Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A NIGHT IN MAY, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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A NIGHT IN MAY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Light and glad through the rooms the gay music is waking
Last Line: Its glory a shade, and its loveliness tears.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


A night not sacred to Spring's opening leaves,
But one of crowded festival.

LIGHT and glad through the rooms the gay music is waking,
Where the young and the lovely are gather'd to-night;
And the soft cloudless lamps, with their lustre, are making
A midnight hour only than morning less bright.

There are vases, -- the flowers within them are breathing
Sighs almost as sweet as the lips that are near;
Light feet are glancing, white arms are wreathing, --
O temple of pleasure! thou surely art here.

I gazed on the scene; 'twas the dream of a minute;
But it seem'd to me even as fairy-land fair:
'Twas the cup's bright inside; and on glancing within it,
What but the dregs and the darkness were there?

-- False wave of the desert, thou art less beguiling
Than false beauty over the lighted hall shed:
What but the smiles that have practised their smiling,
Or honey words measured and reckon'd as said?

Oh, heart of mine! turn from the revellers before thee;
What part hast thou in them, or have they in thee?
What was the feeling that too soon came o'er thee? --
Weariness ever that feeling must be.

Praise -- flattery -- opiates the meanest, yet sweetest,
Are ye the fame that my spirit hath dream'd?
Lute, when in such scenes, if homage thou meetest,
Say, if like glory such vanity seem'd?

O for some island far off in the ocean,
Where never a footstep has press'd but mine own,
With one hope, one feeling, one utter devotion
To my gift of song, once more, the lovely, the lone!

My heart is too much in the things which profane it;
The cold, and the worldly, why am I like them?
Vanity! with my lute chords I must chain it,
Nor thus let it sully the minstrel's best gem.

It rises before me, that island, where, blooming,
The flowers in their thousands are comrades for me;
And where if one perish, so sweet its entombing,
The welcome it seems of fresh leaves to the tree.

I'll wander among them when morning is weeping
Her earliest tears, if such pearls can be tears;
When the birds and the roses together are sleeping,
Till the mist of the daybreak, like hope fulfill'd, clears.

Grove of dark cypress, when noontide is flinging
Its radiance of light, thou shalt then be my shrine;
I'll listen the song which the wild dove is singing,
And catch from its sweetness a lesson for mine.

And when the red sunset at even is dying,
I'll watch the last blush as it fades on the wave;
While the wind, through the shells in its low music sighing,
Will seem like the anthem peal'd over its grave.

And when the bright stars which I worship are beaming,
And writing in beauty and fate on the sky,
Then, mine own lute, be the hour for thy dreaming,
And the night-flowers will open and echo thy sigh.

Alas! but my dream has like sleep's visions vanish'd;
The hall and the crowd are before me again:
Sternly my sweet thoughts like fairies are banish'd:
Nay, the faith which believed in them now seems but vain.

I left the gay circle; -- if I found it dreary,
Were all others there, then, the thoughtless and glad?
Methinks that fair cheek in its paleness look'd weary,
Methinks that dark eye in its drooping was sad.

-- I went to my chamber, -- I sought to be lonely, --
I leant by the casement to catch the sweet air;
The thick tears fell blinding; and am I then only
Sad, weary, although without actual care?

The heart hath its mystery, and who may reveal it?
Or who ever read in the depths of their own? --
How much, we never may speak of, yet feel it,
But, even in feeling it, know it unknown!

Sky of wild beauty, in those distant ages
Of which time hath left scarce a wreck or a name,
Say, were thy secrets laid bare to the sages,
Who held that the stars were life's annals of flame?

Spirit, that ruleth man's life to its ending,
Chance, Fortune, Fate, answer my summoning now;
The storm o'er the face of the night is descending, --
Fair moon, the dark clouds hide thy silvery brow.

Let these bring thy answer, and tell me if sadness
For ever man's penance and portion must be;
Doth the morning come forth from a birthplace of gladness?
Is there peace, is there rest, in thine empire or thee?

Spirit of fate, from yon troubled west leaning,
As its meteor-piled rack were thy home and thy shrine,
Grief is our knowledge, 'twill teach me thy meaning,
Although thou but speak'st it in silence and sign.

I mark'd a soft arch sweep its way over heaven;
It spann'd as it ruled the fierce storm which it bound;
The moonshine, the shower, to its influence seem'd given,
And the black clouds grew bright in the beautiful round.

I look'd out again, but few hues were remaining
On the side nearest earth; while I gazed, they were past:
As a steed for a time with its curb proudly straining,
Then freed in its strength, came the tempest at last.

And this was the sign of thy answer, dark spirit!
Alas! and such ever our pathway appears;
Tempest and change still our earth must inherit, --
Its glory a shade, and its loveliness tears.





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