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Forgot the haggard world withdrawn,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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