Through woods the Spanish moss makes gray,
With deeps the daylight never reaches,
The water sluices slow its way,
And chokes with weeds its beaches.

'T was here, lost in this lone bayou,
Where poison brims each blossom's throat,
Last night I followed a firefly glow,
And oared a leaky boat.

The way was dark; and overhead
The wailing limpkin moaned and cried;
The moss, like cerements of the dead,
Waved wildly on each side.

The way was black, albeit the trees
Let here and there the moonlight through,
The shadows, 'mid the cypress-knees,
Seemed ominous of hue.

And then behold! a boat that oozed
Slow slime and trailed rank water-weeds,
Loomed on me: in which, interfused,
Great glow-worms glowed like beads.

And in its rotting hulk, upright,
His eyeless eyes fixed far before,
A dead man sat, and stared at night,
Grasping a rotting oar.

Slowly it passed; and fearfully
The moccasin slid in its wake;
The owl shrunk shrieking in its tree;
And in its hole the snake.

But I, who met it face to face,
I could not shrink or turn aside:
Within that dark and demon place
There was no place to hide.

Slowly it passed; for me too slow!
The grim Death, in the moon's faint shine,
Whose story, haply, none may know
Save th' owl that haunts the pine.

More verses by Madison Julius Cawein