new zealand electronic poetry centre

Lola Ridge

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The Moon Child

Little Monica said, “I hear
The Forest calling.” Half in fear
Listening, Monica’s mother heard
But the cry of a passing bird.
“Child,” she said, “’tis the grey owl’s shout
Come, shut the world and its shadows out;
Sure, ye know, that I’ve you alone –
Night and the Forest keep their own.”
Little Monica heeded not –
Stole away from her mother’s cot,
Down the track where the moon-buds blow;
Wind to wind was muttering low,
Pine was whispering unto pine,
As she passed in the clean moonshine,
Through the shadows that swayed to meet,
Clasp and cover her dancing feet.
Moon-men spinning as spiders spin
Webs of light that she wandered in,
Drew her curls through their fingers white,
Deftly weaving them close with light,
That none might know in the moonshine there
Which was shimmer and which was hair.
Little Monica said, “I pray
Unbind me, for I may not stay.
Mother waits with a silver comb
(Dim the forest, and far to home!)
To braid my locks for holy day.”
The moon men gloating as demons gloat,
Pressed pale hands to her milky throat;
Quivering feelers cold and bare
Bore her up through the quiet air.
Like a kite that is torn away
From a child on a stormy day,
On she flew on a seaward wind,
Leaving earth and its lights behind.
Lascars reefing a loosened sail,
Thought her voice was a coming gale;
And a fluttering albatross,
Floating high on the breeze a-toss,
Wondered long what the thing might be,
Whimpering like a child at sea!
Stars a-whirl in the rushing sky
Touched her as she passed them by;
Stared, amazed, at her reeling flight,
Soaring dizzily through the night –
Little Monica lies a-swoon
In the webs of the big white moon!

Night by night when the suns go out,
Little Monica flits about.
Only the children see, men say,
Her small, bare feet in the Milky Way,
Dancing down where the old gods stand;
When the Moon is a golden rim
Saturn takes her by the hand,
Wandering o’er the skies with him;
When the Moon is a golden shield
Still she sits on the lunar field.
Now, as once by her mother’s door,
Counts the stars on the Solar Floor;
Recking not in her childish mirth
One is the light of the good, green Earth.

Night by night where the moonshine flits
Sadly Monica’s mother sits;
Neighbours come with a friendly moan:
“Sure, ’tis sad for ye all alone!
Watchin’ here in the darksome door,
Moonshine stealin’ across the floor –
Warm ye’d be in your cosy bed” –
“Whist ye,” Monica’s mother said,
“Those white, quiverin’, creepin’ rays
Make me think o’ Monica’s ways;
Make me dream o’ Monica’s hair;
Pale an’ flaxen, a-shinin’ there;
An’ some night when the large moon lies
Like a flower in the fadin’ skies,
Haply Monica ’ll come to me –
Lave the stars for her mother’s eyes;
Nestlin’ close like she used to be,
Warm cheek lyin’ against my knee.”
Neighbors making a friendly moan
Pass where Monica’s mother sits,
Saying, “Lave me, the creature lone!
Combin’ out wid a silver comb
Moonshine gleamin’ in golden bits –
Vainly callin’ her moon-child home.”


‘The Moon Child,’ Bulletin 12 Dec 1907: 34. NSW.

Last updated 30 May, 2013