by Orville Henry Leonard

I know that across those mountains
Lies a country about like this,
And I know that poisoned fountains
Fringe the way, and the rattlers' hiss
Is sibilant on that blistering trail,
    And the sand is like the sea,
But the Will-o'-the-Wisp of the desert
    Is a-beckoning to me.

I know that others both skilled and bold
Have taken this trail before,
Hunting long for the yellow gold,
Only to come back worn and sore —
That is, if they ever came back at all —
    And though all this I know,
When the Will-o'-the-Wisp of the desert calls
    I pack my jack and go.

The cactus grows and flaunts its rose
Beside the trail my burro takes.
The hot day comes, the hot day goes,
Desert night wind the whole world shakes.
Then a dancing light in the velvet dark
    Afar on the waste I see,
And I know that the desert Will-o'-the-Wisp
    Is flashing his light at me.

His elfin light is of fancy made.
Yet he jeers at me like a clown
By flashing scenes of liquid shade
On the noon sky, but upside down,
For he carries slides with his lantern by day
    To tease me maliciously.
Though I know he's the Will-o'-the-Wisp, yet I swear
    That he's holding a cup to me.

He has no form, he has no face,
He has only a dancing light
To lure me on from place to place —
To every place but the right.
Though I stumble and faint and burn with thirst,
    I follow hopefully,
For the Will-o'-the-Wisp of the desert
    Is waving his light to me.

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