The heat of the mid-day has smitten the forest-land dumb !
The mountains are closing their eyes in a languorous dream,
The boulders stand stark, where the torrents once hastened to come,
For Earth in her passion is wholly consuming their stream.
The ardour and terror of living is rife in the air,
The air that is breathless, and stranger to motion or sound,
A rapture so potent it seems near akin to despair
Is drawing the life-blood in mist, from the sunravished ground.
And out thro' this region grown tense with creation's desire,
Inconsequent, fragile as thistledown wafted by breeze,
Two butterflies flutter, like snow-flakes that fall upon fire,
Far into the flame-land, that stretches away from the trees.
White butterflies, innocent-looking and soft as a sigh,
In quest of what blossoms, what mystical pleasures, who knows?
Close one to the other they hover now low and now high,
Like thoughts that are breathed from the heart of an opening rose.
Vague spirits that drift o'er the infinite tide of the earth,
As jewels of foam, on the passion-torn breast of the sea,
They know not the hour of their ending, the cause of their birth,
A moment of time or a year, they rejoice but to be !
Around them the problem of life, with its pain and its joy,
Impregnates the noon with a sense of some marvellous power,
Above them, grown potent with strength to create or destroy,
The shafts of the sun, that have smitten and withered the flower.
And still with frail bodies unmoved by the vastness of things
These fairy white butterflies flutter like spirits of light,
They pause for an instant, then spreading their tremulous wings,
Fly into the infinite, fading away from my sight.
And so we closed the book, wherein we wrote
How many words of ecstasy and pain,
How oft repeated passion's deep refrain,
Like ebb and flow of tide, whose echo smote
Upon the hearing of our listening sense.
These pages will become the prey of years,
And time, who stretches forth an envious hand,
Shall make impossible to understand
Our burning words, that shine with unshed tears,
Ay, and we two may offer no defence !
The early mornings of awakening Spring
That smote our inspiration and desire
They still shall call, yet find no answering fire
Within the eyes of two at least, who bring
But wormwood, from the once so flowering path.
And limpid winter twilights when we gazed
Thro' frosted panes across the purpling snow,
Or turned our eyes towards the cheerful glow
Of logs, whose kindly voices cracked and blazed
With invitation to the sheltered hearth—
They too shall come in season as before,
Yet we be absent, and within the room
Our vacant places cast a little gloom ;
Then shall there fall a shadow on the floor,
As of one passing, who is yet unseen.
Perchance a pilgrim wind will pause to look
Within this volume where our tale unfolds,
And sorry at the text he there beholds,
Rustle with sighs the vellum of this book,
But leave no trace of where his breath has been.
Perchance a rose that through the casement bent,
Might cast her ardent eyes upon this lay,
And being touched, hide one soft leaf away
Between its pages, out of sentiment,
Then toss her wanton fragrance to the South.
Aye, many roses shall be born to grace
The garden, and the day will still rejoice,
Yet never at the echo of thy voice,
Nor shall a rose lift up its longing face
That we may cool our lips upon its mouth.
And side by side with petals and with sighs,
With overweening tenderness and trust,
Shall rest the deadly layer of choking dust :
A weary skull, its sockets bare of eyes,
With grinning pathos from the title page
Will bear stark record of its master Death.
Sightless, yet seeing all Eternity,
With silent voice that rings more truthfully
Than any words we quickened with our breath
More full of wisdom than the speech of sage.
We two have loved, and have outlived the laws
Of love, e'en as these bones survive their flesh
With awful vigour gleaming strangely fresh
Amid the ruin of their natal cause,
A peg on which the gods may hang their wit !
We two have cast each other in the flame
Of searing passion, that we deemed was life.
Alas ! those fiery billows flowing rife
Upon the sand, they have defaced love's name,
And there remains no smallest trace of it.
And yet we live, and walk upon the earth,
Beneath the pall of dusk the dome of dawn,
And all created creatures being born
Must do, and thus atone their hour of birth,
A living sacrifice to what! Who knows?
Poor futile things, we make our little moan,
And clasp our puny hands in useless prayers
To that which neither wots of us nor cares,
And in our grief behold, we stand alone,
Till our complaining lips in anguish close.
My eyes shall still behold the stars above,
And you, how oft will count the hosts of night,
But never, never can we feel delight
In them together, swearing that our love
Is more enduring than eternal things !
Oh ! blessed madness that possessed the heart,
Oh ! sweet unreason that could cloud the mind,
Alas ! that we have left you far behind,
And growing wise must lose the dearer part,
Of which not even the faintest perfume clings.
What would we not surrender overjoyed,
To hear once more the music that is still;
We sweep the strings, but lo ! no answering thrill
From shattered harps, that eager hands destroyed,
From souls whom ravishment has smitten dumb.
Oh ! for one hour snatched from the throbbing past,
Replete with its embodied ecstasy!
How little would we count Eternity,
How ready be, to know that hour, our last,
No matter what the penalty to come.
Oh ! bitterness, that we ourselves did write
These pages with heart's blood, yet cannot feel
To-day one little tremor o'er us steal
Save of regret for so much past delight !
The cup is spilt of which we two partook.
For this last time, oh ! once beloved, stay
Close here beside me, while my drying pen
Has still the strength to write our last Amen.
'Tis written .... there is nothing left to say,
And so together .... thus, we close the book.