The Flute

A poem by John Frederick Freeman

It was a night of smell and dew
When very old things seemed how new;
When speech was softest in the still
Air that loitered down the hill;
When the lime's sweetness could but creep
Like music to slow ears of sleep;
When far below the lapping sea
Lisped but of tired tranquillity....
No, 'twas a night that seemed almost
Of real night the little ghost,
As though a painter painted it
Out of the shallows of his wit--
The easy air, the whispered trees,
Faint prattle of strait distant seas,
Pettiness all: but hark, hark!
Large and rich in the narrow dark
Music rose. Was music never
Braver in her pure endeavour
Against the meanness of the world.
Her purple banner she unfurled
Of stars and suns upon the night
Amazed with the strange living light.
The notes rose where the dark trees knelt;
Their fiery joy made stillness melt
As flame in woods the low boughs burns,
Sere leaves, dry bushes, flame-shaped ferns.
The notes rose as great birds that rise
Majestically in lofty skies,
And in white clouds are lost; and then
Briefly they hushed, and woke again
Slowly silence came
As smoke after sinking flame
That spreads and thins across the sky
When day pales before it die.

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