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John Townsend Trowbridge (Джон Таунсенд Троубридж)

The Old Man of the Mountains under the Moon and Stars

FROM the house of desolation,
From the doors of lamentation,
I went forth into the midnight and the vistas of the moon;
Where through aisles high-arched and shady
Paced the pale and spectral lady,
And with shining footprints silvered the deep velvet turf of June.

In the liquid hush and coolness
Of the slumbering earth, the fullness
Of my aching soul was solaced; till my senses, grown intense,
Caught the evanescent twinkle,
Caugh the fairy-footed tinkle,
Of the dew-fall raining softly on the leafage cool and dense.

The sad cries, the unavailing
Orphans' tears and woman's wailing,
In the shuttered house were buried, and the pale face of the dead;
From the chambers closed and gloomy
Neither sight nor sound came to me,
But great silence was about me, and the great sky overhead.

As a mighty angel leaneth
His calm visage from the zenith,
Gazed the moon : my thoughts flew upward, through pallid atmosphere,
To the planets in their places,
To the infinite starry spaces,
Till despair and death grew distant, and eternal Peace drew near.

Then the faith that oft had failed me,
And the mad doubts that assailed me,
Like two armies that had struggled for some fortress long and well,
Both as by a breath were banished;
Friend and foe together vanished,
And my soul sat high and lonely in her solemn citadel.

Peace! and from her starry station
Came white-pinioned Contemplation,
White and mystical and silent as the moonlight's sheeted wraith;
Through my utter melancholy
Stole a rapture still and holy,
Something deeper than all doubting, something greater than all faith.

And I pondered : "Change is written
Over all the blue, star-litten
Universe ; the moon on high there, once a palpitating sphere,
Now is seamed with ghastly scissures,
Chilled and shrunken, cloven with fissures,
Sepulchres of frozen oceans and a perished atmosphere.

"Doubtless mid yon burning clusters
Ancient suns have paled their lustres,
Worlds are lost with all their wonders, glorious forms of life and thought,
Arts and altars, lore of sages,
Monuments of mighty ages,
All that joyous nature lavished, all that toil and genius wrought.

"So this dear, warm earth, and yonder
Sister worlds that with her wander
Round the parent light, shall perish; on through darkening cycles run,
Whirling through their vast ellipses
Evermore in cold eclipses,
Orphaned planets roaming blindly round a cold and darkened sun!

"This bright haze and exhalation,
Starry cloud we call creation,
Glittering mist of orbs and systems, shall like mist solve and fall,—
Seek the sea whence all ascendeth,
Meet the ocean where all endeth:
Thou alone art everlasting, O thou inmost Soul of all!

"Through all height, all depth, all distance,
All duration, all existence,
Moves one universal nature, flows one vast Intelligence,
Out of chaos and gray ruin
Still the shining heavens renewing,
Flashing into light and beauty, flowering into form and sense.

"Veiled in manifold illusion,
Seeming discord and confusion,
Life's harmonious scheme is builded: earth is but the outer stair,
Is but scaffold-beam and stanchion
In the rearing of the mansion.
Dust enfolds a finer substance, and the air, diviner air.

"All about the world and near it
Lies the luminous realm of spirit,
Sometimes touching upturned foreheads with a strange, unearthly sheen;
Through the deep ethereal regions
Throng invisible bright legions,
And unspeakable great glory flows around our lives unseen;

"Round our ignorance and anguish,
Round the darkness where we languish,
As the sunlight round the dim earth's midnight tower of shadow pours,
Streaming past the dim, wide portals,
Viewless to the eyes of mortals
Till it flood the moon's pale islet or the morning's golden shores.

"Round the world of sense forever
Rolls the bright, celestial river:
Of its presence, of its passing, streaks of faint prophetic light
Give the mind mysterious warning,
Gild its clouds with gleams of morning,
Or some shining soul reflects it to our feeble inner sight."

So by sheen and shade I wandered;
And the mighty theme I pondered
(Vague and boundless as the midnight wrapping world and life and man)
Stooped with dewy whispers to me,
Breathed unuttered meanings through me,
Of man's petty pains and passions, of the grandeur of God's plan!

And I said, "Thou one all-seeing,
Perfect, omnipresent Being,
Sparkling in the nearest dewdrop, throbbing in the farthest star;
By the pulsing of whose power
Suns are sown and systems flower;
Who hast called my soul from chaos and my faltering feet thus far!

"What am I to make suggestion?
What is man to doubt and question
Ways too wondrous for his searching, which no science can reveal?
Perfect and secure my trust is
In thy mercy and thy justice,
Though I perish as an insect by thine awful chariot-wheel!

"Lo! the shapes of ill and error,
Lo! the forms of death and terror,
Are but light-obstructing phantoms, which shall vanish late or soon,
Like this sudden, vast, appalling
Gloom on field and woodland falling
From the wingèed, black cloud-dragon that is flying by the moon!"

Downward wheeled the dragon, driven
Like a falling fiend from heaven;
And the silhouettes of the lindens, on the peaceful esplanade,
Lay once more like quiet islands
In the moonlight and the silence;
And by softly silvered alleys, leafy mazes, still I strayed,

Till, through boughs of sombre maples,
With the pale gleam on its gables,
Lo! the house of desolation, like a ghost amid the gloom!
Then the thought of present sorrow,
Of the palled, funereal morrow,
Filled anew my heart with anguish and the horror of the tomb.

And I cried, "Is God above us?
Are there Powers that guard and love us,
Pilots to the blissful havens? Do they hear the tones of woe,
Death and pain and separation,
Wailing through the wide creation?
Will the high heavens heed or help us; do they, can they feel and know?"

Ah! the heart is very human;
Still the world of man and woman,
Love and loss, throbs in and through us! For the radiant hour is rare,
When the soul from heights of vision
Views the shining plains Elysian,
And in after-times of trouble we forget what peace is there.

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. Menotomy Lake
  2. The Tragedy Queen
  3. An Idyl of Harvest Time
  4. Recollections of «Lalla Rookh»
  5. The Old Burying-Ground

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