Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Song of the Young Mother
By Constance Lindsay Skinner
 
From “Songs of the Coast-dwellers”

  M’-m’-m’-m’-n! N’-n’-n’-n’-m!
Ai-i-he-i—ah-o-he-a-i-ne
Swing my chiefling fragrantly
On the cedar-branch.
Cedar, Cedar, tenderly        5
Sway to the singing wind.
Bright flying Wind with song in thy white throat,
And light in thy wide sea-eyes,
The sky’s blue feathers on thy wing
Oh blow, blow, gently, softly, Wind,        10
Rock my chiefling, Wind,
In his little woven cradle.
 
  When thou wast still a seedling,
Deep in mine earth, months deep,
I sat in thy father’s doorway making thy cradle.        15
At the first light, eager I rose to the weaving;
In the dusk my fingers still threaded,
Needing no light.
I remember my mother sat near me often, watching;
Sometimes weeping. Yes, she wept;        20
Yet answered not when I asked wherefor.
In the night thou hast waked me at his side—
Dancing, in thy dark house, to the doors that soon must open
On thy white shining dawn-shores of life:
And I have seen the Moon-Woman’s round face        25
Laughing through the smoke-hole, mocking,
Pointing to thy empty cradle hanging.
Ai! but her smile grew kind! She said,
“Wait a little longer, impatient one;
When next my round face peeps through the smoke-hole,        30
I will seek him at your breast.”
Ai-i-hi! Very precious is the man-child!
Ere it is born a woman loves it.
How cam’st thou here, little Chiefling?
A woman gave thee life!        35
 
  Yes—my mother wept, watching me weave for thee……
And I have wept, too, a little.
 
  Strange, that pain came with love;
I knew it not until thy father sought me.
Yet—what woman would cast love out?        40
 
  Gladly in the dusk I waited him—
None told me, not my mother even, of the pang.
So my heart, joyous, sounded a song of drums,
Beating the loud wild march for his swift-trampling feet.
The breasts of love were as the eaves of a house,        45
Jutting through the red mists and the dusk of ending day,
Calling the hunter to enter to his rest.
The door trembled with strange winds—
He circled my house with the arms of strength,
And took me with weapons……Joy?        50
Ay. Yet I cried from the depths with a sudden deep cry,
And in grieving earth was the torch quenched.
….Darkness..and his, his utterly, in that dark……
None had told me……
Nor that his strength would leap, rejoicing at my cry.        55
 
  At dawn—it is our custom—I went forth alone
Into the mists that wrap the sleeping cedars
And droop to the pale unwakened sea.
Alone on the dawn’s white rim I gathered cedar-boughs.
My tears fell, shining among the earth’s bright drops;        60
For now I knew
Why the maiden plaits a whip of cedar-fibre,
To give into her husband’s hand on her marriage-day.
Once I asked my father—it seemed so strange
A maid should weave and weave a rod for her own sorrow.        65
He laughed and said: “It is our custom; ay, an old custom—
I know not if it means aught now,
Or ever did have meaning.”
My mother sat near. Ay, I have remembered that she spoke not;
But, silently, in the shadow of his body, drooped her head.        70
 
  Ay, ’tis old, the custom,
Old as earth is old;
Ancient as passion,
Pitiless as passion—
Ay, pitiless, pitiless, the earth-way for women!        75
Bitter it is, as the taste of bright sea-water,
That he, who takes the gift, and wields our weaving of desire,
Knows not the meaning of the gift—nor can know ever!
Into the heedless hand of passion
We yield our power-of-pain……
.    .    .    .
        80
It is the law of the earth-way.
 
  So it is with birth-giving.
Aii-he! the mightier pang,
The mightier loving!
And thou and thy father, the two Strong Ones,        85
Glad, glad, of the woman’s pain-cry!
 
  M’-m’-m’-m’-n—Ai-i-he-i
Sleepest thou, little Fatling?
Ay, thou didst long drink at my breast—
(But hast not drained it of love.)        90
Cedar, Cedar, carefully
Guard my little brown cone
On thy earth-bending branch.
M’-m’-m’-m’-n—Ai-i-he-i
Little life-bud on the bough!        95
Sleep, sleep, thou drowsy one
Thou art guarded well.
Ay, rock, rock, safely, safely, little Man-Child—
A woman watches thee.
 
 
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors