Madison Julius Cawein



A Motive In Gold And Gray

by Madison Julius Cawein


Tonight he sees their star burn, dewy-bright,
Deep in the pansy, eve hath made for it,
Low in the west; a placid purple lit
At its far edge with warm auroral light:
Love's planet hangs above a cedared height;
And there in shadow, like gold music writ
Of dusk's dark fingers, scale-like fire-flies flit
Now up, now down the balmy bars of night.
How different from that eve a year ago!
Which was a stormy flower in the hair
Of dolorous day, whose sombre eyes looked, blurred,
Into night's sibyl face, and saw the woe
Of parting near, and imaged a despair,
As now a hope caught from a homing word.


She came unto him -- as the springtime does
Unto the land where all lies dead and cold,
Until her rosary of days is told
And beauty, prayer-like, blossoms where death was. --
Nature divined her coming -- yea, the dusk
Seemed thinking of that happiness: behold,
No cloud it had to blot its marigold
Moon, great and golden, o'er the slopes of musk;
Whereon earth's voice made music; leaf and stream
Lilting the same low lullaby again,
To coax the wind, who romped among the hills
All day, a tired child, to sleep and dream:
When through the moonlight of the locust-lane
She came, as spring comes through her daffodils.


White as a lily molded of Earth's milk
That eve the moon swam in a hyacinth sky;
Soft in the gleaming glens the wind went by,
Faint as a phantom clothed in unseen silk:
Bright as a naiad's leap, from shine to shade,
The runnel twinkled through the shaken brier;
Above the hills one long cloud, pulsed with fire,
Flashed like a great, enchantment-welded blade.
And when the western sky seemed some weird land,
And night a witching spell at whose command
One sloping star fell green from heav'n; and deep
The warm rose opened for the moth to sleep;
Then she, consenting, laid her hands in his,
And lifted up her lips for their first kiss.


There where they part, the porch's step is strewn
With wind-tossed petals of the purple vine;
Athwart the porch the shadow of a pine
Cleaves the white moonlight; and, like some calm rune
Heaven says to Earth, shines the majestic moon;
And now a meteor draws a lilac line
Across the welkin, as if God would sign
The perfect poem of this night of June.
The wood-wind stirs the flowering chestnut-tree,
Whose curving blossoms strew the glimmering grass
Like crescents that wind-wrinkled waters glass;
And, like a moonstone in a frill of flame,
The dew-drop trembles on the peony,
As in a lover's heart his sweetheart's name.


In after years shall she stand here again,
In heart regretful? and with lonely sighs
Think on that night of love, and realize
Whose was the fault whence grew the parting pain?
And, in her soul, persuading still in vain,
Shall doubt take shape, and all its old surmise
Bid darker phantoms of remorse arise
Trailing the raiment of a dead disdain?
Masks, unto whom shall her avowal yearn,
With looks clairvoyant seeing how each is
A different form, with eyes and lips that burn
Into her heart with love's last look and kiss? --
And, ere they pass, shall she behold them turn
To her a face which evermore is his?


In after years shall he remember how
Dawn had no breeze soft as her murmured name?
And day no sunlight that availed the same
As her bright smile to cheer the world below?
Nor had the conscious twilight's golds and grays
Her soul's allurement, that was free of blame, --
Nor dusk's gold canvas, where one star's white flame
Shone, more bewitchment than her own sweet ways. --
Then as the night with moonlight and perfume,
And dew and darkness, qualifies the whole
Dim world with glamour, shall the past with dreams --
That were the love-theme of their lives -- illume
The present with remembered hours, whose gleams,
Unknown to him, shall face them soul to soul?


No! not for her and him that part; -- the Might-
Have-Been's sad consolation; -- where had bent,
Haply, in prayer and patience penitent,
Both, though apart, before no blown-out light.
The otherwise of fate for them, when white
The lilacs bloom again, and, innocent,
Spring comes with beauty for her testament,
Singing the praises of the day and night.
When orchards blossom and the distant hill
Is vague with haw-trees as a ridge with mist,
The moon shall see him where a watch he keeps
By her young form that lieth white and still,
With lidded eyes and passive wrist on wrist,
While by her side he bows himself and weeps.


And, oh, what pain to see the blooms appear
Of haw and dogwood in the spring again;
The primrose leaning with the dragging rain,
And hill-locked orchards swarming far and near.
To see the old fields, that her steps made dear,
Grow green with deepening plenty of the grain,
Yet feel how this excess of life is vain, --
How vain to him! -- since she no more is here.
What though the woodland burgeon, water flow,
Like a rejoicing harp, beneath the boughs!
The cat-bird and the hermit-thrush arouse
Day with the impulsive music of their love!
Beneath the graveyard sod she will not know,
Nor what his heart is all too conscious of!


How blessed is he who, gazing in the tomb,
Can yet behold, beneath th' investing mask
Of mockery, -- whose horror seems to ask
Sphinx-riddles of the soul within the gloom, --
Upon dead lips no dust of Love's dead bloom;
And in dead hands no shards of Faith's rent flask;
But Hope, who still stands at her starry task,
Weaving the web of comfort on her loom!
Thrice blessed! who,'though he hear the tomb proclaim,
How all is Death's and Life Death's other name;
Can yet reply: O Grave, these things are yours!
But that is left which life indeed assures --
Love, through whose touch I shall arise the same!
Love, of whose self was wrought the universe!


The Garden Of Dreams
Copyright 1896
John P. Morton & Company, Louisville