Nocturne ["I Sit To-Night By The Firelight,"]

A poem by Abram Joseph Ryan

I sit to-night by the firelight,
And I look at the glowing flame,
And I see in the bright red flashes
A Heart, a Face, and a Name.

How often have I seen pictures
Framed in the firelight's blaze,
Of hearts, of names, and of faces,
And scenes of remembered days!

How often have I found poems
In the crimson of the coals,
And the swaying flames of the firelight
Unrolled such golden scrolls.

And my eyes, they were proud to read them,
In letters of living flame,
But to-night, in the fire, I see only
One Heart, one Face, and one Name.

But where are the olden pictures?
And where are the olden dreams?
Has a change come over my vision?
Or over the fire's bright gleams?

Not over my vision, surely;
My eyes -- they are still the same,
That used to find in the firelight
So many a face and name.

Not over the firelight, either,
No change in the coals or blaze
That flicker and flash, as ruddy
To-night as in other days.

But there must be a change -- I feel it.
To-night not an old picture came;
The fire's bright flames only painted
One Heart, one Face, and one Name.

Three pictures? No! only one picture;
The Face belongs to the Name,
And the Name names the Heart that is throbbing
Just back of the beautiful flame.

Who said it, I wonder: "All faces
Must fade in the light of but one;
The soul, like the earth, may have many
Horizons, but only one sun?"

Who dreamt it? Did I? If I dreamt it
'Tis true -- every name passes by
Save one; the sun wears many cloudlets
Of gold, but has only one sky.

And out of the flames have they faded,
The hearts and the faces of yore?
Have they sunk 'neath the gray of the ashes
To rise to my vision no more?

Yes, surely, or else I would see them
To-night, just as bright as of old,
In the white of the coal's silver flashes,
In the red of the restless flames' gold.

Do you say I am fickle and faithless?
Else why are the old pictures gone?
And why should the visions of many
Melt into the vision of one?

Nay! list to the voice of the Heavens,
"One Eternal alone reigns above."
Is it true? and all else are but idols,
So the heart can have only one love?

Only one, all the rest are but idols,
That fall from their shrines soon or late,
When the Love that is Lord of the temple,
Comes with sceptre and crown to the gate.

To be faithless oft means to be faithful,
To be false often means to be true;
The vale that loves clouds that are golden
Forgets them for skies that are blue.

To forget often means to remember
What we had forgotten too long;
The fragrance is not the bright flower,
The echo is not the sweet song.

Am I dreaming? No, there is the firelight,
Gaze I ever so long, all the same
I only can see in its glowing
A Heart, a Face, and a Name.

Farewell! all ye hearts, names, and faces!
Only ashes now under the blaze,
Ye never again will smile on me,
For I'm touching the end of my days.

And the beautiful fading firelight
Paints, now, with a pencil of flame,
Three pictures -- yet only one picture --
A Heart, a Face, and a Name.

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