I took the road again last night
On which my boyhood's hills look down;
The old road leading from the town,
The village there below the height,
Its cottage homes, all huddled brown,
Each with its blur of light.
The old road, full of ruts, that leads,
A winding streak of limestone-grey,
Over the hills and far away;
That's crowded here by arms of weeds
And elbows of railfence, asway
With flowers that no one heeds:
That's dungeoned here by rocks and trees
And maundered to by waters; there
Lifted into the free wild air
Of meadow-land serenities:
The old road, stretching far and fair
To where my tired heart sees.
That says, "Come, take me for a mile;
And let me show you mysteries:
The things the yellow moon there sees,
And those few stars that 'round her smile:
Come, take me, now you are at ease,
And walk with me a while."
And I I took it at its word:
And friendships, clothed in olden guise,
Walked with me; and, as I surmise,
Old dreams for twenty years unheard;
And love, who gazed into my eyes
As once when youth adored.
And voices, vocal silences;
And visions, that my youth had seen,
Slipped from each side, in silvery green,
And spoke to me in memories;
And recollections smiled between
My tear-wet face and trees.
Enchantment walked by field and farm,
And whispered me on either side;
And where the fallows broadened wide
Dim mystery waved a moon-white arm,
Or, from the woodland, moonbeam-eyed,
Beckoned a filmy form.
Spirits of wind and starlight wove
From fern to fern a drowsy dance;
Or o'er the wood-stream hung a-trance:
And from the leaves, that dreamed above,
The elfin-dew dropped many a lance
Of light and, glimmering, drove.
Star-arrows through the warmth and musk,
That sparkled on the moss and loam,
And shook from bells of wildflower foam
The bee-like music of the dusk,
And rimmed with spars the lily's dome
And morning-glory's tusk.
And, soft as cobwebs, I beheld
The moths, they say that fairies use
As coursers, come by ones and twos
From stables of the blossoms belled:
While busily, among the dews,
Where croaked the toad and swelled,
The nimble spider climbed his thread,
Or diagramed a dim design,
Or flung, above, a slender line
To launder dews on. Overhead
An insect drew its dagger fine
And stabbed the stillness dead.
And there! far at the lane's dark end,
A light showed, like a glow-worm lamp:
And through the darkness, summer-damp,
An old rose-garden seemed to send
Sweet word to me as of a camp
Of dreams around the bend.
And there a gate! whereat, mid deeps
Of honeysuckle dewiness,
She stood whose lips were mine to press
How long ago! for whom still leaps
My heart with longing and, no less,
With passion here that sleeps.
The smiling face of girlhood; eyes
Of wine-warm brown; and heavy hair,
Auburn as autumn in his lair,
Took me again with swift surprise,
As oft they took me, coming there
In days of bygone ties.
The cricket and the katydid
Pierced silence with their stinging sounds;
The firefly went its golden rounds,
Where, lifting slow one sleepy lid,
The baby rosebud dreamed; and mounds
Of lilies breathed half-hid.
The white moon waded through a cloud,
Like some pale woman through a pool:
And in the darkness, close and cool
I felt a form against me bowed,
Her breast to mine; and deep and full
Her maiden heart beat loud.
I never dreamed it was a trick
That fancy played me; memory
And moonlight.... Yet, it well may be
The old road, too, that night was quick
With dreams that were reality
To every stone and stick.
For instantly when, overhead,
The moon swam there! where soft had gleamed
That vision, now no creature seemed
Only a ruined house and shed.
Was it a dream the old road dreamed?
Or I of her long dead?