Among the Millet

by Archibald Lampman


 

BALLADE OF SUMMER’S SLEEP


 

Sweet summer is gone; they have laid her away—
    The last sad hours that were touched with her grace—
In the hush where the ghosts of the dead flowers play;
    The sleep that is sweet of her slumbering space
Let not a sight or a sound erase                                                  5
    Of the woe that hath fallen on all the lands:
Gather, ye dreams, to her sunny face,
    Shadow her head with your golden hands.

The woods that are golden and red for a day
    Girdle the hills in a jewelled case,                                         10
Like a girl’s strange mirth, ere the quick death slay
    The beautiful life that he hath in chase.
    Darker and darker the shadows pace
        Out of the north to the southern sands,
    Ushers bearing the winter’s mace:                                        15
    Keep them away with your woven hands.

The yellow light lies on the wide wastes gray,
    More bitter and cold than the winds that race,
From the skirts of the autumn, tearing away,
    This way and that way, the woodland lace.                           20
    In the autumn’s cheek is a hectic trace;
        Behind her the ghost of the winter stands;
    Sweet summer will moan in her soft gray place:
        Mantle her head with your glowing hands.

Envoi.

Till the slayer be slain and the spring displace                         25
    The might of his arms with her rose-crowned bands,
Let her heart not gather a dream that is base:
    Shadow her head with your golden hands.