LOVE called me like a beacon on a hill,
With all the flickering odors of the dark,
And the sharp spurt of fireflies, spark on spark,
And beckoning glimmer of the window-sill;
Low, like his arms, the skyward branches came,
Outlined in down of flame.
I dug my face in leaves. The hovering tree
Laid his swift hands on me,
His careless, thousand-fingered, merciful touch.
The wind that wearied him from side to side
Washed through me like a tide,
And led me past the taloned shadows’ clutch
Where the slow swamp lies ambushed to the South.
My feet took hold on their accustomed trace.
And lo, at last I guessed Love’s secret face
And the forbidden kisses of his mouth.
Like a cold knife lay on my throat the dew,
Leaves on my lids, and on my slackening heart
The silence, beating like another heart.
Less and less near the need of living grew.
The weary night dragged like a tale of years
Her tense, unresting planets overhead;
The keen grass murmured of the happy dead
That never know its rustling in their ears.
Through the desirous grass my will might seep,
Delicious, irresponsible as tears.
Love, the great lover, my submission bore
Surely to some good ending, safe and deep;
Dead Love, that giveth his beloved sleep —
He that hath nothing better, nothing more.
Almost I slipped my hand in his to go;
When lo, a little dawn-wind like a child
Came singing, and the feathery rushes piled
Their plumes together singing. To and fro
The gray veils of the cloistered moss bowed low
In endless adoration. Lines of white
On Gothic brambles, truculent and wild,
And roots like cunning carvings of delight
Breathed out, because the very dawn had smiled,
Seeing the miracle of the swamp in spring;
The sacred, seven-veiled lustre of the light
Walked on the water, kindling ring on ring.
The water broke in irised arc and shoal —
Green snakes with touches exquisite and long;
More rhythmic than the fresh-of-morning song,
The mocking-bird jets spattering from the brake.
Like some squat Eastern god, macabre, droll,
The alligator shot a silvery wake.
Small outcast creatures quavered into sight
Through elf-lock tangles of the lily-stem,
And pelted me with childish gifts of seeds
Until I noticed them,
The wonderful, the holy little weeds.
Gnats woke the air to fluting spray of gold.
The buzzard floated with an angel’s flight
On motionless wide wings,
Effortless, far above our windy strife. —
For God, being God, who said, ‘Let there be Light,’
Cannot at all withhold
Some beauty from abominable things,
Some good from life, yea, even from my life.
Death called me like a beacon on a hill,
But smokily, as wood-fires dim and drowse
In sunshine when the early wind is still —
I lit the patient hearth-fire in the house.