Moonlight in the Pines

by George Sterling (1869–1926)

Full-starred, seraphic Night arose,
    Lifting the Pleiades’ dim lyre
Above that solitude where glows
        Rose-red Aldebaran’s fire.

Mute, ere the darkness could forget
    The crystal hour of evening’s trance,
I felt the little winds that set
        The mirrored stars a-dance.

On restless leaves I heard them pass
    To touch the yellow vines that lay
Like paler pythons in the grass,
        Beside a lonely way.

To forest glades at last it led,
    By Silence chosen as her own:
The pines’ soft sighing overhead
    Seemed but her whispers flown.

Scarcely it seemed to cross the bound
    Where she, aloof, stood sorceress—
That twilight where the feet of sound
        Pass unto nothingness.

A little weary of the speech
    Of burdened man and troubled sea,
I stood and dreamed that time would teach
        Her dream of peace to me,

And, awed by the communing night,
    Forgot the haggard world withdrawn,
Ere on my face there fell a light
        As of a spectral dawn.

It gleamed beyond the barring pine—
    That shattered silver of the moon—
The midnight’s asphodels divine
        On field and woodland strewn.

Among the lesser trees it lay
    Like veiled and pallid ghosts that slept,
About whose forms, as in dismay,
        The fearful shadows crept.

But o’er the dale where Silence stood,
    With tranquil dews austerely crowned,
A wilder glory touched the wood,—
        A sense of things profound.

And subtlier on the enchanted air
    The moonlight’s nacre seemed to melt,
While mosses like a witch’s hair
        Stirred to a wind unfelt.

And, like a messenger of night,
    Mystical, ominous and slow,
A fragile moth, in purposed flight,
        Went past on wings of snow.

It may have been that elder pow’rs
    Stood, immaterial, in the glade;
Perchance the moon’s phantasmal flow’rs
        At shrines unseen were laid.

For in those isles it seemed there shone
    Forsaken marbles, pure and cold—
The gleam of altars overthrown
        And ghostly fanes of old.

And since that hour the night can thrill
    With haunting chords by day unstirred,
And Beauty’s lips, refusing still,
        Move with a secret word.

Sterling, George.  The House of Orchids and Other Poems.  (San Francisco:  A. M. Robertson, 1911).

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