Dream of the Pastoral Poet



THROUGH leaf-waves lapping warm against the sky
Sunlight in gold
And rose flakes down, and forms upon his eye-
Lids’ screen a frenzied fierce harlequinade
Of fire and shade,
An ecstasy of color, quick and bold.
oh look
Leaf lazy, drunk with sun,
He is a shell to hold the sound of doves;
Heavy as ripening grain, and half undone
By summer’s kindness. Pan pipes, pastoral loves
Curvet and court through green caves of his mind,
Where, echoing and blind.
The murmurous summer sounds her undertones,
Making shrill flutes of his harmonious bones.
In what strange land does he imagine now
His wings fold down ?
In the loud world behind that sun-flecked brow
What angry music do the bees awake?
What kingdoms make?
What palace springs now in what bright-spired town?


Oh in what land have I fallen? In what land
Has the light dream lifted and left me? Here all trees
Are turned to mist and all leaves burn; here stand
No stable things, but all, like fire, like sand
Hot through the fingers falling, lives in change,
All birth now ruinous, all death all new.
Where have I fallen? Here the harsh crows range
The pastures where I piped my lambs. Here dew
Freezes on tender leaves, and kills; and flowers
In bud like teeth snarl from the grass.
Oh where,
Where vanished are my flocks, my arching bowers?
How lost the gentle sloth of summer air?


But suddenly, by a spontaneous charm
All earth grows quick, and round him blossoming
Rise tall arcades of lilac, chestnut, palm—
Where, most serene, a gold-spiked unicorn
Cools his heraldic muzzle in a spring.
But what is all this wonder? And his eyes
Go down the fragrant avenue to find
The Negress who comes hunting. And she goes
Gay in farthingale of gentlest rose,
And always on before her, on a band
Of scarlet satin, silently, the sleek
Black panther pads, whose eyes are green as moss
Above his wreath of orchids. And the quick
Glance finds the ivory stallion, swings back
And sees the mistress smiling. Dark hands loose
The slender tether, dark eyes burning watch
The restless stalking of the cat. But now
The white beast by the water turns and marks
The black and sinuous death that treads the grass,
And golden eyes take fire from the panther’s glow.
Oh bright triumphant mane! Oh blinding hoofs!
Black springing death finds death in a golden horn:
But springs again, springs, clings, claws crimson grooves
In the illustrious hide — and nothing moves
But these protagonists in all the watching world.
There should have been a cry of hunting horns
To celebrate the fall of two so rich
In blood; but all is silence as the twins
Of death embrace and fall to earth, unmourned,
The great cat dark on the neck like a ruined arch.
And only he, the dreamer, goes to them,
Lamenting in the anger of his loss
The torn side of the cat, the blood that runs
Over the marble peace of the unicorn
Once white and golden, sweet as orange flowers.


Watching the lilac blooms that light upon
Their death like moths, but do not rise again,
He hears her secret laughing; and he turns,
Angry, and yet afraid, and cries: “Madame—”
Her words are meshed in laughter, but they come
(In elegant bad French) most sharp, most clear —
Wonder and pain intrinsic in her tone —
Vous m’avez trop enjolivée, Seigneur.”
Drawn by earth’s darkness deepest in her eyes,
In fear he comes to her, in fear falls down,
Kneels to her secrets, even lifts to kiss
The fire-dark hand whose nails reek carrion.
Now from her girdle she has drawn a rose
And offers it to him; but in her hand
All the soft petals fall, the green hip grows
Pregnant as if with autumn, thick and gold —
“But do not think,” she whispers, “this my gift
Unbeautiful,” and fires it with her breath;
“Even now the timeless buds begin to swell,
And realms of roses in this bursting shell
Unborn grow great, and feed upon your death.”