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MARTA OF MILRONE

 

    I SHOT him where the Rio flows;

    I shot him when the moon arose;

    And where he lies the vulture knows

    Along the Tinto River.

    In schools of eastern culture pale

    My cloistered flesh began to fail;

    They bore me where the deserts quail

    To winds from out the sun.

    I looked upon the land and sky,

    Nor hoped to live nor feared to die;

    And from my hollow breast a sigh

    Fell o'er the burning waste.

    But strong I grew and tall I grew;

    I drank the region's balm and dew,--

    It made me lithe in limb and thew,--

    How swift I rode and ran!

    And oft it was my joy to ride

    Over the sand-blown ocean wide

    While, ever smiling at my side,

    Rode Marta of Milrone.

    A flood of horned heads before,

    The trampled thunder, smoke and roar,

    Of full four thousand hoofs, or more--

    A cloud, a sea, a storm!

    Oh, wonderful the desert gleamed,

    As, man and maid, we spoke and dreamed

    Of love in life, till white wastes seemed

    Like plains of paradise.

    Her eyes with Love's great magic shone.

    "Be mine, O Marta of Milrone,--

    Your hand, your heart be all my own!"

    Her lips made sweet response.

    "I love you, yes; for you are he

    Who from the East should come to me--

    And I have waited long!" Oh, we

    Were happy as the sun.

    There came upon a hopeless quest,

    With hell and hatred in his breast,

    A stranger, who his love confessed

    To Marta long in vain.

    To me she spoke: "Chosen mate,

    His eyes are terrible with fate,--

    I fear his love, I fear his hate,--

    I fear some looming ill!"

    Then to the church we twain did ride,

    I kissed her as she rode beside.

    How fair--how passing fair my bride

    With gold combs in her hair!

    Before the Spanish priest we stood

    Of San Gregorio's brotherhood--

    A shot rang out!--and in her blood

    My dark-eyed darling lay.

    O God! I carried her beside

    The Virgin's altar where she cried,--

    Smiling upon me ere she died,--

    "Adieu, my love, adieu!"

    I knelt before St. Mary's shrine

    And held my dead one's hand in mine,

    "Vengeance," I cried, "O Lord, be thine,

    But I thy minister!"

    I kissed her thrice and sealed my vow,--

    Her eyes, her sea-cold lips and brow,--

    "Farewell, my heart is dying now,

    O Marta of Milrone!"

    Then swift upon my steed I lept;

    My streaming eyes the desert swept;

    I saw the accursed where he crept

    Against the blood-red sun.

    I galloped straight upon his track,

    And never more my eyes looked back;

    The world was barred with red and black;

    My heart was flaming coal.

    Through the delirious twilight dim

    And the black night I followed him;

    Hills did we cross and rivers swim,--

    My fleet foot horse and I.

    The morn burst red, a gory wound,

    O'er iron hills and savage ground;

    And there was never another sound

    Save beat of horses' hoofs.

    Unto the murderer's ear they said,

    "_Thou'rt of the dead! Thou'rt of the dead!_"

    Still on his stallion black he sped

    While death spurred on behind.

    Fiery dust from the blasted plain

    Burnt like lava in every vein;

    But I rode on with steady rein

    Though the fierce sand-devils spun.

    Then to a sullen land we came,

    Whose earth was brass, whose sky was flame;

    I made it balm with her blessed name

    In the land of Mexico.

    With gasp and groan my poor horse fell,--

    Last of all things that loved me well!

    I turned my head--a smoking shell

    Veiled me his dying throes.

    But fast on vengeful foot was I;

    His steed fell, too, and was left to die;

    He fled where a river's channel dry

    Made way to the rolling stream.

    Red as my rage the huge sun sank.

    My foe bent low on the river's bank

    And deep of the kindly flood he drank

    While the giant stars broke forth.

    Then face to face and man to man

    I fought him where the river ran,

    While the trembling palm held up its fan

    And the emerald serpents lay.

    The mad, remorseless bullets broke

    From tongues of flame in the sulphur smoke;

    The air was rent till the desert spoke

    To the echoing hills afar.

    Hot from his lips the curses burst;

    He fell! The sands were slaked of thirst;

    A stream in the stream ran dark at first,

    And the stones grew red as hearts.

    I shot him where the Rio flows;

    I shot him when the moon arose;

    And where he lies the vulture knows

    Along the Tinto River.

    But where she lies to none is known

    Save to my poor heart and a lonely stone

    On which I sit and weep alone

    Where the cactus stars are white.

    Where I shall lie, no man can say;

    The flowers all are fallen away;

    The desert is so drear and grey,

    O Marta of Milrone!

                               _Herman Scheffauer._