How fresh the Dartle's little waves that day! A steely silver, underlined with blue,
And flashing where the round clouds, blown away, Let drop the yellow sunshine to gleam through
And tip the edges of the waves with shifts And spots of whitest fire, hard like gems
Cut from the midnight moon they were, and sharp As wind through leafless stems.
The Lady Eunice walked between the drifts
Of blooming cherry-trees, and watched the rifts
Of clouds drawn through the river's azure warp.
Her little feet tapped softly down the path. Her soul was listless; even the morning breeze
Fluttering the trees and strewing a light swath Of fallen petals on the grass, could please
Her not at all. She brushed a hair aside With a swift move, and a half-angry frown.
She stopped to pull a daffodil or two, And held them to her gown
To test the colours; put them at her side,
Then at her breast, then loosened them and tried
Some new arrangement, but it would not do.
A lady in a Manor-house, alone, Whose husband is in Flanders with the Duke
Of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, she's grown Too apathetic even to rebuke
Her idleness. What is she on this Earth? No woman surely, since she neither can
Be wed nor single, must not let her mind Build thoughts upon a man
Except for hers. Indeed that were no dearth
Were her Lord here, for well she knew his worth,
And when she thought of him her eyes were kind.
Too lately wed to have forgot the wooing. Too unaccustomed as a bride to feel
Other than strange delight at her wife's doing. Even at the thought a gentle blush would steal
Over her face, and then her lips would frame Some little word of loving, and her eyes
Would brim and spill their tears, when all they saw Was the bright sun, slantwise
Through burgeoning trees, and all the morning's flame
Burning and quivering round her. With quick shame
She shut her heart and bent before the law.
He was a soldier, she was proud of that. This was his house and she would keep it well.
His honour was in fighting, hers in what He'd left her here in charge of. Then a spell
Of conscience sent her through the orchard spying Upon the gardeners. Were their tools about?
Were any branches broken? Had the weeds Been duly taken out
Under the 'spaliered pears, and were these lying
Nailed snug against the sunny bricks and drying
Their leaves and satisfying all their needs?
She picked a stone up with a little pout, Stones looked so ill in well-kept flower-borders.
Where should she put it? All the paths about Were strewn with fair, red gravel by her orders.
No stone could mar their sifted smoothness. So She hurried to the river. At the edge
She stood a moment charmed by the swift blue Beyond the river sedge.
She watched it curdling, crinkling, and the snow
Purfled upon its wave-tops. Then, "Hullo,
My Beauty, gently, or you'll wriggle through."
The Lady Eunice caught a willow spray To save herself from tumbling in the shallows
Which rippled to her feet. Then straight away She peered down stream among the budding sallows.
A youth in leather breeches and a shirt Of finest broidered lawn lay out upon
An overhanging bole and deftly swayed A well-hooked fish which shone
In the pale lemon sunshine like a spurt
Of silver, bowed and damascened, and girt
With crimson spots and moons which waned and played.
The fish hung circled for a moment, ringed And bright; then flung itself out, a thin blade
Of spotted lightning, and its tail was winged With chipped and sparkled sunshine. And the shade
Broke up and splintered into shafts of light Wheeling about the fish, who churned the air
And made the fish-line hum, and bent the rod Almost to snapping. Care
The young man took against the twigs, with slight,
Deft movements he kept fish and line in tight
Obedience to his will with every prod.
He lay there, and the fish hung just beyond. He seemed uncertain what more he should do.
He drew back, pulled the rod to correspond, Tossed it and caught it; every time he threw,
He caught it nearer to the point. At last The fish was near enough to touch. He paused.
Eunice knew well the craft -- "What's got the thing!" She cried. "What can have caused --
Where is his net? The moment will be past.
The fish will wriggle free." She stopped aghast.
He turned and bowed. One arm was in a sling.
The broad, black ribbon she had thought his basket Must hang from, held instead a useless arm.
"I do not wonder, Madam, that you ask it." He smiled, for she had spoke aloud. "The charm
Of trout fishing is in my eyes enhanced When you must play your fish on land as well."
"How will you take him?" Eunice asked. "In truth I really cannot tell.
'Twas stupid of me, but it simply chanced
I never thought of that until he glanced
Into the branches. 'Tis a bit uncouth."
He watched the fish against the blowing sky, Writhing and glittering, pulling at the line.
"The hook is fast, I might just let him die," He mused. "But that would jar against your fine
Sense of true sportsmanship, I know it would," Cried Eunice. "Let me do it." Swift and light
She ran towards him. "It is so long now Since I have felt a bite,
I lost all heart for everything." She stood,
Supple and strong, beside him, and her blood
Tingled her lissom body to a glow.
She quickly seized the fish and with a stone Ended its flurry, then removed the hook,
Untied the fly with well-poised fingers. Done, She asked him where he kept his fishing-book.
He pointed to a coat flung on the ground. She searched the pockets, found a shagreen case,
Replaced the fly, noticed a golden stamp Filling the middle space.
Two letters half rubbed out were there, and round
About them gay rococo flowers wound
And tossed a spray of roses to the clamp.
The Lady Eunice puzzled over these. "G. D." the young man gravely said. "My name
Is Gervase Deane. Your servant, if you please." "Oh, Sir, indeed I know you, for your fame
For exploits in the field has reached my ears. I did not know you wounded and returned."
"But just come back, Madam. A silly prick To gain me such unearned
Holiday making. And you, it appears,
Must be Sir Everard's lady. And my fears
At being caught a-trespassing were quick."
He looked so rueful that she laughed out loud. "You are forgiven, Mr. Deane. Even more,
I offer you the fishing, and am proud That you should find it pleasant from this shore.
Nobody fishes now, my husband used To angle daily, and I too with him.
He loved the spotted trout, and pike, and dace. He even had a whim
That flies my fingers tied swiftly confused
The greater fish. And he must be excused,
Love weaves odd fancies in a lonely place."
She sighed because it seemed so long ago, Those days with Everard; unthinking took
The path back to the orchard. Strolling so She walked, and he beside her. In a nook
Where a stone seat withdrew beneath low boughs, Full-blossomed, hummed with bees, they sat them down.
She questioned him about the war, the share Her husband had, and grown
Eager by his clear answers, straight allows
Her hidden hopes and fears to speak, and rouse
Her numbed love, which had slumbered unaware.
Under the orchard trees daffodils danced And jostled, turning sideways to the wind.
A dropping cherry petal softly glanced Over her hair, and slid away behind.
At the far end through twisted cherry-trees The old house glowed, geranium-hued, with bricks
Bloomed in the sun like roses, low and long, Gabled, and with quaint tricks
Of chimneys carved and fretted. Out of these
Grey smoke was shaken, which the faint Spring breeze
Tossed into nothing. Then a thrush's song
Needled its way through sound of bees and river. The notes fell, round and starred, between young leaves,
Trilled to a spiral lilt, stopped on a quiver. The Lady Eunice listens and believes.
Gervase has many tales of her dear Lord, His bravery, his knowledge, his charmed life.
She quite forgets who's speaking in the gladness Of being this man's wife.
Gervase is wounded, grave indeed, the word
Is kindly said, but to a softer chord
She strings her voice to ask with wistful sadness,
"And is Sir Everard still unscathed? I fain Would know the truth." "Quite well, dear Lady, quite."
She smiled in her content. "So many slain, You must forgive me for a little fright."
And he forgave her, not alone for that, But because she was fingering his heart,
Pressing and squeezing it, and thinking so Only to ease her smart
Of painful, apprehensive longing. At
Their feet the river swirled and chucked. They sat
An hour there. The thrush flew to and fro.
The Lady Eunice supped alone that day, As always since Sir Everard had gone,
In the oak-panelled parlour, whose array Of faded portraits in carved mouldings shone.
Warriors and ladies, armoured, ruffed, peruked. Van Dykes with long, slim fingers; Holbeins, stout
And heavy-featured; and one Rubens dame, A peony just burst out,
With flaunting, crimson flesh. Eunice rebuked
Her thoughts of gentler blood, when these had duked
It with the best, and scorned to change their name.
A sturdy family, and old besides, Much older than her own, the Earls of Crowe.
Since Saxon days, these men had sought their brides Among the highest born, but always so,
Taking them to themselves, their wealth, their lands, But never their titles. Stern perhaps, but strong,
The Framptons fed their blood from richest streams, Scorning the common throng.
Gazing upon these men, she understands
The toughness of the web wrought from such strands
And pride of Everard colours all her dreams.
Eunice forgets to eat, watching their faces Flickering in the wind-blown candle's shine.
Blue-coated lackeys tiptoe to their places, And set out plates of fruit and jugs of wine.
The table glitters black like Winter ice. The Dartle's rushing, and the gentle clash
Of blossomed branches, drifts into her ears. And through the casement sash
She sees each cherry stem a pointed slice
Of splintered moonlight, topped with all the spice
And shimmer of the blossoms it uprears.
"In such a night --" she laid the book aside, She could outnight the poet by thinking back.
In such a night she came here as a bride. The date was graven in the almanack
Of her clasped memory. In this very room Had Everard uncloaked her. On this seat
Had drawn her to him, bade her note the trees, How white they were and sweet
And later, coming to her, her dear groom,
Her Lord, had lain beside her in the gloom
Of moon and shade, and whispered her to ease.
Her little taper made the room seem vast, Caverned and empty. And her beating heart
Rapped through the silence all about her cast Like some loud, dreadful death-watch taking part
In this sad vigil. Slowly she undrest, Put out the light and crept into her bed.
The linen sheets were fragrant, but so cold. And brimming tears she shed,
Sobbing and quivering in her barren nest,
Her weeping lips into the pillow prest,
Her eyes sealed fast within its smothering fold.
The morning brought her a more stoic mind, And sunshine struck across the polished floor.
She wondered whether this day she should find Gervase a-fishing, and so listen more,
Much more again, to all he had to tell. And he was there, but waiting to begin
Until she came. They fished awhile, then went To the old seat within
The cherry's shade. He pleased her very well
By his discourse. But ever he must dwell
Upon Sir Everard. Each incident
Must be related and each term explained. How troops were set in battle, how a siege
Was ordered and conducted. She complained Because he bungled at the fall of Liege.
The curious names of parts of forts she knew, And aired with conscious pride her ravelins,
And counterscarps, and lunes. The day drew on, And his dead fish's fins
In the hot sunshine turned a mauve-green hue.
At last Gervase, guessing the hour, withdrew.
But she sat long in still oblivion.
