No backward path; ah! no returning;
No second crossing that ripple’s flow:
“Come to me now, for the west is burning;
Come ere it darkens;”—“Ah, no! ah, no!”
Then cries of pain, and arms outreaching—
The beck grows wider and swift and deep:
Passionate words as of one beseeching—
The loud beck drowns them; we walk, and weep.
A yellow moon in splendor drooping,
A tired queen with her state oppressed,
Low by rushes and swordgrass stooping,
Lies she soft on the waves at rest.
The desert heavens have felt her sadness;
Her earth will weep her some dewy tears;
The wild beck ends her tune of gladness,
And goeth stilly as soul that fears.
We two walk on in our grassy places
On either marge of the moonlit flood,
With the moon’s own sadness in our faces,
Where joy is withered, blossom and bud.
A shady freshness, chafers whirring,
A little piping of leaf-hid birds;
A flutter of wings, a fitful stirring,
A cloud to the eastward snowy as curds.
Bare grassy slopes, where kids are tethered
Round valleys like nests all ferny-lined;
Round hills, with fluttering tree-tops feathered,
Swell high in their freckled robes behind.
A rose-flush tender, a thrill, a quiver,
When golden gleams to the tree-tops glide;
A flashing edge for the milk-white river,
The beck, a river—with still sleek tide.
Broad and white, and polished as silver,
On she goes under fruit-laden trees;
Sunk in leafage cooeth the culver,
And ’plaineth of love’s disloyalties.
Glitters the dew and shines the river,
Up comes the lily and dries her bell;
But two are walking apart forever,
And wave their hands for a mute farewell.
A braver swell, a swifter sliding;
The river hasteth, her banks recede:
Wing-like sails on her bosom gliding
Bear down the lily and drown the reed.
Stately prows are rising and bowing
(Shouts of mariners winnow the air),
And level sands for banks endowing
The tiny green ribbon that showed so fair.
While, O my heart! as white sails shiver,
And crowds are passing, and banks stretch wide
How hard to follow, with lips that quiver,
That moving speck on the far-off side!
Farther, farther—I see it—know
My eyes brim over, it melts away:
Only my heart to my heart shall show it
As I walk desolate day by day.
And yet I know past all doubting, truly—
A knowledge greater than grief can dim—
I know, as he loved, he will love me duly—
Yea better—e’en better than I love him.