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Poem by Paul Hamilton Hayne


A Fuedal Picture


WITH what a grace she passed us by just now!
Her delicate chin half raised, her cordial brow
A cloudless heaven of bland benignities!
What tempered lustre too in her dove's eyes,
Just touched to archness by the eyebrow's curve,
And those quick dimples which the mouth's reserve
Stir and break up, as sunlit ripples break
The cool, clear calmness of a mountain lake!
A woman in whom majesty and sweetness
Blend to such issues of serene completeness,
That to gaze on her were a prince's boon!
The calm of evening, the large pomp of noon,
Are hers; soft May morns melting into June,
Hold not such tender languishments as those
Which steep her in that dew-light of repose,
That floats a dreamy balm around the full-blown rose:--
And yet, 'tis not her beauty, though so bright
(Clear moon-fire mixed with sun-flame), nor the light,
Transparent charm we feel so exquisite,

Whereby she's compassed as a wizard star
By its own life-air! 'tis not one, nor all
Of these, whereby we're mastered, Sir, and fall
Slavelike before her: doubtless such things are
Potent as spells,--still there's a something fine,
Subtler than hoar-rime in the faint moonshine,
More potent yet--an undefinèd art,
'Twere vain to question: your whole being, heart,
Brain, blood, seem lapsing from you, fired and fused
In hers,--a terrible power, and if abused--
But by St. Peter! 'tis not safe to talk
Of yon weird woman! turn now! watch her walk
'Twixt the tall tiger-lilies,--there's a free,
Brave grace in every step,--but still to me,
It hath--I know not what--of covertness,
Cunning, and cruel purpose! can you guess
The picture it brings up?--a lonely rock
From which a young Bedouin guards his flock,
In the swart desert:--there's a tawny band,
A curved and tangled pathway of loose sand,
Winding above him;--the tranced airs make dim
His slumberous senses!--his great brown eyes swim
In th' mist of dreams, when gliding with mute tread
Forth from the thorn-trees, o'er his nodding head,
Moves a lithe-bodied panther;--(God! how fair
The beast is, with her moony-spotted hair,
And her deft desert paces!)--one breath more!
And you'll behold the spouting of fresh gore,
Heart blood that's human!--can aught save him now?--
Hist! the sharp crackle of a blasted bough,
Whence flies a huge hill-eagle, rustling
O'er the boy's forehead his vast breadths of wing,
And sweeping as a half-seen shade, 'twould seem,
Betwixt his startled spirit, and its dream;
He's roused! espies his danger! at a bound
Leaps into safety where the low-set ground
Is buttressed 'neath two giant crags thereby
(Now hark ye! 'tis no pictured phantasy,
This scene, my Anslem! but all's true and clear
Before me, though full many a weary year
Has waxed and waned since then):
My meaning prithee? foolish youth, beware!
There's treachery lurking in the gay parterre,
As in the hoary desert's silentness,
And dreams with danger, death perchance behind,
May lull young sleepers in the perfumed wind,
Which hardly lifts the tiniest truant tress
It toys with coyly, of a woman's hair:
Our sternest fates have risen in forms as fair,
As--let us say for lack of similes,--
As, hers, who bends now with such gracious ease,
O'er her rich tulip-beds!

Were I the bird,
Wert thou the shepherd Anslem of my tale,
(And that thou hast not hearkened, boy, unstirred
Is clear, albeit thou need'st not wax so pale),
What would true wisdom whisper, now 'tis done,
My warning, and thy day-dream in the sun?
What! why, her mandate's plain: I hear her say,
"Young Knight! to horse! leave the Queen's Court to-day!"



Paul Hamilton Hayne


Paul Hamilton Hayne's other poems:
  1. A Morning after Storm
  2. The Old Man of the Sea
  3. A New Version of Why the Robins Breast Is Red
  4. In Harbor
  5. A Mountain Fantasy


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