THE PAGAN PAST
What sylvan god was worshipped here?
What nymph once made this grove her home,
And bathed within its fountain clear,
When Caesar ruled the world at Rome?
Did Pan frequent this charming site,
So hidden from the haunts of men?
Did nymphs and satyrs dance at night
Within this moon-illumined glen?
Ah, who can doubt it, when these vines
Form trellised screens for distant snow,
And trace in arabesque designs
Their profiles on the Alpine glow?
So sure were Dryads to select
A region thus supremely fair!
So apt were mortals to erect
In such a place a shrine for prayer!
The two millenniums have not brought
Diminished splendor to this bay;
The strand which Pliny loved and sought
Is no less beautiful to-day.
Hence, while the fragrant rose-leaves fall,
And white magnolia-blossoms gleam
Above my wave-lapped garden wall,
I seem to see, as in a dream,
The kneeling forms of those who laid
Their floral offerings on that shrine,
And here their grateful tribute paid
To beauty, rightly deemed divine.
Doth some Divinity each morn
Cast over me its ancient spell,
That this sweet landscape seems forlorn
Without the gods who loved it well?
Men tell me they are dead and gone,
But when my soul is moved to pray,
I feel, beside my sculptured Faun,
They are not very far away.
For I, who love this classic lake,
And cruise along its storied shores,
See Roman galleys in my wake,
And hear the stroke of phantom oars.
It matters not which way I steer,
Or if my course be slow or fast,
The Pagan world seems always near;
I sail, companioned by the Past.
Spirit of solitude, silence, and rest,
Take me once more, like a child, to your breast!
Weary of worldliness, turmoil, and hate,
Welcome me back, if it be not too late,
Back to the realm of ideals and dreams,
Hush of the forest and cadence of streams!
What have I found in life’s whirlpool of haste?
Pitiful poverty, limitless waste,
Sad disillusionments, losses of friends,
Treacherous methods for fraudulent ends,
Idle frivolity, senseless display,
Youth without reverence, faith in decay.
Gladly I turn from the roar of the crowd,
Hand of the beggar, and purse of the proud,
Gladly go back to the humming of bees,
Carols of birds, and the whisper of trees,
Gladly dispense with the voices of men,
Thankful to hear only Nature again.
Out from the mob with its furious pace
Into the cool, quiet reaches of space;
Rid of Society’s glittering chains,
Fleeing a prison and finding the plains;
Far from the clangor of murderous cars,
Losing the limelight, but gaining ... the stars!