The Earthly Paradise, by William Morris

December.

DEAD lonely night and all streets quiet now,
Thin o’er the moon the hindmost cloud swims past
Of that great rack that brought us up the snow;
On earth strange shadows o’er the snow are cast;
Pale stars, bright moon, swift cloud make heaven so vast
That earth left silent by the wind of night
Seems shrunken ’neath the grey unmeasured height.

Ah! through the hush the looked-for midnight clangs!
And then, e’en while its last stroke’s solemn drone
In the cold air by unlit windows hangs,
Out break the bells above the year foredone,
Change, kindness lost, love left unloved alone;
Till their despairing sweetness makes thee deem
Thou once wert loved, if but amidst a dream.

O thou who clingest still to life and love,
Though nought of good, no God thou mayst discern,
Though nought that is, thine utmost woe can move,
Though no soul knows wherewith thine heart doth yearn,
Yet, since thy weary lips no curse can learn,
Cast no least thing thou lovedst once away,
Since yet perchance thine eyes shall see the day.

DECEMBER came, with mirth men needs must make
E’en for the empty days and leisures’ sake
That earth’s cold leaden sleep doth bring; so there
Our elders sat within the guest-hall fair,
Not looking older for the snow without;
Cheery enough; remembering not old doubt,
A gnawing pain once, grown too hard to bear,
And so cast by; not thinking of old fear,
That conquering once, e’en with its victory
Must fade away, and, like all things else, die.
Not thinking of much else than that they had
Enough of life to make them somewhat glad
When all went well with them.

                              Now so it fell
That mariners were there, who ’gan to tell
Mishaps betid upon the winter seas,
Which set some younger men amidst of these
To ask the Wanderers of their voyage vain,
As knowing scarce the tale thereof. Small pain
It gave them now to answer: yet belike
On the old men, their hosts, the thing did strike
In jarring wise, this turning o’er and o’er
Of memories once so bitter sharp and sore:
Wherefore at last an elder said, “Let be,
My masters! if about the troublous sea
Ye needs must hear, hearken a tale once told
By kin of ours in the dim days of old,
Whose thoughts when turning to a peaceful home
Unto this very west of ours must come —
— Scarce causelessly meseems when all is said,
And I remember that years bow my head,
And not the trouble of those days of war,
Of loss and wrong that in old stories are.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/m87ea/chapter28.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07