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Night has its fear:

As the slow dusk advances, and the day

Fades out in fire along the starry way,

The ancient doubt draws near.

Vague shapes of dread—

Soft owl, or moth, and timid, twittering things—

Move through the growing dark; on furtive wings

The bat flits overhead.

And in the house

The death-watch ticks, the dust of time is stirred

With timorous footfalls, in the night is heard

The gnawing of the mouse.

Through the old room

What phantoms throng, what shapes that to and fro

Tremble, and lips that laughed here long ago—

Gone back into the gloom!

A whip-poor-will

Bleakly across the baleful country cries

From a blurred mouth; and from the west replies

Echo—and all is still.

Now from her shell,

Her body’s prison, with the ancient doubt

And terror stricken, the scared soul looks out,

Asking if all be well.

Great kings have been,

Poets, and mighty prophets—shapes have cried

About the world, or moved in mournful pride;

And are no longer seen.

From many lands

Their plaint was lifted; from how many a shore

Sorrows have wailed, that are not any more!

They sleep with folded hands.

They have their day:

Their cry is loud about the earth, who come

To the one end; the singing lips grow dumb

Always in the one way.

Though they implore,

Brief is the plea, inflexible the fate!

Silence has the last word; and then—the great

Silence, forevermore.

Pondering these,

The fretful spirit in bewilderment

Quickens with a vague doubt, and, not content,

Broods—and is ill at ease.

Her being is

Throned on so frail a pulse; such fleeting breath

Bears up her dream across the gulf of death

And the obscure abyss.

Always she hears

The hurtling chariots of the hurrying blood,

Her shuttling breath that in the solitude

Weaves the one self she wears.

Now first the vast

Veil over heaven is rent, and bares the whole

Shining Reality; whereat the soul

Sickens, and is aghast!

Darkness reveals

The tragic truth; her will sinks hopeless wings

Before the inexorable Fact of things,

Humbling the dread she feels.

With the old Awes

Confronted and the flaming Mystery,

She may not speak; but pondering, suddenly

Grows silent, and withdraws.

She may not bear

That sight: the spangled heavens, from east to west,

Stretch out too wide the confines of the breast,

Straining in wonder there.

Upon what Brow

Of awful eminence—O thought that stuns!—

Is laid that chaplet of a million suns,

Upon what Forehead now?

Who was it wrought

This universal glory all around,

Of glittering worlds forever without bound?—

Great Poet, what a Thought!

It is a Word

Unutterable that is written there;

The spirit, gazing, is one voiceless prayer,

Careless if it be heard.

Her thoughts ascend,

Star beyond star, height beyond aching height

Upward, in adoration infinite,

Forever, without end.

So shall it be!

Till heaven yield her sceptre; till the throne

Of night be shaken, and the Face be known

Beyond eternity:

Till God divide

And rend asunder the embroidered hem

Of darkness; till the starry diadem

And crown be set aside!

Fiction & Literature
November 15
Library of Alexandria