Madison Julius Cawein Poems >>
One Day And Another: A Lyrical Eclogue - Part IV

LATE AUTUMN

   _They who die young are blest.--
    Should we not envy such?
   They are Earth's happiest,
    God-loved and favored much!--
   They who die young are blest._


1

_Sick and sad, propped among pillows, she sits at her window._

 'Though the dog-tooth violet come
 With April showers,
 And the wild-bees' music hum
 About the flowers,
 We shall never wend as when
 Love laughed leading us from men
 Over violet vale and glen,
 Where the bob-white piped for hours,
 And we heard the rain-crow's drum.

 Now November heavens are gray;
 Autumn kills
 Every joy--like leaves of May
 In the rills.--
 Still I sit and lean and listen
 To a voice that has arisen
 In my heart--with eyes that glisten
 Looking at the happy hills
 Fading dark-blue far away.


2

_She gazes out upon the dying garden._

 There rank death clutches at the flowers
 And drags them down and stamps in earth.
 At morn the thin, malignant hours,
 Shrill-mouthed among the windy bowers,
 Clamor a bitter mirth.--
 Or is it heart-break that, forlorn,
 Would so conceal itself in scorn?

 At noon the weak, white sunlight crawls,
 Like feeble feet once beautiful,
 From mildewed walks to mildewed walls,
 Down which the oozing moisture falls
 Upon the cold toadstool.--
 Faint on the leaves it drips and creeps--
 Or is it tears of one who weeps?

 At night a misty blur of moon
 Slips through the trees,--pale as a face
 Of melancholy marble hewn;--
 And, like the phantom of some tune,
 Winds whisper in the place.--
 Or is it love come back again,
 Seeking its perished joy in vain?


3

_She muses upon the past._

 When in her cloudy chiton,
 Spring freed the frozen rills,
 And walked in rainbowed light on
 The forests, fields, and hills;
 Beyond the world's horizon,
 That no such glory lies on,
 And no such hues bedizen,
 Love led us far from ills.

 When Summer came, a sickle
 Stuck in her sheaf of gleams,
 And let the honey trickle
 From out the beehives' seams;
 Within the violet-blotted
 Sweet book to us alloted,--
 Whose lines are starry dotted,--
 Love read us still his dreams.

 Then Autumn came,--a liar,
 A fair-faced heretic;--
 In gypsy garb of fire,
 Throned on a harvest rick.--
 Our lives, that fate had thwarted,
 Stood pale and broken hearted,--
 Though smiling when we parted,--
 Where love to death lay sick.

 Now is the Winter waited,
 The tyrant hoar and old,
 With death and hunger mated,
 Who counts his crimes like gold.--
 Once more before forever
 We part--once more, then never--
 Once more before we sever
 Must I his face behold!


4

_She takes up a book and reads._

 What little things are those
  That hold our happiness!
 A smile, a glance, a rose
  Dropped from her hair or dress;
 A word, a look, a touch,--
  These are so much, so much.

 An air we can't forget;
  A sunset's gold that gleams;
 A spray of migonette,
  Will fill the soul with dreams
 More than all history says,
  Or romance of old days.

 For of the human heart,
  Not brain, is memory;
 These things it makes a part
  Of its own entity;
 The joys, the pains whereof
  Are the very food of love.


5

_She lays down the book._

 How true! how true!--but words are weak
  In sympathy they give the soul,
 To music--music, that can speak
  All the heart's pain and dole;
 Still making us remember most
 The love we've lost, the love we've lost.

 So weary am I, and so fain
  To see his face, to feel his kiss
 Thrill rapture through my soul again,
  There is no hell like this.--
 Ah, God! my God, were it not best
 To give me rest, to give me rest?


6

_She writes to him to come to her._

 Dead lie the dreams we cherished,
  The dreams we loved so well;
 Like forest leaves they perished,
  Like autumn leaves they fell.
 Alas! that dreams so soon should pass!
 Alas! Alas!

