To an Old Nurse

By George Sterling

Ever the thrush, on days like these of June,
    Sings to the dead, as leafy shadows veer,
Swung by the slow decline of afternoon:
            The dead folk do not hear.

There go the unmeaning ages as the hours;
    Absolved of Time, they reckon not his flight.
Compassionately starred by lowly flow'rs,
            Lies an unlifting night.

They are made silent in a silent place,
    Abiding past our gratitude and tears;
Nor shall our music touch with choral grace
            Their sleep's unnoted years.

Better, perhaps, no voice importunate
    Deliver at the bourn of their repose
The certain and immutable "Too late!"
            No living heart but knows.

Yet there, of those who lie so dreamless now,
    Is one whose love I knew in seasons past:
O warden of my youngest dreams! O thou
            I reckon with at last!

How should a child be conscious of such care?
    A heedless boy have gratitude? Ah, yes!
Yet still the heart of memory wakes aware,
            Sad for old thanklessness.

And now, to have thee know the full regret
    For thanks unfelt, undreamt-of and unsaid!
Elder and lessoned, now the eyes are wet
            Above the gentle dead.

There is no mound to tell where thou dost sleep:
    O watcher by the bed, lone sentinel
Of long-gone midnights desolate and deep,
            I know thou sleepest well!

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