From the Book of Valentines

by Bliss Carman


 

AT THE GREAT RELEASE


 

When the black horses from the house of Dis
Stop at my door and the dread charioteer
Knocks at my portal, summoning me to go 
On the far solitary unknown way 
Where all the race of men fare and are lost, 
5

Fleeting and numerous as the autumnal leaves 
Before the wind in Lesbos of the Isles;

Though a chill draught of fear may quell my soul
And dim my spirit like a flickering lamp
In the great gusty hall of some old king,

10
Only one mordant unassuaged regret,
One passionate eternal human grief,
Would wring my heart with bitterness and tears
And set the mask of sorrow on my face.

Not youth, nor early fame, nor pleasant days, 

15
Nor flutes, nor roses, nor the taste of wine, 
Nor sweet companions of the idle hour 
Who brought me tender joys, nor the glad sound 
Of children's voices playing in the dusk; 
All these I could forget and bid good-bye 
20

And pass to my oblivion nor repine.

Not the green woods that I so dearly love, 
Nor summer hills in their serenity, 
Nor the great sea mystic and musical, 
Nor drone of insects, nor the call of birds, 

25

Nor soft spring flowers, nor the wintry stars; 
To all the lovely earth that was my home 
Smiling and valiant I could say farewell.

But not, oh, not to one strong little hand,
To one droll mouth brimming with witty words,

30
Nor ever to the unevasive eyes
Where dwell the light and sweetness of the world
With all the sapphire sparkle of the sea!
Ah, Destiny, against whose knees we kneel
With prayer at evening, spare me this one woe!