Last Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

THE DESERTED INN


 

I CAME to a deserted inn,
Standing apart, alone;
A place where human joy had been,
And only winds made moan.

I entered by the spacious hall,

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With not a soul to see;
The echo of my own footfall
Was ghostly there to me.

I came upon a sudden door,
Which gave me no reply;

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The more I questioned it, the more
A questioner was I.

I lingered by the mouldy stair,
And by the dusty sill;
And when my faint heart said, "Beware!"

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The silence said, "Be still!"

From room to room I caught the stir
Of garments vanishing,—
The stillness trying to demur,
When one has ceased to sing.

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Like shadows of the clouds which make
The loneliness of noon,
The thing I could not overtake
Was but an instant gone.

’T was summer when I reached the inn;

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The apples were in bloom;
Before I left, the snow drove in,
The frost was like a doom.

At last I came upon the book
Where visitors of yore

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Had writ their names, ere joy forsook
The House of Rest-no-more.

Poor fellow-travellers, beset
With hungers not of earth!
Did you, too, tarry here in debt

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For things of perished worth?

Did something lure you like a strain
Of music wild and vast,
Only to freeze your blood again
With jeers when you had passed?

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Did visions of a fairer thing
Than God has ever made
Fleet through your doorways in the spring,
And would not be delayed?

Did beauty in a half-made song,

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A smile of mystery,
Departing, leave you here to long
For what could never be,—

And thenceforth you were friends of peace,
Acquainted with unrest,

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Whom no perfection could release
From the unworldly quest?

I heard a sound of women’s tears,
More desolate than the sea,
Sigh through the chambers of the years

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Unto eternity.

And then beyond the fathom of sense
I knew, as the dead know,
My lost ideal had journeyed thence
Unnumbered years ago.

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And from that dwelling of the night,
With the gray dusk astir,
I waited for the first gold light
To let me forth to Her.