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The Rose of Dawn A Tale of the South Sea   By: (1875-1944)

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With a Drawing by JOHN LA FARGE


Copyright, 1901, by R. H. RUSSELL

University Press John Wilson and Son Cambridge, U.S.A.


Somnolent, vast, inert, the darkness lay Waiting for dawn. Across the ocean stirred A luminous haze, not light, but whispering light, So softly yet, the islands had not heard. The mystery of sleep was in the trees And on the weary stars. A little cry That broke the silence seemed a sacrilege. Then thro' the palm trees glided like a ghost A dusky form; the curtain of the dark Was rent with life, the forest brought forth men.

Instinct with morning every eye was bright, Tho' sleep so lately lay across their lids. No sinister intent had called them forth Upon the shadows. May held out her hands, And all the men who dared the dangerous sport Were faring where the great bonita played, Strong shining fish below the mid sea waves. Upon the beach beneath the paling moon The boats were launched. Amid the busy stir One man stood idle; as a chief might order, He bade the youths prepare his long canoe. With folded arms he gravely watched the rest And gave them salutation haughtily. Uhila[1] was he called, and in his veins There ran a slender stream of northern blood. He bore upon his old and indolent heart, Scarred with the sins of war, a white device. Taka, daughter of chiefs and Fiji's pride, Lily of maidens, was betrothed to him; Desirous eyes kinged him with envy's crown.

[Footnote 1: The lightning.]

Scraping across the beach the boats were launched, And as they touched the waves, they seemed to take New shape and dignity with that caress Of little lapping ripples round the prow. Uhila led the fleet as one who knew His right by reason of his age and skill. The little isle seemed now a sleeping maid Kirtled in green, the beach her snowy breast Veined with the purple brooks that sought the sea. Uhila watched it fade below the blue, Crouched in the bow, his grizzled chin in hand, Taking his ease, while small Kuma, keen eyed, Famed for his daring, paddled lustily. The dawn had not yet broken, and the soft Beautiful haze that veils the birth of day Hung on the water. Loath to break the peace, Men gave their orders in hushed tones, the clean Chill of the morning wrapt their naked bodies. Then, as a slow blush mounts the cheek, a light Breathed from the sea, and all the air seemed warm As at the touch of spring, a violet streak, A pale leaf green, a golden, and a rose Broke in the sky, and morning was revealed. With a shrill cry, young Kuma raised his hand And pointed where with dip and shriek and wheel A flock of sea birds hovered; all the rest Echoed the call and bending to the paddle Shot o'er the waves, for now the fish were gained. Uhila grasped his rod, and at the stern Tossed out the shining hook, with laugh and cheer A glint of silver flashed, then all the air Was gemmed with streaming stars. They came from deeps; From azure fairer than its mother sky Clouded with dazzling whitenesses of foam. Luck to their fishing:

Now, fair and remote A scattered emerald from a broken chain Lying below the bending breast of heaven, The village had awakened, once again Serene Kambara, island of the south, Exhaled its light upon the light of heaven. The verdure seemed to shine with lucent green, The red hibiscus burned with inward flame, And in the village happy song and shout Proclaimed the day was fair. Blue upon blue The bright waves glittered like a shattered star Set in the silver crescent of the sand. The palm trees' plume uplifted dauntlessly To call the morning... Continue reading book >>

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