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    Walter de la Mare

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    Arabia

      Far are the shades of Arabia,
      Where the Princes ride at noon,
      'Mid the verdurous vales and thickets,
      Under the ghost of the moon;
      And so dark is that vaulted purple
      Flowers in the forest rise
      And toss into blossom 'gainst the phantom stars
      Pale in the noonday skies.

      Sweet is the music of Arabia
      In my heart, when out of dreams
      I still in the thin clear mirk of dawn
      Descry her gliding streams;
      Hear her strange lutes on the green banks
      Ring loud with the grief and delight
      Of the dim-silked, dark-haired Musicians
      In the brooding silence of night.

      They haunt me -- her lutes and her forests;
      No beauty on earth I see
      But shadowed with that dream recalls
      Her loveliness to me:
      Still eyes look coldly upon me,
      Cold voices whisper and say --
      'He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia,
      They have stolen his wits away.'


    The Sleeper

      As Ann came in one summer's day,
      She felt that she must creep,
      So silent was the clear cool house,
      It seemed a house of sleep.
      And sure, when she pushed open the door,
      Rapt in the stillness there,
      Her mother sat, with stooping head,
      Asleep upon a chair;
      Fast -- fast asleep; her two hands laid
      Loose-folded on her knee,
      So that her small unconscious face
      Looked half unreal to be:
      So calmly lit with sleep's pale light
      Each feature was; so fair
      Her forehead -- every trouble was
      Smooth'd out beneath her hair.

      But though her mind in dream now moved,
      Still seemed her gaze to rest
      From out beneath her fast-sealed lids,
      Above her moving breast,
      On Ann, as quite, quite still she stood;
      Yet slumber lay so deep
      Even her hands upon her lap
      Seemed saturate with sleep.
      And as Ann peeped, a cloudlike dread
      Stole over her, and then,
      On stealthy, mouselike feet she trod,
      And tiptoed out again.


    Winter Dusk

      Dark frost was in the air without,
      The dusk was still with cold and gloom,
      When less than even a shadow came
      And stood within the room.

      But the three around the fire,
      None turned a questioning head to look,
      Still read a clear voice, on and on,
      Still stooped they o'er their book.

      The children watched their mother's eyes
      Moving on softly line to line;
      It seemed to listen too -- that shade,
      Yet made no outward sign.

      The fire-flames crooned a tiny song,
      No cold wind moved the wintry tree;
      The children both in Faerie dreamed
      Beside their mother's knee.

      And nearer yet that spirit drew
      Above that heedless one, intent
      Only on what the simple words
      Of her small story meant.

      No voiceless sorrow grieved her mind,
      No memory her bosom stirred,
      Nor dreamed she, as she read to two,
      'Twas surely three who heard.

      Yet when, the story done, she smiled
      From face to face, serene and clear,
      A love, half dead, sprang up, as she
      Leaned close and drew them near.


    Miss Loo

      When thin-strewn memory I look through,
      I see most clearly poor Miss Loo,
      Her tabby cat, her cage of birds,
      Her nose, her hair -- her muffled words,
      And how she'd open her green eyes,
      As if in some immense surprise,
      Whenever as we sat at tea,
      She made some small remark to me.

      It's always drowsy summer when
      From out the past she comes again;
      The westering sunshine in a pool
      Floats in her parlour still and cool;
      While the slim bird its lean wires shakes,
      As into piercing song it breaks
      Till Peter's pale-green eyes ajar
      Dream, wake; wake, dream, in one brief bar;
      And I am sitting , dull and shy
      And she with gaze of vacancy,
      And large hands folded on the tray,
      Musing the afternoon away;
      Her satin bosom heaving slow
      With sighs that softly ebb and flow,
      And her plain face in such dismay,
      It seems unkind to look her way:
      Until all cheerful back will come
      Her cheerful gleaming spirit home:
      And one would think that poor Miss Loo
      Asked nothing else, if she had you.


    The Listeners

      "Is anybody there?" said the Traveler,
      Knocking on the moonlit door;
      And his horse in the silence chomped the grasses
      Of the forest's ferny floor.
      And a bird flew up out of the turret,
      Above the traveler's head:
      And he smote upon the door a second time;
      "Is there anybody there?" he said.
      But no one descended to the Traveler;
      No head from the leaf-fringed sill
      Leaned over and looked into his gray eyes,
      Where he stood perplexed and still.
      But only a host of phantom listeners
      That dwelt in the lone house then
      Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
      To that voice from the world of men:
      Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair
      That goes down to the empty hall,
      Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
      By the lonely Traveler's call.
      And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
      Their stillness answering his cry,
      While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
      'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
      For he suddenly smote the door, even
      Louder, and lifted his head:--
      "Tell them I came, and no one answered,
      That I kept my word," he said.
      Never the least stir made the listeners,
      Though every word he spake
      Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
      From the one man left awake:
      Aye, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
      And the sound of iron on stone,
      And how the silence surged softly backward,
      When the plunging hoofs were gone.

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