THE IVORY CRADLE
The cradle I have made for thee
Is carved of orient ivory,
And curtained round with wavy silk
More white than hawthorn-bloom or milk.
A twig of box, a lilac spray,
Will drive the goblin-horde away;
And charm thy childlike heart to keep
Her happy dream and virgin sleep.
Within that pure and fragrant nest,
I’ll rock thy gentle soul to rest,
With tender songs we need not fear
To have a passing angel hear.
Ah, long and long I fain would hold
The snowy curtain’s guardian fold
Around thy crystal visions, born
In clearness of the early morn.
But look, the sun is glowing red
With triumph in his golden bed;
Aurora’s virgin whiteness dies
In crimson glory of the skies.
The rapid flame will burn its way
Through these white curtains, too, one day;
The ivory cradle will be left
Undone, and broken, and bereft.
Often I dream your big blue eyes,
Though loth their meaning to confess,
Regard me with a clear surprise
Of dawning tenderness.
Often I dream you gladly hear
The words I hardly dare to breathe,-
The words that falter in their fear
To tell what throbs beneath.
Often I dream your hand in mine
Falls like a flower at eventide,
And down the path we leave a line
Of footsteps side by side.
But ah, in all my dreams of bliss,
In passion’s hunger, fever’s drouth,
I never dare to dream of this:
My lips upon your mouth.
And so I dream your big blue eyes,
That look on me with tenderness,
Grow wide, and deep, and sad, and wise,
And dim with dear distress.
THE GARLAND OF SLEEP
A wreath of poppy flowers,
With leaves of lotus blended,
Is carved on Life’s facade of hours,
From night to night suspended.
Along the columned wall,
From birth’s low portal starting,
It flows, with even rise and fall,
To death’s dark door of parting.
How short each measured arc,
How brief the columns’ number!
The wreath begins and ends in dark,
And leads from sleep to slumber.
The marble garland seems,
With braided leaf and bloom,
To deck the palace of our dreams
As if it were a tomb.
Dear tranquil Habit, with her silent hands,
Doth heal our deepest wounds from day to day
With cooling, soothing oil, and firmly lay
Around the broken heart her gentle bands.
Her nursing is as calm as Nature’s care;
She doth not weep with us; yet none the less
Her quiet fingers weave forgetfulness,-
We fall asleep in peace when she is there.
Upon the mirror of the mind her breath
Is like a cloud, to hide the fading trace
Of that dear smile, of that remembered face,
Whose presence were the joy and pang of death.
And he who clings to sorrow overmuch,
Weeping for withered grief, has cause to bless,
More than all cries of pity and distress,-
Dear tranquil Habit, thy consoling touch!
THE OLD BRIDGE
On the old, old bridge, with its crumbling stones
All covered with lichens red and gray,
Two lovers were talking in sweet low tones:
And we were they!
As he leaned to breathe in her willing ear
The love that he vowed would never die,
He called her his darling, his dove most dear:
And he was I!
She covered her face from the pale moonlight
With her trembling hands, but her eyes looked through,
And listened and listened with long delight:
And she was you!
On the old, old bridge, where the lichens rust,
Two lovers are learning the same old lore;
He tells his love, and she looks her trust:
But we,-no more!
EYES AND LIPS
Our silent eyes alone interpreted
The new-born feeling in the heart of each:
In yours I read your sorrow without speech,
Your lonely struggle in their tears unshed.
Behind their dreamy sweetness, as a veil,
I saw the moving lights of trouble shine;
And then my eyes were brightened as with wine,
My spirit reeled to see your face grow pale!
Our deepening love, that is not yet allowed
Another language than the eyes, doth learn
To speak it perfectly: above the crowd
Our looks exchange avowals and desires,-
Like wave-divided beacon lights that burn,
And talk to one another by their fires.
When I embrace her in a fragrant shrine
Of climbing roses, my first kiss shall fall
On you, sweet eyes, that mutely told me all,-
Through you my soul will rise to make her mine.
Upon your drooping lids, blue-veined and fair,
The touch of tenderness I first will lay,
You springs of joy, lights of my gloomy day,
Whose dear discovered secret bade me dare!
And when you open, eyes of my fond dove,
Your look will shine with new delight, made sure
By this forerunner of a faithful love.
Tis just, dear eyes, so pensive and so pure,
That you should bear the sealing kisses true
Of love unhoped that came to me through you.
This was my thought; but when beneath the rose
That hides the lonely bench where lovers rest,
In friendly dusk I held her on my breast
For one brief moment,-while I saw you close,
Dear, yielding eyes, as if your lids, blue-veined
And pure, were meekly fain at last to bear
The proffered homage of my wistful prayer,-
In that high moment, by your grace obtained,
Forgetting your avowals, your alarms,
Your anguish and your tears, sweet weary eyes,
Forgetting that you gave her to my arms,
I broke my promise; and my first caress,
Ungrateful, sought her lips in sweet surprise,-
Her lips, which breathed a word of tenderness!
When first upon my brow I felt your kiss,
A sudden splendour filled me, like the ray
That promptly runs to crown the hills with bliss
Of purple dawn before the golden day,
And ends the gloom it crosses at one leap.
My brow was not unworthy your caress;
For some foreboding joy had bade me keep
From all affront the place your lips would bless.
Yet when your mouth upon my mouth did lay
The royal touch, no rapture made me thrill,
But I remained confused, ashamed, and still.
Beneath your kiss, my queen without a stain,
I felt,-like ghosts who rise at Judgment Day,-
A throng of ancient kisses vile and vain!
Well, you will triumph, dear and noble friend!
The holy love that wounded you so deep
Will bring you balm, and on your heart asleep
The fragrant dew of healing will descend.
Your children,-ah, how quickly they will grow
Between us, like a wall that fronts the sun,
Lifting a screen with rosy buds o’errun,
To hide the shaded path where I must go.
You’ll walk in light; and dreaming less and less
Of him who droops in gloom beyond the wall,
Your mother-soul will fill with happiness
When first you hear your grandchild’s babbling call,
Beneath the braided bloom of flower and leaf
That We has wrought to veil your vanished grief.
Then I alone shall suffer! I shall bear
The double burden of our grief alone,
While I enlarge my soul to take your share
Of pain and hold it close beside my own.
Our love is torn asunder; but the crown
Of thorns that love has woven I will make
My relic sacrosanct, and press it down
Upon my bleeding heart that will not break.
Ah, that will be the depth of solitude!
For my regret, that evermore endures,
Will know that new-born hope has conquered yours;
And when the evening comes, no gentle brood
Of wondering children, gathered at my side,
Will soothe away the tears I cannot hide.
Freely rendered from the French, 1911.
(Henry Van Dyke)
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Based on Keywords: errun, facade, forerunner, unhoped, sacrosanct, avowals, evocation, hawthorn-bloom, we-no, mother-soul