The Ballad of Cassandra Brown

by Helen Gray Cone

THOUGH I MET HER IN THE SUMMER, when one's heart lies round at ease,
As it were in tennis costume, and a man's not hard to please,
Yet I think that any season to have met her was to love,
While her tones, unspoiled, unstudied, had the softness of the dove.
 
At request she read us poems in a nook among the pines,
And her artless voice lent music to the least melodious lines;
Though she lowered her shadowing lashes, in an earnest reader's wise,
Yet we caught blue, gracious glimpses of the heavens which were her eyes.
 
As in paradise I listened—ah, I did not understand
That a little cloud, no larger than the average human hand,
Might, as stated oft in fiction, spread into a sable pall,
When she said that she should study Elocution in the fall!
 
I admit her earliest efforts were not in the Ercles vein;
She began with "Little Maaybel, with her faayce against the payne
And the beacon-light a-t-r-r-remble"—which, although it made me wince,
Is a thing of cheerful nature to the things she's rendered since.
 
Having heard the Soulful Quiver, she acquired the Melting Mo-o-an,
And the way she gave "Young Grayhead" would have liquefied a stone.
Then the Sanguinary Tragic did her energies employ,
And she tore my taste to tatters when she slew "The Polish Boy."
 
It's not pleasant for a fellow when the jewel of his soul
Wades through slaughter on the carpet, while her orbs in frenzy roll;
What was I that I should murmur? Yet it gave me grievous pain
That she rose in social gatherings, and Searched among the Slain.
 
I was forced to look upon her in my desperation dumb,
Knowing well that when her awful opportunity was come
She would give us battle, murder, sudden death at very least,
As a skeleton of warning, and a blight upon the feast.
 
Once, ah! once I fell a-dreaming; some one played a polonaise
I associated strongly with those happier August days;
And I mused, "I'll speak this evening," recent pangs forgotten quite—
Sudden shrilled a scream of anguish: "Curfew shall not ring to-night!"
 
Ah, that sound was as a curfew, quenching rosy, warm romance—
Were it safe to wed a woman one so oft would wish in France?
Oh, as she "cul-limbed" that ladder, swift my mounting hope came down,
I am still a single cynic; she is still Cassandra Brown!

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