Two tales told and another sung
and nigh the third began a knell
rhythmic to such a tragic tongue
that broken hearts began to swell—
Oh! But such a lovely girl sang
and with such trampled voice;
and o’er and ever those bells rang
since time lent them no choice.
As if possessed I grabbed her hand
though I hadn’t asked her name,
and pressed it tight to understand
how stories had their fame;
then turned full stride I sought the wind
that carried her tune along
with arrant youthful want to bind
my soul to that holy song.
And as I turned I caught her eye
quietly staring about my face—
her tear stained cheeks hoped to vie
for my compassion or my grace.
How could a girl so simply torn
between the eyes of fate
choose here to stand and sing forlorn
when bells should make her hate?
No! let the sweetest air turn cold
as on that peasant night:
when wintery suns had us hold
our hearts before the light.
We stood an hour before I said
in a thorough dizzy spell:
“What is it girl? and who is dead?”
I never heard to tell.
When time had passed and I had gone
though ever heard her sing,
It seemed to me a witty con
to send that girl a thing.
But why or when I had no clue
nor gave it grander thought
than when I had that morning flew,
and beauty flew for naught.
The seas, they say, from all those years
that nameless people cried
have swelled and swallowed all those tears
and formed them with the tide—
Her tears, I thought, are little pearls,
and every one a jewel,
And pearls are nature’s tears for girls,
though every tear is cruel.
And as I lived beside the brine
where noble oysters live,
it was, from me, the purest sign
my tearless eyes could give.
I dove that day and sought a prize
for that unhappy child;
and through the water in the skies
the sun shone bright and wild.
That prize I found, though nobly done,
was not for noble searching found—
for there, when I, my dive begun,
had turned my head full tilt around
to seek that blazing sun instead—
(And there below I’m sure)
those largest oysters lay wide spread
to entice, tempt and lure
whatever hands should reach and find
what oysters most despise:
That precious nacre smeared to blind
all men from their own lies.
And that sun so white and clear
burned clarity in my mind,
so that I felt arise this fear
that screamed at me ‘you lied!’
But as it burned the seashells swelled
and whispered at my feet
that life is love, and love compelled
to give of what is sweet.
And what can be more sweetly found
than tears made into jewels—
as if to say without a care
that tearless men are fools!
So as I swayed upon those waves
with no more thought to live,
I turned ashore and sought some caves
to weep what I could give.
And when I found uneven stone
to lay my heart upon
I bowed and kissed as if my groan
was penance for my con;
and there I bent into the night
while high-tide held the darkened sands,
tearless though a pitiful sight—
begging tears to fall in pearl strands.
The morning came before I won
and found that final tear,
for only with that same bright sun
could hope be bought with fear.
Yes!—it seemed to simply placed
upon a smooth flat stone:
the largest pearl that myth embraced
or ever thought was known.
I took it quickly from the rock
And pressed it to my eye;
and even still I seemed to know
The substance of my lie.
I put the pearl back on the rock
and left it where it lay.
and stepping down I turned around
to face the coming day.
For hope, I said, has in it fear
And pain has terror too;
and wise men seem to lie between
Though such a thing is cruel.
I cast myself into the sea
to drown and be forgot,
for even death is less austere
than comfort cheaply bought.