Alfred Noyes.

Collected poems, Volume 1 online

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Shall I who made the infinite heavens my mark
Shrink from this first wild horror of the dark.

These formless gulfs, these glooms that crawl?

Never was mine that easy faithless hope
Which makes all life one flowery slope

To heaven I Mine be the vast assaults of doom^
Trumpets, defeats, red anguish, age-long strife,
Ten million deaths, ten million gates to Hf e.

The insurgent heart that bursts the tomb.

Vain, vain, imutteraJ>ly vain are all
The sights and sounds that sink and fall.

The words and 83rmbols of this fleeting breath:
Shall I not drown the finite in the Whole,
Cast off this body and complete my soul

Thro' deaths beyond this gate of death?



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THE FXiOWER OP OLD JAPAN 17

It will not openi Through the bars I see
The glory and the mystery

Wind upward ever ! The earth-dawn breaks I I bleed
With beating here for entrance. Hark, O hark,
Love, Love, return and give me the great Dark,

Which is the Light of Life indeed.



THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

DEDICATED TO
CAROL, A LITTLE MAIDEN OF MYAKO.



PERSONS OF THE TALE



oubsbltss
Th> Tall Tbxn Man
Tr> Dwabf bbsxnd thb Twistbd
Peab-Tbeb



Cbxbfino Sin

Thb Mad Moonshbb

Thb Namblbm Onb



Pirates, MaxidBrina, Bonset, Prieats, Jug^eiB, Merohuita.
Qhastroi, Weirdrians, etc.



PRELUDE

You that have known the wonder zone

Of islands far away;
You that have heard the dinky bird
And roamed in rich Cathay; .
You that have sailed o'er unknown seas
To woods of Amfalula trees
Where craggy dragons play:
Oh, girl or woman, boy or man,
You've plucked the Flower of Old Japan!

Do you remember the blue stream;

The bridge of pale bamboo;

The path that seemed a twisted dream

Where everything came true;

The purple cherry-trees; the house

With jutting eaves below the boughs;

The mandarins in blue.

With tiny, tapping, tilted toes.

And curious curved mustachios?



«



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18 THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN

The road to Old Japan! you cry.

And is it far or nearf
Some never find it till they die;

Some find it everywhere;
The road where restful Time forgets
His weary thoughts and wild regrets

And calls the golden year
Back in a fairy dream to smile
On young and old a little while.



Some seek it with a blazing sword,

And some with old blue plates;
Some with a miser's golden hoard;

Some with a book of dates;
Some with a box of paints; a few
Whose loads of truth would ne'er pass through

The first, white, fairy gates;
And, oh, how shocked they are to find
That truths are false when left behind!



Do you remember all the tales

That Tusitala told,
When first we plunged thro' purple vales

In quest of buried gold?
Do you remember how he said
That if we fell and hurt our head

Our hearts must still be bold,
And we must never mind the pain
But rise up and go on again?

Do you remember? Yes; I know

You must remember still:
He left us, not so long ago,

Carolling with a will,
Because he knew that he should lie
Under the comfortable sky

Upon a lonely hlQ,
In Old Japan, when day was done;
** Dear Robert Louis Stevenson."



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THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN 19

And there he knew that he should find

The hills that haunt us now;
The whaups that cried upon the wind

His heart remembered how;
And friends he loved and left, to roam
Far from the pleasant hearth of home,

Should touch his dreaming brow;
Where fishes fly and birds have fins.
And children teach the mandarins.

Ah, let us follow, follow far

Beyond the purple seas;
Beyond the rosy foaming bar,

The coral reef, the trees,
The land of parrots, and the wild
That rolls before the fearless child

Its ancient msrsteries:
Onward and onward, if we can,
To Old Japan — ^to Old Japan.

PART I
EMBARKATION

When the firelight, red and clear,

Flutters in the black wet pane,
It is very good to hear

Howling winds and trotting rain:
It is very good indeed.