 The stream lies bleak and arid
  That once went singing on;
 The flowers once that varied
  Its banks are dead and gone:
 Where these were once are thorns and thirst--
 The place is curst.

 Come to me; I am lonely:
  Forgive what you have heard.--
 Come to me; if for only
  One last sad parting word:
 For one last word before the pall
 Falls over all.

 The day and hour are suited
  For what I'd say to you
 Of love that I uprooted--
  But I have suffered too!
 Come to me; I would say good-by
 Before I die.


7

_The wind rises; the trees are agitated._

 Woods, that beat the wind with frantic
  Gestures and drop darkly 'round
 Acorns gnarled and leaves that antic
  Wildly on the rustling ground!

 Is it tragic grief that saddens
  Through your souls this autumn day?
 Or the joy of death that gladdens
  In exultance of decay?

 Arrogant you lift defiant
  Boughs against the moaning blast,
 That, like some invisible giant,
  Wrapped in tumult, thunders past.

 Is it that in such insurgent
  Fury tossed from tree to tree,
 You would quench the fiercely urgent
  Pangs of some old memory?

 As in toil and violent action,
  That still help them to forget,
 Mortals drown the dark distraction
  And insistence of regret.


8

_She muses in the gathering twilight._

 Last night I slept till midnight; then woke, and far away
 A cock crowed; lonely and distant came mournful a watch-dog's bay:
 But lonelier, sadder the tedious, old clock ticked on towards day.

 And what a day!--remember those morns of summer and spring,
 That bound our lives together! each morn a wedding-ring
 Of dew, aroma and sparkle, and flowers and birds a-wing.

 Sweet morns when I strolled my garden awaiting him, the rose
 Expected too, with blushes--the Giant-of-Battle that grows
 A bank of radiance and fragrance where the gate its shadow throws.

 Not in vain did I wait, departed summer, amid your phlox!
 The powdery crystal and crimson of your hollow hollyhocks;
 Your fairy-bells and poppies and the bee that in them rocks.

 Cool-clad 'neath the pendulous purple of the morning-glory vine,
 By the jewel-mine of the pansies and the snapdragons in line,
 I waited, and there he met me whose heart was one with mine.

 How warm was the breath of the garden when he met me there that day!
 How the burnished beetle and butterfly flew past us, each a ray!--
 The memory of those meetings still bears me far away.

 Ah, me! when I think of the handfuls of little gold coins a-mass
 My bachelor's-buttons scattered over the garden grass,
 And the marigolds that boasted their bits of burning brass;

 More bitter I feel the autumn tighten 'round spirit and heart;
 And regret the days remembered as lost--that stand apart,
 A chapter holy and sacred, I read with eyes that smart.

 Again to the woods a-trysting by the watermill I steal,
 Where the lilies tumble together, the madcap wind at heel;
 And meet him among the blossoms that the rocks and the trees conceal.

 Or the wild-cat grey of the meadows that the ox-eyed daisies dot;
 Fawn-eyed and tiger-yellow, that tangle a tawny spot
 Of languid leopard beauty that dozes fierce and hot....

 Ah! back again with the present! with winds that pinch and twist
 The leaves in their peevish passion, and whirl wherever they list;
 With the autumn, hoary and nipping, whose mausolean mist

 Builds wan a tomb for the daylight;--each morning shaggy with fog,
 That fits grey wigs to the cedars, and furs with frost each log;
 That carpets with pearl the meadow, and marbles brook and bog,--

 Alone at dawn--indifferent: alone at eve--I sigh:
 And wait, like the wind complaining: complain and know not why:
 But ailing and longing and pining because I do not die.

 How dull is that sunset! dreary and cold, and hard and dead!
 The ghost of the one last August that, deeply rich and red,
 Like the wine of God's own vintage, poured purple overhead.

