O wailing gust, what hast thou brought with thee,
What sting of desolation? But an hour,
And brave was every shy new–opened flower
Smiling in sun beneath a budding tree.
Now over black hills the skies stoop and lour;
Now on this lonely upland the shrill blast
Thrusts under brown dead crumpled leaves to find
Soft primroses that were unfolding fast;
Now the fair Spring cries through the shuddering wood
Lamenting for her darlings to the wind
That ravishes their youth with laughter rude.
The whole air darkens, sweeping up in storm.
What breath is this of what far power that slays?
What God in blank and towering cloud arrays
His muffled, else intolerable form?
What beautiful Medusa’s frozen gaze?
Lo, out of gloom the first flakes floating pale,
Lost like a dreamer’s thoughts! They shall lie deep
To–morrow on green shoot, on petal frail
And living branches borne down in despair
By the mere weight of that soft–nesting sleep,
Though all the earth look still and white and fair.
Phantasmal and extreme as some blind plain
Upon the far side of the moon, unknown
Deep Polar solitudes of ice enthrone
In the white night of mountain and moraine
The power of that cold Sleep that dwells alone,
Absolute in remotest idleness.
Yet from his fancied lips the freezing breath
Wandering about the world’s warm wilderness
Has drifted on the north wind even hither
These gently whispering syllables of death
Among the English flowers, our Spring to wither.
Not only the brief tender flowers, ah me!
Suffer such desolation, but we too
Who boast our godlike liberty to do
Whate’er we will, and range all climes, ev’n we
Must still abide its coming and our rue.
It breathes in viewless winds and gently falls
Over our spirits, till desire grown sere,
Faith frozen into words, custom like walls
Of stone imprison us, and we acquiesce.
More than the raging elements to fear
Is snow–soft death that comes like a caress.
Life lives for ever: Death of her knows naught.
Our souls through radiant mystery are led,
Clothed in fresh raiment as the old is shed.
But Death the unchanging has no aim, no thought,
Deaf, blind, indifferent, feeds not yet is fed,
Moves not yet crushes, is not rent yet rends:
For as from icebergs killing airs are blown,
His cold sleep to our life–warm ardour sends
Frost wreathing round us delicate as rime,
Making most real what should be dream alone
To the free spirit, the gnawing tooth of time.
Who shall escape, since death and life inweave
Their threads so subtly? Yet may truth be wooed
In our own natures, shaken off the brood
Of thoughts not ours, beliefs our lips believe
But our hearts own not,–alien fortitude.
These are of death; and with his realm conspire
Faint souls that drowse in ignorance unjust,
That with the world corrupt their true desire,
And dully hate and stagnantly despise.
Already they begin to die, to rust;
But those that love are always young and wise.
O Love, my Love, the dear light of whose eyes
Shines on the world to show me all things new,
Falsehood the falser and the true more true,
And tenfold precious all my soul must prize,
Since from our life’s core love so deeply grew,
O let us cleave fast to the heavenly powers
That brought us this, whose unseen spirit flows
Pure as the wind and sensitive as flowers.
They are with us! Let the storm–gathering night
Cover the bleak earth with these whirling snows,
Our hands are joined, our hearts are brimmed with light.