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INTRODUCTORY TO DRAKE'S POEM
HARRY LYMAN KOOPMAN
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MY GENTLEST READER MY WIFE
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"Fairy, if thou won Id's! win my hand, 'Tis not enough to vow an<1 plead; Thy words I shall not understand, L.'ntil thou makes! eaeli a deed." "Oil! name I lie deed that 1 must do," The elf-knight eried. with lightened hrow. "Nay," answered she, "not one nor two, 'Tis light it'three release thy vow." "A seore were lew," his passion eried ; "OK ! name them that I mav begin.
Sooner heirnn. the sooner won
Those raptures that 1 pant to win." The elf maid with a rose-leal' screened Iier fair cheek from the moonlight's ray: Ami while her suitor humbly leaned, Cold I v l»espake t he listening Fav :
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"A fiery gem, that beams alar.
Tips the lone ice-peak with its spark,
That underneath the Northern Star
Pierces with white the wintry dark ;
And, one in heaven and one on earth.
In emulation shine the pair.
Till, crossed in contest o'er their worth.
Out sweep the welkin's hosts of air.
The star too linn is locked amid
its neighbor stars that round it shine;
That seek not,—but the gem I bid Thy hand to pluck and lay in mine. Then shall thou brinsr from Afrie shore A rubv bv its side to irleam.
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Inland a jungle's waters pour
Through cavern jaws an angry stream.
Far under ground they darkly stray,
Till into oceans depths they glide;
But midmost of their secret way
An island's edges part the tide. The long reeds clash in rosy mist, The palms a ruddier glow return ; For in the roof of amethyst A ruby's throbbing splendors burn. This gem I'd wear upon my breast As mortals wear the blushing rose." She said, and smiled as if she guessed • What praise the future should disclose. The Fairy started as to fly. "Nay, halt," she cried; "one further task. Do this, and thou slialt satisfy The utmost that my pride will ask. Midway of India's mountain dells, There lies the topmost vale of earth; Where cometh no man, and none dwells That owiieth elve or human birth ; And, stationed in this voiceless vale, Four giants guard an ivory shrine ; Beyond them, dwarfs in stony mail Face the four winds with flaming eyne. Within these ivorv walls is laid A mantle that no like hath known. Of woven emerald dust 'twas made
For Asia's cloud-queen ages gone. She, when her love in battle fell, Vowed nevermore its pride to wear; So hid it in this secret dell, And gave it to these monsters' care. To them all slumber she denied, Such was her last and strict command, Save when the sun in heaven should ride, And darkness be on all the land.'' The Fairy spread his wings J or flight . ,(And all/' she added, "must be brought Ere thrice the moon renew her light, Or, though thou bringest all, 'tis naught." So spake she, and the Fairy, mute, Low bowed, then faced the Northern Star, And, earth light, spurning with his foot, Shot flame-like upward and afar.
The level snow shines feebly white ; A myriad stars are twinkling bright; But naught between may the winds enfold, Save the during dark and the deepening cold. Vet, look, where last the shorn sun set, What wavers amid the horizon's jet, As if a meteor's wandering spark Were breasting the flood of the lower dark, Or as if from the lands of warmth and bloom Had strayed a firefly into the gloom? Or is it the light of human wight Venturing lonely into the night?
Tis not the blaze of wandering star, Nor gleam of lireily strayed afar. Nor torch upborne o'er a mortal's way, But the far-seen lamp of the Hying Fay. Straight before him its light is thrown,
Into the dusk of the midnight zone, Hut his face with the Northern Star is lit. Not sad nor glad is the east of it ; Hut lie bears him as one that cheeks all thought
Save how his task may be soonest wrought. Hut look ! the darkness hath a bound. And the Fairy knows that the gem is found. Suddenly all the northern sky Begins to brighten steadily. The light of the star falls st raight adown, As the point that hangs from a cavern's crown :
While, e'en as t he cave-Moor a shaft returns. An earth-star amid the ice-field burns. 'Tis the gem, which, formed of the fallen
To its parent star in answer gleams. Swifter the Fairy cleaves the dark : Hut the boreal elves bis purpose mark, And down, with a rush of arrowy lire. They sweep to balk his bold desire. They brush his face with their tlamy wings, Round him they whirl in dizzying rings. Anon, with a clash of thunder sound, A myriad spears inclose him round. Hut his breast is clad with a shield of proof. And the boldest shrinks from his blade aloof.
Still, through the sullenly parting lines. The light of the gem on the Fairy shines, Nor all their warlock ront and blaze Can turn from the jewel his steadfast gaze Foiled ami baffled the hosts retreat: Hut the eld rich elves of hail and sleet. With the pallid sprites of the polar snow, Assault him above, around, below. A blackness of whiteness o'er all they cast They buffet" his ears with the roaring blast But, steady through all their whirling fray The diamond shoots its piercing ray ; And still, though blown aback and awry. To its light the Fairy draws anigh. First the light of his lamp grew dim. Then his face flushed bright neath his viz
or's brim ; Now the gem in his hand he holds. And now it is deep in his girdle's folds. Blow wind, beat hail, it shall help you none All ways are south and the gem is gone.
