At Pompeii I heard a woman laugh,
And turned to find the reason of her mirth;
Saw but the silent figure of a girl
That centuries had mummied into earth
The running figure of a little maid
With face half-hidden in her shielding arm,
Silent, yet screaming, yea, in ev'ry limb
The cruel torture of her dread alarm.
At Pompeii I heard a maiden shriek
All down the years from out the distant past;
Blind in the awful darkness still she runs;
Death in the mould of fear her form has cast.
A little maid once soft and sweet and white,
Full of the morning's hope, and love and joy,
That Nature, moving to the voice of Time,
Shook her dark wings to wither and destroy.
At Pompeii I saw a woman bend
Above this dead, pronounce an epitaph;
The mother of a child, it may have been.
Oh horrible! I heard a woman laugh.

The Fair Little Maiden

There is one at the door, Wolfe O'Driscoll,
At the door, who bids you to come!'
“Who is he that wakes me in the darkness,
Calling when all the world is dumb ?'

“Six horses has he to his carriage,
Six horses blacker than the night,
And their twelve red eyes in the shadows—
Twelve lamps he carries for his light;

“His coach is a hearse black and mouldy,
Within a coffin open wide:
He asks for your soul, Wolfe O'Driscoll,
Who doth call at the door outside.'

“Who let him thro' the gates of my gardens,
Where stronger bolts have never been ?'
“The father of the fair little maiden
You drove to her grave deep and green.'

“And who let him pass through the courtyard,
Loosening the bar and the chain ?'
“Who but the brother of the maiden
Who lies in the cold and the rain 1'

“Then who drew the bolts at the portal,
And into my house bade him go ?'
“The mother of the poor young maiden
Who lies in her youth all so low.'

“Who stands, that he dare not enter,
The door of my chamber, between ?'
“O, the ghost of the fair little maiden
Who lies in the churchyard green.'

I drew her out of the wave
High up on the windy shore.
Oh, never a fish I caught
So fair in my net before.
And white she was as the foam
That flies from the storm-whipped sea;
I held her close to my heart,
Where at rest she would not be.
Swift she turned her east and west,
Slow she turned her north and south;
The salt from her weed-brown hair
Stung bitter upon my mouth.
I drew her close to my heart,
And I kissed her wave-wet cheek;
Till fear went out of her eyes
At the love my lips did speak.

And soon, for a hedge-grove flower
She followed me by the hill,
Where call of the sea was lost,
And fall of the wave was still.
And long in my garden fair
She laughed in her strange delight
At swaying of roses red,
At perfume of lilies white.
I clad her in robes of silk,
I shod her in shoon of gold;
And jewel and gem I found
For her slender hands to hold,
Full many a priceless gift
That my nets had brought to me,
From grasp of the restless dead
Who move in deep of the sea.
And I sung to make her glad,
And I laughed to see her play,
As I shook my nets in the sun
All out in the golden day.

But alack! for joy too brief,
There rolled and tinkling fell,
From twist and twine of the net
A knarled and curséd shell.
She held it high in her hand;
I knew she was lost to me.
She laid her lips to its pearl
And heard the call of the sea.
She heard the cry of the sea
And she thrust me from her side
And out to its cold embrace
She flew like a willing bride.
And I heard the laugh of the wave
Far off on the windy shore.
Oh! never a dream I caught
So fair in my net before.

The Careless Lad

The careless lad went through the wood,
Leaped the retarding gate,
And whistled thrice unto his dog,
Who strayed behind so late.
And then he turned him to the north,
To find the trodden way,
And there he saw a pretty child
Who on his path did play.
‘Come hither now, my little maid,
Come hither now to me,
And tell me of a fair young girl
Called Mary Margarie.’
‘Oh, would you seek poor Margarie,’
The little maid replied.
She took him by the strong right hand,
And hurried by his side.
The careless lad he turned him east,
And then he turned him west,
Until he passed a withered crone,
Who beat upon her breast.

