Like burnt-out torches by a sick man’s bed
Gaunt cypress-trees stand round the sun-bleached stone;
Here doth the little night-owl make her throne,
And the slight lizard show his jewelled head.
And, where the chaliced poppies flame to red,
In the still chamber of yon pyramid
Surely some Old-World Sphinx lurks darkly hid,
Grim warder of this pleasaunce of the dead.
Ah! sweet indeed to rest within the womb
Of Earth, great mother of eternal sleep,
But sweeter far for thee a restless tomb
In the blue cavern of an echoing deep,
Or where the tall ships founder in the gloom
Against the rocks of some wave-shattered steep.
The oleander on the wall
Grows crimson in the dawning light,
Though the grey shadows of the night
Lie yet on Florence like a pall.
The dew is bright upon the hill,
And bright the blossoms overhead,
But ah! the grasshoppers have fled,
The little Attic song is still.
Only the leaves are gently stirred
By the soft breathing of the gale,
And in the almond-scented vale
The lonely nightingale is heard.
The day will make thee silent soon,
O nightingale sing on for love!
While yet upon the shadowy grove
Splinter the arrows of the moon.
Before across the silent lawn
In sea-green vest the morning steals,
And to love’s frightened eyes reveals
The long white fingers of the dawn
Fast climbing up the eastern sky
To grasp and slay the shuddering night,
All careless of my heart’s delight,
Or if the nightingale should die.
(To my Friend Henry Irving)
The silent room, the heavy creeping shade,
The dead that travel fast, the opening door,
The murdered brother rising through the floor,
The ghost’s white fingers on thy shoulders laid,
And then the lonely duel in the glade,
The broken swords, the stifled scream, the gore,
Thy grand revengeful eyes when all is o’er,—
These things are well enough,—but thou wert made
For more august creation! frenzied Lear
Should at thy bidding wander on the heath
With the shrill fool to mock him, Romeo
For thee should lure his love, and desperate fear
Pluck Richard’s recreant dagger from its sheath—
Thou trumpet set for Shakespeare’s lips to blow!
(To Sarah Bernhardt)
How vain and dull this common world must seem
To such a One as thou, who should’st have talked
At Florence with Mirandola, or walked
Through the cool olives of the Academe:
Thou should’st have gathered reeds from a green stream
For Goat-foot Pan’s shrill piping, and have played
With the white girls in that Phaeacian glade
Where grave Odysseus wakened from his dream.