When the nights are dark and cold,
Near the friendly hearth to read

Tales of ghosts and buried gold.

So with cozy toes and hands

We were dreaming, just like you;
Till we thought of palmy lands

Coloured like a cockatoo;
All in drowsy nursery nooks

Near the clutching fire we sat,
Searching quaint old story-books

Piled upon the furry mat.



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20 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

Somethmg haunted us that night

Like a half-remembered name;
Worn old pages in that light

Seemed the same, yet not the same:
Culling in the pleasant heat

Smoothly as a shell-shaped fan,
O, they breathed and smelt so sweet

When we turned to Old Japan I

Suddenly we thought we heard

Someone tapping on the wall,
Tapping, tapping Uke a bird.

Then a panel seemed to fall
Quietly; and a tall thin man

Stepped into the ^^dmmering room.
And he held a little fan,

And he waved it in the gloom.

Curious red, and golds, and greens
Danced before our startled eyes.

Birds from painted Indian screens,
Beads, and shells, and dragon-flies;

WingB, and flowers, and scent, and flam
Fans and fish and heliotrope;

Tni the magic air became
Like a dream kaleidoscope.

Then he told us of a land

Far across a fairy sea;
And he waved his thin white hand

Like a flower, melodiously;
While a red and blue macaw

Perched upon his pointed head,
And as in a dream, we saw

All the curious things he said.

Tucked in tiny palanquins,
Magically swinging there,

Flowery-kirtled mandarins
Floated through the scented air;



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 21

Wandering dogs and prowling cats

Grinned at fish in painted lakes;
Cross-legged conjurers on mats

Fluted low to listening snakes.

Fat black bonzes on the shore

Watched where singing, faint and far.
Boys in long blue garments bore

Roses in a golden jar.
While at carven dragon ships

Floating o'er that silent sea,
Squat-limbed gods with dreadful lips

Leered and smiled mysteriously.

Like an idol, shrined alone.

Watched by secret oval eyes,
Where the ruby wishing-stone

Smouldering in the darkness lies,
Anyone that wanted things

Touched the jewel and they came;
We were wealthier than kings

Could we only do the same.

Yes; we knew a hundred ways

We might use it if we could;
To be happy all our days

As an Indian in a wood;
No more daily lesson task.

No more sorrow, no more care;
So we thought that we would ask

If he'd kindly lead us there.

Ah, but then he waved his fan,

Laughed and vanished through the wall;
Yet as in a dream, we ran

Tumbling after, one and all;
Never pausing once to think.

Panting after him we sped;
Far away his robe of pink

Floated backward as he fled.



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22 THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN

Down a secret passage deep,

Under roofs of spidery stairs,
Where the bat-winged nightmares creep.

And a sheeted phantom glares
Rushed we; ah, how strange it was

Where no human watcher stood;
Till we reached a gate of glass

Opening on a flowery wood.

Where the rose-pink robe had flown.

Borne by swifter feet than ours,
On to Wonder- Wander town,

Through the wood of monstrous flowers;
Mailed in monstrous gold and blue

Dragon-flies like peacocks fled;
Butterflies like carpets, too.

Softly fluttered overhead.

Down the valley, tip-a-toe.

Where the broad-limbed giants lie
Snoring, as when long ago

Jack on a bean-stalk scaled the sky;
On to Wonder- Wander town

Stole we past old dreams again.
Castles long since battered down,

Dungeons of forgotten pain.

Noonday brooded on the wood.

Evening caught us ere we crept
Where a twisted pear-tree stood,

And a dwarf behind it slept;
Round his scraggy throat he wore,

ICnotted tight, a scarlet scarf;
Timidly we watched him snore,

For he seemed a surly dwarf.

Yet, he looked so very small,
He could hardly hurt us much;

We were nearly twice as taU,
So we woke him with a touch



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 23

Gently, and in tones polite,

Asked him to direct our path;
0, his wrinkled eyes grew bright

Green ?rath ugly gnomish wrath*

He seemed to choke,

And gruffly spoke,
**you're lost: deny it, if you can!

