The Spirit of Beauty

By George Sterling

In sleep I saw her, the immutable,
Who came in haunting on the farther dreams
Of all the poets. As a mist she fled
Before mine eyes enchanted; and her face
Was like a lily hidden in holy dusks—
Even such as gaze, in vision far from Time,
From out the skies of dreamland, being moons
In slumber's realm of shadow. And her eyes
Were great with griefs unsearchable, and gleamed,
Sorrow beyond them, like the larger dew
Of Aidenn, having each Love's perfect star
Mirrored therein. And with her came the hush
That follows music dying, or its peace
About all dead things beautiful. Low light,
Softer than shadow midmost of the rose,
A raiment from the footfall to the brow,
Held her, and clung about her trembling hair.
And she spake words I knew not, but I knew
That this was she whom every poet's soul
Had found for once in vision, and had felt
Thenceforth her presence alway, that, unseen,
Still broke upon his sleep, and was by day
A hunger and a haunting and a grace,
Unutterable. For that chord the heart
Holds vibrant unto wonder, at her words,
Sang suddenly; and her untroubled voice,
Tho' glad, yet held an echoing of harps
To which dead singers had saddened, hearing there
The sorrow in world-voices and the tides
Of Time in travail. And the radiance
That elapsed her limbs was as the memory
And afterglow of all transmuting light
That from old moons of Arcady fell wan
Thro' pearly blossom, or about the isles
Of ocean, long forsaken of their gods,
Gleamed from the foam at twilight. And the hush
That drank her voice so like to falling rills,
Lay sweeter than all harmony: therein
Slept Music and her dreams, and there was set
The silence that enfolds the ineffable.
And I had spoken, but a wonder held
My lips, that I, unworthy, should behold
What others had in guerdon for the pains
Of Poesy (tho' seen but once, nor seen
Save unto sorrow) ; and in words half-mad
Had striven to stay her flight. But swift the mind
Turned with its dawn-light on that vale of dream:
She smiled, then passed forever to her day.

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