The Last Fairies.

All in the gloaming of a golden day,1
All in a mellow autumn long since mute,2
A small voice wander’d out across the mountains.3
And the moon listened, and the stars grew paler,4
The thin brooks hushed themselves, and everywhere5
A tender trouble grew in leafy places.6
And little eyes among the ferns were wet7
With tears, not dew, and folding small thin hands8
They gathered with no shadows in the moonlight.9
For the voice cried, “ The feet of men come nearer,10
The peat-smoke curls where ye have lived so long,11
And it is time to seek another dwelling.”12
Saying, moreover, “ Whither man’s foot cometh13
The fairy ring upon the grass must vanish,14
The tree must fall, the dreamy greenness perish.15
His breath is vaporous in the air around him,16
His heel is on your dwellings, his sharp knife17
Staineth with blood the running brook ye drink of.18
How shall ye dwell where men and women gather ?19
How shall pale things linger in their shadow ?20
Each shadow is a sorrow and a sleep.”21
Then small folk look’d in one another’s faces,22
And little mothers cried above their bairns,23
And all the things of elfland learnt the trouble.24
For unto them the thymy dell was dear ;25
Dearer than life is to a glad girl-mother ;26
Dearer than love is to a happy lover.27
There was no light elsewhere in all the world,28
There was no other home under the moonlight ;29
Here had they dwelt, here had their days been happy.30
And not a squirrel in the boughs but knew them,31
And not a building bird but sang out loud,32
To see their bright eyes peeping at the fledglings.33
The strong deer and the wild fowl feared them not,34
The eagle with his round eye watched them calmly35
When in the moon they clamber’d to her eerie.36
They had been friendly to each dying thing,37
Until the dying ; then they knew what followed,38
And watching how things came and went was pleasure.39
And these things had they named by happy names,40
Down to the little moth new born, and swinging41
Under the green leaf by a thread of silk.42
Home-loving, gentle, tender-hearted folk,43
How could they bear to leave for evermore44
The little place whose face was so familiar ?45
Yet the voice cried, “ Man comes and man is master :46
Ye are as silver dust around his footstep,47
Wafted before him by his weary breathing.”48
And with one voice they answered broken-hearted,49
Man’s footsteps thicken over all the world,50
Yea, even on the high and misty places.51
The tall tree falls before him everywhere,52
The leaves from every hill are on his face,53
How shall we find a place to rest our feet ?”54
And scattered thence by a soft wind from Heaven,55
They fled, they faded ; but within the greenwood56
Still gleam the round rings where their feet have fallen.57