It was but some few nights ago
I wandered down this quiet lane;
I pray that I may never know
The feelings then I felt, again.
The leaves were shining all about,
You might almost have seen them springing;
I heard the cuckoo’s simple shout,
And all the little birds were singing.
It was not dull, the air was clear,
All lovely sights and sounds to deal,
My eyes could see, my ears could hear,
Only my heart, it would not feel;
And yet that it should not be so,
My mind kept telling me within;
Though nought was wrong that I did know,
I thought I must have done some sin.
For I am sure as I can be,
That they who have been wont to look
On all in Nature’s face they see,
Even as in the Holy Book;
They who with pure and humble eyes
Have gazed and read her lessons high,
And taught their spirits to be wise
In love and human sympathy,
That they can soon and surely tell
When aught has gone amiss within,
When the mind is not sound and well,
Nor the soul free from taint of sin.
For as God’s Spirit from above,
So Beauty is to them below,
And when they slight that holy love,
Their hearts that presence may not know.
So I turned home the way I came,
With downcast looks and heavy heart,
A guilty thing and full of shame,
With a dull grief that had no smart.
It chanced when I was nearly there
That all at once I raised my eyes
Was it a dream, or vision rare,
That then they saw before them rise?
I see it now, before me here,
As often, often I have done,
As bright as it could then appear,
All shining in the setting sun.
Elms, with their mantling foliage spread,
And tall dark poplars rising out,
And blossomed orchards, white and red,
Cast, like a long low fence, about;
And in the midst the grey church-tower,
With one slight turret at its side,
Bringing to mind with silent power
Those thousand homes the elm-trees hide.
And then there came the thought of one
Who on his bed of sickness lay,
Whilst I beneath the setting sun
Was dreaming this sweet hour away.
I thought of hearts for him that beat,
Of aching eyes their watch that kept;
The sister’s and the mother’s seat
And oh! I thought I should have wept.
And oh, my spirit melted then,
The weight fell off me that I bore,
And now I felt in truth again
The lovely things that stood before.
O blessed, blessed scene, to thee,
For that thy sweet and softening power,
I could have fallen upon my knee,
Thy stately elms, thy grey church-tower.
So then I took my homeward way,
My heart in sweet and holy frame,
With spirit, I may dare to say,
More good and soft than when I came.