Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer-Moon / Gertrude Hall


When the stupid people were not looking
     – They sat in shadow of the sail –
I softly slid down the plunging boat-bow
     To the trembling waters, glimmering pale.

I said to myself, "Now I will follow
     The long white track of this summer moon;
Since a little child I have burned and longed to,
     And this sweet night is never too soon."

How the waters danced 'neath my light, swift footsteps,
     How cool they seemed to my eager feet!
I gathered my white things closely about me,
     But my hair was caught by the breezes sweet,

And they loosened and spread it and held it flowing;
     I looked before and never behind:
I Hurried on in the lustrous pathway
     Where light was the moon and shadow the wind.

O the sweet long path of silver and diamond!
     O the joyous splendour I travelled o'er!
I said to myself, "No – I never, never,
     Trod such a beautiful path before!"

I seemed alone on the whole great ocean:
     The sky bent down to the water's rim
On every side, and kissed it so closely
     It trembled as if with deep love for him.

I stooped to gather the white foam-flowers
     Till my hands were full of the creamy things,
Then I bound them with a long sea-ribbon –
     I understood what the old sea sings,

Just for a while; I listened intently,
     And all at once it occurred to me,
And it was something very important –
     But has escaped my memory.

The dolphins rose and stared at my passing.
     I waved my gathered flowers to them;
They must have wondered that I could wander
     So far without wetting my garment's hem.

How far I went and I was not tired!
     How far I went in the moon's white way! –
But all at once aught came against me
     That made my footsteps falter and stay:

A white face 'neath a veil of water,
     With golden loose hair streaming round –
I stooped to kiss it and sighed unto it,
     "I am so sorry you were drowned!"

Now the moon approached the low sea-level,
     I thought "I must hurry all I can" –
I gathered the white folds closer and higher
     And over the swelling billows ran.

The moon was half way down the water
     When panting I reached the silvern gate –
How great it was, and white and fulgent! –
     I knocked, and hoped it was not too late.

The guardian came and looked and pondered,
     Then asked, "Little maid, have you ever died?"
And I said, "Nay."  And he said sadly,
     "Little maid, in vain then you have tried."

So I was forced to turn and leave it;
     The beautiful guardian said, "Some day" . . .
And I came home with saddened footsteps
     Over a moonless darkling way.

Gertrude Hall
from Verses, 1890

[Poem is in the public domain in Canada and the United States]

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