‘Why do you weep, you ancient one,
Why do you weep and sigh?’
‘'Tis for poor maiden Margarie,
Who now is like to die.’
The careless lad sang up the hill,
And then he whistled down,
And there he passed a laden man
Who hurried from the town.
‘Where do you take so great a load,
That makes you groan in pain?’
‘A gift for poor maid Margarie,
To make her smile again.’
The careless lad went through the mead
With laughter loud and sweet,
And there he saw a shining stream
That trickled by his feet.
‘Now tell to me, my pretty child,
That at my side doth run,
What makes this little stream to go
Where never there was one?’
‘Maid Margarie doth lie all day,
She neither laughs nor cries.
Here flow her mother's tears,’ she said,
‘That fall from her sad eyes.’

The careless lad he leaped the stream,
And danced across the mead,
And lone he left the pretty child,
Who could not dare his speed,
And when he reached the lonely cot,
Where Margarie did dwell,
He boldly pulled upon the latch,
And struck the white lintel.
And thrice his careless shoulder pushed
Upon the oaken door.
‘Now, what is this that holds so strong,
That never held before?’
‘Pale Mary Margarie doth lie
Beneath some fairy charm.
It is her father's heart that holds
To keep her safe from harm.’
The careless lad he laughed full long,
Full loud and long laughed he.
‘What pother is all this,’ he said,
‘Where need no pother be.’
And then he turned him to the south,
And then he turned him east,
And thrice he whistled to his dog,
To chide the lagging beast.

And thrice he whistled to his dog,
And once to Margarie;
Swift rose she from her snow-white bed,
Where all alone lay she.
She sprang from off her narrow couch,
All laughing in her glee,
And pushed upon the oaken door,
That swung to set her free.
The careless lad went through the wood,
And leaped the moss-grown gate,
And thrice he whistled to the thrush
Who sung beside his mate.
And thrice he whistled to his dog,
A laggard beast was he.
And once he whistled low and sweet
To Mary Margarie.
She stepped across the little stream
That through the mead did wind,
And followed close the careless lad,
Who never looked behind.

The Woman Who Went To Hell [an Irish Legend]

Young Dermod stood by his mother's side,
And he spake right stern and cold;
“Now, why do you weep and wail,' he said,
“And joy from my bride withhold ?

“And why do you keen and cry,' said he,
“So loud on my marriage day ?
The wedding guests they now eager wait,
All clad in their rich array.

“The priest is ready with book and stole,
And you do this grievous thing:
You keep me back from the altar rail—
My bride from her wedding ring.'

His mother she rose, and she dried her tears,
She took him by his right hand—
“The cause,' she said, ' of my grief and pain
Too soon must you understand.

“Oh, one-and-twenty long years ago
I walked in your father's farm,
I broke a bough from a ripe peach-tree,
And carried it on my arm.

“My heart was light as a thistle-seed—
I had but been wed a year—
I dreamt of joy that would soon be mine—
A babe in my arms so dear.

“There came to me there a stranger man,
And these are the words he spake:
' The fruit you carry I fain would buy,
I pray you my gold to take,'

“The fruit I carried he then did buy—
You lying beneath my heart—
I tendered to him the ripe peach-bough,
He tore the gold branch apart.

“He whispered then in my frightened ear
The name of the Evil One,
' And this have I bought to-day,' he said—
' The soul of your unborn son.

“' The fruit you carry, which I did buy,
Will ripen before I claim;
And when the bells for his wedding ring
Again you shall hear my name.' '

Now Dermod rose from his mother's side,
And all loud and long laughed he.
He bore her down to the wedding guests,
All sorrowful still was she.

“Now, cry no more, sweet mother,' he said,
“For you are a doleful sight.
And who is there in the banquet-hall
Can claim my soul to-night ?'

Then one rose up from the wedding throng,
But his face no man could see,
And he said, ' Now bid your dear farewell,
For your soul belongs to me.'

