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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Manchy

By Charles Marie René Leconte de Lisle (1818–1894)

From ‘Poèmes Barbares’: Translation of Thomas Walsh

CLOTHED in your filmy muslin gown,

Every Sunday morning, you

Would come in your manchy of bamboo

Down the footpaths to the town.

The church-bell rang out noisily;

The salt breeze waved the lofty cane;

The sun shook out a golden rain

On the savannah’s grassy sea.

With rings on wrist and ankle flat,

And yellow kerchief on the crown,

Your two telingas carried down

Your litter of Manila mat.

Slim, in tunics white, they sang

As ’neath the pole of bamboo bent,

With hands upon their hips, they went

Steadily by the long Etang.

Past banks where Creoles used to come

To smoke their ancient pipes; past bands

Of blacks disporting on the sands

To the sound of the Madagascar drum.

The tamarind’s breath was on the air;

Out in the glittering surf the flocks

Of birds swung through the billow’s shocks

And plunged beneath the foaming blare.

While hung—your sandal loosed—the tips

Of one pink foot at the manchy’s side,

In the shade of the letchi branching wide

With fruit less purple than your lips;

While like a flower, a butterfly

Of blue and scarlet fluttered on

Your skin an instant, and was gone,

Leaving his colors in good-by.

We saw between the cambric’s mist

Your earrings on the pillows lain;

While your long lashes veiled in vain

Your eyes of sombre amethyst.

’Twas thus you came, those mornings sweet,

With grace so gentle, to High Mass,

Borne slowly down the mountain pass

By your faithful Hindoos’ steady feet.

But now where our dry sand-bar gleams

Beneath the dog-grass near the sea,

You rest with dead ones dear to me,

O charm of my first tender dreams!