In the first dawn she lifted from her bed
The holy silver of her noble head,
And listened, listened, listened for his tread.
'Too soon, too soon !' she murmured, 'Yet I'll keep
My vigil longer thou, O tender Sleep,
Art but the joy of those who wake and weep!
'Joy's self hath keen, wide eyes. O flesh of mine,
And mine own blood and bone, the very wine
Of my aged heart, I see thy dear eyes shine!
'I hear thy tread; thy light, loved footsteps run
Along the way, eager for that 'Well done !'
We'll weep and kiss to thee, my soldier son!
'Blest mother I he lives! Yet had he died
Blest were I still, I sent him on the tide
Of my full heart to save his nation's pride!'
'O God, if that I tremble so to-day,
Bowed with such blessings that I cannot pray
By speech a mother prays, dear Lord, alway
'In some far fibre of her trembling mind!
I'll up I thought I heard a bugle bind
Its silver with the silver of the wind. '
Baby's Dreams (Second Version)
WHAT doth the Moon, so lily white,
Busily weave this summer night?
'Silver ropes and diamond strands
For Baby's pink and dimpled hands;
Cords for her rosy palms to hold
While she floats, she flies,
To Dreamland, set with its shores of gold,
With its buds like stars shaken out of the skies,
Where the trees have tongues and the flowers have lips
To coax, to kiss
The velvet cheek of the Babe who slips
Thro' the Dream-gate up to a land like this.'
What is the mild Sea whispering clear
In the rosy shell of Baby's ear?
See! she laughs in her dimpled sleep.
What does she hear from the shining deep?
'Thy father comes a-sailing, a-sailing, a-sailing,
Safely comes a-sailing from islands fair and far.
O Baby, bid thy mother cease her tears and bitter
The sailor's wife's his only port, his babe his beacon
Softly the Wind doth blow;
What say its murmurs low?
What doth it bring
On the wide, soft plume of its dewy wing?
'Only scented blisses
Of innocent, sweet kisses
For such a cheek as this is,
Of Baby in her nest,
From all the dreaming flowers,
A-nodding in their bowers,
Or bright on leafy towers,
Where the fairy monarchs rest.
But chiefly I bring,
On my fresh, sweet mouth,
Her father's kiss,
As he sails from the south.
He hitherward blew it at break of day;
I lay it, Babe, on thy tender lip;
I'll steal another and hie away,
And kiss it to him on his wave-rocked ship.
'I saw a fairy twine,
Of star-white jessamine,
A dainty seat, shaped like an airy swing,
With two round yellow stars
Against the misty bars
Of night; she nailed it high
In the pansy-purple sky,
With four taps of her little rainbow wing.
To and fro
That swing I'll blow.
'The baby moon in the amethyst sky
Will laugh at us as we float and fly,
And stretch her silver arms and try
To catch the earth-babe swinging by.'
The Lily Bed
His cedar paddle, scented, red,
He thrust down through the lily bed;
Cloaked in a golden pause he lay,
Locked in the arms of the placid bay.
Trembled alone his bark canoe
As shocks of bursting lilies flew
Thro' the still crystal of the tide,
And smote the frail boat's birchen side;
Or, when beside the sedges thin
Rose the sharp silver of a fin;
Or when, a wizard swift and cold,
A dragon-fly beat on in gold
And jewels all the widening rings
Of waters singing to his wings;
Or, like a winged and burning soul,
Dropped from the gloom an oriole
On the cool wave, as to the balm
Of the Great Spirit's open palm
The freed soul flies. And silence clung
To the still hours, as tendrilts hung,
In darkness carven, from the trees,
Sedge-buried to their burly knees.
Stillness sat in his lodge of leaves;
Clung golden shadows to its eaves,
And on its cone-speced floor, like maize,
Red-ripe, fell sheaves of knotted rays.
The wood, a proud and crested brave;
Bead-bright, a maiden, stood the wave.
And he had spoke his soul of love
With voice of eagle and of dove.
Of loud, strong pines his tongue was made;
His lips, soft blossoms in the shade,
That kissed her silver lips--hers cool
As lilies on his inmost pool--
Till now he stood, in triumph's rest,
His image painted in her breast.
