And yet with all its oriental
There is a touch of Holland,
Of canals at Loo,
Where Orange William planned a boxwood maze.
The house has Flemish curves upon its eaves;
Its doorways yearn for buckle-shoed young bloods,
Smoking clay pipes, with lace a-droop from sleeves—
Moonlight on terraces is like a story told
By sleepy link-boys ’round old sedan chairs
In days when tulip bulbs were gold.
The faint, crisp rustle of
Rasps with the crackling scratch of old brocade,
The low bird-voices ripple like the laugh
Of Watteau beauties coiffured, with pomade;
Here ribboned dandies offered scented snuffs
To other ghosts, beneath the giant trees—
Was that a flash of rose-flamingo stuffs—
Azaleas?—was a sneeze blown down the breeze?
This terrace is a stage set
by the years,
Fit for the pageants of the centuries;
That fire-scarred ruin marks an act of tears—
Charm is more winsome coped with tragedies.
Here flaunted tilted hats and crinolines,
Small parasols, hoopskirts, and bombazines,
When turbaned slaves walked dykes in single file,
And rice-fields made horizons, otherwhile.
All, all has passed, but change,
Gnawed by the rat-like teeth of avid years,
The masters, through the door, to mysteries
Beyond blind panels ’mid the moss-scarved trees,
Uncanny gates, where negroes faintly bold,
At high noon in the tide of summer heat,
Stand in the draught of tomb-air deathly cold
That flows like glacial water ’round their feet.
This is the low-doored house among
Where one May dusk they brought Louise,
With music slow,
And sobbing low,
The old slaves crooning eerily.
She died asleep and weeping wearily.
She had a poppy-strange disease;
A beauty that was more than carnal,
How durst they leave her in the charnel?
She might be sleeping eerily!
Hush! They have locked her
in the tomb,
Among the silences and wilting bloom;
Life’s melody of voices drifts away—
Was it an owlet in the thorns that moaned?
The churchyard moonlight turns ash-gray—
Hush! Pale Louise!
The dead must not awaken.
Something a twittering cry is uttering.
Is that a bird there on her breast,
Lost in the fragrant gloom,
Wakening to morning twilight in the tomb?
No bird—it is her folded hands a-fluttering!
I think I should have died to see her rise
Among the withered wreaths
And spider-cluttered palls
Of her dead uncles’ funerals,
While streams of horror fed the blue lakes of her eyes.
I known I would have died to see her rise.