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Title: A Far Land

Date of first publication: 1924

Author: Martha Ostenso (1900-1963)

Date first posted: Nov. 26, 2019

Date last updated: Nov. 26, 2019

Faded Page eBook #20191146

This eBook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Jen Haines & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net








Certain of the poems in this book have appeared in Poetry: a Magazine of Verse, The Measure, Voices, Contemporary Verse, The Canadian Magazine, The American Scandinavian Review, The Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, The Saturday Review of Literature, the New York Herald-Tribune, and Munsey’s Magazine. The author’s thanks are due to the editors for their kind permission to reprint them in this book.




A Far Land

Dark cannot blot the dark

In the place I know,

Rain cannot drown the rain,

Wind cannot blow

The wind of that stormed land,

Where stillness falls

On sudden wings, like a band

Of quiet birds on ruined walls.

In Time of First Rain

Once again, and once, and once again,

In old returning tenderness,

The earth lies soft beneath dream-walking rain.

The wind grows less,

The light is falling,

And in the dripping air no bird is calling,

Too early in the Spring it is for calling,

For a bird’s clear calling,

A cold and clear bird’s calling.


Faint lie the fainting frost-dews, pollen-light

Within the hollow, withered lea,

And vanish in the rain as vanish white

Mists utterly.

Oh, stalk unshrouded,

Oh, weed and broken stem that death has crowded

Close beneath the bitter winds, unshrouded,

Grief, woe, unshrouded,

Old sorrow, all unshrouded.


Oh, wistful, darkling wood, you exquisite

Cool comrade of my bliss,

Weave of your glossy limbs a dimmer night

And under this

Shall I lie and listen

To the deep stir where the webbed roots glisten,

To the wet murmur in the underbrush—

Too early is the Spring for the singing thrush—

Too early for the gold viol of the thrush—

Only dark, wet leaves, old leaves that lie

In rainy willow-weft and die.


The round, blue sky

Is a great god’s eye;

On a day in Spring

Most everything

He sees is blue:

Clear globes of dew

A-swinging deep

Where spiders sleep;

Five robin’s eggs;

Two beetle’s legs;

A bluebird’s wing

And a crocus ring;

A thimble of rain

And a bluer stain

In a blue snail’s shell;

Oh, who can tell

Why Spring is blue?

Can you—can you?

Rain from My Window

Rain is sweeping my front garden. Walk,

Wall, and gate, new grass and tulip bed

Ripple and gleam as the silver broom

Brushes them in swinging, gusty curves.

The gate-posts are vanishing ghosts that loom

High into the lost air. Bees have fled

And grasshoppers, quick-voiced, no longer talk

Within the shallow green of smooth-clipped grass

That leans away to let the sweeper pass.

Satin-collared tulips, fearing stain,

Lay their vesture broad upon the rain

And stiffen like jade wax their frail stems.

The pane is fretted so with running gems

That I can no longer watch this blurred

Silver world the silver rain has stirred.


Long ago when a Jack-in-the-pulpit

Sun-worshipper, green and high

And straight among the bowing fern-fronds,

Was a leaf-bud taller than I,


I met April deep in the forest,

Deep in the green light, all alone,

And she was white as anemone blossoms,

White as anemones dew-blown.


Now I am old, and the Jack-in-the-pulpit

Is almost as tall once more as I;

I seek April deep in the forest,

But only a shadow passes by.

“Sing No More of Camelot”

Sing no more of Camelot,

Nor dream of Guinevere—

Glamoured castles fashion not

Sea-green and sun-sheer,


Ebon no barge for white Elaine,

Nor armour Lancelot—

Nor plume a visored steed again

If thou hast once forgot—


If thou hast once forgot the dear

Token of the King—

Who ere he left thee set a tear

For a jewel on thy ring.

In the Pool

I saw a tiny fish like a tiny silver leaf;

I saw a great fish like a great silver leaf.

A path like a silver hair was carved by the tiny fish;

A path like a silver sword was carved by the great fish

Through the pool that was a blood opal in the sunset.

The path like a silver sword

Cut the path like a silver hair,

And a shadow covered all the pool.

Before Storm

Now the tawny unicorn

Beats a path around the moon,

And on the ashen air is borne

A twanging little tune,

A sudden lonely hollow note,

A lofty pool of pausing sound,

Where hot and numb the shadows float

Upward from the ground.

Across the misty moor there flies

Pale as snow and thin as air

With a ghost in both his eyes

A solitary hare.

The Tramp

Open wide the door—

What does it matter

That his dusty clothes

Are all a-tatter?

He carries moonlight

On his shoulder—

Open wide the door,

The night grows colder.

Heap the hearth fire,

Seat the stranger near.

Do not cringe, children,

There’s naught to fear—

Though he comes and goes

With an alien tongue,

On his ragged sleeve

A thrush has sung.


Now my grief is spent:

I know that she was fay,

And that was why she went

So quietly away.


Now I weep no more

Where her garments were

For I know she wore

Gowns of gossamer.


Now I have no tears

For her who died so soon,

I know that fairy years

Will outlast the moon.


Now I do not sigh

Where hawthorn blossoms are,

I know that she is nigh

Glimmering like a star.


Think of it! A cold grey stone

To help you to remember who

It was you had to bury there,

Who it was had eyes as blue

As cornflowers, and yellow hair

The sun would have been proud to own;

Who it was that caught the Spring

In a fairy net and kept

It in her hand, a singing thing,

All the year until she slept;

A cold grey stone with name and date,

And the years of one so young—

Does it say why the lark is late,

Or why the lark has not yet sung?

Or does it tell the thing it knows

Of one who ’mid the living goes?

The Mourners

There is a shadow over the pool,

And under the hushed trees.

There is a chill more than a cool

Breath on the wood berries.

There is a bruise on the white moth’s wing,

And a break in the thorn,

And here where the thrush was wont to sing

Is a stillness forlorn.


Oh, let the red of fire blow

Over this haunt of grief.

Oh, let the dark rain take the woe

Of broken wing and leaf.

Oh, let the blind white mists fall

Forever over this place

And the pool and the moth and the thorn forget all

The dream that was her face.


There are dark, human things

You know not, simple grasses,

Colder than the cold wings

Of the lone wild duck that passes

Hereover in the late Fall;

Warmer than the warm stain

On the thorn where the tall

Stag winced in swift pain;

Harder than the strange stone

That grows not e’en a brier,

Softer than the mist blown

Athwart marsh-fire.

I have learned dark things

You know not, simple grasses,—

Teach me what your cricket sings

Until my learning passes.

The Farmer’s Wife

He will not hear the cuckoo call,

The last faint snow will seal his eyes.

I shall see a lone star fall

Above the bare pine ere he dies.


My own heart and the clock will soon

Alone keep all the silence here—

Unless the foolish, crying loon

Or the chanting wind come near.


He will not hold the soil again

In his two hands, nor will his face

Lift to the power of the rain

That early April brings this place.


To the south his orchard lies,

His naked wheat-field to the west.

And well will they know when he dies

He loved me only second best.


Here the lichens cling

To the grey rocks

Like the faltering

Ragged locks

Of an old she-fox.


Here a narrow band

Of water flows

No broader than a hand:

A black crow’s

Quill sailing goes.


Here’s a wrinkled grape

Like a blue knot

On a thread—the shape

Of life caught

In the death rot.


Here—listen long—

By windy word

Of reed, nor lacy song

Of wild bird

Is the dumb air stirred.


Here a man may own

His bare soul instead

Of a beauty blown

Rose, ’tis said.

But his soul is dead.

The Return

Oh, strong and faithful and enduring

As my mother’s face,

The sowing of the years has wrought

No change in you, no ill,

Wild field that I loved! The generous grace

Of ragweed and of nettle caught

In the ruddy fall of sun

And in the silvering of rain enveils you still,

And here and there a warm rut of the dun

And patient earth with small, slow life is stirring.


Your stiff, pale grass and weedy flowers

Still proudly grow

Innocent of being beautiless—

(Even a little vain,

Trusting no leafed thing could be low

That the sky-born rain would bless)

And Oh! the sunny smell of you—

Of brittling stems, sweet spears long-matted lain

In spider weft and gold-pricked dust and dew

Through the dream and languidness of humming hours.