You want to know

The way to go?
There's no such place as Old Japan*

'* You want to seek —

No, no, don't speak I
You mean you want to steal a fan.

You want to see

The fields of tea7
They don't grow tea in Old Japan.

"In China, well

Perhaps you'd smell
The cherry bloom: that's if you ran

A million miles

And jumped the stiles,
And never dreamed of Old Japan.

"What, palanquins,

And mandarins?
And, what d'you say, a blue divan?

And what? Hee I hee I

You'll never see
A pig-tailed head in Old Japan.

"You'd take away

The ruby, hey?
I never heard of such a plant

Upon my word

It's quite absurd
There's not a gem in Old Japan I



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24 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

**0h, dear me, no I
You'd better go
Straight home again, my little man:
Ah, well, you'll see
But don't blame me;
I don't believe in Old Japan."

Then, before we could obey.

O'er our startled heads he cast,
SpideMike, a webby grey

Net that held us prisoned fast;
How we screamed, he only grinned.

It was such a lonely place;
And he said we should be pinned

Safely in his beetle-case.

Out he dragged a monstrous box

From a cave behind the tree I
It had f our-and-twenty locks.

But he could not find the key,
And his face grew very pale

When a sudden voice began
Drawing nearer through the vale,

Singing songs of Old Japan.



SONG

SaHn saila in a crimson davm

Over Ihe silky silver sea;
Purple veils of the dark wUkdrawn;

Heavens of pearl and porphyry;
Purple and while in the morning light

Over the water the town we knew.
In tiny state, like a willow-plate,

Shone, and behind it the hills were Uue.

There, we remembered, the shadows pass
AU day long like dreams in the night;

There, in the meadows of dim blue grass,
Crimson daisies are ringed with white.



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 25

There the roses fivUer their petals,
Over the meadows they take their flight.

There the meih that sleepily settles
Turns to a flower in the warm soft



There when the eunset colotirs the streets

Everyone buys at wonderfvl stalls
Toys and chocolates, guns and sweets.

Ivory pistols, and Persian shawls:
Everyone^ s pockets are crammed with gM;

Nobody's heart is worn with care,
Nobody ever grates tired and M,

And nobody calls you "Baby" there.

There with a hat like a round white dish

Upside down on each pig4axUd head.
Jugglers offer you snakes and fi^h.

Dreams and dragons and gingerbread;
Beautifvl books with marvellous pictures,

Painted pirates and streaming gore.
And everyone reads, without any strictures,

Tales he remembers for evermore.

There when the dim bine daylight lingers

Listening, and the West grows hdy,
Singers crouch with their long white fingers

Floating over the zithem slowly:
Paper lamps with a peachy bloom

Bum above on the dim blue bough,
While the zUhems gild the gloom

WOh curious music! I hear it nowt

Now: and at that mighty word

Holding out his magic f an.
Through the waving flowers appeared,

Suddenly, the tall thin man:
And we saw the crumpled dwarf

Trying to hide behind the tree,
But his knotted scarlet scarf

Made him very plain to see.



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

Like a soft and smoky doud

Passed the webby net away;
While its owner squealing loud

Down behind the pear-tree lay;
For the tall thin man came near.

And his words were dark and gruff.
And he swung the dwarf in the air

By his long and scraggy scruff.

There he kickled whimpering.

But our rescuer touched the box,
Open ?rath a sudden spring

Clashed the four-and-twenty locks;
Then he crammed the dwarf inside,

And the locks all clattered tight:
Four-and-twenty times he tried

Whether they were fastened right.

Ah, he led us on our road,

Showed us Wonder- Wander town;
Then he fled: behind him flowed

Once again the rose-pink gown:
Down the long deserted street,

All the windows winked like eyes,
And our little trotting feet

Echoed to the starry skies.

