Look on those leaves. It was not Summer’s
That breathed that hue upon them. And look there—
On that thin tree. See, through its branches bare,
How low the sun is in the mid-day South!
This day is but a gleam of gladness, flown
Back from the past to tell us what is gone.
For the dead leaves are falling; and our heart,
Which, with the world, is ever changing so,
Gives back, in echoes sad and low,
The rustling sigh wherewith dead leaves depart:
A sound, not murmuring, but faint and wild;
A sorrow for the Past that hath no child,—
No sweet-voiced child with the bright name of Hope.
We are like you, poor leaves! but have more scope
For sorrow; for our summers pass away
With a slow, year-long, overshadowing decay.
Yea, Spring’s first blossom disappears,
Slain by the shadow of the coming years.
Come round me, my beloved. We will hold
All of us compassed thus: a winter day
Is drawing nigh us. We are growing old;
And, if we be not as a ring enchanted,
About each other’s heart, to keep us gay,
The young, who claim that joy which haunted
Our visions once, will push us far away
Into the desolate regions, dim and grey,
Where the sea hath no moaning, and the cloud
No rain of tears, but apathy doth shroud
All being and all time. But, if we keep
Together thus, the tide of youth will sweep
Round us with thousand joyous waves,
As round some palmy island of the deep;
And our youth hover round us like the breath
Of one that sleeps, and sleepeth not to death.
Thus onward, hand in hand, to parted graves,
The sundered doors into one palace home,
Through age’s thickets, faltering, we will go,
If He who leads us, wills it so,
Believing in our youth, and in the Past;
Within us, tending to the last
Love’s radiant lamp, which burns in cave or dome;
And, like the lamps that ages long have glowed
In blessed graves, when once the weary load
Of tomb-built years is heaved up and cast,
For youth and immortality, away,
Will flash abroad in open day,
Clear as a star in heaven’s blue-vaulted night;
Shining, till then, through every wrinkled fold,
With the Transfiguration’s conquering might;
That Youth our faces wondering shall behold,
And shall be glad, not fearing to be old.
The weary Old Year is dead at last;
His corpse ’mid the ruins of Time is cast,
Where the mouldering wrecks of lost Thought lie,
And the rich-hued blossoms of Passion die
To a withering grass that droops o’er his grave,
The shadowy Titan’s refuge cave.
Strange lights from pale moony Memory lie
On the weedy columns beneath its eye;
And strange is the sound of the ghostlike breeze,
In the lingering leaves on the skeleton trees;
And strange is the sound of the falling shower,
When the clouds of dead pain o’er the spirit lower;
Unheard in the home he inhabiteth,
The land where all lost things are gathered by Death.