Roderic Quinn

(1867 - 1949 / Australia)

The Red Mist


SHE thinks aloud as she sits alone,
And the magpies call in the evening grey —
Oh, sorrow to her with the heart of stone
Who stole my lover away, away!
There is no peace in the light of the moon,
And little enough in the shine of the sun;
And it's grieving and grieving that darkens the noon,
And troubles me sore till the salt tears run.
There's Joyce with the red cheeks says to me,
Herself as gay as a crowned young queen:
'It's pale you are, and it's sick, maybe;
And what is it ails your heart, Noreen?'
At that I say, with a laugh in my voice
(For grief is an ill, dark thing to show):
'It's you with your tricks and your capers, Joyce,
And the imp in your eyes that makes me so.'
There's one and another from near and far
Who come with their kind, sweet neighbour-speech;
'It's sick you look, and it's pale you are;
And what have you done with your bloom of the peach?'
I sit and listen, but may not tell;
As an actor plays, I play my part;
It's little they'd care (as my heart knows well),
If they but knew the hurt of my heart.
And even Joyce, who is kind as kind,
Would make a jest of my pain, perchance;
For a feather afloat on an idle wind
Means more to the world than a spoiled romance.
If I were a man I would do so much —
Be brave, make light of my weight of care,
Bring ease to my mind with a master-touch,
And find fit food for my heart elsewhere.
Yet soft and shy as a cooing dove
(For that he thought me, and thinks me yet)
I cannot rest for remembering love,
Nor dream of a time when I may forget.
I think of his kisses that warmed like wine
When the low night-winds in the pine trees played,
And the lilies, white in the white moonshine,
A startling light in the garden made.
I think of his voice in those honeyed hours,
And wonder if words are flowers sometimes,
All scent and colour — are chiming flowers
That thrill the blood with their magic chimes
And then, the thought of the Other comes,
Her wiles and wonder and luring lies,
And the blood in my ears is a throb of drums,
And a red mist glimmers before my eyes.
And I go to the place where the thing lies hid,
And its blade takes fire at my burning touch;
And I say to myself: 'If the world were rid
Of three lives more, would it matter much?
'Would it matter much in the big world's sight
If the sorry farce to the end were played.
And three ghosts trod through the Outer Night —
The Loved, the Lover, the Love Betrayed?
'If one that suffers and two that sing
Were made cold clay, were it well or ill?'
And I grasp the haft of the jewelled thing,
And stand in the lamplight pale and still.
And then I shudder, and sob and sink,
And lie, eyes hid, with the light turned low,
Like one who stands on an awful brink,
Wild-eyed, and trembling, and breathing slow;
And then comes Joyce with her joyous cries:
'Come out in the night, come dance with me!'
And I smooth my hair and I soothe my eyes —
But I know what the end of it all shall be.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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