Littell's Living Age/Volume 144/Issue 1864/A Night Watch

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Littell's Living Age by U.
Volume 144, Issue 1864 : A Night Watch
Originally published in Macmillan's Magazine.

A Night Watch[edit]

"Tout lasse, tout casse, tout passe."

I.
Upon the threshold of her door she lies,
     The yellow harvest light is over all;
Once more she watches as the daylight dies;
     Once more she watches the long shadows fall.

Around, the silent land stretched waste and bare;
     Below, the waters rose and broke and fell;
And throbbing through the heavy windless air
     Came the dull murmur of the distant swell.

The wild white sea-gull screams above her head,
     And bloodless roses climb about the door,
And in her heavy eyes delight is dead,
     And passion lies death-bound for evermore.

Her naked feet rest on the sharp gray stone,
     Her empty hands fall idly still and cold,
Her lips forget the joy they once had known,
     The vain sweet rapture that was theirs of old.

II.
The damp night wind is rising through the land,
     Stirring the grasses on the low sea wall,
The chill sea mist creeps slow along the sand,
     And in the night the dark waves rise and fall.

The midnight tide comes swiftly up the shore,
     Across the darkened sky the black clouds sweep,
And still she watches by that silent door,
     With dreamless eyes weighed down with pain and sleep.

And hour by hour the restless waters rise,
     And drench her loosened hair with wind-blown spray;
About her weary feet the sea-foam lies,
     And yet she watches — till the break of day.

III.
Far off the sunk moon lingers, dim and red;
     Far off the pale dawn wakens, chill and gray;
Over the land a shadowy light is spread,
     And with the night the storm winds die away.

The waves have brought their burden to her feet,
     Her drownèd love, with blood-red seaweed crowned,
Her drownèd love — oh, bitter yoke and sweet
     With which love's hands our idle hearts have bound!

Silent and cold, low at her door he lies.
     About his brow clings close the tangled hair,
And closed forever are the blinded eyes;
     The passionate lips are still and calm and fair.

Take back thy love, he has come back at last,
     Take back thy love of lonely desolate years;
Kiss his dead lips to life, forget the past,
     Wipe off the stain upon his brow with tears!

lV.
Slowly she rises, life has run its race
     Her gray eyes look upon his crownèd head,
On the dark waters, on the calm white face,
     With dull, dead eyes she looks upon the dead.

No cry from her set lips, no flush of pain,
     He has come back; but she had long to wait;
Long weary years had she kept watch in vain:
     Love has come back, but he has come too late.

Take back thy dead, oh strong, dark, ruthless sea,
     Hide his fair face in beds of wind-blown foam;
Fear not, pale death, he will be true to thee!
     Fear not, O sea, he will not leave thy home!

Over the threshold drifts the tide. The door
     Is shut. The waves have borne their dead away.
The watcher is within — but never more
     Will she keep watch until the break of day.