Songs from the Southern Seas and Other Poems/The Poison Flower
IN the evergreen shade of an Austral wood,
Where the long branches laced above,
Through which all day it seemed
The sweet sunbeams down-gleamed
Like the rays of a young mother's love,
When she hides her glad face with her hands and peeps
At the youngling that crows on her knee:
'Neath such ray-shivered shade,
In a banksia glade,
Was this flower first shown to me.
A rich pansy it was, with a small white lip
And a wonderful purple hood;
And your eye caught the sheen
Of its leaves, parrot-green,
Down the dim gothic aisles of the wood.
And its foliage rich on the moistureless sand
Made you long for its odorous breath;
But ah! 'twas to take
To your bosom a snake,
For its pestilent fragrance was death.
And I saw it again, in a far northern land,—
Not a pansy, not purple and white;
Yet in beauteous guise
Did this poison-plant rise.
Fair and fatal again to my sight.
And men longed for her kiss and her odorous breath
When no friend was beside them to tell
That to kiss was to die.
That her truth was a lie,
And her beauty a soul-killing spell.