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´╗┐Title: Nets to Catch the Wind
Author: Wylie, Elinor, 1885-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Say not of Beauty she is good,
  Or aught but beautiful,
  Or sleek to doves' wings of the wood
  Her wild wings of a gull.

  Call her not wicked; that word's touch
  Consumes her like a curse;
  But love her not too much, too much,
  For that is even worse.

  O, she is neither good nor bad,
  But innocent and wild!
  Enshrine her and she dies, who had
  The hard heart of a child.


  Avoid the reeking herd,
  Shun the polluted flock,
  Live like that stoic bird,
  The eagle of the rock.

  The huddled warmth of crowds
  Begets and fosters hate;
  He keeps, above the clouds,
  His cliff inviolate.

  When flocks are folded warm,
  And herds to shelter run,
  He sails above the storm,
  He stares into the sun.

  If in the eagle's track
  Your sinews cannot leap,
  Avoid the lathered pack,
  Turn from the steaming sheep.

  If you would keep your soul
  From spotted sight or sound,
  Live like the velvet mole;
  Go burrow underground.

  And there hold intercourse
  With roots of trees and stones,
  With rivers at their source,
  And disembodied bones.


  Better to see your cheek grown hollow,
  Better to see your temple worn,
  Than to forget to follow, follow,
  After the sound of a silver horn.

  Better to bind your brow with willow
  And follow, follow until you die,
  Than to sleep with your head on a golden pillow,
  Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.

  Better to see your cheek grown sallow
  And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
  Than to forget to hallo, hallo,
  After the milk-white hounds of the moon.


  _"The Hielan' lassies are a' for spinnin'
  The Lowlan' lassies for prinkin' and pinnin';
  My daddie w'u'd chide me, an' so w'u'd my minnie
  If I s'u'd bring hame sic a prinkin' leddie."_

  Now haud your tongue, ye haverin' coward,
  For whilst I'm young I'll go flounced an' flowered,
  In lutestring striped like the strings o' a fiddle,
  Wi' gowden girdles aboot my middle.

  In your Hielan' glen, where the rain pours steady,
  Ye'll be gay an' glad for a prinkin' leddie;
  Where the rocks are all bare an' the turf is all sodden,
  An' lassies gae sad in their homespun an' hodden.

  My silks are stiff wi' patterns o' siller,
  I've an ermine hood like the hat o' a miller,
  I've chains o' coral like rowan berries,
  An' a cramoisie mantle that cam' frae Paris.

  Ye'll be glad for the glint o' its scarlet linin'
  When the larks are up an' the sun is shinin';
  When the winds are up an' ower the heather
  Your heart'll be gay wi' my gowden feather.

  When the skies are low an' the earth is frozen,
  Ye'll be gay an' glad for the leddie ye've chosen,
  When ower the snow I go prinkin' an' prancin'
  In my wee red slippers were made for dancin'.

  It's better a leddie like Solomon's lily
  Than one that'll run like a Hielan' gillie
  A-linkin' it ower the leas, my laddie,
  In a raggedy kilt an' a belted plaidie!


  Why should this Negro insolently stride
  Down the red noonday on such noiseless feet?
  Piled in his barrow, tawnier than wheat,
  Lie heaps of smoldering daisies, somber-eyed,
  Their copper petals shriveled up with pride,
  Hot with a superfluity of heat,
  Like a great brazier borne along the street
  By captive leopards, black and burning pied.

  Are there no water-lilies, smooth as cream,
  With long stems dripping crystal? Are there none
  Like those white lilies, luminous and cool,
  Plucked from some hemlock-darkened northern stream
  By fair-haired swimmers, diving where the sun
  Scarce warms the surface of the deepest pool?


  First Traveler: What's that lying in the dust?
  Second Traveler: A crooked stick.
  First Traveler: What's it worth, if you can trust
    To arithmetic?
  Second Traveler: Isn't this a riddle?
  First Traveler:                       No, a trick.
  Second Traveler: It's worthless. Leave it where it lies.
  First Traveler: Wait; count ten;
    Rub a little dust upon your eyes;
    Now, look again.
  Second Traveler: Well, and what the devil is it, then?
  First Traveler: It's the sort of crooked stick that shepherds know.
  Second Traveler: Some one's loss!
  First Traveler: Bend it, and you make of it a bow.
    Break it, a cross.
  Second Traveler: But it's all grown over with moss!