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Noon slumbers on the Afrie swamp, And the Fay is lost in its tangles damp. "Help, oh ! help me," piped a cry. Round looked the Fairy hurriedly. "Help me ! " The wailing rose and sank, Himseemed in the ooze of a brook let's bank Swiftly the Fairy followed the sound. Till it led to a mighty salmon aground,
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Mired, and choked with the murderous clay, Gasping his lordly life away. Quick as thought the Fay undight The golden chain of his baldric bright. One end he dropped to the struggling fish; The other looped in his hands he took, And tugged with a right good will and wish Till his tiny form like an aspen shook. So sore his wing's to the task he set That the sides of every round link met. But the slender haulser parted, not; The salmon is drawn to the water's brim. Bravo, Fairy! thy task is wrought ; Around tlie salmon his fellows swim. The Fay upgathers the lengthened chain ; But, hark, the fish is calling again. He swears bv his lord.lv river might, Thy service fully to requite, And bids thee name what treasure most Thou prizes! of all that his kingdoms boast. "Alas!" the Fairy said, "1 deem To serve my need is beyond thy power; 1 seek the gem of the crystal bower O'er the sunless isle in the sunken stream. But the darksome waters inv seeking foil."
"Nay," cried the salmon, "be mine the toil. Not long from me will the jealous wave Hide the jewel thy wishes crave. But,apart from the water my strength is lost, As, but for thee, I luid known to my cost ; And thou must follow to pluck the prize When I have brought thee whither it lies." Again did the Fay his baldric fling
To tlie salmon, who caught its nether ring;
One in water, and one in air,
Again their equal way they fare ;
But now 'tis the salmon that leads the way,
And loose hangs the chain from the hands of
the Fay. They thrid the tangled corridors Draped with moss and drooping vines, Through which the drowsy water pours, Doubtful whither its Hood inclines. But suddenly the current dips, And, leaving the dark lagoon's expanse, Down a rocky pathway trips, To the music of its glittering dance. But brief is its space of light and song, For scarce has the Fairy felt their ^low,
Ere his flight he bends as the waters throng
Into a cavern's archway low.
Onward the unseen pilot fares,
And the Fairy trustful his journey shares.
All, what a sudden chill the dark
Pours against the Fairv's brow !
How feebly his lantern's tiny spark Slips o'er the writhing water's flow ! Anon springs out some rocky tush, As'twere his fragile form to crush ; Anon the roof shoots down a spear, And the leaping waters hiss and peer; While, as if lost in the cavern's bore, A wail runs echoing evermore. But forward speed the linked pair, And now the lamp sheds a brighter glare,— Nay, 'tis a glow that mantles and pours
THE CR1MK OF
From .something within these rocky shores.
Tis the burning ruby's dateless idcam
That Hushes and kindles alone the stream. Yea, now, beneath its cope of light. What anchored island cheats the night? But the Faiiw to isle and crag must doom
The desolation of endless gloom. Beneath the gem the voyagers halt.
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And llie Fairy mounts to the crvstal vault.
That groan, did it rise from the watching palms ?
That wail, was it horn of the rushes'qualms? The Kair)' neither asked nor thought. The jewel from its bed he caught, Then, held it aloft to light his war,
And called to the salmon, ''Now back to day!''
Thin are the icy airs that fan Himaiav s immemorial snow. What wing of bird, or bolt of man Can hope to leave those heights below? Can hope, though painfully and slow. To touch the lowest shouldering peak That sees far down the eloud-tleece blow, And o'er it climb white summits bleak? No wonder the Fairy's rainbow wimrs
Droo])ed in such skyward voyagings ; Failing, as if the air were <rone,
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Kre the last of t he cloudy belts they had won. Five times with circling flight he strove.
Five tinics the winds refused his grasp ;
Now lies he in von banvan grove,
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A fainting sprite with groan and gasp. Oil death lie calls to end his shame. Disgrace that ne'er can he retrieved ; Flings from him with hot words of Maine The gems with so much toil achieved. At last he hares his blade and cries : "Dull heart that canst keep on to beat, When honor drowned in weakness lies. Thus I dislodge thee from thv seat."
