The Spanish Girl

By Nora May French

Part I:

I. The Vine

To screen this depth of shade that sleeps,
            Beyond the garden"s shine,
On Josť"s careful strings there creeps
  A little slender vine.

Josť is kind  .  .  . but age is cold:
  My laughter meets his sigh.
The house is old, the garden old—
  Oh, young, the vine and I!

I love the web of light it weaves
  Across my half-drawn thread;
It"s speech to me of waking leaves,
  While Josť hears his Dead.

So, ever reaching, tendril-fine,
  My eager visions run;
So, as the long day passes, twine
  My thoughts, shot through with sun.

II. The Chapel

The vanished women of my race,
            The daughters of a moldering year,
Set often in this quiet place
  Their votive tapers burning clear.

The patient waxen wreaths they wove,
  They hung before the Virgin"s shrine;
To them it was a work of love,
  Josť decrees it task of mine!

They glimmer where a portrait swings—
  Women as proud and white as death—
Ah, they could mold those lifeless things;
  They had no blood, they had no breath.

"For holiness and meekness strive"
  (Josť would have me pray their prayers).
Now, Mary, warm and all alive,
  You shall not think me child of theirs.

So many waxen prayers you heard!
  If I should heap your altar high
With boughs that knew the nesting bird,
  With flowers that bloomed against the sky,

And let my wondering soul ascend
  In vivid question, swift surmise—
I think your shadowy face would bend,
  And look at me with startled eyes.

III. The Garden

They planted lilies where they might,
            A drift of Vestals slim and tall,
That lined these winding paths with white,
  That filled the court from wall to wall.

They shrank from savage, splendid heat,
  As from their teasing fires of Hell—
Only when morns and eves were sweet
  They walked and liked their garden well.

Slow moving through a pallid mist,
  Always in black, in black they came,
With busy rosary on wrist  .  .  .
  And all the summer world aflame!

I planted flowers that know the sun,
  I bought them in from field and stream,
I passed not by the smallest one
  That pleased me with a yellow gleam;

Then in a hidden chest I found
  The marvel of an old brocade—
Strange figures on an azure ground,
  With threads of crimson overlaid,

And when the noon is fierce and bright,
  Along the garden, fold on fold,
My silken splendor like a light
  I trail between the aisles of gold.

IV.

Across Josť"s unending drone
            (Some ancient tale of arms and doom)
There came a poignant sweetness blown
  From sleeping leagues of orange bloom.

And lo! the steady candles blurred
  Like shining fishes in a net,
And Josť"s kindly voice I heard—
  "But little one, thine eyes are wet."

He vowed the tale had made me weep,
  Its shadowy woes in courtly speech,
Nor knew they passed like wraiths of sleep
  The heart a vagrant wind could reach.

How can I tell, whose fancy floats
  As swift and passionate impulses veers,
What gust may sweep its roseleaf boats
  Adown a sudden tide of tears?

V.

Where man has marred and nature yields,
            And never plant nor beast is free,
Along the tame and trampled fields
  An old unrest has followed me.

Now walk alone the night and I
  On foaming reaches curving stark,
And battling with a windy sky
  The stormy moon is bright and dark.

Facing the sea with streaming hair,
  My broken singing flung behind,
Whipped by the keen exultant air
  Till lips must close and eyes are blind,

Loving the sharp and cruel spray,
  The great waves thundering, might on might,
The pagan heart must shout and sway,
  Tossed in the passion of the night.

VI.

Oh, never wings the Sisters chide,
            Wild upward wings that shine and blur,
Nor mourn they winds of eventide
  That bid the rhythmic garden stir,

And yet this life I cannot still,
  This winged and restless strength of flight,
That swings me down a singing hill
  Or answers to the calling night,

They curb when I would dance, would dance!
  By all the graven Saints, it seems
Most strange they make for my mischance
  No grim confessional of dreams!

The flower of Heart"s Desire is sown
  In fields unknown to waking sight,
Down glittering spaces, all alone
  I whirl the fire of my delight—

Then, on the music"s ebb and flow,
  Pause as a poising bird is hung,
With supple body swaying slow,
  With parted lips and arms up-flung.

