Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRAIL, by DAVID ATKINS



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THE TRAIL, by            
First Line: In solemn rank on either hand
Last Line: Leads .... Home, like any old-world street.
Subject(s): Roads; Paths; Trails


IN SOLEMN rank on either hand
The patient, upright cedars stand.
The trail, worn smooth by countless feet,
Is older than an old-world street;
But no old streets hold such a bower
Encircled by high fern and flower
Whose shadows play on mossy ground;
And no old streets know such a sound
As rises when the constant stream,
Chanting its season-varied theme,
Is colored by the last clear note
From some brave singer's pulsing throat,
Who holds the last branch lit by sun
And dares deny that day is done.
Yet, different as the old world seems,
E'en here youth waits and weaves her dreams,
And lo! the makers of the trail
Pass once again before the veil,
Strange in their garb of ancient days.
And strange, too, that they go their ways
Turning their heads no whit to gaze
Upon the glory of her bower,
Resplendent at the evening hour
With beauty and the light of youth—
They are but phantom folk in truth!
Noiseless, a savage hunter, first,
Marks where the antlered deer has burst
From out his covert fringed with ferns,
And through the quiet air returns
The fading turmoil of his flight.
With laughter low and footsteps light,
A youth and maid in happy plight
Walk slowly on, arm linking arm,
Unconscious of impending harm
In this last sunset of their sway.
Close-following the long-trod way,
A travel-stained priest with pendant cross,
Comes, the first herald of their loss;
And in his steps a ruffian band
Sent out of Spain to burn and brand;
Then, swiftly, seeking to be first,
Heedless of hunger, scorning thirst,
A whole world's venturers, led by dreams
Of rich and undiscovered streams,
Whose waters, clear, and swift and cold,
Sweep over nests of virgin gold;
Behind these, seeking what they left,
Close searching every narrow cleft
And washing over twice-washed sand,
An alien and more patient band,
Whose narrow, Orient eyes, and keen,
Follow their path and leave it clean;
Last, walking slowly where these toiled,
And scanning close the banks despoiled,
The searchers of the sources pass,
Marking each loose stone in the grass,
Noting the contour of the ground,
The color of the soil, the sound
Of certain rock that, like a bell,
Will speak and its long secret tell.
Before these vanish from her sight
A clear voice wakes the birds to flight;
And with his greeting die away
All visions of an earlier day.

In solemn rank on either hand
The patient, upright cedars stand.
The trail, worn smooth by countless feet,
Leads .... home, like any old-world street.





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