From the Book of Valentines

by Bliss Carman


 

IN AN IRIS MEADOW


 

Once I found you in an iris meadow 
Down between the seashore and the river, 
Playing on a golden willow whistle 
You had fashioned from a bough in springtime,— 
Piping such a wild melodious music, 
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Full of sunshine, sadness and sweet longing, 
As the heart of earth must have invented,
When the wind first breathed above her bosom,
And above the sea-rim, silver-lighted, 
Pure and glad and innocent and tender, 
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The first melting planets glowed in splendour.

There it was I loved you as a lover,
Then it was I lost the world forever.
For your slender fingers on the notches 
Set free more than that mere earthly cadence,— 

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Loosed the piercing stops of mortal passion,— 
Touched your wood-mate with the spell of wonder, 
And the godhead in the man awakened. 
Virgin spirit with unsullied senses, 
There was earth for him all new-created, 
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In a moment when the music's rapture
Bade soul take what never thought could capture:

Just the sheer glad bliss of being human,
Just the large content beyond all reason,
Just the love of flowers, hills and rivers,

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Shadowy forests and lone lovely bird-songs
When the morning brightens in the sea-wind;
And beyond all these the fleeting vision
Of the shining soul that dwelt within you,
(Magic fragrance of the meadow blossom)
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All the dear fond madness of the lover.

These, all these the ancient wood-god taught me
From the theme you piped and the wind brought me.

Was it strange that I should stop the playing?
Was it strange that I should touch the blossom?

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Must (a man's way!) see whence came the music,
Must with childish marvel count the petals?
O but sweet were your uncounted kisses!
Wild and dear those first impulsive fondlings,
When your great eyes swept me, then went seaward,
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Too o'ercharged to bear the strain of yearning,
And the little head must seek this shoulder!
Then we heard once more the wood-god's measure,
And strange gladness filled the world's great leisure.