Dost mind the summer day when first we met
Upon the crystal pathway of a lake
Paved with white lilies? I can see thee yet
As, bending downward, thou didst stoop to break
One royal flower, when from its sensuous rest
A green snake, startled in that scented lair,
Uncoiling quick upreared in angry crest
And struck at thy white hand, descending there!
Why wonder that the viper strove to smite
A thing so fair? What time its shadow gleamed
Within the lake it shamed the creamy white
Of the rare lily dome 'neath which he dreamed.
But not as other women cry aloud,
And hide affrighted eyes in helpless hands,
Didst thou; though terror, like an ashen cloud,
Quenching the rosy fire of sunset brands,
Put out the flush of beauty from thy cheek
And paled the crimson arch of thy proud lips,
Never profaned by an affrighted shriek.
Strong with the fear that blanched thy coral finger-tips,
I saw thee grasp a slender oar, and strike
The serpent dead upon his lily throne.
And then I loved thee; thou wert so unlike
All other women. Oh my lily-queen, my own!
I gained thy side,--swift rowing from the strand,--
And whispered," Thou art brave, nor lightly foiled,"
For lo! the dangerous flower was in thy hand,
The smitten snake about its golden petals coiled.
A startled answer came,--for thou hadst felt alone,--
"Oh no! it was so small, and scarcely could resist."
The while a tint through thy clear pallor shone,
Tender as flush of tropic moon through mountain mist.
"I hate the mortal fear that made me smite
A thing so beautiful, but then you know"--
And to thy dark eye leapt a laughing light--
"The serpent is the woman's deadly foe."
* * * * * * *
Thou art too pure to seek for hidden foes,
Too brave to fear whatever may betide.
'Tis thine to smite the asp and wear the rose,
To gether lilies all unharmed where spotted adders glide.
Forever blest that sweet day, soft and warm,
The green snake dreaming in the lily's cone,
That led me to a love whose subtle charm
Has crowned my life and left no sting, my lily-queen, my own!