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Dora Sigerson Shorter

Poems by Dora Sigerson Shorter

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I saw Winter 'neath a spindle tree,
She plucked berries bright to crown her head.
She was singing little robin's song
While wild beech-leaves round and round her spread.
I ran home into my little house,
Pulled to the shutters, barred up the door...
'What ails you that you look so pale,
O fisher of the sea?'
''Tis for a mournful tale I own,
Fair maiden Marjorie.'
'What is the dreary tale to tell,
O toiler of the sea...
Wrapt in the darkness of the night,
Gathering in silence on the shore,
Wild geese flown from hiding on the hills
(Hark! the wolf-hound; thrice he howled before),
Wild geese with forest leaves tangled in their hair.
Is that blood on the heaving breasts of some...
She made roses all the day for pretty ladies' wear,
All through the patient hours, half into the night.
Dragged into a hurried knot all her dusty hair,
Eyes foolish with fatigue, straining to the light.
Pretty ladies roamed away over land and sea,
Talked on foreign boulevard, laughed in gay bazaar...
Deep in the wood's recesses cool
I see the fairy dancers glide,
In cloth of gold, in gown of green,
My lord and lady side by side.
But who has hung from leaf to leaf,
From flower to flower, a silken twine...
As I between the dusk and dark
Walked down by Hampton Towers,
I strayed upon the haunted path
In the forbidden hours.
I paced the long and lonesome way
In meditation deep...
O brother, brother, come down to the crags by the bay,
Come down to the caves where I play;
For oh! I saw on the rocks, asleep,
A fair mermaid, and the slow waves creep
To bear her away, away.
O brother, brother, come quick, till you laugh with me...
The ship is sinking, come ye one and all.
Stand fast and so this weakness overhaul,
Come ye strong hands and cheery voices call,
'Stand by!'
The ship is sinking in a summer sea,
Bless her but once for all she used to be...
She saw on the far bank a golden apple,
A glowing apple, poor little Eve,
Between ran the river so darkly dapple,
By sunshine land she was loth to leave.
She looked, and she longed, till the fruit forbidden
Became the quest of her heart's desire...
All night the small feet of the rain
Within the garden ran,
And gentle fingers tapped the pane
Until the dawn began.
The rill-like voices called and sung
The slanting roof beside...
‘May I go to the field,’ said the little white rabbit,
‘Where the corn grows sweet and high?’
‘Is there aught on the stile,’ said the old, old mother,
‘Or what do I there espy?’
‘'Tis a shepherd's lad, but he dreams in his place,
And he will not rise to slay...
A Ballad
Father John in the green lane went
And he drew his robe full tight,
'I would,' quoth he, 'I were home again
For there's evil in the night.
'I would,' quoth he, 'the gold I bear...
I shall go on the gypsies' road,
The road that has no ending;
For the sedge is brown on the lone lake side,
The wild geese eastward tending.
I shall go as the unfettered wave,
From shore to shore, forgetting...
The oak is a brave tree that groweth in the wood—
The oak, and the pine, and the aspen tree—
Strong his mighty timbers, that have the years withstood,
Safe he carries the sailor on the sea,
Through the storm and through the stress of the sea.
The pine in his armour groweth straight and tall...
'This is an evil night to go, my sister,
To the thorn-tree across the fairy rath,
Will you not wait till Hallow Eve is over?
For many are the dangers in your path!'
'I may not wait till Hallow Eve is over,
I shall be there before the night is fled...
I have listened for the beat
Of slow wings across the sea.
In their strange and dumb retreat
From their foreign liberty.
Come the birds from northern lands,
Where the Russian sleigh-bells chime...
Kine, kine, in the meadows, why do you low so piteously?
High is the grass to your knees and wet with the dew of the morn,
Sweet with the perfume of honey, and breath of the clover blossoms;
But the sad-eyed kine on the hillside see no joy in the day newborn.
'Man, man has bereft us and taken our young ones from us;
Thus we call in the eve, call through night to the break of day...
Prince Charming, when the wizard's wand
Had wrecked for aye my fairyland;
Had razed my castles to the earth,
And killed my child heart with his mirth;
Then weeds grew rank where flowers had been,
And slow snakes flashed their length between...
Golden-throated, hath God sent thee for our comfort in the city?
Sweet, sweet! singing, singing all the day.
I said Ah, the young Spring she will lure him from his pity,
And he'll seek the sunny distance in the May.
For all the other birds have left us lonely
That sought us when the hungry winter came...
My darling laughed in the dawning,
And the birds perched low to hear.
The quick sprung anew from dead ashes
That Spring's passing feet had flung clear.
Oh, Life came over the meadows,
And the song of her coming was sweet...
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