Then he would bring her books, and read to her The poems of Dr. Donne, and the blue river
Would murmur through the reading, and a stir Of birds and bees make the white petals shiver,
And one or two would flutter prone and lie Spotting the smooth-clipped grass. The days went by
Threaded with talk and verses. Green leaves pushed Through blossoms stubbornly.
Gervase, unconscious of dishonesty,
Fell into strong and watchful loving, free
He thought, since always would his lips be hushed.
But lips do not stay silent at command, And Gervase strove in vain to order his.
Luckily Eunice did not understand That he but read himself aloud, for this
Their friendship would have snapped. She treated him And spoilt him like a brother. It was now
"Gervase" and "Eunice" with them, and he dined Whenever she'd allow,
In the oak parlour, underneath the dim
Old pictured Framptons, opposite her slim
Figure, so bright against the chair behind.
Eunice was happier than she had been For many days, and yet the hours were long.
All Gervase told to her but made her lean More heavily upon the past. Among
Her hopes she lived, even when she was giving Her morning orders, even when she twined
Nosegays to deck her parlours. With the thought Of Everard, her mind
Solaced its solitude, and in her striving
To do as he would wish was all her living.
She welcomed Gervase for the news he brought.
Black-hearts and white-hearts, bubbled with the sun, Hid in their leaves and knocked against each other.
Eunice was standing, panting with her run Up to the tool-house just to get another
Basket. All those which she had brought were filled, And still Gervase pelted her from above.
The buckles of his shoes flashed higher and higher Until his shoulders strove
Quite through the top. "Eunice, your spirit's filled
This tree. White-hearts!" He shook, and cherries spilled
And spat out from the leaves like falling fire.
The wide, sun-winged June morning spread itself Over the quiet garden. And they packed
Full twenty baskets with the fruit. "My shelf Of cordials will be stored with what it lacked.
In future, none of us will drink strong ale, But cherry-brandy." "Vastly good, I vow,"
And Gervase gave the tree another shake. The cherries seemed to flow
Out of the sky in cloudfuls, like blown hail.
Swift Lady Eunice ran, her farthingale,
Unnoticed, tangling in a fallen rake.
She gave a little cry and fell quite prone In the long grass, and lay there very still.
Gervase leapt from the tree at her soft moan, And kneeling over her, with clumsy skill
Unloosed her bodice, fanned her with his hat, And his unguarded lips pronounced his heart.
"Eunice, my Dearest Girl, where are you hurt?" His trembling fingers dart
Over her limbs seeking some wound. She strove
To answer, opened wide her eyes, above
Her knelt Sir Everard, with face alert.
Her eyelids fell again at that sweet sight, "My Love!" she murmured, "Dearest! Oh, my Dear!"
He took her in his arms and bore her right And tenderly to the old seat, and "Here
I have you mine at last," she said, and swooned Under his kisses. When she came once more
To sight of him, she smiled in comfort knowing Herself laid as before
Close covered on his breast. And all her glowing
Youth answered him, and ever nearer growing
She twined him in her arms and soft festooned
Herself about him like a flowering vine, Drawing his lips to cling upon her own.
A ray of sunlight pierced the leaves to shine Where her half-opened bodice let be shown
Her white throat fluttering to his soft caress, Half-gasping with her gladness. And her pledge
She whispers, melting with delight. A twig Snaps in the hornbeam hedge.
A cackling laugh tears through the quietness.
Eunice starts up in terrible distress.
"My God! What's that?" Her staring eyes are big.
Revulsed emotion set her body shaking As though she had an ague. Gervase swore,
Jumped to his feet in such a dreadful taking His face was ghastly with the look it wore.
Crouching and slipping through the trees, a man In worn, blue livery, a humpbacked thing,
Made off. But turned every few steps to gaze At Eunice, and to fling
Vile looks and gestures back. "The ruffian!
By Christ's Death! I will split him to a span
Of hog's thongs." She grasped at his sleeve, "Gervase!
What are you doing here? Put down that sword, That's only poor old Tony, crazed and lame.
We never notice him. With my dear Lord I ought not to have minded that he came.
But, Gervase, it surprises me that you Should so lack grace to stay here." With one hand
She held her gaping bodice to conceal Her breast. "I must demand
Your instant absence. Everard, but new
Returned, will hardly care for guests. Adieu."
"Eunice, you're mad." His brain began to reel.
He tried again to take her, tried to twist Her arms about him. Truly, she had said
Nothing should ever part them. In a mist She pushed him from her, clasped her aching head
In both her hands, and rocked and sobbed aloud. "Oh! Where is Everard? What does this mean?
So lately come to leave me thus alone!" But Gervase had not seen
Sir Everard. Then, gently, to her bowed
And sickening spirit, he told of her proud
Surrender to him. He could hear her moan.
Then shame swept over her and held her numb, Hiding her anguished face against the seat.
At last she rose, a woman stricken -- dumb -- And trailed away with slowly-dragging feet.
Gervase looked after her, but feared to pass The barrier set between them. All his rare
Joy broke to fragments -- worse than that, unreal. And standing lonely there,
His swollen heart burst out, and on the grass
He flung himself and wept. He knew, alas!
The loss so great his life could never heal.
For days thereafter Eunice lived retired, Waited upon by one old serving-maid.
She would not leave her chamber, and desired Only to hide herself. She was afraid
Of what her eyes might trick her into seeing, Of what her longing urge her then to do.
What was this dreadful illness solitude Had tortured her into?
Her hours went by in a long constant fleeing
The thought of that one morning. And her being
Bruised itself on a happening so rude.
It grew ripe Summer, when one morning came Her tirewoman with a letter, printed
Upon the seal were the Deane crest and name. With utmost gentleness, the letter hinted
His understanding and his deep regret. But would she not permit him once again
To pay her his profound respects? No word Of what had passed should pain
Her resolution. Only let them get
Back the old comradeship. Her eyes were wet
With starting tears, now truly she deplored
His misery. Yes, she was wrong to keep Away from him. He hardly was to blame.
'Twas she -- she shuddered and began to weep. 'Twas her fault! Hers! Her everlasting shame
Was that she suffered him, whom not at all She loved. Poor Boy! Yes, they must still be friends.
She owed him that to keep the balance straight. It was such poor amends
Which she could make for rousing hopes to gall
Him with their unfulfilment. Tragical
It was, and she must leave him desolate.
Hard silence he had forced upon his lips For long and long, and would have done so still
Had not she -- here she pressed her finger tips Against her heavy eyes. Then with forced will
She wrote that he might come, sealed with the arms Of Crowe and Frampton twined. Her heart felt lighter
When this was done. It seemed her constant care Might some day cease to fright her.
Illness could be no crime, and dreadful harms
Did come from too much sunshine. Her alarms
Would lessen when she saw him standing there,
Simple and kind, a brother just returned From journeying, and he would treat her so.
She knew his honest heart, and if there burned A spark in it he would not let it show.
But when he really came, and stood beside Her underneath the fruitless cherry boughs,
He seemed a tired man, gaunt, leaden-eyed. He made her no more vows,
Nor did he mention one thing he had tried
To put into his letter. War supplied
Him topics. And his mind seemed occupied.
Daily they met. And gravely walked and talked. He read her no more verses, and he stayed
Only until their conversation, balked Of every natural channel, fled dismayed.
Again the next day she would meet him, trying To give her tone some healthy sprightliness,
But his uneager dignity soon chilled Her well-prepared address.
Thus Summer waned, and in the mornings, crying
Of wild geese startled Eunice, and their flying
Whirred overhead for days and never stilled.
One afternoon of grey clouds and white wind, Eunice awaited Gervase by the river.
The Dartle splashed among the reeds and whined Over the willow-roots, and a long sliver
Of caked and slobbered foam crept up the bank. All through the garden, drifts of skirling leaves
Blew up, and settled down, and blew again. The cherry-trees were weaves
Of empty, knotted branches, and a dank
Mist hid the house, mouldy it smelt and rank
With sodden wood, and still unfalling rain.
Eunice paced up and down. No joy she took At meeting Gervase, but the custom grown
Still held her. He was late. She sudden shook, And caught at her stopped heart. Her eyes had shown
Sir Everard emerging from the mist. His uniform was travel-stained and torn,
His jackboots muddy, and his eager stride Jangled his spurs. A thorn
Entangled, trailed behind him. To the tryst
He hastened. Eunice shuddered, ran -- a twist
Round a sharp turning and she fled to hide.
But he had seen her as she swiftly ran, A flash of white against the river's grey.
"Eunice," he called. "My Darling. Eunice. Can You hear me? It is Everard. All day
I have been riding like the very devil To reach you sooner. Are you startled, Dear?"
He broke into a run and followed her, And caught her, faint with fear,
Cowering and trembling as though she some evil
Spirit were seeing. "What means this uncivil
Greeting, Dear Heart?" He saw her senses blur.
Swaying and catching at the seat, she tried To speak, but only gurgled in her throat.
At last, straining to hold herself, she cried To him for pity, and her strange words smote
A coldness through him, for she begged Gervase To leave her, 'twas too much a second time.
Gervase must go, always Gervase, her mind Repeated like a rhyme
This name he did not know. In sad amaze
He watched her, and that hunted, fearful gaze,
So unremembering and so unkind.
Softly he spoke to her, patiently dealt With what he feared her madness. By and by
He pierced her understanding. Then he knelt Upon the seat, and took her hands: "Now try
To think a minute I am come, my Dear, Unharmed and back on furlough. Are you glad
To have your lover home again? To me, Pickthorn has never had
A greater pleasantness. Could you not bear
To come and sit awhile beside me here?
A stone between us surely should not be."
She smiled a little wan and ravelled smile, Then came to him and on his shoulder laid
Her head, and they two rested there awhile, Each taking comfort. Not a word was said.
But when he put his hand upon her breast And felt her beating heart, and with his lips
Sought solace for her and himself. She started As one sharp lashed with whips,
And pushed him from her, moaning, his dumb quest
Denied and shuddered from. And he, distrest,
Loosened his wife, and long they sat there, parted.
Eunice was very quiet all that day, A little dazed, and yet she seemed content.
At candle-time, he asked if she would play Upon her harpsichord, at once she went
And tinkled airs from Lully's `Carnival' And `Bacchus', newly brought away from France.
Then jaunted through a lively rigadoon To please him with a dance
By Purcell, for he said that surely all
Good Englishmen had pride in national
Accomplishment. But tiring of it soon
He whispered her that if she had forgiven His startling her that afternoon, the clock
Marked early bed-time. Surely it was Heaven He entered when she opened to his knock.
