JUST when all hope had perished in my soul,
And balked desire made havoc with my mind,
My cruel Ladye suddenly grew kind,
And sent these gracious words upon a scroll:
"When knowing Night her dusky scarf has tied
Across the bold, intrusive eyes of day,
Come as a glad, triumphant lover may,
No longer fearing that he be denied."
I read her letter for the hundredth time,
And for the hundredth time my gladdened sight
Blurred with the rapture of my vast delight,
And swooned upon the page. I caught the chime
Of far off bells, and at each silver note
My heart on tiptoe pressed its eager ear
Against my breast; it was such joy to hear
The tolling of the hour of which she wrote.
The curious day still lingered in the skies
And watched me as I hastened to the tryst.
And back, beyond great clouds of amethyst,
I saw the Night's soft, reassuring eyes.
"Oh, Night," I cried, "dear Love's considerate friend,
Haste from the far, dim valleys of the west,
Rock the sad striving earth to quiet rest,
And bid the day's insistent vigil end."
Down brooding streets, and past the harbored ships
The Night's young handmaid, Twilight, walked with me.
A spent moon leaned inertly o'er the sea;
A few, pale, phantom stars were in eclipse.
There was the house, My Ladye's sea-girt bower
All draped in gloom, save for one taper's glow,
Which lit the path, where willing feet would go.
There was the house, and this the promised hour.
The tide was out; and from the sea's salt path
Rose amorous odors, filtering through the night
And stirring all the senses with delight;
Sweet perfumes left since Aphrodite's bath.
Back in the wooded copse, a whip-poor-will
Gave love's impassioned and impatient call.
On pebbled sands I heard the waves kiss fall,
And fall again, so hushed the hour and still.
Light was my knock upon the door, so light,
And yet the sound seemed rude. My pulses beat
So loud they drowned the coming of her feet
The arrow of her taper pierced the gloom--
The portal closed behind me. She was there--
Love on her lips and yielding in her eyes
And but the sea to hear our vows and sighs.
She took my hand and led me up the stair.
Custer and other poems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
W. B. Conkey Company Chicago, Ill. (1896)
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