by John Davidson

(from "fleet Street Eclogues"—2nd Series.)


Bri. Tearfully sinks the pallid sun.

Men. Bring in the lamps : Autumn is done.

Per. Nay, twilight silvers the flashing drops;
And a whiter fall is behind.

Bri. And the wild east mouths the chimney-tops, 
The Pandean pipes of the wind.

Men. The dripping ivy drapes the walls;
The drenched red creepers flare ;
And the draggled chestnut plumage falls
In every park and square.

Per. Nay, golden garlands strew the way
For the old triumph of decay.

Bas. And I know, in a living land of spells—
In an excellent land of rest,
Where a crimson fount of sunset wells
Out of the darkling west—

That the poplar, the willow, the scented lime,
Full-leaved in the shining air
Tarry as if the enchanter time
Had fixed them deathless there.

In arbours and noble palaces
A gallant people live
With every manner of happiness
The amplest life can give.

Per. Where ? where ? In Elfland ?

Men. No; oh no !
In Elfland is no rest,
But rumour and stir and endless woe
Of the unfulfilled behest—
The doleful yoke of the Elfin folk
Since first the sun went west.

The cakes they eat, and the wine they drink,
Savourless nothings are;
The hopes they cherish, the thoughts they think
Are neither near nor far;
And well they know they cannot go
Even to a desert star :

One planet is all their poor estate,
Though a million systems roll;
They are dogged and worried, early and late,
As the demons nag a soul,
By the moon and the sun, for they never can shun
Time's tyrannous control.

The naughty delicate style they keep,
Only the blind can see ;
On holy nights in the forest deep,
When they make high revelry
Under the moon, the dancing tune
Is the wind in a cypress tree.

They burn the elfin midnight oil
Over their tedious lore;
They spin the sand, and still they toil
Though their inmost hearts are sore—
The doleful yoke of the restless folk
For ever and ever more.

But could you capture the elfin queen
Who once was Caesar's prize,
Daunt and gyve her with glances keen
Of unimpassioned eyes,
And hear unstirred her magic word,
And scorn her tears and sighs,

Lean would she seem at once, and old;
Her rosy mouth decayed;
Her heavy tresses of living gold,
All withered in the braid ;
In your very sight the dew and the light
Of her eyes would parch and fade;

And she, the immortal phantom dame,
Would vanish from your ken ;
For the fate of the elves is nearly the same
As the terrible fate of men:
To love; to rue: to be and pursue
A flickering wisp of the fen.

We must play the game with a careless smile,
Though there's nothing in the hand;
We must toil as if it were worth our while
Spinning our ropes of sand;
And laugh and cry, and live and die
As the waft of an unseen wand.

But the elves, besides the endless woe '
Of the unfulfilled behest,
Have only a phantom life, and so
They neither can die nor rest—
Have no real being at all, and know
That therefore they never can rest —
The doleful yoke of the deathless folk
Since first the sun went west.

Per. Then where is the wonderful land of spells,
Where a crimson fount of sunset wells,
And the poplar, the willow, the scented lime
Tarry, full-leaved, till the winter-time,
Where endless happiness life can give.
And only heroic people live!

Bos. We know, we know, we spinners of sand
In the heart of the world is that gracious land;
And it never can fade while the sap returns,
While the sun gives light and the red blood burns.

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