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A wisdom and a meaning which may speak
Of spiritual secrets to the ear
Its needful food of truth, there ever is A sympathy with Nature, which reveals,
Not less than her own works, pure gleams of light
And earnest parables of inward lore. Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
As full of freedom, youth, and beauty
As the immortal freshness of that grace Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze.
A youth named Rhocus, wandering in the wood,
Saw an old oak just trembling to its fall,
And, feeling pity of so fair a tree, He propped its gray trunk with admiring care,
And with a thoughtless footstep loitered
But, as he turned, he heard a voice behind
That murmured "Rhœcus !" 'T was as if the leaves,
An hour before the sunset meet me here."
And straightway there was nothing he could see
But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak,
And not a sound came to his straining
But the low trickling rustle of the leaves,
And far away upon an emerald slope The falter of an idle shepherd's pipe.
Now, in those days of simpleness and faith,
Men did not think that happy things were dreams
Because they overstepped the narrow bourne
Of likelihood, but reverently deemed Nothing too wondrous or too beautiful
To be the guerdon of a daring heart. So Rhocus made no doubt that he was blest,
And all along unto the city's gate Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked,
The clear, broad sky looked bluer than its wont,
And he could scarce believe he had not
Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins
Instead of blood, so light he felt and strange.
Young Rhocus had a faithful heart enough,
But one that in the present dwelt too much,
And, taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er
Chance gave of joy, was wholly bound in that,
Like the contented peasant of a vale,
Deemed it the world, and never looked beyond.
So, haply meeting in the afternoon Some comrades who were playing at
The dice were rattling at the merriest,
And Rhocus, who had met but sorry luck,
Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw,
When through the room there hummed a yellow bee
That buzzed about his ear with downdropped legs
As if to light. And Rhocus laughed and said,
Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss,
"By Venus! does he take me for a rose?"
And brushed him off with rough, impatient hand.
But still the bee came back, and thrice again
Rhocus did beat him off with growing wrath.
Then through the window flew the wounded bee,
And Rhocus, tracking him with angry
Then Rhocus beat his breast, and groaned aloud,
And cried, "Be pitiful! forgive me yet This once, and shall never need it
more ! " "Alas!" the voice returned, "'t is thou art blind,
Not I unmerciful; I can forgive,
And Rhocus after heard no other sound, Except the rattling of the oak's crisp leaves,
Like the long surf upon a distant shore, Raking the sea-worn pebbles up and down.
The night had gathered round him: o'er the plain
The city sparkled with its thousand lights,
And sounds of revel fell upon his ear Harshly and like a curse; above, the sky, With all its bright sublimity of stars, Deepened, and on his forehead smote the breeze :
Beauty was all around him and delight, But from that eve he was alone on earth.
I KNOW a falcon swift and peerless As e'er was cradled in the pine:
WHETHER the idle prisoner through his grate Watches the waving of the grass-tuft small,
Which, having colonized its rift i' the wall,⚫
Takes its free risk of good or evil fate, And, from the sky's just helmet draws its lot
Daily of shower or sunshine, cold or hot;
Whether the closer captive of a creed, Cooped up from birth to grind out endless chaff,
Sees through his treadmill-bars the noonday laugh,
And feels in vain his crumpled pinions breed;
Whether the Georgian slave look up and mark,
With bellying sails puffed full, the tall cloud-bark
Ay, pale and silent maiden,
Into the eternal shadow
That girds our life around, Into the infinite silence
Wherewith Death's shore is bound, Thou hast gone forth, beloved!
And I were mean to weep,
Thou liest low and silent,
Thy heart is cold and still, Thine eyes are shut forever,
And Death hath had his will; He loved and would have taken, I loved and would have kept,