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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein

La Beale Isoud


With bloodshot eyes the morning rose
 Upon a world of gloom and tears;
A kindred glance queen Isoud shows -
 Come night, come morn, cease not her fears.
The fog-clouds whiten all the vale,
 The sunlight draws them to its love;
The diamond dews wash ev'ry dale,
 Where bays the hunt within the grove.
Her lute - the one her touch he taught
 To wake beneath the stars a song
Of swan-caught music - is as naught
 And on yon damask lounge is flung.
Down o'er her cheeks her hair she draws
 In golden rays 'twixt lily tips,
And gazes sad on gloomy shaws
 'Neath which had often touched their lips.


With irised eyes, from morn to noon.
 And noon to middle night she stoops
From her high lattice 'neath the moon,
 Hoping to see him 'mid the groups
Of mail-swathed braves come jingling by.
 And once there came a dame in weft
All pearl besprent, as when the sky
 A springtide day hath wept and left
A stormy eve one flash of gems.
"'Mid neatherds he's a naked waif
 Unwitted," said she, lipping scorn:
And shook deep curls with a weak laugh
 Tib clinked the gold thick in them worn.


"How long to wait!" and far she bent
 From her tall casement toward the lawn;
A prospect of a wide extent
 Glassed in her eyes and hateful shown.
Along the white lake windy crags
 Blue with coarse brakes and ragged pines;
A bandit keep with trembling flags;
 And barren scars, and waste marsh lines,
And now a palfried dame and knight.
Deep deer-behaunted forests old,
 Whose sinewy boughs dark blocked the cave
Of Heav'n o'er Earth; a blasted hold
 'Mid livid fields; a torrent's wave.
And o'er the bridge whose marble arched
 The torrent's foam, dim in the dew
Of morning, one all glimmering marched
 In glittering steel from helm to shoe,
With lance whose fang smote back the dawn.


Selled on a barb whose trappings shone
 Red brass, - a morning star of jousts
Upon the dawning beaming lone
 Burst from the hills' empurpled crusts.
A lying star, whose double tongue
 Was slave to gold: "I saw him die! -
'Tis ruth, for he was brave and young, -
 I saw him in the close clay lie."
Then passed he rattling from the court....
So grief in furrows ploughed her front's
 Smooth surface wan, and toward the eve, -
The bloodshot eve upon the mounts,
 Who o'er day's flow'ry bier did grieve
And bow her melancholy star, -
 O'er teenful eyes she bent the light
Of her crown-crescent's gem, and far
 She lingered till the full-mooned night
Showered ripple-stars the gray mere o'er.


"And I'm like her who trims a flame
 Of sickly color, bowing low
To balk the wind; in wanton game
 One stoops in secret toward her brow
With wind-bulged cheeks, a quick breath sends -
 And then the world is blind with gloom,
And filled with phantoms and with fiends,
 That strain huge eyes and jibe her doom."
Thus thought Isoud in her despair,
Of Launcelot then thoughts grew on,
 And Arthur's lovely queen away
In castled courts of Caerleon,
 And all their joy and dalliance gay.
Until she could have thawed the spars
 Of her clear-fountained eyes to tears,
And gush wild grief long-seared by wars
 Of passionate anguish and great fears:
"Oh Tristram gone! oh death in life!"
Soft down below in the thick dark
 A fountain throbbed monotonous foam,
Unseen within the starlit park,
 Deep in the tower's shadowed dome.
"And thus my heart drums frigid life
 In hateful gloom of fear and woe!
One flood of sorrow, cataract-rife,
 My full-flush heart streams come and go
Since Tristram's gone and I'm alone!"


Then sunk the moon, and far away,
 Beside the bickering lake, the towers
Of bandit braves shone tall and gray,
 Like specters in her lonely hours.
And 'twixt the nodding grove and lake
 A glimmering fawn stalked thro' the night;
And with full brow the musks did take,
 Then bowed to drink - she veiled her sight
And moaning said, "Death is but life!
The fawn 'mid lilies from the mere
 Sucks genial draughts to dull its thirsts;
O fondest spirit, art thou near?
 Draw to thy soul this soul that bursts!
The vivid lilies to the stars
 Clasp their white eyes and sink to sleep:
O anguish, to thy burning wars
 Lock my sad heart and drag it deep!" -
Albeit she slept, she dreamed in grief.

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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