In the Still, Star-Lit Night

Elizabeth Drew Stoddard

     In the still, star-lit night,
By the full fountain and the willow-tree,
     I walked, and not alone—
A spirit walked with me!

     A shade fell on the grass;
Upon the water fell a deeper shade:
     Something the willow stirred,
For to and fro it swayed.

     The grass was in a quiver,
The water trembled, and the willow-tree
     Sighed softly; I sighed loud—
The spirit taunted me.

     All the night long I walked
By the full fountain, dropping icy tears;
     I tore the willow leaves,
I tore the long, green spears!

     I clutched the quaking grass,
And beat the rough bark of the willow-tree;
     I shook the wreathèd boughs,
To make the spirit flee.

     It haunted me till dawn,
By the full fountain and the willow-tree;
     For with myself I walked—
How could the spirit flee?  

More by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard

Closed

The crimson dawn breaks through the clouded east,
And waking breezes round the casement pipe;
They blow the globes of dew from opening buds,
And steal the odors of the sleeping flowers.
The swallow calls its young ones from the eaves,
To dart above their shadows on the lake,
Till its long rollers redden in the sun,
And bend the lances of the mirrored pines.
Who knows the miracle that brings the morn?
Still in my house I linger, though the night—
The night that hides me from myself is gone.
Light robes the world, but strips me bare again.
I will not follow on the paths of day.
I know the dregs within its crystal hours;
The bearers of my cups have served me well;
I drained them, and the bearers come no more.
Rise, morning, rise, for those believing souls
Who seek completion in day’s garish light.
My casement I will close, keep shut my door,
Till day and night are only dreams to me.

November

Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;	
    Long have I listened to the wailing wind,	
And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds,	
    For autumn charms my melancholy mind.	
 
When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:
    The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;	
The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail	
    Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!	
 
Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,	
    The holly-berries and the ivy-tree:
They weave a chaplet for the Old Year’s bier,	
    These waiting mourners do not sing for me!	
 
I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,	
    Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;	
The naked, silent trees have taught me this,—
    The loss of beauty is not always loss!

Christmas Comes Again

Let me be merry now, ’t is time;
     The season is at hand
For Christmas rhyme and Christmas chime,
     Close up, and form the band.

The winter fires still burn as bright,
     The lamp-light is as clear,
And since the dead are out of sight,
     What hinders Christmas cheer?

Why think or speak of that abyss
     In which lies all my Past?
High festival I need not miss,
     While song and jest shall last.

We’ll clink and drink on Christmas Eve,
     Our ghosts can feel no wrong;
They revelled ere they took their leave—
     Hearken, my Soldier’s Song:

“The morning air doth coldly pass,
Comrades, to the saddle spring;
The night more bitter cold will bring
Ere dying—ere dying.
Sweetheart, come, the parting glass;
Glass and sabre, clash, clash, clash,
Ere dying—ere dying.
Stirrup-cup and stirrup-kiss—
Do you hope the foe we’ll miss,
Sweetheart, for this loving kiss,
Ere dying—ere dying?”

The feasts and revels of the year
     Do ghosts remember long?
Even in memory come they here?
     Listen, my Sailor’s song:

“O my hearties. yo heave ho!
Anchor’s up in Jolly Bay—
Hey!
Pipes and swipes, hob and nob—
Hey!
Mermaid Bess and Dolphin Meg,
Paddle over Jolly Bay—
Hey!
Tars, haul in for Christmas Day,
For round the ’varsal deep we go;
Never church, never bell,
For to tell
Of Christmas Day.
Yo heave ho, my hearties O!
Haul in, mates, here we lay—
Hey!”

His sword is rusting in its sheath,
     His flag furled on the wall;
We’ll twine them with a holly-wreath,
     With green leaves cover all.

So clink and drink when falls the eve;
     But, comrades, hide from me
Their graves—I would not see them heave
     Beside me, like the sea.

Let not my brothers come again,
     As men dead in their prime;
Then hold my hands, forget my pain,
     And strike the Christmas chime.