Robert Laurence Binyon

To the Summer Night

A sultry perfume of voluptuous June
Enchants the air still breathing of warm day;
But now the impassioned Night draws over, soon
To fold me, in this high hollow, quite away
From oaken groves beneath and glimmering bay
And valley rock--bestrewn;
From all but shadowy leaves and scented ground
And this intense blue slowly deepening round,
From all but thoughts of beauty and delight
And thee that stealest as with hair unbound
O'er the hushed earth, and lips sighing, enamoured Night.

Not the fair vestal of the Spring's cold sky,
But flushed from the ancestral East, thy home,
Drowsing the land, thou stirrest joy to a sigh,
Longing to passion and wild thoughts, that roam
As through those hungering Asian forests come
Panthers of ardent eye;
While over worlds wandering extravagant,
Like some divine and naked Corybant,
Thou movest; dark woods tremble and suspire;
And mortal spirits for life's full fountain pant,
As in content awakes the genius of desire.

Richer than jewelled Indian realm is thine,
O stepper from the mountain--tops! for whom
On viewless branches of the heavenly vine
The white stars cluster faint or thickly bloom
Through the sapphire abyss of glowing gloom.
Press out a magic wine
For me--I thirst--from that intensest height,
Where even our keen thought, outsoaring sight,
Faints and despairs, ay, from some virgin star
Brim me a cup of that untreasured light
Lone in a world unreached, abounding, and afar!

Most far is now most dear. Blot out the near!
Lost is the earth beneath me, lost the day's
Removed ambition, all that fretful sphere
Drowned in the dark, and quenched its trivial praise.
I would behold beyond a mortal's gaze,
Behold ev'n now, ev'n here,
The beauty strange, the ecstasy extreme,
Of what should this divine gloom best beseem,
The bosom of a Goddess, or her hair,
Invisible and fragrant--gliding dream,
Yet near as my heart beating, of such charm aware.

Why have we toiled so patiently to bend
This bow of arduous life? Unto what mark?
For what have set to our desire no end,
Steered to the utmost stormy sea our bark,
Piercing with eagle thought the frozen dark,
Been bold and gay to spend
Our warm blood, hazarded wild odds, and let
The bright world perish? What far prize to get?
What thing is this no speech could ever frame,
Nor hundred creeds ever imprison yet?
We breathe for it, and die, yet never named its name.

Star--trembling Night, Mother of songs unsung
And leaves unborn beneath the barren rind,
Who findest for forbidden hope a tongue,
Who treasurest most the treasure undivined
And flowers that banquet but the careless wind;
To whom all joy is young;
Prophetess of the fire that one day leaping
Shall burn the world's corruption, of the sleeping
Swords that shall strike down tyrants from their throne,
Mother of faith, our frail thought onward sweeping,
Breathe nearer, whisper close, spells of the dear unknown.

O of thy fated children number me!
Now while the alien day deep--sunken lies
And only the awakened soul may see,
Far from the lips that flatter or despise,
Foster my fond hope with thy certainties,
From time's subjection free,
That I may woo from some bare branch a flower,
Yea, from this world a beauty and a power
She gives not of herself; sustain me still
Through the harsh day, through every taming hour,
To find thy promise truth, thy secret grace fulfil. 

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