The hours rustled in the trailing wind Over the chimney. Close they lay and knew
Only that they were wedded. At his touch Anxiety she threw
Away like a shed garment, and inclined
Herself to cherish him, her happy mind
Quivering, unthinking, loving overmuch.
Eunice lay long awake in the cool night After her husband slept. She gazed with joy
Into the shadows, painting them with bright Pictures of all her future life's employ.
Twin gems they were, set to a single jewel, Each shining with the other. Soft she turned
And felt his breath upon her hair, and prayed Her happiness was earned.
Past Earls of Crowe should give their blood for fuel
To light this Frampton's hearth-fire. By no cruel
Affrightings would she ever be dismayed.
When Everard, next day, asked her in joke What name it was that she had called him by,
She told him of Gervase, and as she spoke She hardly realized it was a lie.
Her vision she related, but she hid The fondness into which she had been led.
Sir Everard just laughed and pinched her ear, And quite out of her head
The matter drifted. Then Sir Everard chid
Himself for laziness, and off he rid
To see his men and count his farming-gear.
At supper he seemed overspread with gloom, But gave no reason why, he only asked
More questions of Gervase, and round the room He walked with restless strides. At last he tasked
Her with a greater feeling for this man Than she had given. Eunice quick denied
The slightest interest other than a friend Might claim. But he replied
He thought she underrated. Then a ban
He put on talk and music. He'd a plan
To work at, draining swamps at Pickthorn End.
Next morning Eunice found her Lord still changed, Hard and unkind, with bursts of anger. Pride
Kept him from speaking out. His probings ranged All round his torment. Lady Eunice tried
To sooth him. So a week went by, and then His anguish flooded over; with clenched hands
Striving to stem his words, he told her plain Tony had seen them, "brands
Burning in Hell," the man had said. Again
Eunice described her vision, and how when
Awoke at last she had known dreadful pain.
He could not credit it, and misery fed Upon his spirit, day by day it grew.
To Gervase he forbade the house, and led The Lady Eunice such a life she flew
At his approaching footsteps. Winter came Snowing and blustering through the Manor trees.
All the roof-edges spiked with icicles In fluted companies.
The Lady Eunice with her tambour-frame
Kept herself sighing company. The flame
Of the birch fire glittered on the walls.
A letter was brought to her as she sat, Unsealed, unsigned. It told her that his wound,
The writer's, had so well recovered that To join his regiment he felt him bound.
But would she not wish him one short "Godspeed", He asked no more. Her greeting would suffice.
He had resolved he never should return. Would she this sacrifice
Make for a dying man? How could she read
The rest! But forcing her eyes to the deed,
She read. Then dropped it in the fire to burn.
Gervase had set the river for their meeting As farthest from the farms where Everard
Spent all his days. How should he know such cheating Was quite expected, at least no dullard
Was Everard Frampton. Hours by hours he hid Among the willows watching. Dusk had come,
And from the Manor he had long been gone. Eunice her burdensome
Task set about. Hooded and cloaked, she slid
Over the slippery paths, and soon amid
The sallows saw a boat tied to a stone.
Gervase arose, and kissed her hand, then pointed Into the boat. She shook her head, but he
Begged her to realize why, and with disjointed Words told her of what peril there might be
From listeners along the river bank. A push would take them out of earshot. Ten
Minutes was all he asked, then she should land, He go away again,
Forever this time. Yet how could he thank
Her for so much compassion. Here she sank
Upon a thwart, and bid him quick unstrand
His boat. He cast the rope, and shoved the keel Free of the gravel; jumped, and dropped beside
Her; took the oars, and they began to steal Under the overhanging trees. A wide
Gash of red lantern-light cleft like a blade Into the gloom, and struck on Eunice sitting
Rigid and stark upon the after thwart. It blazed upon their flitting
In merciless light. A moment so it stayed,
Then was extinguished, and Sir Everard made
One leap, and landed just a fraction short.
His weight upon the gunwale tipped the boat To straining balance. Everard lurched and seized
His wife and held her smothered to his coat. "Everard, loose me, we shall drown --" and squeezed
Against him, she beat with her hands. He gasped "Never, by God!" The slidden boat gave way
And the black foamy water split -- and met. Bubbled up through the spray
A wailing rose and in the branches rasped,
And creaked, and stilled. Over the treetops, clasped
In the blue evening, a clear moon was set.
They lie entangled in the twisting roots, Embraced forever. Their cold marriage bed
Close-canopied and curtained by the shoots Of willows and pale birches. At the head,
White lilies, like still swans, placidly float And sway above the pebbles. Here are waves
Sun-smitten for a threaded counterpane Gold-woven on their graves.
In perfect quietness they sleep, remote
In the green, rippled twilight. Death has smote
Them to perpetual oneness who were twain.
The Cremona Violin
Frau Concert-Meister Altgelt shut the door.
A storm was rising, heavy gusts of wind
Swirled through the trees, and scattered leaves before
Her on the clean, flagged path. The sky behind
The distant town was black, and sharp defined
Against it shone the lines of roofs and towers,
Superimposed and flat like cardboard flowers.
A pasted city on a purple ground,
Picked out with luminous paint, it seemed. The cloud
Split on an edge of lightning, and a sound
Of rivers full and rushing boomed through bowed,
Tossed, hissing branches. Thunder rumbled loud
Beyond the town fast swallowing into gloom.
Frau Altgelt closed the windows of each room.
She bustled round to shake by constant moving
The strange, weird atmosphere. She stirred the fire,
She twitched the supper-cloth as though improving
Its careful setting, then her own attire
Came in for notice, tiptoeing higher and higher
She peered into the wall-glass, now adjusting
A straying lock, or else a ribbon thrusting
This way or that to suit her. At last sitting,
Or rather plumping down upon a chair,
She took her work, the stocking she was knitting,
And watched the rain upon the window glare
In white, bright drops. Through the black glass a flare
Of lightning squirmed about her needles. "Oh!"
She cried. "What can be keeping Theodore so!"
A roll of thunder set the casements clapping.
Frau Altgelt flung her work aside and ran,
Pulled open the house door, with kerchief flapping
She stood and gazed along the street. A man
Flung back the garden-gate and nearly ran
Her down as she stood in the door. "Why, Dear,
What in the name of patience brings you here?
Quick, Lotta, shut the door, my violin
I fear is wetted. Now, Dear, bring a light.
This clasp is very much too worn and thin.
I'll take the other fiddle out to-night
If it still rains. Tut! Tut! my child, you're quite
Clumsy. Here, help me, hold the case while I --
Give me the candle. No, the inside's dry.
Thank God for that! Well, Lotta, how are you?
A bad storm, but the house still stands, I see.
Is my pipe filled, my Dear? I'll have a few
Puffs and a snooze before I eat my tea.
What do you say? That you were feared for me?
Nonsense, my child. Yes, kiss me, now don't talk.
I need a rest, the theatre's a long walk."
Her needles still, her hands upon her lap
Patiently laid, Charlotta Altgelt sat
And watched the rain-run window. In his nap
Her husband stirred and muttered. Seeing that,
Charlotta rose and softly, pit-a-pat,
Climbed up the stairs, and in her little room
Found sighing comfort with a moon in bloom.
But even rainy windows, silver-lit
By a new-burst, storm-whetted moon, may give
But poor content to loneliness, and it
Was hard for young Charlotta so to strive
And down her eagerness and learn to live
In placid quiet. While her husband slept,
Charlotta in her upper chamber wept.
Herr Concert-Meister Altgelt was a man
Gentle and unambitious, that alone
Had kept him back. He played as few men can,
Drawing out of his instrument a tone
So shimmering-sweet and palpitant, it shone
Like a bright thread of sound hung in the air,
Afloat and swinging upward, slim and fair.
Above all things, above Charlotta his wife,
Herr Altgelt loved his violin, a fine
Cremona pattern, Stradivari's life
Was flowering out of early discipline
When this was fashioned. Of soft-cutting pine
The belly was. The back of broadly curled
Maple, the head made thick and sharply whirled.
The slanting, youthful sound-holes through
The belly of fine, vigorous pine
Mellowed each note and blew
It out again with a woody flavour
Tanged and fragrant as fir-trees are
When breezes in their needles jar.
The varnish was an orange-brown
Lustered like glass that's long laid down
Under a crumbling villa stone.
Purfled stoutly, with mitres which point
Straight up the corners. Each curve and joint
Clear, and bold, and thin.
Such was Herr Theodore's violin.
Seven o'clock, the Concert-Meister gone
With his best violin, the rain being stopped,
Frau Lotta in the kitchen sat alone
Watching the embers which the fire dropped.
The china shone upon the dresser, topped
By polished copper vessels which her skill
Kept brightly burnished. It was very still.
An air from `Orfeo' hummed in her head.
Herr Altgelt had been practising before
The night's performance. Charlotta had plead
With him to stay with her. Even at the door
She'd begged him not to go. "I do implore
You for this evening, Theodore," she had said.
"Leave them to-night, and stay with me instead."
"A silly poppet!" Theodore pinched her ear.
"You'd like to have our good Elector turn
Me out I think." "But, Theodore, something queer
Ails me. Oh, do but notice how they burn,
My cheeks! The thunder worried me. You're stern,
And cold, and only love your work, I know.
But Theodore, for this evening, do not go."
But he had gone, hurriedly at the end,
For she had kept him talking. Now she sat
Alone again, always alone, the trend
Of all her thinking brought her back to that
She wished to banish. What would life be? What?
For she was young, and loved, while he was moved
Only by music. Each day that was proved.
Each day he rose and practised. While he played,
She stopped her work and listened, and her heart
Swelled painfully beneath her bodice. Swayed
And longing, she would hide from him her smart.
"Well, Lottchen, will that do?" Then what a start
She gave, and she would run to him and cry,
And he would gently chide her, "Fie, Dear, fie.
I'm glad I played it well. But such a taking!
You'll hear the thing enough before I've done."
And she would draw away from him, still shaking.
Had he but guessed she was another one,
Another violin. Her strings were aching,
Stretched to the touch of his bow hand, again
He played and she almost broke at the strain.
Where was the use of thinking of it now,
Sitting alone and listening to the clock!
She'd best make haste and knit another row.
Three hours at least must pass before his knock
Would startle her. It always was a shock.
She listened -- listened -- for so long before,
That when it came her hearing almost tore.
