In midnight black, when all men sleep,
My singer wakes,
And pipes his lovely melodies,
And trills and shakes.
The dark sky bends to listen, but
No answer makes.
O, what is joy? In vain we grasp
Her purple wings;
Unwon, unwooed, she flits to dwell
With humble things;
She shares my sightless singer’s cage,
And so—he sings.
The drowsy summer in the flowering limes
Had laid her down at ease,
Lulled by soft, sportive winds, whose tinkling chimes
Summoned the wandering bees
To feast, and dance, and hold high carnival
Within that vast and fragrant banquet-hall.
She stood, my Mary, on the wall below,
Poised on light, arching feet,
And drew the long, green branches down to show
Where hung, mid odors sweet,—
A tiny miracle to touch and view,—
The humming-bird’s, small nest and pearls of blue.
Fair as the summer’s self she stood, and
With eyes like summer sky,
Wistful and glad, half-matron and half-child,
Gentle and proud and shy;
Her sweet head framed against the blossoming bough,
She stood a moment,—and she stands there now!
’Tis sixteen years since, trustful, unafraid,
In her full noon of light,
She passed beneath the grass’s curtaining shade,
Out of our mortal sight;
And springs and summers, bearing gifts to men,
And long, long winters have gone by since then.
And each some little gift has brought to dress
That unforgotten bed,—
Violet, anemone, or lady’s-tress,
Or spray of berries red,
Or purpling leaf, or mantle, pure and cold,
Of winnowed snow, wrapped round it, fold on fold.
Yet still she stands, a glad and radiant shape,
Set in the morning fair,—
That vanished morn which had such swift escape.
I turn and see her there,—
The arch, sweet smile, the bending, graceful head;
And, seeing thus, why do I call her dead?
What whispered Love the day he fled?
Ah! this was what Love whispered;
“You sought to hold me with a chain;
I fly to prove such holding vain.
“You bound me burdens, and I bore
The burdens hard, the burdens sore;
I bore them all unmurmuring,
For Love can bear a harder thing.
“You taxed me often, teased me, wept;
I only smiled, and still I kept
Through storm and sun and night and day,
My joyous, viewless, faithful way.
“But, dear, once dearest, you and I
This day have parted company.
Love must be free to give, defer,
Himself alone his almoner.
“As free I freely poured my all,
Enslaved I spurn, renounce my thrall,
Its wages and its bitter bread.”
Thus whispered Love the day he fled!