Behind the Arras: A Book of the Unseen

by Bliss Carman


 

The Red Wolf


 

WITH the fall of the leaf comes the wolf, wolf, wolf,
The old red wolf at my door.
And my hateful yellow dwarf, with his hideous crooked laugh,
Cries "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at my door.

With the still of the frost comes the wolf, wolf, wolf,

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The gaunt red wolf at my door.
He's as tall as a Great Dane, with his grizzly russet mane;
And he haunts the silent woods at my door.

The scarlet maple leaves and the sweet ripe nuts,
May strew the forest glade at my door,

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But my cringing cunning dwarf, with his slavered kacking laugh,
Cries "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at my door.

The violets may come, the pale wind-flowers blow,
And tremble by the stream at my door;
But my dwarf will never cease, until his last release,

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From his "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at the door.

The long sweet April wind may woo the world from grief,
And tell the old tales at my door;
The rainbirds in the rain may plead their far refrain,
In the glad young year at my door;

And in the quiet sun, the silly partridge brood

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In the red pine dust by my door;
Yet my squinting runty dwarf, with his lewd ungodly laugh,
Cries "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at my door.

I'm his master (and his slave, with his "Wolf, wolf, wolf!")
As he squats in the sun at my door.

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There morn and noon and night, with his cuddled low delight,
He watches for the wolf at my door.

The wind may parch his hide, or freeze him to the bone,
While the wolf walks far from the door;
Still year on year he sits, with his five unholy wits,

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And watches for the wolf at the door.

But the fall of the leaf and the starting of the bud
Are the seasons he loves by the door;
Then his blood begins to rouse, this Caliban I house,
And it's "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at the door.

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In the dread lone of the night I can hear him snuff the sill;
Then it's "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at the door;
His damned persistent bark, like a husky's in the dark,
His "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at the door.

I have tried to rid the house of the misbegotten spawn;

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But he skulks like a shadow at my door,
With the same uncanny glee as when he came to me
With his first cry of wolf at my door.

I curse him, and he leers; I kick him, and he whines;
But he never leaves the stone at my door.

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Peep of day or set of sun, his croaking 's never done
Of the Red Wolf of Despair at my door.

But when the night is old, and the stars begin to fade,
And silence walks the path by my door,
Then is his dearest hour, his most unbridled power,

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And low comes his "Wolf!" at the door.

I turn me in my sleep between the night and day,
While dreams throng the yard at my door.
In my strong soul aware of a grewsome terror there
Soon to knock with command at my door.

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Is it the hollow voice of the census-taker Time
In his old idle round from door to door?
Or only the north wind, when all the leaves are thinned,
Come at last with his moan to my door?

I cannot guess nor tell; only it comes and comes,

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As from a vaster world beyond my door,
From centuries of eld, the death of freedom knelled,
A host of mortal fears at my door.

Then I wake; and joy and youth and fame and love and bliss,
And all the good that ever passed my door,

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Grow dim, and faint and fade, with the whole world unmade,
To perish as the summer at my door.

The crouching heart within me quails like a shuddering thing,
As I turn on my pillow to the door;
Then in the chill white dawn, when life is half withdrawn,

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Comes the dream-curdling "Wolf!" at my door.

Only my yellow dwarf; (my servitor and lord!)
I hear him lift the latch of my door;
I see his wobbling chin and his unrepentant grin,
As he lets his oafship in at the door.

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He is low and humped and foul, and shambles like an ape;
And stealthily he barricades the door,
Then lays his goblin head against my lonely bed,
With a "Wolf, wolf, wolf," at the door!

I loathe him, but I feed him; I'll tell you how it was

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(Hear him now with his "Wolf!" at the door)
That I ever took hi in; he is—he is my kin
And kin to the wolf at the door!

I loathe him, yet he lives; as God lets Satan live,
I suffer him to slumber at my door,

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Till that long-looked-for time, that splendid sudden prime,
When Spring shall go in scarlet by my door.

That day I will arise, put my heel upon his throat,
And squirt his yellow blood upon the door;
Then watch him dying there, like a spider in his lair,

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With a "Wolf, wolf, wolf!" at my door.

The great white morning sun shall walk the earth again,
And the children return to my door,
I shall hear their merry laugh, and forget my buried dwarf,
As a tale that is told at the door.

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Far from the quiet woods the gaunt red wolf shall flee,
As a cur that is stoned from the door;
And God's great peace come back along the lonely track,
To fill the golden year at my door.