One isle 'tween blue and blue did melt,--
A bead of wampum from the belt
Of Manitou--a purple rise
On the far shore heaved to the skies.
His cedar paddle, scented, red,
He drew up from the lily bed;
All lily-locked, all lily-locked,
His light bark in the blossoms rocked.
Their cool lips round the sharp prow sang,
Their soft clasp to the frail sides sprang,
With breast and lip they wove a bar.
Stole from her lodge the Evening Star;
With golden hand she grasped the mane
Of a red cloud on her azure plain.
It by the peaked, red sunset flew;
Cool winds from its bright nostrils blew.
They swayed the high, dark trees,and low
Swept the locked lilies to and fro.
With cedar paddle, scented, red,
He pushed out from the lily bed.
My masters twain made me a bed
Of pine-boughs resinous, and cedar;
Of moss, a soft and gentle breeder
Of dreams of rest; and me they spread
With furry skins, and laughing said,
'Now she shall lay her polish'd sides,
As queens do rest, or dainty brides,
Our slender lady of the tides!'
My masters twain their camp-soul lit,
Streamed incense from the hissing cones,
Large, crimson flashes grew and whirl'd
Thin, golden nerves of sly light curl'd
Round the dun camp, and rose faint zones,
Half way about each grim bole knit,
Like a shy child that would bedeck
With its soft clasp a Brave's red neck;
Yet sees the rough shield on his breast,
The awful plumes shake on his crest,
And fearful drops his timid face,
Nor dares complete the sweet embrace.
Into the hollow hearts of brakes,
Yet warm from sides of does and stags,
Pass'd to the crisp dark river flags;
Sinuous, red as copper snakes,
Sharp-headed serpents, made of light,
Glided and hid themselves in night.
My masters twain, the slaughtered deer
Hung on fork'd boughs--with thongs of leather.
Bound were his stiff, slim feet together--
His eyes like dead stars cold and drear;
The wand'ring firelight drew near
And laid its wide palm, red and anxious,
On the sharp splendor of his branches;
On the white foam grown hard and sere
On flank and shoulder.
Death--hard as breast of granite boulder,
And under his lashes
Peer'd thro' his eyes at his life's grey ashes.
My masters twain sang songs that wove
(As they burnish'd hunting blade and rifle)
A golden thread with a cobweb trifle--
Loud of the chase, and low of love.
'O Love, art thou a silver fish?
Shy of the line and shy of gaffing,
Which we do follow, fierce, yet laughing,
Casting at thee the light-wing'd wish,
And at the last shall we bring thee up
From the crystal darkness under the cup
Of lily folden,
On broad leaves golden?
'O Love! art thou a silver deer,
Swift thy starr'd feet as wing of swallow,
While we with rushing arrows follow;
And at the last shall we draw near,
And over thy velvet neck cast thongs--
Woven of roses, of stars, of songs?
New chains all moulden
Of rare gems olden!'
They hung the slaughter'd fish like swords
On saplings slender--like scimitars
Bright, and ruddied from new-dead wars,
Blaz'd in the light--the scaly hordes.
They piled up boughs beneath the trees,
Of cedar-web and green fir tassel;
Low did the pointed pine tops rustle,
The camp fire blush'd to the tender breeze.
The hounds laid dew-laps on the ground,
With needles of pine sweet, soft and rusty--
Dream'd of the dead stag stout and lusty;
A bat by the red flames wove its round.
The darkness built its wigwam walls
Close round the camp, and at its curtain
Press'd shapes, thin woven and uncertain,
As white locks of tall waterfalls.
BOUCHE-MIGNONNE lived in the mill,
Past the vineyards shady,
Where the sun shone on a rill
Jewelled like a lady.
Proud the stream with lily-bud,
Gay with glancing swallow;
Swift its trillion-footed flood
Winding ways to follow;
Coy and still when flying wheel
Rested from its labour;
Singing when it ground the meal,
Gay as lute or tabor.
'Bouche-Mignonne,' it called, when red
In the dawn were glowing
Eaves and mill-wheel, 'leave thy bed;
Hark to me a-flowing!'
Bouche-Mignonne awoke, and quick
Glossy tresses braided.
