LONG ere I knew thee—years of loveless days,
A shape would gather from my dreams, and pour
The soul-sweet influence of its gentle gaze
Into my heart, to thrill it to the core:
Then would I wake, with lonely heart to pine
For the nocturnal image—it was thine.
Thine—for though long with a fond moody heed
I sought to find it in the beauteous creatures
I met in the world’s ways, —twas but to bleed
With disappointment, for all forms, all features,
Yet left it void of living counterpart—
The shadowy mistress of my yearning heart.
Thine—when I saw thee first thou seem’dst to me
A being known, yet beautifully new!
As when, to crown some sage’s theory,
Amid heaven’s sisterhoods, into shining view
Comes the conjectured star!—his lucky name
To halo thenceforth with its virgin flame.
But I forget! Far from thy rural home,
Behold I wander —mid primeval woods,
In which but savage things are wont to roam,
Mixing fond questionings with solitude’s
Wild voices, where amid her glades and dells
Enwrapt in twilight trance her shadowy presence dwells.
And now the Hunter, with a swollen speed,
Rushes in thunder at my side, but wears
A softened mien whene’er its reaches lead
My vision westward—where pale fancy rears
Thy wood—next by that brook whose murmurs first,
As with a flattering heed, my love’s new gladness nurst.
And with the river’s murmur, oft a tone
Of that far brook seems blending; accents, too,
Of the dear voice there heard—that voice alone
To me unequalled,—like a silvery dew
Honeyed with manna, dropping near me seems,
As oft I listen, lost in rich memorial dreams.
But vain these musings! Though my spirit’s bride,
Thou knewest not of my love! Though all my days
Must henceforth be inevitably dyed
Or bright, or dark, through thee,—this missive says
Thy lot is cast, and thou a wife wilt be
Ere I again may look (if e’er again) on thee!
The poet’s doom is on me! Poets make
Beauty immortal, and yet luckless miss
The charms they sing; martyrs at fortune’s stake,
As if their soul’s capacity for bliss
Might else mix earth with heaven, and so annul
That want which makes man seek the world-wide beautiful!
Yet, ye wild woods and waters of the earth,
How changed (with all things) shall ye grow to me!
And even the spirit of your summer mirth
Moan pine-like in the woods of memory;
Still, shorn of nearer joy, my heart alone
Out in the mother-whole may henceforth seek its own.