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Historical References

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An Opium Fantasy

By Maria White Lowell (1821-1853)

   Soft hangs the opiate in the brain,
     And lulling soothes the edge of pain,
   Till harshest sound, far off or near,
     Sings floating in its mellow sphere.

   What wakes me from my heavy dream?
     Or am I still asleep?
   Those long and soft vibrations seem
     A slumberous charm to keep.

   The graceful play, a moment stopped,
     Distance again unrolls
   Like silver balls, that, softly dropped,
     Ring into golden bowls.

   I question of the poppies red,
     The fairy flaunting band,
   While I a weed, with drooping head,
     Within their phalanx stand.

   "Some airy one, with scarlet cap,
     The name unfold to me
   Of this new minstrel, who can lap
     Sleep in his melody?"

   Bright grew their scarlet-kerchiefed heads,
     As freshening winds had blown,
   And from their gently swaying beds
     They sang in undertone,

   "Oh, he is but a little owl,
     The smallest of his kin,
   Who sits beneath the midnight's cowl
     And makes this airy din."

   "Deceitful tongues, of fiery tints,
     Far more than this you know, --
   That he is your enchanted prince,
     Doomed as an owl to go;

   "Nor his fond play for years hath stopped,
     But nightly he unrolls
   His silver balls, that, softly dropped,
     Ring into golden bowls."