torn the roots "Of cliffs, and bitten at the golden lips "Of firm, sleek beaches, till they conquer'd all, "And sow'd the reeling earth with salted waves. "Wrecks plunge, prow foremost, down still, solemn slopes, "And bring their dead crews to as dead a quay; "Some city built before that ocean grew, "By silver drops from many a floating cloud, "By icebergs bellowing in their throes of death, "By lesser seas toss'd from their rocking cups, "And leaping each to each; by dew-drops flung "From painted sprays, whose weird leaves and flow'rs "Are moulded for new dwellers on the earth, "Printed in hearts of mountains and of mines. "Nations immortal? where the well-trimm'd lamps "Of long-past ages, when Time seem'd to pause "On smooth, dust-blotted graves that, like the tombs "Of monarchs, held dead bones and sparkling gems? "She saw no glimmer on the hideous ring "Of the black clouds; no stream of sharp, clear light "From those great torches, pass'd into the black "Of deep oblivion. She seem'd to watch, but she "Forgot her long-dead nations. When she stirr'd "Her vast limbs in the dawn that forc'd its fire "Up the black East, and saw the imperious red "Burst over virgin dews and budding flow'rs, "She still forgot her molder'd thrones and kings, "Her sages and their torches, and their Gods, "And said, 'This is my birth—my primal day!' "She dream'd new Gods, and rear'd them other shrines, "Planted young nations, smote a feeble flame "From sunless flint, re-lit the torch of mind; "Again she hung her cities on the hills, "Built her rich towers, crown'd her kings again, "And with the sunlight on her awful wings "Swept round the flow'ry cestus of the earth, "And said, 'I build for Immortality!' "Her vast hand rear'd her tow'rs, her shrines, her thrones; "The ceaseless sweep of her tremendous wings "Still beat them down and swept their dust abroad; "Her iron finger wrote on mountain sides "Her deeds and prowess—and her own soft plume "Wore down the hills! Again drew darkly on "A night of deep forgetfulness; once more "Time seem'd to pause upon forgotten graves— "Once more a young dawn stole into her eyes— "Again her broad wings stirr'd, and fresh clear airs, "Blew the great clouds apart;—again Time said, "'This is my birth—my deeds and handiwork "'Shall be immortal.' Thus and so dream on "Fool'd nations, and thus dream their dullard sons. "Naught is immortal save immortal—Death!" Max paus'd and smil'd: "O, preach such gospel, friend, "To all but lovers who most truly love; "For them, their gold-wrought scripture glibly reads "All else is mortal but immortal—Love!" "Fools! fools!" his friend said, "most immortal fools!— "But pardon, pardon, for, perchance, you love?" "Yes," said Max, proudly smiling, "thus do I "Possess the world and feel eternity!" Dark laughter blacken'd in the other's eyes: "Eternity! why, did such Iris arch "Ent'ring our worm-bored planet, never liv'd "One woman true enough such tryst to keep!" "I'd swear by Kate," said Max; "and then, I had "A mother, and my father swore by her." "By Kate? Ah, that were lusty oath, indeed! "Some other man will look into her eyes, "And swear me roundly, 'By true Catherine!' "And Troilus swore by Cressed—so they say." "You never knew my Kate," said Max, and pois'd His axe again on high, "But let it pass— "You are too subtle for me; argument "Have I none to oppose yours with—but this, "Get you a Kate, and let her sunny eyes "Dispel the doubting darkness in your soul." "And have not I a Kate? pause, friend, and see. "She gave me this faint shadow of herself "The day I slipp'd the watch-star of our loves— "A ring—upon her hand—she loves me, too; "Yet tho' her eyes be suns, no Gods are they "To give me worlds, or make me feel a tide "Of strong Eternity set towards my soul; "And tho' she loves me, yet am I content "To know she loves me by the hour—the year— "Perchance the second—as all women love." The bright axe falter'd in the air, and ripp'd Down the rough bark, and bit the drifted snow, For Max's arm fell, wither'd in its strength, 'Long by his side. "Your Kate," he said; "your Kate!" "Yes, mine, while holds her mind that way, my Kate; "I sav'd her life, and had her love for thanks; "Her father is Malcolm Graem—Max, my friend, "You pale! what sickness seizes on your soul?" Max laugh'd, and swung his bright axe high again: "Stand back a pace—a too far reaching blow "Might level your false head with yon prone trunk— "Stand back and listen while I say, "You lie! "That is my Katie's face upon your breast, "But 'tis my Katie's love lives in my breast— "Stand back, I say! my axe is heavy, and "Might chance to cleave a liar's brittle skull. "Your Kate! your Kate! your Kate!