Twilight is falling on lake and on land,
Softly the wavelets steal in to the strand,
Fisher-boats, floating like sea-gulls at rest,
Glow in the lingering light of the west,
Far-away vesper-bells hallow the air,
Ave Maria! the world seems at prayer.
One more immaculate sunset exposed,
One chapter more of life’s history closed,
One more bead told on the chaplet of time,
One further stride in Earth’s orbit sublime;—
Linked to the measureless chain of the past,
One added day, ... to so many their last!
Slowly the colors diminish and die,
Slowly the stellar hosts people the sky,
Lost is the light on the fishermen’s sails,
Sweet is the exquisite peace that prevails,
Silence and solitude brood o’er the deep,
Ave Maria! the world seems to sleep.
One more magnificent pageant to face,—
Numberless systems in infinite space;
Once more our planet in majesty rolls
On through the darkness its burden of souls;—
Linked to the limitless chain of the past,
One added night, ... to so many their last!
Stately boats, with happy crowds,
Passing up the lake,
Leaving, under sunset clouds,
Jewels in your wake,
From my garden’s sheltered strand
I can watch you glide,
As through some enchanted land
On a silver tide.
To your eyes, O joyous throng,
All this scene is new;
Like a burst of seraphs’ song,
Comes its matchless view;
You have traversed land and sea
For this wondrous sight,
Which the gods vouchsafe to me
Every day and night!
One long, serial pageant this
Of supreme content!
Every face suffused with bliss,
Every eye intent;
Griefs and troubles slip away
On this charming shore,
And throughout a transient stay
Will return no more.
Yet beware! Gardens fair,
Lake, and snow-capped crest
For a while may banish care
From the saddest breast;
But it quickly, even here,
Finds the heart again,
With the old-time sigh and tear,
And the well-known pain.
Careless crew, I envy you!
You will grieve to go,
But, believe me, if you knew,
You would choose it so;
Leave the lake while still you laugh;
Be content to pass;
Though its wine be sweet to quaff,
Do not drain your glass!
Hear the singing on the boats,
As they halt beside the pier!
Ah, those fresh Italian throats,
How they cheer!
Yet the words they sing so loud
Bring depression to my heart,
As I watch the youthful crowd
“We are going o’er the sea!
Loyal sons of Italy,
We are bound for Tripoli,
See that lad of twenty years,—
Who is stretching out his hand
Toward his mother there in tears
On the strand!
Should he perish in the strife
Under Afric’s burning sky,
There were nothing left in life—
She must die.