Low and long for evermore

Where the Wonder- Wander sea
Whispers to the wistful shore

Purple songs of mystery,
Down the shadowy quay we came—

Though it hides behind the hill
You will find it just the same

And the seamen singing stiU.

There we chose a ship of pearl,

And her milky silken sail
Seemed by magic to unfurl,

Puffed before a fairy gale;



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 27

Shimmering o'er the purple deep.

Out across the sflvery bar,
Softly as the wings of deep

Sailed we towards the morning star.

Over us the skies were dark,

Yet we never needed light;
Softly shone our tiny bark

Gliding through the solenm night;
Softly bright our moony (^eam,

Glimmered o'er the (listening waves.
Like a cold sea-maiden's dream

Globed in twilit ocean caves.

So all night our shallop passed

Many a haunt of old desire,
Blurs of savage blossom massed

Red above a pirate-fire;
Huts that {Roomed and glanced among

Fruitage dipping in the blue;
Songs the sirens never sung,

Shores Ulysses never knew.

All our fairy rigging shone

Richly as a rainbow seen
Where the moonlight floats upon

Gossamers of gold and green:
All the tiny spars were bright;

Beaten gold the bowsprit was;
But our pilot was the night,

And our chart a looking-glass.



PART II
THE ARRIVAL

Wrra rosy finger-tips the Dawn
Drew back the silver veils,

Till lilac shimmered into lawn
Above the satin sails;



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28 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

And o'er the waters, white and wan*

In tiny patterned state,
We saw the streets of Old Japan

Shine, like a willow plate.

O, many a milk-white pigeon roams

The purple cherry crops,
The mottled miles of pearly domes.

And blue pagoda tops,
The river with its golden canes

And dark piratic dhows,
To where beyond the twisting vanes

The burning mountain glows.

A snow-peak in the silver skies

Beyond that magic world,
We saw the great volcano rise

With incense o'er it curled,
Whose tiny thread of rose and blue

Has risen since time began.
Before the first enchanter knew

The peak of Old Japan.

Nobody watched us quietly steer
The pinnace to the painted pier.

Except one pig-tailed mandarin,
Who sat upon a chest of tea
Pretendingnot tohear or see! . . .

His hands were very long and thin.
His face was very broad and white;
And 0, it was a fearful sight

To see him sit alone and grin I

His grin was very sleek and sly:
Timidly we passed him by.

He did not seem at all to care :
So, thinking we were safely past,
We ventured to look back at last.

0, dreadful blank! — He was not theret
He must have hid behind his chest :
We did not stay to see the rest.



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THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN 28

But, as in reckless haste we ran,
We came upon the tall thin man,
Who called to us and waved his fan.

And offered us his palanquin:
He said we must not go alone
To seek the ruby wishing-stone.

Because the white-faced mandarin
Would dog our steps for many a mile.
And sit upon each purple stile
Before we came to it, and smile

And smile; his name was Creeping Sin.



He played with children's beating hearts.
And stuck them full of poisoned darts

And long green thorns that stabbed and stung:
He'd watch until we tried to speak.
Then thrust inside his pasty cheek

His long, white, slimy tongue:
And smile at everything we said;
And sometimes pat us on the head,

And say that we were very young:
He was a cousin of the man
Who said that there was no Japan.



And night and day this Creeping Sin
Would follow the path of the palanquin;

Yet if we still were fain to touch
The ruby, we must have no fear,
Whatever we might see or hear,
And the tall thin man would take us there;

He did not fear that Sly One much,
Except perhaps on a moonless night.
Nor even then if the stars were bright.



So, In the yellow palankeen
We swung along in state between
Twinkling domes of gold and green
Through the rich bazaar,



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30 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

Where the croBS-lec^ed merchants sat.
Old and almond-eyed and fat,
Each upon a gorgeous mat,

Each in a cymar;
Each in crimson samite breeches.
Watching his barbaric riches.