 But now I sit with the sighing dead dreams of a dying year;
 Like the fallen leaves and the acorns, am worthless and feel as sear,
 With a withered soul and body whose heart is one big tear.

 As I stare from my window the daylight, like a bravo, its cloak puts
     on.
 The moon, like a cautious lanthorn, glitters and then is gone.--
 Will he come to-night? will he answer?--Oh, God! would it were dawn!


9

_He enters. Taking her in his arms he speaks._

 They said you were dying--
  You shall not die!...
 Why are you crying?
  Why do you sigh?--
 Cease that sad sighing!--
  Love, it is I.

 All is forgiven!--
  Love is not poor;
 Though he was driven
  Once from your door,
 Back he has striven,
  To part nevermore!

 Will you remember
  What I forget?--
 Words, each an ember,
  That you regret?
 Now in November,
  Now we have met?

 What if love wept once!
  What though you knew!
 What if he crept once
  Pleading to you!--
 He never slept once,
  Nor was untrue.

 Often forgetful,
  Love may forget;
 Froward and fretful,
  Dear, he will fret;
 Ever regretful,
  He will regret.

 Life is completer
  Through his control;
 Living made sweeter
  Even through dole,
 Hearing Love's metre
  Sing in the soul.

 Flesh may not hear it,
  Being impure;
 And mind may fear it,
  May not endure;
 But in the spirit--
  There we are sure.

 So when to-morrow
  Ceases, and we
 Quit this we borrow,
  Mortality,
 Love chastens sorrow
  So it can see....

 Still you are weeping!
  Why do you weep?--
 Are tears in keeping
  With joy so deep?
 Gladness so sweeping?--
  Are you asleep?

 Speak to me, dearest!
  Say it is true!--
 That I am nearest,
  Dearest to you.--
 Smile with those clearest
  Eyes of grey blue.


10

_She smiles through her tears; holding his hands she speaks._

 They did not say I could not live beyond this weary night,
 But now I know that I shall die before the morning's light.
 How weak I am!--but you'll forgive me when I tell you how
 I loved you--love you; and the pain it is to leave you now?

 We could not marry!--See, the flesh, that clothes the soul of me,
 Ordained at birth a sacrifice to this heredity,
 Denied, forbade.--Ah, you have seen the bright spots in my cheeks
 Flush hectic, as before the night the west burns blood-red streaks?

 Consumption.--"But I promised you my hand"?--a thing forlorn
 Of life; diseased!--Oh, God!--and so, far better so, forsworn!--
 Oh, I was jealous of your love. But think: if I had died
 Ere babe of mine had come to be a solace at your side!

 Had it been little then--your grief, when Heaven had made us one
 In everything that's good on earth and then the good undone?
 No! no! and had I had a child, what grief and agony
 To know that blight born in him, too, against all help of me!

 Just when we cherish him the most, and youthful, sunny pride
 Sits on his curly front, to see him die ere we have died.--
 Whose fault?--Ah, God!--not mine! but his, that ancestor who gave
 Escutcheon to our humble house--a Death's-head and a Grave.

 Beneath the pomp of those grim arms I live and may not move;
 Nor faith, nor truth, nor wealth avail to hurl them down, nor love!
 How could I tell you this?--not then! when all the world was spun
 Of morning colors for our love to walk and dance upon.

 I could not tell you how disease hid here a hideous germ,
 Precedence slowly claiming and so slowly fixing firm.
 And when I broke our plighted troth and would not tell you why,
 I loved you, thinking, "time enough when I have come to die."

 Draw off my rings, and let my hands rest so ... the wretched cough
 Will interrupt my feeble speech and will not be put off....
 Ah, anyhow my anodyne is this--to know that you
 Are near me, love me!--Kiss me now, as you were wont to do.

 And tell me you forgive me all; and say you will forget
 The sorrow of that breaking-off, the fever and the fret.--
 Now set those roses near my face and tell me death's a lie--
 Once it was hard for me to live ... now it is hard to die.