Yea, lift thy blade, but e'er it fall, he sure no wretch thy help may crave. Hark, on the wind there floats a call : "I die and none will turn to save." The Kairv, startled at the sound,
Leaps upright, and his eye beholds A white dove struggling on the ground,
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Crushed in a serpent's slimy folds. A bound, and he is by its side, But not so lightly yields the snake. Ten times his blade in blood is dved Before the rings their tightening slake. At last his daring finds reward, But, oil, how late release to give ! The dove falls helpless on the sward, Nor, but for gasping, seems to live. "Oh, life!" he cries, "yet not for me. Tis for the charge beneath mv wing,
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A true-love note, which 1 must bring. Or breaks a heart beyond the sea. Thanks, generous Kay, my wings grow light Now I shall pass those peaks of snow, hut tell me how I may requite
Thy priceless aid before I go." "Might / but cross those crystal peaks, How soon my labors would be done !" "J^ies there the spot thy journey seeks?" Replied the dove, "'tis quickly won. Thy weight I lightly shall sustain.
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Mount on my back." "Ay," said the Fay,
"But first a moment to regain
The jewels that I tlnng away."—
Oh, rapture of unhindered flight !
Oh, buoyant, crystal waves of air !
'Twere worth long years of earth's delight
That hour's exultant thrill to share.
Three moons have waxed, t hrce moons have waned
Since lirst the Fairy saw the shrine ; Nor yet one grisly guard hath deigned To close an eye in storm or shine. No night so dark their demon eyes Make not a blaze about the spot ; Nor noon nor levin glare surprise Those iron lids that falter not. A starry night draws nigh to dawn ; No bird-note stirs the slumbering air. But, hark ! a voice in song is drawn Athwart the dusk ; it breathes a prayer :
Ye stars that mark on high How night by night I lie. No friend but you anigh,
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In freezing dew ;
Now, while I lowly bend, Your kiiullv inlluence lend, My toils with triumph end, My joys renew.
Your eyes with softness burn ; On me, oh ! let them turn; My hapless lot discern, My weakness aid.
Your eyes in heaven shine; Their light is not for mine. Ye fade, ye make no sign ;
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In vain I've prayed.
He ceased, and was it edge of moon, Or seraph s wing that caught his eye, Just where the red path of the sun Flashed out before it: up the sky? The Fairy had no liopc to ask ; But morning burned to noontide blaze, And never from their ceaseless task Withdrew the faithful warders' gaze. The Fairy shuts his straining eyes; There breathes no wind, and yet a chill Draws over him ; in swift surprise He looks, and lo ! a miracle. A wanness creeps upon the day; The watchers' heads begin to droop ; He steals anigh, no heed they pay ; Then out the constellations troop. The sun hangs dead, and gives no sign, The watchers lie as tliev were dead,
While through the dusk the Fay has tied. And empty stands the ivory shrine.
The Kay far o'er the mountains Mew lie fore the light returned ; then first Awoke the guards, their loss they knew. And in their rage like bubbles burst.
Long, long the Kairv wight has Mown
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With little rest or stay in Might; And now, at last, upon bis sight. Uplift the wooded heights well known. The Catskills' crimped horizon line. Hut, now that place and hour combine, W hy Jags the Fairy on his way ? Haply he waits the close of day. To meet beneath the moon's pale shine. For, as the sun to men is dear,
So beams the moon to elfin eves;
Their mirth awakes with starry skies, And morn to them is end of cheer. Now darkness falls: the Fairy stands Where months ago lie listening stood
And took the el tin maid's commands,— What song is this that starts his blood? She sings ; he neither feels nor sees. But, ravished, hearkens words like these:
He comes, my pride ; He comes to clasp t he bride 11 is arm hat h won.
Wit It joy shal 1 rest My head upon his breast, Mv light and sun.
THE CCL!M<IT KAY.
O davs of jo\\ Delights too dee]) to cloy, I hold you fast.
Ye thought to lag,
But though your sloth ve brag,
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Ye come at last.
Come, hero mine. Let now mine arms entwine Thy neck around.
Let all declare The hold hath won the fair, Our fame resound.
She ceased ; the Fairy, light as air. Sprang forth his lady-love to greet. • 'Who comes ?" she cried, "W hat footsteps dare
Profane my inmost bower's retreat ? " "'Tis I, thy love." "Oh ! thou, 'tis true. Thou hast not brought my gifts I ween." He answered not, but o'er her threw The mantle's <juivering folds of green. "Hut not the gems." In either palm He placed a gem a hove all price. Her face their light showed pale and calm r With tightened lips and downcast eyes. "No longer,"' cried he, " make me wait . But yield the prize my arm hath won. So ran thv song.'' Ouoth she. "Though done, Thv deeds are vain : thev come too late."' "What! wilt: thon not be mine?" he cried.
"Nav," answered she, "already I ^ »
For weeks have been another's bride.
Thou earnest not, and he was nigh." She ceased ; the Fay all speech disdained, And, turning, strode into the dark ; With staring eyes that naught did mark, And breath that as in tetters strained.
Is it any wonder he looked at her?
