Ascension, liberation, and a frightful plunge… the poem captures well many a Friday evening. Although often considered optimistic, Crane’s poetry saw beyond his day to an America freed from the limitations of inherited constraint. What better way to enter the weekend than with buoyant reverie such as this.
Among cocoa-nut palms of a far oasis,
Conceived in the light of Arabian moons,
There are butterflies born in mosaic date-vases,
That emerge black and vermeil from yellow cocoons.
Some say that for sweetness they cannot see far, –
That their land is too gorgeous to free their eyes wide
To horizons which knife-like would only mar
Their joy with a barren and steely tide –
That they only can see when their moon limits vision,
Their mother, the Moon, marks a halo of light
On their own small oasis, ray-cut, an incision,
Where are set all the myriad jewelleries if night.
So they sleep in the shade of black palm-bark at noon,
Blind only in day, but remembering that soon
She will flush their hid wings in the evening to blaze
Countless rubies and tapers in the oasis’ blue haze.
But over one moth’s eyes were tissues at birth
Too multiplied even to center his gaze
On that circle of paradise cool in the night; –
Never came light through that honey-thick glaze.
And had not his pinions with signs mystical
And rings macrocosmic won envy as thrall,
They had scorned him, so humbly low, bound there and tied
At night like a grain of sand, futile and dried.
But once through, he learned of that span of his wings, –
The florescence, the power he felt bud at the time
When the others were blinded by all waking things;
And he ventured the desert, –his wings took the climb.
And lo, in that dawn he was pierroting over, –
Swinging in spirals round the fresh breasts of day.
The moat of the desert was melting from clover
To yellow, –to crystal, –a sea of white spray –
Till the sun, he still gyrating, shot out all white, –
Though a black god to him in a dizzying night; –
And without one cloud-car in that wide meshless blue
The sun saw a ruby brightening ever, that flew.
Seething and rounding in long streams of light
The heat led the moth up in octopus arms:
The honey-wax eyes could find no alarms,
But they burned thinly blind like an orange peeled white.
And the torrid hum of great wings was his song
When below him he saw what his whole race has shunned –
Great horizons and systems and shores all along
Which blue tides of cool moons were slow shaken and sunned.
A little time only, for sight burned as deep
As his blindness before had frozen in Hell,
And his wings atom-withered, –gone, –left but a leap: –
To the desert, –back, –down, –still lonely he fell.
I have hunted long years for a spark in the sand; –
My eyes have hugged beauty and winged life’s brief spell.
These things I have: –a withered hand; –
Dim eyes; –a tongue that cannot tell.