To One Asking Lighter Songs

By George Sterling

A gentle sadness best becomes
    The features of the perfect Muse:
The shock of laughter but benumbs
    The lips that crave immortal dews.

For she hath known diviner fears,
    And she hath held her vigils far;
But never in untroubled years,
    Nor world that grief came not to mar.

For joy is as the wreaths that lie
    Foam-wrought along the sterile sands;
And sorrow as the voice whereby
    The ocean saddens all its lands,—

That calls afar to pine or palm
    The changeless trouble of the deep;
That murmurs in the gentlest calm,
    And haunts, unknown, the realm of sleep.

But pleasure's foam, so fondly prized,
    We strive to keep (unduly dear—
Its very touch scarce realized)
    With hands unwarmed, till, lo! a tear.

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