Old fellow-loiterer, whither wouldst thou go?
The lonely eve is ours,
When tides of richer fragrance ooze and flow
From heavy-lidded flowers.
With solemn hampered pace proceeding by
The dewy garden-bed,
Like some old priest in antique finery,
Stiff cope and jewelled head;
Thy sanctuary lamps are lit at dusk,
Where leafy aisles are dim;
The bat's shrill piccolo, the swinging musk
Blend with the beetle's hymn.
Aye something paramount and priestly too,
Some cynic mystery,
Lurks in the dull skin its dismal hue,
The bright ascetic eye;
Thou seem'st the heir of centuries, hatched out
With aeons on thy track;
The dust of ages compasses about
Thy lean and shrivelled back.
Thy heaving throat, thy sick repulsive glance
Still awes thy foes around;
The eager hound starts back and looks askance,
And whining paws the ground.
Yet thou hast forfeited thy ancient ban,
Thy mystical control;
We know thee now to be the friend of man,
A simple homely soul;
And when we deemed thee curiously wise,
Still chewing venomed paste,
Thou didst but crush the limbs of juicy flies
With calm and critic taste.
By the grey stone half sunk in mossy mould,
Beside the stiff boxhedge,
Thou slumberest, when the dawn with fingers
Plucks at the low cloud's edge.
O royal life! in some cool cave all day,
Dreaming old dreams, to lie,
Or peering up to see the larkspur sway
Above thee in the sky;
Or wandering when the sunset airs are cool
Beside the elm-tree's foot,
To splash and sink in some sequestered pool,
Amid the cresses' root.
Abhorred, despised, the sad wind o'er thee sings;
Thou hast no friend to fear,
Yet fashioned in the secret mint of things
And hidden to be here.
Man dreams of loveliness, and bids it be;
To truth his eye is dim.
Thou wert, because the spirit dreamed of thee,
And thou art born of him.