The Circle of Affection and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse

by Duncan Campbell Scott




LOVELY AMANDA running through the cool
Shadows upon the path under the elm,
Ran all unconscious through the fatal pool,
Ran, on and on, up to her mother’s bed,
Spoke strange, wild, witless words and then fell dead.

The neighbours gathered from the countryside,
And far-off people trooped to share the pride
Of grief for perished beauty,
Mourning Amanda with her lovely name.
(That and her beauty were inherited,
The old wise women said).
All tried to say Amanda with the grace
Of the rich curves that trembled in her face;

But only the strange mourners that were ghosts
Who were not of our country and our tongue,—

The melancholy shadow-host
With smouldering-colour-garments, old and young,
Could mourn Amanda with the murmured stress
Of Amanda’s loveliness.
But all their grief seemed hollow in my ears,
Their tears were icy to my blistering tears,
Their pain was dull to my heart-agony;
This agony, these tears
Have robbed me of ten years,

For I had known and warned them of the spell;—

There in the towering elm above the way
The concentrated evil lay;
A copper disc deep-dented with a charm
Nailed in the sapling tree
By that wild wanderer from the haunted sea
Amanda’s evil ancestor.
Brown was he and adorned from foot to head
With silver-gold and crimson;—
(The old wise women said).
The copper disc with the malignant charm
That held him safe over the desperate seas,
Through all his wandering villainies,
Corroded as the tree grew straight
And drew the poison up beneath the bark,
Dripping its distillation on the grass
And on the path, and who would pass
Might take the vapour-liquid on her shoe.
And as Amanda grew I watched the spell
Gather around her beauty.
Amanda wonder-love of all the world.
I warned them of the deathly pool,
Of the hid, festering malice at the core;
And of Amanda’s danger from the curse
Of her wild ancestor.
They thought me but fool,—
So, I would speak no more.
But I alone had kept safe in my head
The words like moans Amanda said
When she fell dead.
In after years beneath the fatal tree
I met a stranger casually,
As one might meet a friend after a day;—
Brown as a walnut, gold rings in his ears,
Silver on both his wrists,
Crimson bound round his head.
I was compelled to say
Amanda, and I spoke the words she said.
The stranger from the haunted seas
Broke into sudden ecstasies,
Tears hard as pearls stood in his eyes;
“Amanda Wonder-Love of all the World,—
“The words she moaned,
“Pity,—have pity,—Jesu save me, save.”
He spoke, and failed as if a fire
Had died and gone to ashes,
Hung for a moment spectral-gray
A shadow on the air
Then was not anywhere;
And the tree wraithlike, withered away.

As you must see,—

Those blistering tears,
That deep heart-agony
Have robbed me of ten years.
Now that Amanda’s dead and the spell has won
The tree has vanished from its roots of mist;
On the clean path falls ever the sweet sun
And maids may run or linger as they list.