Vashti by James Weldon Johnson
I sometimes take you in my dreams to a far-off land I used to know,
Back in the ages long ago; a land of palms and languid streams.
A land, by night, of jeweled skies, by day, of shores that glistened bright,
Within whose arms, outstretched and white, a sapphire sea lay crescent-wise.
Where twilight fell like silver floss, where rose, the golden moon half-hid
Behind a shadowy pyramid; a land beneath the Southern Cross.
And there the days dreamed in their flight, each one a poem chanted through,
Which at its close was merged into the muted music of the night.
And you were a princess in those days. And I I was your serving lad.
But who ever served with heart so glad, or lived so for a word of praise?
And if that word you chanced to speak, how all my senses swayed and reeled,
Till low beside your feet I kneeled, with happiness o’erwrought and weak.
If, when your golden cup I bore, you deigned to lower your eyes to mine,
Eyes cold, yet fervid, like the wine, I knew not how to wish for more.
I trembled at the thought to dare to gaze upon, to scrutinize
The deep-sea mystery of your eyes, the sun-lit splendor of your hair.
To let my timid glances rest upon you long enough to note
How fair and slender was your throat, how white the promise of your breast.
But though I did not dare to chance a lingering look, an open gaze
Upon your beauty’s blinding rays, I ventured many a stolen glance.
I fancy, too, (but could not state what trick of mind the fancy caused)
At times your eyes upon me paused, and marked my figure lithe and straight.
Once when my eyes met yours it seemed that in
your cheek, despite your pride,
A flush arose and swiftly died; or was it something that I dreamed?
Within your radiance like the star of morning, there I stood and served,
Close by, unheeded, unobserved. You were so near, and, yet, so far.
Ah! just to stretch my hand and touch the musky sandals on your feet!
My breaking heart! of rapture sweet it never could have held so much.
Oh, beauty-haunted memory! Your face so proud, your eyes so calm,
Your body like a slim young palm, and sinuous as a willow tree.
Caught up beneath your slender arms, and girdled ’round your supple waist,
A robe of curious silk that graced, but only scarce concealed your charms.
A golden band about your head, a crimson jewel at your throat
Which, when the sunlight on it smote, turned to a living heart and bled.
But, oh, that mystic bleeding stone, that work of Nature’s magic art,
Which mimicked so a wounded heart, could never bleed as did my own!
Now after ages long and sad, in this stern land we meet anew;
No more a princess proud are you, and I I am no serving lad.
And yet, dividing us, I meet a wider gulf than that which stood
Between a princess of the blood and him who served low at her feet.