Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Garden of the West
By Louise Driscoll
 
          (The Jackal is the only animal that ventures into the Desert. The ancient Egyptians believed that every person had a soul in the form of some animal, a creature within the creature. At death the soul was released, and was escorted across the Desert by the Jackal to a mysterious Heaven called the Garden of the West.)


A Butterfly.  We leave the yellow palms behind,
        The yellow-green date-palms that stand
        At the borders of the land.
        There are no talking leaves out here.
        The desert way is blind to me—        5
        Will the white sand be kind to me?
        What is it that I fear
        As I leave the palms behind?
 
The Jackal.  The sand is neither cruel nor kind.
        I count the toll, I count the toll—        10
        Here a soul and there a soul.
        Day and night, night and day,
        Over the white, silent way,
        To and fro
        I go,        15
        Without rest,
        From the Fountain of the Nile,
        To the Garden of the West.
 
The Butterfly.  I played with flowers yesterday—
        Are there no flowers by the way?        20
        Is the Desert never stained
        With pomegranate petals, rained
        To the sand by some light wind
        Sweet with peach or tamerind?
        We leave the singing boys behind—        25
        Their songs were kind.
        Jackal, Jackal, what shall I find?
 
The Jackal.  There was singing yesterday,
        And tomorrow boys will sing;
        But today you and I        30
        Will not hear anything.
        There is lotus by the Nile,
        Stranger flowers in the West,
        But the way between is not
        Adorned for any guest.        35
        You will find no songs nor flowers nor rest.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, when we reach
          The Garden’s lovely gate,
        Will there be one to welcome us
          With honey delicate?        40
        With flower wine and pollen dew,
        Who will wait for me and you?
 
The Jackal.  First there is the scent of it,
          Faint—sweet—far.
        There’s a little wind that tells        45
          Where the lemons are.
        Birds that crossed the sand with me
        Sing in a high silver tree.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, yesterday
          I was a girl.        50
        Last night I felt my wings
          Suddenly unfurl.
        Last night a butterfly
        Saw a little girl die.
 
The Jackal.  Over this white, silent way,        55
        Day and night, night and day,
        Souls are led by such as I,
        All surprised that bodies die;
        Every soul stirred to surprise,
        When its body dies.        60
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, I was round and sweet.
        I had small swift hands and feet,
        And a high, silver voice,
        Fit for little tinkling words,
        Sweet as honey on fresh curds.        65
        I was made to rejoice;
        I was made for love, men said—
        Brown of skin and eyes, with red
        Parted lips; and I was fed
        With love words that singing boys        70
        Thought about me in their hearts.
        I was skilled in those girl arts
        That are piercing sweet. I had
        All that makes boy glad.
 
The Jackal.  Day and night, night and day,        75
        Over this white, silent way,
        Such as you and such as I
        Still go by, still go by.
        Milk child and beard of white,
        Power and glory, faith and might,        80
        Little love-girl such as you,
        Trailing wings of gold and blue:
        All go the way I know—
        Sad, glad, eager, distressed,
        From the Fountain of the Nile        85
        To the Garden of the West.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, he sang to me,
        He touched me tenderly.
        He brought me lilies wet with rain,
        White lilies without any stain        90
        Of color on their loveliness,
        Their perfume a caress.
        The singing boys seemed far away
        That day.
        I did not hear the birds, nor see        95
        The people go by me.
        I only knew
        A mist of tears, with his face
        Shining through.
 
The Jackal.  Day by day and year by year        100
        Tales like this I hear.
        To every soul its bitterness
        Seems like loneliness.
        To every soul love is shown
        Standing alone.        105
        Every love seems to be
        Unlike love’s great company.
        “Never was love like mine!” they say,
        Day and night, night and day.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, I was slim and straight,        110
        With little round breasts delicate,
        Throat curved like a crescent moon,
        Bud that would be flower soon.
        Warm and quick pulses were mine—
        I was like a draught of wine        115
        Lifted to his thirsty mouth!—
        Like a soft wind from the South
        Touching him caressingly,
        Wrapping him about, when he
        Saw a singing boy go by        120
        Silently,
        With his lute unstrung, at rest,
        And a lily on his breast.
 
The Jackal.  The days go by, the days go by,
        The same sun crosses the same blue sky,        125
        The same stars shine in the depth above,
        And men still dream of undying love.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, it was a little thing!
        The boy said he could no longer sing.
        He showed me his lute, unstrung, at rest,        130
        And I gave him a lily to wear at his breast.
 
The Jackal.  The days go by, the days go by,
          And still there are gardens, sweet with bloom,
        Lovers vow and lovers die,
          Tomorrow’s lovers stir in the womb.        135
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, I saw his face—
          It was strange to me.
        Then I saw a shining knife
          Flash suddenly.
        I felt my wings of blue and gold        140
        Unfold—unfold.
 
The Jackal.  First there is the scent of it—
          Camphor and myrrh,
        Cinnamon and cedar
          And heavy juniper.        145
        Then there is the sound of it,
          Flute and canzonet.
        They who reach the Garden
          Soon forget.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, how do you know        150
          That souls forget?
        You come and go at the Garden’s gate,
          But have you entered yet?
 
The Jackal.  A soul-less thing am I,
        That cannot die.        155
        The gate is shut to me
          Eternally.
        But there is a bird that sings
          In the silver tree—
        A red bird like a jewel set        160
          In a filagree
        Of little, shining leaves—
          And he sings to me:
 
        Come with your souls, for here await
        All garden joys primordinate.        165
        The wind comes over a deep blue pool,
        It is never too warm, it is never too cool,
        The roses are never open wide,
        And no one knows that he has died.
 
        He who comes through the garden’s gate,        170
        Is never afraid or desolate.
        On little paths and wind and wind
        He shall unwearied pleasures find.
        He shall know beauty’s last secret,
        And he shall forget, he shall forget!        175
 
        Come with your souls, there is no fate
        That death shall not alleviate.
        I am the Voice that calls to men
        Deep in their hearts they hear me when
        I sit and sing in the silver tree,        180
        “You were not and you shall not be!”
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, Jackal, I would not go!—
        I would remember, I would know
        When he comes over the still white way
        That you and I have come today.        185
        Jackal, Jackal, let me wait
        And watch for him at the Garden’s gate.
 
The Jackal.  Day by day and year by year
        Prayers like this I hear.
        Every soul would wait to say        190
        Some last word about yesterday.
        Every soul, if it could,
        Would be better understood.
 
The Butterfly.  Jackal, what is the scent that comes—
        Breath of flowers and fragrant gums?        195
        Jackal, what is the song I hear,
        So piercing high and clear?
        Jackal, Jackal, I see
        A shining, silver tree!
 
The Jackal.  Your wings are trembling,        200
          Gold and blue thing.
        They flutter and unfold,
          Blue and gold.
        You saw a girl die,
          Butterfly.        205
 
        I may not rest
        In the Garden of the West.
        The way across the Desert
        I have shown—
        Now I go back alone!        210
 
 
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