Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SEVEN TWILIGHTS: 1, by CONRAD AIKEN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

SEVEN TWILIGHTS: 1, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The ragged pilgrim, on the road to nowhere
Last Line: "a lantern, which he does not know is out."
Subject(s): Night; Trees; Bedtime

THE ragged pilgrim, on the road to nowhere,
Waits at the granite milestone. It grows dark.
Willows lean by the water. Pleas of water
Cry through the trees. And on the boles and boughs
Green water-lights make rings, already paling.
Leaves speak everywhere. The willow leaves
Silverly stir on the breath of moving water,
Birch-leaves, beyond them, twinkle, and there on the hill,
And the hills beyond again, and the highest hill,
Serrated pines, in the dusk, grow almost black.
By the eighth milestone on the road to nowhere
He drops his sack, and lights once more the pipe
There often lighted. In the dusk-sharpened sky
A pair of night-hawks windily sweep, or fall,
Booming, toward the trees. Thus had it been
Last year, and the year before, and many years:
Ever the same. "Thus turns the human track
Backward upon itself, I stand once more
By this small stream . . ." Now the rich sound of leaves,
Turning in air to sway their heavy boughs,
Burns in his heart, sings in his veins, as spring
Flowers in veins of trees; bringing such peace
As comes to seamen when they dream of seas.
"O trees! exquisite dancers in gray twilight!
Witches! fairies! elves! who wait for the moon
To thrust her golden horn, like a golden snail,
Above that mountain -- arch your green benediction
Once more over my heart. Muffle the sound of bells,
Mournfully human, that cries from the darkening valley;
Close, with your leaves, about the sound of water:
Take me among your hearts as you take the mist
Among your boughs!" . . . Now by the granite milestone,
On the ancient human road that winds to nowhere,
The pilgrim listens, as the night air brings
The murmured echo, perpetual, from the gorge
Of barren rock far down the valley. Now,
Though twilight here, it may be starlight there;
Mist makes elfin lakes in the hollow fields;
The dark wood stands in the mist like a somber island
With one red star above it. . . . "This I should see,
Should I go on, follow the falling road, --
This I have often seen. . . . But I shall stay
Here, where the ancient milestone, like a watchman,
Lifts up its figure eight, its one gray knowledge,
Into the twilight; as a watchman lifts
A lantern, which he does not know is out."

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