Carmela

 

SEE, in this mystic zone of calms,

Like a rich cloud in sunset skies,

From Mexico’s warm waters rise

The isle of cocoa and of palms,

The realm where summer never dies.

 

Ripe golden balls of sumptuous fruit

Hang thick upon the orange trees,

Soft blows the aromatic breeze,

And sweet the wild canaries flute,

And gently roll the purple seas.

 

Here was thy childhood’s dwelling-place,

O love, my love! who lov’st not me:

Here didst thou gain the witchery

Of Southland languor, Spanish grace,

And emerald eyes’ arch coquetry.

 

Thy sisterhood is darkly fair,

With glowing cheek and night-black curls:

Thy pure flesh hath the sheen of pearls;

In waves of light thy loosened hair

Its warm gold to thy feet unfurls.

 

Thy sisterhood is rich in faith,

Of generous passion, gentle heart:

Whence didst thou glean thy fatal art,

Whose subtle cunning fashioneth

A net no man may rend apart?

 

If I could deem thee of this earth,

My witch, my siren, my despair!

My curse would blight thee. But, beware!

I know the mystery of thy birth—

The secret of thy life I share.

 

’Twas on that night, the crown of nights,

 All brightest days outshining far;

A separate sun beamed every star;

Soft airs breathed languid from the heights,

Voluptuous as Love’s sighings are.

 

Carmela mine—for mine thou wast

By every promise, pledge and vow,

And by my seal set on thy brow—

Within thy garden all that passed

That night, dost thou remember now?—

 

How thou, within thy hammock rocked

Beneath the odorous cedar trees—

Rose-white as sprung from foam of seas,

Didst lie with smiling lips unlocked,

And lightly sway with every breeze,

 

And watch the glimmering fiery flies,

The throbbing stars in heaven’s calm,

And point to where a single palm

Stood out against pale seas and skies,

And breathe the night’s enchanted balm?

 

But I saw naught save only thee,

White, lithe, with thy mermaiden’s hair,

Thy mild dove’s eyes, thy warm throat bare;

And these I never cease to see,

A shadow on the empty air.

 

I set my seal upon thy brow:

Mine own bears now a deathless flame—

Thy lips remember whence it came:

All men who greet me see and know,

And whisper low thy perjured name.

 

Once, once! then nevermore again

Within my hair thy wreathed hands met:

Upon my brow the print was set

That fired my blood and seared my brain;

And thou hadst flown. Dost thou forget?

 

“Follow me not!” I heard thee cry,

And my religion was thy word.

 Was it the warble of a bird,

Or a low peal of laughter nigh,

Among the bushes, that I heard?

 

I pressed my face where thine had pressed,

And sank adown upon my knees

Beneath the odorous cedar trees:

The hanging cradle I caressed

Where thou hadst swayed with every breeze.

 

I know not if I waked or slept;

A strange, clear vision came to me;

I fancied I had followed thee:

O’er grass and stone and rill we leapt,

Down to the large, smooth tropic sea.

 

There had I reached thee, but, behold!

With low soft laughter in the wave

Thou springst, and ere I spring to save

Thy sister mermaids’ arms enfold,

And draw thee to thy native cave.

 

There sportest thou the livelong night,

Regretting naught thou leav’st behind:

No trace upon the waves I find,

Save a pale amber-colored light

There where thy hair flew in the wind.

 

But when the first cool beams of morn

Through the green waters pierce and shine,

Back to these earthly haunts of thine

Thou wilt return, and laugh to scorn

The pledge, the love, the dream divine.

 

So if I deemed thee of this earth,

My witch, my siren, my despair!

My curse would blight thee. Yet, beware!

I know the mystery of thy birth—

The secret of thy life I share.

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