Under the blackbird swartly flying

From west to east,

Under the reach of the lark from north to south

You are my field—the same

Brown curve along the sky—even the least

Brown blade the same. To lay my mouth

On the quiet of your dew sweet face

And hear the deep earth of you call my name—

This is to know that I have found my place—

And the empty years have ended all their crying.

She Who Brings Winter

        The old, bitter witch,

            She is older now,

            Bitterer now,

And she carries a longer, stronger switch

    From a crookeder witch-tree bough.


    The mean green eye of the old bitter witch

            Is meaner still,

            Is greener still,

Than it was when she hid with the toad in the ditch

    From the June moon high on the hill.


  The hateful black tooth of the old bitter witch

            Is more full of hate,

            Say the star-folk, of late,

And they pretend it’s because of a bowlful of rich

    Elf-pudding she stole and she ate.


        The old, bitter witch

            Is older now,

            Is colder now,

For the toad and the elves and the floating moon

Have gone to a place where it’s always June,

And the land that they left will be dying soon

    ’Neath the switch of the witch-tree bough.

Cicily and Captain Q.



Cicily and Captain Q.,

Being young and being old,

Wear spectacles of clover dew

Rimmed with magic pollen gold.


Cicily and Captain Q.

On friendly days the wind can see,

With their spectacles of dew

Can spy upon him easily.


Oh, for spectacles of dew!

What he does is found in books,

But Cicily and Captain Q.

Will never tell just how he looks.



People smiled and pointed brow-ward,

Shook their heads and winked an eye,

When Captain Q., three-score-and-twenty,

Talking inly, passed them by.


Searching grassward through the garden,

How could plain townspeople know

That he had met a fairy walking

Just there, years and years ago?



Cicily thought a good deal about love,

And also some about marriage;

If she were in love, she would walk in a lane,

If married, she’d ride in a carriage.


Fine ’twere, indeed, to canter behind

Horses of bright patent leather.

But horses won’t look for clovers four-leafed,

Which is pleasant when two are together.



O Cicily, see what floats in the sun!

Is it of snow and gossamer spun

On the blue hills by the little men

For a wedding gown in the darkling glen?

Or can it be that Grandfather Fay

Stood in the wind till his wig blew away?

On a Stile


With lavender sachet,

And ruffles of lace,

And a yellow poke bonnet

Cupping her face,

With pantalets peeping

Demurely below

A rustle of cretonne

Trim ankles to show;

With rosette of pansies

Upon her slim wrist,

And lips made of bud pinks

That ought to be kissed,

Cicily wandered

The asters among,

And pouted, “I’m tired

Of being so young!”

So she glanced cautiously

Round and about,

Lest Aunt Priscilla

Might be walking out.

Then she lifted her hoops

And she scampered a mile

Till she came to the southerly

Side of a stile.



With coat-tails a-hanging

Sable and long,

With ivory hand leaning

On oaken cane strong,

And snug kerchief silkily

Muffling a cough,

And silver hair handsome

If most were not off;

With knee crook’d and foot slow

But eye bright on tree

Where high in the top the best

Nuts used to be,

Captain Q. down the lane

Ruefully strolled,

And muttered, “I’m tired

Of being so old!”

So, peering craftily

This way and that,

Lest Daughter be out

To see what he was at,

He flipped his stout cane

And he fisked him a mile,

Till he came to the northerly

Side of a stile.



And Cicily climbed, and Captain Q. climbed,

And they sat side by side up on high!

The sun grew merry, the wind grew mild,

And a lark laughed out in the sky.



Captain Q. sat him tight,

Captain Q. sat him bold,

And shouted, “I’m tired

Of being so old!”

“Tra la! I’m tired

Of being so young!”

Said C. So they swung

And they swung and they swung!


Rich red rooster crowing at the sun,

Bright green grass growing at the sun,

Fat white cow lowing at the sun,

Clean spring wind blowing at the sun . . . .

Who wouldn’t be the sun?

The Unicorn and the Hippogrif

Pity the Unicorn,

Pity the Hippogrif,

Souls that were never born

Out of the land of If!


