At Dawn and Dusk


Victor James Daley

THE NIGHT is young yet; an enchanted night
In early summer: calm and darkly bright.

I love the Night, and every little breeze
She brings, to soothe the sleep of dreaming trees.

Hearst thou the Voices? Sough! Susurrus!— Hark!
’Tis Mother Nature whispering in the dark!

Burden of cities, mad turmoil of men,
That vex the daylight—she forgets them then.

Her breasts are bare; Grief gains from them surcease:
She gives her restless sons the milk of Peace.

To sleep she lulls them—drawn from thoughts of pelf—
By telling sweet old stories of herself.

.     .     .     .     .

All secrets deep—yea, all I hear and see
Of things mysterious—Night reveals to me.

I know what every flower, with drowsy head
Down-drooping, dreams of—and the seeming dead.

I know how they, escaped from care and strife,
Ironically moralise on Life.

And know what—when the moon walks on the waves—
They whisper to each other in their graves.

I know that white clouds drifting from stark coasts
Across the sky at midnight are the ghosts

Of sailors drowned at sea, who yearn to win
A quiet grave beside their kith and kin

In still green graveyards, where they lie at ease
Far from the sound of surge and roar of seas.

I know the message of the mournful rain
That beats upon the widow’s window-pane.

I know the meaning of the roar of seas;
I know the glad Spring sap-song of the trees;

And that great chant to which in tuneful grooves
The green round earth upon its axis moves;

And that still greater chant the Bright Sun sings—
Fire-crowned Apollo—the great chant that brings

All things to life, and draws through spaces dim,
And star-sown realms, his planets after him.

I know the tune that led, since Life began,
The upward, downward, onward March of Man.

I hear the whispers that the Angels twain
Of Death and Life exchange in meeting—fain

Are they to pause and greet, yet may not stay.
“Never!” “For ever.” This is all they say.

I hear the twitterings inarticulate
Of souls unborn that press around the Gate

Of Birth, each striving which shall first escape
From formless vapour into human shape.

I know the tale the bird of passionate heart,
The nightingale, tries ever to impart

To men, though vainly—for I well believe
That in her brown breast beats the heart of Eve,

Who with her sweet, sad, wistful music tries
To tell her sons of their lost Paradise,

And solemn secrets Man had grace to know,
When God walked in the Garden long ago.

.     .     .     .     .

Yea, I have seen, methought, on nights of awe,
The vision terrible Lucretius saw:

The trembling Universe—suns, stars, grief, bliss—
Plunging for ever down a black abyss.

But more I love good Bishop Jeremy,
Who likens all the star-worlds that we see—

Which seem to run an everlasting race—
Unto a snowstorm sweeping on through space.

Suns, planets, stars, in glorious array
They march, melodious, on their unknown way.

Thought, seraph-winged and swifter than the light,
Unto the dim verge of the Infinite,

Pursues them, through that strange ethereal flood
In which they swim (mayhap it is the blood

Of Universal God wherein they are
But corpuscles—sun, satellite, and star—

And their great stream of glory but a dim,
Small pulse in the remotest vein of Him)

Pursues in vain, and from lone, awful glooms
Turns back to earth again with weary plumes.

.     .     .     .     .

Through glacial gulfs of Space the soul must roam
To feel the comfort of its earthly home.

Ah, Mother dear! broad-bosomed Mother Earth!
Mother of all our Joy, Grief, Madness, Mirth!—

Mother of flower and fruit, of stream and sea!—
We are thy children and must cling to thee.

I lay my head upon thy breast and hear—
Small, small and faint, yet strangely sweet and clear—

The hum and clash of little worlds below,
Each on its own path moving, swift or slow.

And listening, ever with intenter ear,
Through din of wars invisible I hear

A Homer—genius is not gauged by mass—
Singing his Iliad on a blade of grass.

And nations hearken: his great song resounds
Unto the tussock’s very utmost bounds.

States rise and fall, each blade of grass upon,
But still his song from blade to blade rolls on

Through all the tussock-world, and Helen still
Is Fairest Fair, and Ajax wild of will—

An Ajax whose huge size, when measured o’er,
Is full ten-thousandth of an inch or more—

Still hurls defiance at the gods whose home
Is in the distant, awful, dew-drop dome

That trembling hangs, suspended from a spray
An inch above him—worlds of space away.

Old prophecies foretell—but Time proves all—
The day will come when it, like Troy, shall fall.

Lo! through this small great wondrous song there runs
The marching melody of stars and suns.

.     .     .     .     .

I know these things, yet cannot speak and tell
Their meanings. Over all is cast a spell.

Secrets they are, sealed with a sevenfold seal;
My soul knows what my tongue may not reveal.

.     .     .     .     .

I love the Night! Bright Day the soul shuts in;
Night sends it soaring to its starry kin.

If I must leave at last my place of birth—
This homely, gracious, green, familiar Earth,

With all it holds of sorrow and delight—
I pray my parting-hour may be at night,

And that her curtain dark may softly fall
On scenes I love, ere I depart from all.

Then shall I haply, journeying through the Vast
Mysterious Silences, take one long, last

Fond look at Earth, and watch from depths afar
The dear old planet dwindling to a star;

And sigh farewell unto the friends of yore,
Whose kindly faces I shall see no more.

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