THE TALE OF PER BAUD
As I neared the track’s winding end,
I saw before me fields of gold:
‘Twas like the sight of a welcome friend,
That over the stretching valleys, rolled.
I called out, as if someone were greeting me,
But still I dwelt in sad company:
Perhaps she lies unremembered; her hold
On life, as a ghost, all but gone,
And her endless spirit is weary of the world, alone?
The distance between our souls was plain
And my heart began to wish that I
Were far away from this loathsome lane…
And I remembered how as a little boy
I would play in those dappled woods,
And I would spend my changing moods
Questioning God and nature – Why
The mind of man in valiant quest
Knows not of love within his breast?
Through all this, by the river’s bending,
The sun was slowly going down,
And on my soul was night, descending,
Along dark passages where reeds were blown;
And swaying under their dry-stemmed weight
Where summer’s sun had sealed their fate…
I thought I saw the swish of white gown
Among the reeds and hearty sprays
Of bank-side buds, and sunset rays.
The water was still, yet a wind had come;
Come to taunt me in my woe;
Come to flood my mind of the tomb
Where pale Catherine lies in her sorrow,
Like the water that’s calm and still,
Swept into some lone idyll,
That seeks its melancholy morrow
Where again it shall follow with eager jaunt,
My frame through the woods and hills, to haunt!
On the green wave, a dire mist
Rose up from banks across the way;
Came rolling low on the waves and kissed
Goodnight upon the day.
Then out of this white mantle’s lull,
The sound of creaking oars, though dull,
Grew in strength near a darkened bay,
Where I and my horse had stood some time
To watch the mist on the water, climb.
Through the white shifting, rippled wave,
Like silken threads on the awkward air;
There came a wooden boat that gave
My soul its timbered stare,
And as two eyes strayed over the prow
I saw their sad gaze upon me, now.
Like Psyche, silent, sat she there
As the lapping river bowed before
Such beauty, to ever come ashore!
Her hair had tumbled over her brow
And I saw her lips like flaming jewels;
My spirit soared, for I could not know
What madness beat upon timeless bells,
Or what sad symmetry on the water, slips
In wild tangents and perfect ellipse!
Perhaps ‘tis some harpy from some devil’s
Loveless chasm, whose fiery lips shall kiss,
My soul dimmed by such loveliness?
To see such beauty from the night
Made moonlight’s gift a mockery,
To see such an angel so vibrant in white
With her eyes so sad upon me.
This mist deceives me; my eyes are fooled:
‘Tis time that the amorous heart were cooled.
And this I believed, till I saw that she
Was swiftly nearing in that ragged hull:
O spirit, calm and beautiful.
Between her and me, the wind rushed by,
Echoing its phantasmagorical din,
Yet it could not hide my passionate sigh
That thundered from within.
Her eyes met mine, once again, and we
Were closer now, and I saw that she,
With scarlet lips, crisp and thin
Whispered words lost to the breeze,
Made more awful by mists, quick to seize!
The fluttering blossom that swept in whirls
And blew about her tragic bow,
To die upon the foaming curls
Of the river’s joyless flow –
I looked on her sweet face, so pale
That broke from ‘neath a white fringed veil;
I saw her frail hands long and narrow
Fall to the sides of the creaking hull,
To dip in the water, wonderful!
Drifting where willow and birch made shade
Near the riverside’s sloping edge,
There beside a watery glade
Softened by sheltering sedge;
And slowly on the woeful river
I thought my soul be blessed to see her!
There beats a heart of gentle age,
Pure within that bosom, though
In her eyes I saw the light of sorrow.
What maid from lonesome night is she
To throw on me her haunted glance?
My thoughts were wild yet I could not see
Where her beaten boat should chance
And set her down among the reeds
And sunken springtime roots and weeds.
Filled with torment and fixed in trance,
I glimpsed its mossy hulk descend
Where the willows meet the river’s bend!