Thus Her Tale

Spake the fire-tinged bramble, bossed with gleaming fruit and blossoming,
Gently serpentining in the air a blunted tongue: —
" Far too long these bones I hide have blackened in my covert here,
Too long their noxious odour to my sweetness now hath clung.
Would they were gross clay, and their evil spell removed from me;
How much lovelier I, if my roots not thence had sprung. "

Breathed the wind of sundown, " Ay, this haunt is long years sour to me;
But naught on earth that's human can my fancy free beguile.
Wings are mine far fleeter than the birds' that clip these branches;
Arabian rich the burden which for honeyed mile on mile
Is wafted on my bosom, hill to ocean, wood to valeland.
Anathema on relics that my fragrances defile! "

Stirred a thousand frondlets and the willow tree replied to it: —
" Sty and mixen, foetid pool, and carrion-shed — whose these?
Yet earth makes sweet the foulest; naught — naught stays long unclean to her;
Thou too, howe'er reluctant, art her servant, gliding Breeze.
Restrain thy fretting pudency; in pity sigh for one I knew —
The woman whose unburied bones in thornbrake take their ease. "

" Urkkh : when dark hath thicked to night, " croaked vermin toad that crouched near-by,
" And the stars that mock in heaven unto midnight's cope have clomb,
When the shades of all the humans that in life were brutal foes to me
Lift thready lamentation from the churchyard's rancid loam —
Return doth she in mortal guise 'gainst whom I bear no enmity,
Foredoomed by fate this treacherous field for aye to haunt and roam. "

" Pictured once her image I, " sang sliding brook its rushes from,
" That sallow face, and eyes that seemed to stare as if in dream,
Narrow shoulders, long lean hands, and hair like withered grass in hue,
Pale lips drawn thwart with grieving in stars' silver mocking beam.
Once, too, I heard her story, but little I remember now,
Though the blood that gave her power to suffer then imbrued my stream. "

Stony rock groaned forth its voice, " No mirror featly shattered I,
Blind I am by nature, but, I boast, not deaf or dumb,
Small truck I pay to Time's decay, nor mark what wounds black winter makes.
Not mine to know what depths of snow have thawed and left me numb —
Since an eve when flowers had cast their seed, and evening cooled my brow again.
And I echoed to a voice that whispered, " Loved one, I have come." "

Wafting through the woodland swept an owl from out the silentness,
" Too wittoo woo, " she hooted. " A human comes this way,
Gliding as on feathered heel, so tenuous that the thorns she skirts
To eyes bright-glassed for glooms like mine show black beyond her grey.
A tryst she keeps. Beware, good friends, not mine day's mortal company,
Hungry my brood for juicier fare, " she squawked, and plumed away.

Lone, in a shoal of milk-white cloud, bathed now the punctual fickle moon
That nook of brook and willow, long unpolled, with silvery glare: —
" Unstilled yet tranquil Phantom, see, thou canst not hide thy form from me:
When last thy anguished body trod these meadows fresh and fair,
I, the ringing sand-dunes of the vast Sahara hoared with light:
What secret calls thee from the shades; why hither dost thou fare? " ...

Small beauty graced the spectre pondering mute beneath the willow-boughs
O'er relics long grown noisome to the bramble and the breeze;
A hand upon her narrow breast, her head bent low in shadowiness;
" I've come, " sighed voice like muted bell of nightbird in the trees,
" To tell again for all to hear, the wild remorse that suffers me,
No single thought of rest or hope whereon to muse at ease.

" Self-slaughtered I, for one I loved, who could not give me love again,
Uncounted now the Autumns since that twilight hour malign
When, insensate for escape from a hunger naught could satisfy,
I vowed to God no more would I in torment live and pine.
Alas! He turned His face away, and woeful penance laid on me —
That every night make tryst must I till life my love resign. "

Furtive fell the anxious glance she cast that dreadful hiding-place;
Strangely still and muted ceased the tones in which she spake.
Shadow filled her vacant place. The moon withdrew in cloud again.
Hushed the ripples grieving to the pebbles in their wake.
" Thus her tale! " quoth sod to sod. " Not ours, good friends, to challenge it;
Though her blood still cries for vengeance on her murderer from this brake! "
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