Music

By George Sterling

Her face we have a little, but her voice
Is not of our imagining nor time,
And her deep soul is one, perchance, with life,
Immortal, cosmic. Heritage of her
Is half the human birthright. She hath part
With Love and Death in the one mystery
Of being, lifted on eternal wings
From world to world. Her home is in our hearts.
She is that moon for which the sea of tears
Is ever a-tremble, and she seemeth ghost
Of all past beauty, haunting yet the dusk
Of unforgotten days; for of the lost,
The changeless, irrecoverable years,
Regret will waken in her gladdest voice,
And linger, as the sorrow of a dream
Hath shadow for a little in the morn.

In echo and forewhispering of her,
Nature hath many voices—gracious sounds
Whereof she abideth spirit and unrest,
Being their mystery. Such is the voice
Of sea-torn headlands, and the song of pines,
When the world's harp is touched from out the North;
All cadences and murmurs of the wind;
Cascades afar; vast whisperings of rain,
Nightward; Šolian fruitage of the lute;
And gladness of the reawakened birds,
Heard in the morning twilight, like the drip
Of gems athwart a fallen lyre; the calls
That herald, in the wan, blue Arctic sky,
The wreaths of wild, Cadmean water-fowl;
Tinkle of nightly filletings of ice,
Touched by the dawn, and singing of all streams.
She is that sorrow in the ocean's voice.

In that undying garden of the years,
Sweet poesy, she liveth, and her breath,
Like winds a-whisper with a league of rose,
Is fragrance of its flower, she lying pent
Within the web and mystery of words,
Those films of song that of man's victories
Longest endure, outliving tower or dome
Of clasped marble. Not in vain her spell
Hath fallen upon the poets: Keats outsang
His tender nightingale; and hearken Poe,
So sweeter than his bells! Great Milton made
Within that night (how clearer than our day!)
He shared with Homer, solemn harmonies
From out the names of ancient powers and realms,
Caught up and rolled in thunder on his voice.
And Shelley rained her tears from many a line.
So filleth she the high immortal hearts
That sorrow unto song, so whispereth,
Haunting those deeper voices of the Lyre
That have the calling of Life's tragedy.
So calleth she, fast in whose golden toils,
Beauty, tho' captive, hath eternal reign.

Many are we who listen, yet her voice
First came not unto many, seeking first
Her chosen few, that heard her where she passed,
And saw thro' many veils her awful face,
And clasped her raiment in their hands of flame.
To these her voice was virginal, thro' these
She poured, tho' as an echo far removed, -
The passion and the rapture and the storm
Of her great deep, full-tided. These are kings,
Having such queen as she. Silent we wait
Their telling of her glories, tho' their souls
Go mad with stress of the ineffable,
Yearning forever in their powerlessness
To cry the wonder heard, the harmonies
That surge upon them from her hidden deep.

