The Yellow Girl

In this island [Hispaniola] are certain glow worms that shine in the night , as doe ours . . . but give a greater light , so much that when the man of the Iland goe any journeys in the night, they beare some of these wormes made fast about their feet and head, in such sort that he should see them afarre. By the light of these also , the women worke in their houses in the night. —GONZALO DE ORVIEDO

Once the Reverend Thomas Glover,
In the prow of his boat drifting
O’er a sea as clear as tropic
Air, read from the Holy Book
By the light of a small worm.
(All the heavens and God’s fire
Revealed through a small worm’s desire.)
A skeleton lying on the sand
(Like the gold-dark skeleton of the sun)
That shipwrecked sailor sighing said:
“The leaf-dark King of Aragon
Sent me as Ambassador
To the Sultan of Great Babylon
Over the sea (a world of leaves)
But I was wrecked upon Time’s sands
And in the isle of my Yellow Girl
I died of the Yellow’ Fever, O!
For she was brighter than the gold
That falls from the leaves of Hispaniola;
A bouquet of the yellow stars,
Her mouth . . . Her voice like moonlight, or
Fhe voice of the sea-sorrow, told
Me ‘Wander not — I love thee!’ So
I slept with that yellow moonlight, and
I died of the Yellow Fever, O!
Some men turn skeletons for gold,
And some for love of the horizons;
Or because Truth, a water-lady
As inconstant as the wave,
Rose from the depths of the tropic sea
And lured them to her siren cave.
But at the last, all things are one:
Gold, Truth, and the skeleton of the sun
When we alone are lying.
My girl was lovely as Idleness,
But Shadow now, the giantess
(Dark Africa as calm as palm trees), is
My sole companion.
Grave sir, you preach with book and bell
Against the Yellow Girl, the moonlight
I had thought was day . . .
And yet, despise not the poor clay:
Do you not read the Holy Book
By the despised small worm’s light —
All the heavens and God’s fire
All the Spirit’s storm
Revealed through a small worm’s desire?”