Young Dermod stood like a stricken man,
His mother she swooned away;
But his love ran quick to the stranger's side,
And to him she this did say:

“If you will let his young soul go free,
I will serve you true and well,
For seven long years to be your slave
In the bitterest place of hell.'

“Seven long years, if you be my slave,
I will let his soul go free.'
The stranger drew her then by the hand,
And into the night went he.

Seven long years did she serve him true
By the blazing gates of hell,
And on every soul that entered in
The tears of her sorrow fell.

Seven long years did she keep the place,
To open the doors accurst,
And every soul that her tear-drops knew—
It would neither burn nor thirst.

And once she let in her father dear,
And once passed her brother through,
Once came a friend she had loved full well,
O, bitter it was to do!

On the last day of the seven long years
She stood by her master's knee—
“A boon, a boon for the work well done
I pray that you grant to me.

“A boon, a boon, that I carry forth
What treasure my strength can bring.'
“That you may do,' said the Evil One,
“And all for a little thing.

“All you can carry you may take forth
By serving me seven years more.'
Bitter she wept for the world and love,
But took her sad place by the door.

Seven long years did she serve him well
Until the last day was done,
And all the souls that she had let in, •
They clung to her one by one.

And all the souls that she had let through
They clung to her dress and hair,
Until the burden that she brought forth
Was heavy as she could bear.

The first who stopped her upon her way
Was an angel with sword aflame;
t( The Lord has sent for your load,' he said,
“St. Michael it is my name.'

The woman drew back his gown of white,
And the cloven hoof did see;
“Oh, God, be with me to-night,' she cried,
“For bitter my sorrows be.

“I will not give it to you,' she wept,
Quick grasping her burden tight;
And all the souls that surrounded her
Clung closer in dire affright.

The next who stopped her upon her way
Was a maid all fair to see,
And ' Sister, your load is great,' she said,
“So give it, I pray, to me.

“The Virgin, I am, God sent me forth
That you to your love might go,'
The woman she saw the phantom's eyes
And paled at their fierce red glow:

“I will not give it to you,' said she,
And wept full many a tear.
And all the souls that her burden made
Cried out in desperate fear.

The third who met her upon her way
Was a Man with face so fair:
She knelt her down at His wounded feet,
And she laid her burden there.

“Oh, I will give it to You,' she said,
And fell in a swoon so deep,
The flying souls and their cries of joy
Did not wake her from her sleep.

Seven long days did her slumber last,
And, oh, but her dream was sweet,
She thought she wandered in God's far land,
The bliss of her hopes complete !

And when she woke on the seventh day
To her love's home did she go.
And there she met neither man nor maid
Who ever her face did know.

And lo! she saw set a wedding feast,
And tall by her own love's side
There leaned a maiden, all young and fair,
Who never should be his bride.

“A drink, a drink, my little page boy,
A drink I do pray you bring.'
She took the goblet up in her hand,
And dropped in her golden ring.

“He who would marry, my little page,
I pray he may drink with me,
* To the old true love he has forgot,'
And this must his toasting be.'

When her false lover had got the cup
He drained it both deep and dry,
“To my dead love that I mourned so long,
I would that she now were nigh.'

He took from the cup the golden ring,
And he turned it in his hand;
He said, ' Whoever has sent this charm
I cannot her power withstand.'

“Oh, she is weary, and sad, and old,'
The little page boy replied;
But Dermod strode through the startled guests,
And stood by his own love's side.

He took her up in his two strong arms,
And ' Have you come home ?' he said,
“Twice seven long years I mourned you well
As silent among the dead.'

He kissed her twice on her faded cheek,.
And thrice on her snow-white hair.
“And this is my own true wife,' he said
To the guests who gathered there.

“Oh, she is withered and old,' they cried,
“And her hair is pale as snow.
'Twere better you took the fair young girl,
And let the sad old love go.'

“I will not marry the fair young girl,
No woman I wed but this,
The sweet white rose of her cheek,' said he,
“Shall redden beneath my kiss.

“There is no beauty in all the land
That can with her face compare.'
He led her up to the table head,
And sat her beside him there.