At Dawn and Dusk


Victor James Daley

THROUGH the noiseless doors of Death
Three passed out, as with one breath.

Two had faces stern as Fate,
Stamped with unrelenting hate.

One upon her lips of guile
Wore a cold, mysterious smile.

Each of each unseen, the pale
Shades went down the hollow vale

Till they came unto the deep
River of Eternal Sleep.

Breath of wind, or wing of bird,
Never that dark stream hath stirred;

Still it seems as is the shore,
But it flows for evermore

Softly, through the meadows wan
To the Sea Oblivion.

In the dusk, like drops of blood,
Poppies hang above the flood;

On its surface lies a thin,
Ghostly web of mist, wherein

All things vague and changing seem
As the faces in a dream.

Two knelt down upon the bank
And of that dark water drank.

But the Third stood by the while,
Smiling her mysterious smile.

Rising up, those shades of men
Gazed upon each other, then

Side by side, upon the bank,
In a bed of poppies sank.

“What,” one to the other saith,
“Sent thee through the doors of death?”—

“While life throbbed in every vein,
For a woman I was slain.

“Love is but a fleeting spell,
Hate alone remembers well.

“For my slayer I shall wait,
And though he at Heaven’s gate

“Stand, and wear an angel’s crown,
I shall seize and drag him down!”

So the stern shade made reply.
Then the first that spake said: “I

“For a woman’s sake, also,
Slew myself—and slew my foe.

“Slew myself, that in no shape
He my vengeance should escape,

“Till Oblivion swallow both:
And I swore a solemn oath

“I would—hate remembers well—
Hunt his spotted soul to hell.

“But I left, ere leave-taking,
Round her throat a dark red ring.

“I shall know her—you shall note—
By that red ring round her throat.

“Well I loved my fair, false wife,
And perchance in this new life

“She may love me—we shall see—
She shall choose ’twixt him and me.”

Softly did the other sigh:
“My love’s love will never die.

“Love is not a fleeting spell—
Love, like hate, remembers well.

“Soon—mayhap on this dim shore—
We shall meet to part no more.”

Then the first Shade spoke and said:
“In this Kingdom of the Dead

“Let us, who so strangely meet,
Pledge each other in this sweet

“Water, our revenge to wreak
Side by side, and so to seek,

“Side by side, whate’er our fate,
Those we love and those we hate.”

Kneeling on the dim shore then,
Side by side, they drank again.

And they saw, like drops of blood,
Poppies nodding o’er the flood,

And they gazed upon the thin
Ghostly web of mist, wherein

All things vague and changing seem
As the faces in a dream;

And by some enchantment weird,
As they gazed thereon appeared

Unto each, down-bending low,
Form and features of his foe,

For a moment, then were gone,
And upon the meadows wan—

Half in Death and half a-swoon—
Shone a pale and spectral moon.

Then these twain rose, drowsy-eyed,
And departed side by side.

But the Woman Shade the while
Smiled her cold, mysterious smile.

And her beauty made a light
In that realm of pallid night

(Beauty laughs at worm and grave)
Like the moon beneath the wave.

Back she flung her hair of gold,
Glowing, gleaming, fold on fold,

Showing—all but these might note—
The red ring around her throat.

But they passed with cold surprise,
And unrecognising eyes.

Lightly laughed she then, and said:
“In this Kingdom of the Dead

“Strange the sights that one may see!
There go twain who died for me

“Seeking, through Creation wide,
For each other—side by side!”

Then she wove a poppy crown,
Placed it on her head, and down

On the river’s margin sank
Midst the poppies of its bank,

Saying: “In the world above
Long he tarries, my true love.

“Here beside this river’s rim
I will sleep, and wait for him.”

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