THE large moon smoulders on the misty hills;
A chill wind gathers through the desolate garth ;
And, driven in moody spasms, the wet leaves wheel,
Or, batlike, cling against the casement pane.
Upon the hearth the pine log’s dying fire
Leaps up anon in eager flash of flames,
Stirred by the passing of the night’s wild sounds,
While from the ashes comes a burring note,
Continuous; an azure coil of smoke
Lies charmed in sleep, dispelling from its dreams
Warm memories of the balsam-breathing woods;
Athwart the walls the shadows, hand in hand,
Swirl in the measure of a mystic dance, —
I gazing in the fire ; when through the flames
A gradual vision shows.
Upon one knee
She crouches ’mid the ashes, a young hand
Upraised against her ear which strains to catch
The sounds shrilling without, the other held
Unto the heaving beauty of her breast ;
Along her shoulder falls her hair, cone-crowned,
In color flamelike; deep as dusky glens
Her lifted eyes, and full of mortal pain.
She, kneeling, listens; then her languid lips
Sigh forth the music of entreating words :
“ Is it thy voice, O North Wind, that I hear?
My spirit from some darkened swoon awakes
At thy bleak calling, O my love of old!
Is ’t I whom, through the hollow-stretching night,
Thou seekest, wanderer, with impatient arms,
With voicings of despair on finding not ?
O North Wind, is it I, thy love of old?
Too long, too long, perchance, hath fateful night
Enthralled my sense, since that dread hour I felt
The mortal anguish of successive blow
Cleave through my bark, until with utter pain
My being failed me ! Lo, from sleep I wake,
O Wind Love, yearning for thy clasping arms.
“ My soul is full of visions ! All the past
Presses its joys against my falling lids :
I see again the gloomed and dreary wood;
The stars that watched our covert of content,
Where waited I thy passage and return,
Where mourned thee ’mid the verdant break of spring.
Oh, sore to me the blush of budding leaves, —
The world’s awakening tore thee from my arms ;
Sombre with weeds of my worn widowhood,
My sighings hushed the robin’s thrill of joy.
Haunted was I by soul of alien seas,
Of roaring forelands and wave-whitened strands,
Where thou didst wander ; with my boughs I breathed
Deceits of ocean sound to lure the gull
And straying sea-fowl, and from them I gleaned
Hope’s tiding-word.
“ Thus dreamful of frore days,
I thrilled and waited through the summer suns,
Cheered by the gradual signs of thy approach.
Reared high upon the mountain’s cragged steep,
I leaned, and heard the awful prophecies
Of gathering storms search through the wasting vales,
Where fell the leaves aflame with phantom fears
Of winter’s coming dearth ; while lightnings reeled
And vanished into far, abysmal darks.
Faint grew my soul with love’s foreshadowing bliss !
The wonder-spirit of thy blest return
Flitted with feet snow-shod along the air,
And thou wert come! With spoil of boreal realm
(The jagged brilliants of the pendent ice,
Wrought of sea-spells and frost’s hoar wizardry)
Decking my gloomèd branches like a bride !
O Wind ! hast thou forgot thy love of old ?
“ Lo, now my being from these gyves of flame
Is loosening! And to thee and thy dear arms
My shade prepares to mount. Oh, flee not, Love! ”
Upon her pleading eyes the wan lids droop,
And through her lips escapes a lingering sigh ;
From flushing hues to gradual change of death,
The vision fades and slowly melts away :
A wreath of smoke drifts upward from the hearth ;
The flaking ashes lie, gray, desolate —
One last spark breaks, burns redly, and is gone.
Edward A. Uffington Valentine.