I stood far off above the haunts of men
Somewhere, I know not, when the sky was dim
From some worn glory, and the morning hymn
Of the gay oriole echoed from the glen.
Wandering, I felt earth's peace, nor knew I sought
A visioned face, a voice the wind had caught.
I passed the waking things that stirred and gazed,
Thought-bound, and heeded not; the waking flowers
Drank in the morning mist, dawn's tender showers,
And looked forth for the Day-god who had blazed
His heart away and died at sundown. Far
In the gray west faded a loitering star.
It seemed that I had wandered through long years,
A life of years, still seeking gropingly
A thing I dared not name; now I could see
In the still dawn a hope, in the soft tears
Of the deep-hearted violets a breath
Of kinship, like the herald voice of Death.
Slow moved the morning; where the hill was bare
Woke a reluctant breeze. Dimly I knew
My Day was come. The wind-blown blossoms threw
Their breath about me, and the pine-swept air
Grew to a shape, a mighty, formless thing,
A phantom of the wood's imagining.
And as I gazed, spell-bound, it seemed to move
Its tendril limbs, still swaying tremulously
As if in spirit-doubt; then glad and free
Crystalled the being won from waiting grove
Into a human likeness. There he stood,
The vine-browed shape of Nature's mortal mood.
"Now have I found thee, Vision I have sought
These years, unknowing; surely thou art fair
And inly wise, and on thy tasselled hair
Glows Heaven's own light. Passion and fame are naught
To thy clear eyes, O Prince of many lands, -
Grant me thy joy," I cried, and stretched my hands.
No answer but the flourish of the breeze
Through the black pines. Then, slowly, as the wind
Parts the dense cloud-forms, leaving naught behind
But shapeless vapor, through the budding trees
Drifted some force unseen, and from my sight
Faded my god into the morning light.
Again alone. With wistful, straining eyes
I waited, and the sunshine flecked the bank
Happy with arbutus and violets where I sank
Hearing, near by, a host of melodies,
The rapture of the woodthrush; soft her mood
The love-mate, with such golden numbers woo'd.
He ceased; the fresh moss-odors filled the grove
With a strange sweetness, the dark hemlock boughs
Moved soft, as though they heard the brooklet rouse
To its spring soul, and whisper low of love.
The white-robed birches stood unbendingly
Like royal maids, in proud expectancy.
Athwart the ramage where the young leaves press
It came to me, ah, call it what you will
Vision or waking dream, I see it still!
Again a form born of the woodland stress
Grew to my gaze, and by some secret sign
Though shadow-hid, I knew the form was thine.
The glancing sunlight made thy ruddy hair
A crown of gold, but on thy spirit-face
There was no smile, only a tender grace
Of love half doubt. Upon thy hand a rare
Wild bird of Paradise perched fearlessly
With radiant plumage and still, lustrous eye.
And as I gazed I saw what I had deemed
A shadow near thy hand, a dusky wing,
A bird like last year's leaves, so dull a thing
Beside its fellow; as the sunshine gleamed
Each breast showed letters bright as crystalled rain,
The fair bird bore "Delight," the other "Pain."
Then came thy voice: "O Love, wilt have my gift?"
I stretched my glad hands eagerly to grasp
The heaven-blown bird, gold-hued, and longed to clasp
It close and know it mine. Ere I might lift
The shining thing and hold it to my breast
Again I heard thy voice with vague unrest.
"These are twin birds and may not parted be."
Full in thine eyes I gazed, and read therein
The paradox of life, of love, of sin,
As on a night of cloud and mystery
One darting flash makes bright the hidden ways,
And feet tread knowingly though thick the haze.
Thy gift, if so I chose, - no other hand
Save thine. - I reached and gathered to my heart
The quivering, sentient things. - Sometimes I start
To know them hidden there. - If I should stand
Idly, some day, and one, - God help me! - breast
A homing breeze, - my brown bird knows its nest.