Emblems (Germ38)


I LAY through one long afternoon,
Vacantly plucking the grass.
I lay on my back, with steadfast gaze
Watching the cloud-shapes pass;
Until the evening's chilly damps
Rose from the hollows below,
Where the cold marsh-reeds grow.

I saw the sun sink down behind
The high point of a mountain;
Its last light lingered on the weeds
That choked a shattered fountain,
Where lay a rotting bird, whose plumes
Had beat the air in soaring.
On these things I was poring:--

The sun seemed like my sense of life,
Now weak, that was so strong;
The fountain -- that continual pulse
Which throbbed with human song:
The bird lay dead as that wild hope
Which nerved my thoughts when young.
These symbols had a tongue,

And told the dreary lengths of years
I must drag my weight with me;
Or be like a mastless ship stuck fast
On a deep, stagnant sea.
A man on a dangerous height alone,
If suddenly struck blind,
Will never his home path find.

When divers plunge for ocean's pearls,
And chance to strike a rock,
Who plunged with greatest force below
Receives the heaviest shock.
With nostrils wide and breath drawn in,
I rushed resolved on the race;
Then, stumbling, fell in the chase.

Yet with time's cycles forests swell
Where stretched a desert plain:
Time's cycles make the mountains rise
Where heaved the restless main:
On swamps where moped the lonely stork,
In the silent lapse of time
Stands a city in its prime.

I thought: then saw the broadening shade
Grow slowly over the mound,
That reached with one long level slope
Down to a rich vineyard ground:
The air about lay still and hushed,
As if in serious thought:
But I scarcely heeded aught,

Till I heard, hard by, a thrush break forth,
Shouting with his whole voice,
So that he made the distant air
And the things around rejoice.
My soul gushed, for the sound awoke
Memories of early joy:
I sobbed like a chidden boy.




Last modified 2/22/96