  I always was afraid of Somes's Pond:
  Not the little pond, by which the willow stands,
  Where laughing boys catch alewives in their hands
  In brown, bright shallows; but the one beyond.
  There, when the frost makes all the birches burn
  Yellow as cow-lilies, and the pale sky shines
  Like a polished shell between black spruce and pines,
  Some strange thing tracks us, turning where we turn.

  You'll say I dream it, being the true daughter
  Of those who in old times endured this dread.
  Look! Where the lily-stems are showing red
  A silent paddle moves below the water,
  A sliding shape has stirred them like a breath;
  Tall plumes surmount a painted mask of death.



  When the world turns completely upside down
  You say we'll emigrate to the Eastern Shore
  Aboard a river-boat from Baltimore;
  We'll live among wild peach trees, miles from town.
  You'll wear a coonskin cap, and I a gown
  Homespun, dyed butternut's dark gold color.
  Lost, like your lotus-eating ancestor,
  We'll swim in milk and honey till we drown.

  The winter will be short, the summer long,
  The autumn amber-hued, sunny and hot,
  Tasting of cider and of scuppernong;
  All seasons sweet, but autumn best of all.
  The squirrels in their silver fur will fall
  Like falling leaves, like fruit, before your shot.


  The autumn frosts will lie upon the grass
  Like bloom on grapes of purple-brown and gold.
  The misted early mornings will be cold;
  The little puddles will be roofed with glass.
  The sun, which burns from copper into brass,
  Melts these at noon, and makes the boys unfold
  Their knitted mufflers; full as they can hold,
  Fat pockets dribble chestnuts as they pass.

  Peaches grow wild, and pigs can live in clover;
  A barrel of salted herrings lasts a year;
  The spring begins before the winter's over.
  By February you may find the skins
  Of garter snakes and water moccasins
  Dwindled and harsh, dead-white and cloudy-clear.


  When April pours the colors of a shell
  Upon the hills, when every little creek
  Is shot with silver from the Chesapeake
  In shoals new-minted by the ocean swell,
  When strawberries go begging, and the sleek
  Blue plums lie open to the blackbird's beak,
  We shall live well--we shall live very well.

  The months between the cherries and the peaches
  Are brimming cornucopias which spill
  Fruits red and purple, somber-bloomed and black;
  Then, down rich fields and frosty river beaches
  We'll trample bright persimmons, while we kill
  Bronze partridge, speckled quail, and canvas-back.


  Down to the Puritan marrow of my bones
  There's something in this richness that I hate.
  I love the look, austere, immaculate,
  Of landscapes drawn in pearly monotones.
  There's something in my very blood that owns
  Bare hills, cold silver on a sky of slate,
  A thread of water, churned to milky spate
  Streaming through slanted pastures fenced with stones.

  I love those skies, thin blue or snowy gray,
  Those fields sparse-planted, rendering meager sheaves;
  That spring, briefer than apple-blossom's breath,
  Summer, so much too beautiful to stay,
  Swift autumn, like a bonfire of leaves,
  And sleepy winter, like the sleep of death.


  This is the bricklayer; hear the thud
  Of his heavy load dumped down on stone.
  His lustrous bricks are brighter than blood,
  His smoking mortar whiter than bone.

  Set each sharp-edged, fire-bitten brick
  Straight by the plumb-line's shivering length;
  Make my marvelous wall so thick
  Dead nor living may shake its strength.

  Full as a crystal cup with drink
  Is my cell with dreams, and quiet, and cool....
  Stop, old man! You must leave a chink;
  How can I breathe? _You can't, you fool!_


  I saw a Tiger's golden flank,
  I saw what food he ate,
  By a desert spring he drank;
  The Tiger's name was Hate.

  Then I saw a placid Lamb
  Lying fast asleep;
  Like a river from its dam
  Flashed the Tiger's leap.

  I saw a Lion tawny-red,
  Terrible and brave;
  The Tiger's leap overhead
  Broke like a wave.

  In sand below or sun above
  He faded like a flame.
  The Lamb said, "I am Love";
  "Lion, tell your name."

  The Lion's voice thundering
  Shook his vaulted breast,
  "I am Love. By this spring,
  Brother, let us rest."


  As I was lying in my bed
  I heard the church-bell ring;
  Before one solemn word was said
  A bird began to sing.

  I heard a dog begin to bark
  And a bold crowing cock;
  The bell, between the cold and dark,
  Tolled. It was five o'clock.