VII.

Always of Heaven the Sisters tell,
            Although of earth I question most—
I would I knew the world as well
  As Peter and the Angel host!

Josť may journey, never I.
  In all the lonely hours I spend
He bids me tell my beads and sigh.  .  .  .
  I wonder if the Saints attend?

For when the moon is small and thin,
  And night is fragrant on the land,
The earth and I are so akin
  I think no Saint could understand.

Something within me sleeps by day;
  To moon and wind its petals part.  .  .  .
It is not for my soul I pray;
  Ah Virgin!—for my untried heart.

Part II:

I.

This weak and silken love that meshes me
            Break strand from strand, O branches of the hill!
Brave wind that whips me breathless, tear me free!
  The witch"s cobweb clings and shivers still.

Now ferns there were, and fretted sun above:
  I plunged me where the silver water fell,
But could not drown the little singing love—
  The little love that murmured like a shell.

Swift, swift, to drink my freedom at its flood,
  I ran with flying feet and lips apart,
But love was wilder than leaping blood—
  Ah, louder than the beating of my heart.

II.

I must not yield  .  .  .  but if he would not sing!
            My stilling hands upon my breast can feel
Its answer tremble like a muted string.
  Below the vaulted window where I kneel

He sings, he sings, to stars and listening skies.
  A white and haunted place my garden seems.—
I see the pleading beauty of his eyes
  As faces glimmer in a pool of dreams.

So wooing wind might sweep a harp awake.
  (Oh, muting fingers on each quivering string!)
I must not yield  .  .  . I think my heart will break.
  Mother of Heaven, if he would not sing!

III.

Now bending like a windy stem I strive,
            Yet ever onward, step by step, descend.
The silence is a threat, the dark alive,
  And love how far, how far, my journey"s end.

It is the girlhood dream I leave behind,
  And sweeter vision never witched a maid.
Into the threatening shades I wander blind:
  Ah, Mary, help me now! I am afraid.

Yet with my fears I sway and follow still;
  The doorway gleams, the pleading magic charms,
Step after step, with fluttering breath and will—
  Step after step  .  .  .at last  .  .  . into his
    arms.

IV.

Beyond this purple shadow glows
            My golden garden loud with bees,
And windy grey and silver flows
  Along the slopes of olive trees.

Before a sleeping flower uncurled,
  Before the early winds were born,
I woke for joy in such a world,
  And with the linnets shared the morn.

Remembering love, I woke and smiled,
  And heard the morning linnets sing,
And sang for love, and they for wild
  Delight of song and sun and spring.

V.

Surely a brightness moves with me,
            For Josť gazes long and sighs,
Above the pages dim to see
  For ghosts of youth that brush his eyes.

And gazing long, old Marta said:
  "Some new device has made thee fair,
Yet have I often seen these red
  Pomegranate flowers against thy hair."

I would not have them understand
  The hidden thoughts that give me grace,
Nor guess the lights that dreams have fanned,
  And read their shining in my face.

But all my heart the Virgin knows.
  Before her eyes, so wise they were,
I laid my secret like a rose:
  "Mother, I love!" I cried to her.

VI.

I had no more imagined love
            Than dreams the moonflower of its blue.
What sun that warmed its shielding glove,—
  What long blind eve that gave it dew,

Could tell that hueless folded thing
  Of shining texture silken-loomed,
Or say what marveling birds would sing
  The morning that it thrilled and bloomed?

Always it knew in groping thought
  Some end would come, some bloom must be,
The blind fufilment that it wrought
  Was strained from darkness restlessly;

Till exquisite completion willed
  The answered bud, the dream put by,
And left the flower all sunned, and stilled
  With sudden wonder of the sky.

VII.

My eyes are level with the grass,
            And up and down each slender steep
I watch its tiny people pass.
  The sun has lulled me half asleep.

And all beneath my breath I sing  .  .  .
  This joy of mine is sweet to hold!
Such treasure had the miser king
  Who brushed the very dew to gold.

Deep in the sunny grass I lie
  And breathe the garden scents wind-driven,
So happy that if I should die
  They could not comfort me with Heaven.

Part III:

I.

