A Stroll by Starlight.

We left the Village. On the beaten road1
Our steps and voices were the only sound.2
The lady Moon was not yet come abroad,—3
Our coyly-veiled companion. We found4
A footway through the corn ; upon the ground5
The crake among the holms was occupied ;6
Rapid of movement, from all points around7
Came his rough note whose music is supplied8
By iteration while all sounds are hushed beside.9
The stars were out, the sky was full of them,10
Dotted with worlds. The land was all asleep.11
And, like its gentle breath, from stem to stem12
Through the dry corn a murmur there would
Murmur of music : as when in the deep14
Of the sun-pierced Ægean, with turned ear,15
The Nereids might have heard its waters leap16
And kiss the dimpled islands, thus, less near,17
Fainter, more like a thought, did to our hearts
The midnight melody. Our way then led19
Where myriad blades of grass were drinking dew ;20
Thirsty, to God they looked, by God were fed,21
Whose cloudless heaven could their life renew.22
A copse beside us on the starry blue23
Cut its hard outline. Through the leaves a fire24
Shone with enlarging brilliance ; red of hue25
The large moon rose,— did to a throne aspire26
Of dizzy height, and paled in winning her desire.27
A change of level, and another scene ;28
Life, light, and noise. The roaring furnace-blast,29
Flame-pointed cones and fields of blighted green !30
The vivid fires, dreaming they have surpassed31
The stars in brightness, furiously cast32
Upward their wild strength to possess the sky ;33
Break into evanescent stars at last,—34
Glitter and fall as fountains. Thus men try,35
And thus men try in vain, false gods to deify.36
The roar and flame diminish. Busy light37
Streams from the casting-house. The liquid ore38
Through arch and lancet window, dazzling Night,39
Flows in rich rills upon the sanded floor.40
Steropes, Arges, Brontes, from the shore41
Of Acheron returned, seem glowing here ;42
Such form the phantom of Hephæstus wore,43
Illumined by his forge. Each feature clear,44
Men glorified by fire seem demon-births of fear.45
But the ray reddens, and the light grows dim.46
The cooling iron, counterpaned with sand47
By those night servitors, no longer grim48
In unaccustomed glow, from the green land49
And yonder sky, now ceases to command50
Our thoughts to wander. As we backward gaze,51
The blast renews ; with aspiration grand52
The flames again soar upward : but we raise53
Our glances to God’s Lamp, which overawes their
So forward through the stillness we proceed.55
Winding around a hill, the white road leaves56
Life, light, and noise behind. We, gladly freed57
From human interruption, we, mute thieves,58
Pass onward through Night’s treasure ; each
From her rich store his bosom full of wealth,60
For secret hoarding. Now an oak-wood eaves 61
A cloister way to sanctify the stealth62
Practised in loving guise, and for the spirit’s health.63
We climb into the moonlight once again.64
A broken rail beside the way doth keep65
Neglectful guard above the Vale’s domain.66
The Vale is in the silence laid asleep,67
Not far below. Among her beauties peep68
The wakeful stars, and from above her bed69
The grey night-veil, wherein to rest so deep70
She sank, the Moon hath lifted ; yet the thread71
Of slumber holds, the dream hath from her face
not fled.
Yon meadow track leads by the church ; it saves73
Ten minutes if we follow it. We laugh74
To see our saving lost among the graves.75
Deciphering a moonlit Epitaph76
We linger, laugh and sigh. All mirth is half77
Made up of melancholy. There is pure78
Humour in woe. Man’s grief is oft the staff79
On which his happy thoughts can lean secure ;80
And he who most enjoys, he too can most endure.81
We leave the tombstones, death- like, white, and
Fixed in the dim light,—awful, unbeheld.83
A squalid village, straggling up a hill84
We pass. In passing, one among us yelled,85
And from no gallinaceous throat expelled86
A crow sonorous. From the near church tower,87
Through the cold, voiceless air of night there
The passing bell of a departed hour :89
What sign of budding day ?  How will the morn-
ing flower ?