Curious sunbeams clustered thick;
Vines her casement shaded
Deep with leaves and blossoms white
Of the morning-glory,
Shaking all their banners bright
From the mill-eaves hoary.
Swallows turned their glossy throats,
When, to hear their matin notes,
Peeped she thro' her curtain.
Shook the mill-stream sweet and clear
With its silvery laughter;
Shook the mill, from flooring sere
Up to oaken rafter.
'Bouche-Mignonne!' it cried, 'come down;
Other flowers are stirring:
Pierre, with fingers strong and brown,
Sets the wheel a-birring.'
Bouche-Mignonne her distaff plies
Where the willows shiver;
Round the mossy mill-wheel flies;
Flash athwart the lily-beds,
Pierce the dry reeds' thicket;
Where the yellow sunlight treads,
Chants the friendly cricket.
Butterflies about her skim-
Pouf! their simple fancies
In the willow shadows dim
Take her eyes for pansies.
Buzzing comes a velvet bee;
Sagely it supposes
Those red lips beneath the tree
Are two crimson roses.
Laughs the mill-stream wise and bright-
It is not so simple;
Knew it, since she first saw light,
Every blush and dimple.
'Bouche-Mignonne!' it laughing cries,
'Pierre as bee is silly;
Thinks two morning stars thine eyes,
And thy neck a lily.'
Bouche-Mignonne, when shadows crept
From the vine-dark hollows,
When the mossy mill-wheel slept,
Curved the airy swallows,
When the lilies closed white lids
Over golden fancies,
Homeward drove her goats and kids.
Bright the gay moon dances
With her light and silver feet,
On the mill-stream flowing;
Come a thousand perfumes sweet,
Dewy buds are blowing;
Comes an owl and greyly flits,
Jewel-eyed and hooting,
Past the green tree where she sits;
Nightingales are fluting;
Soft the wind as rustling silk
On a courtly lady;
Tinkles down the flowing milk;
Huge and still and shady
Stands the mill-wheel, resting still
From its loving labour.
Dances on the tireless rill,
Gay as lute or tabor;
'Bouche-Mignonne!' it laughing cries,
'Do not blush and tremble;
If the night has ears and eyes,
I'll for thee dissemble;
'Loud and clear and sweet I'll sing
On my far way straying;
I will hide the whispered thing
Pierre to thee is saying.
'Bouche-Mignonne, good night, good night!
Every silver hour
I will toss my lilies white
'Gainst thy maiden bower.'
Buy my roses, citizens,--
Here are roses golden white,
Like the stars that lovers watch
On a purple summer night.
Here are roses ruddy red,
Here are roses Cupid's pink;
Here are roses like his cheeks--
Deeper--like his lips, I think.
Vogue la galere! what if they die,
Roses will bloom again--so, buy!
Here is one--it should be white;
As tho' in a playful mind,
Flora stole the winter snow
From the sleeping north'rn wind
And lest he should wake and rage,
Breath'd a spell of ardent pow'r
On the flake, and flung it down
To the earth, a snow-white flow'r.
Vogue la galere! 'tis stain'd with red?
That only means--a woman's dead!
Buy my flowers, citizens,--
Here's a Parma violet;
Ah! why is my white rose red?
'Tis the blood of a grisette;
She sold her flowers by the quay;
Brown her eyes and fair her hair;
Sixteen summers old, I think--
With a quaint, Provincial air.
Vogue la galere! she's gone the way
That flesh as well as flow'rs must stray.
She had a father old and lame;
He wove his baskets by her side;
Well, well! 'twas fair enough to see
Her look of love, his glance of pride;
He wore a beard of shaggy grey,
And clumsy patches on his blouse;
She wore about her neck a cross,
And on her feet great wooden shoes.
Vogue la galere! we have no cross,
Th' Republic says it's gold is dross!
They had a dog, old, lame, and lean;
He once had been a noble hound;
And day by day he lay and starv'd,
Or gnaw'd some bone that he had found.
They shar'd with him the scanty crust,
That barely foil'd starvation's pain;
He'd wag his feeble tail and turn
To gnaw that polish'd bone again.
Vogue la galere! why don't ye greet
My tale with laughter, prompt and meet?
No fear! ye'll chorus me with laughs
When draws my long jest to its close--
And have for life a merry joke,
'The spot of blood upon the rose.'
