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Before The Fire

by James Edwin Campbell

Before the wide-mouthed hearth I sit,
While rudely roars the wind outdoor;
Upon the walls strange shadows flit
Or dervish-like dance on the floor;
Now softened to a minor strain,
As if it came from far away,
As if the wail of souls in pain,
The long imprisoned sunbeams' lay.

For aeons since when young was Time,
And Earth still wore the flush of Youth,
Long ere the birth of Man and Crime,
And dark-browed Hate and tear-stained Ruth,
The tyrant Sun imprisoned in
The heart of oak and ash his beams
To expiate some unknown sin —
Some woodsprite told me in my dreams.

The flames that up the chimney race
And clap with glee their red, red hands,
Or snap their fingers in my face,
Or 'sault the wall in storming bands,
Are sunbeams bright but now set free
From centuries of prison dark —
A spirit moves each flame I see,
A sunbeam's soul is in each spark.

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