Cherry blossom breathing sweet
Whispered o'er the dim blue street
Where ?rath fierce imcertain feet

Tawny pirates walk:
All in belts and baggy blouses,
Out of dreadful opium houses,
Out of dens where Death carouses,

Horribly they stalk;
Girt ?rath ataghan and dagger,
Right across the road they swagger.

And where the cherry orchards blow,
We saw the maids of Miyako,
Swaying softly to and fro

Through the dimness of the dance:
like sweet thoughts that shine through dreams
They glided, wreathing rosy gleams,
With stately sounds of silken streams,

And many a slim kohl-lidded glance;
Then fluttered with tiny rose-bud feet
To a soft frourffou and a rhythmic beat
As the music shimmered, pursuit, retreat,

"Hands across, retire, advance!"
And again it changed and the glimmering throng
Faded into a distant song.



SONG

The maidens of Miyako
Dance in the euneei houre^

Deep in the sunset glow,
Under the cherry flowers.



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THE fliOWER OF OLD JAPAK 31

With dreamy hands of pearl

Floating like buUerJUee,
Dimly the dancers whirl

As the rose4ight dies;

And their floating gowns, their hair

Upbound with curious pins,
Fade thro' the darkening air

With the dancing mandarins.

And then, as we went, the tall thin man
Explained the manners of Old Japan ;

If you pitied a thing, you pretended to sneer;
Yet if you were glad you ran to buy
A captive pigeon and let it fly;

And, if you were sad, you took a spear
To woimd yourself, for fear your pain
Should quietly grow less again.

And, again he said, if we wished to find
The mystic City that enshrined

The stone so few on earth had f ound.
We must be very brave; it lay
A hundred haimted leagues away.

Past many a griffon-guarded ground.
In depths of dark and curious art,
Where passion-flowers enfold apart
The Temple of the Flaming Heart,

The City of the Secret Wound.

About the fragrant fall of day
We saw beside the twisted way

A blue-domed tea-house, bossed with gold;
Hungry and thirsty we entered in,
How should we know what Creeping Sin

Had breathed in that Emperor's ear who sold
His own dumb soul for an evil jewel
To the earth-gods, blind and ugly and cruel?

We drank sweet tea as his tale was told.
In a garden of blue chrysanthemums,
While a drowsy swarming of gongs and druma

Out of the sunset dreamily rolled.



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32 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

But, as the murmur nearer drew,
A fat black bonze, in a robe of blue,

Suddenly at the gate appeared;
And close behind, with that evil grin.
Was it Creeping Sin, was it Creeping Sinf

The bonze looked quietly down and sneered.
Our guide! Was he sleeping? We could not

wake him,
However we tried to pinch and shake him I

Nearer, nearer the tumult came,
Till, as a glare of sound and flame.

Blind from a terrible furnace door
Blares, or the mouth of a dragon, blazed
The seething gateway: deaf and dazed

With the clanging and the wild uproar
We stood; while a thousand oval eyes
Gapped our fear with a sick surmise.

Then, as the dead sea parted asunder,
The clamour clove with a sound of thunder

In two great billows; and all was quiet.
Gaunt and black was the palankeen
That came in dreadful state between

The frozen waves of the wild-eyed riot
Curling back from the breathless track
Of the Nameless One who is never seen:

The close drawn curtains were thick and black;
But wizen and white was the tall thin man

As he rose in his sleep:
His eyes were closed, his lips were wan.

He crouched like a leopard that dares not
leap.

The bearers halted: the tall thin man,
Fearfully dreaming, waved his fan,

With wizard fingers, to and fro;
While, with a whimper of evil glee.
The Nameless Emperor's mad Moonshee

Stepped in front of us : dark and slow



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 38

Were the words of the doom that he dared not

name;
But, over the ground, as he spoke there came
Tiny circles of soft blue flame;

Like ghosts of flowers they began to glow,
And flow like a moonlit brook between
Our feet and the terrible palankeen.

