Maurice Thompson

The Fawn

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I lay close down beside the river,
My bow well strung, well filled my quiver,

The god that dwells among the reeds
Sang sweetly from their tangled bredes;

The soft-tongued water murmured low,
Swinging the flag-leaves to and fro.

Beyond the river, fold on fold,
The hills gleamed through a film of gold;

The feathery osiers waved and shone
Like silver threads in tangles blown.

A bird, fire-winged, with ruby throat,
Down the slow, drowsy wind did float,

And drift and flit and stay along,
A very focal flame of song.

A white sand-isle amid the stream
Lay sleeping by its shoals of bream;

In lilied pools, alert and calm,
Great bass through lucent circles swam;

And farther, by a rushy brink,
A shadowy fawn stole down to drink,

Where tall, thin birds unbalanced stood
In sandy shallows of the flood.

And what did I beside the river,
With bow well-strung and well-filled quiver?

I lay quite still with half-closed eyes,
Lapped in a dream of Paradise,

Until I heard a bow-cord ring,
And from the reeds an arrow sing.

I knew not of my brother's luck,
If well or ill his shaft had struck;

But something in his merry shout
Put my sweet summer dream to rout,

And up I sprang, with bow half-drawn,
And keen desire to slay the fawn.

But where was it? Gone like my dream.
I only heard the fish-hawk scream,

And the strong stripëd bass leap up
Beside the lily's floating cup;

I only felt the cool wind go
Across my face with steady flow;

I only saw those thin birds stand
Unbalanced on the river sand,

Low peering at some dappled thing
In the green rushes quivering.

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