Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CARNIVAL EPISODE, by MATHILDE BLIND



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A CARNIVAL EPISODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We two there together alone in the night
Last Line: "us two in the night there together."
Alternate Author Name(s): Lake, Claude
Subject(s): Festivals; Fairs; Pageants


I.

WE two there together alone in the night,
Where its shadow unconsciously bound us;
My beautiful lady all shrouded in white,
She and I looking down from the balcony's height
On the maskers below in the flickering light,
As they revelled and rioted round us.



II.

Such a rush, such a rage, and a rapture of life
Such shouts of delight and of laughter,
On the quays that I watched with the General's wife;
Such a merry-go-reeling of figures was rife,
Turning round to the tune of gay fiddle and fife,
As if never a morning came after.



III.

The houses had emptied themselves in the streets,
Where the maskers bombarded each other
With a shower of confetti and hailstorm of sweets.
Till the pavements were turning the colour of sheets;
Where a prince will crack jokes with a pauper he meets,
For the time like a man and a brother.



IV.

The Carnival frolic wa now at its height;
The whole population in motion
Stood watching the swift constellations of light
That crackling flashed up on their arrowy flight,
Then spreading their fairy-like fires on the night,
Fell in luminous rain on the ocean.



V.

And now and again the quick dazzle would flare,
Glowing red on black masks and white dresses.
We two there together drew back from the glare;
Drew in to the room, and her hood unaware
Fell back from the plaits of her opulent hair,
That uncoiled the brown snakes of its tresses.



VI.

How fatally fair was my lady, my queen,
As that wild light fell round her in flashes;
How fatally fair with that mutinous mien,
And those velvety hands all alive with the sheen
Of her rings, and her eyes that were narrowed between
Heavy lids darkly laced with long lashes!


VII.

Almost I hated her beauty! The air
I was breathing seemed steeped in her presence.
How maddening that waltz was! Ah, how came I there
Alone with that woman so fatally fair,
With the scent of her garments, the smell of her hair,
Passing in to my blood like an essence?



VIII.

Her eyes seemed to pluck at the roots of my heart,
And to put all my blood in a fever;
My soul was on fire, my veins seemed to start,
To hold her, to fold her but once to my heart,
I'd have willingly bared broad chest to the dart,
And been killed, ay, and damned too for ever.


IX.

I forgot, I forgot! -- oh, disloyal, abhorred,
With the spell of her eyes on my eyes --
That her husband, the man of all men I adored,
Might be fighting for us at the point of the sword;
Might be killing or killed by an African horde,
Afar beneath African skies.



X.

I forgot -- nay, I cared not! What cared I to-night
For aught but my lady, my love,
As she toyed with her mask in the flickering light,
Then suddenly dropped it, perchance, at the sight
Of my passion now reaching its uttermost height,
As a tide with the full moon above!



XI.

Yet I knew, though I loved her so madly, I knew
She was only just playing her game.
She would toy with my heart all the Carnival through;
She would turn to a traitor a man who was true;
She would drain him of love and then break him in two,
And wash her white hands of his shame.



XII.

Yet beware, O my beautiful lady, beware!
You must cure me of love or else kill.
That fire burns longest that's slowest to flare:
My love is a force that will force you to care;
Nay, I'll strangle us both in the ropes of your hair
Should you dream you can drop me at will.



XIII.

And then -- how I know not -- delirious delight!
Her lips were pressed close upon mine;
My arms clung about her as when in affright
Wrecked men cling to spars in a tempest at night;
So madly I clung to her, crushed her with might
To my heart which her heart made divine.



XIV.

Oh, merciful Heavens! What drove us apart
With a shudder of sundering lives?
Oh, was it the throb of my passionate heart
That made the doors tremble, the windows to start;
Or was it my lady just playing her part,
Most indignant, most outraged of wives?



XV.

She was white as the chalk in the streets -- was she fain
To turn on me now with a sneer?
All the blood in my body surged up to my brain,
And my heart seemed half bursting with passion and pain,
As I seized her slim hands -- but I dropped them again!
Ah! treason is mother to fear.



XVI.

Had it come upon us at that magical hour,
The judgment of God the Most High?
The floor 'gan to heave and the ceiling to lower,
The dead walls to start with malevolent power,
Till your hair seemed to rise and your spirit to cower,
As the very stones shook with a sigh.



XVII.

"With you in my arms let the world crack asunder;
Let us die, love, together!" I cried.
Then, with a clatter and boom as of thunder,
A beam crashed between us and drove us asunder,
And all things rocked round us, above us and under,
Like a boat that is rocked on a tide.



XVIII.

She sprang like a greyhound -- no greyhound more fleet --
And ran down the staircase in motion;
And blindly I followed her into the street,
All choked up with people in panic retreat
From the houses that scattered their plaster like sleet
On the crowd in bewildered commotion.



XIX.

Black masks and white dominoes, hale men and dying,
Scared women that shook as with fever
Poor babes in their bedgowns all piteously crying,
Tiles hurled from the housetops -- all flying, all flying,
As I, wild with passion, implored her with sighing
To fly with me now and for ever.



XX.

"Go, go!" and she waved me away as she spoke,
Carried on by the crowd like a feather;
"You forget that it was but a Carnival joke.
Now blest be the terrible earthquake that broke
In between you and me, and has saved at a stroke
Us two in the night there together."






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