Behind the Arras: A Book of the Unseen

by Bliss Carman


 

The Face in the Stream


 

THE sunburnt face in the willow shade
To the face in the water-mirror said,

"O deep mysterious face in the stream,
Art thou myself or am I thy dream?"

And the face deep down in the water's side

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To the face in the upper air replied,

"I am thy dream, thou poor worn face,
And this is thy heart's abiding place.

"Too much in the world, come back and be
Once more my dream-fellow with me,

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"In the far-off untarnished years
Before thy furrows were washed with tears,

"Or ever thy serious creature eyes
Were aged with a mist of memories.

"Hast thou forgotten the long ago

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In the garden where I used to flow,

"Among the hills, with the maple tree
And the roses blowing over me ?—

"I who am now but a wraith of this river,
Forsaken of thee forever and ever,

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"Who then was shine image fair, forecast
In the heart of the water rimpling past!

"Out in the wide of the summer zone
I lulled and allured thee apart and alone,

"The azure gleam and the golden croon

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And the grass with the flaky roses strewn.

"There you would lie and lean above me,
The more you lingered the more to love me,

"Till I became, as the year grew old,
Thy fairest day-dream's fashion and mould,

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"Deep in the water twilight there
Smiling, elusive, wonderful, fair,

"The beautiful visage of thy clear soul
Set in eternity's limpid shoal,

"Thy spirit's countenance, the trace

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Of dawning God in the human face.

"And when yellow leaves came down
Through the silent mornings one by one

"To the frosty meadow, as they fell
Thy pondering heart said, 'All is well

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"'Aye, all is best, for I stake my life
Beyond the boundaries of strife,'

"And then thy feet returned no more,—
While years went over the garden floor,

"With frost and maple, with rose and dew,

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In the world thy river wandered through;—

"Came never again to revive and recall
Thy youth from its water burial.

"But now thy face is battle-dark;
The strife of the world has graven a mark

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"About the lips that are no more mine,
Too sweet to forget, too strong to repine.

"With the ends of the earth for thy garden now,
What solace and what reward hast thou?

"Then he of the earth's sun-traversed side

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To him of the under-world replied,

"O glad mysterious face in the stream,
My lost illusion, my summer dream,

"Thou fairer self of a fonder time,
A far imperishable clime,

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"For thy dear sake I have fared alone
And fronted failure and housed with none.

"What youth was that, when the world was green,
In the lovely mythus Greek and clean,

"Was doomed with his flowery kin to bide,

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A blown white star by the river side,

"And no more follow the sun, foot free
Too long enamoured of one like thee?

"Shall God who abides in the patient flower,
The painted dust sustained by his power,

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"Refuse to the wing of the dragonfly
His sanction over the open sky,—

"A frail detached and wandering thing
Torn loose from the blossomy life of spring?

"And this is man, the myriad one,

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Dust's flower and time's ephemeron.

"And I who have followed the wander-list
For a glimpse of beauty, a wraith in the mist,

"Shall be spilt at last and return to peace,
As dust which the hands of the wind release.

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"This is my solace and my reward,
Who have drained life's dregs from a broken shard."

Wise and grave was the water face,
A youth grown man in a little space;

While the wayworn face by the river side

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Grew gentler-lipped and shadowy-eyed;

For he heard like a sea-horn summoning him
That sound from the world's end vast and dim,

Where the river went wandering out so far
Through a gate in the mountain left ajar,

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The sea birds love and the land birds flee,
The large bleak voice of the burly sea.