Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RIDERS, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH



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THE RIDERS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: But if I ride with you to-night
Last Line: (peace, quoth he.)
Subject(s): Horseback Riding; Love


BUT if I ride with you to-night,
Will you bring me back by early light?
(Ride, quoth he.)
How can I leave my days of balm,
My perfumed, sweet, enchanted calm?
The old life holds me like a charm.
(Ride, quoth he.)
My tranquil days are cool and fair,
I stitch my seam and plait my hair,
(Ride, quoth he.)
My broideries are silken fine!
Oh, look, beneath this hand of mine,
Creep yellow grapes and muscadine,
And painted faces through them shine,
And golden flagons for the wine
But yet I sicken, I fail, I pine.
(Ride, quoth he.)
Of innocence I am the daughter.
(Ride, quoth he.)
Soft as a lily under water
(Ride, quoth he.)
I poise all day beneath a stream
Sometimes a wandering face will gleam,
Hover aloft and pass and beam,
Looking a moment in the stream,
Or I hear voices in a dream,
While I swing limpidly under the water!
Soft and slow is time to me
Of innocence the snow-white daughter!
(Ride, quoth he.)
I have dashed my brow against a stone
That I might see the stars at noon,
(Ride, quoth he.)
For I have not seen the face of night
I sit at dusk by candle light
In a small chamber, clean and white!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Will you take me to the strange black town
Where rushing men heave up and down?
(Ride, quoth he.)
I am so terribly alone!
I want their bread that is not my own.
I will eat thereof though it be but stone!
(Ride, quoth he.)

Will you take me up to the top of the steeple
From which the Devil showed the people?
(Ride, quoth he.)
Those kingdoms whirl like scarlet sand
Blown at sunset across the land!
I would catch the red dusting my hand!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Will you take me through the flames of Hell?
If it burns as bright as I've heard tell
(Ride, quoth he.)
I would fain be burned, so chill I go
As a dreaming wraith of pure, cold snow!
On a blast of fire my soul would blow!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Will you take my soul to Paradise?
Warm with its lovely sight my eyes?
(Ride, quoth he.)
Where two vast angels are spread abroad,
And none shall pass them, saith the Lord!
But I will take to my breast the sword.
(Ride, quoth he.)
Will you take me up to Heaven's gate?
The angels will lend me a robe of state!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Wonderful garments manifold!
I would dance before them in garb of gold,
And the strong great angels, wise and old,
Would laugh to see me leap so bold!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Will you take me through the wind and fire
To the land I know not but desire?
(Ride, quoth he.)
Where stinging tears they all must weep,
Like cataracts their souls shall leap!
Where grief is deep and joy is deep
And smooth as ivory is sleep!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Strange times have galloped through my mood!
(Ride, quoth he.)
Old cities dance along my blood
(Ride, quoth he.)
'T is Sodom has an adder's tongue --
But oh, what songs has Venice sung!
With piercing Troy have I been stung,
Gomorrah through my heart has swung!
'T was so with Christ when he was young!
(Ride, quoth he.)

Mother, I ride with him to-night!
" My child, you shall not leave my sight!"
(Ride, quoth he.)
But through the dark they rode away!
Whither they went let angels say.
They both came back at the break of day.
(Ride, quoth he.)
When she came back her breast was torn,
The sweetness from her lips was worn.
(Ride, quoth he.)
Her hands were pitiful with scars!
They came from plucking at old wars
That rocked through Hell like meteors.
(Ride, quoth he.)
Her breast was wounded with the sword
That keeps the garden of the Lord.
(Grieve! quoth he.)
But underneath her cloak of brown
Were pale glints of a golden gown.
(Shine! quoth he.)
This way, that way, wisdom lies.
She had eaten the fruit and was made wise.
Now in her calm and smiling eyes
Laughed the flowers of Paradise!
(Peace, quoth he.)






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