Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO A CYPRESS; ATHENS, 1913, by RHYS CARPENTER

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TO A CYPRESS; ATHENS, 1913, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dark and mysterious watcher of the dead
Last Line: To wander in thine ancient spell.
Subject(s): Cypress Trees; Death; Ghosts; Grief; Secrets; Supernatural; Dead, The; Sorrow; Sadness

DARK and mysterious watcher of the dead,
By sunlight and the quiet fall of noon,
And when with flame the western skies are red,
And when above the graveyard slips the moon,
I pass thee and re-pass;
Now deep in thought, with scarce reverted head
I see thy shadow on the uncut grass,
Now glad with some new treasure
Of spirit's inward pleasure
Laughing I come,—but thou mak'st laughter brief
With echo of the tomb
Where thou hast set thy gloom,
Sombre with death and sinister with grief.

Art thou grown sad with these long-buried dead?
Look, how the sunlight shimmers on their graves!
Beyond thy gate, the bright of day is shed,
Blue laugh the skies and blue the rippled waves;
A boy is singing on the sea;
The birds within thy branches without dread
Chirrup and call, with careless melody;
The winds by cloud and clear
Sing to thee without fear
And kiss thine eyes,—but thou unheeding art,
And nothing moves thy mirth,
Not sun nor sea nor earth;
A boy's song, nor a bird's, can ever reach thy heart.
O changeless mystery, O solemn form,
O spirit darker than the coming storm,
More secret than the wind,
Like those Arabian djinns that rise
In whirl of smoke and touch the skies
When fishermen the flask unbind
Wherein they prisoned lay, art thou!
A minaret of leaf and bough
Wherefrom the sunlight calls to prayer;
Temple of darkness, funeral pyre
Of gloom that burns with sable fire
And flickers with the windy air!
Thou hast so many things to tell
Of midnight moon and winter spell;
Yet oh, I cannot read thy speech!
'Tis but the wind, thy solemn words;
To me 'tis but the song of birds
And lost the thought they teach.

But once three men mine eyes beheld
That walked beneath thy boughs at night;
Was it the moon or hoary eld
That made their looks so white?

They paced, a slow and mournful crew,
And gazed before them without word;
A raven from thy branches flew,
Half shadow, and half bird.

And thrice around the graves they strayed,
And oh, unearthly eyes they wore;
But when they reached thine inner shade,
'Twas moonlight, nothing more.

And all that day, with moving leaf
And boughs that dripped the summer rain,
To me thou wert the live world's grief
For three great men long slain.

Dark and mysterious watcher of the dead,
When I thy ghostly kingdom tread,
With vanished men my soul resign,
My friends shall bear my body's weight
Within thy graveyard's sunny gate
And in that holy shade of thine
Close at thy foot shall bring to sleep
Mine ended life. There shall the deep
Grey peace of God be ever mine;
Thy roots about my body flung
Shall teach my soul thy stately tongue
Thy wordless mystery shall tell;
And thou shalt draw my spirit up
As wine is drawn from ivory cup,
That I with thee may ever dwell
To hear thy birds through summer noon,
And with those Three by midnight moon
To wander in thine ancient spell.

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