Ay me ! ay me ! the woods decay and fall,1
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,2
Man comes and tills the earth and lies beneath,3
And after many a summer dies the swan.4
Me only cruel immortality5
Consumes : I wither slowly in thine arms,6
Here at the quiet limit of the world,7
A white-hair’d shadow roaming like a dream.8
The ever silent spaces of the East,9
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.10
Alas ! for this gray shadow, once a man—11
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,12
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem’d13
To his great heart none other than a God !14
I ask’d thee, “ Give me immortality.”15
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,16
Like wealthy men who care not how they give.17
But thy strong Hours indignant work’d their wills,18
And beat me down and marr’d and wasted me,19
And tho’ they could not end me, left me maim’d20
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,21
Immortal age beside immortal youth,22
And all I was, in ashes. Can thy love,23
Thy beauty, make amends, tho’ even now,24
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,25
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears26
To hear me ?  Let me go : take back thy gift :27
Why should a man desire in any way28
To vary from the kindly race of men,29
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance30
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all ?31
A soft air fans the cloud apart ; there comes32
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.33
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals34
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,35
And bosom beating with a heart renew’d,36
Thy cheek begins to redden thro’ the gloom,37
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,38
Ere yet they blind the stars, and that wild team39
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,40
And shake the darkness from their loosen’d manes,41
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.42
Lo ! ever thus thou growest beautiful43
In silence, then before thine answer given44
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.45
Why wilt thou ever scare me with thy tears,46
And make me tremble lest a saying learnt,47
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true ?48
The Gods themselves cannot recall their gifts.”49
Ay me ! ay me ! with what another heart50
In days far-off, and with what other eyes51
I used to watch—if I be he that watch’d—52
The lucid outline forming round thee, saw53
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings,54
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood55
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson’d all56
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,57
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm58
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds59
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss’d60
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,61
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing62
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.63
Yet hold me not for ever in thine East :64
How can’ my nature longer mix with thine ?65
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold66
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet67
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam68
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes69
Of happy men that have the power to die,70
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.71
Release me, and restore me to the ground ;72
Thou seëst all things, thou wilt see my grave :73
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn ;74
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,75
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.76