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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein


    The cuckoo-sorrel paints with pink
    The green page of the meadow-land
    Around a pool where thrushes drink
    As from a hollowed hand.
    A hill, long-haired with leathered grass
    Combed by the strong incessant wind,
    Looks down upon the pool's pale glass
    Like some old hag gone blind,
    And on a forest grey of beech,
    Reserved, mysterious, deep and wild,
    That whispers to itself; its speech
    Like some old man's turned child.

    A forest, through which something speaks
    Authoritative things to man,
    A something that o'erawed the Greeks,
    The universal Pan.
    And through the forest falls a stream
    Babbling of immemorial things
    The myth, that haunts it like a dream,
    The god, that in it sings.

    And here it was, when I was young,
    Across this meadow, sorrel-stained,
    To this green place where willows wrung
    Wild hands, and beech-trees strained
    Their mighty strength with winds of spring,
    That clutched and tore the wild-witch hair
    Of yon gaunt hill, I heard them sing,
    The hylas hidden there.

    The slant gale played soft fugues of rain,
    With interludes of sun between,
    Where windflowers wove a twinkling chain
    Through mosses grey and green.
    From every coign of woodland peered
    The starry eyes of Loveliness,
    As reticently now she neared
    Or stood in shy distress.

    Then I remembered all the past
    The ancient ships, the unknown seas;
    And him, like some huge, knotted mast,
    My master Herakles.
    Again I saw the port, the wood
    Of Cyzicus; the landing there;
    The pool among the reeds; and, nude,
    The nymphs with long green hair,
    That swarmed to clasp me when I stooped
    To that grey pool as clear as glass,
    And round my body wrapped and looped
    Their hair, like water-grass.

    Hylas, the Argonaut, the lad
    Beloved of Herakles, was I
    Again with joy my heart grew sad,
    Dreaming on days gone by.
    Again I felt the drowning pain,
    The kiss that slew me long ago;
    The dripping arms drew down again,
    And love cried all its woe.

    The new world vanished! 'Twas the old.
    Once more I knew the Mysian shore,
    The haunted pool, the wood, the cold
    Wild wind from sea and moor.
    And then a voice went by; 'twas his,
    The Demigod's who sought me: but
    Cold mouths had closed mine with a kiss
    And both mine eyes were shut....

    And had the hylas ceased to sing?
    Or what? For, lo! I stood again
    Between the hill and wood; and Spring
    Gazed at me through the rain.
    And in her gaze I seemed to see
    This was a dream she'd dreamed, not I;
    A figment of a memory
    That I had felt go by.

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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