[handwritten: For Robb
and to Judy
In the still passage of intrepid time
the lamps go down,
and the blithe vividness of spring
dims to the dusk of autumn.
And even then design,
forbidding this brief amnesty with death,
snuffs the last candle scarlet on the maple,
and light is but a slow reprieve from darkness.
Be not afraid,
time is not vanishing;
each moment garners gladness from another
and adds its measure to the magnitude
of things to come.
Wisdom can come of age in second’s sorrow,
and there is heritage to build a soul
from one swift vision on a starswept hill. [unnumbered page]
Softly as the evening wind in birches,
Gently as the water lilies grow,
Moves my paddle in the river water
Singing where the gray-green rushes go.
Dark and cool the pool and deep with dreaming,
Fragrant with the scent of mossy things,
Shining fragments of silence broken
By the lilting of a heron’s wings.
New moon tangled now in the pine tree branches
Swiftly soon will mount the sky in flight,
Swiftly, too, the frail craft follows after
Gliding down the frontiers of the night. [unnumbered page]
Some there are who say
This quiet inland town is beautiful,
The gentle sloping of the cobbling street,
Bearing its trees like gay adventurers
Downward to meet the river, and then beyond
The lazy way the hills reach up
To feel the sky,
Summits besieged by lilting summer clouds
Warring in indolence.
Even the ordered pattern of the fields
Stirs not the mind from slumber.
But oh they could not know
How longing runs with fear along the heart
When autumn comes,
And fog binds and river, hills and fields
In pall of desolation;
For I can hear above the anguished silence
Sounds of home,
Elusive ocean sounds,
The wind-brusht cry of seabirds, fraught with keening,
The low enchanted call of the little ships
Breasting the midnight harbour, and over all
The deep eternal intonation of the water.
The argosies that sped the vagrant spirit journeying
Have sailed on into darkness,
And secretly the yearning of the soul
Knows there is no returning. [unnumbered page]
O my own, I cannot say
That I feel your going less,
Than in that first darkling hour
Of piercing bitterness.
Now I know when I was told
Time brings swift and sure relief,
They had meant one learns to live
In companionship with grief.
Yet have I found recompense
In the joy of April things,
Evenings fashioned full with stars,
The murmuring of wings.
As I watch the swallows carve
Dusking arcs where you have trod,
I know your last valiant arc
Crossed the one traced there by God. [unnumbered page]
There was a time,
This stubble field was then a golden rapture,
Woven of wind and rain, starlight and shadow,
And where the trees confided in the water
The sated cattle stood knee deep in summer.
And now is come
The hour of disenchantment and departure;
The cool sweet fragrances of grasses dying
Throng the hushed highroad and all the gossamer
Of little crimson glens is stained with autumn.
No mourning here,
The joy of centuries in this winged moment
Makes all time one, and nothing truly passes
That lends a radiance to the infinite
And harvests splendour from all things eternal. [unnumbered page]
There is a gray-walled town I know
That consorts with the sea,
And all the ships of youth are there
Close-havened and set free
From wanderlust and heart’s desire
And new discovery.
And every hold is thronged with years,
And bitterness and grief
Lie side by side with ecstasy,
False ardour with belief,
And all the sails are reefed and faded
To an autumn leaf.
Swift seabirds wheel in quietness
Gaunt changelings in the foam,
And candles crimson in the dusk
Call all the pilgrims home,
And Venus a lone traveller
Across the twilight dome.
There is a gray-walled town I know
And there the day has set,
And all the arts of Prosperine
Make valiant souls forget.
But oh, I have not seen it yet,
Oh no, I have not seen it yet. [unnumbered page]
Variations on a theme
If you should come again and weave your spell
As long ago before the shadows fell,
Should I be still enchanted?
I cannot tell.
Were you to smile at me and say my name,
I know the old desire would be the same
Swift as the keen, undaunted
Mother for the flame.
But let you murmur only, “Dear one, stay.”
The shimmering hour your presence made so gay
Would crumble to my answer,
“Another day.” [unnumbered page]
Step softly then,
For herein lies interred
The bitter fragments of a broken word
Someone is mourning after;
Speak gently now,
The golden tones of old
Have long been proven counterfeit, and sold
For promises become as tinkling laughter.
Grieve not for this,
Another token lost,
Eternity alone shall count the cost
And find it most beguiling.
This image of an eager heart repaid,
By swift enthusiasm soon betrayed.
There will be other faces juts as smiling. [unnumbered page]
How sweet my love, to hear you say
That I was yours
To love and keep
Forever and a day.
And you would call me ever fair
And gather thyme
And stardust for my hair.
Strange then this, your latest greeting.
“Fly, betimes, for only they
Conquer love that run away.”
How could I know
Forever was so fleeting? [unnumbered page]
She filled the night with charm and chatter
And with her eyes she wove a snare
To entice this tall engaging creature
Into the precincts of her hair.
She was doing well and her heart exulted,
With conquest on her lips she turned,
And nodding his head across the floor
Was one of the bridges she hadn’t burned! [unnumbered page]
Where Music Dwells
Where music dwells the soul of man is there,
And all the great and pilgrim thoughts of old
That crusade down the centuries,
And all things fair.
Rare harmony sours winging like a lark
In search of oneness with the still, high noon,
And star-enchanted symphonies
Invest the dark.
All rapturous time has there its biding place,
The crystal moments and the entranced years
And all the inconstant shadows
One a lovely face. [unnumbered page]
This gallant flame has had one august hour,
And by its watches in another night,
With flowers and lamps and tongs of molded gold
Wise Solomon extolled his oracle;
And Caesar penned his bulletins of war
From some far corner of a land called Gaul.
By this same glimmer in a graystone cell
One Bede of Jarrow in tranquility
Wrote stories of an age that lies in dark,
And strange uncharted seas were lit with hope
From midnight decks of dauntless venturers,
And pilgrims in the wilderness gave prayer.
How wondrous, then, to know that this slim glance
Of constant faith has glistened on the twelve
Who gathered to break bread, and shadows cast
Across the eyes of One who saw all grief,
And had eternity upon his face
And heaven in the marks upon his hands.