Delphic Kansas

Kate Stephens
1853-1938

How the Red Bud Came
 
Once upon a time, the old books said,
A winsome girl in a Riding Hood Red,
Fell prey to Mr. Wolf when he searched for his bread.
 
But the books are wrong (as books may be),
For a strange thing happened, as we shall see.
 
Red Riding Hood did on a fair spring day
Visit her Grandmother - then, singing a lay,
With basket and flagon take homegoing way.
 
'Twas in woods Mr. Grey Wolf came on her path .
And his lips were curled in a wolfish laugh.
 
As the fierce old rogue walked hastily towards
The red-cloaked girl speaking promise-fair words,
(For those were the days when the animals talked
In a speech like to humans'), when towards her he stalked,
Stood Little Red Riding Hood fast to the spot
Rooted, eager to fly but daring not.
 
(Now what we here tell of those days of old,
Her Grandmother Tanager in carols has told;
Also Smoothcoat Chipmunk has chatted from the mold.)
 
And as Mr. Grey Wolf neared and snarled
in those far-away woods 'neath an oak tree gnarled
And grown with ivy, yet standing there
And raising its head in the glad sweet air,
Then came that strangest of things to see -
(Far out of the ken of you or of me)
For Riding Hood changed all at once to the tree
That now we call Red Bud.
 
                                                        And, too, suddenly
Her cloak turned to blossoms, which once in a year
She puts forth to tell Mr. Wolf drew anear.
A moment of doubt and a moment of fear.
 
Her basket and flagon (this likewise is odd)
Became the seed covers, brown silvery pods,
Which fall to the ground when the winds blow loud.
 
And this is the reason, the wood-folks agree,
That we now have each spring the cloaked Red Bud tree,
Who never grows tall, as other trees grow,
She loves her old child-like stature so.

Delphic Kansas
Kate Stephens
(Woodstock, N.Y.: The Maverick Press. 1911)
 
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