Thy Hill Leave Not

A poem by John Frederick Freeman

Thy hill leave not, O Spring,
Nor longer leap down to the new-green'd Plain.
Thy western cliff-caves keep
O Wind, nor branch-borne Echo after thee complain
With grumbling wild and deep.
Let Blossom cling
Sudden and frozen round the eyes of trees,
Nor fall, nor fall.
Be still each Wing,
Hushed each call.

So was it ordered, so
Hung all things silent, still;
Only Time earless moved on, stepping slow
Up the scarped hill,
And even Time in a long twilight stayed
And, for a whim, that whispered whim obeyed.

There was no breath, no sigh,
No wind lost in the sky
Roamed the horizon round.
The harsh dead leaf slept noiseless on the ground,
By unseen mouse nor insect stirred
Nor beak of hungry bird.

Then were voices heard
Mingling as though each
Earth and grass had individual speech.
--Has evening fallen so soon,
And yet no Moon?
--No, but hark: so still
Was never the Spring's voice adown the hill!
I do not feel her waters tapping upon
The culvert's under stone.
--And if 'tis not yet night a thrush should sing.
--Or if 'tis night the owl should his far echo bring
Near, near.--And I
Should know the hour by his long-shaking distant cry.
--But how should echo be? The air is dead,
No song, no wing,
--No footfall overhead
Of beast,--Or labourer passing, and no sound
Of labourer's Good-night, good-night, good-night!
--That we, here underground,
Take to ourselves and breathe unheard Good-night!
--O, it is lonely now with not one sound
Neath that arched profound,
--No throttled note
Sweet over us to float,
--No shadow treading light
Of man, beast, bird.
--If, earth in dumb earth, lie we here unstirred,
--Why, brother, it were death renewed again
If sun nor rain,
--O death undying, if no dear human touch nor sound
Fall on us underground!

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