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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

What a Witch and a Thief Made

By William Douglas O’Connor (1832–1889)

[From his Allegretto Capriccioso, “To Fanny.”—The Atlantic Monthly. 1871.]

INTO a grand conservatory,

Lit by the moon of summer’s glory,

The thief stole deep in the midnight hours,

And from a mass of camellias there,

Plucked the splendid candid flowers,—

Never a one did he spare;

And lone in her aromatic saloon,—

Where in the darks and lights of the moon,

Slept shapes of parian, buhl, and pearl,

And rich-hued ottoman and fauteuil;—

Where wind-moved draperies’ shadow-play

Crossed and confused the sumptuous ray,

And shadowy flames from tripods made

Delicious shimmerings kin to shade;—

A temple of bloom and dusk and gleam,

An alabaster and velvet dream;—

The bright witch, smiling and debonair,

Sat and charmed in the magic night,

The petals into a lady white,—

Glowing white and fair.

Still they bloom, brilliant and fresh,

In your camellia flesh;

They are the splendor and grace

Of your japonica face;

And the glossy camellia leaves are seen

In the dress you wear of silken green.

And the thief went off where night uncloses

Her sleeping wild white roses.

He left them slumbering on the stem,

But he stole the odor out of them,

And brought it all to the fay.

She was singing a melody sweet and gay

Of tender and dreamful sound;

And as she sang there breathed around

Some rich confusion, dim and strange;

And change that was and was not change

Perplext the semblance of her hall

To a doubtful bowery garden tall;—

The columns and wavering tapestries

To indeterminate shapes of trees,

With darkling foliage swaying slow;

And checkering shadows strown below

On the pile enflowered of Persian looms,

Becoming vague parterres of blooms;

And glittering ormolu, green divan,

Fauteuil, and lounge, and ottoman,

Half-merged, transfiguring yet thereto,

In forms of bushes gemmed with dew,

Shrubs blossomy-bright or freaked with gleams,

Dark banks and hillocks touched with beams;

With vase and statue here and there,

As in some ordered garden rare.

And what o’er all did stream and flee,

Lifted and dropt perpetually,—

Flame-shimmerings and the flooding ray,—

Half-seemed the revel of sun and May.

A wilder life began to show;

A wilder air began to blow;

Subtly through all, like a soul,

The breath of the wild-rose stole;

But suddenly the song did swoon,

And the place was again a grand saloon,

With the small witch, smiling and debonair,

O’er the work she had wrought in secret there.

What was it? Where was the odor gone?—

O arch, gay face I am dreaming on,—

Sweet face that tenderly shows

In its delicate paly glows,

It was moulded from the perfume of the wild white rose,—

He who gazes sees, if he but will,

The dream of the roses on it still!

The wild-rose fragrance haunts the face so fair,

And the witch’s song is there.