I heard the forest's green heart beat
As if it heard the happy feet
Of one who came, like young Desire:
At whose fair coming birds and flowers
Sprang up, and Beauty, filled with fire,
Touched lips with Song amid the bowers
And Love led on the dancing Hours.
And then I heard a voice that rang,
And to the leaves and blossoms sang:
"My child is Life: I dwell with Truth:
I am the Spirit glad of Birth:
I bring to all things joy and youth:
I am the rapture of the Earth.
Come look on me and know my worth."
And then the woodland heaved a sigh,
As if it saw a shape go by
A shape of sorrow or of dread,
That seemed to move as moves a mist,
And left the leaves and flowers dead,
And with cold lips my forehead kissed,
While phantoms all around held tryst.
And then I heard a voice that spoke
Unto the fading beech and oak:
"I am the Spirit of Decay,
Whose child is Death, that means relief:
I breathe and all things pass away:
I am Earth's glory and its grief.
Come look on me: thy time is brief."