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The Rose of Dawn A Tale of the South Sea

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Scraping across the beach the boats were launched,And as they touched the waves, they seemed to takeNew shape and dignity with that caressOf little lapping ripples round the prow.Uhila led the fleet as one who knewHis right by reason of his age and skill.The little isle seemed now a sleeping maidKirtled in green, the beach her snowy breastVeined with the purple brooks that sought the sea.Uhila watched it fade below the blue,Crouched in the bow, his grizzled chin in hand,Taking his ease, while small Kuma, keen-eyed,Famed for his daring, paddled lustily.The dawn had not yet broken, and the softBeautiful haze that veils the birth of dayHung on the water. Loath to break the peace,Men gave their orders in hushed tones, the cleanChill of the morning wrapt their naked bodies.Then, as a slow blush mounts the cheek, a lightBreathed from the sea, and all the air seemed warmAs at the touch of spring, a violet streak,A pale leaf green, a golden, and a roseBroke in the sky, and morning was revealed.With a shrill cry, young Kuma raised his handAnd pointed where with dip and shriek and wheelA flock of sea birds hovered; all the restEchoed the call and bending to the paddleShot o'er the waves, for now the fish were gained.Uhila grasped his rod, and at the sternTossed out the shining hook, with laugh and cheerA glint of silver flashed, then all the airWas gemmed with streaming stars. They came from deeps;From azure fairer than its mother skyClouded with dazzling whitenesses of foam.Luck to their fishing: Now, fair and remoteA scattered emerald from a broken chainLying below the bending breast of heaven,The village had awakened,—once againSerene Kambara, island of the south,Exhaled its light upon the light of heaven.The verdure seemed to shine with lucent green,The red hibiscus burned with inward flame,And in the village happy song and shoutProclaimed the day was fair. Blue upon blueThe bright waves glittered like a shattered starSet in the silver crescent of the sand.The palm trees' plume uplifted dauntlesslyTo call the morning. At the forest's brimThe day was made alive by human flowers,Sweet maidens who against the emeraldShowed warm and brown in purest harmony.The fierce bright flame that is the tropic seaBurned on their eyes and called them to its heart.Like eager sea birds they forgot the land,And, happy as the amorous waves, they gaveTheir slim brown bodies to the sea's embrace.They found them driftwood and astride they leaptThe feathered breakers, one with daring skillCurved her sweet length to lie within the palmOf a strong wave, and so was brought to shore."Taka," they cried, "has beaten us;" and all,Shaking the bright drops from their shining hair,With laugh and song sprang to the beach again,Sunning themselves to languor ere they madeTheir pretty toilet.Some had gathered flowersIn fragrant wreaths, and others brought the graveWork of the morning....