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Roderic Quinn

(1867 - 1949 / Australia)

The Red-Tressed Maiden


RED she is in a robe of sable,
Rosy with pictures and tales to tell:
She is a fairy, and yet no fable,
Weaving the dreams that we love so well.
Out in the dark where the night-winds hurry
And dead leaves carpet the silent bush,
She has a charm for minds that worry,
For the worn white face a fresh young blush.
Tell her a story of some love laid in
The grave long since with a maiden white —
She will not taunt you, the Red-Tressed Maiden
Dressed in her mantle of starless night.
With fingers potent as rich wine chosen
From dusty cellars where years lie dead,
She melts the ice in the veins long frozen,
The blood runs chainless, and young and red.
Her ears have hearkened the joyous laughter,
Man-made, maid-lifted through years and years
To frescoed dome and to smoky rafter,
And tears and tears and ceaseless tears.
Old as the world, and some say older,
Is she, and yet she is young and sweet:
She heard the story the Cave-man told her,
When hearts were bolder and ruder their beat.
No tale so trifling but she will listen,
The long day ended, the day's toil done;
Then wheresoever her great eyes glisten
An ancient battle is fought and won.
She is ready to hearken to some chance roamer,
A lyre on his shoulder, a lilt on his tongue,
As she was of old to the blind-eyed Homer
Who sang high strains when the world was young.
On winter nights, when the roads are cheerless
And west winds under a frosty moon,
She paints us Summer in colours peerless
And the broad gold charm of a tropic noon.
On summer evenings, in sylvan places
(The picnic over and stars in the skies),
She heightens the blush on sun-kissed faces
And deepens the dream in dear young eyes.
And who is the Maiden? When Night is about you,
Pile high dry leaves and dead wood, and so
Make a light for the darkness within and without you . . .
And now do you see her — and now do you know?

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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