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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Vine and Sycamore


Here where a tree and its wild liana,
Leaning over the streamlet, grow,
Once a nymph, like the moon'd Diana,
Sat in the ages long ago.
Sat with a mortal. with whom she had mated,
Sat and laughed with a mortal youth,
Ere he of the forest, the god who hated,
Saw and changed to a form uncouth....


Once in the woods she had heard a shepherd,
Heard a reed in a golden glade;
Followed, and clad in the skin of a leopard,
Found him fluting within the shade.
Found him sitting with bare brown shoulder,
Lithe and strong as a sapling oak,
And leaning over a mossy boulder,
Love in her wildwood heart awoke.


White she was as a dogwood flower,
Pinkly white as a wild-crab bloom,
Sweetly white as a hawtree bower
Full of dew and the May's perfume.
He who saw her above him burning,
Beautiful, naked, in light arrayed,
Deemed her Diana, and from her turning,
Leapt to his feet and fled afraid.


Far she followed and called and pleaded,
Ever he fled with never a look;
Fled, till he came to this spot, deep-reeded,
Came to the bank of this forest brook.
Here for a moment he stopped and listened,
Heard in her voice her heart's despair,
Saw in her eyes the love that glistened,
Sank on her-bosom and rested there.


Close to her beauty she strained and pressed him,
Held and bound him with kiss on kiss;
Soft with her arms and her lips caressed him,
Sweeter of touch than a blossom is.
Spoke to his heart, and with sweet persuasion
Mastered his soul till its fear was flown;
Spoke to his soul till its mortal evasion
Vanished, and body and soul were her own.


Many a day had they met and mated,
Many a day by this woodland brook,
When he of the forest, the god who hated,
Came on their love and changed with a look.
There on the shore, while they joyed and jested,
He in the shadows, unseen, espied
Her, like the goddess Diana breasted,
Him, like Endymion by her side.


Lo! at a word, at a sign, their folded
Limbs and bodies assumed new form,
Hers to the shape of a tree were molded,
His to a vine with surrounding arm....
So they stand with their limbs enlacing,
Nymph and mortal, upon this shore,
He forever a vine embracing
Her a silvery sycamore.

Madison Julius Cawein

Madison Julius Cawein's other poems:
  1. The Wood God
  2. Poe
  3. Dogtown
  4. Love's Calendar
  5. Fall

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