Madison Julius Cawein

1865-1914

 

Ashly Mere

by Madison Julius Cawein

Come! look in the shadowy water here,
The stagnant water of Ashly Mere:
Where the stirless depths are dark but clear,
What is the thing that lies there? --
A lily-pod half sunk from sight?
Or spawn of the toad all water-white?
Or ashen blur of the moon's wan light?
Or a woman's face and eyes there?

Now lean to the water a listening ear,
The haunted water of Ashly Mere:
What is the sound that you seem to hear
In the ghostly hush of the deeps there? --
A withered reed that the ripple lips?
Or a night-bird's wing that the surface whips?
Or the rain in a leaf that drips and drips?
Or a woman's voice that weeps there?

Now look and listen! but draw not near
The lonely water of Ashly Mere! --
For so it happens this time each year
As you lean by the mere and listen:
And the moaning voice I understand, --
For oft I have watched it draw to land,
And lift from the water a ghastly hand
And a face whose eyeballs glisten.

And this is the reason why every year
To the hideous water of Ashly Mere
I come when the woodland leaves are sear,
And the autumn moon hangs hoary:
For here by the mere was wrought a wrong . . .
But the old, old story is over long --
And woman is weak and man is strong . . .
And the mere's and mine is the story.

Source:

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