Poetry of Kansas

Crimson Ramblers

I.
 
In the sun-dial garden, crimson rambler arched,
The sun-dial garden,
We met in June.  In sunlight
Where ladies'  lilted sweeping hat-brims
Dipped above the offered clinking crystal.
Garden parties in June roses sometimes make propitious
          meetings.
The sun-dial garden___
If it be glad in sunlight,
It may be mad in moonlight
As I know.
Crimson roses, madly colored,
Riotously arched across the pathway___
We entered a crimson world entering the sun-dial
          garden.
 
II.
 
Down from painted Gothic windows
Profusely colored
Oh, saints that eyed me sadly, ruefully,
Why robed in crimson?
Refrains that chanted through my childhood
Now made me weep.
Oh, why? meaningless, meaningless, yet I weep.
Stories of Magdalen made me wonder.
I too!
What new light was searching the world for me?
 
III.
 
Rue, rue
    Oh, for heartsease
Bitter the nights
    Beaten my pillow
Beaten my walls
    Rue, rue
Heartsease for rue
 
IV.
 
In the firelight's glow
Chance found me.
Was it mine, that distant goblin, bobbing, threatening,
Wildly gesticulating against indistinct book-lined walls
          and connected
Suggestively with the future?
An unknown dread and horror paralyzed me.
Even the distant shadow grew quiet with fear.
 
Cutting sharply into the midst of the solitariness a dis-
          tant door swung
___Out of the lonely, your presence!
Comfort, assurance.
With your touch a royal protection wrapped me about
          like a cloak
To save me from all of them but more from myself.
Forgotten the midnights, doubts deserted me,
You, virile, encompassing, dominating, demanding,
You!
 
V.
 
Up at the gardener's house on the hill
Where we each had gone on errands of mercy
During the plague
We suddenly met on a narrow stair.
I had not known, you had not known, we should meet.
Quick! Quick! The nurse may appear from chamber or
          hallway
And I knew where my head would be for a moment.
Smooth, ah smooth
The rough texture, your coat to my cheek!
For at breakfast your eyes had appealed all your
          questions to others.
I was across and you seemed not to see me.
 
VI.
 
They chatter
And the dusky distances of rumor choke me.
Like a child scared at judgment fires
Or crying sleepless in the dark at remembered stories
          of burial before death
I suffocate with unknown anxious dread.
Is renunciation noble when pain and conscience are like
          raw flesh
Corroding with acid and no longer endurable?
I renounced you!
And a white holiness surpliced me after!
My spirit, haloed, walked with gods and with heroes___
They are my kinfolk.
My soul clasped a white ecstasy and clung.
How good, oh God!
And you, where were you while I in retreat am ecstatic?
How should one know who communes with the gods?
 
VII
 
But one evening I stood at the bookshelf and read it aloud.
The passage they asked for,
When you, unexpected but laughing, corrected the word-
          ing from over my shoulder,
And added, but so the warm breath on my neck made me
          breathless,
"What! Did you expect me to leave you, forget you ?
Why have you on the crimson dress of the sun-dial
          garden ?"
You laughingly turned to the group and the passage was
          finished.
And I?
At the end of the hall by the stairway
I sent word to the gods they are futile and puny.
 
VIII
 
Barter and sale
Cheap compromise.
This thing of living in sight of one's sin,
Of hating it one day and being near heaven,
Of losing all wisdom the next and then feel heaven sur-
          round you,
Swallow you,
Of calling wrong sacred, the only bliss that you live for,
Somehow as the years pass so
___Why, the lines become blurred.
You scarce know yourself.
Might we even have broken the law, fled, been ostracised,
          hated,
It might have been better.
 
IX
 
Oh sun-dial garden, crimson rambler arched,
Your color riots in June.
Now it is chill November.
Something has sapped from me power and beauty.
I am old.
In another springtime your color will crimson for others
Even you cannot thrill me now.

__Margaret E. Haughawout.

 

Sheep's Clothing
Margaret E. Haughawout
Page 57-65
(Pittsburg, Kansas: __. 1929)

 
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