One has a golden horn,

One, they say, is golden shod,

Both have the lasting scorn

Of the animals of God!


One has an eye of fire,

One a misty silver wing.

Neither folk on earth would hire

Or buy for anything.


One pastures on the sun,

The other on the moon,

I think the earth will neither one

Visit very soon!

The Meadow

Vain, the meadow, vain was he,

Listened to the wind, the trickster,

On the baneful first of April—

Could more folly ever be?


Heard him puff of when and where

He had seen the village planning

All to call upon the meadow,

All to see if he were fair.


Summoning the sun and rain,

Swelled the meadow with importance,

Ordered them to dress him gaily,

And to spare nor price nor pain.


Smock of velvet, elfin green,

Pricked in gems of dew at dawning,

Wore he; rows of golden buttons

With blue tassels slipped between.


Never in his mind a doubt;

When men built a picket round him

Sniffed he at the wind and boasted,

“This is just to keep you out.”


Came the day. Came cows and men,

Women, babies, pigs and laces,

Pickles, swains and maids a-giggling;

Turnips, every kind of hen.


Laughing, singing in the air,

Danced the folk on golden buttons,

Trampled they blue dew of tassels,

Oh, it was a jolly fair!

A Cat

How many ages

Of Chinese ancestry

In the fine pages

Of your sleek history

Must there be, feline,

Tortuous mystery?

Skeins of the night that

Silkened the sky

Over dusky pagodas

Glimmering lie

Down your long sides;

And, thinner than water,

Like water glides

Your bland shadow

Along the floor.

How many cinnamon

Blossoms bore

Delicate shade through

Nightingaled hours,

In that remoter

Life that was yours

Down by the yellow,

Asian sea,

In lustrous, mellow


In towers of jade

And minarets ashen

With dawn, did an idol

Dream and fashion

Your lithe and beautiful


Movement of fur,

And the curded sound

Of your inward purr?

Where did he find

The gloomy, sunny

Spheres of your eyes,

Like globules of honey?

Under the velvet

Fall of your paws

Needles the light of your

Polished claws. . . .

Were you a Favorite,

Ages ago,

Who purred at an Emperor’s


The Mermaids

Sun cannot see,

Moon cannot spy,

So faint are they,

So deep they lie.

Where sheer waters

Weave and flow,

They glide and wind

In spangled day.

Their webs of hair

With ambers glow,

A dream of silver

Lyres are they.


Their loveliness

Made white and cold

As apples under

Skins of gold

Rain cannot dim,

Nor singing wind

Make lull where walls

Of emerald loom;

Storm cannot flay

Nor darkness blind

Their fixed eyes

In opal gloom.


Soft as a blown

Sea-flower, no word

They breathe on the coral

Like ivory curd,

Where the sunless frond

And pale sea fern

Are ghosts of small

Drowned stars that steal

From their glimmering tombs

And faintly burn

While slow sea shadows

Wreathe and wheel.


Here in the sea

Where all things blend

In a sibilant night

That has no end,

Where the gloamy, watrous

Silences twine

And merge in the smooth dark,

Coil in coil,

Where globed sea fruit

Like dim eyes shine,

And the soft fish move

In patterns of oil,


Comes to their ears

A threening sound

Of tears and bells,

Like the deeply drowned

Hear where the shades

Of sorcery are,

Hear in the glamorous

Coves of the sea:

Floating laughter,

Sweet and far,

And a silver sound

Of eternity.

In Turkistan

In Turkistan, in Turkistan

Beside a cassia-tree there stood

A maiden with a jasper fan

Who blew a flute of sandal-wood.


And she was like a dim cocoon

All wound in mazing gossamer,

Like ivory toys in ivory shoon

Were the little feet of her.


And she was sweet of jessamine

And smooth as honey garnered from

A morning full of purple sheen

In swinging buds of saccharum.


And I would have her for my own

To love beyond a fabled sea,

A golden slave beneath my throne

To shine through veils of lazuli.


To make upon a flute a song

Lighter than a feather’s fall,

And like a sunbird sing among

The sunbirds on the palace wall.


