by: Zona Gale (1874-1938)

      TARK on the window's early grey
      Lined out in squares by casement bars,
      She saw her lily lift to take
      The sinking stars.
      Within the room's delaying dark
      Intimate things lay dim and still
      With all their day-time friendliness
      Gone false and chill.
      Her hand upon the coverlet,
      Her face low in the linen's cleft,
      They were as wan as water-flowers
      By light bereft.
      And never was bloom brought to her couch
      But shed the odour of a sigh
      Because she was as white as they,
      And they must die.
      "O Pale, lit deep within the dark
      Of your young eyes, a stifled light
      Leaps thin and keen as melody
      And leavens night.
      "It is a light that did not burn
      When you were gay at mart and fair;
      O Pale, what is that starry fire,
      Fed unaware?"
      Then softly she: "I may not tell
      What other eyes behold in mine;
      But I have melted night and day
      In some wild wine.
      "I may not read the graven cup
      Exhaustless as a brimming bell
      Distilling silver; but I drank
      And all is well.
      "One morn like this, bitter still,
      I waited for the early stir
      Of those who slept the while I watched
      What muffled wonders were.
      "I saw my lily on the sill;
      I saw my mirror on the wall
      Take light that was not; and I saw
      My spectral taper tall.
      "Why I had known these quiet things
      Since I could speak. Yet suddenly
      They all touched hands and in one breath
      They spoke to me.
      "I may not tell you what they said.
      The strange part is that I must lie
      And never tell you what we say--
      These things and I.
      "I only know that common things
      Bear sudden little spirits set
      Free by the rose of dawn and by
      Night's violet.
      "I only know that when I hear
      Clear tone, the haunted echoes bear
      Legions of little winged feet
      On printless air.
      "And when warm colour weds my look
      A word is uttered tremblingly,
      With meaning fall--but I know not
      What it may be.
      "I only know that now I find
      Abiding beauty everywhere;
      Or if it bide not, that it fades
      Is still more fair.
      I long to question those I love
      And yet I know not what to say;
      I am alone as one upon
      Some secret way.
      "My words are barren of my bliss;
      The strange part is that I must lie
      And never tell you what we say--
      These things and I.
      "So will it be when I am not.
      A little more perhaps to tell;
      Yet then as now I may not say
      What I know well."
      She died when all the east was red.
      And we are they who know her fate
      Because we love the way of life
      That she had found too late.

"The Secret Way" is reprinted from The Secret Way. Zona Gale. New York: Macmillan Co., 1921.




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