From the Book of Valentines

by Bliss Carman




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, 
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, 

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,— 

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, 
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,

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)
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?

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,
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.