One time I felt the sun in all my veins,
            And bloomed on crystal mornings, flower-wise,
And mourned as roses sadden in long rains.
  What pain is this the summer noon denies?

One time the hands of wind upon my hair
  Could heal me like a mother"s touch and kiss.
When I could give my airy griefs to the air
  I never knew so sharp a thorn as this.

The joy of flower and wind and sighing bough—
  It comes not back again for tears and rue.
A year agone I had not sought as now,
  And found the sky a vault of empty blue.

II.

He loves no more. Upon the failing streams
            The summer burns—so burns another flame:
I see his eyes alight with alien dreams  .  .  .
  That long-forgotten country whence he came

Calls to him past my words; beyond my eyes
  Lost waters shine, remembered sunsets die.
Ay, in my kiss another mouth replies,
  And speaks of kisses past, of lips put by.

Now this my heart divines, for words of love
  He gives me still (O woeful heart and bruised
To still complain!)  .  .  .  .But surely, when I move
  His eyes will never follow as they used.

III.

The soul that made love exquisite is gone,
            It is not that the word, the kiss, is changed.
I cannot say, "Here was his thought withdrawn;
  So once was love, so now is love estranged."

But all of love that I could touch and know
  I held as one a lamp that makes his day,
And touch it still, and see its flame burn low,
  Its shining figures fade to painted clay.

Ah, I would hold the semblance, keep the kiss;
  But watching in its heart the paling spark,
I cry out when the shadows menace this,
  As children weep for terror in the dark.

IV.

That all tomorrows have no wound in store
            For shrinking Joy, nor any prick of dread,
I know, who closed its eyes forevermore,
  And keep this night a vigil with my dead.

This little space my out-thrown hands have stirred
  Is happy earth, for once it knew love"s feet;
Here once love stood and called the heart that heard,
  And all the garden, all the world, grew sweet.

I lay my joy within this hollowed space
  (I had not thought so blithe a thing could die!)
And heap the happy earth upon the face
  That has no will to smile nor breath to sigh.

With dew beneath and hushing night above
  I cannot tell how long my grief has lain—
Virgin, I will not plead you for my love,
  Only pain,—if you would ease the pain.

V.

The world below was deep in stormy cloud;
            But high in sun we flew along the ledge,
And to the strength I rode I cried aloud
  And spurred it near against the trembling edge.

(I rode Ramon along the mountain wall.
  Today he had no wilder mood than I—
No wilder will for lawless wind to call
  Upon the narrow trail that meets the sky.)

The sharp air flowed like water through my hands.
  Heart, how I skirted death and laughed at pain!
Forgotten pain in half-remembered lands
  Below me in the valley with the rain.

VI.

What alters with my changing? Not Josť,
            Content in little duties that he loves.
Not Marta"s dimming eyes that stare away
  Beyond the tranquil court, the circling doves.

I, too, I float on peace, forget almost,
  And then as drowning sight may pierce the sea
To find the sun a green and wavering ghost,
  And shapes of earth distorted monstrously,—

I see a mocking earth, a sun distraught,
  I lose the buoying instant of relief
And sink again as wearying soul and thought
  Drown in the sick amazement of my grief.

VII.

I tilt my hollowed life and look within:
            The wine it held has left a purple trace—
Behold, a stain where happiness had been.
  If I should shatter down this empty vase,

Through what abysses would my soul be tossed
  To meet its judge in undiscovered lands?
What sentence meted me, alone and lost,
  Before him with fragments in my hands?

Better the patient earth that loves me still
  Should drip her clearness on this purple stain;
Better my life upheld to her should fill
  With limpid dew, and gradual gift of rain.

VIII.

Some whim of Marta"s shields me from the night,
            And fretted that my curtain should be kept
Close drawn, and wakeful candles over bright,
  I welcomed in the quiet moon and slept;

Then woke again in fear—the night was old,
  The witching tide of silver shut away,
And Marta"s shaking hand on mine was cold,
  Her bending face above me strange and grey.

"Who sleeps beneath the moon," she whispered low,
  "Must pale with her, nor noon-day sky
Be his again whose pulses beat more slow,
  More faint, till with waning moon  .  .  . they
    die."

THE END