by Hervey Allen

Hervey Allen

Kept like a secret by a cloudy wood
Of birches and the gloomy, gabled pine
A white porched temple of the Muses stood
Traced with the rambling gesture of a vine,
Lifting its dreamful pillars with an ease
That mocked the living columns of the trees.

Time, as if waiting, touched its antique grace
With wands of gentle rain, or on it smote
The scepter of the sun through glossy space,
Or owl-lured fingers of the moon would gloat
Along its frieze like pearls about a throat
That trembles, yet withholds the hoped-for note.

Cloistered within, the pallid muses stood
Three on three sides, in niches nine and tall,
Silent as snowbound travelers in a wood
Masqued Drama gazed at Music in her stall,
While fingers of the breezes seemed to twitch
Their frozen garments toward a vacant niche.

Empty it gaped against the southern wall,
Graced with foiled fruit and blossoms like a space
Left for a window in a fireless hall,
Framed like a picture lacking form and face—
A hunt without a distant bugle call—
Nine sisters faced it in a muted choir
With tattered spider webs on harp and lyre.

Thus, in a silent vision, calm they stood,
A dream too beautiful to tell at morning,
Without, the earliest thrush sat in the wood,
Warming her eggs with hope, yet music scorning,
While time broke little berries from the holly
And silence whispered through the hood of melancholy.

No sound was there. The snowbird's throat was still.
The brook fled silent down the frozen hill.
No voice claimed echo for an heir
As yet—until—

A soft conspiracy of wind and weather
Tangled the swelling roots of March together
To trip the feet of April on a day
When she should pause within the wood to play.
Like morning mist the snowbanks shrank away
As if a milkmaid's smock, or spattered cream,
Dried in the sunlight where the birches dream
Amid the bracken by a melting stream.

So warmth came to the wood, save in one corner
In a small shady swale that seemed to scorn her,
Where the stark shadow of an oak tree lay,
Which shrank from dawn to noon; grew through the afternoon
And cherished thus a snowbank day by day
For almost half a moon, that else would melt away
Like all the others, and be gone too soon,
Where snowbanks go before the May.

Too soon—for to the wood-thing's tender eyes
That place was like a thawing paradise.
Beside the cool and ever-shrinking bank
Of snow the tenant flowers blew and drank
A rainbow atmosphere of freshest dew;
In a half-frosty haze arbutus grew—
Violets that followed when the bright snow shrank
Until—one patch lay like a shroud on something still.

About were flowers. And the birds came too,
Bobbing prim little curtsies, as birds do.
It seemed beneath the snow that someone dreamed—
Or slept. Backward the snowbank crept,
Showing a foot whose web of veins was blue—
As if with blood of violets—in a shoe
Made of a fleecy dock leaf, like a stud
Of blue-veined ivory in an emerald bud—
Or so it seemed.

Wonder of wonders, when the snow left, there
Lay the young Spring herself! Her hair
Was sheathed in grasses, and took root.
Her fingers sank in mosses. She was bound
By veins and purple tendrils to the ground.
At first, she lay so quiet, pale, and fair
The squirrel from hollow tree came out to stare
And sniffed and flirted round her leafy boot.

Young leaf pods fell upon her, then the sun
Began to warm her and her blood to run
Less blue through all her veins. Her heart
Commenced to beat. From head to feet
She slowly blushed, part into part.
Her blue lips opened and her smooth cheek flushed,
Till on a day she opened up her eyes
Mild with the fluxing dreams of April skies.

Then with a bird-like cry she stirred and rose.
Rose now the color of her lips. Her clothes
Were Eve's. And her long shining hair
Was golden—saving at the very tips,
Where it was yellow-green. Out of the stems it slips
Of long, young grasses that had been a sheaf
For every separate hair that thus drew strength
Out of the ground. And now with lovely length
It whips like tangled seaweed round her hips.

How bright, how darling fair was dear young Spring
There in that shadowy vale I dare not sing.
Her hair like little wires sprang from her brow
Of snow about twin violets, and her tresses
Bent to the wind's invisible caresses.
How did she walk? I cannot quite say how.
Her form was scarce imprinted in the moss
Still warm where she had lain;
Her breasts were tinted with a rose's stain.
My winter palette now is at a loss.

She walked a panther-vision of sure motion
Made with full ease. She seemed to pass
Over the grass as if it were an ocean.
The flowers washed before her in white waves
That broke in foaming purple, and she laves
Her limbs in tinted asters and anemones.
So dips the swallow skimming landlocked seas,
Leaving no trace but ripples on the glass.

And now from vale and hill came bird and beast;
Starlings, and a thousand larks, at least.
The humming birds brought honey for her lips,
And sleepy bears blinked from their cavern trees,
Hearing above the hollow boom of bees
As if their winter house were now a drum
To throb and throb that, "Spring has come, has come!"
The speckled fawns came browsing lily slips;
Darlings of new-born lambs—with these she skips.

The wood resounded with the wise crow's caws.
And blackbirds paused and dropped the last year's haws.
The owl's twin eggs hatched out at blinding noon
While she prepared that night to twit the moon
When it should glimmer in her eyes through larches—
And Spring passed on her way beneath the arches
Of budding trees, in flowers to her knees;
Piped by the birds, and led by woodland boys
With poppy torches, to a joyful noise.

For now a wedding note swelled every forest throat.
The temple seemed on fire, and all its porches
Swirled with slim girls and orioles and torches.
The flowers washed around it when Spring stept
Over the threshold and the statues leapt
Breathing at last as if with breath of her,
Stripping the dusty webs from harp and lyre,
Storming new music from each throat and wire,
As if they lived at last because of her.
And so they do,
And evermore must be
Alive in her
And in her ecstasy,
For Spring, the witch,
Came to abide;
To fill her vacant niche
That was so bare;
To wake the silence there
With minstrelsy
As for a bride.

Last updated September 07, 2017