Classic and Contemporary Poetry
THE VOICES, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: Down in the night I hear them
Last Line: Laughs in the shadow-land.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Night; Secrets; Voices; Bedtime
DOWN in the night I hear them:
The Voices -- unknown -- unguessed, --
That whisper, and lisp, and murmur,
And will not let me rest. --
Voices that seem to question,
In unknown words, of me,
Of fabulous ventures, and hopes and dreams
Of this and the World to be.
Voices of mirth and music,
As in sumptuous homes; and sounds
Of mourning, as of gathering friends
In country burial-grounds.
Cadence of maiden voices --
Their lovers' blent with these;
And of little children singing,
As under orchard trees.
And often, up from the chaos
Of my deepest dreams, I hear
Sounds of their phantom laughter
Filling the atmosphere:
They call to me from the darkness;
They cry to me from the gloom,
Till I start sometimes from my pillow
And peer through the haunted room;
When the face of the moon at the window
Wears a pallor like my own,
And seems to be listening with me
To the low, mysterious tone, --
The low, mysterious clamor
Of voices that seem to be
Striving in vain to whisper
Of secret things to me; --
Of a something dread to be warned of;
Of a rapture yet withheld;
Or hints of the marvelous beauty
Of songs unsyllabled.
But ever and ever the meaning
Falters and fails and dies,
And only the silence quavers
With the sorrow of my sighs.
And I answer: -- O Voices, ye may not
Make me to understand
Till my own voice, mingling with you,
Laughs in the Shadow-land.
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