—hark, how the woods "Mock at your lie with all their woody tongues, "O, silence, ye false echoes! not his Kate "But mine—I'm certain I will have your life!" All the blue heav'n was dead in Max's eyes; Doubt-wounded lay Kate's image in his heart, And could not rise to pluck the sharp spear out. "Well, strike, mad fool," said Alfred, somewhat pale; "I have no weapon but these naked hands." "Aye, but," said Max, "you smote my naked heart! "O shall I slay him?—Satan, answer me— "I cannot call on God for answer here. "O Kate—!" A voice from God came thro' the silent woods And answer'd him—for suddenly a wind Caught the great tree-tops, coned with high-pil'd snow, And smote them to and fro, while all the air Was sudden fill'd with busy drifts, and high White pillars whirl'd amid the naked trunks, And harsh, loud groans, and smiting, sapless boughs Made hellish clamour in the quiet place. With a shrill shriek of tearing fibres, rock'd The half-hewn tree above his fated head; And, tott'ring, asked the sudden blast, "Which way?" And, answ'ring its windy arms, crash'd and broke Thro' other lacing boughs, with one loud roar Of woody thunder; all its pointed boughs Pierc'd the deep snow—its round and mighty corpse, Bark-flay'd and shudd'ring, quiver'd into death. And Max—as some frail, wither'd reed, the sharp And piercing branches caught at him, As hands in a death-throe, and beat him to the earth— And the dead tree upon its slayer lay. "Yet hear we much of Gods;—if such there be, "They play at games of chance with thunderbolts," Said Alfred, "else on me this doom had come. "This seals my faith in deep and dark unfaith! "Now Katie, are you mine, for Max is dead— "Or will be soon, imprison'd by those boughs, "Wounded and torn, sooth'd by the deadly palms "Of the white, trait'rous frost; and buried then "Under the snows that fill those vast, grey clouds, "Low-sweeping on the fretted forest roof. "And Katie shall believe you false—not dead; "False, false!—And I? O, she shall find me true— "True as a fabl'd devil to the soul "He longs for with the heat of all hell's fires. "These myths serve well for simile, I see. "And yet—Down, Pity! knock not at my breast, "Nor grope about for that dull stone my heart; "I'll stone thee with it, Pity! Get thee hence, "Pity, I'll strangle thee with naked hands; "For thou dost bear upon thy downy breast "Remorse, shap'd like a serpent, and her fangs "Might dart at me and pierce my marrow thro'. "Hence, beggar, hence—and keep with fools, I say! "He bleeds and groans! Well, Max, thy God or mine "Blind Chance, here play'd the butcher—'twas not I. "Down, hands! ye shall not lift his fall'n head; "What cords tug at ye? What? Ye'd pluck him up "And staunch his wounds? There rises in my breast "A strange, strong giant, throwing wide his arms "And bursting all the granite of my heart! "How like to quiv'ring flesh a stone may feel! "Why, it has pangs! I'll none of them. I know "Life is too short for anguish and for hearts— "So I wrestle with thee, giant! and my will "Turns the thumb, and thou shalt take the knife. "Well done! I'll turn thee on the arena dust, "And look on thee—What? thou wert Pity's self, "Stol'n in my breast; and I have slaughter'd thee— "But hist—where hast thou hidden thy fell snake, "Fire-fang'd Remorse? Not in my breast, I know, "For all again is chill and empty there, "And hard and cold—the granite knitted up. "So lie there, Max—poor fond and simple Max, "'Tis well thou diest: earth's children should not call "Such as thee father—let them ever be "Father'd by rogues and villains, fit to cope "With the foul dragon Chance, and the black knaves "Who swarm'd in loathsome masses in the dust. "True Max, lie there, and slumber into death."
