Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KEEPER'S SON, by ANDRE THEURIET

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE KEEPER'S SON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Black is the night and as though in fight
Last Line: The son of the keeper had breathed his last!
Subject(s): Death - Children; Family Life; Fathers & Sons; Poaching; Death - Babies; Relatives

Black is the night and as though in fight
Their arms the trees of the forest wave,
And not a sound can be heard around,
But rain that rushes and winds that rave.

The doors are shut in yon woodland hut:
An agëd sire and his fearless sons,
Three poachers keen, with a bloodhound lean
Crouch in the thicket and load their guns.

Within the gloom of that hut's low room
An infant sleeps by the grandam's bed,
While a maiden fair near the slumbering pair
Sits at a spindle with drooping head.

A flickering lamp through the midnight damp
Illumes her cheek with a feeble light,
Aiding to trace a sweet flower-like face
And curls that stray o'er a neck snow-white.

Fair is her form, but her bosom warm
Fitfully heaves like the ocean's breast:
Is it fright or care, or the stifling air,
Or waiting, that causes her wild unrest?

The hinges weak of the frail door creak
And a rainy squall from the outer gloom
Driveth a boy, the fair maiden's joy,
Into the shadowy silent room.

Clasped in her arms, he rebukes alarms,
And cries: "Sweet Alice, what need of fright?"
She pleadeth, "Oh! speak soft and low:
My grandam's slumber is ever light!"

Their hearts beat high with ecstasy
And the maiden wipes, while she softly speaks,
The raindrops cold that like tears have rolled
Down her boy-lover's white brow and cheeks.

"My love is wild for thee, sweet child!"
He cried. She murmurs, "Eve, morn and noon
For thee I sigh; but, my darling, why
Wast thou the son of the Keeper born?

For, higher far than our forests are,
A barrier rises to part us twain:
And I dread his ire should my jealous sire
Learn that I love and am loved again."

He soothed her fears and he kissed the tears
That overflowed from her soft brown eyes;
But while deep joy thrilleth maid and boy
Day swiftly follows the night that flies.

Far off they hear shrill chanticleer—
"Bird, if I owned thee, thou soon hadst died,"
The lover speaks, while the morning breaks,
And the maiden opens the casement wide.

The storm is o'er and the blythe larks soar
Aloft like specks in the clear blue sky:
One more sweet kiss full of passion's bliss,
Now till eve cometh again, "Good-bye."

Swift as a deer, with no sense of fear,
The youthful lover then lightly broke
Through the moorland's maze, over which thick haze
Swam like a quivering wreath of smoke.

But the poachers bold, wet, famished, cold,
With empty game-bags behind their backs,
Were homeward beating a slow retreat—
Fur and feather alike each lacks.

A light branch stirred and their quick ears heard;
"Shoot!" the same instant exclaimed the sire:
Three shots ring out and three voices shout:
"The game has fallen before our fire."

Deep bayed the hound with a doleful sound,
The sire pressed onward, then shrank aghast—
'Mid the brushwood dyed with a crimson tide
The son of the Keeper had breathed his last!

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