At Dawn and Dusk

The Two Keys

Victor James Daley

THERE was a Boy, long years ago,
    Who hour by hour awake would lie,
And watch the white moon gliding slow
    Along her pathway in the sky.

And every night as thus he lay
    Entranced in lonely fantasy,
Borne swiftly on a bright moon-ray
    There came to him a Golden Key.

And with that Golden Key the Boy
    Oped every night a magic door
That to a melody of Joy
    Turned on its hinges evermore.

Then, trembling with delight and awe,
    When he the charmèd threshold crossed,
A radiant corridor he saw—
    Its end in dazzling distance lost.

Great windows shining in a row
    Lit up the wondrous corridor,
And each its own rich light did throw
    In stream resplendent on the floor.

One window showed the Boy a scene
    Within a forest old and dim,
Where fairies danced upon the green
    And kissed their little hands to him.

Sweet strains of elfin harp and horn
    He heard so clearly sounding there,
And he to Wonderland was borne
    And breathed its soft enchanted air.

Then, passing onward with the years,
    He turned his back on Elf and Fay,
And sadly sweet, as if in tears,
    The fairy music died away.

The second window held him long:
    It looked upon a field of fight
Whereon the countless hordes of Wrong
    Fought fiercely with the friends of Right.

And, lo! upon that fateful field,
    Where cannon thundered, banners streamed,
And rushing squadrons rocked and reeled,
    His sword a star of battle gleamed.

And when the hordes of Wrong lay still,
    And that great fight was fought and won,
He stood, bright-eyed, upon a hill,
    His white plume shining in the sun.

A glorious vision! yet behind
    He left it with its scarlet glow,
And faint and far upon the wind
    He heard the martial trumpets blow.

For to his listening ear was borne
    A music more entrancing far
Than strains of elfin harp or horn,
    More thrilling than the trump of war.

No longer as a dreamy boy
    He trod the radiant corridor:
His young man’s heart presaged a joy
    More dear than all the joys of yore.

To that third window, half in awe,
    He moved, and slowly raised his eyes—
And was it earth grown young he saw?
    Or was it man’s lost Paradise?

For all the flowers that ever bloomed
    Upon the earth, and all the rare
Sweet Loveliness by Time entombed,
    Seemed blushing, blooming, glowing there.

And every mellow-throated bird
    That ever sang the trees among
Seemed singing there, with one sweet word—
    “Love! Love!” on every little tongue.

Then he by turns grew rosy-red,
    And he by turns grew passion-pale.
“Sweet Love!” the lark sang overhead,
    “Sweet Love!” sang Love’s own nightingale.

In mid-heart of the hawthorn-tree
    The thrush sang all its buds to bloom;
“Love! Love! Love! Love! Sweet Love,” sang he
    Amidst the soft green sun-flecked gloom.

.     .     .     .     .

She stood upon a lilied lawn,
    With dreamful eyes that gazed afar:
A maiden tender as the Dawn
    And lovely as the Morning Star.

She stooped and kissed him on the brow,
    And in a low, sweet voice said she:
“I am this country’s queen—and thou?”
    “I am thy vassal,” murmured he.

She hid him with her hair gold-red,
    That flowed like sunshine to her knee;
She kissed him on the lips, and said:
    “Dear heart! I’ve waited long for thee.”

And, oh, she was so fair, so fair,
    So gracious was her beauty bright,
Around her the enamoured air
    Pulsed tremulously with delight.

In passionate melody did melt
    Bird-voices, scent of flower and tree,
And he within his bosom felt
    The piercing thorn of ecstasy.

.     .     .     .     .

The years passed by in dark and light,
    In storm and shine; the man grew old,
Yet never more by day or night
    There came to him the Key of Gold.

But ever, ere the great sun flowers
    In gold above the sky’s blue rim,
All in the dark and lonely hours
    There comes an Iron Key to him.

And with that key he opes a wide
    And gloomy door—the Door of Fate—
That makes, whene’er it swings aside,
    A music sad and desolate,

A music sad from saddest source:
    He sees beside the doorway set
The chill, gray figure of Remorse,
    The pale, cold image of Regret.

For all the glory and the glow
    Of Life are passed, and dead, and gone:
The Light and Life of Long Ago
    Are memories only—moonlight wan.

.     .     .     .     .

There is no man of woman born
    So brave, so good, so wise but he
Must sometimes in a night forlorn
    Take up and use the Iron Key.

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