Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE POSTERN GATE, by JOHN LAWSON STODDARD



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THE POSTERN GATE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I chose me a lovely garden
Last Line: "is gilding the postern gate."
Subject(s): Gardens & Gardening; Grief; Life; Sleep; Sorrow; Sadness


I chose me a lovely garden,
Beneath whose ivied wall
A lake's blue wavelets murmur
As evening shadows fall, --

A garden, whose leafy windows
Frame visions of Alpine snow
On peaks that burn to crimson
In sunset's afterglow.

And there, in its sweet seclusion,
I built me a mansion fair,
With many a classic statue
And Eastern relic rare,

And volumes, whose precious pages
Hold all that the wise have said, --
The latest among the living,
The greatest among the dead.

And I sat in those fragrant arbors
Of laurel and palm and pine,
And held in the tranquil twilight
My darling's hand in mine;

And said "We will here he happy,
And let the mad world go;
Its gold no longer tempts us,
Still less do its pomp and show;

"No more shall its cares annoy us,
And under these stately trees
With Nature and Art and Letters
Our souls shall take their ease."

But a brood of griefs pursued us,
Like evil birds of prey;
They lodged in the trees' tall branches,
They shadowed the cloudless day;

They flew to the darkened casement,
And beat on the wind-swept shade,
And oft in the sleepless midnight
We listened and were afraid;

And daily came the tidings
Of folly and crime and woe,
And one by one kept dying
The friends of long ago.

For the Past is ever one's master,
And Memory mocks at space,
And Trouble travels with us,
However swift our pace;

And envy is always envy,
Though called by a foreign name,
And perfidy, greed, and malice
Are everywhere the same.

I thought I had left behind me
That gloomy realm of care,
But really one never leaves it,
Its shadow is everywhere.

So I learned at last the lesson
That walls, and gates, and keys
Can never exclude life's sorrows;
They enter as they please.

And if we ever acquire
The perfect life we crave,
A subtle warning tells us
Its background is the grave.

Perhaps I have almost reached it,
For when I am walking late,
I see a shrouded stranger
Beside my postern gate;

And a sudden chill creeps o'er me
At sight of that figure grim,
For I fancy that he is waiting
For me in the twilight dim;

And I know he will one day beckon
With gesture of command,
And I shall follow him mutely
Away to the Silent Land,

And all that I here have treasured
In fountain, and tree, and stone
Will pass to the hands of others,
Whom I have never known.

Hence over his sombre features
There flickers a ghostly smile,
As if he would say, "What matter?
Your cares are not worth while;

"The trouble which gives you anguish,
The woes o'er which you weep,
Will all be soon forgotten
In my long, dreamless sleep.

"Enjoy the fleeting moment;
I cannot always wait,
And the glow of the coming sunset
Is gilding the postern gate."





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