One dark, dark night--it was long ago,
The air was heavy and still and warm--
It fell to me and a man I know,
To see two girls to their father's farm.
There was little seeing, that I recall:
We seemed to grope in a cave profound.
They might have come by a painful fall,
Had we not helped them over the ground.
The girls were sisters. Both were fair,
But mine was the fairer (so I say).
The dark soon severed us, pair from pair,
And not long after we lost our way.
We wandered over the country-side,
And we frightened most of the sheep about,
And I do not think that we greatly tried,
Having lost our way, to find it out.
The night being fine, it was not worth while.
We strayed through furrow and corn and grass
We met with many a fence and stile,
And a quickset hedge, which we failed to pass.
At last we came on a road she knew;
She said we were near her father's place.
I heard the steps of the other two,
And my heart stood still for a moment's space.
Then I pleaded, 'Give me a good-night kiss.'
I have learned, but I did not know in time,
The fruits that hang on the tree of bliss
Are not for cravens who will not climb.
We met all four by the farmyard gate,
We parted laughing, with half a sigh,
And home we went, at a quicker rate,
A shorter journey, my friend and I.
When we reached the house, it was late enough,
And many impertinent things were said,
Of time and distance, and such dull stuff,
But we said little, and went to bed.
We went to bed, but one at least
Went not to sleep till the black turned grey,
And the sun rose up, and the light increased,
And the birds awoke to a summer day.
And sometimes now, when the nights are mild,
And the moon is away, and no stars shine,
I wander out, and I go half-wild,
To think of the kiss which was not mine.
Let great minds laugh at a grief so small,
Let small minds laugh at a fool so great.
Kind maidens, pity me, one and all.
Shy youths, take warning by this my fate.