Charles Harpur

To the Moon

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With musing mind I watch thee steal
Above those envious clouds that hid
Till now thy face; thou dost reveal
More than the glaring sunlight did;
So round me would I have thy light
In one broad sea of beauty lie,
And who, while thou dost rule the night,
For day would sigh,
Nor long for wings that he might flee
To find thy hidden face and ride the dark with thee?
And hence it was that ever forth
My fancy doated more and more
Upon the wild poetic worth
Of that old tale in Grecian lore,
Which to the head of Latmos gave
Supernal glories, passion-won
By him who, in the mystic cave—
Endymion—
Was wont to meet thee night by night,
And drink into his soul the spirit of thy light.

Not thus it was thy beauty shone
In these drear summers lately past;
Disheartened, world-distrusting, lone,
I shuddered in misfortune’s blast!
Many that loved me, once were nigh
Of whom now these I may not trust,
And those forget me—or they lie
Dark in the dust!
And never can we meet again,
Loving and loved as then, beneath thy friendly reign.

O Cynthia! It would even seem
That portions from our spirits fell,
Like scent from flowers, throughout life’s dream;
And by that clue invisible,
A gathered after-scene of all
Affection builded high in vain,
Is drawn thus in dim funeral
Past us again;
The which, where shadowed most with gloom,
Uncertain thought is fain to map with spells of doom.

Let me this night the past forget,
For though its dying voices be
At times like tones from Eden, yet
The years have brought such change for me
That when but now my thoughts were given
To all I’d suffered, loved, and lost,
Turning my eyes again to heaven,
Tear-quenched almost,
I started with impatience strange,
To find thee, even thee, smiling untouched by change!

O vain display of secred pride!
My human heart, what irks thee so?
What, in the scale of being tried,
Should weigh thy happiness or woe?
Pale millions, so by fortune curst,
Have loved for sorrow in the light
Of this yet youthful morn, since first
She claimed the night,
And thus mature even from her birth,
With pale beam chased the glooms that swathed the infant earth.

And be it humbling, too, to know
That when this pile of haughty clay
For ages shall have ceased to glow—
Shrunk to a line of ashes grey,
Which, as the invasive ploughshare drills
The unremembered burial sward,
The wild winds o’er a hundred hills
May whirl abroad—
That in the midnight heavens thou
Shalt hang thy unfaded lamp, and smile serene as now.

Nay, more than this: could even those,
The Edenites, who sorrowed here
Ere Noah’s tilted ark arose,
Or Nimrod chased the bounding deer—
Wherever sepulchred, could they
The rigid bonds of death and doom
Now for a moment shake away—
From out their tomb
They watchful face they still might see,
Just as they dying left it, gazing solemnly.

I sadden! Ah! Why bringest thou
Yet later memories to my mind?
I would but gaze upon thee now
A wiser counsel thence to find!
Shall I not even henceforth aim
To shun in act, in thought control,
Whatever dims the heaven-born flame—
The essential soul
I feel within, and which must be
A living light when thine is quenched eternally?

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Charles Harpur