Before I thought this garden fair
And from its beauty rapture drew,
How many others breathed its air,
And, glorying in its matchless view,
Had plucked its roses wet with dew!
Where now my vines and violets grow,
And fill the breeze with odors sweet,
Two thousand years and more ago
Some Roman had his loved retreat,
And watched the sun and snow-peak meet.
Rome fell; but, Maia still remaining,
Both Goth and Frank the slope desired,
Through two millenniums still retaining
The longing for what all admired,
The love which ownership inspired.
I sometimes fancy that I see
Those masters of an earlier age,—
A ghostly line preceding me
Across this corner of life’s stage,—
The Pagan, Christian, bard and sage.
Each one in turn called thee his own,
And deemed thee his submissive slave;
But, when a few short years had flown,
Of all thy wealth what could he save?
At most thou gavest him a grave!
Ephemeral creatures of a day,
We move like insects on thy soil,
And wear our little lives away
In fleeting pleasures or in toil;
But naught our destiny can foil.
A few more Springs thy buds shall quicken,
A few more Summers bring thy bloom,
A few more Autumn suns shall thicken
The clusters ripening in thy gloom,—
When I for strangers must make room!
When other eyes shall see the vision
Of Rotheck’s pyramid of snow,
And watch the roseate hues elysian
Creep over it at evening’s glow,
As o’er its crest the sun sinks low.
Another then will pluck the flowers
Whose seeds my loving hand hath sown;
Another, through the mid-day hours,
Will hear the honey bee’s dull drone
Where other roses shall have blown.
These mountains then will still be lifting
Their ice-crowned summits to the sky;
The fleecy clouds will still be drifting
Above their peaks and pastures high;
But they will heed not where I lie.
Even thou wilt never miss thy master!
Thy vines and flowers will bloom the same,
The season’s round will move no faster,
No bud will quench its torch of flame,
And naught will change here but a name.
Yet all who shall with joy succeed me
In their turn must thy charms resign,
When, as to all who now precede me,
Death shall have made the fatal sign
To join the ever-lengthening line.
We “owners,” then, are but thy tenants
Despite our purchase and our pride;
To thee what is our transient presence?
Thou carest not if we abide
Among thy roses, or have died.
Hence, let me drain in fullest measure
Thy cup of pure Tyrolean wine!
To-day at least I hold thy treasure;
To-day with truth I call thee mine;
To-morrow’s sun may never shine.