I lay upon the headland-height, and listened
    To the incessant sobbing of the sea
        In caverns under me,
    And watched the waves, that tossed and fled and glistened,
    Until the rolling meadows of amethyst
        Melted away in mist.

    Then suddenly, as one from sleep, I started;
    For round about me all the sunny capes
        Seemed peopled with the shapes
    Of those whom I had known in days departed,
    Apparelled in the loveliness which gleams
        On faces seen in dreams.

    A moment only, and the light and glory
    Faded away, and the disconsolate shore
        Stood lonely as before;
    And the wild-roses of the promontory
    Around me shuddered in the wind, and shed
        Their petals of pale red.

    There was an old belief that in the embers
    Of all things their primordial form exists,
        And cunning alchemists
    Could re-create the rose with all its members
    From its own ashes, but without the bloom,
        Without the lost perfume.

    Ah me! what wonder-working, occult science
    Can from the ashes in our hearts once more
        The rose of youth restore?
    What craft of alchemy can bid defiance
    To time and change, and for a single hour
        Renew this phantom-flower?

    "O, give me back," I cried, "the vanished splendors,
    The breath of morn, and the exultant strife,
        When the swift stream of life
    Bounds o'er its rocky channel, and surrenders
    The pond, with all its lilies, for the leap
        Into the unknown deep!"

    And the sea answered, with a lamentation,
    Like some old prophet wailing, and it said,
        "Alas! thy youth is dead!
    It breathes no more, its heart has no pulsation;
    In the dark places with the dead of old
        It lies forever cold!"

    Then said I, "From its consecrated cerements
    I will not drag this sacred dust again,
        Only to give me pain;
    But, still remembering all the lost endearments,
    Go on my way, like one who looks before,
        And turns to weep no more."

    Into what land of harvests, what plantations
    Bright with autumnal foliage and the glow
        Of sunsets burning low;
    Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations
    Light up the spacious avenues between
        This world and the unseen!

    Amid what friendly greetings and caresses,
    What households, though not alien, yet not mine,
        What bowers of rest divine;
    To what temptations in lone wildernesses,
    What famine of the heart, what pain and loss,
        The bearing of what cross!

    I do not know; nor will I vainly question
    Those pages of the mystic book which hold
        The story still untold,
    But without rash conjecture or suggestion
    Turn its last leaves in reverence and good heed,
        Until "The End" I read.


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