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The Supplanter: A Tale
by [?]


He bends his travel-tarnished feet
To where she wastes in clay:
From day-dawn until eve he fares
Along the wintry way;
From day-dawn until eve repairs
Unto her mound to pray.


“Are these the gravestone shapes that meet
My forward-straining view?
Or forms that cross a window-blind
In circle, knot, and queue:
Gay forms, that cross and whirl and wind
To music throbbing through?” –


“The Keeper of the Field of Tombs
Dwells by its gateway-pier;
He celebrates with feast and dance
His daughter’s twentieth year:
He celebrates with wine of France
The birthday of his dear.” –


“The gates are shut when evening glooms:
Lay down your wreath, sad wight;
To-morrow is a time more fit
For placing flowers aright:
The morning is the time for it;
Come, wake with us to-night!” –


He grounds his wreath, and enters in,
And sits, and shares their cheer. –
“I fain would foot with you, young man,
Before all others here;
I fain would foot it for a span
With such a cavalier!”


She coaxes, clasps, nor fails to win
His first-unwilling hand:
The merry music strikes its staves,
The dancers quickly band;
And with the damsel of the graves
He duly takes his stand.


“You dance divinely, stranger swain,
Such grace I’ve never known.
O longer stay! Breathe not adieu
And leave me here alone!
O longer stay: to her be true
Whose heart is all your own!” –


“I mark a phantom through the pane,
That beckons in despair,
Its mouth all drawn with heavy moan –
Her to whom once I sware!” –
“Nay; ’tis the lately carven stone
Of some strange girl laid there!” –


“I see white flowers upon the floor
Betrodden to a clot;
My wreath were they?”–“Nay; love me much,
Swear you’ll forget me not!
‘Twas but a wreath! Full many such
Are brought here and forgot.”

* * *


The watches of the night grow hoar,
He rises ere the sun;
“Now could I kill thee here!” he says,
“For winning me from one
Who ever in her living days
Was pure as cloistered nun!”


She cowers, and he takes his track
Afar for many a mile,
For evermore to be apart
From her who could beguile
His senses by her burning heart,
And win his love awhile.


A year: and he is travelling back
To her who wastes in clay;
From day-dawn until eve he fares
Along the wintry way,
From day-dawn until eve repairs
Unto her mound to pray.


And there he sets him to fulfil
His frustrate first intent:
And lay upon her bed, at last,
The offering earlier meant:
When, on his stooping figure, ghast
And haggard eyes are bent.


“O surely for a little while
You can be kind to me!
For do you love her, do you hate,
She knows not–cares not she:
Only the living feel the weight
Of loveless misery!


“I own my sin; I’ve paid its cost,
Being outcast, shamed, and bare:
I give you daily my whole heart,
Your babe my tender care,
I pour you prayers; and aye to part
Is more than I can bear!”


He turns–unpitying, passion-tossed;
“I know you not!” he cries,
“Nor know your child. I knew this maid,
But she’s in Paradise!”
And swiftly in the winter shade
He breaks from her and flies.