  The church-bell tolled, and the bird sang,
  A clear true voice he had;
  The cock crew, and the church-bell rang,
  I knew it had gone mad.

  A hand reached down from the dark skies,
  It took the bell-rope thong,
  The bell cried "Look! Lift up your eyes!"
  The clapper shook to song.

  The iron clapper laughed aloud,
  Like clashing wind and wave;
  The bell cried out "Be strong and proud!"
  Then, with a shout, "Be brave!"

  The rumbling of the market-carts,
  The pounding of men's feet
  Were drowned in song; "Lift up your hearts!"
  The sound was loud and sweet.

  Slow and slow the great bell swung,
  It hung in the steeple mute;
  And people tore its living tongue
  Out by the very root.


  The rain's cold grains are silver-gray
  Sharp as golden sands,
  A bell is clanging, people sway
  Hanging by their hands.

  Supple hands, or gnarled and stiff,
  Snatch and catch and grope;
  That face is yellow-pale, as if
  The fellow swung from rope.

  Dull like pebbles, sharp like knives,
  Glances strike and glare,
  Fingers tangle, Bluebeard's wives
  Dangle by the hair.

  Orchard of the strangest fruits
  Hanging from the skies;
  Brothers, yet insensate brutes
  Who fear each others' eyes.

  One man stands as free men stand,
  As if his soul might be
  Brave, unbroken; see his hand
  Nailed to an oaken tree.


  Sleep falls, with limpid drops of rain,
  Upon the steep cliffs of the town.
  Sleep falls; men are at peace again
  Awhile the small drops fall softly down.

  The bright drops ring like bells of glass
  Thinned by the wind, and lightly blown;
  Sleep cannot fall on peaceful grass
  So softly as it falls on stone.

  Peace falls unheeded on the dead
  Asleep; they have had deep peace to drink;
  Upon a live man's bloody head
  It falls most tenderly, I think.


  When against earth a wooden heel
  Clicks as loud as stone and steel,
  When snow turns flour instead of flakes,
  And frost bakes clay as fire bakes,
  When the hard-bitten fields at last
  Crack like iron flawed in the cast,
  When the world is wicked and cross and old,
  I long to be quit of the cruel cold.

  Little birds like bubbles of glass
  Fly to other Americas,
  Birds as bright as sparkles of wine
  Fly in the night to the Argentine,
  Birds of azure and flame-birds go
  To the tropical Gulf of Mexico:
  They chase the sun, they follow the heat,
  It is sweet in their bones, O sweet, sweet, sweet!
  It's not with them that I'd love to be,
  But under the roots of the balsam tree.

  Just as the spiniest chestnut-burr
  Is lined within with the finest fur,
  So the stony-walled, snow-roofed house
  Of every squirrel and mole and mouse
  Is lined with thistledown, sea-gull's feather,
  Velvet mullein-leaf, heaped together
  With balsam and juniper, dry and curled,
  Sweeter than anything else in the world.
  O what a warm and darksome nest
  Where the wildest things are hidden to rest!
  It's there that I'd love to lie and sleep,
  Soft, soft, soft, and deep, deep, deep!


  The woman in the pointed hood
  And cloak blue-gray like a pigeon's wing,
  Whose orchard climbs to the balsam-wood,
  Has done a cruel thing.

  To her back door-step came a ghost,
  A girl who had been ten years dead,
  She stood by the granite hitching-post
  And begged for a piece of bread.

  Now why should I, who walk alone,
  Who am ironical and proud,
  Turn, when a woman casts a stone
  At a beggar in a shroud?

  I saw the dead girl cringe and whine,
  And cower in the weeping air--
  But, oh, she was no kin of mine,
  And so I did not care!


  All that I dream
    By day or night
  Lives in that stream
    Of lovely light.
  Here is the earth,
    And there is the spire;
  This is my hearth,
    And that is my fire.
  From the sun's dome
    I am shouted proof
  That this is my home,
    And that is my roof.
  Here is my food,
    And here is my drink,
  And I am wooed
    From the moon's brink.
  And the days go over,
    And the nights end;
  Here is my lover,
    Here is my friend.
  All that I
    Could ever ask
  Wears that sky
    Like a thin gold mask.


  When foxes eat the last gold grape,
  And the last white antelope is killed,
  I shall stop fighting and escape
  Into a little house I'll build.

  But first I'll shrink to fairy size,
  With a whisper no one understands,
  Making blind moons of all your eyes,
  And muddy roads of all your hands.