      * * * * *


In Turkistan, in Turkistan

There vanished in a limpid gleam

Ivory shoon and jasper fan,

Like the dreaming of a dream.

White Feet

Who will come here when I am gone,

And who will visit the fay,

And hear the laugh of the leprechaun

After my day?


Who will follow the nimble path

And the footprints of white birch leaves?

Who will flee the hazel elves’ wrath

And lurk where the witch owl grieves?


Who will lie and laugh in the sun

’Neath clusters of bursting blue

Where the sweet globes of wild grapes run

Through aisles of shadow and dew?


And who will have dreams of mist and silk

in the pool where the gold fins sleep?

And who will dip feet as white as milk

Where the pool lies emerald deep?

“What Need Have I”

What need have I

Of a fine house shining

Under the sky,

When a green tree is twining

A roof and four walls for me,

Tenderly, dreamingly?


What could I do

With satins and laces

When the gold and the blue

Of sun-woven places

Clothe me each hour

In the grace of a flower?


What wine is there

I could buy me with money—

As a wood-pool clear,

Golden as honey?

And these two come to me

From the rain and the bee.


But what need have I

Except of sweet living?

Were tree, flower and sky

Not beauty-giving,

Love, you would be

All of beauty to me.

The Fisherman

Then after all my fishing in the sea

With yellow, yellow nets of maiden’s hair

For fishes finical, of ivory

And tortoises beshaded and ghost-rare,


I draw my nets and draw them like a strand

Of silken shine from out the watery light,

And loop them in across the winking sand

And weave of them a gloamy mantle bright


As sun-stones lying in a little pool

And looked upon by the first whitening star.

And now I wander inland where the cool

Calms of dew upon the evening are,


For fishes in the sea are silver-cold

And silver-pale as shavings of the moon,

And I would have a little thrush to hold,

And I would hear a little thrush’s tune.


Let us go dressed in wind

That only the piquant buds of the white birch tree

May see us.


Let us go dressed in rain

That only the sad ghost swaying in the willow tree

May see us.


Let us not garland

The shining, naked bodies of one another,

Lest in the scattered silver of the moon

The white tulip tree blossom green with bitterness.

First Snow

Stand still in this strange, glimmering

Enclosure of whiteness.

There is no living sight nor sound.

A bodiless lightness

Are we, without form or motion,

Buoyant in the soft and slow

Interlacing, mazing ghost-drift

Of the froth-clusters of snow.


We are cloistered with enchantment:

Steep walls of pearl must be

Encircling us. We are alone,

We two. Draw near to me.

What is this waltz of white myriads?

Moths gay-winged with pearl and lace—

Wilderness of cool blossom-birds—

Brief souls of this dim place?


How solitary each descends!

Almost, two meet, then one

With swift preen of crystal pinions

Glides to faint death alone.


Draw near to me, lest we be two,

I, alone, and alone, you.


High hangs the gauntlet on the wall,

Grey with dust—

The white steed stabled,

The glimmering scimitar sheathed in rust.

Oh, for the dream that knows no fading,

The quest that knows no broken trust!


Far are the hills, and vision-blue,

The window barred,

The strong door bolted.

Argosies of ivory, amber and nard. . . .

Oh, for the wind that knows no prison,

Oh, for the sea that knows no guard!


Adventure now but a flame in a grate—

Fear but fear

Of a hungry morrow.

Gather in from the storm for cheer. . . .

But oh, for the kiss that is not for comfort,

And the unwept sorrows of yesteryear!

On the Way to the Wood

“There is nothing for me here,” she said,

“Nothing on earth for me.

For love that was all my day is dead,

There is darkness, I cannot see.


So I shall go into the gloom of the wood,

Green silence will shroud me,” she said.

“And just the red leaves when they drop like blood

Will know that there’s someone dead.”


But toward the wood a sweet-briar caught

In its little bright hand, her gown;

And a stone with a soft eye kindly thought

To stay her, and tripped her down;


And a lark flew over her hair with a song

And a daisy kissed her knee—

“I think my heart has told me wrong.

There is something for me,” said she.


If there be anything of God left in the world

It must be here he walks on full-moon nights.