But the Moonshee wrinkled his long thin eyes,
And sneered, "Have you stolen the strength of
the skies?

Then pour before us a stream of pearll
Give us the pearl and the gold we know.
And our hearts will be softened and let you go;

But these are toys for a foolish girl —
These vanishing blossoms — ^what are they worth?
They are not so heavy as dust and earth:

Pour before us a stream of pearl!"

Then, with a wild strange laugh, our guide
Stretched his arms to the West and cried

Once, and a song came over the sea;
And all the blossoms of moon-soft fire
Woke and breathed as a wind-swept lyre,

And the garden surged into harmony;
Till it seemed that the soul of the whole world

sung,
And every petal became a tongue

To tell the thoughts of Eternity.

But the Moonshee lifted his painted brows
And stared at the gold on the blue tea-house:
"Can you clothe your body with dreams?"

he sneered;
"If you taught us the truths that we alway

know
Our heart might be softened and let you go:
Can you tell us the length of a monkey

beard,
Or the weight of the gems on the Emperor's fan,
Or the number of parrots in Old Japan?"

8



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84 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

And again, with a wild strange laugh, our guide
Looked at him; and he shrunk aside,

Shrivelling like a flame-touched leaf;
For the red-cross blossoms of soft blue fire
Were growing and fluttering higher and higher,

Shaldng their petals out, sheaf by sheaf,
Till with disks like shields and stems like towers
Burned the host of the passion-flowers

. . . Had the Moonshee flown like a midnight
thief?
. . . Yet a thing like a monkey, shrivelled and

black,
Chattered and danced as they forced him back«



As the coward chatters for empty pride,

In the face of a foe that he cannot but fear.
It chattered and leapt from side to side,

And its voice rang strangely upon the ear.
As the cry of a wiza^ that dares not own
Another's brighter and mightier throne;
As the wrath of a fool that rails aloud

On the fire that burnt him; the brazen bray
Clamoured and sang o'er the gaping crowd,

And flapped like a gabbling goose away.



THE CRY OF THE MAD MOONSHEE

If the UoswTM were beans,

I should know what it means —
This btaze, which I certainly cannot endure;

It is eoU, too.

For its colour is blue,
And the sense of the matter is quite obscure.

Celestial truth

Is the food of youth;
But the music was dark as a moonless nights

The facts in the song

Were aU of them wrong.



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 35

And there ums not a single eum done right;
T?u>' a metaphysician amongst the crotod,
In a voice that was notably deep and loud,
Repeated, as fast as he was able,
The whole 0/ the mtdtiplication table.

So the cry flapped off as a wild goose flies,
And the stars came out in the trembling skies.

And ever the mystic glory grew
In the garden of blue chrysanthemums,
Till there came a rumble of distant drums;

And the multitude suddenly turned and flew.
... A dead ape lay where their feet had

been . . .
And we called for the yellow palankeen,

And the flowers divided and let us through.

The black-barred moon was large and low
When we came to the Forest of Ancient Woe;

And over our heads the stars were bright.
But through the forest the path we travelled
Its phosphorescent aisle unravelled

In one thin ribbon of dwindling light:
And twice and thrice on the fainting track
We paused to listen. The moon grew black,

But the coolies' faces glimmered white,
As the wild woods echoed in dreadful chorus
A laugh that came horribly hopping o'er us

Like monstrous frogs thro' the murky night.

Then the tall thin man as we swung along
Sang us an old enchanted song

That lightened our hearts of their fearful load.
But, e'en as the moonlit air grew sweet,
We heard the pad of stealthy feet

Dogging us down the thin white road;
And the song grew weary again and harsh,
And the black trees dripped like the fringe of a
marsh.

And a laugh crept out like a shadowy toad;
And we knew it was neither ghoul nor djinn:
It toas Creeping Sin! It was Creeping Sinl



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