Finale - The Wayside Inn - Part Third


    These are the tales those merry guests
    Told to each other, well or ill;
    Like summer birds that lift their crests
    Above the borders of their nests
    And twitter, and again are still.

    These are the tales, or new or old,
    In idle moments idly told;
    Flowers of the field with petals thin,
    Lilies that neither toil nor spin,
    And tufts of wayside weeds and gorse
    Hung in the parlor of the inn
    Beneath the sign of the Red Horse.

    And still, reluctant to retire,
    The friends sat talking by the fire
    And watched the smouldering embers burn
    To ashes, and flash up again
    Into a momentary glow,
    Lingering like them when forced to go,
    And going when they would remain;
    For on the morrow they must turn
    Their faces homeward, and the pain
    Of parting touched with its unrest
    A tender nerve in every breast.

    But sleep at last the victory won;
    They must be stirring with the sun,
    And drowsily good night they said,
    And went still gossiping to bed,
    And left the parlor wrapped in gloom.
    The only live thing in the room
    Was the old clock, that in its pace
    Kept time with the revolving spheres
    And constellations in their flight,
    And struck with its uplifted mace
    The dark, unconscious hours of night,
    To senseless and unlistening ears.

    Uprose the sun; and every guest,
    Uprisen, was soon equipped and dressed
    For journeying home and city-ward;
    The old stage-coach was at the door,
    With horses harnessed, long before
    The sunshine reached the withered sward
    Beneath the oaks, whose branches hoar
    Murmured: "Farewell forevermore."

    "Farewell!" the portly Landlord cried;
    "Farewell!" the parting guests replied,
    But little thought that nevermore
    Their feet would pass that threshold o'er;
    That nevermore together there
    Would they assemble, free from care,
    To hear the oaks' mysterious roar,
    And breathe the wholesome country air.

    Where are they now?    What lands and skies
    Paint pictures in their friendly eyes?
    What hope deludes, what promise cheers,
    What pleasant voices fill their ears?
    Two are beyond the salt sea waves,
    And three already in their graves.
    Perchance the living still may look
    Into the pages of this book,
    And see the days of long ago
    Floating and fleeting to and fro,
    As in the well-remembered brook
    They saw the inverted landscape gleam,
    And their own faces like a dream
    Look up upon them from below.


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