* * * * *
Said the high hill, in the morning: "Look on me— "Behold, sweet earth, sweet sister sky, behold "The red flames on my peaks, and how my pines "Are cressets of pure gold; my quarried scars "Of black crevase and shadow-fill'd canon, "Are trac'd in silver mist. How on my breast "Hang the soft purple fringes of the night; "Close to my shoulder droops the weary moon, "Dove-pale, into the crimson surf the sun "Drives up before his prow; and blackly stands "On my slim, loftiest peak, an eagle, with "His angry eyes set sunward, while his cry "Falls fiercely back from all my ruddy heights; "And his bald eaglets, in their bare, broad nest, "Shrill pipe their angry echoes: "'Sun, arise, "'And show me that pale dove, beside her nest, "'Which I shall strike with piercing beak and tear "'With iron talons for my hungry young.'" And that mild dove, secure for yet a space, Half waken'd, turns her ring'd and glossy neck To watch dawn's ruby pulsing on her breast, And see the first bright golden motes slip down The gnarl'd trunks about her leaf-deep nest, Nor sees nor fears the eagle on the peak.
* * * * *
"Aye, lassie, sing—I'll smoke my pipe the while, "And let it be a simple, bonnie song, "Such as an old, plain man can gather in "His dulling ear, and feel it slipping thro' "The cold, dark, stony places of his heart." "Yes, sing, sweet Kate," said Alfred in her ear; "I often heard you singing in my dreams "When I was far away the winter past." So Katie on the moonlit window lean'd, And in the airy silver of her voice Sang of the tender, blue "Forget-me-not."
Could every blossom find a voice, And sing a strain to me; I know where I would place my choice, Which my delight should be. I would not choose the lily tall, The rose from musky grot; But I would still my minstrel call The blue "Forget-me-not!"
And I on mossy bank would lie Of brooklet, ripp'ling clear; And she of the sweet azure eye, Close at my list'ning ear, Should sing into my soul a strain Might never be forgot— So rich with joy, so rich with pain The blue "Forget-me-not!"
Ah, ev'ry blossom hath a tale With silent grace to tell, From rose that reddens to the gale To modest heather bell; But O, the flow'r in ev'ry heart That finds a sacred spot To bloom, with azure leaves apart, Is the "Forget-me-not!"
Love plucks it from the mosses green When parting hours are nigh, And places it loves palms between, With many an ardent sigh; And bluely up from grassy graves In some lov'd churchyard spot, It glances tenderly and waves, The dear "Forget-me-not!"
And with the faint last cadence, stole a glance At Malcolm's soften'd face—a bird-soft touch Let flutter on the rugged silver snarls Of his thick locks, and laid her tender lips A second on the iron of his hand. "And did you ever meet," he sudden ask'd, Of Alfred, sitting pallid in the shade, "Out by yon unco place, a lad,—a lad "Nam'd Maxwell Gordon; tall, and straight, and strong; "About my size, I take it, when a lad?" And Katie at the sound of Max's name, First spoken for such space by Malcolm's lips, Trembl'd and started, and let down her brow, Hiding its sudden rose on Malcolm's arm. "Max Gordon? Yes. Was he a friend of yours?" "No friend of mine, but of the lassie's here— "How comes he on? I wager he's a drone, "And never will put honey in the hive." "No drone," said Alfred, laughing; "when I left "He and his axe were quarr'ling with the woods "And making forests reel—love steels a lover's arm." O, blush that stole from Katie's swelling heart, And with its hot rose brought the happy dew Into her hidden eyes. "Aye, aye! is that the way?" Said Malcolm smiling. "Who may be his love?" "In that he is a somewhat simple soul, "Why, I suppose he loves—" he paused, and Kate Look'd up with two "forget-me-nots" for eyes, With eager jewels in their centres set Of happy, happy tears, and Alfred's heart Became a closer marble than before. "—Why I suppose he loves—his lawful wife." "His wife! his wife!" said Malcolm, in a maze, And laid his heavy hand on Katie's head; "Did you play me false, my little lass? "Speak and I'll pardon! Katie, lassie, what?" "He has