translated by John Pierrepont Rice

The way was black,
The night was mad with lightning; I bestrode
My wild young colt, upon a mountain road.
And, crunching onward, like a monster’s jaws,
His ringing hoof-beats their glad rhythm kept,
Breaking the glassy surface of the pools,
Where hidden waters slept.
A million buzzing insects in the air
On droning wing made sullen discord there.

But suddenly, afar, beyond the wood,
Beyond the dark pall of my brooding thought,
I saw lights cluster like a swarm of wasps
Among the branches caught.
“The inn!” I cried, and on his living flesh
My broncho felt the lash and neighed with eagerness.

And all this time the cool and quiet wood
Uttered no sound, as though it understood.
Until there came to me, upon the night,
A voice so clear, so clear, so ringing sweet—
A voice as of a woman singing, and her song
Dropped like soft music winging, at my feet,
And seemed a sigh that, with my spirit blending,
Lengthened and lengthened out, and had no ending.

And through the empty silence of the night,
And through the quiet of the hills, I heard
That music, and the sounds of the night wind bore me,
Like spirit voices from an unseen world
Came drifting o’er me.

I curbed my horse, to catch what she might say:
“At night they come, and they are gone by day—”
And then another voice, with low refrain,
And untold tenderness, took up the strain:
“Oh love is but an inn upon life’s way”;
“At night they come, and they are gone by day—”
Their voices mingled in that wistful lay.

Then I dismounted and stretched out my length
Beside a pool, and while my mind was bent
Upon that mystery within the wood,
My eyes grew heavy, and my strength was spent.
And so I slept there, huddled in my cloak.
And now, when by untrodden paths I go,
Through the dim forest, no repose I know
At any inn at nightfall, but apart
I sleep beneath the stars, for through my heart
Echoes the burden of that wistful lay:
“At night they come, and they are gone by day,
And love is but an inn upon life’s way.”


La canción del camino

a Alfredo Gómez Jayme.

   Era un camino negro.
La noche estaba loca de relámpagos. Yo iba
En mi potro salvaje
Por la montaña andina.
Los chasquidos alegres de los cascos,
Como masticaciones de monstruosas mandíbulas
Destrozaban los vidrios invisibles
De las charcas dormidas.
Tres millones de insectos
Formaban una como rabiosa inarmonía.

   Súbito, allá, a lo lejos,
Por entre aquella mole doliente y pensativa
De la selva,
Vi un puñado de luces como un tropel de avíspas.
¡La posada! El nervioso
Látigo persignó la carne viva
De mi caballo, que rasgó los aires
Con un largo relincho de alegría.

   Y como si la selva
Lo comprendiese todo, se quedó muda y fría.

   Y hasta mí llegó, entonces,
Una voz clara y fina
De mujer que cantaba. Cantaba. Era su canto
Una lenta… muy lenta… melodía:
Algo como un suspiro que se alarga
Y se alarga y se alarga… y no termina.

   Entre el hondo silencio de la noche
Y a través del reposo de la montaña, oíanse
Los acordes
De aquel canto sencillo de una música íntima,
Como si fuesen voces que llegaran
Desde la otra vida..

   Sofrené mi caballo;
Y me puse a escuchar lo que decía:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día…

   Y formándole dúo,
Otra voz femenina
Completó así la endecha
Con ternura infinita:

   —El amor es tan sólo una posada
En mitad del camino de la Vida.

   Y las dos voces, luego,
a la vez repitieron con amargura rítmica:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día…

   Entonces, yo bajé de mi caballo
Y me acosté en la orilla
De una charca.
  Y fijo en ese canto que venía
A través del misterio de la selva,
Fui cerrando los ojos al sueño y la fatiga.
Y me dormí, arrullado; y, desde entonces,
Cuando cruzo las selvas por rutas no sabidas,
Jamás busco reposo en las posadas;
Y duermo al aire libre mi sueño y mi fatiga,
Porque recuerdo siempre
Aquel canto sencillo de una música íntima:

   —Todos llegan de noche,
Todos se van de día.
El amor es tan sólo una posada
En mitad del camino de la Vida…

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

This poem is in the public domain.

there are maple trees, one, two, three
but wait there’s 5 more, 2 behind the bungalow
and lots in the poetry state forest
I hear target practice from far away, it’s
probably for shooting deer, bears and dinosaurs
but how will we, still alive, socialize
in the winter? wrapped in bear skins
we’ll sit around pot-bellied stoves eating
the lobelias of fear leftover from desperation
last summer’s woodland sunflowers and bee balm
remind us of black cherry eaten in a hurry
while the yard grows in the moonlight
shrinking like a salary or a damaged item
when we return in the morning for a breakfast
of harvest petunias sprinkled with wild marsh mallow

Copyright © 2021 by Bernadette Mayer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   "Life is but an empty dream!"
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest,"
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
   Learn to labor and to wait.

This poem is in the public domain.

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw;
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

This poem is in the public domain.