SCARCELY sixteen years old
Is Pepita ! (You understand,
A breath of this sunny land
Turns green fruit into gold:
A maiden’s conscious blood
In the cheek of girlhood glows;
A bud slips into a rose
Before it is quite a bud!)
And I in Seville, —sedate,
An American, with an eye
For that strip of indigo sky
Half-glimpsed through a Moorish gate, —
I see her, sitting up there,
With tortoise-shell comb and fan;
Red-lipped, but a trifle wan,
Because of her coal-black hair ;
And the hair a trifle dull,
Because of the eyes beneath,
And the radiance of her teeth
When her smile is at its full !
Against the balcony rail
She leans, and looks on the street ;
Her lashes, long and discreet,
Shading her eyes like a veil.
Held by a silver dart,
The mantilla’s delicate lace
Falls each side of her face
And crosswise over her heart.
This is Pepita, — this
Her hour for taking her ease:
A lover under the trees
In the calle were not amiss!
Well, I must needs pass by,
With a furtive glance, be it said,
At the dusk Murillo head
And the Andalusian eye !
In the Plaza I hear the sounds
Of guitar and castanet;
Although it is early yet,
The dancers are on their rounds.
Softly the sunlight falls
On the slim Giralda tower,
That now peals forth the hour
O’er broken ramparts and walls !
Ah, what glory and gloom
In this Arab-Spanish town !
What masonry, golden-brown,
And hung with tendril and bloom!
Place of forgotten kings ! —
With fountains that never play,
And gardens where day by day
The lonely cicada sings !
Traces are everywhere
Of the dusky race that came,
And passed, like a sudden flame,
Leaving their sighs in the air!
Taken with things like these,
Pepita fades out of my mind :
Pleasure enough I find
In Moorish column and frieze.
And yet I have my fears,
If this had been long ago,
I might—well, I do not know —
She with her sixteen years!
Thomas Bailey Aldrich.