Echoes from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman


 

THE LAST DAY AT STORMFIELD


 

AT Redding, Connecticut,
The April sunrise pours
Over the hardwood ridges
Softening and greening now
In the first magic of spring.
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The wild cherry trees are in bloom,
The bloodroot is white underfoot,
The serene early light flows on,
Touching with glory the world,
And flooding the large upper room
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Where a sick man sleeps.
Slowly he opens his eyes,
After long weariness, smiles,
And stretches his arms overhead,
While those about him take heart.
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With his awakening strength
(Morning and spring in the air,
The strong clean scents of earth,
The call of the golden-shaft
Ringing across the hills),
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He takes up his heartening book,
Opens the volume and reads, —
A page of old rugged Carlyle,
The dour philosopher
Who looked askance upon life,
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Lurid, ironical, grim,
Yet sound at the core.

But weariness returns;
He lays the book aside
With his glasses upon the bed,

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And gladly sleeps. Sleep,
Blessed abundant sleep,
Is all that he needs.

And when the close of day
Reddens upon the hills

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And washes the room with rose,
In the twilight hush
The Summoner comes to him
Ever so gently, unseen,
Touches him on the shoulder;
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And with the departing sun
Our great funning friend is gone.

How he has made us laugh!
A whole generation of men
Smiled in the joy of his wit.

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But who knows whether he was not
Like those deep jesters of old
Who dwelt at the courts of kings,
Arthur’s, Pendragon’s, Lear’s,
Plying the wise fool’s trade,
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Making men merry at will,
Hiding their deeper thoughts
Under a motley array,—
Keen-eyed, serious men,
Watching the sorry world,
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The gaudy pageant of life,
With pity and wisdom and love.

Fearless, extravagant, wild,
His caustic merciless mirth
Was leveled at pompous shams.

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Doubt not behind that mask
There dwelt the soul of a man,
Resolute, sorrowing, sage,
As sure a champion of good
As ever rode forth to fray.
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Haply—who knows?—somewhere
In Avalon, Isle of Dreams,
In vast contentment at least,
With every grief done away,
While Chaucer and Shakespeare wait,
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And Molière hangs on his words,
And Cervantes not far off
Listens and smiles apart,
With that incomparable drawl
He is jesting with Dagonet now.
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