By day there’s not a sorry crow would tilt

A rusty tail upon the broken fence

That now and then leans on the empty air

As if it still kept something in or out.

The sun will show you traces of the flame

That lost seasons since came down the wind

And ate the very souls out of the trees;

Stunted, youngish poplars, overleafed

To hide the truth about their inner selves,

And willows blotched and matted at the roots—

Prayer rugs, you’ll say, they’re kneeling on.

The grass—it isn’t grass. The earth is here

A wasted crone who wears a wig of thatch.

By day the lowest cloud will shun this place.

But when the light has gone, some secret gate

Swings open with the sound of coming wings,

Forgotten dreams steal in and wake the wood—

Perhaps a long gone lover comes and walks

With it and sings a tender little song.

It is a world of dew—and shadow-light,

And darkling shoals of silence where they blend.

And here the million little poplar discs

Quiver like a single misty gem

Fallen from some burdened star to earth.

You may pause and be a giant gnome

In a fairy forest where the dew

Is white wine cupped in shallow chrysoprase.

You may listen farther than the moon

To the enchanted converse of the stars.

You may listen just within the ring

Of glow-worm light you’re standing in and hear

A wakeful little cricket’s afterthought.

Or you may listen nearer ‘til the mist

Encloses but the beating of your heart.


If there be anything of God abroad the earth,

I think he listens here when there’s a moon.

The Stranger

Something—some fearful, unbodied thing haunts her,

See how too-softly she walks.

Something—some near thing and dark thing is listening,

Hear how too-softly she talks.


Something that’s shaped like a hazel-tree’s shadow

Clings to the ground at her feet.

And hear all about her the wing-sound of swallows

That makes the air hollow and sweet.


Something, some strong thing like wind on a hillside

Has fastened his hand on her wrist.

See, in the gloom how she fades into something

That shrouds her like moonlight and mist.

An Adventure

I walked on tiptoe down an empty, listening street

One night before the moon came up.

Not a single live thing like myself I met,

But glancing furtively aside

I caught the blinded houses nudge each other,

And, (believe me) wink.


Then, grinning stilly to myself at what

I thought unusual craft, I knelt

Beside the way and pocketed

A dozen bright, smooth pebbles, without sound.

Soft on tiptoe went I through the dusk,

And tossed the pebbles one by one before me

On the dim, grey-faced wooded walk.

They made a quick, hollow chuckle,

For the boards were raised a distance

From the damp ground.

The blinded houses all relaxed, and sat

Back upon their haunches like trained beasts

Goaded with a prick to good behaviour.


But I saw a shambly, narrow house,

Its paint a-scaling even in the dark,

Who had one slender window high between its gabled roofs.

The window bore no blind, but thrust

Its tall black maw upon the night

With fearful movelessness.

If only it would nudge, or beckon,

Even leer, or sneer! At length I craved

To feel the white of human features fill the jet

Of that eye carved in the night.

Feverishly I gaped, and threw my last

Round pebble down the echoing walk.

And daring not to stoop and gather more

Lest in the trice the sphinx-like window spring

To some appalling life, I broke the moonless spell

That bound the place.


And the brisk click of my heels hurried down

An ordinary street.


Soul that I loved while in beauty I dwelt with you,

Come to me here,

Here where the wild swan crosses the moon

With a clangor of fear,

And down the steep way of the forest

A white lance shivering throws

Into the heart of the pool

That unfolds like a silver rose.


Soul that I loved, here may we dwell

As light as a golden night-hawk’s feather

Curved in the curve of a shadowy shell,

Alone, you and I together.

And only the mysteries of the pool,

Of deeps of sapphire and rainbow shallows,

The flame of a fin and the fire of a scale,

And an olive fleck of sunken shale,

Under the glittering wings of the swallows,

Under the willows bronze in the twilight—

These, only these shall know we are here,

Shall know that we hide in the limpid hollows,

And lie on the edges

Of satin sedges,

And listen alone

To a purple bird singing on a purple stone.


Now over each enfolded thing

Glooms the night as an emerald clear,

And the wind as a fern-flower is dark and cool.

Oh, if you want me, call for me here

And I shall come to you swift as a wing

Swift as a shadow over the pool.


