Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE REED, by AUDREY ALEXANDRA BROWN



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THE REED, by            
First Line: This is the song of the reed
Last Line: And all the world shall hearken to his singing!
Subject(s): Flutes; Musical Instruments; Nature; Reeds


This is the song of the reed:
It grew by a stream,
In the fair and pleasant land of Arcady:
That land that's bounded by a placid sea,
Stretching away and away for evermore,
Stirred by no oar,
Broken by never a glimpse of golden shore.

The reed was one of many: but it grew tall,
Greener, more slenderly delicate than all:
Lissom and straight,
With a glimmer of morning dew about its stalk;
It heard the timid feet of the oread pass,
Dancing with shadows in the tender grass:
It heard the trees confer in whispered talk,
And the shy sweet throstle sing to his nesting mate
Early and late.

It fell on a noon
With the daisies first in bud, and a broad white moon
Over the hilltop, full in the face of day,
Pan with the cloven foot came by that way:
And the heat was strong on the upper irised meadow,
Tremulous-bright on the tawny-burning grass—
So Pan forbore to pass,
But flung himself down on a twisted alder root,
Half in, half out of shadow.

Down by his side his flute
Slipped unregarded, while as one in a dream
He heard the endless murmur of the stream,
Clear silver, quaintly set with emerald weeds,
Wimpling in drowsy tones among the reeds.
Over the surface of the tranquil river
He saw the mayflies weave their flitting dance,
Retreat, advance:
And through a maze of interwoven stems
He saw the turquoise dragonflies a-quiver,
Like lovely living gems.

Pan listened and beheld, and the blended sound,
The tapestry of color wrapped him round:
He heard the cricket's thin unceasing quarrel,
He heard the wind among the crimson sorrel,
The beat of tiny, half-transparent wings:
And all these things
Slowly and surely, with miraculous art,
Fashioned a web of music in his heart.

He took his pipes and blew:
Dew-clear and honey-sweet the melody grew:
Softly at first: no wind among the reeds
Walks lighter bearing precious violet-seeds
Or silky down from the tall thistleweeds:
Behold, it grew:
Sweeter and clearer, sweeter yet he blew—
And in his strain the listening alders heard
The faint unhurried murmur of the stream
Rapt in its wistful dream:
They heard the note of song the cricket weaves,
They heard the sighing of their own sad leaves
Plaintively stirred:
The rainbow-quiver of the mayfly's wing,
The gnat's shrill trumpeting.

Sweeter and yet more clear:
Lo, as he played the stream was still to hear:
The thoughtful rushes, necklaced round with dew,
Nearer and nearer drew:
In the thin coppice underneath the hill
The cradled wind lay still,
And the shy oread stayed
Her rapid footsteps in the green wild glade,
To listen, unafraid.

About, around,
His pipes wove song from threads of silver sound,
Airily-exquisite, ambrosial-sweet:
Fainter and farther—suddenly blithe and fleet
As chords of elfin laughter lightly flung
On the breathless air when all the world was young:
Tenderer now,
Like the thrush's plaintive note from an empty nest
On the white hawthorn-bough:
And then
Suddenly—suddenly—suddenly high and clear
As the song of marching men:
Suddenly full of exultant wild unrest
Like the bugles blown from a leaguered town at dawn—
The pipes were still, the quaint musician gone.

The reed yet grows by the stream
In the shepherdess-land of pleasant Arcady,
Where the golden river seeks for the shoreless sea,
And the knotted hazels dream.
Pluck it, hollow it, shape it as you will
Into an ivory flute for a poet's blowing—
It has heard the feet of the wind on the purple hill,
It has heard the breath of the dawn in the iris meadow,
The breeze with all its linnets westward going,
And the shy oread singing to her shadow:
But most of all—
Sweetest of all sweet things by stream or shore,
Sweetest of all sweet things since time began,
It has heard the miracle-melodies of Pan,
And it is a reed no more.
It is an instrument for a poet's hand—
And whoso first shall set its music ringing,
He shall awake the drowsy ears of the land,
And all the world shall hearken to his singing!





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