The sun goes round; and Bareau
Is a door of earth on the Kelpie men,—
Buried at dawn, asleep, unslain,
With not a mound on the sunny plain,
Hard by the walls of calm
Row on row by the crystal well.
And never again they are free
Through all the years on the tossing tide,
Barred from the breast of
the barren foam,
Where the heart within them is yearning home,—
For one long drench of the
surf to quell
The cursing doom of the goblin spell.
Only, when bugling snows alight
To smother the marshes stark and white,
Or a low red moon peers over
Of a winter twilight crisp and dim,
With a sound of drift on the
The goblin maidens loose their hands;
A wind comes down from the
sheer blue North;
And the Kelpie riders get them forth.
Twice have I been on Bareau
But the son of my son is a man since then.
Once as a lad I used to bear
St. Louis’ cross through the chapel square,
Leading the choristers’
Slow up the dusk Cathedral aisle.
I was the boy of all Rochelle
The pure old father trusted well.
But one clear night in the
I wandered out to that place apart.
The shafts of smoke went up
to the stars,
Straight as the Northern Streamer spars,
From the town’s white
roofs, so still it was.
The night in her dream let no word pass,
Nor ever a breath that one
Only the snow shrieked under my heel.
Yet it seemed when I reached
the poplar hole,
The ghost of a voice was crying, “Skoal!
“Rouse thee and drink,
for the well is sweet,
And the crystal snow is good to eat!”
I heeded little, but stooped
on my knee,
And ate of a handful dreamily.
’Twas cool to the mouth
and slaking at first,
But the lure of it was ill for thirst.
The voice cried, “Soul
of the mortal span,
Art thou not of the Kelpie clan?”
“What are you doing
there in the ground,
Kelpie rider, and never a sound
“To roam the night but
the ghost of a cry?”
Ringing and swift there came reply,
“He is asleep where
thou art afraid,
In the tawny arms of a goblin maid!”
Then I knew the voice was
the voice of a girl,
And I marvelled much (while a little swirl
Of snow leaped up far off
on the plain
Of sparkling dust and died again),
For what do the cloisters
know, think ye,
Of women’s ways? They be hard to see.