To-night I watch the fire-flies rise
And shine along the air;
They float beneath the starry skies,
As mystical and fair,
Above the hedge where dimly glows
The deep gold of the Persian rose.
I watch the fire-flies drift and float:
Each is a dreamy flame,
Star-coloured each, a starry mote,
Like stars not all the same;
But whiter some, or faintly green,
Or wannest blue was ever seen.
They cross and cross and disappear,
And then again they glow;
Still drifting faintly there and here,
Still crossing to and fro,
As though in all their wandering
They wove a wide and shining thing.
O fire-flies, would I knew the weft
You have the weaving of!
For, as I watch you move, bereft
Of thought or will or love,
I fear, O listless flames, you weave
The fates of men who strive and grieve.
The web of life, the weft of dreams,
You weave it ceaselessly;
A strange and filmy thing it seems,
And made in mystery
Of wind and darkness threaded through
With light these heavens never knew.
O pale, mysterious, wandering fire,
Born of the earth, alive
With the same breath that I respire,
Who know and think and strive;
You circle round me, stranger far
Than any charm of any star!
Ah me, as faint as you, as slight,
As hopelessly remote
As you, who still across the night
Intangible as you, I see
The motives of our destiny.
For ah, no angel of the stars,
No guardian of the soul,
Stoops down beyond the heavenly bars
Our courses to control,
But filled and nourished with our breath
Are the dim hands that weave our death.
They weave with many threads our souls,
A subtle-tinted thing,
So interwoven that none controls
His own imagining;
For every strand with other strands
They twine and bind with viewless hands.
They weave the future of the past;
Their mystic web is wrought
With dreams from which we woke at last,
And many a secret thought;
For still they weave, howe'er we strive,
The web new-woven for none alive.
And still the fire-flies come and go—
Each is a dreamy flame—
Still palely drifting to and fro
The very way they came—
As though, across the dark they wove
Fate and the. shining web thereof.
Yet, even were I sure of it,
I would not lift a hand
To break the threads that shine and flit—
For, ah, I understand:
Ruin, indeed, I well might leave;
But a new web could never weave.