Ask how the Pleiads steer across the night
In their serene unswerving mighty course;
Ask how the wood-flowers waken to the sun,
Unsummoned save by some mysterious word;
Ask how the wandering swallows find your eaves
Upon the rain-wind with returning spring; 10
Ask who commands the ever-punctual tide
To keep the pendulous rhythm of the sea;
And you shall know what leads the heart of man
To the far haven of his hopes and fears.
Like a tall forest were their spears,
Their banners like a silken sea,
When the great host in splendour passed
Across the crimson sinking sun.
And then the bray of brazen horns
Arose above their clanking march,
As the long waving column filed
Into the odorous purple dusk.
O lover, in this radiant world
Whence is the race of mortal men, 10
So frail, so mighty, and so fond,
That fleets into the vast unknown?
My lover smiled, “O friend, ask not
The journey’s end, nor whence we are.
That whistling boy who minds his goats
So idly in the grey ravine,
“The brown-backed rower drenched with spray,
The lemon-seller in the street,
And the young girl who keeps her first
Wild love-tryst at the rising moon,—
“Lo, these are wiser than the wise.
And not for all our questioning 10
Shall we discover more than joy,
Nor find a better thing than love!
“Let pass the banners and the spears,
The hate, the battle, and the greed;
For greater than all gifts is peace, 15
And strength is in the tranquil mind.”
Ye who have the stable world
In the keeping of your hands.
Flocks and men, the lasting hills,
And the ever-wheeling stars;
Ye who freight with wondrous things
The wide-wandering heart of man
And the galleon of the moon,
On those silent seas of foam;
Oh, if ever ye shall grant
Time and place and room enough 10
To this fond and fragile heart
Stifled with the throb of love,
On that day one grave-eyed Fate,
Pausing in her toil, shall say,
“Lo, one mortal has achieved 15
Immortality of love!”
I heard the gods reply:
“Trust not the future with its perilous chance;
The fortunate hour is on the dial now.