At The Golden Gate

A poem by George Parsons Lathrop

Before the golden gate she stands,
With drooping head, with idle hands
Loose-clasped, and bent beneath the weight
Of unseen woe. Too late, too late!
Those carved and fretted,
Starred, resetted
Panels shall not open ever
To her who seeks the perfect mate.

Only the tearless enter there:
Only the soul that, like a prayer,
No bolt can stay, no wall may bar,
Shall dream the dreams grief cannot mar.
No door of cedar,
Alas, shall lead her
Unto the stream that shows forever
Love's face like some reflected star!

They say that golden barrier hides
A realm where deathless spring abides;
Where flowers shall fade not, and there floats
Thro' moon-rays mild or sunlit motes -
'Mid dewy alleys
That gird the palace,
And fountain'd spray's unceasing quiver -
A dulcet rain of song-birds' notes.

The sultan lord knew not her name;
But to the door that fair shape came:
The hour had struck, the way was right,
Traced by her lamp's pale, flickering light.
But ah, whose error
Has brought this terror?
Whose fault has foiled her fond endeavor?
The gate swings to: her hope takes flight.

The harp, the song, the nightingales
She hears, beyond. The night-wind wails
Without, to sound of feast within,
While here she stands, shut out by sin.
And be that revel
Of angel or devil,
She longs to sit beside the giver,
That she at last her prize may win.

Her lamp has fallen; her eyes are wet;
Frozen she stands, she lingers yet;
But through the garden's gladness steals
A whisper that each heart congeals -
A moan of grieving
Beyond relieving,
Which makes the proudest of them shiver.
And suddenly the sultan kneels!

The lamp was quenched; he found her dead,
When dawn had turned the threshold red.
Her face was calm and sad as fate:
His sin, not hers, made her too late.
Some think, unbidden
She brought him, hidden,
A truer bliss that came back never
To him, unblest, who closed the gate.

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