The evening air exhales a spicy scent,
The robin warbles, and the thrush replies;
And on the terrace a tall regiment
Of lillies and of larkspur seem to rise
In the last glow of the transparent skies,
And shed a radiance hitherto unseen.
Distant, and yet distinct, come joyous cries
And twilight echoes, few and far between,—
Children at play,—dogs barking,—fairies on the green.
The shadows deepen; in the bushy lanes
The fireflies brighten and the crickets cheep:
And hark, an owl! how dolorous the strains,
At which the field-mouse to his bed doth creep.
The birds, the trees, the flowers have dropped to sleep;
The noises from the village float no more;
Night doth enwrap the world in slumber deep.
And while upon reposeful gloom we pore,
Behold, a ghostly glow that was not there before!
Slowly, with laboring steps, doth she emerge:
Like a stout shallop in the foaming seas
She holds her prow against the fleecy surge,
And steers between the cliffs of giant trees,
Rounding the headlands, winning by degrees,
Till she outpours the fulness of her beam,
Unrolling all her silver treasuries
On hamlet, plain, and mountain, farm and stream,
With inky shadows that make light more glorious seem.
Reason dissolves in moonlight; for the moon,
Passing the porch of man's dilated eyes,
Doth cast him straight into a kind of swoon:
She, while the wretch in a delirium lies,
Unveils her passions, longings, rhapsodies,—
Shows him a crystal sea that floods the space
Between the darkling earth and liquid skies;
And bids him enter her cool resting-place
That clasps the whole of nature in one bright embrace.
She would persuade him it is everywhere,
Disguised beneath the blaze of Phœbus' ray,
Alive in the illuminated air,
Imprisoned in the glamour of the day,—
Which by her art she weaves and shreds away,
Using such magic that each blade of grass,
Bush, mead and brake her potency betray,
Yea, stand like sentinels to watch her pass,
And toward her naked truth hold up earth's looking-glass.
Alas, in vain she reasons; men reply
That Phœbus gave her all the wealth she had,
And clepe her sacred wisdom sorcery:
Those who believe her are accounted mad.
And therefore is her visage ever sad;
And as she climbs she suffers, for she feels
The arrows of the over-weening lad
Falling in deadly showers at her heels.
She fears the lightning of those ever-burning wheels.
Yet in her flight she leaves her realm behind
To poets and to lovers, whose wide eyes,
Dilated by the moonlight of the mind,
See every object in a mad disguise,—
Within a tide between the earth and skies;
And every common bank or brook or flower
To their ecstatic questioning replies,
Glows, throbs and moves with a mysterious power,—
As in a moonlit garden at the trysting hour.