Montaigne on the Hillside
He will tell you, this sage, one day —
With his wise grey eyes, his still smile, tender and human —
How once on the lute-curved shores of an island bay
His pages were read by a woman.
And how he lived for an hour, as dead men must
When we touch the thing carved out from their living heart . . .
When we climb the towers they builded above the dust.
He will say how he fretted, to see her eyes go blind
And turn from the printed page to a pale clear sky
Blown like a bubble of God’s . . . whilst a small brown wind
Rolled like a baby fox, in the coverts hard by;
Till leaning over her shoulder, drenched in the dew
Of a wild white flower whose name he did not know,
He saw the pulses of sunlight throb ’neath the blue
Thin-spun silk of the sea below.
Westward a gannet dived in a fire-white streak
Straight to the waters, and so was gone like a stone.
But she of the blinded eyes sat quiet . . . alone . . .
Though he stood at her side, and a bent bough brushed her cheek.
And he knew that the curve of her throat, the dream in her eyes,
Were one with the thought of delicate growing things;
That there in the forest, her heart was a secret nest
Whose walls were waiting the sound of wings.
So he turned from the rubies and lazuli set in the page
Of his book, that gleamed from a desert of shards and spires,
Crumbled faces and friends of his bygone age,
To the sunlight’s tawny fires,
Gilding the hillside, arming the dark young host
Of island pine trees each with a crystal spear;
And a warmth crept into the thin white hands of the ghost
As he laid his fingers in blessing upon her hair.