She caught herself just starting in to listen.
What nerves she had: rattling like brittle sticks!
She wandered to the window, for the glisten
Of a bright moon was tempting. Snuffed the wicks
Of her two candles. Still she could not fix
To anything. The moon in a broad swath
Beckoned her out and down the garden-path.
Against the house, her hollyhocks stood high
And black, their shadows doubling them. The night
Was white and still with moonlight, and a sigh
Of blowing leaves was there, and the dim flight
Of insects, and the smell of aconite,
And stocks, and Marvel of Peru. She flitted
Along the path, where blocks of shadow pitted
The even flags. She let herself go dreaming
Of Theodore her husband, and the tune
From `Orfeo' swam through her mind, but seeming
Changed -- shriller. Of a sudden, the clear moon
Showed her a passer-by, inopportune
Indeed, but here he was, whistling and striding.
Lotta squeezed in between the currants, hiding.
"The best laid plans of mice and men," alas!
The stranger came indeed, but did not pass.
Instead, he leant upon the garden-gate,
Folding his arms and whistling. Lotta's state,
Crouched in the prickly currants, on wet grass,
Was far from pleasant. Still the stranger stayed,
And Lotta in her currants watched, dismayed.
He seemed a proper fellow standing there
In the bright moonshine. His cocked hat was laced
With silver, and he wore his own brown hair
Tied, but unpowdered. His whole bearing graced
A fine cloth coat, and ruffled shirt, and chased
Sword-hilt. Charlotta looked, but her position
Was hardly easy. When would his volition
Suggest his walking on? And then that tune!
A half-a-dozen bars from `Orfeo'
Gone over and over, and murdered. What Fortune
Had brought him there to stare about him so?
"Ach, Gott im Himmel! Why will he not go!"
Thought Lotta, but the young man whistled on,
And seemed in no great hurry to be gone.
Charlotta, crouched among the currant bushes,
Watched the moon slowly dip from twig to twig.
If Theodore should chance to come, and blushes
Streamed over her. He would not care a fig,
He'd only laugh. She pushed aside a sprig
Of sharp-edged leaves and peered, then she uprose
Amid her bushes. "Sir," said she, "pray whose
Garden do you suppose you're watching? Why
Do you stand there? I really must insist
Upon your leaving. 'Tis unmannerly
To stay so long." The young man gave a twist
And turned about, and in the amethyst
Moonlight he saw her like a nymph half-risen
From the green bushes which had been her prison.
He swept his hat off in a hurried bow.
"Your pardon, Madam, I had no idea
I was not quite alone, and that is how
I came to stay. My trespass was not sheer
Impertinence. I thought no one was here,
And really gardens cry to be admired.
To-night especially it seemed required.
And may I beg to introduce myself?
Heinrich Marohl of Munich. And your name?"
Charlotta told him. And the artful elf
Promptly exclaimed about her husband's fame.
So Lotta, half-unwilling, slowly came
To conversation with him. When she went
Into the house, she found the evening spent.
Theodore arrived quite wearied out and teased,
With all excitement in him burned away.
It had gone well, he said, the audience pleased,
And he had played his very best to-day,
But afterwards he had been forced to stay
And practise with the stupid ones. His head
Ached furiously, and he must get to bed.
Herr Concert-Meister Altgelt played,
And the four strings of his violin
Were spinning like bees on a day in Spring.
The notes rose into the wide sun-mote
Which slanted through the window,
They lay like coloured beads a-row,
They knocked together and parted,
And started to dance,
Skipping, tripping, each one slipping
Under and over the others so
That the polychrome fire streamed like a lance
Or a comet's tail,
Then a wail arose -- crescendo --
And dropped from off the end of the bow,
And the dancing stopped.
A scent of lilies filled the room,
Long and slow. Each large white bloom
Breathed a sound which was holy perfume from a blessed censer,
And the hum of an organ tone,
And they waved like fans in a hall of stone
Over a bier standing there in the centre, alone.
Each lily bent slowly as it was blown.
Like smoke they rose from the violin --
Then faded as a swifter bowing
Jumbled the notes like wavelets flowing
In a splashing, pashing, rippling motion
Between broad meadows to an ocean
Wide as a day and blue as a flower,
Where every hour
Gulls dipped, and scattered, and squawked, and squealed,
And over the marshes the Angelus pealed,
And the prows of the fishing-boats were spattered
And away a couple of frigates were starting
To race to Java with all sails set,
Topgallants, and royals, and stunsails, and jibs,
And wide moonsails; and the shining rails
Were polished so bright they sparked in the sun.
All the sails went up with a run:
"They call me Hanging Johnny,
They call me Hanging Johnny,
So hang, boys, hang."
And the sun had set and the high moon whitened,
And the ship heeled over to the breeze.
He drew her into the shade of the sails,
And whispered tales
Of voyages in the China seas,
And his arm around her
Held and bound her.
She almost swooned,
With the breeze and the moon
And the slipping sea,
And he beside her,
Touching her, leaning --
The ship careening,
With the white moon steadily shining over
Her and her lover,
Theodore, still her lover!
Then a quiver fell on the crowded notes,
And slowly floated
A single note which spread and spread
Till it filled the room with a shimmer like gold,
And noises shivered throughout its length,
And tried its strength.
They pulled it, and tore it,
And the stuff waned thinner, but still it bore it.
Then a wide rent
Split the arching tent,
And balls of fire spurted through,
Spitting yellow, and mauve, and blue.
One by one they were quenched as they fell,
Only the blue burned steadily.
Paler and paler it grew, and -- faded -- away.
Herr Altgelt stopped.
"Well, Lottachen, my Dear, what do you say?
I think I'm in good trim. Now let's have dinner.
What's this, my Love, you're very sweet to-day.
I wonder how it happens I'm the winner
Of so much sweetness. But I think you're thinner;
You're like a bag of feathers on my knee.
Why, Lotta child, you're almost strangling me.
I'm glad you're going out this afternoon.
The days are getting short, and I'm so tied
At the Court Theatre my poor little bride
Has not much junketing I fear, but soon
I'll ask our manager to grant a boon.
To-night, perhaps, I'll get a pass for you,
And when I go, why Lotta can come too.
Now dinner, Love. I want some onion soup
To whip me up till that rehearsal's over.
You know it's odd how some women can stoop!
Fraeulein Gebnitz has taken on a lover,
A Jew named Goldstein. No one can discover
If it's his money. But she lives alone
Practically. Gebnitz is a stone,
Pores over books all day, and has no ear
For his wife's singing. Artists must have men;
They need appreciation. But it's queer
What messes people make of their lives, when
They should know more. If Gebnitz finds out, then
His wife will pack. Yes, shut the door at once.
I did not feel it cold, I am a dunce."
Frau Altgelt tied her bonnet on and went
Into the streets. A bright, crisp Autumn wind
Flirted her skirts and hair. A turbulent,
Audacious wind it was, now close behind,
Pushing her bonnet forward till it twined
The strings across her face, then from in front
Slantingly swinging at her with a shunt,
Until she lay against it, struggling, pushing,
Dismayed to find her clothing tightly bound
Around her, every fold and wrinkle crushing
Itself upon her, so that she was wound
In draperies as clinging as those found
Sucking about a sea nymph on the frieze
Of some old Grecian temple. In the breeze
The shops and houses had a quality
Of hard and dazzling colour; something sharp
And buoyant, like white, puffing sails at sea.
The city streets were twanging like a harp.
Charlotta caught the movement, skippingly
She blew along the pavement, hardly knowing
Toward what destination she was going.
She fetched up opposite a jeweller's shop,
Where filigreed tiaras shone like crowns,
And necklaces of emeralds seemed to drop
And then float up again with lightness. Browns
Of striped agates struck her like cold frowns
Amid the gaiety of topaz seals,
Carved though they were with heads, and arms, and wheels.
A row of pencils knobbed with quartz or sard
Delighted her. And rings of every size
Turned smartly round like hoops before her eyes,
Amethyst-flamed or ruby-girdled, jarred
To spokes and flashing triangles, and starred
Like rockets bursting on a festal day.
Charlotta could not tear herself away.
With eyes glued tightly on a golden box,
Whose rare enamel piqued her with its hue,
Changeable, iridescent, shuttlecocks
Of shades and lustres always darting through
Its level, superimposing sheet of blue,
Charlotta did not hear footsteps approaching.
She started at the words: "Am I encroaching?"
"Oh, Heinrich, how you frightened me! I thought
We were to meet at three, is it quite that?"
"No, it is not," he answered, "but I've caught
The trick of missing you. One thing is flat,
I cannot go on this way. Life is what
Might best be conjured up by the word: `Hell'.
Dearest, when will you come?" Lotta, to quell
His effervescence, pointed to the gems
Within the window, asked him to admire
A bracelet or a buckle. But one stems
Uneasily the burning of a fire.
Heinrich was chafing, pricked by his desire.
Little by little she wooed him to her mood
Until at last he promised to be good.
But here he started on another tack;
To buy a jewel, which one would Lotta choose.
She vainly urged against him all her lack
Of other trinkets. Should she dare to use
A ring or brooch her husband might accuse
Her of extravagance, and ask to see
A strict accounting, or still worse might be.
But Heinrich would not be persuaded. Why
Should he not give her what he liked? And in
He went, determined certainly to buy
A thing so beautiful that it would win
Her wavering fancy. Altgelt's violin
He would outscore by such a handsome jewel
That Lotta could no longer be so cruel!
Pity Charlotta, torn in diverse ways.
If she went in with him, the shopman might
Recognize her, give her her name; in days
To come he could denounce her. In her fright
She almost fled. But Heinrich would be quite
Capable of pursuing. By and by
She pushed the door and entered hurriedly.
It took some pains to keep him from bestowing
A pair of ruby earrings, carved like roses,
The setting twined to represent the growing
Tendrils and leaves, upon her. "Who supposes
I could obtain such things! It simply closes
All comfort for me." So he changed his mind
And bought as slight a gift as he could find.
A locket, frosted over with seed pearls,
Oblong and slim, for wearing at the neck,
Or hidden in the bosom; their joined curls
Should lie in it. And further to bedeck
His love, Heinrich had picked a whiff, a fleck,
The merest puff of a thin, linked chain
To hang it from. Lotta could not refrain
From weeping as they sauntered down the street.
She did not want the locket, yet she did.
To have him love her she found very sweet,
But it is hard to keep love always hid.
Then there was something in her heart which chid
Her, told her she loved Theodore in him,
That all these meetings were a foolish whim.
