by Patience Worth
Thick stands the hill in garb of fir,
And winter-stripped the branching shrub.
Cold grey the sky, and glistered o'er
With star-dust pulsing tremorously.
Snow, the lady of the Winter Knight,
Hath danced her weary and fallen to her rest.
She lieth stretched in purity
And dimpled 'neath the trees.
A trackless waste doth lie from hill
To valley 'neath, and Winter's Knight
Doth sing a wooing lay unto his love.
Cot on cot doth stand deserted,
And thro' the purpled dark they show
Like phanoms of a life long passed
To nothingness. Hear thou the hollowness
Of the sea's coughing beat against
The cliff beneath, and harken ye
To the silence of the valley there.
Doth chafe ye of thy loneliness?
Then sleep and let me put a dream to thee.
See ye the cot-
A speck o' dark adown the hillside,
And sheltered o'er with fir-boughs,
Heavy-laden with the kiss of Lady Snow?
Come hither then, let's bruise this snowy breast,
And fetch us there unto its door.
See! Here a twig
Hath battled, with the wind, and lost;
We then may cast it 'mid its brothers of
The bush and plow us on.
Look ye to the thick thatch
O'er the gable of the roof,
Piled higher with a blanketing of snow;
And shutters hang agape,
To rattle like the cackle of a crone.
The blackness of a pit within,
,And filled with sounds, that tho' they be
But seasoning of the log, doth freeze
Thy marrowmeat. I feel the quake
And shake thee for thy fear.
Stride thou within and set a flint to brush
Within the chimney-place; we then shall rouse
The memory of the tenant here-
,A night, my friend, thee'lt often call to mind.
.The flame hath sprung and lappeth at the twigs.
Thee'lt watch the burning of thy hastiness,
And wait thee long,
Until the embers slip away to smoke.
Then strain ye to its weaving,
And spell to me the reading of its folds.
I see thin, threading lines that writhe them
To a shape-a visage ever changeful,
Or mine eyes do play me false,
For it doth smile to twist it to a leer,
And sadden but to laugh in mockery.
I see a lad whose face
Doth shine illumed, and he doth bear
The kiss of wisdom on his brow.
I see him travail 'neath a weary load,
And close beside him Wisdom follows on.
Burdened not is he. Do I see aright?
For still the light of wisdom shineth o'er.
But stay! What! Do mine eyes then cheat?-
This twisting smoke-wreath
Filleth all too much my sight!
Nay, friend, strain thee now anew.
The lad! Now canst thou see?
Nay, for like to him
Thou hast looked thee at the face of Doubt!
Who art thou, shape or phantom, then,
That thou canst set my dream to flight?
I doubt me that the lad could stand
Beneath the load!
Nay, thee canst ravel well, my friend.
The lad was thee, and Doubt
O'ertook with Wisdom on thy way.
Come, bury Doubt aneath the ash.-
We travel us anew.
Seest thou, a rimming moon doth show
From 'neath the world's beshadowed side.
A night bird chatteth to its mate,
And lazily the fir-boughs wave.
We track us to the cot whose roof
Doth sag-and why thy shambling tread?
I bid ye on!
Who art thou-again I that demand-
That I shall follow at thy bidding?
Who set me then this task?
Step thou within!
Stand thee on the thresh of this roofless void!
Look thou! Dost see the maid
Who coyly stretcheth forth her hand
To welcome thee? She biddeth thee
To sit and sup. I bid thee speak!
Awaken thee unto her welcoming!
Enough! This fancy-breeding sickeneth
My very soul! A skeleton of murdered trees,
Ribbed with pine and shanked of birch!
And thee wouldst bid me then
Embrace the emptiness.
I see naught, and believe but what I see.
Look thou again, and strain.
What seest thou?
I see a newly kindled fire,
And watch its burning glow until
The embers die and send their ghosts aloft.
But ash remaineth-and I chill!
For rising there, a shape
Whose visage twisteth drunkenly,
And from her garments falls a dust of ash.
