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Drew downward: but all else of Heaven was pure
Up to the Sun, and May from verge to verge,
And May with me from head to heel. And now,
As though 'twere yesterday, as though it were
The hour just flown, that morn with all its sound,
(For those old Mays had thrice the life of these,)
Rings in mine ears. The steer forgot to graze,
And, where the hedge-row cuts the pathway, stood,
Leaning his horns into the neighbour field,
And lowing to his fellows. From the woods
Came voices of the well-contented doves.
The lark could scarce get out his notes for joy,
But shook his song together as he near'd
His happy home, the ground. To left and right,
The cuckoo told his name to all the hills ;
The mellow ouzel fluted in the elm;
The redcap whistled; and the nightingale
Sang loud, as though he were the bird of day.
And Eustace turn'd, and smiling said to me,
“Hear how the bushes echo! by my life,
These birds have joyful thoughts. Think you they sing
Like poets, from the vanity of song ?
Or have they any sense of why they sing ?
And would they praise the heavens for what they have ?"
And I made answer, “ Were there nothing else
For which to praise the heavens but only love,
That only love were cause enough for praise.”
Lightly he laugh’d, as one that read my thought,
And on we went; but ere an hour had pass’d,
We reach'd a meadow slanting to the North ;
Down which a well-worn pathway courted us
To one green wicket in a privet hedge ;
This, yielding, gave into a grassy walk
Thro' crowded lilac-ambush trimly pruned;
And one warm gust, full-fed with perfume, blew
Beyond us, as we enter'd in the cool.
The garden stretches southward. In the midst
A cedar spread his dark-green layers of shade.
The garden-glasses shone, and momently
The twinkling laurel scatter'd silver lights.
“Eustace,” I said, “ this wonder keeps the house.”
He nodded, but a moment afterwards
He cried, “ Look ! look !" Before he ceased I turn’d,
And, ere a star can wink, beheld her there.
For up the porch there grew an Eastern rose,
That, flowering high, the last night's gale had caught,
And blown across the walk. One arm aloft-
Gown’d in pure white, that fitted to the shape-
Holding the bush, to fix it back, she stood.
A single stream of all her soft brown hair
Pour’d on one side : the shadow of the flowers
Stole all the golden gloss, and, wavering
Lovingly lower, trembled on her waist-
Ah, happy shade—and still went wavering down,
But, ere it touch'd a foot, that might have danced
The greensward into greener circles, dipt,
And mix'd with shadows of the common ground !
But the full day dwelt on her brows, and sunn'd
Her violet eyes, and all her Hebe-bloom,
And doubled his own warmth against her lips,
And on the bounteous wave of such a breast
As never pencil drew. Half light, half shade,
She stood, a sight to make an old man young.
So rapt, we near’d the house ; but she, a Rose
In roses, mingled with her fragrant toil,
Nor heard us come, nor from her tendance turn’d
Into the world without ; till close at hand,
And almost ere I knew mine own intent,
This murmur broke the stillness of that air
Which brooded round about her:
“Ah, one rose, One rose, but one, by those fair fingers cull’d, Were worth a hundred kisses press’d on lips Less exquisite than thine.”
She look’d: but all Suffused with blushes-neither self-possess’d Nor startled, but betwixt this mood and that, Divided in a graceful quiet-paused, And dropt the branch she held, and turning, wound Her looser hair in braid, and stirr'd her lips For some sweet answer, though no answer came, Nor yet refused the rose, but granted it, And moved away, and left me, statue-like, In act to render thanks.
I, that whole day, Saw her no more, although I linger'd there Till every daisy slept, and Love's white star Beam'd thro' the thicken'd cedar in the dusk.
So home we went, and all the livelong way With solemn gibe did Eustace banter me. “Now,” said he, “ will you climb the top of Art. You cannot fail but work in hues to dim The Titianic Flora. Will you match My Juliet ? you, not you,—the Master, Love, A more ideal Artist he than all.”
So home I went, but could not sleep for joy, Reading her perfect features in the gloom, Kissing the rose she gave me o'er and o’er, And shaping faithful record of the glance That graced the giving—such a noise of life Swarm'd in the golden present, such a voice Call’d to me from the years to come, and such A length of bright horizon rimm’d the dark. And all that night I heard the watchmen peal The sliding season : all that night I heard The heavy clocks knolling the drowsy hours. The drowsy hours, dispensers of all good, O’er the mute city stole with folded wings, Distilling odours on me as they went To greet their fairer sisters of the East.