She thought of Theodore and the life they led,
So near together, but so little mingled.
The great clouds bulged and bellied overhead,
And the fresh wind about her body tingled;
The crane of a large warehouse creaked and jingled;
Charlotta held her breath for very fear,
About her in the street she seemed to hear:
"They call me Hanging Johnny,
They call me Hanging Johnny,
So hang, boys, hang."
And it was Theodore, under the racing skies,
Who held her and who whispered in her ear.
She knew her heart was telling her no lies,
Beating and hammering. He was so dear,
The touch of him would send her in a queer
Swoon that was half an ecstasy. And yearning
For Theodore, she wandered, slowly turning
Street after street as Heinrich wished it so.
He had some aim, she had forgotten what.
Their progress was confused and very slow,
But at the last they reached a lonely spot,
A garden far above the highest shot
Of soaring steeple. At their feet, the town
Spread open like a chequer-board laid down.
Lotta was dimly conscious of the rest,
Vaguely remembered how he clasped the chain
About her neck. She treated it in jest,
And saw his face cloud over with sharp pain.
Then suddenly she felt as though a strain
Were put upon her, collared like a slave,
Leashed in the meshes of this thing he gave.
She seized the flimsy rings with both her hands
To snap it, but they held with odd persistence.
Her eyes were blinded by two wind-blown strands
Of hair which had been loosened. Her resistance
Melted within her, from remotest distance,
Misty, unreal, his face grew warm and near,
And giving way she knew him very dear.
For long he held her, and they both gazed down
At the wide city, and its blue, bridged river.
From wooing he jested with her, snipped the blown
Strands of her hair, and tied them with a sliver
Cut from his own head. But she gave a shiver
When, opening the locket, they were placed
Under the glass, commingled and enlaced.
"When will you have it so with us?" He sighed.
She shook her head. He pressed her further. "No,
No, Heinrich, Theodore loves me," and she tried
To free herself and rise. He held her so,
Clipped by his arms, she could not move nor go.
"But you love me," he whispered, with his face
Burning against her through her kerchief's lace.
Frau Altgelt knew she toyed with fire, knew
That what her husband lit this other man
Fanned to hot flame. She told herself that few
Women were so discreet as she, who ran
No danger since she knew what things to ban.
She opened her house door at five o'clock,
A short half-hour before her husband's knock.
The `Residenz-Theater' sparked and hummed
With lights and people. Gebnitz was to sing,
That rare soprano. All the fiddles strummed
With tuning up; the wood-winds made a ring
Of reedy bubbling noises, and the sting
Of sharp, red brass pierced every ear-drum; patting
From muffled tympani made a dark slatting
Across the silver shimmering of flutes;
A bassoon grunted, and an oboe wailed;
The 'celli pizzicato-ed like great lutes,
And mutterings of double basses trailed
Away to silence, while loud harp-strings hailed
Their thin, bright colours down in such a scatter
They lost themselves amid the general clatter.
Frau Altgelt in the gallery, alone,
Felt lifted up into another world.
Before her eyes a thousand candles shone
In the great chandeliers. A maze of curled
And powdered periwigs past her eyes swirled.
She smelt the smoke of candles guttering,
And caught the glint of jewelled fans fluttering
All round her in the boxes. Red and gold,
The house, like rubies set in filigree,
Filliped the candlelight about, and bold
Young sparks with eye-glasses, unblushingly
Ogled fair beauties in the balcony.
An officer went by, his steel spurs jangling.
Behind Charlotta an old man was wrangling
About a play-bill he had bought and lost.
Three drunken soldiers had to be ejected.
Frau Altgelt's eyes stared at the vacant post
Of Concert-Meister, she at once detected
The stir which brought him. But she felt neglected
When with no glance about him or her way,
He lifted up his violin to play.
The curtain went up? Perhaps. If so,
Charlotta never saw it go.
The famous Fraeulein Gebnitz' singing
Only came to her like the ringing
Of bells at a festa
Which swing in the air
And nobody realizes they are there.
They jingle and jangle,
And clang, and bang,
And never a soul could tell whether they rang,
For the plopping of guns and rockets
And the chinking of silver to spend, in one's pockets,
And the shuffling and clapping of feet,
And the loud flapping
Of flags, with the drums,
As the military comes.
It's a famous tune to walk to,
And I wonder where they're off to.
Step-step-stepping to the beating of the drums.
But the rhythm changes as though a mist
Were curling and twisting
Over the landscape.
For a moment a rhythmless, tuneless fog
Encompasses her. Then her senses jog
To the breath of a stately minuet.
Herr Altgelt's violin is set
In tune to the slow, sweeping bows, and retreats and advances,
To curtsies brushing the waxen floor as the Court dances.
Long and peaceful like warm Summer nights
When stars shine in the quiet river. And against the lights
Blundering insects knock,
And the `Rathaus' clock
Booms twice, through the shrill sounds
Of flutes and horns in the lamplit grounds.
Pressed against him in the mazy wavering
Of a country dance, with her short breath quavering
She leans upon the beating, throbbing
Music. Laughing, sobbing,
Feet gliding after sliding feet;
His -- hers --
The ballroom blurs --
She feels the air
Lifting her hair,
And the lapping of water on the stone stair.
He is there! He is there!
Twang harps, and squeal, you thin violins,
That the dancers may dance, and never discover
The old stone stair leading down to the river
With the chestnut-tree branches hanging over
Her and her lover.
Theodore, still her lover!
The evening passed like this, in a half faint,
Delirium with waking intervals
Which were the entr'acts. Under the restraint
Of a large company, the constant calls
For oranges or syrops from the stalls
Outside, the talk, the passing to and fro,
Lotta sat ill at ease, incognito.
She heard the Gebnitz praised, the tenor lauded,
The music vaunted as most excellent.
The scenery and the costumes were applauded,
The latter it was whispered had been sent
From Italy. The Herr Direktor spent
A fortune on them, so the gossips said.
Charlotta felt a lightness in her head.
When the next act began, her eyes were swimming,
Her prodded ears were aching and confused.
The first notes from the orchestra sent skimming
Her outward consciousness. Her brain was fused
Into the music, Theodore's music! Used
To hear him play, she caught his single tone.
For all she noticed they two were alone.
Frau Altgelt waited in the chilly street,
Hustled by lackeys who ran up and down
Shouting their coachmen's names; forced to retreat
A pace or two by lurching chairmen; thrown
Rudely aside by linkboys; boldly shown
The ogling rapture in two bleary eyes
Thrust close to hers in most unpleasant wise.
Escaping these, she hit a liveried arm,
Was sworn at by this glittering gentleman
And ordered off. However, no great harm
Came to her. But she looked a trifle wan
When Theodore, her belated guardian,
Emerged. She snuggled up against him, trembling,
Half out of fear, half out of the assembling
Of all the thoughts and needs his playing had given.
Had she enjoyed herself, he wished to know.
"Oh! Theodore, can't you feel that it was Heaven!"
"Heaven! My Lottachen, and was it so?
Gebnitz was in good voice, but all the flow
Of her last aria was spoiled by Klops,
A wretched flutist, she was mad as hops."
He was so simple, so matter-of-fact,
Charlotta Altgelt knew not what to say
To bring him to her dream. His lack of tact
Kept him explaining all the homeward way
How this thing had gone well, that badly. "Stay,
Theodore!" she cried at last. "You know to me
Nothing was real, it was an ecstasy."
And he was heartily glad she had enjoyed
Herself so much, and said so. "But it's good
To be got home again." He was employed
In looking at his violin, the wood
Was old, and evening air did it no good.
But when he drew up to the table for tea
Something about his wife's vivacity
Struck him as hectic, worried him in short.
He talked of this and that but watched her close.
Tea over, he endeavoured to extort
The cause of her excitement. She arose
And stood beside him, trying to compose
Herself, all whipt to quivering, curdled life,
And he, poor fool, misunderstood his wife.
Suddenly, broken through her anxious grasp,
Her music-kindled love crashed on him there.
Amazed, he felt her fling against him, clasp
Her arms about him, weighing down his chair,
Sobbing out all her hours of despair.
"Theodore, a woman needs to hear things proved.
Unless you tell me, I feel I'm not loved."
Theodore went under in this tearing wave,
He yielded to it, and its headlong flow
Filled him with all the energy she gave.
He was a youth again, and this bright glow,
This living, vivid joy he had to show
Her what she was to him. Laughing and crying,
She asked assurances there's no denying.
Over and over again her questions, till
He quite convinced her, every now and then
She kissed him, shivering as though doubting still.
But later when they were composed and when
She dared relax her probings, "Lottachen,"
He asked, "how is it your love has withstood
My inadvertence? I was made of wood."
She told him, and no doubt she meant it truly,
That he was sun, and grass, and wind, and sky
To her. And even if conscience were unruly
She salved it by neat sophistries, but why
Suppose her insincere, it was no lie
She said, for Heinrich was as much forgot
As though he'd never been within earshot.
But Theodore's hands in straying and caressing
Fumbled against the locket where it lay
Upon her neck. "What is this thing I'm pressing?"
He asked. "Let's bring it to the light of day."
He lifted up the locket. "It should stay
Outside, my Dear. Your mother has good taste.
To keep it hidden surely is a waste."
Pity again Charlotta, straight aroused
Out of her happiness. The locket brought
A chilly jet of truth upon her, soused
Under its icy spurting she was caught,
And choked, and frozen. Suddenly she sought
The clasp, but with such art was this contrived
Her fumbling fingers never once arrived
Upon it. Feeling, twisting, round and round,
She pulled the chain quite through the locket's ring
And still it held. Her neck, encompassed, bound,
Chafed at the sliding meshes. Such a thing
To hurl her out of joy! A gilded string
Binding her folly to her, and those curls
Which lay entwined beneath the clustered pearls!
Again she tried to break the cord. It stood.
"Unclasp it, Theodore," she begged. But he
Refused, and being in a happy mood,
Twitted her with her inefficiency,
Then looking at her very seriously:
"I think, Charlotta, it is well to have
Always about one what a mother gave.
As she has taken the great pains to send
This jewel to you from Dresden, it will be
Ingratitude if you do not intend
To carry it about you constantly.
With her fine taste you cannot disagree,
The locket is most beautifully designed."
He opened it and there the curls were, twined.
Charlotta's heart dropped beats like knitting-stitches.
She burned a moment, flaming; then she froze.
Her face was jerked by little, nervous twitches,
She heard her husband asking: "What are those?"
