Thomas Aird

The Churchyard: Night The First

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With a quick imperfect shriek,
Rose the thin embodied reek.
Like a thing pursued, it fled
From the kingdoms of the dead,
Through the green silent vales
(As the moon unclouded sails),
O'er the dewy-hazèd hill,
Through the forest deep and still,
By the river's sandy shore,
By the gray cliffs gleaming hoar,
Through the fens, and through the floods
Of the fruitless solitudes,
Far to flee through night away
To the healthful coasts of day.
Back shuddering, shimmering, o'er its grave it sate;
Another ghost was near, and thus they mourned their fate:—

FIRST GHOST

O dim unbodied land!
Joy dwells not there, even pain is at a stand.
A smothering presence fills the air around
Of patience dumb, and fears without a sound.

SECOND GHOST

The Heavenly Watchers where,
That deigned for man to cleave the morning air,
And stooping closed, glad message to fulfil,
Their golden wings on many a glorious hill;
And in earth's green and patriarchal days
With converse joyed our fathers' hearts to raise,
Beneath broad tented trees, blessing their state
With great approval, interdiction great?

FIRST GHOST

Far other state is ours! No simple grace
Of life primeval, no green dwelling-place!
Sun there, nor moon, nor ether molten blue,
Valley, nor tufted hill divides the view,
Nor lucid river, on whose borders blow
Flowers many-hued, and trees of stature grow:
Nor leafy summer, nor the stormy glee
Of winds, when winter falls upon the sea,
With change delights us: nor returning morn,
Nor face of man relieves that sad sojourn.

SECOND GHOST

Were men but wise! Did but Ambition know
The flat endurance of our listless wo,
How to his soul would triumph be denied,
How slacked the spasms of his o'ertorturing pride,
Spun from the baffled heart! Oh, how would fail,
Fires of blood and Passions pale!

FIRST GHOST

Behold the goodly pattern of yon heaven!
Beneath yon moon becalmed the woodlands lie.
By dogs of chase the desert creature driven,
Climbs up the rocky stairs of mountains high;
With sealing light she touches his wild eye,
And all the bliss of slumber is for him.
So sweet yon moon to earth! Sweeter to me
Life fresh of blood would be;
'Twould fill my heart with joy up to the trembling brim.

SECOND GHOST

What though the churchyard, by the glimmering light,
Pours forth the empty children of the night;
O'er seas and lands we flit, but back are fain
To troop dishonoured to our place again.
Vain privilege! it serves us but to show
The joy that we for ever must forego.

FIRST GHOST

O the glad earth! no more, ah! never, there
With chaste clear eyes we'll drink the morning air,
Breathed through the sweet green saplings of the spring,
Fresh by the water-courses flourishing!
No more from cooling shades, at noon of day,
We'll watch the crystal waters slide away;
Till come still evening with her drops of dew,
And her large melting moon hung in the southern blue!

SECOND GHOST

From out the west a haze of thick fine rain
Comes o'er green height, high rock, and smoking plain,
Flies lightly drifted o'er the dimmèd floods,
And shakes its sifted veil upon the woods.
Forth looks the sun, the impearled valley fills
With seeds of light, and sleeks the slippery hills.
Nor yet the showery drops away have ceased
To fall, clear glancing on the darkened east,
When o'er them cast, with saffron horns the Bow
Of Beauty melts the fluid woods below.
With glittering heads, down in the grassy plain
The milk-white herds feed onward in a train;
Sheep nibbling up, goats on the higher slopes,
The shepherds stand upon the mountain-tops.
O beauty! O the glory of the hour!
What living spirit could resist your power?
Not mine; far less it could when rustling through
The crimped translucent cups of leaves, with dew
And sunshine overflown, my love first stood in view.
What tranquil might upon that forehead lies!
How pure the spirit that refines those eyes!
Joy dwelt in her, as light dwells in the stone,
Dear to my heart, but now for ever gone.
God, do but clear her from the grave's foul stains,
Pour back the branching blood along her veins,
Build up that lovely head! Oh let her rise,
Let youth's fine light revive within her eyes!

FIRST GHOST

Forks of fire, heaven's floodgates pouring,
Crushed and jammed the thunders roaring,
My bride of beauty by my side
Shrinking, we were touched—and died!
What means this death? O God upon Thy throne,
Give us the day; we'll let Thee not alone!
From floods, and fields, and ways, arise, ye ghosts,
Tribes of dusk time! kingdoms! unnumbered hosts!
No more of sufferance! upward let us flee
To God's own gates, and pray the end to be.
Why fear the light? Why fear the morning air?
Fill we His skies with shrieks, and he must hear our prayer.

SECOND GHOST

Strong is His arm; it o'er that Power prevailed
Who rose with darkness and His Heavens assailed,
And drove him out, far kindling, as he fell,
Around his head the virgin fires of Hell.
His very eye could clear us all away,
Chase us into the grave, and seal us with the clay.
Hush! breathe not of it, lest for aye He change
To blind obstruction this our nightly range.

FIRST GHOST

Lo! through the churchyard comes a company sweet
Of ghosted infants—who has loosed their feet?
Linked hand in hand, this way they glide along;
But list their softly-modulated song:—

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Thomas Aird