Doubt! Unburied, friend! We journey on,
And mark ye well each plodding footfall
Singing like to golden metal with the frost.
The night a scroll of white, and lined
With blackish script-
The lines of His own putting!
Read thee there! Thou seest naught,
And believe but what ye see!
Stark nakedness and waste-but hearken ye!
The frost skirt traileth o'er the crusted snow
And singeth young leaves songs of Spring.
Still art thou blind!
But at His touching shall the darkness bud
And bloom to rosy mom. And even now,
Were I to snap a twig 'twould bleed and die.
See ye; 'tis done! Look ye!
Ye believe but what ye see:
Here within thy very hand
Thou holdest Doubt's undoing.
I bid ye look upon the bud
Already gathered 'neath the tender bark.
The sun's set and rise hath coaxed it forth.
Thee canst see the rogue hath stolen red
And put it to its heart. And here
Aneath the snow the grass doth love the earth
And nestles to her breast.
I stand me here, and lo, the Spring hath broke!
The dark doth slip away to hide,
And flowering, singing, sighing, loving Spring
Aye, thou art indeed
A wonder-worker in the night!
A black pall, a freezing blast,
An unbroken path-and thou
Wouldst have me then to prate o' Spring,
And pluck a bud where dark doth hide the bush
Who cometh from the thicket higher there?
'Tis Doubt to meet thee, friend!
Who art thou? I fain would flee,
And yet I fear to leave lest I be lost.
I hate thee and thy weary task!
Nay, brother, thy lips do spell,
But couldst thee read their words aright-
Thee wouldst meet again with Doubt.
Come! We journey on unto the cot
Beloved the most by me. I bid thee
Let thy heart to warm within thy breast.
A thawing melteth frozen Hope.
See how, below, the sea hath veiled
Her secret held so close,
And murmured only to the winds
Who woo her ever and anon.
The waves do lap them hungry for the sands.
Careful! Lest the sun's pale rise
Should blind thee with its light.
A shaft to put it through
The darkness of thy soul must needs
But be a glimmering to blind.
Step ye to the hearthstone then,
And set thee there a flame anew.
I bid ye read again
The folding of the smoke.
'Tis done, thou fiend!
A pretty play for fools, indeed.
I swear me that 'tis not
For loving of the task I builded it,
But for the warming of its glow.
In truth ye speak. But read!
I see a hag whose brow
Doth wrinkle like a summer sea.
For do I look unto the sea
At Beauty's own fair form,
It writheth to a twisted shape,
And I do doubt me of her loveliness.
The haggard visage of the crone
I now behold, doth set me doubting
Of mine eye, for dimples seem
'to flutter 'neath the wrinkled cheek.
So, then, thee believest
But what thine eyes behold!
Thee findest then
Thy seeing in a sorry plight!
I marvel at thy wisdom, lad.
Look ye anew. Mayhap thee then
Canst coax the crone away.
Enough! The morn hath kissed the night adieu,
And even while I prate-
A redwing crimsoneth the snow in flight.
Kindled tinder smoldereth away,
And I do strain me to its fold.
I glut me of the loveliness I there behold,
For from the writhing stream a sprite is born
Whose beauteous form bedazzles me,
And she doth point me
To the golding gray of morn. The sea
Is singing, singing her unto my soul.
I dreamed she sighed, but waked to hear her sing.
I hear thee, Phantom, bidding me on, on!
But mom hath stolen dreams away.
I strain me to the hills to trace our path,
And lo, unbroken is the snow,
And cots have melted with the light,
And yet, methinks a murmuring doth come
From out the echoes of the night,
That hid them 'neath the crannies of the hills.
Life! Life! I lead thee on!
And faith doth spring from seedlings of thy doubt!
Thick stands the hill in garb of fir and snow.
The Lady of the Winter's Knight hath danced
Her weary, and stretched her in her purity,
To cover aching wounds of Winter's overloving woo.
Last updated January 14, 2019