Put out her hand quickly to interpose,
But stopped, the gesture half-complete, astounded
At the calm way the question was propounded.
"A pretty fancy, Dear, I do declare.
Indeed I will not let you put it off.
A lovely thought: yours and your mother's hair!"
Charlotta hid a gasp under a cough.
"Never with my connivance shall you doff
This charming gift." He kissed her on the cheek,
And Lotta suffered him, quite crushed and meek.
When later in their room she lay awake,
Watching the moonlight slip along the floor,
She felt the chain and wept for Theodore's sake.
She had loved Heinrich also, and the core
Of truth, unlovely, startled her. Wherefore
She vowed from now to break this double life
And see herself only as Theodore's wife.
It was no easy matter to convince
Heinrich that it was finished. Hard to say
That though they could not meet (he saw her wince)
She still must keep the locket to allay
Suspicion in her husband. She would pay
Him from her savings bit by bit -- the oath
He swore at that was startling to them both.
Her resolution taken, Frau Altgelt
Adhered to it, and suffered no regret.
She found her husband all that she had felt
His music to contain. Her days were set
In his as though she were an amulet
Cased in bright gold. She joyed in her confining;
Her eyes put out her looking-glass with shining.
Charlotta was so gay that old, dull tasks
Were furbished up to seem like rituals.
She baked and brewed as one who only asks
The right to serve. Her daily manuals
Of prayer were duties, and her festivals
When Theodore praised some dish, or frankly said
She had a knack in making up a bed.
So Autumn went, and all the mountains round
The city glittered white with fallen snow,
For it was Winter. Over the hard ground
Herr Altgelt's footsteps came, each one a blow.
On the swept flags behind the currant row
Charlotta stood to greet him. But his lip
Only flicked hers. His Concert-Meistership
Was first again. This evening he had got
Important news. The opera ordered from
Young Mozart was arrived. That old despot,
The Bishop of Salzburg, had let him come
Himself to lead it, and the parts, still hot
From copying, had been tried over. Never
Had any music started such a fever.
The orchestra had cheered till they were hoarse,
The singers clapped and clapped. The town was made,
With such a great attraction through the course
Of Carnival time. In what utter shade
All other cities would be left! The trade
In music would all drift here naturally.
In his excitement he forgot his tea.
Lotta was forced to take his cup and put
It in his hand. But still he rattled on,
Sipping at intervals. The new catgut
Strings he was using gave out such a tone
The "Maestro" had remarked it, and had gone
Out of his way to praise him. Lotta smiled,
He was as happy as a little child.
From that day on, Herr Altgelt, more and more,
Absorbed himself in work. Lotta at first
Was patient and well-wishing. But it wore
Upon her when two weeks had brought no burst
Of loving from him. Then she feared the worst;
That his short interest in her was a light
Flared up an instant only in the night.
`Idomeneo' was the opera's name,
A name that poor Charlotta learnt to hate.
Herr Altgelt worked so hard he seldom came
Home for his tea, and it was very late,
Past midnight sometimes, when he knocked. His state
Was like a flabby orange whose crushed skin
Is thin with pulling, and all dented in.
He practised every morning and her heart
Followed his bow. But often she would sit,
While he was playing, quite withdrawn apart,
Absently fingering and touching it,
The locket, which now seemed to her a bit
Of some gone youth. His music drew her tears,
And through the notes he played, her dreading ears
Heard Heinrich's voice, saying he had not changed;
Beer merchants had no ecstasies to take
Their minds off love. So far her thoughts had ranged
Away from her stern vow, she chanced to take
Her way, one morning, quite by a mistake,
Along the street where Heinrich had his shop.
What harm to pass it since she should not stop!
It matters nothing how one day she met
Him on a bridge, and blushed, and hurried by.
Nor how the following week he stood to let
Her pass, the pavement narrowing suddenly.
How once he took her basket, and once he
Pulled back a rearing horse who might have struck
Her with his hoofs. It seemed the oddest luck
How many times their business took them each
Right to the other. Then at last he spoke,
But she would only nod, he got no speech
From her. Next time he treated it in joke,
And that so lightly that her vow she broke
And answered. So they drifted into seeing
Each other as before. There was no fleeing.
Christmas was over and the Carnival
Was very near, and tripping from each tongue
Was talk of the new opera. Each book-stall
Flaunted it out in bills, what airs were sung,
What singers hired. Pictures of the young
"Maestro" were for sale. The town was mad.
Only Charlotta felt depressed and sad.
Each day now brought a struggle 'twixt her will
And Heinrich's. 'Twixt her love for Theodore
And him. Sometimes she wished to kill
Herself to solve her problem. For a score
Of reasons Heinrich tempted her. He bore
Her moods with patience, and so surely urged
Himself upon her, she was slowly merged
Into his way of thinking, and to fly
With him seemed easy. But next morning would
The Stradivarius undo her mood.
Then she would realize that she must cleave
Always to Theodore. And she would try
To convince Heinrich she should never leave,
And afterwards she would go home and grieve.
All thought in Munich centered on the part
Of January when there would be given
`Idomeneo' by Wolfgang Mozart.
The twenty-ninth was fixed. And all seats, even
Those almost at the ceiling, which were driven
Behind the highest gallery, were sold.
The inches of the theatre went for gold.
Herr Altgelt was a shadow worn so thin
With work, he hardly printed black behind
The candle. He and his old violin
Made up one person. He was not unkind,
But dazed outside his playing, and the rind,
The pine and maple of his fiddle, guarded
A part of him which he had quite discarded.
It woke in the silence of frost-bright nights,
In little lights,
Like will-o'-the-wisps flickering, fluttering,
Here -- there --
Fading and lighting,
Together, asunder --
Till Lotta sat up in bed with wonder,
And the faint grey patch of the window shone
Upon her sitting there, alone.
For Theodore slept.
The twenty-eighth was last rehearsal day,
'Twas called for noon, so early morning meant
Herr Altgelt's only time in which to play
His part alone. Drawn like a monk who's spent
Himself in prayer and fasting, Theodore went
Into the kitchen, with a weary word
Of cheer to Lotta, careless if she heard.
Lotta heard more than his spoken word.
She heard the vibrating of strings and wood.
She was washing the dishes, her hands all suds,
When the sound began,
Long as the span
Of a white road snaking about a hill.
The orchards are filled
With cherry blossoms at butterfly poise.
Hawthorn buds are cracking,
And in the distance a shepherd is clacking
His shears, snip-snipping the wool from his sheep.
The notes are asleep,
Lying adrift on the air
In level lines
Like sunlight hanging in pines and pines,
Strung and threaded,
In the blue-green of the hazy pines.
Lines -- long, straight lines!
Long, straight stems
To the cup of blue, blue sky.
Stems growing misty
With the many of them,
Of the trees,
The back is maple and the belly is pine.
The rich notes twine
As though weaving in and out of leaves,
Flapping slowly like elephants' ears,
Waving and falling.
Another sound peers
Through little pine fingers,
And lingers, peeping.
Ping! Ping! pizzicato, something is cheeping.
There is a twittering up in the branches,
A chirp and a lilt,
And crimson atilt on a swaying twig.
And a little ruffled-out throat which sings.
The forest bends, tumultuous
The woodpecker knocks,
And the song-sparrow trills,
Every fir, and cedar, and yew
Has a nest or a bird,
It is quite absurd
To hear them cutting across each other:
Peewits, and thrushes, and larks, all at once,
And a loud cuckoo is trying to smother
A wood-pigeon perched on a birch,
"Roo -- coo -- oo -- oo --"
"Cuckoo! Cuckoo! That's one for you!"
A blackbird whistles, how sharp, how shrill!
And the great trees toss
And leaves blow down,
You can almost hear them splash on the ground.
The whistle again:
It is double and loud!
The leaves are splashing,
And water is dashing
Over those creepers, for they are shrouds;
And men are running up them to furl the sails,
For there is a capful of wind to-day,
And we are already well under way.
The deck is aslant in the bubbling breeze.
Oh, Dear, how you tease!"
And the boatswain's whistle sounds again,
And the men pull on the sheets:
"My name is Hanging Johnny,
They call me Hanging Johnny,
So hang, boys, hang."
The trees of the forest are masts, tall masts;
They are swinging over
Her and her lover.
Under the ballooning canvas,
Looking up in his eyes
As he bends farther over.
Theodore, still her lover!
The suds were dried upon Charlotta's hands,
She leant against the table for support,
Wholly forgotten. Theodore's eyes were brands
Burning upon his music. He stopped short.
Charlotta almost heard the sound of bands
Snapping. She put one hand up to her heart,
Her fingers touched the locket with a start.
Herr Altgelt put his violin away
Listlessly. "Lotta, I must have some rest.
The strain will be a hideous one to-day.
Don't speak to me at all. It will be best
If I am quiet till I go." And lest
She disobey, he left her. On the stairs
She heard his mounting steps. What use were prayers!
He could not hear, he was not there, for she
Was married to a mummy, a machine.
Her hand closed on the locket bitterly.
Before her, on a chair, lay the shagreen
Case of his violin. She saw the clean
Sun flash the open clasp. The locket's edge
Cut at her fingers like a pushing wedge.
A heavy cart went by, a distant bell
Chimed ten, the fire flickered in the grate.
She was alone. Her throat began to swell
With sobs. What kept her here, why should she wait?
The violin she had begun to hate
Lay in its case before her. Here she flung
The cover open. With the fiddle swung
Over her head, the hanging clock's loud ticking
Caught on her ear. 'Twas slow, and as she paused
The little door in it came open, flicking
A wooden cuckoo out: "Cuckoo!" It caused
The forest dream to come again. "Cuckoo!"
Smashed on the grate, the violin broke in two.
"Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" the clock kept striking on;
But no one listened. Frau Altgelt had gone.
A bullet through his heart at dawn. On the table a letter signed
with a woman's name. A wind that goes howling round the house,
and weeping as in shame. Cold November dawn peeping through the windows,
cold dawn creeping over the floor, creeping up his cold legs,
creeping over his cold body, creeping across his cold face.
A glaze of thin yellow sunlight on the staring eyes. Wind howling
through bent branches. A wind which never dies down. Howling, wailing.
The gazing eyes glitter in the sunlight. The lids are frozen open
and the eyes glitter.
The thudding of a pick on hard earth. A spade grinding and crunching.
