Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
Symphony of a Mexican Garden
By Grace Hazard Conkling
        1. THE GARDEN  Poco sostenuto in A major
      The laving tide of inarticulate air.
  Vivace in A major
      The iris people dance.
2. THE POOL  Allegretto in A minor
      Cool-hearted dim familiar of the doves.
3. THE BIRDS  Presto in F major
      I keep a frequent tryst.
  Presto meno assai
      The blossom-powdered orange-tree.
4. TO THE MOON  Allegro con brio in A major
      Moon that shone on Babylon.


        What junipers are these, inlaid
          With flame of the pomegranate tree?
        The god of gardens must have made
          This still unrumored place for thee
        To rest from immortality,        5
          And dream within the splendid shade
        Some more elusive symphony
          Than orchestra has ever played.
I.    In A major
Poco sostenuto

    The laving tide of inarticulate air
    Breaks here in flowers as the sea in foam,        10
    But with no satin lisp of failing wave:
    The odor-laden winds are very still.
    An unimagined music here exhales
    In upcurled petal, dreamy bud half-furled,
    And variations of thin vivid leaf:        15
    Symphonic beauty that some god forgot.
    If form could waken into lyric sound,
    This flock of irises like poising birds
    Would feel song at their slender feathered throats,
    And pour into a grey-winged aria        20
    Their wrinkled silver fingermarked with pearl;
    That flight of ivory roses high along
    The airy azure of the larkspur spires
    Would be a fugue to puzzle nightingales
    With tool-evasive rapture, phrase on phrase.        25
    Where the hibiscus flares would cymbals clash,
    And the black cypress like a deep bassoon
    Would hum a clouded amber melody.
    But all across the trudging ragged chords
    That are the tangled grasses in the heat,        30
    The mariposa lilies fluttering
    Like trills upon some archangelic flute.
    The roses and carnations and divine
    Small violets that voice the vanished god,
    There is a lure of passion-poignant tone        35
    Not flower-of-pomegranate—that finds the heart
    As stubborn oboes do—can breathe in air,
    Nor poppies, nor keen lime, nor orange-bloom.
    What zone of wonder in the ardent dusk
    Of trees that yearn and cannot understand,        40
    Vibrates as to the golden shepherd horn
    That stirs some great adagio with its cry
    And will not let it rest?
                    O tender trees,
    Your orchid, like a shepherdess of dreams,
    Calls home her whitest dream from following        45
    Elusive laughter of the unmindful god!

    The iris people dance
    Like any nimble faun:
    To rhythmic radiance
    They foot it in the dawn.        50
    They dance and have no need
    Of crystal-dripping flute
    Or chuckling river-reed,—
    Their music hovers mute.
    The dawn-lights flutter by        55
    All noiseless, but they know!
    Such children of the sky
    Can hear the darkness go.
    But does the morning play
    Whatever they demand—        60
    Or amber-barred bourrée
    Or silver saraband?

II.    In A major

    Cool-hearted dim familiar of the doves,
      Thou coiled sweet water where they come to tell
    Their mellow legends and rehearse their loves,        65
      As what in April or in June befell
    And thou must hear of,—friend of Dryades
      Who lean to see where flower should be set
        To star the dusk of wreathed ivy braids,
          They have not left thy trees,        70
      Nor do tired fauns thy crystal kiss forget,
        Nor forest-nymphs astray from distant glades.
    Thou feelest with delight their showery feet
      Along thy mossy margin myrtle-starred,
    And thine the heart of wildness quick to beat        75
      At imprint of shy hoof upon thy sward:
    Yet who could know thee wild who art so cool,
      So heavenly-minded, templed in thy grove
        Of plumy cedar, larch and juniper?
          O strange ecstatic Pool,        80
    What unknown country art thou dreaming of,
      Or temple than this garden lovelier?
    Who made thy sky the silver side of leaves,
      And poised its orchid like a swan-white moon
    Whose disc of perfect pallor half deceives        85
      The mirror of thy limpid green lagoon,
    He loveth well thy ripple-feathered moods,
      Thy whims at dusk, thy rainbow look at dawn!
        Dream thou no more of vales Olympian:
          Where pale Olympus broods        90
      There were no orchid white as moon or swan,
      No sky of leaves, no garden-haunting Pan!

III.    In F major

    I keep a frequent tryst
    With whirr and shower of wings:
    Some inward melodist        95
    Interpreting all things
    Appoints the place, the hours.
    Dazzle and sense of flowers,
    Though not the least leaf stir,
    May mean a tanager:        100
    How rich the silence is until he sings!
    The smoke-tree’s cloudy white
    Has fire within its breast.
    What winged mere delight
    There hides as in a nest        105
    And fashions of its flame
    Music without a name?
    So might an opal sing
    If given thrilling wing,
    And voice for lyric wildness unexpressed.        110
    In grassy dimness thatched
    With tangled growing things,
    A troubadour rose-patched,
    With velvet-shadowed wings,
    Seeks a sustaining fly.        115
    Who else unseen goes by
    Quick-pattering through the hush?
    Some twilight-footed thrush
    Or finch intent on small adventurings?
    I have no time for gloom,        120
    For gloom what time have I?
    The orange is in bloom;
    Emerald parrots fly
    Out of the cypress-dusk;
    Morning is strange with musk.        125
    The wild canary now
    Jewels the lemon-bough,
    And mocking-birds laugh in the rose’s room.

In D major
Presto meno assai

    The blossom-powdered orange tree,
      For all her royal speechlessness,        130
    Out of a heart of ecstasy
      Is singing, singing, none the less!
    Light as a springing fountain, she
      Is spray above the wind-sleek turf:
    Dream-daughter of the moon’s white sea        135
      And sister to its showered surf!

IV.    In A major
Allegro con brio

    Moon that shone on Babylon,
    Searching out the gardens there,
    Could you find a fairer one
    Than this garden, anywhere?        140
    Did Damascus at her best
    Hide such beauty in her breast?
    When you flood with creamy light
    Vines that net the sombre pine,
    Turn the shadowed iris white,        145
    Summon cactus stars to shine,
    Do you free in silvered air
    Wistful spirits everywhere?
    Here they linger, there they pass,
    And forget their native heaven:        150
    Flit along the dewy grass
    Rare Vittoria, Sappho, even!
    And the hushed magnolia burns
    Incense in her gleaming urns.
    When the nightingale demands        155
    Word with Keats who answers him,
    Shakespeare listens—understands—
    Mindful of the cherubim;
    And the South Wind dreads to know
    Mozart gone as seraphs go.        160
    Moon of poets dead and gone,
    Moon to gods of music dear,
    Gardens they have looked upon
    Let them re-discover here:
    Rest—and dream a little space        165
    Of some heart-remembered place!

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