All night, since that rich farewell of the sun,
The weedy shores of this unchristened lake
Have heard thy daring laughter; all night long
Wild echoes with their fading strength have run
Over the sounding rock and muffling brake,
A maddened and incorrigible throng
That seek the woodland’s silence to destroy;
Until that sylvan spirit of content
Is angered at thy mockery of joy
While Night is at her starry sacrament.
In this august cathedral, where no jest
Disturbs the holy anthem of the pine
Or those low wind-sonatas of the leaf,
Thy cry is like an uninvited guest
Who soils the rubric and invades the shrine
With some profaning word of unbelief.
What bold derision goads thee to this mirth?
Rue of the endless silence or high scorn
For those dull souls that crowd one rood of earth:
Pale amours from the twilight to the morn?
Or art thou some old mortal here set free
To mock the trite conventions until doom
With that erosive satire which destroys?
The servile as of yore, with bended knee,
Curl to the purple princes and make room
For dupes that move like masquerading toys.
From sullen wombs of women still outflow
Choice morsels for the lusty lips of war;
The drums blind reason: youth will rise and go
To mock that travail which their mothers bore.
Shallow is grief that weeping can subdue;
And wintry is the woe that refuge takes
In silence or in laughter; in thy call
Some sorrow of dead years dost thou pursue
Across the choric marshes of these lakes,
Or shadowed by some shoreland’s granite wall?
Is one who mixed her beauty with cold lies
The maiden of thy scorn? I laugh with thee–
Last victim of the falsehood in her eyes,
Last sad receiver of her treachery.
Ease thou my soul, O prophet of the wild!
The copper moon is heavy in the reeds
That fan it slowly upward to the sky–
And all the wood is guileless as a child;
Wan is the air with ghosts of feathered seeds
That will not let the soul of summer die.
But who of men shall heed this loveliness,
Or who shall hear this pleasant night’s refrain!
The rose in vain puts on her crimson dress,
In vain is poured the cooling cup of rain.
To-night, like gloomy scythes, the raven wings
Of some avenging hawk mow down the light
That tethers this dark planet to the moon;
The whip-poor-will from deep retirement brings
Her lyrics to the archives of the night,
Store well with many an unremembered rune,
And sighs of lovers dead a thousand years
And stars that fell when Hesperus was young
And all those cold, imperishable tears
Forgotten in the darkness and unsung.
Cool are the ages with these night-born tears
That feed the dark Cocytus with their flow;
And, richer for this weeping, men go on.
And some return as bards and some as seers;
And some, like thee, release their flood of woe
In laughter through the darkness to the dawn.
And I, as one old grief invades my heart
With all her sad attendants in a throng,
Command my lamentations to depart
Along this easeful avenue of song.