Ballads and Lyrics

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey




THOU art a golden iris
Under a purple wall,
Whereon the burning sunlight
And greening shadows fall.

What Summer night’s enchantment

Took up the garden mould,
And with the falling star-dust
Refined it to such gold?

What wonder of white magic
Bidding thy soul aspire,

Filled that luxurious body
With languor and with fire?

Wert thou not once a beauty
In Persia or Japan,
For whom, by toiling seaway

Or dusty caravan,

Of old some lordly lover
Brought countless treasure home
Of gems and silk and attar,
To pleasure thee therefrom?


Pale amber from the Baltic,
Soft rugs of Indian ply,
Stuffs from the looms of Bagdad
Stained with the Tyrian dye.

Were thy hands bright with henna,

Thy lashes black with kohl,
Thy voice like silver water
Out of an earthen bowl?

Or was thy only tent-cloth
The blue Astartean night,

Thy soul to beauty given,
Thy body to delight?

Wert thou not well desired,
And was not life a boon,
When Tanis held in Sidon

Her Mysteries of the Moon?

There in her groves of ilex
The nightingales made ring
With the mad lyric chorus
Of youth and love and Spring,


Were thou not glad to worship
With some blond Paphian boy,
Illumined by new knowledge
And intimate with joy?

And did not the Allmother

Smile in the hushed dim light,
Hearing thy stifled laughter
Disturb her holy rite?

Ah, well thou must have served her
In wise and gracious ways,

With more than vestal fervour,
A loved one all thy days!

And dost thou, then, revisit
Our borders at her will,
Child of the sultry rapture,

Waif of the Orient still?

Because thy love was fearless
And fond and strong and free,
Art thou not her last witness
To our apostasy?


Just at the height of summer,
The joy-days of the year,
She bids, for our reproval,
Thy radiance appear.

Oh, Iris, let thy spirit

Enkindle our gross clay,
Bring back the lost earth-passion
For beauty to our day!

To-night, when down the marshes
The lilac half-lights fade,

And on the rosy shore-line
No earthly spell is laid,

I would be thy new lover,
With the dark life renewed
By our great mother Tanis

And thy solicitude.

Feel slowly change this vesture
Of mortal flesh and bone,
Transformed by her soft witch-work
To one more like thine own.


Become but as the rain-wind
(Who am but dust indeed),
To slake thy velvet ardour
And soothe thy darling need.

To dream and waken with thee

Under the night’s blue sail,
As the wild odours freshen,
Till the white stars grow pale.