How will you want to find me when you come,

Dear one? (Pride, pride! How dare you ask him that?

Are you not as you are the sweet, sweet sum

Of all his dreaming? and if not, then what?

Ah me!) But I shall be as bright as honey

And cool upon your lips as porcelain. . . .

For old wives tell that maids in matrimony

Must be like apples hanging in the rain.

Or would you have me deaf to them, my dear?

For something tells me that I shall not hear

The simmer of their counsel when the near

Strange warmth of you again shall overbear

And quicken all my blood. Oh, let me wear,

Old wives or none, a red rose in my hair!

“This I Know”

This I know, dear, my dear,

I’d prefer to doubt you,

Than to never have you near,

Than to live without you,


Than to know a lonely place

Where you’d no more be going,

With the evening on your face

And a pale star showing,


Than to run to meet you there

My heart away before me,

And not to find you anywhere,

And a pale star o’er me.

The Witch

When you were poor

I was a witch

And stirred my kettle

And made you rich.


Now I have given

You all my gold.

The night is dark

My broom is cold.


Now you are King

Why can’t you carry

Me in your pocket

Like a fairy?

Fool’s Song

Rain and rill and brown cocoon

And little wind a-blowing.

I’ll tell what I know as soon

As I’ll tell what I’m knowing.


Green upon a little hill

And crocus buds a-swelling.

I’ll not tell what I know until

There’s no more need of telling.


Bees and purple irises

And honey for a season.

Now I have your lips to kiss

With not another reason.


Too close these western shores are, each to each,

And walled in smug detachment from the sea;

Too narrow now for the screaming eagle’s reach,

Too narrow for the reach of the redwood tree.


To lie upon the salt-inwoven sedge

Along the beach is but to idly note

The sandpiper less slender than the edge

Of sand begrudged him by a man-made boat.


The orchis quails, the pale syringa dies,

The dog-wood globes no longer whiten, so

Too-skilled are these professing, avid eyes

And sheltered hands that teach them how to grow.


Surely as the gold threads from the weave

Of long dear-treasured tapestry, is drawn

The breath of beauty, and with none to grieve

Where even grief like some used ghost is gone.


Away to a wild, unblemished place, my soul,

Delicate with fawns and lancing ferns,

And cypress mystic with an untaught dole

Where mad in fruit the pomegranate burns.


Perchance upon some blue Caucasian hill

Sweet cyclamen and bitter aloes root

May slake the thirst that rose and daffodil

Have risen and died in vain for, underfoot.

In Sorcery

While I know that somewhere

This little wind that sighs

Will pass on and find you

With the twilight in your eyes,


I shall dwell enchanted

In a fabled land

And your remembered kiss will gleam

Like a ring upon my hand.


And I shall dance in silent shoes

All dyed with cinnibar,

Like a little flame against the sun

Where birds and singing are.


And through the wood of Sorcery

Where waxen thorn-trees shine,

I’ll ride a fawn with golden eyes

Like ewers of wild wine.


Morning shall be at my lips,

A silver flute, no less;

On the hilltop silver sheep,

And a silver shepherdess.


When I shall know that somewhere

This little wind that sighs

Will make a sound of dust within

Your remembered eyes,


I shall grow dim in Sorcery

And make no song nor sound,

Fading like the shadow

Of a cloud along the ground.

So I Say

Down into the unrevealed land

Of my long cherished sorrow

Shall I unfaltering go.

Well I know the way: On either hand

Unvoiced and still of wing,

Snared in nets of shade,

The wild and glistening

Birds of ecstasy complain and fade.


Down such caverns shall I go

That, returning, none will know

The witch-pale face, the lips of me

Sealed and cold as the frost-bound leaf

Of the wintry wormwood tree,

Sealed in a song of toneless grief.


So I say. And yet I sing

To a fairy harp, and faintly hear

The sunlit hoofs, a-dancing near,

And like the foam-thin seashell dare

Not tell the truer, darker thing,

Nor whisper of it anywhere.




Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Punctuation has been maintained except where obvious printer errors occur.

A cover has been created for this ebook.

[The end of A Far Land by Martha Ostenso]