Orion, and Other Poems

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

ONE NIGHT


 

 
THE wood is cold, and dank, and green;
    The trunks stand close in sullen row;
A crookéd moon through a creeping screen
    Of night-fog rots in the roots below.

The pool is thick, and dead, and green;                                             
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    Its bubbles gleam the roots below;
To feed the slimy growths between
    The slimy roots the ooze drips slow.

My feet can find no standing-place,
    The monstrous trunk my arms grasp not;                                     
10
Across the roots upon my face
    I fall, and pray my soul can not.

And one came by, and bare a load—
    An unstrange form—to where I lay;
Into the pool he cast his load:                                                          
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    "Look to it," he said, and went away.

The thick scum closed; the body slid
    Beneath the roots to where I lay,
And rose face up: I fain had hid
    My eyes; their lids forgot the way.                                              
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And fain my hands had hid my face,
    But could not quit their slimy hold;
Close to my face its loathly face
    Uprose, and back its swathings rolled.


Its dead eyes woke and with mine met                                            
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    Familiarly; at that I wept.
My tears fell big and fast, and set
    More foulness forth the scum had kept.

And more I wept more foul it grew;
    All else grew black, and my heart dropped down.                       
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I had lain there for an age, I knew,
    And must lie there till the body sank down.

Then One came by to where I lay;
    He had heard my tears and come to me.
He had heard my tears (for I could not pray),                                 
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    And pitied me, and had come to me.

He touched the body, and it sank down
    Beyond my sight, though the pool was clear;
And the space above was a sapphire crown
    Upon their heads, for the trees to wear.                                      
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He stood me up upon my feet,
    And the trunks were dry and my hands were clean;
The breath of laughing leaves was sweet:
    And he left me in this pleasant scene.