For the Past is ever one’s master,
And Memory mocks at space,
And Trouble travels with us,
However swift our pace;
And envy is always envy,
Though called by a foreign name,
And perfidy, greed, and malice
Are everywhere the same.
I thought I had left behind me
That gloomy realm of care,
But really one never leaves it,
Its shadow is everywhere.
So I learned at last the lesson
That walls, and gates, and keys
Can never exclude life’s sorrows;
They enter as they please.
And if we ever acquire
The perfect life we crave,
A subtle warning tells us
Its background is the grave.
Perhaps I have almost reached it,
For when I am walking late,
I see a shrouded stranger
Beside my postern gate;
And a sudden chill creeps o’er me
At sight of that figure grim,
For I fancy that he is waiting
For me in the twilight dim;
And I know he will one day beckon
With gesture of command,
And I shall follow him mutely.
Away to the Silent Land,
And all that I here have treasured
In fountain, and tree, and stone
Will pass to the hands of others,
Whom I have never known.
Hence over his sombre features
There flickers a ghostly smile,
As if he would say, “What matter?
Your cares are not worth while;
“The trouble which gives you anguish,
The woes o’er which you weep,
Will all be soon forgotten
In my long, dreamless sleep.
“Enjoy the fleeting moment;
I cannot always wait,
And the glow of the coming sunset
Is gilding the postern gate.”
Spirit of Como, whose rhythmical call
Murmurs caressingly under my wall,
Why are thy feet, though the hour be late,
Mounting the moon-silvered steps of my gate?
What is the cause of this passionate strain,
Voiced by thy wavelets again and again?
Near to the lake, and surmounting the lawn,
Sculptured Undine sits facing the dawn;
White, on the rocks of the fountain below,
Glistens her form, like a statue of snow;
Smiling, she listens, entranced, to the call,
Sung so alluringly under my wall.
Leaf-woven ladders of ivy-wreathed vines
Fall from the rampart in undulant lines;
Silken and slender, they swing in the breeze,
Tempting the lover to clamber with ease
Up to the garden, to woo and to take
Lovely Undine away to the lake.
Boldly Love’s wavelets now leap to the land,
Swiftly they scale every tremulous strand,
Lightly they sway with the wavering screen,
White gleam their feet on its background of green;
Yet the old parapet, mossy and gray,
Never is reached by their glittering spray.
Hear you that music, half song and half sigh?
Sylph-like Undine is making reply:—
“Though I so motionless sit here above,
I am not deaf to thy pleadings of love;
Others regard me as passionless stone,
Only to thee shall my nature be known.