Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
1234. Alicia’s Bonnet
 
By Elisabeth (Cabazza) Pullen
 
 
LAST night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
I sat beside Alicia at the play;
  Her violet eyes with tender tears were wet
(The diamonds in her ears less bright than they)        5
  For pity of the woes of Juliet:
  Alicia’s sighs a poet might have set
To delicate music in a dainty sonnet.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.        10
 
And yet to me her graceful ready words
  Sounded like tinkling silver bells that jangled,
For on her golden hair the humming-birds
  Were fixed as if within a sunbeam tangled,
  Their quick life quenched, their tiny bodies mangled,        15
Poor pretty birds upon Alicia’s bonnet.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
Caught in a net of delicate creamy crêpe,
  The dainty captives lay there dead together;        20
No dart of slender bill, no fragile shape
  Fluttering, no stir of any radiant feather:
  Alicia looked so calm, I wondered whether
She cared if birds were killed to trim her bonnet.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,        25
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
If rubies and if sapphires have a spirit,
  Though deep they lie below the weight of earth,
If emeralds can a conscious life inherit
  And beryls rise again to wingëd birth—        30
  Being changed to birds but not to lesser worth—
Alicia’s golden head had such upon it.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
Perhaps I dreamed—the house was very still—        35
  But on a sudden the Academy
Of Music seemed a forest of Brazil,
  Each pillar that supports the balcony
  Took form and stature of a tropic tree
With scarlet odorous flowers blooming on it.        40
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
A fragrance of delicious drowsy death
  Was in the air; the lithe lianas clung
About the mighty tree, and birds beneath        45
  More swift than arrows flashed and flew among
  The perfumed poisonous blossoms as they swung,
The heavy-honeyed flowers that hung upon it.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.        50
 
Like rain-drops when the sun breaks up the shower,
  Or weavers’ shuttles carrying golden thread,
Or flying petals of a wind-blown flower,
  Myriads of humming-birds flew overhead—
  Purple and gold and green and blue and red—        55
Above each scarlet cup, or poised upon it.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
What rapid flight! Each one a wingëd flame,
  Burning with brilliant joy of life and all        60
Delight of motion; to and fro they came,
  An endless dance, a fairy festival;
  Then suddenly I saw them pause and fall,
Slain only to adorn Alicia’s bonnet.
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,        65
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 
My mind came back from the Brazilian land;
  For, as a snowflake falls to earth beneath,
Alicia’s hand fell lightly on my hand;
  And yet I fancied that a stain of death,        70
  Like that which doomed the lady of Macbeth,
Was on her hand: could I perhaps have won it?
 
Last night Alicia wore a Tuscan bonnet,
And many humming-birds were fastened on it.
 

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