Night Piece

by William Faulkner

William Faulkner

Trumpets of sun to silence fall
On house and barn and stack and wall.
Within the cottage, slowly wheeling,
The lamplight’s gold turns on the ceiling.
Beneath the stake and windless vane
Cattle stamp and munch their grain;
Below the starry apple bough
Leans the warped and clotted plow.
The moon rolls up, while far away
And thin with sorrow, the sheepdog’s bay
Fills the valley with lonely sound.
Slow leaves of darkness steal around.
The watch the watchman, Death will keep
And man in amnesty may sleep.

The world is still, for she is old
And many’s the bead of a life she’s told.
Her gossip there, the watching moon
View hill and stream and wave and dune
And many ‘s the fair one she’s seen wither:
The pass and pass, she cares not whither—
Lovers’ vows by her made bright,
The outcast cursing at her light;
Mazed within her lambence lies
All the strife of flesh that dies.
Then through the darkened room with whispers speaking
There comes to man the sleep that all are seeking.

The lurking thief, in sharp regret
Watches the far world, waking yet,
But which in sleep will soon be still;
While he upon his misty hill
Hears a dark bird briefly cry
From its thicket on the sky,
And curses the moon because her light
Marks every outcast under night.

Still swings the murderer, bent of knees
In a slightly strained repose,
Nor feels the faint hand of the breeze:
He now with Solomon all things knows:
That, lastly, breath is to a man
But to want and fret a span.

Last updated October 15, 2022