"Come out into the garden, Maud;"
In whispered tones young Percy said:
He but repeated what he'd read
That afternoon, with soft applaud:
A snatch, which for my same name's sake,
He caught, out of the sweet, soft song,
A lover for his love did make,
In half despite of some fond wrong:—
And more he quoted, just to show
How still the rhymes ran in his head,
With visions of the roses red
That on the poet's pen did grow.
The poet's spell was on our blood;
The spell of June was in the air;
We felt, more than we understood,
The charm of being young and fair.
Where everything is fair and young—
As on June eves doth fitly seem:
The Earth herself lies in among
The misty, azure fields of space,
A bride, whose startled blushes glow
Less flame-like through the shrouds of lace
That sweeter all her beauties show.
We walked and talked beneath the trees—
Bird-haunted, flowering trees of June—
The roses purpled in the moon:
We breathed their fragrance on the breeze—
Young Percy's voice is tuned to clear
Deep tones, as if his heart were deep:
This night it fluttered on my ear
As young birds flutter in their sleep.
My own voice faltered when I said
How very sweet such hours must be
With one we love. At that word he
Shook like the aspen overhead:
"Must be!" he drew me from the shade,
To read my face to show his own:
are, dear Maud!"—my tongue was stayed;
My pliant limbs seemed turned to stone.
He held my hands I could not move—
The nerveless palms together prest—
And clasped them tightly to his breast;
While in my heart the question strove.
The fire-flies flashed like wandering stars—
I thought some sprang from out his eyes:
Surely some spirit makes or mars
At will our earthly destinies!
"Speak, Maud!"—at length I turned away:
He must have thought it woman's fear;
For, whispering softly in my ear
Such gentle thanks as might allay
Love's tender shame; left on my brow,
And on each hand, a warm light kiss—
I feel them burn there even now—
But all my fetters fell at this.
I spoke like an injured queen:
It's our own defence when we're surprised—
The way our weakness is disguised;
I said things that I could not mean,
Or ought not—since it was a lie
That love had not been in my mind:
'Twas in the air I breathed; the sky
Shone love, and murmured it the wind.
It had absorbed my soul with bliss;
My blood ran love in every vein,
And to have been beloved again
Were heavenly!—so I thought till this
Unlooked for answer to the prayer
My heart was making with its might,
Thus challenged, caught in sudden snare,
Like two clouds meeting on a height,
And, pausing first in short strange lull,
Then bursting into awful storm,
Opposing feelings multiform,
Struggled in silence: and then full
Of our blind woman-wrath, broke forth
In stinging hail of sharp-edged ice,
As freezing as the polar north,
Yet maddening. O, the poor mean vice
We women have been taught to call
By virtue's name! the holy scorn
We feel for lovers left love-lorn
By our own coldness, or by the wall
Of other love 'twixt them and us!
The tempest past, I paused. He stood
Silent,—and yet "Ungenerous!"
Was hurled back, plainer than ere could
His lips have said it, by his eyes
Fire-flashing, and his pale, set face,
Beautiful, and unmarred by trace
Of aught save pain and pained surprise.
—I quailed at last before that gaze,
And even faintly owned my wrong:
I said I "spoke in such amaze
I could not choose words that belong
To such occasions." Here he smiled,
To cover one low, quick-drawn sigh:
"June eves disturb us differently,"
He said, at length; "and I, beguiled
By something in the air, did do
My Lady Maud unmeant offence;
And, what is stranger far, she too,
Under the baleful influence
of this fair heaven"—he raised his eyes,
And gestured proudly toward the stars—
"Has done me wrong. Wrong, lady, mars
God's purpose, written on these skies,
Painted and uttered in this scene:
Acknowledged in each secret heart;
We both are wrong, you say; 'twould mean
That we too should be wide apart—
And so, adieu!"—with this he went.
I sat down whitening in the moon,
With heat as of a desert noon,
Sending its fever vehement
Across my brow, and through my frame—
The fever of a wild regret—
A vain regret without a name,
In which both love and loathing met.
Was this the same enchanted air
I breathed one little hour ago?
Did all these purple roses blow
But yestermorn, so sweet, so fair?
eve that some one said
"Come out into the garden, Maud?"
And while the sleepy birds o'erhead
Chirped out to know who walked abroad,
admire the plumey flowers
On the wide-branched catalpa trees,
And locusts, scenting all the breeze;
And call the balm-trees our bird-towers?
recall the "black bat Night,"
That flew before young Maud walked forth—
And say this Night's wings were too bright
For bats'—being feathered, from its birth,
Like butterflies' with powdered gold:
Still talking on, from gay to grave,
And trembling lest some sudden wave
Of the soul's deep, grown over-bold,
Should sweep the barriers of reserve,
And whelm us in tumultuous floods
Of unknown power? What did unnerve
Our frames, as if we walked with gods?
Unless they, meaning to destroy,
Had made us mad with a false heaven,
Or drunk with wine and honey given
Only for immortals to enjoy.
Alas, I only knew that late
I'd seemed in an enchanted sphere;
That now I felt the web of fate
Close round me, with a mortal fear.
If only once the gods invite
To banquets that are crowned with roses;
After which the celestial closes
Are barred to us; if in despite
Of such high favor, arrogant
We blindly choose to bide our time,
Rejecting Heaven's—and ignorant
What we have spurned, attempt to climb
To heavenly places at our will—
Finding no path thereto but one,
Nemesis-guarded, where atone
To heaven, all such as hopeful still,
Press toward the mount,—yet find it strewn
With corses, perished by the way,
Of those who Fate did importune
Too rashly, or her will gainsay.
have been thrust out from heaven,
This night, for insolent disdain,
Of putting a young god in pain,
How shall I hope to be forgiven?
Yet let me not be judged as one
Who mocks at any high behest;
My fault being that I kept the throne
vacant in my breast,
claimed the place
I was too loyal to my Jove;
Unmindful how the masks of love
Transfigure all things to our face.
Ah, well! if I have lost to fate
The greatest boon that heaven disposes;
And closed upon myself the gate
To fields of bliss; 'tis on these roses,
On this intoxicating air,
The witching influence of the moon,
The poet's rhymes that went in tune
To the night's voices low and rare;
To all, that goes to make such hours
Like hasheesh-dreams. These did defy,
With contrary fate-compelling power,
The intended bliss;—'twas June, not I.