Overhead, branches writhing, winding, interlacing, unwinding, scattering;
tortured twinings, tossings, creakings. Wind flinging branches apart,
drawing them together, whispering and whining among them. A waning,
lobsided moon cutting through black clouds. A stream of pebbles and earth
and the empty spade gleams clear in the moonlight, then is rammed again
into the black earth. Tramping of feet. Men and horses.
Squeaking of wheels.
"Whoa! Ready, Jim?"
Something falls, settles, is still. Suicides have no coffin.
"Give us the stake, Jim. Now."
"He'll never walk. Nailed to the ground."
An ash stick pierces his heart, if it buds the roots will hold him.
He is a part of the earth now, clay to clay. Overhead the branches sway,
and writhe, and twist in the wind. He'll never walk with a bullet
in his heart, and an ash stick nailing him to the cold, black ground.
Six months he lay still. Six months. And the water welled up in his body,
and soft blue spots chequered it. He lay still, for the ash stick
held him in place. Six months! Then her face came out of a mist of green.
Pink and white and frail like Dresden china, lilies-of-the-valley
at her breast, puce-coloured silk sheening about her. Under the young
green leaves, the horse at a foot-pace, the high yellow wheels of the chaise
scarcely turning, her face, rippling like grain a-blowing,
under her puce-coloured bonnet; and burning beside her, flaming within
his correct blue coat and brass buttons, is someone. What has dimmed the sun?
The horse steps on a rolling stone; a wind in the branches makes a moan.
The little leaves tremble and shake, turn and quake, over and over,
tearing their stems. There is a shower of young leaves,
and a sudden-sprung gale wails in the trees.
The yellow-wheeled chaise is rocking -- rocking, and all the branches
are knocking -- knocking. The sun in the sky is a flat, red plate,
the branches creak and grate. She screams and cowers, for the green foliage
is a lowering wave surging to smother her. But she sees nothing.
The stake holds firm. The body writhes, the body squirms.
The blue spots widen, the flesh tears, but the stake wears well
in the deep, black ground. It holds the body in the still, black ground.
Two years! The body has been in the ground two years. It is worn away;
it is clay to clay. Where the heart moulders, a greenish dust, the stake
is thrust. Late August it is, and night; a night flauntingly jewelled
with stars, a night of shooting stars and loud insect noises.
Down the road to Tilbury, silence -- and the slow flapping of large leaves.
Down the road to Sutton, silence -- and the darkness of heavy-foliaged trees.
Down the road to Wayfleet, silence -- and the whirring scrape of insects
in the branches. Down the road to Edgarstown, silence -- and stars like
stepping-stones in a pathway overhead. It is very quiet at the cross-roads,
and the sign-board points the way down the four roads, endlessly points
the way where nobody wishes to go.
A horse is galloping, galloping up from Sutton. Shaking the wide,
still leaves as he goes under them. Striking sparks with his iron shoes;
silencing the katydids. Dr. Morgan riding to a child-birth over Tilbury way;
riding to deliver a woman of her first-born son. One o'clock from
Wayfleet bell tower, what a shower of shooting stars! And a breeze
all of a sudden, jarring the big leaves and making them jerk up and down.
Dr. Morgan's hat is blown from his head, the horse swerves, and curves away
from the sign-post. An oath -- spurs -- a blurring of grey mist.
A quick left twist, and the gelding is snorting and racing
down the Tilbury road with the wind dropping away behind him.
The stake has wrenched, the stake has started, the body, flesh from flesh,
has parted. But the bones hold tight, socket and ball, and clamping them down
in the hard, black ground is the stake, wedged through ribs and spine.
The bones may twist, and heave, and twine, but the stake holds them still
in line. The breeze goes down, and the round stars shine, for the stake
holds the fleshless bones in line.
Twenty years now! Twenty long years! The body has powdered itself away;
it is clay to clay. It is brown earth mingled with brown earth. Only flaky
bones remain, lain together so long they fit, although not one bone is knit
to another. The stake is there too, rotted through, but upright still,
and still piercing down between ribs and spine in a straight line.
Yellow stillness is on the cross-roads, yellow stillness is on the trees.
The leaves hang drooping, wan. The four roads point four yellow ways,
saffron and gamboge ribbons to the gaze. A little swirl of dust
blows up Tilbury road, the wind which fans it has not strength to do more;
it ceases, and the dust settles down. A little whirl of wind
comes up Tilbury road. It brings a sound of wheels and feet.
The wind reels a moment and faints to nothing under the sign-post.
Wind again, wheels and feet louder. Wind again -- again -- again.
A drop of rain, flat into the dust. Drop! -- Drop! Thick heavy raindrops,
and a shrieking wind bending the great trees and wrenching off their leaves.
Under the black sky, bowed and dripping with rain, up Tilbury road,
comes the procession. A funeral procession, bound for the graveyard
at Wayfleet. Feet and wheels -- feet and wheels. And among them
one who is carried.
The bones in the deep, still earth shiver and pull. There is a quiver
through the rotted stake. Then stake and bones fall together
in a little puffing of dust.
Like meshes of linked steel the rain shuts down behind the procession,
now well along the Wayfleet road.
He wavers like smoke in the buffeting wind. His fingers blow out like smoke,
his head ripples in the gale. Under the sign-post, in the pouring rain,
he stands, and watches another quavering figure drifting down
the Wayfleet road. Then swiftly he streams after it. It flickers
among the trees. He licks out and winds about them. Over, under,
blown, contorted. Spindrift after spindrift; smoke following smoke.
There is a wailing through the trees, a wailing of fear,
and after it laughter -- laughter -- laughter, skirling up to the black sky.
Lightning jags over the funeral procession. A heavy clap of thunder.
Then darkness and rain, and the sound of feet and wheels.
A Roxbury Garden
Blue and pink sashes,
Minna and Stella run out into the garden
To play at hoop.
Up and down the garden-paths they race,
In the yellow sunshine,
Each with a big round hoop
White as a stripped willow-wand.
Round and round turn the hoops,
Their diamond whiteness cleaving the yellow sunshine.
The gravel crunches and squeaks beneath them,
And a large pebble springs them into the air
To go whirling for a foot or two
Before they touch the earth again
In a series of little jumps.
Spit out a shower of blue and white brightness.
The little criss-cross shoes twinkle behind you,
The pink and blue sashes flutter like flags,
The hoop-sticks are ready to beat you.
Turn, turn, Hoops! In the yellow sunshine.
Turn your stripped willow whiteness
Along the smooth paths.
"Round and round, rolls my hoop,
Scarcely touching the ground,
With a swoop,
And a bound,
Round and round.
With a bumpety, crunching, scattering sound,
Down the garden it flies;
In our eyes
The sun lies.
See it spin
Out and in;
Through the paths it goes whirling,
About the beds curling.
Sway now to the loop,
Faster, faster, my hoop.
Round you come,
Up you come,
Quick and straight as before.
Run, run, my hoop, run,
Away from the sun."
And the great hoop bounds along the path,
Leaping into the wind-bright air.
Twist and twine
Hoop of mine.
Right at the sun.
Run, hoop, run.
Faster and faster,
Wheel like fire,
And spin like glass;
Fire's no whiter
Glass is no brighter.
Over and over,
About and about,
With the top of you under,
And the bottom at top,
But never a stop.
Turn about, hoop, to the tap of my stick,
I follow behind you
To touch and remind you.
Burn and glitter, so white and quick,
Round and round, to the tap of a stick."
The hoop flies along between the flower-beds,
Swaying the flowers with the wind of its passing.
Beside the foxglove-border roll the hoops,
And the little pink and white bells shake and jingle
Up and down their tall spires;
They roll under the snow-ball bush,
And the ground behind them is strewn with white petals;
They swirl round a corner,
And jar a bee out of a Canterbury bell;
They cast their shadows for an instant
Over a bed of pansies,
Catch against the spurs of a columbine,
Jostle the quietness from a cluster of monk's-hood.
Pat! Pat! behind them come the little criss-cross shoes,
And the blue and pink sashes stream out in flappings of colour.
Faster bowl along,
Slow, to the turning,
Now go! -- Go!
Here's the stick.
Pat it, flap it.
Fly like a bird or a yellow-backed bee,
See how soon you can reach that tree.
Here is a path that is perfectly straight.
Roll along, hoop, or we shall be late."
"Trip about, slip about, whip about
Wheel like a top at its quickest spin,
Then, dear hoop, we shall surely win.
First to the greenhouse and then to the wall
Circle and circle,
And let the wind push you,
And not let you fall.
Whirring you round like a wreath of mist.
Tap! Tap! go the hoop-sticks,
And the hoops bowl along under a grape arbour.
For an instant their willow whiteness is green,
Then they are out in the sunshine,
Leaving the half-formed grape clusters
A-tremble under their big leaves.
"I will beat you, Minna," cries Stella,
Hitting her hoop smartly with her stick.
"Stella, Stella, we are winning," calls Minna,
As her hoop curves round a bed of clove-pinks.
A humming-bird whizzes past Stella's ear,
And two or three yellow-and-black butterflies
Flutter, startled, out of a pillar rose.
Round and round race the little girls
After their great white hoops.
Suddenly Minna stops.
Her hoop wavers an instant,
But she catches it up on her stick.
Both the little girls are listening;
And the scents of the garden rise up quietly about them.
"It's the chaise! It's Father!
Perhaps he's brought us a book from Boston."
Twinkle, twinkle, the little criss-cross shoes
Up the garden path.
Blue -- pink -- an instant, against the syringa hedge.
But the hoops, white as stripped willow-wands,
Lie in the grass,
And the grasshoppers jump back and forth
Battledore and Shuttlecock
The shuttlecock soars upward
In a parabola of whiteness,
And sinks to a perfect arc.
Plat! the battledore strikes it,
And it rises again,
Winged and curving,
Tracing its white flight
Against the clipped hemlock-trees.
Orange and sparkling with sun,
Rounding under the blue sky,
Fading to grey-green
In the shadow of the coned hemlocks.
"Ninety-one." "Ninety-two." "Ninety-three."
The arms of the little girls
Come up -- and up --
Like mechanical toys.
The battledores beat at nothing,
And toss the dazzle of snow
Off their parchment drums.
Back and forth
Goes the shuttlecock,
Leaping at the sharp-edged clouds,
Tinctured with pink
From the upthrusting shine
Of Oriental poppies.
The little girls sway to the counting rhythm;
Yellow heat twines round the handles of the battledores,
The parchment cracks with dryness;
But the shuttlecock
Swings slowly into the ice-blue sky,
Heaving up on the warm air
Like a foam-bubble on a wave,
With feathers slanted and sustaining.
