He.  AH, the bird-like fluting
           Through the ash-tops yonder—
       Bullfinch-bubblings, soft sounds suiting
           What sweet thoughts, I wonder?
       Fine-pearled notes that surely
           Gather, dewdrop-fashion,
       Deep-down in some heart which purely
           Secretes globuled passion—
       Passion insuppressive—
           Such is piped, for certain;
       Love, no doubt, nay, love excessive
           ’Tis your ash-tops curtain.
       Would your ash-tops open
           We might spy the player—
       Seek and find some sense which no pen
           Yet from singer, sayer,
       Ever has extracted:
           Never, to my knowledge,
       Yet has pedantry enacted
           That, in Cupid’s College,
       Just this variation
           Of the old, old yearning
       Should by plain speech have salvation,
           Yield new men new learning.
       “Love!” but what love, nicely
           New from old disparted,
       Would the player teach precisely?
           First of all, be started
       In my brain Assurance—
           Trust—entire Contentment—
       Passion proved by much endurance;
           Then came—not resentment,
       No, but simply Sorrow:
           What was seen had vanished:
       Yesterday so blue! To-morrow
           Blank, all sunshine banished.
       Hark! ’Tis Hope resurges,
           Struggling through obstruction—
       Forces a poor smile which verges
           On joy’s introduction.
       Now, perhaps, mere Musing:
           “Holds earth such a wonder?
       Fairy-mortal, soul-sense-fusing
           Past thought’s power to sunder!”
       What? calm Acquiescence?
           “Daisied turf gives room to
       Trefoil, plucked once in her presence—
           Growing by her tomb too!”
She.  All’s your fancy-spinning!
           Here’s the fact: a neighbor
       Never-ending, still beginning,
           Recreates his labor:
       Deep o’er desk he drudges,
           Adds, divides, subtracts and
       Multiplies, until he judges
           Noonday-hour’s exact sand
       Shows the hour-glass emptied:
           Then comes lawful leisure,
       Minutes rare from toil exempted,
           Fit to spend in pleasure.
       Out then with—what treatise?
           Youth’s Complete Instructor
       How to play the Flute. Quid petis?
           Follow Youth’s conductor
       On and on, through Easy,
           Up to Harder, Hardest
       Flute-piece, till thou, flautist wheezy,
           Possibly discardest
       Tootlings hoarse and husky,
           Mayst expend with courage
       Breath—on tunes once bright, now dusky—
           Meant to cool thy porridge.
       That’s an air of Tulou’s
           He maltreats persistent,
       Till as lief I’d hear some Zulu’s
           Bone-piped bag, breath-distent,
       Madden native dances.
           I’m the man’s familiar:
       Unexpectedness enhances
           What your ear’s auxiliar
      —Fancy—finds suggestive.
           Listen! That’s legato
       Rightly played, his fingers restive
           Touch as if staccato.
He.  Ah, you trick-betrayer!
           Telling tales, unwise one?
       So the secret of the player
           Was—he could surprise one
       Well-nigh into trusting
           Here was a musician
       Skilled consummately, yet lusting
           Through no vile ambition
       After making captive
           All the world,—rewarded
       Amply by one stranger’s rapture.
           Common praise discarded.
       So, without assistance
           Such as music rightly
       Needs and claims,—defying distance,
           Overleaping lightly
       Obstacles which hinder,
           He, for my approval,
       All the same and all the kinder
           Made mine what might move all
       Earth to kneel adoring:
           Took—while he piped Gounod’s
       Bit of passionate imploring—
           Me for Juliet: who knows?
       No! as you explain things,
           All’s mere repetition,
       Practise-pother: of all vain things
           Why waste pooh or pish on
       Toilsome effort—never
           Ending, still beginning
       After what should pay endeavor
          —Right-performance? winning
       Weariness from you who,
           Ready to admire some
       Owl’s fresh hooting—Tu-whit, to-who—
           Find stale thrush-songs tiresome.
She.  Songs, Spring thought perfection,
           Summer criticises:
       What in May escaped detection,
           August, past surprises,
       Notes, and names each blunder.
           You, the just-initiate,
       Praise to heart’s content (what wonder?)
           Tootings I hear vitiate
       Romeo’s serenading—
           I who, times full twenty,
       Turned to ice—no ash-tops aiding—
           At his caldamente.
       So, ’twas distance altered
           Sharps to flats? The missing
       Bar when syncopation faltered
           (You thought—paused for kissing!)
       Ash-tops too felonious
           Intercepted? Rather
       Say—they well-nigh made euphonious
           Discord, helped to gather
       Phrase, by phrase, turn patches
           Into simulated
       Unity which botching matches,—
           Scraps redintegrated.
He.  Sweet, are you suggestive
           Of an old suspicion
       Which has always found me restive
           To its admonition
       When it ventured whisper
           “Fool, the strifes and struggles
       Of your trembler—blusher—lisper
           Were so many juggles,
       Tricks tried—oh, so often!—
           Which once more do duty,
       Find again a heart to soften,
           Soul to snare with beauty.”
       Birth-blush of the briar-rose,
           Mist-bloom of the hedge-sloe,
       Some one gainst the prize: admire rose
           Would he, when noon’s wedge—slow—
       Sure, has pushed, expanded
           Rathe pink to raw redness?
       Would he covet sloe when sanded
           By road-dust to deadness?
       So—restore their value!
           Ply a water-sprinkle
       Then guess sloe is fingered, shall you?
           Find in rose a wrinkle?
       Here what played Aquarius?
           Distance—ash-tops aiding,
       Reconciled scraps else contrarious,
           Brightened stuff fast fading.
       Distance—call your shyness:
           Was the fair one peevish?
       Coyness softened out of slyness.
           Was she cunning, thievish,
       All-but proved impostor?
           Bear but one day’s exile,
       Ugly traits were wholly lost or
           Screened by fancies flexile—
       Ash-tops these, you take me?
           Fancies’ interference
       Changed . . .
                   But since I sleep, don’t wake me!
           What if all’s appearance?
       Is not outside seeming
           Real as substance inside?
       Both are facts, so leave me dreaming:
           If who loses wins I’d
       Ever lose,—conjecture,
           From one phrase trilled deftly,
       All the piece. So, end your lecture,
           Let who lied be left lie!
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