John William Streets

Sonnets of Twilight and Youth

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I: VISION

Charmed with the ceaseless music of the brook-
Babbling with hope and with Youth's deathless song;
Full with the joys of lovers who, sans book,
Have found that happiness is just to long
For some sweet face, some voice, some footstep known,
But, better still, to feel some ardent press
Of lips that are with peerless passion blown,
Mad for the magic of a deathless kiss-
Charmed with the sound and what it bears to me
From out the distance of the unborn years
1 weep-O pinewood shadows chilling me
With shadow-haunted grief, presage of tears!
Must Youth, whose orient wings are lightning- plumed,
Be crowned with grief, to sure death be doomed?

II: SHADOW

0 why should Youth, whose symbol is the lark
That mounts with new-bom dreams unto the sky,
Be doomed at frequent intervals to lie
Voiceless and dreamless, prostrate in the dark?
Why, 'mid the laughter of the carnival,
The feast of roses sensuous with delight,
Why should there break the terror of a call-
Death calling Youth into the unknown night?
For thus at mom the twilight-footed Death
Sweeps from the zenith to the orient rim
Where Youth doth play; and soon his phantom wreath
Fadeth like beauty into distance dim:
Fadeth like yon rich sunset in the sky
That seems sad and tenderly to die!

III: CHALLENGE

Go tell yon shadows stalking 'neath the trees
With silent-footed terror, go tell Death
He cannot with Life's vast uncertainties
Affright the heart of Youth! for Youth cometh
With flush of impulse, passion to defeat,
Undaunted purpose, vision clear descried,
To counteract, lay at Death's unseen feet
The gauntlet of defiance. Far and wide,
Beyond the fear of that unknown exile,
'That brim of Time, that web of darkness drawn
Across Life's orient sky, there breaks a smile
Of light that swells into the hope of dawn:
A dream within the dark, like evening cool,
Like sunset mirror'd in yon darken'd pool.

V: TRIUMPH

Thus dreaming in the shadows of the pines,
Feeling the presage of the unborn years,
I know that Youth will brave the dark confines
And wrest from Death his diadem of years.
I know that should I still and prostrate lie
Amid Death’s harvest there on Belgium’s plain,
No false regret shall scorning wander by
And taunt me that my Youth hath been in vain.
Rather in my last moments will I live
My life’s past purpose rich in destiny,
Its scorn of Ease, its eagerness to give
Challenge to all, blind to eternity,
Death will not, cannot wrest from out my mind
The thought that Love its life in death can find.

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