a wife," said Alfred, "lithe and bronz'd, "An Indian woman, comelier than her kind; "And on her knee a child with yellow locks, "And lake-like eyes of mystic Indian brown. "And so you knew him? He is doing well." "False, false!" said Katie, lifting up her head. "O, you know not the Max my father means!" "He came from yonder farm-house on the slope." "Some other Max—we speak not of the same." "He has a red mark on his temple set." "It matters not—'tis not the Max we know." "He wears a turquoise ring slung round his neck." "And many wear them—they are common stones." "His mother's ring—her name was Helen Wynde." "And there be many Helens who have sons." "O Katie, credit me—it is the man." "O not the man! Why, you have never told "Us of the true soul that the true Max has; "The Max we know has such a soul, I know." "How know you that, my foolish little lass?" Said Malcolm, a storm of anger bound Within his heart, like Samson with green withs— "Belike it is the false young cur we know!" "No, no," said Katie, simply, and low-voic'd; "If he were traitor I must needs be false, "For long ago love melted our two hearts. "And time has moulded those two hearts in one, "And he is true since I am faithful still." She rose and parted, trembling as she went, Feeling the following steel of Alfred's eyes, And with the icy hand of scorn'd mistrust Searching about the pulses of her heart— Feeling for Max's image in her breast. "To-night she conquers Doubt; to-morrow's noon "His following soldiers sap the golden wall, "And I shall enter and possess the fort," Said Alfred, in his mind. "O Katie, child, "Wilt thou be Nemesis, with yellow hair, "To rend my breast? for I do feel a pulse "Stir when I look into thy pure-barb'd eyes— "O, am I breeding that false thing, a heart? "Making my breast all tender for the fangs "Of sharp Remorse to plunge their hot fire in. "I am a certain dullard! Let me feel "But one faint goad, fine as a needle's point, "And it shall be the spur in my soul's side "To urge the madd'ning thing across the jags "And cliffs of life, into the soft embrace "Of that cold mistress, who is constant too, "And never flings her lovers from her arms— "Not Death, for she is still a fruitful wife, "Her spouse the Dead, and their cold marriage yields "A million children, born of mould'ring flesh— "So Death and Flesh live on—immortal they! "I mean the blank-ey'd queen whose wassail bowl "Is brimm'd from Lethe, and whose porch is red "With poppies, as it waits the panting soul— "She, she alone is great! No scepter'd slave "Bowing to blind creative giants, she; "No forces seize her in their strong, mad hands, "Nor say, "'Do this—be that!'" Were there a God, "His only mocker, she, great Nothingness! "And to her, close of kin, yet lover too, "Flies this large nothing that we call the soul."
* * * * *
"Doth true Love lonely grow? Ah, no! ah, no! Ah, were it only so— That it alone might show Its ruddy rose upon its sapful tree, Then, then in dewy morn, Joy might his brow adorn With Love's young rose as fair and glad as he."
* * * * *
But with Love's rose doth blow Ah, woe! ah, woe! Truth with its leaves of snow, And Pain and Pity grow With Love's sweet roses on its sapful tree! Love's rose buds not alone, But still, but still doth own A thousand blossoms cypress-hued to see!
* * * * *
"Who curseth Sorrow knows her not at all. Dark matrix she, from which the human soul Has its last birth; whence, with its misty thews, Close-knitted in her blackness, issues out; Strong for immortal toil up such great heights, As crown o'er crown rise through Eternity, Without the loud, deep clamour of her wail, The iron of her hands; the biting brine Of her black tears; the Soul but lightly built of indeterminate spirit, like a mist Would lapse to Chaos in soft, gilded dreams, As mists fade in the gazing of the sun. Sorrow, dark mother of the soul, arise! Be crown'd with spheres where thy bless'd children dwell, Who, but for thee, were not. No lesser seat Be thine, thou Helper of the Universe, Than planet on planet pil'd!—thou instrument, Close-clasp'd within the great Creative Hand!"
