Family Portraits

Three picture-drawn people stepped out of their frames —
The blast, how it blew!
And the white-shrouded candles flapped smoke-headed flames;
— Three picture-drawn people came down from their frames,
And dumbly in lippings they told me their names,
Full well though I knew.

The first was a maiden of mild wistful tone,
Gone silent for years,
The next a dark woman in former time known;
But the first one, the maiden of mild wistful tone,
So wondering, unpractised, so vague and alone,
Nigh moved me to tears.

The third was a sad man — a man of much gloom;
And before me they passed
In the shade of the night, at the back of the room,
The dark and fair woman, the man of much gloom,
Three persons, in far-off years forceful, but whom
Death now fettered fast.

They set about acting some drama, obscure,
The women and he,
With puppet-like movements of mute strange allure;
Yea, set about acting some drama, obscure,
Till I saw 'twas their own lifetime's tragic amour,
Whose course begot me;

Yea — a mystery, ancestral, long hid from my reach
In the perished years past,
That had mounted to dark doings each against each
In those ancestors' days, and long hid from my reach;
Which their restless enghostings, it seemed, were to teach
Me in full, at this last.

But fear fell upon me like frost, of some hurt
If they entered anew
On the orbits they smartly had swept when expert
In the law-lacking passions of life, — of some hurt
To their souls — and thus mine — which I fain would avert;
So, in sweat cold as dew,

" Why wake up all this?" I cried out. " Now, so late!
Let old ghosts be laid!"
And they stiffened, drew back to their frames and numb state,
Gibbering: " Thus are your own ways to shape, know too late!"
Then I grieved that I'd not had the courage to wait
And see the play played.

I have grieved ever since: to have balked future pain,
My blood's tendance foreknown,
Had been triumph. Nights long stretched awake I have lain
Perplexed in endeavours to balk future pain
By uncovering the drift of their drama. In vain,
Though therein lay my own.
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