She sold her flow'rs--but what of that?
The child was either good or dense;
She starv'd--for one she would not sell,
Patriots, 'twas her innocence!
Vogue la galere! poor little clod!
Like us, she could not laugh at God.
A week ago I saw a crowd
Of red-caps; and a Tricoteuse
Call'd as I hurried swiftly past--
'They've taken little Wooden Shoes!'
Well, so they had. Come, laugh, I say;
Your laugh with mine should come in pat!
For she, the little sad-fac'd child,
Was an accurs'd aristocrat!
Vogue la galere! the Republic's said
Saints, angels, nobles, all are dead.
'The old man, too!' shriek'd out the crowd;
She turn'd her small white face about;
And ye'd have laugh'd to see the air
With which she fac'd that rabble rout!
I laugh'd, I know--some laughter breeds
A merry moisture in the eye:
My cheeks were wet, to see her hand
Try to push those brawny patriots by.
Vogue la galere! we'll laugh nor weep
When Death, not God, calls _us_ to sleep.
'Not Jean!' she said, ''tis only I
That noble am--take only me;
I only am his foster-child,--
He nurs'd me on his knee!
See! he is guiltless of the crime
Of noble birth--and lov'd me not,
Because I claim an old descent,
But that he nurs'd me in his cot!'
Vogue la galere! 'tis well no God
Exists, to look upon this sod!
'Believe her not!' he shriek'd; 'O, no!
I am the father of her life!'
'Poor Jean!' she said; 'believe him not,
His mind with dreams is rife.
Farewell, dear Jean!' she said. I laugh'd,
Her air was so sedately grand.
'Thou'st been a faithful servant, so
Thou well may'st kiss my hand.'
Vogue la galere! the sun is red--
And will be, Patriots, when we're dead.
'Child! my dear child!' he shriek'd; she turn'd
And let the patriots close her round;
He was so lame, he fell behind--
He and the starving hound.
'Let him go free!' yell'd out the mob;
'Accurs'd be these nobles all!
The, poor old wretch is craz'd it seems;
Blood, Citizens, _will_ pall.
Vogue la galere! We can't buy wine,
So let blood flow--be't thine or mine.'
I ply my trade about the Place;
Where proudly reigns La Guillotine;
I pile my basket up with bloom,
With mosses soft and green.
This morning, not an hour ago,
I stood beside a Tricoteuse;
And saw the little fair head fall
Off the little Wooden Shoes.
Vogue la galere! By Sanson's told,
Into his basket, dross and gold.
She died alone. A woman drew
As close beside her as she might;
And in that woman's basket lay
A rose all snowy white.
But sixteen summers old--a child
As one might say--to die alone;
Ah, well--it is the only way
These nobles can atone!
Vogue la galere! here is my jest--
My white rose redden'd from her breast!
Buy my roses, Citizens!
Here's a vi'let--here's a pink--
Deeper tint than Cupid's cheek;
Deeper than his lips, I think.
Flora's nymphs on rosy feet
Ne'er o'er brighter blossoms sprang!
Ne'er a songster sweeter blooms,
In his sweetest rhyming sang!
Vogue la galere! Roses must die--
Roses will grow again--so, buy!
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part Vi.
'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!'
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part VII.
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!'
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part Ii.
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!
* * * * *
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part Iii.
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!'
* * * * *
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.
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,
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!
Old Spookses' Pass
WE'D camped 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 blamed 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 darned critters kept out of sight
Of the camp-fire blazin'; an' now an' then
Thar cum 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 ringed 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 thet 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 crick,
Twinklin' an' crinklin' frum 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 thet He's awful vex'd.
Fur He knows He made Him in thet thar way,
Sumwhars 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' smashed,
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, yas
Guess'd we hev heaps uv tarnation fun;
I calculated quicker'n light
That the herd would be off on a healthy run.
But thar wan't a stir tew horn or hoof;
The herd, like a great black mist, lay spread,
While har an' thar a grazin' bull
Loomed 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' cuss 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;--reck'nin' 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 on 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 fur 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 wusn'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 uv 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 whinny. 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 wan'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, yes, 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 an 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 nighest 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!"