Is it any wonder he loved the maid? ¥
Is it any wonder the sight should stir His lips to the deed so dearly paid? Far and wide as the Fay had been, Such beauty had he never seen. Was she not beautiful lying there? The little maiden innocent, Lit by the sunshine of lier hair, Which all the dusk a glory lent. Under the darkling hemlock tree, Tired of play, she had fallen asleep ; Her head on one arm pillowed lay,— The sweet face upturned happily,— And one hand still did tightly keep A fragrant bunch of blossoms gay.
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Her slender ankles were crossed in rest, And never the dew more lightly pressed The greensward of the wooded hill, Than the lithe limbs lying, slender and still, Full of swiftness and full of grace. She seemed a part of the lovely spot, Like an oriole in an elm of June, And yet some creature of heavenly race, For a moment lighted to fly as soon ;
Yet creature of heavenly kind she was not,
Nor aught of wild or of woodland birth, J>ut one of the gentle maids of earth,
Who, wearv of the woodland way, > +
Had fallen asleep neath the greenwood tree, That stood in the path of the lonely Fay. Up the path the Fairy strode, Ilis armor gleaming with pearl and gold ; The li<rbt of his lantern dimly flowed
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Amid the dusk of the hemlocks old. The tall ferns nodded above his head, At his feet the snaring wild vine spread, And around in the forest, far and near. There lurked he knew not what shapes of fear.
But his heart within him burned like flame, And little he reeked of friend or foe, But words like these from his lips gan flow, As on to the fateful tree he came, "is there another race," he cried, "Whose beauty is inward, i'rom-the heart ; Where pride and coldness have no place, Or at the touch of love depart ? Where love doth evermore abide Till fairest beauty in form and lace, Into loveliness more fair shall run, As the starlight into the light of the sun. Where may such a maid be found, Fair and pure as the elf-maids are, Yet warm and loving and tender and sweet, And truer than the Northern Star? Where shall one seek her the wide world round ? "—
Why, 0 Fairy, that raptured start.
With the swift blood beating back to thy
Happy dreamer ! she lies at thy feet. In smiling slumber the maiden lay, And at her beauty the wondering Fay Stood and stared, as one would stare
Who had strayed into heaven unaware.
Then slowly nearer the Fairy stept, But still unheeding the maiden slept; The long dark lashes lifted not, To let the violet eyes unclose, Nor any sudden zephyr swept Over the soft cheek's opening rose ; And the Fairy, as one that has no thought, Whose being is lost in wonder and bliss, On bright wings poising, fluttered. above, Then, sinking, pressed on her lips a kiss. That was homage and blessing and worship and love.
But, ah ! 'tis a crime in Fairyland To love outside the fairy band : For the narrow elfin lieari and mind Are jealous of our human kind ; And a hundred eyes on bush and tree Were strained the Fairy's kiss to see.
Scarce had his love-enkindled heart. Led him to play a mortal's part, When his mates, like wolves upon their prey Surrounded the unguarded Fay.
Ill the flash of an eve ihev hold liini hound. Then drag him away with jeer and mock, To the elfin monarch's judgment ground And the solemn trial at twelve o'clock.
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1 had climbed far up old Cronest.'s side, With the little maiden dewy-eyed.—
0 Sweet, how long thai was ago !
But your eves still lift their their noon-tide
And still your hand steals into mine As fondlv as in sweet lang syne.—
Twasin the leafy dusk of June, When all earth's voices laughed in tune, When every blossom wooed the light With peeping beauty exquisite. Weary at last with the toil and heat. We sat with a great cliff at our feet. There at' the bidding of the maid
1 told the tale that here is traced.
And while she listened my fingers played With the gold that rippled, to her waist. 1 ceased ; on the Hudson glanced a sail, Nearer an engine puffed its smoke ; 1 watched them across the shimmering vale, But soon the maiden the silence broke : "Oh ! please go on." "That is all/' I said, "Except the tale, in the book I read, Of the Fairy's penance, at which you wept." "Was that this Fairy ? " "The very same ;
And are'nt you glacl that, whatever came, His faith to his mortal love he kept ? " "Oh, yes! and what become of her?" Persisted tlie little questioner. "Ah! that is the best of all," I replied, "And you should know it if none beside. You've heard the story of the bees That stung the lips of Socrates,— Plato, 1 mean, but never mind ;— They left their sweetness all behind. And so the Fairy's kiss did here, And soon the maiden, far and near, Was famed to have at her command The sweetest kisses in the land. But that was long and lung ago ; The maiden grew, as you will grow, But never did in any hour Her kisses lose their magic power. Her daughters' -daughters now are grown, With red-lipped maidens of their own, But all, however plain or fair, This token for their birthright bear. And those that feel its witchery say, it is the Blessing of the Fay." "What is it? " "Sweetheart, what it is 1 cannot tell, 1 know it's—this."
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