Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Phantasmion. A Fairy Tale (1837)
I. “Sylvan Stag, Securely Play”
By Sarah Coleridge (1802–1850)
 
(From Chapter VIII.)

  Phantasmion advanced into the forest, and, looking from behind an oak tree, beheld the slender damsel caressing the stag, whose white hide was dappled with minute shadows from a branch of aspen, the sunbeams finding their way through the interstices of its delicate foliage. The lady had intermitted her melody, but now resumed it, addressing thus her happy comrade, who seemed to be conscious he was the subject of the strain:

SYLVAN stag, securely play,
’Tis the sportful month of May,
Till her music dies away
        Fear no huntsman’s hollo;
While the cowslip nods her head,        5
While the fragrant blooms are shed
O’er the turf which thou dost tread,
        None thy traces follow.
 
In the odours wafted round.
Those that breathe from thee are drowned;        10
Echo voices not a sound,
        Fleet one, to dismay thee;
On the budding beeches browse,
None shall come the deer to rouse;
Scattered leaves and broken boughs        15
        Shall not now betray thee.
 
Sylvan deer, on branches fed,
’Mid the countless branches bred,
Mimic branches on thy head
        With the rest are springing;        20
Smooth them on the russet bark,
Or the stem of cypress dark,
From whose top the woodland lark
        Soars to heaven singing.
 
  Here a livelier voice from another quarter of the forest, where the ground dipped into a dell, took up the strain and continued the song thus, as if in a spirit of gay mimicry:

Bound along, or else be still,
        25
Sportive roebuck, at thy will;
Wilding rose and woodbine fill
        All the grove with sweetness,
Safely may thy gentle roe
O’er the piny hillocks go,        30
Every white-robed torrent’s flow
        Rivalling in fleetness.
 
Peaceful breaks for thee the dawn,
While thou lead’st thy skipping fawn,
Gentle hind, across the lawn        35
        In the forest spreading;
Morn appears in sober vest,
Nor hath eve in roses drest,
By her purple hues exprest
        Aught of thy blood-shedding.        40
 
  The damsel was by this time seated on the projecting roots of a large tree, finishing a long wreath of flowers, while the stag lay beside her and seemed to watch her motions. She continued to murmur in a low key, but in unison with the voice which proceeded from the dell, and which was joined by one of deeper tone, in these latter verses:

Milk-white doe, ’tis but the breeze
Rustling in the alder trees;
Slumber thou while honey-bees
        Lull thee with their humming;
Though the ringdove’s plaintive moan        45
Seems to tell of pleasure flown,
On thy couch with blossoms sown,
        Fear no peril coming.
 
Thou amid the lilies laid,
Seem’st in lily vest array’d        50
Fann’d by gales which they have made
        Sweet with their perfuming;
Primrose tufts impearl’d with dew;
Bells which heav’n has steep’d in blue
Lend the breeze their odours too,        55
        All around thee blooming.
 
None shall come to scare thy dreams,
Save perchance the playful gleams;
Wake to quaff the cooling streams
        Of the sunlit river;        60
Thou across the faithless tide
Needest not for safety glide,
Nor thy panting bosom hide
        Where the grasses shiver.
 
When the joyous months are past,        65
Roses pine in autumn’s blast,
When the violets breathe their last,
        All that’s sweet is flying;
Then the sylvan deer must fly,
’Mid the scatter’d blossoms lie,        70
Fall with falling leaves and die
        When the flow’rs are dying.
 
 
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