  And you may grope for me in vain
  In hollows under the mangrove root,
  Or where, in apple-scented rain,
  The silver wasp-nests hang like fruit.


  Here's a wonderful thing,
  A humming-bird's wing
    In hammered gold,
  And store well chosen
  Of snowflakes frozen
    In crystal cold.

  Black onyx cherries
  And mistletoe berries
    Of chrysoprase,
  Jade buds, tight shut,
  All carven and cut
    In intricate ways.

  Here, if you please
  Are little gilt bees
    In amber drops
  Which look like honey,
  Translucent and sunny,
    From clover-tops.

  Here's an elfin girl
  Of mother-of-pearl
    And moonshine made,
  With tortoise-shell hair
  Both dusky and fair
  In its light and shade.

  Here's lacquer laid thin,
  Like a scarlet skin
    On an ivory fruit;
  And a filigree frost
  Of frail notes lost
    From a fairy lute.

  Here's a turquoise chain
  Of sun-shower rain
    To wear if you wish;
  And glimmering green
  With aquamarine,
    A silvery fish.

  Here are pearls all strung
  On a thread among
    Pretty pink shells;
  And bubbles blown
  From the opal stone
    Which ring like bells.

  Touch them and take them,
  But do not break them!
    Beneath your hand
  They will wither like foam
  If you carry them home
    Out of fairy-land.

  O, they never can last
  Though you hide them fast
    From moth and from rust;
  In your monstrous day
  They will crumble away
    Into quicksilver dust.


  For this you've striven
    Daring, to fail:
  Your sky is riven
    Like a tearing veil.

  For this, you've wasted
    Wings of your youth;
  Divined, and tasted
    Bitter springs of truth.

  From sand unslaked
    Twisted strong cords,
  And wandered naked
    Among trysted swords.

  There's a word unspoken,
    A knot untied.
  Whatever is broken
    The earth may hide.

  The road was jagged
    Over sharp stones:
  Your body's too ragged
    To cover your bones.

  The wind scatters
    Tears upon dust;
  Your soul's in tatters
    Where the spears thrust.

  Your race is ended--
    See, it is run:
  Nothing is mended
    Under the sun.

  Straight as an arrow
    You fall to a sleep
  Not too narrow
    And not too deep.


  Once, when my husband was a child, there came
  To his father's table, one who called him kin,
  In sunbleached corduroys paler than his skin.
  His look was grave and kind; he bore the name
  Of the dead singer of Senlac, and his smile.
  Shyly and courteously he smiled and spoke;
  "I've been in the laurel since the winter broke;
  Four months, I reckon; yes, sir, quite a while."

  He'd killed a score of foemen in the past,
  In some blood-feud, a dark and monstrous thing;
  To him it seemed his duty. At the last
  His enemies found him by a forest spring,
  Which, as he died, lay bright beneath his head,
  A silver shield that slowly turned to red.


  The old moon is tarnished
  With smoke of the flood,
  The dead leaves are varnished
  With color like blood,

  A treacherous smiler
  With teeth white as milk,
  A savage beguiler
  In sheathings of silk,

  The sea creeps to pillage,
  She leaps on her prey;
  A child of the village
  Was murdered to-day.

  She came up to meet him
  In a smooth golden cloak,
  She choked him and beat him
  To death, for a joke.

  Her bright locks were tangled,
  She shouted for joy,
  With one hand she strangled
  A strong little boy.

  Now in silence she lingers
  Beside him all night
  To wash her long fingers
  In silvery light.


  You are a rose, but set with sharpest spine;
  You are a pretty bird that pecks at me;
  You are a little squirrel on a tree,
  Pelting me with the prickly fruit of the pine;
  A diamond, torn from a crystal mine,
  Not like that milky treasure of the sea
  A smooth, translucent pearl, but skilfully
  Carven to cut, and faceted to shine.

  If you are flame, it dances and burns blue;
  If you are light, it pierces like a star
  Intenser than a needlepoint of ice.
  The dexterous touch that shaped the soul of you,
  Mingled, to mix, and make you what you are,
  Magic between the sugar and the spice.


  Hate in the world's hand
  Can carve and set its seal
  Like the strong blast of sand
  Which cuts into steel.

  I have seen how the finger of hate
  Can mar and mold
  Faces burned passionate
  And frozen cold.

  Sorrowful faces worn
  As stone with rain,
  Faces writhing with scorn
  And sullen with pain.

  But you have a proud face
  Which the world cannot harm,
  You have turned the pain to a grace
  And the scorn to a charm.