Ah joy that leapeth in the living blood!
She hath the star of loveliness in dow'r,
And Beauty's every vision. At her call,
The fauns have fled their slumbering, the nymphs
Gleam in their mazy covert of the years,
Deep Arcadies, where all the woodland aisles
Are tremulous of blossom. At her call,
We see again the living rose-and-pearl
Fabled of Paphos, and the hurrying doves.
She with the wind awakened, we have heard,
Or seem to hear, the chime of faery feet,
Spurning the sea-strewn jewels of the moon;
Or listening, have lingered with the time
Wherein, to Aphrodite and the dusk,
With travail of the supplicating lyre,
(Low sorrow of the phantom, throbbing chord,
And fine insistencies of grieved strings!)
Ineffably sang Sappho. Helen hath come,
Robed in Time's purple, and Semiramis
Hath lit her deepening twilight as a star.
Or Fancy, bolder for her voice, hath turned
Our dreams to pleasant madness, and we join,
Careless, the revels on a moonlit strand
Of dust of sapphire, softer for the toil,
Perennial, of seas of ruddy wine,
Whose purple foam the Naiads wear as crown.
She hath a realm her own, whose fragile isles,
The sudden Edens of the sea of tone,
Gather from shadow their illusive palms,
From mist their lilies, drawn to fluctuant form
By melody. And here allegiant moons
Wane at her passing, or in larger pearl
Restore her ghostly twilight. Here, unseen,
The lutes of all Elysiums of song
Awake in hidden hands, Orphean winds
Inducing her from quiet. And remote,
From starry gateways to her glooms of rest,
Cometh a murmuring, and whispers vague
Of secret waters, and of harmonies
Adrift upon such wings as seem to bear
The weary unto sleep. For here abide
The ghosts of all sweet strains that to the soul
Pass through sound's charmed portals, and her winds
Are wafture of celestial wings that sweep
Her chords of shadowy gold to films of light.
Ah sense of something beautiful forgot!
The bubble joy lifteth from but a tear.
She awakeneth, who, changeless in her might,
Hath come immortal on her hidden ways
From other worlds and sorrows. At her voice,
Imagination bareth its high vault,
As when, in some great breathing of the night,
The clouds leave heaven lonely, and reveal
The deep of stars. Her beautiful unrest
Holdeth the soul, awaking with her fire
The hidden chords that of their trembling lift
Our Ilions of vision. She hath sought
The garlands of Aglaia, and the dawns
Of Elis, and hath found a solitude.
A silence broodeth on the lonely vale
That once was Tempe. Vainly may we mourn
Their empire faded like the realm of rose
Of some forgotten sunset. Oversoon
The twilight of their temples met the day.
Alas! ere long the rippling harps are mute!
The dust in Daphne wonderful and swift
Hath leapt from many ploughshares. Artemis
Had still a secret place, a holy dusk;
Her moonlight haunteth yet the hidden dew:
She sleepeth with her nymphs. Alcyone
Hath told her sadness to the evening star.
It stirreth nightly in the vibrant deep:
She cometh nevermore. The gods have passed.
They left us, as the soul for sleep, unheard,
With never a farewell, and fled afar,
In the sweet morning of an after-world
To waken beautiful. Delight and dream
Have passed beyond recall, and Memory
Forever walketh with Regret. The years
Grow dark. Our musings deepen. Life, a wraith,
Hath taken in futility the ways
That mete unending gloom. Heard from afar,
Her voice but mourneth, as the midnight sea's,
Borne from the foam and snows of haunted coasts.
And home she hath not—nay, nor any rest.
Waif of eternity, her sightless eyes
Are dewed of the illimitable mists
That clasp her. And her night is very strange.
And where she goeth, there is Loneliness.
And where she loveth, Change and Death shall meet.

Music is the voice of the forgotten years—
The years that cry thro' her unchanging lips
Their loss and evanescence. For her hands
Are those of Memory, and lead the soul
To yesterdays regretful, and the hush
Of holy-lands beyond the winds of change.
In her the voices of our dead are met,
Vanished, lost light, beyond the bourne of Time—
An echo, and the tears are at our hearts.
Far wing the choric seraphim with her.
Lo! her ascensions and exalted thrones!
Ah, ringing of the swift celestial feet
On unconjectured heights of harmony!
Silence and she are sisters. Silence waiteth
Ever beyond her ultimates of flight,
With gentle arms, and breast compassionate,
In welcome. Music hath forever there
A refuge tender, when, upborne afar,
Beyond the stress of thought, and reach of woe,
And past all travailing of finite things,
Swooning she faltereth of the Infinite,
Within the adumbration of whose light
Standeth the archangel Pain, whose holy eyes
Hold buried nights and seas; for whom, with her,
We take thro' storm and mystery the toils
Of life ascendant unto thrones afar,
And for whose shadows come the eternal stars
Of sympathy and peace. The voice of Love
To Sorrow, still she crieth to the soul
Its homelessness, and telleth of domains
Beyond the death-horizon, and of rest
Beyond unrest, and of forgotten dreams
That held the soul before this dream of life,
In hush or troubling of the psychic deep,
Being the voice wherewith immortal things
Speak from their darkness. At her heart abide
The unimagined harmonies that wait
The archangel races of the farther years,
Who to their changed after-skies shall lift
The world's great evensong. Till that far dusk,
She stirreth as a hunger at the heart,
As grief and rapture of the human dream,
And as a calling from eternal heights.

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