by Alfred Austin
Whither, and whence, and why hast fled?
Thou art dumb, my muse; thou art dumb, thou art dead,
As a waterless stream, as a leafless tree.
What have I done to banish thee?
But a moon ago, the whole day long
My ears were full of the sound of song;
And still through my darkly silent dreams
Plashed the fitful music of far-off streams.
When the night turned pale and the stars grew dim,
The morning chanted a dewy hymn.
The fragrant languor of cradled noon
Was lulled by the hum of a self-sung tune.
Joy came on the wings of a jocund lay,
And sorrow in harmony passed away;
And the sunny hours of tideless time
Were buoyed on the surges of rolling rhyme.
The moon went up in a cloudless sky,
Silently but melodiously;
And the glitter of stars and the patter of rain
Were notes and chords of an endless strain.
And vision, and feeling, and sound, and scent,
Were the strings of a sensitive instrument,
That silently, patiently, watched and waited,
And unto my soul reverberated.
In the orchard reddens the rounded fruit
'Mid the yellowing leaves, but my voice is mute.
The thinned copse sighs like a heart forsaken,
But not one chord of my soul is shaken.
Through the gloaming broadens the harvest moon;
The fagged hind whistles his homeward tune;
The last load creaks up the hamlet hill;
'Tis only my voice, my voice that is still.
(The Muse answers)
Poet, look in your poet's heart.
It will tell you what keepeth us twain apart.
I have not left you; I still am near.
But a music not mine enchants your ear.
Another hath entered and nestles deep
In the lap of your love, like a babe asleep.
You watch her breathing from morn till night;
She is all your hearing and all your sight.
Yet fear not, poet, to do me wrong.
She is sweeter far than the sweetest song.
One looks and listens the way she went,
As towards lark that is lost in the firmament.
So gladly to her I you resign,
Her caress is tenderer much than mine;
I hover round you, and hear her kiss
With wonder at its melodiousness.
When you gaze on the moon, you see but her.
You hear her feet when the branches stir;
And sunrise and sunset and starlight only
Make their beauty, without her, feel more lonely.
So how should you, poet, hope to sing?
The lute of Love hath a single string.
Its note is sweet as the coo of the dove;
But 'tis only one note, and the note is Love.
But when once you have paired and built your nest,
And can brood therein with a settled breast,
You will sing once more, and your voice will stir
All hearts with the sweetness gained from her.
Last updated January 14, 2019