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Lilith The Legend of the First Woman

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TO VALERIA. Broideries and ancient stuffs that some queenWore; nor gems that warriors’ hilts encrusted;Nor fresh from heroes’ brows the laurels green;Nor bright sheaves by bards of eld entrustedTo earth’s great granaries—I bring not these.Only thin, scattered blades from harvests gleanedErewhile I plucked, may happen thee to please.So poor indeed, those others had demeanedThemselves to cull; or from their strong, firm handsDown dropped about their feet with careless laugh,Too broken for home gathering, these strands,Or else more useless than the idle chaff.But I have garnered them. Yet, lest they seemUnworthy, and so shame Love’s offering,Amid the loose-bound sheaf stray flowers gleam.And fairer seeming make the gift I bring,Lilies blood-red, that lit the waving field,And now are knotted through the golden grain.Thou wilt not scorn the tribute I now yield,Nor even deem the foolish flowers vain.So take it, and if still too slight, too smallIt seem, think ’tis a bloom that grew anear,In other Springtime, the old garden wall.(That pale blue flower you will remember, dear.The heedless world, unseeing, passed it by,And left it to the bee and you.) Then say,“Because the hands that tended it are nighNo more, and little feet are gone awayThat round it trampled down the beaded grass,Sweeter to me it is than musky sprayOf Southland; and dearer than days that passIn other summer-tides.” This simple songRead so, dear heart; Nay, rather white-souled one,Think ’tis an olden echo, wandered longFrom a low bed where ’neath the westering sunYou sang. And if your lone heart ever said“Lo, she is gone, and cannot more be mine,”Say now, “She is not changed—she is not wed,—She never left her cradle bed. Still shineThe pillows with the print of her wee head.”So, mother-heart, this song, where through still ringsThe strain you sang above my baby bed,I bring. An idle gift mayhap, that clingsAbout old days forgotten long, and dead.This loitering tale, Valeria, take.Perchance ’tis sad, and hath not any mirth,Yet love thou it, for the weak singer’s sake,And hold it dear, though yet is little worth,This tale of Elder-world: of earth’s first prime,Of years that in their grave so long have lain,To-day’s dull ear, through poets’ tuneful rhymeNo echo hears, nor mocking friar’s strain. July 17, 1884.


BOOK I. Pure as an angel’s dream shone Paradise.Blue mountains hemmed it round; and airy sighsOf rippling waters haunted it. Dim glades,And wayward paths o’erflecked with shimmering shades,And tangled dells, and wilding pleasances,Hung moist with odors strange from scented trees.Sweet sounds o’erbrimmed the place; and rare perfumes,Faint as far sunshine, fell ’mong verdant glooms.In that fair land, all hues, all leafage greenWrapt flawless days in endless summer-sheen.Bright eyes, the violet waking, lifted upWhere bent the lily her deep, fragrant cup;And folded buds, ’gainst many a leafy spray—The wild-woods’ voiceless nuns—knelt down to pray.There roses, deep in greenest mosses swathed,Kept happy tryst with tropic blooms, sun-bathed.No sounds of sadness surged through listening trees:The waters babbled low; the errant beesMade answer, murmurous; nor paled the hueThe jonquils wore; nor chill the wild breath grewOf daisies clustered white in dewy croft;Nor fell the tasseled plumes as satin softUpon the broad-leaved corn. Sweet all the dayO’erflowed with music every woodland way;And sweet the jargonings of nested bird,When light the listless wind the forest stirred.Straight as the shaft that ’gainst the morning sunThe slender palm uprears, the Fairest one—The first of womankind—sweet Lilith—stood,A gracious shape that glorified the wood.About her rounded shoulders warm and bare,Like netted sunshine fell her lustrous hair;The rosy flush of young pomegranate bellsDawned on her cheeks; and blue as in lone dellsSleep the Forget-me-nots, her eyes....