  You have taken the arrows and slings
  Which prick and bruise
  And fashioned them into wings
  For the heels of your shoes.

  From the world's hand which tries
  To tear you apart
  You have stolen the falcon's eyes
  And the lion's heart.

  What has it done, this world,
  With hard finger tips,
  But sweetly chiseled and curled
  Your inscrutable lips?


  Within my house of patterned horn
  I sleep in such a bed
  As men may keep before they're born
  And after they are dead.

  Sticks and stones may break their bones,
  And words may make them bleed;
  There is not one of them who owns
  An armor to his need.

  Tougher than hide or lozenged bark,
  Snow-storm and thunder proof,
  And quick with sun, and thick with dark,
  Is this my darling roof.

  Men's troubled dreams of death and birth
  Pulse mother-o'-pearl to black;
  I bear the rainbow bubble Earth
  Square on my scornful back.


  A white well
  In a black cave;
  A bright shell
  In a dark wave.

  A white rose
  Black brambles hood;
  Smooth bright snows
  In a dark wood.

  A flung white glove
  In a dark fight;
  A white dove
  On a wild black night.

  A white door
  In a dark lane;
  A bright core
  To bitter black pain.

  A white hand
  Waved from dark walls;
  In a burnt black land
  Bright waterfalls.

  A bright spark
  Where black ashes are;
  In the smothering dark
  One white star.


  The icicles wreathing
    On trees in festoon
  Swing, swayed to our breathing:
    They're made of the moon.

  She's a pale, waxen taper;
    And these seem to drip
  Transparent as paper
    From the flame of her tip.

  Molten, smoking a little,
    Into crystal they pass;
  Falling, freezing, to brittle
    And delicate glass.

  Each a sharp-pointed flower,
    Each a brief stalactite
  Which hangs for an hour
    In the blue cave of night.


  Why should my sleepy heart be taught
  To whistle mocking-bird replies?
  This is another bird you've caught,
  Soft-feathered, with a falcon's eyes.

  The bird Imagination,
  That flies so far, that dies so soon;
  Her wings are colored like the sun,
  Her breast is colored like the moon.

  Weave her a chain of silver twist,
  And a little hood of scarlet wool,
  And let her perch upon your wrist,
  And tell her she is beautiful.


  Alembics turn to stranger things
  Strange things, but never while we live
  Shall magic turn this bronze that sings
  To singing water in a sieve.

  The trumpeters of Caesar's guard
  Salute his rigorous bastions
  With ordered bruit; the bronze is hard
  Though there is silver in the bronze.

  Our mutable tongue is like the sea,
  Curled wave and shattering thunder-fit;
  Dangle in strings of sand shall be
  Who smooths the ripples out of it.


  Liza, go steep your long white hands
  In the cool waters of that spring
  Which bubbles up through shiny sands
  The color of a wild-dove's wing.

  Dabble your hands, and steep them well
  Until those nails are pearly white
  Now rosier than a laurel bell;
  Then come to me at candle-light.

  Lay your cold hands across my brows,
  And I shall sleep, and I shall dream
  Of silver-pointed willow boughs
  Dipping their fingers in a stream.


  Let us walk in the white snow
    In a soundless space;
  With footsteps quiet and slow,
    At a tranquil pace,
    Under veils of white lace.

  I shall go shod in silk,
    And you in wool,
  White as a white cow's milk,
    More beautiful
    Than the breast of a gull.

  We shall walk through the still town
    In a windless peace;
  We shall step upon white down,
    Upon silver fleece,
    Upon softer than these.

  We shall walk in velvet shoes:
    Wherever we go
  Silence will fall like dews
    On white silence below.
    We shall walk in the snow.


  Too high, too high to pluck
  My heart shall swing.
  A fruit no bee shall suck,
  No wasp shall sting.

  If on some night of cold
  It falls to ground
  In apple-leaves of gold
  I'll wrap it round.

  And I shall seal it up
  With spice and salt,
  In a carven silver cup,
  In a deep vault.

  Before my eyes are blind
  And my lips mute,
  I must eat core and rind
  Of that same fruit.

  Before my heart is dust
  At the end of all,
  Eat it I must, I must
  Were it bitter gall.

  But I shall keep it sweet
  By some strange art;
  Wild honey I shall eat
  When I eat my heart.

  O honey cool and chaste
  As clover's breath!
  Sweet Heaven I shall taste
  Before my death.

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