A Lost Garden

By George Sterling

        Under November skies,
        In lovely ruin lies
A garden, long deserted by the birds.
The lacquered gold of old magnolia leaves
        Gleams on its hidden lawn
        Like sweet, forgotten words.
Here a lone poplar, slender-shafted, grieves,
        An hour before the dawn.

        Tranquil the sunlight falls
        As afternoon recalls
The clime that summer's vanished feet have crossed,
A memory's lily flashes on the glance,
        Like dryad-silver seen
        For but a breath, then lost
Far down the western vistas of romance,
        In forests old and green.

        Here lies a reedless pool,
        Mysterious and cool,
Within whose breast, like a remembered sin
A mirrored flower casts her scarlet moon.
        Silent the bloom above,
    Silent the bloom within,
As lovers fearful lest they tell too soon
        Their sorrow and their love.
        Dusk has a gentler grace
    Within this quiet place,
Unhaunted yet by winds that soon shall come.
The shadows meet. The world accepts the night,
        The night her youngest star.
        An owl, no longer dumb,
Cries hollowly.. A shape beyond the sight
        Responds, and from afar.

        Larger for her delay,
        Slow on the path of day,
The moon gives softly of her phantom gold.
The pool, untroubled yet, receives the lure—
        Fain of that fleeting gift,
        Ungatherable, cold,
Ancient, and as the snows of winter pure,
        Caught in the glacier's rift.

        Upon the morning sky
        The nameless clouds go by,
Flower of the heavens and their unchanging dream,
Fled in an hour and in an hour renewed.
        On ways untrod they soar
        Whose fallen shadows stream
On paths of this reproachful solitude,
        Where footsteps come no more.

        But day or night, the spot
        To things imagined not
Stirs mournnfully, as eddying, the leaf
Sinks earthward to the wind's autumnal moan.
        Here, tho no word be said,
    One finds, in twilights brief,
A presence and its whisper, still unknown
        And still uncomforted.

        So shall it be till spring
        Return, and linnets sing
On dawns too delicate for other sound,
And eves aeolian with the harps of rain,—
        Till Earth again confess
        Her dreaming heart has found
The beautiful Illusion and its pain.
        So rich in happiness.

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