Madison Julius Cawein




by Madison Julius Cawein


Is it uneasy moonlight,
On the restless field, that stirs?
Or wild white meadow-blossoms
The night-wind bends and blurs?

Is it the dolorous water,
That sobs in the wood and sighs?
Or heart of an ancient oak-tree,
That breaks and, sighing, dies?

The wind is vague with the shadows
That wander in No-Man's Land;
The water is dark with the voices
That weep on the Unknown's strand.

O ghosts of the winds who call me!
O ghosts of the whispering waves!
As sad as forgotten flowers,
That die upon nameless graves!

What is this thing you tell me
In tongues of a twilight race,
Of death, with the vanished features,
Mantled, of my own face?


The old enigmas of the deathless dawns,
And riddles of the all immortal eves, --
That still o'er Delphic lawns
Speak as the gods spoke through oracular leaves --
I read with new-born eyes,
Remembering how, a slave,
I lay with breast bared for the sacrifice,
Once on a temple's pave.

Or, crowned with hyacinth and helichrys,
How, towards the altar in the marble gloom, --
Hearing the magadis
Dirge through the pale amaracine perfume, --
'Mid chanting priests I trod,
With never a sigh or pause,
To give my life to pacify a god,
And save my country's cause.

Again: Cyrenian roses on wild hair,
And oil and purple smeared on breasts and cheeks,
How with mad torches there --
Reddening the cedars of Cithæron's peaks --
With gesture and fierce glance,
Lascivious Mænad bands
Once drew and slew me in the Pyrrhic dance,
With Bacchanalian hands.


The music now that lays
Dim lips against my ears,
Some wild sad thing it says,
Unto my soul, of years
Long passed into the haze
Of tears.

Meseems, before me are
The dark eyes of a queen,
A queen of Istakhar:
I seem to see her lean
More lovely than a star
Of mien.

A slave, I stand before
Her jeweled throne; I kneel,
And, in a song, once more
My love for her reveal;
How once I did adore
I feel.

Again her dark eyes gleam;
Again her red lips smile;
And in her face the beam
Of love that knows no guile;
And so she seems to dream
A while.

Out of her deep hair then
A rose she takes -- and I
Am made a god o'er men!
Her rose, that here did lie
When I, in th' wild-beasts' den,
Did die.


Old paintings on its wainscots,
And, in its oaken hall,
Old arras; and the twilight
Of slumber over all.

Old grandeur on its stairways;
And, in its haunted rooms,
Old souvenirs of greatness,
And ghosts of dead perfumes.

The winds are phantom voices
Around its carven doors;
The moonbeams, specter footsteps
Upon its polished floors.

Old cedars build around it
A solitude of sighs;
And the old hours pass through it
With immemorial eyes.

But more than this I know not;
Nor where the house may be;
Nor what its ancient secret
And ancient grief to me.

All that my soul remembers
Is that, -- forgot almost, --
Once, in a former lifetime,
'Twas here I loved and lost.


In eöns of the senses,
My spirit knew of yore,
I found the Isle of Circe,
And felt her magic lore;
And still the soul remembers
What flesh would be once more.

She gave me flowers to smell of
That wizard branches bore,
Of weird and sorcerous beauty,
Whose stems dripped human gore --
Their scent when I remember
I know that world once more.

She gave me fruits to eat of
That grew beside the shore,
Of necromantic ripeness,
With human flesh at core --
Their taste when I remember
I know that life once more.

And then, behold! a serpent,
That glides my face before,
With eyes of tears and fire
That glare me o'er and o'er --
I look into its eyeballs,
And know myself once more.


I have looked in the eyes of poesy,
And sat in song's high place;
And the beautiful spirits of music
Have spoken me face to face;
Yet here in my soul there is sorrow
They never can name nor trace.

I have walked with the glamour gladness,
And dreamed with the shadow sleep;
And the presences, love and knowledge,
Have smiled in my heart's red keep;
Yet here in my soul there is sorrow
For the depth of their gaze too deep.

The love and the hope God grants me,
The beauty that lures me on,
And the dreams of folly and wisdom
That thoughts of the spirit don,
Are but masks of an ancient sorrow
Of a life long dead and gone.

Was it sin? or a crime forgotten?
Of a love that loved too well?
That sat on a throne of fire
A thousand years in hell?
That the soul with its nameless sorrow
Remembers but can not tell?


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