From the Book of Myths

by Bliss Carman


 

DAPHNE


 

I know that face!
In some lone forest place,
When June brings back the laurel to the hills,
Where shade and sunlight lace,

Where all day long

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The brown birds make their song—
A music that seems never to have known
Dismay nor haste nor wrong—

I once before
Have seen thee by the shore,

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As if about to shed the flowery guise
And be thyself once more.

Dear, shy, soft face,
With just the elfin trace
That lends thy human beauty the last touch

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Of wild, elusive grace!

Can it be true,
A god did once pursue
Thy gleaming beauty through the glimmering wood,
Drenched in the Dorian dew,

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Too mad to stay
His hot and headstrong way,
Demented by the fragrance of thy flight,
Heedless of thy dismay?

But I to thee

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More gently fond would be,
Nor less a lover woo thee with soft words
And woodland melody;

Take pipe and play
Each forest fear away;

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Win thee to idle in the leafy shade
All the long Summer day;

Tell thee old tales
Of love, that still avails
More than all mighty things in this great world,

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Still wonderworks nor fails;

Teach thee new lore,
How to love more and more,
And find the magical delirium
In joys unguessed before.

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I would try over
And over to discover
Some wild, sweet, foolish, irresistible
New way to be thy lover—

New, wondrous ways

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To fill thy golden days,
Thy lovely pagan body with delight,
Thy loving heart with praise.

For I would learn,
Deep in the brookside fern,

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The magic of the syrinx whispering low
With bubbly fall and turn;

Mock every note
Of the green woodbird's throat,
Till some wild strain, impassioned yet serene,

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Should form and float
Far through the hills,

Where mellow sunlight fills
The world with joy, and from the purple vines
The brew of life distils.

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Ah, then indeed

Thy heart should have no need
To tremble at a footfall in the brake,
And bid thy bright limbs speed.
But night would come,

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And I should make thy home
In the deep pines, lit by a yellow star
Hung in the dark blue dome—

A fragrant house
Of woven balsam boughs,

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Where the great Cyprian mother should receive
Our warm unsullied vows.