* * * * *
The Land had put his ruddy gauntlet on, Of Harvest gold, to dash in Famine's face. And like a vintage wain, deep dy'd with juice, The great moon falter'd up the ripe, blue sky, Drawn by silver stars—like oxen white And horn'd with rays of light—Down the rich land Malcolm's small valleys, fill'd with grain, lip-high, Lay round a lonely hill that fac'd the moon, And caught the wine-kiss of its ruddy light. A cusp'd, dark wood caught in its black embrace The valleys and the hill, and from its wilds, Spic'd with dark cedars, cried the Whip-poor-will. A crane, belated, sail'd across the moon; On the bright, small, close link'd lakes green islets lay, Dusk knots of tangl'd vines, or maple boughs, Or tuft'd cedars, boss'd upon the waves. The gay, enamell'd children of the swamp Roll'd a low bass to treble, tinkling notes Of little streamlets leaping from the woods. Close to old Malcolm's mills, two wooden jaws Bit up the water on a sloping floor; And here, in season, rush'd the great logs down, To seek the river winding on its way. In a green sheen, smooth as a Naiad's locks, The water roll'd between the shudd'ring jaws— Then on the river level roar'd and reel'd— In ivory-arm'd conflict with itself. "Look down," said Alfred, "Katie, look and see "How that but pictures my mad heart to you. "It tears itself in fighting that mad love "You swear is hopeless—hopeless—is it so?" "Ah, yes!" said Katie, "ask me not again." "But Katie, Max is false; no word has come, "Nor any sign from him for many months, "And—he is happy with his Indian wife." She lifted eyes fair as the fresh grey dawn with all its dews and promises of sun. "O, Alfred!—saver of my little life— "Look in my eyes and read them honestly." He laugh'd till all the isles and forests laugh'd. "O simple child! what may the forest flames "See in the woodland ponds but their own fires? "And have you, Katie, neither fears nor doubts?" She, with the flow'r soft pinkness of her palm Cover'd her sudden tears, then quickly said: "Fears—never doubts, for true love never doubts." Then Alfred paus'd a space, as one who holds A white doe by the throat and searches for The blade to slay her. "This your answer still— "You doubt not—doubt not this far love of yours, "Tho' sworn a false young recreant, Kate, by me?" "He is as true as I am," Katie said; "And did I seek for stronger simile, "I could not find such in the universe!" "And were he dead? what, Katie, were he dead— "A handful of brown dust, a flame blown out— "What then would love be strongly, true to—Naught?" "Still, true to love my love would be," she said, And faintly smiling, pointed to the stars. "O fool!" said Alfred, stirr'd—as craters rock "To their own throes—and over his pale lips Roll'd flaming stone, his molten heart. "Then, fool— "Be true to what thou wilt—for he is dead. "And there have grown this gilded summer past "Grasses and buds from his unburied flesh. "I saw him dead. I heard his last, loud cry: "'O Kate!' ring thro' the woods; in truth I did." She half-raised up a piteous, pleading hand, Then fell along the mosses at his feet. "Now will I show I love you, Kate," he said, "And give you gift of love; you shall not wake "To feel the arrow, feather-deep, within "Your constant heart. For me, I never meant "To crawl an hour beyond what time I felt "The strange, fang'd monster that they call Remorse "Fold found my waken'd heart. The hour has come; "And as Love grew, the welded folds of steel "Slipp'd round in horrid zones. In Love's flaming eyes "Stared its fell eyeballs, and with Hydra head "It sank hot fangs in breast, and brow and thigh. "Come, Kate! O Anguish is a simple knave "Whom hucksters could outwit with small trade lies, "When thus so easily his smarting thralls, "May flee his knout! Come, come, my little Kate; "The black porch with its fringe of poppies waits— "A propylaleum hospitably wide. "No lictors with their fasces at its jaws, "Its floor as kindly to my fire-vein'd feet "As to thy silver, lilied, sinless ones. "O you shall slumber soundly, tho' the white, "Wild waters pluck the crocus of your hair; "And scaly spies stare with round, lightless eyes "At your small face laid on my stony breast. "Come, Kate! I must not have you wake, dear heart, "To hear you cry, perchance, on your dead Max." He turn'd her still, face close upon his breast, And with his lips upon her soft, ring'd hair, Leap'd from the bank, low shelving o'er the knot Of frantic waters at the long slide's foot. And as the sever'd waters crash'd and smote Together once again,—within the wave Stunn'd chamber of his ear there peal'd a cry: "O Kate! stay, madman; traitor, stay! O Kate!"
