Echoes from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman


 

ON THE PLAZA


 

ONE August day I sat beside
A café window open wide
To let the shower-freshened air
Blow in across the Plaza, where
In golden pomp against the dark
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Green leafy background of the Park,
St. Gaudens’ hero, gaunt and grim,
Rides on with Victory leading him.

The wet, black asphalt seemed to hold
In every hollow pools of gold,

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And clouds of gold and pink and gray
Were piled up at the end of day,
Far down the cross street, where one tower
Still glistened from the drenching shower.

A weary white-haired man went by,

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Cooling his forehead gratefully
After the day’s great heat. A girl,
Her thin white garments in a swirl
Blown back against her breasts and knees,
Like a Winged Victory in the breeze,
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Alive and modern and superb,
Crossed from the circle to the curb.

We sat there watching people pass,
Clinking the ice against the glass
And talking idly—books or art,

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Or something equally apart
From the essential stress and strife
That rudely form and further life,
Glad of a respite from the heat,
When down the middle of the street,
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Trundling a hurdy-gurdy, gay
In spite of the dull-stifling day,
Three street-musicians came. The man,
With hair and beard as black as Pan,
Strolled on one side with lordly grace,
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While a young girl tugged at a trace
Upon the other. And between
The shafts there walked a laughing queen,
Bright as a poppy, strong and free.
What likelier land than Italy
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Breeds such abandon? Confident
And rapturous in mere living spent
Each moment to the utmost, there
With broad, deep chest and kerchiefed hair,
With head thrown back, bare throat, and waist
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Supple, heroic and free-laced,
Between her two companions walked
This splendid woman, chaffed and talked,
Did half the work, made all the cheer
Of that small company.
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                                        No fear
Of failure in a soul like hers
That every moment throbs and stirs
With merry ardor, virile hope,
Brave effort, nor in all its scope
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Has room for thought or discontent,
Each day its own sufficient vent
And source of happiness.

                                        Without
A trace of bitterness or doubt

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Of life’s true worth, she strode at ease
Before those empty palaces,
A simple heiress of the earth
And all its joys by happy birth,
Beneficent as breeze or dew,
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And fresh as though the world were new
And toil and grief were not. How rare
A personality was there!