More Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

KARLENE


 

WORD of a little one born in the West,—
How like a sea-bird it comes from the sea,
Out of the league-weary waters’ unrest
Blown with white wings, for a token, to me!

Blown with a skriel and a flurry of plumes

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(Sea-spray and flight-rapture whirled in a gleam!)
Here for a sign of the comrade that looms
Large in the mist of my love as I dream.

He with the heart of an old violin,
Vibrant at every least stir in the place,

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Lyric of woods where the thrushes begin,
Wave-questing wanderer, still for a space,—

What will the child of his be (so I muse),
Wood-flower, sea-flower, star-flower rare?
Worlds here to choose from, and which will she choose,

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She whose first world is an armsweep of air?

Baby Karlene, you are wondering now
Why you can’t reach the great moon that you see
Just at your hand on the edge of the bough
That waves in the window-pane—how can it be?

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All your world yet hardly lies out of reach
Of ten little fingers and ten little toes.
You are a seed for the sky there to teach
(And the sun and the wind and the rain) as it grows.

Just a green leaf piercing up to the day,

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Pale fleck of June to come, just to be seen
Through the rough crumble of rubble and clay
Lifting its loveliness, dawn-child, Karlene!

Fragile as fairycraft, dew-dream of love,—
Never a clod that has marred the slim stalk,

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Never a stone but its frail fingers move,
Bent on the blue sky and nothing can balk!

Blue sky and wind-laughters, that is thy dream.
Ah the brave days when thy leafage shall toss
High where gold noondays and sunsets a-stream

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Mix with its moving and kiss it across.

There the great clouds shall go lazily by,
Cool thee with shadows and dazzle with shine,
Drench thee with rain-guerdons, bless thee with sky,
Till all the knowledge of earth shall be thine.

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Wind from the ice-floe and wind from the palm,
Wind from the mountains and wind from the lea—
How they will sing thee of tempest and calm!
How they will lure thee with tales of the sea!

What will you be in that summer, Karlene?

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Apple-tree, cherry-tree, lily, or corn?
Red rose or yellow rose, gray leaf or green?
Which will you choose now the year’s at its morn?

Somewhere even now in thy heart is the will,—
"I shall be Golden Rod, slender and tall—

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I shall be Pond Lily, secret and still—
I shall be Sweetbriar, Queen of them all—

"I shall give shade for the weary to rest —
I shall grow flax for the naked to wear—
Figs for a feast and all comers to guest—

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Wreaths that girls twine in the laugh of their hair—

"Ivy for scholars and myrtle for lovers,
Laurel for conquerors, poets, and kings—
Broad-spreading beech-boughs whose benison covers
Clamor of bird-notes and flutter of wings—

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"I shall rise tall as an elm in my grace—
I shall be clothed as catalpa is clad—
Poets shall crown me with lyrics of praise—
Lovers for lure of my blossoms go mad!"

Which shall it be, baby? Guess you at all?

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Only I know in the lull of the year
You have said now where your choosing shall fall,
Only you have not yet heard yourself, dear.

So, like a mocking-bird, up in the trees,
I watching wondering where you have grown,

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Borrow a note from a birdfellow’s glees,
Fittest to sing you, and make it my own.

Only I know as I wonder, Karlene,
Singing up here where you think me a star,
Heaven’s still above me, and some one serene

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Laughs in the blue sky and knows what you are.