Until the earth turns beneath it;
Poised and swinging,
With all the garden flowing beneath it,
Scarlet, and blue, and purple, and white --
Blurred colour reflections in rippled water --
Changing -- streaming --
For the moment that Stella takes to lift her arm.
Then the shuttlecock relinquishes,
And the sharp blue spears of the air
Thrust it to earth.
Again it mounts,
Stepping up on the rising scents of flowers,
Buoyed up and under by the shining heat.
Above the foxgloves,
Above the guelder-roses,
Above the greenhouse glitter,
Till the shafts of cooler air
Past the greenhouse,
Past the guelder-rose bush,
Past the foxgloves.
"Ninety-nine," Stella's battledore springs to the impact.
Plunk! Like the snap of a taut string.
The shuttlecock drops zigzagedly,
Out of orbit,
Hits the path,
And rolls over quite still.
Dead white feathers,
With a weight at the end.
The tall clock is striking twelve;
And the little girls stop in the hall to watch it,
And the big ships rocking in a half-circle
Above the dial.
Down the side steps
Go the little girls,
Under their big round straw hats.
Minna's has a pink ribbon,
Stella's a blue,
That is the way they know which is which.
An hour yet before dinner.
Mother is busy in the still-room,
And Hannah is making gingerbread.
Slowly, with lagging steps,
They follow the garden-path,
Crushing a leaf of box for its acrid smell,
Discussing what they shall do,
And doing nothing.
"Stella, see that grasshopper
Climbing up the bank!
What a jump!
Almost as long as my arm."
Run, children, run.
For the grasshopper is leaping away,
In half-circle curves,
Over the grasses.
Hand in hand, the little girls call to him:
"Grandfather, grandfather gray,
Give me molasses, or I'll throw you away."
The grasshopper leaps into the sunlight,
And is gone.
"Let's catch a bee."
Round whirl the little girls,
And up the garden.
Two heads are thrust among the Canterbury bells,
And fingers clasp and unclasp behind backs
In a strain of silence.
Hollow and reflexed.
Deep tunnels of blue and white dimness,
Cool wine-tunnels for bees.
There is a floundering and buzzing over Minna's head.
"Bend it down, Stella. Quick! Quick!"
The wide mouth of a blossom
Is pressed together in Minna's fingers.
The stem flies up, jiggling its flower-bells,
And Minna holds the dark blue cup in her hand,
With the bee
Imprisoned in it.
Whirr! Buzz! Bump!
Bump! Whiz! Bang!
The blue flower tears across like paper,
And a gold-black bee darts away in the sunshine.
"If we could fly, we could catch him."
The sunshine is hot on Stella's upturned face,
As she stares after the bee.
"We'll follow him in a dove chariot.
Come on, Stella."
Along the red gravel paths,
For a bee is hard to catch,
Even with a chariot of doves.
Tall, still, and cowled,
Stand the monk's-hoods;
Taller than the heads of the little girls.
A blossom for Minna.
A blossom for Stella.
Off comes the cowl,
And there is a purple-painted chariot;
Off comes the forward petal,
And there are two little green doves,
With green traces tying them to the chariot.
"Now we will get in, and fly right up to the clouds.
Fly, Doves, up in the sky,
With Minna and me,
After the bee."
Up one path,
Run the little girls,
Holding their dove chariots in front of them;
But the bee is hidden in the trumpet of a honeysuckle,
With his wings folded along his back.
The dove chariots are thrown away,
And the little girls wander slowly through the garden,
Sucking the salvia tips,
And squeezing the snapdragons
To make them gape.
"I'm so hot,
Let's pick a pansy
And see the little man in his bath,
And play we're he."
A royal bath-tub,
Hung with purple stuffs and yellow.
The great purple-yellow wings
Rise up behind the little red and green man;
The purple-yellow wings fan him,
He dabbles his feet in cool green.
Off with the green sheath,
And there are two spindly legs.
"Heigho!" sighs Minna.
"Heigho!" sighs Stella.
There is not a flutter of wind,
And the sun is directly overhead.
Along the edge of the garden
Walk the little girls.
Their hats, round and yellow like cheeses,
Are dangling by the ribbons.
The grass is a tumult of buttercups and daisies;
Buttercups and daisies streaming away
Up the hill.
The garden is purple, and pink, and orange, and scarlet;
The garden is hot with colours.
But the meadow is only yellow, and white, and green,
Cool, and long, and quiet.
The little girls pick buttercups
And hold them under each other's chins.
"You're as gold as Grandfather's snuff-box.
You're going to be very rich, Minna."
"Oh-o-o! Then I'll ask my husband to give me a pair of garnet earrings
Just like Aunt Nancy's.
I wonder if he will.
I know. We'll tell fortunes.
That's what we'll do."
Plump down in the meadow grass,
Stella and Minna,
With their round yellow hats,
"One I love,
Two I love,
Three I love I say . . ."
The ground is peppered with daisy petals,
And the little girls nibble the golden centres,
And play it is cake.
A bell rings.
And after dinner there are lessons.
The Trumpet-Vine Arbour
The throats of the little red trumpet-flowers are wide open,
And the clangour of brass beats against the hot sunlight.
They bray and blare at the burning sky.
Red! Red! Coarse notes of red,
Trumpeted at the blue sky.
In long streaks of sound, molten metal,
The vine declares itself.
Clang! -- from its red and yellow trumpets.
Clang! -- from its long, nasal trumpets,
Splitting the sunlight into ribbons, tattered and shot with noise.
I sit in the cool arbour, in a green-and-gold twilight.
It is very still, for I cannot hear the trumpets,
I only know that they are red and open,
And that the sun above the arbour shakes with heat.
My quill is newly mended,
And makes fine-drawn lines with its point.
Down the long, white paper it makes little lines,
Just lines -- up -- down -- criss-cross.
My heart is strained out at the pin-point of my quill;
It is thin and writhing like the marks of the pen.
My hand marches to a squeaky tune,
It marches down the paper to a squealing of fifes.
My pen and the trumpet-flowers,
And Washington's armies away over the smoke-tree to the Southwest.
"Yankee Doodle," my Darling! It is you against the British,
Marching in your ragged shoes to batter down King George.
What have you got in your hat? Not a feather, I wager.
Just a hay-straw, for it is the harvest you are fighting for.
Hay in your hat, and the whites of their eyes for a target!
Like Bunker Hill, two years ago, when I watched all day from the house-top
Through Father's spy-glass.
The red city, and the blue, bright water,
And puffs of smoke which you made.
Twenty miles away,
Round by Cambridge, or over the Neck,
But the smoke was white -- white!
To-day the trumpet-flowers are red -- red --
And I cannot see you fighting,
But old Mr. Dimond has fled to Canada,
And Myra sings "Yankee Doodle" at her milking.
The red throats of the trumpets bray and clang in the sunshine,
And the smoke-tree puffs dun blossoms into the blue air.
The City of Falling Leaves
Yellow leaves streaked with brown.
The brown leaves,
And the streaked yellow leaves,
Loosen on their branches
And drift slowly downwards.
One, two, three,
One, two, five.
All Venice is a falling of Autumn leaves --
And yellow streaked with brown.
"That sonnet, Abate,
I am quite exhausted by it.
Your phrases turn about my heart
And stifle me to swooning.
Open the window, I beg.
Lord! What a strumming of fiddles and mandolins!
'Tis really a shame to stop indoors.
Call my maid, or I will make you lace me yourself.
Fie, how hot it is, not a breath of air!
See how straight the leaves are falling.
Marianna, I will have the yellow satin caught up with silver fringe,
It peeps out delightfully from under a mantle.
Am I well painted to-day, `caro Abate mio'?
You will be proud of me at the `Ridotto', hey?
Proud of being `Cavalier Servente' to such a lady?"
"Can you doubt it, `Bellissima Contessa'?
A pinch more rouge on the right cheek,
And Venus herself shines less . . ."
"You bore me, Abate,
I vow I must change you!
A letter, Achmet?
Run and look out of the window, Abate.
I will read my letter in peace."
The little black slave with the yellow satin turban
Gazes at his mistress with strained eyes.
His yellow turban and black skin
Are gorgeous -- barbaric.
The yellow satin dress with its silver flashings
Lies on a chair
Beside a black mantle and a black mask.
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The lady reads her letter,
And the leaves drift slowly
Past the long windows.
"How silly you look, my dear Abate,
With that great brown leaf in your wig.
Pluck it off, I beg you,
Or I shall die of laughing."
A yellow wall
Aflare in the sunlight,
Chequered with shadows,
Shadows of vine leaves,
Shadows of masks.
Masks coming, printing themselves for an instant,
Then passing on,
More masks always replacing them.
Masks with tricorns and rapiers sticking out behind
Pursuing masks with plumes and high heels,
The sunlight shining under their insteps.
One, two, three,
There is a thronging of shadows on the hot wall,
Filigreed at the top with moving leaves.
Yellow sunlight and black shadows,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
Two masks stand together,
And the shadow of a leaf falls through them,
Marking the wall where they are not.
From hat-tip to shoulder-tip,
From elbow to sword-hilt,
The leaf falls.
The shadows mingle,
Slide along the wall and disappear.
Gold of mosaics and candles,
And night blackness lurking in the ceiling beams.
Saint Mark's glitters with flames and reflections.
A cloak brushes aside,
And the yellow of satin
Licks out over the coloured inlays of the pavement.
Under the gold crucifixes
There is a meeting of hands
Reaching from black mantles.
Sighing embraces, bold investigations,
Hide in confessionals,
Sheltered by the shuffling of feet.
Gorgeous -- barbaric
In its mail of jewels and gold,
Saint Mark's looks down at the swarm of black masks;
And outside in the palace gardens brown leaves fall,
And yellow streaked with brown.
Blue-black, the sky over Venice,
With a pricking of yellow stars.
There is no moon,
And the waves push darkly against the prow
Of the gondola,
Coming from Malamocco
And streaming toward Venice.
It is black under the gondola hood,
But the yellow of a satin dress
Glares out like the eye of a watching tiger.
Yellow compassed about with darkness,
Yellow and black,
Gorgeous -- barbaric.
The boatman sings,
It is Tasso that he sings;
The lovers seek each other beneath their mantles,
And the gondola drifts over the lagoon, aslant to the coming dawn.
But at Malamocco in front,
In Venice behind,
Fall the leaves,
And yellow streaked with brown.