Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The Doves

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I stood on the top of a sloping hillside; before me, a gold and silver sea of shifting colour, stretched the ripe rye.

But no little wavelets ran over that sea; no stir of wind was in the stifling air; a great storm was gathering.

Near me the sun still shone with dusky fire; but beyond the rye, not very far away, a dark-blue storm-cloud lay, a menacing mass over full half of the horizon.

All was hushed . . . all things were faint under the malignant glare of the last sun rays. No sound, no sight of a bird; even the sparrows hid themselves. Only somewhere close by, persistently a great burdock leaf flapped and whispered.

How strong was the smell of the wormwood in the hedges! I looked at the dark-blue mass . . . there was a vague uneasiness at my heart. 'Come then, quickly, quickly!' was my thought, 'flash, golden snаkе, and roll thunder! move, hasten, break into floods, evil storm-cloud; cut short this agony of suspense!'

But the storm-cloud did not move. It lay as before, a stifling weight upon the hushed earth . . . and only seemed to swell and darken.

And lo, over its dead dusky-blue, something darted in smooth, even flight, like a white handkerchief or a handful of snow. It was a white dove flying from the direction of the village.

It flew, flew on straight . . . and plunged into the forest. Some instants passed by—still the same cruel hush. . . . But, look! Two handkerchiefs gleam in the air, two handfuls of snow are floating back, two white doves are winging their way homewards with even flight.

And now at last the storm has broken, and the tumult has begun!

I could hardly get home. The wind howled, tossing hither and thither in frenzy; before it scudded low red clouds, torn, it seemed, into shreds; everything was whirled round in confusion; the lashing rain streamed in furious torrents down the upright trunks, flashes of lightning were blinding with greenish light, sudden peals of thunder boomed like cannon-shots, the air was full of the smell of sulphur. . . .

But under the overhanging roof, on the sill of the dormer window, side by side sat two white doves, the one who flew after his mate, and the mate he brought back, saved, perhaps, from destruction.

They sit ruffling up their feathers, and each feels his mate's wing against his wing. . . .

They are happy! And I am happy, seeing them. . . . Though I am alone . . . alone, as always.

May 1879.