The Collected Poems of Dora Sigerson Shorter/A Tragi-Comedy
'Twas on a gloomy afternoon
When all the world was out of tune,
And lover's lot amiss,
When Chloe, waiting by the stream,
Awoke from love's too pleasant dream,
Of half Elysian bliss.
The cause, the same that shook the skies.
And closed the gates of Paradise
On one presumptuous soul.
A jealous heart beat in her breast,
And thrust her out from happiness,
All weeping in her dole.
What stayed her lover's laggard feet?
The trysting hour had gone too fleet
She vowed him all untrue.
Her frisking spaniel to her side
She held, and would not be denied
For all that he could do.
“Poor beast!” quoth she, “alas! I go
To seek my death the waves below,
Since love's a foolish dream.
I shall not leave thee here alone,
To make thy sad and piteous moan.”
She flung him in the stream.
Loosed from her hand, the spaniel sank,
Then scrambled whining to the bank,
And did refuse to drown.
He shook his silken coat of spray,
Then, all forgiving, leaped to play—
She chid him with a frown.
“Ungrateful beast!” she sore did cry,
“Since all alone I now must die.
And leave thee lost behind,
Go seek a lady to whose heart
Has come no pang of Cupid's dart.
To be a mistress kind.
“Nor find the lover for a friend
Who brought to this most cruel end
A maid who held him true.
Begone! Nor add another tear,
For this poor heart that held thee dear;
Thou art most faithless too!”
Then Chloe to the gloomy skies
Did turn her blue and tear-dimmed eyes,
In passion and despair.
“If there were one who loved me well,
And who for me, what else befell.
Would greatly do and dare;
“Who with no selfish passions rife,
Would hold me dearer than his life,
Without a hope of gain:
Then kindly heavens intercede,
And send, to stay a cruel deed.
This most unselfish swain.”
There came from out the gloomy skies
No answer to her doleful cries,
Fool was she so to dream.
Her silken locks of golden hair
She wound across her face all fair,
And flung her in the stream.
But stay! A champion to her side.
Has plunged within the shallow tide,
In answer to her moan.
The spaniel in the water's strife
Did for this most beloved life
Nigh sacrifice his own.
Where grew the reeds all high and rank,
Beyond the bending of the bank,
He brought her to the shore.
There where her lover with his net
Did in his fishing all forget
The trysting hour was o'er.
He to her side right quickly ran—
With swift invention of a man,
A tale did soon supply.
Of all—but truth—did he relate,
That kept his eager feet so late;
To leave her was to die.
He kissed her cheek, he kissed her chin,
His cloak he wrapped her body in.
And knelt him at her side.
He swore, as men are apt to do,
That were she dead he'd follow too
And drown within the tide.
And then, because a smile did break
About the dimples in her cheek,
He chid her cruelty.
In fine, his anger all awoke,
With this he played the master-stroke.
And found his conscience free.
That she should deem him false, untrue,
Who loved, as never others do,
His dear, his only dove!
He said—as such are prone to say—
“Through all his years for one brief day
He hath no other love.”
And she for this fond faith would give
No sweet return, not even live.
But fling her in the tide!
And here his voice did fail and break.
He trembled on the words he spake.
And turned his face aside.
Because a tear stood in his eye.
She did herself accuse and cry,
As all poor women will.
Her crime he promised to forgive.
Since for no other did he live;
O'er all he loved, her still.
Did she his story quite believe
Or hold him guiltless to deceive.
Because she wanted to?
I do not know, but only this—
The quarrel ended in a kiss.
As may all others do.
As for the champion—Heaven sent.
With their sweet joy was he content.
Although he was forgot?
The teasing fly that flitted past
He snapped and slew upon the grass.
All happy with his lot.