Henry Timrod

(8 December 1828 - 7 October 1867 / Charleston, South Carolina)

An Exotic


Not in a climate near the sun
Did the cloud with its trailing fringes float,
Whence, white as the down of an angel's plume,
Fell the snow of her brow and throat.

And the ground had been rich for a thousand years
With the blood of heroes, and sages, and kings,
Where the rose that blooms in her exquisite cheek
Unfolded the flush of its wings.

On a land where the faces are fair, though pale
As a moonlit mist when the winds are still,
She breaks like a morning in Paradise
Through the palms of an orient hill.

Her beauty, perhaps, were all too bright,
But about her there broods some delicate spell,
Whence the wondrous charm of the girl grows soft
As the light in an English dell.

There is not a story of faith and truth
On the starry scroll of her country's fame,
But has helped to shape her stately mien,
And to touch her soul with flame.

I sometimes forget, as she sweeps me a bow,
That I gaze on a simple English maid,
And I bend my head, as if to a queen
Who is courting my lance and blade.

Once, as we read, in a curtained niche,
A poet who sang of her sea-throned isle,
There was something of Albion's mighty Bess
In the flash of her haughty smile.

She seemed to gather from every age
All the greatness of England about her there,
And my fancy wove a royal crown
Of the dusky gold of her hair.

But it was no queen to whom that day,
In the dim green shade of a trellised vine,
I whispered a hope that had somewhat to do
With a small white hand in mine.

The Tudor had vanished, and, as I spoke,
'T was herself looked out of her frank brown eye,
And an answer was burning upon her face,
Ere I caught the low reply.

What was it! Nothing the world need know --
The stars saw our parting! Enough, that then
I walked from the porch with the tread of a king,
And she was a queen again!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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