ST. JOHN’S WORT.
Ethel Lynn Beers (1827–1879)
In the valleys of the Tyrol,
When the twilight waxes dim,
And the elves are all exorcised
By the tender vesper-hymn;
When the grim Walpurgis witches,
Balder’s host, are lying dead,
Then they whisper tale and legend,
Half in earnest, half in dread,
Of the dim St. John’s wort shining
Through one mystic summer night—
Of its branch across the doorway,
Barring elfin curse and blight;
Whisper, too, a pleasant story,
That its leaves within the shoe
Thus can make a journey tireless,
Though its leagues be not a few.
* * * *
If I gather from the meadow
Slippers full to keep and wear,
Shall I never more be weary,
Though I wander here and there?
Shall I falter on my pathway
Never more as I do now?
Tell me then, O elfin legend,
Where to gather, when, and how.
Must I go for it at midnight,
When the witches gather fast?
Must I walk alone, and backward,
Till the mystic leaf is passed?
Tell me, for I grow aweary,
On the pathway of my life—
Weary of its sombre shadows,
Weary of its aimless strife.
And I falter, fearful often;
Tell me, legend, witch, or fay,
How to gather the St. John’s wort,
So I faint not by the way.