The Maskers

YESTERNIGHT, as late I strayed
Through the orchard’s mottled shade, —
Coming to the moonlit alleys,
Where the sweet Southwind, that dallies
All day with the Queen of Roses,
All night on her breast reposes, —
Drinking from the dewy blooms,
Silences, and scented glooms
Of the warm-breathed summer night,
Long, deep draughts of pure delight, —
Quick the shaken foliage parted,
And from out its shadows darted
Dwarf-like forms, with hideous faces,
Cries, contortions, and grimaces.
Still I stood beneath the lonely,
Sighing lilacs, saying only, —
“ Little friends, you can’t alarm me ;
Well I know you would not harm me! ”
Straightway dropped each painted mask,
Sword of lath, and paper casque,
And a troop of rosy girls
Ran and kissed me through their curls.
Caught within their net of graces,
I looked round on shining faces.
Sweetly through the moonlit alleys
Rang their laughter’s silver sallies.
Then along the pathway, light
With the white bloom of the night,
I went peaceful, pacing slow,
Captive held in arms of snow.
Happy maids ! of you I learn
Heavenly makers to discern !
So, when seeming griefs and harms
Fill life’s garden with alarms,
Through its inner walks enchanted
I will ever move undaunted.
Love hath messengers that borrow
Tragic masks of fear and sorrow,
When they come to do us kindness, —
And but for our tears and blindness,
We should see, through each disguise,
Cherub cheeks and angel eyes.