The Water Tarantella

The winds blow low on the fields and hedges,
There is a murmur amid the sedges,
A low sweet sound where the water gushes
Forth from the grass amid the rushes;
It is a streamlet small and young,
It loves to dally the mosses among,
It trickles slowly,
It whispers lowly,
On its breast the thistle drops its down,
The water lily
So white and stilly
Sleeps in its lap till its leaves grow brown.

Dance, poor Eveleen—dance, and dream—
Soft is the music, and fresh the stream.
We will follow thee where it flows—
It leaves the sedges dank behind,
And on its fringe a willow shows
Its silvery leaflets to the wind;
And a brook comes down from far away
And babbles into it all the day—
And both together creep through meads
Where the shy plover hides and feeds;—
And then away through fields of corn
Or stretch of meadows newly shorn,
Noiselessly they flow and clear
By open wold and covered brake,
But if you listen you may hear
The steady music that they make.

Dance, poor Eveleen, dance—we follow—
O'er field, through copse, o'er lawn, through hollow.

And now the stream begins to run
Over the pebbles in its bed,
To rumple its breast and glance in the sun,
And curl to the light breeze overhead.
No longer loitering, lingering, calm,
It hurries away o'er the chafing shingle,
Humming a song, singing a psalm,
Through the orchard, down the dingle.
Pools like mirrors adorn its breast,
And there the trout and the minnow rest,
The ringdove sings in her nest alone
The tender song that love has taught her,
And the redbreast sits on the boulder stone,
Washing his plumes in the wimpling water.
Brisker now let the music sound;
Dance, Eveleen, dance, we follow thee ever,
And tread the ground with a quick rebound,
Away, away with the rolling river.

Fed by its tributary rills
From distant valleys with circling hills,
And travelling seaward merrily brawling,
Wild, impassioned, rapid, and strong,
With a voice of power to the green woods calling,
The impetuous river dashes along,
And is sweeping, leaping, through the meadows
Almost as fast as the driving shadows
Of clouds that fly before the wind,
Down to the chasmy precipices,
There to burst in foaming fall;
It bursts, it thunders, it roars, it hisses—
An iris is its coronal;
And the pendulous trees above it shiver,
Bathed by the rain of that rampant river.

So dance, fair Eveleen, faster, faster,
Unloose thy zone, thy locks untwine;
Thy bosom, no more like the alabaster,
Is flushed, and heated, and red like wine:
Thy pulse is beating, thy blood is heating,
Thy lips are open, thine eye-balls shine.

And now the river speeds its wrath,
The music sinks, the winds blow low;
Its bosom broad is a nation's path—
Smooth and pleasant is its flow.

A boat shoots by with its rowers trim,
A ferryman plies his lazy oar;
And miles adown, in the distance dim,
There stands a city on the shore.

By cornfields yellow, by meadows green,
And stately gardens, we advance;
Still we follow thee, Eveleen—
Gentle, gentler, be thy dance.

Behold, upon a grassy lawn,
Sloped smoothly downwards to the brink,
With large soft eyes, a dapple fawn
Stoops to the lucid wave to drink;
And lo! an avenue of oak,
Whose wrinkled stems of giant girth,
Have stood unharmed the winter's stroke
For thrice a century, firm in earth,
Their boughs o'ertopped by the turrets hoary
Of a mansion old and famed in story.

They pass, all pass,
As in magic glass,
And still we trace the placid stream—
Castle and tower,
And park and bower;
Dance, poor Eveleen, dance and dream.

A hundred ships are in the river,
Their tall masts point to a clear blue sky,
Their sails are furled, their pennants curled,
To the sweet west wind that wantons by,
And every flag emblazoned fair,
Flaps at its will on the sunny air.
There is a peal of sabbath bells,
Over the river's breast it swells;
The tall proud steeples look calmly down
On the quiet houses of the town;
'Tis a day of love, of rest, of peace,
Eveleen, the song must cease.

Gently, Eveleen, gently rest,
Softly on thy pillow sleep;
The fit is o'er, thy heaving breast
Will calm itself in slumber deep;
Thou'st danced, poor maid, the tar antelle,
Thou'st danced it long, and danced it well,
Thou'st trod the maze, and traced the shore,
Thou shalt be healed for evermore.
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