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Max, gaunt as prairie wolves in famine time, With long drawn sickness, reel'd upon the bank— Katie, new-rescu'd, waking in his arms. On the white riot of the waters gleam'd, The face of Alfred, calm, with close-seal'd eyes, And blood red on his temple where it smote The mossy timbers of the groaning slide. "O God!" said Max, as Katie's opening eyes Looked up to his, slow budding to a smile Of wonder and of bliss, "My Kate, my Kate!" She saw within his eyes a larger soul Than that light spirit that before she knew, And read the meaning of his glance and words. "Do as you will, my Max. I would not keep "You back with one light-falling finger-tip!" And cast herself from his large arms upon The mosses at his feet, and hid her face That she might not behold what he would do; Or lest the terror in her shining eyes Might bind him to her, and prevent his soul Work out its greatness; and her long, wet hair Drew, mass'd, about her ears, to shut the sound Of the vex'd waters from her anguish'd brain. Max look'd upon her, turning as he look'd. A moment came a voice in Katie's soul: "Arise, be not dismay'd; arise and look; "If he should perish, 'twill be as a God, "For he would die to save his enemy." But answer'd her torn heart: "I cannot look— "I cannot look and see him sob and die; "In those pale, angry arms. O, let me rest "Blind, blind and deaf until the swift pac'd end. "My Max! O God—was that his Katie's name?" Like a pale dove, hawk-hunted, Katie ran, Her fear's beak in her shoulder; and below, Where the coil'd waters straighten'd to a stream, Found Max all bruis'd and bleeding on they bank, But smiling with man's triumph in his eyes, When he has on fierce Danger's lion neck Plac'd his right hand and pluck'd the prey away. And at his feet lay Alfred, still and while, A willow's shadow tremb'ling on his face, "There lies the false, fair devil, O my Kate, "Who would have parted us, but could not, Kate!" "But could not, Max," said Katie. "Is he dead?" But, swift perusing Max's strange, dear face, Close clasp'd against his breast—forgot him straight And ev'ry other evil thing upon The broad green earth.
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Again rang out the music of the axe, And on the slope, as in his happy dreams, The home of Max with wealth of drooping vines On the rude walls, and in the trellis'd porch Sat Katie, smiling o'er the rich, fresh fields; And by her side sat Malcolm, hale and strong; Upon his knee a little, smiling child, Nam'd—Alfred, as the seal of pardon set Upon the heart of one who sinn'd and woke to sorrow for his sins—and whom they lov'd With gracious joyousness—nor kept the dusk Of his past deeds between their hearts and his. Malcolm had follow'd with his flocks and herds When Max and Katie, hand in hand, went out From his old home; and now, with slow, grave smile He said to Max, who twisted Katie's hair About his naked arm, bare from his toil: "It minds me of old times, this house of yours; "It stirs my heart to hearken to the axe, "And hear the windy crash of falling trees; "Aye, these fresh forests make an old man young." "Oh, yes!" said Max, with laughter in his eyes; "And I do truly think that Eden bloom'd "Deep in the heart of tall, green maple groves, "With sudden scents of pine from mountain sides "And prairies with their breasts against the skies. "And Eve was only little Katie's height." "Hoot, lad! you speak as ev'ry Adam speaks "About his bonnie Eve; but what says Kate?" "O Adam had not Max's soul,' she said; "And these wild woods and plains are fairer far "Than Eden's self. O bounteous mothers they! "Beck'ning pale starvelings with their fresh, green hands, "And with their ashes mellowing the earth, "That she may yield her increase willingly. "I would not change these wild and rocking woods, "Dotted by little homes of unbark'd trees, "Where dwell the fleers from the waves of want,— "For the smooth sward of selfish Eden bowers, "Nor—Max for Adam, if I knew my mind!"
You've seen his place, I reckon, friend? 'Twas rather kind ov tryin'. The way he made the dollars fly, Such gimcrack things a-buyin'— He spent a big share ov a fortin' On pesky things that went a snortin'