Lament of the Stars

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One tone is mute within the starry singing,
The unison fulfilled, complete before;
One chord within the music sounds no more,
And from the stir of flames forever winging
The pinions of our sister, motionless
In pits of indefinable duress,
Are fallen beyond all recovery
By exultation of the flying dance,
Or rhythms holding as with sleep or trance
The maze of stars that only death may free—
Flung through the void's expanse.

In gulfs depressed nor in the gulfs exalted
Shall shade nor lightening of her flame be found;
In space that litten orbits gird around,
Nor in the bottomless abyss unvaulted
Of unenvironed, all-outlying night.
Allotted gyre nor lawless comet-flight
Shall find, and with its venturous ray return
From gloom of undiscoverable scope,
One ray of her to gladden into hope
The doubtful eyes denied that truthward yearn,
The faltering feet that grope.

Beyond restrainless boundary-nights surpassing
All luminous horizons limited,
The substance and the light of her have fed
Ruin and silence of the night's amassing:
Abandoned worlds forever morningless;
Suns without worlds, in frory beamlessness
Girt for the longer gyre funereal;
Inviolate silence, earless, unawaking
That once was found, and level calm unbreaking
Where motion's many ways in oneness fall
Of sleep beyond forsaking.

Circled with limitation unexceeded
Our eyes behold exterior mysteries
And gods unascertainable as these—
Shadows and shapes irresolubly heeded;
Phantoms that tower, and substance scarcely known.
Our sister knows all mysteries one alone,
One shape, one shadow, crowding out the skies;
Whose eyeless head and lipless face debar
All others nameless or familiar,
Filling with night all former lips and eyes
Of god, and ghost, and star:

For her all shapes have fed the shape of night;
All darker forms, and dubious forms, or pallid,
Are met and reconciled where none is valid.
But unto us solution nor respite
Of mystery's multiform incessancy
From unexplored or system-trodden sky
Shall come; but as a load importunate,
Enigma past and mystery foreseen
Weigh mightily upon us, and between
Our sorrow deepens, and our songs abate
In cadences of threne.

A gloom that gathers silence looms more closely,
And quiet centering darkness at its heart;
But from the certitude of night depart
Uncertain god nor eidolon less ghostly;
But stronger grown with strength obtained from light
That failed, and power lent by the stronger night,
Perplex us with new mystery, and doubt
If these our flames, that deathward toss and fall
Be festal lights or lights funereal
For mightier gods within the gulfs without,
Phantoms more cryptical.

New shadows from the wings of Time unfolding
Across the depth and eminence of years,
Fall deeplier with the broadening gloom of fears.
Prophetic-eyed, with planet-hosts beholding
The night take form upon the face of suns,
We see (thus grief's vaticination runs—
Presageful sorrow for our sister slain)
A night wherein all sorrow shall be past,
One with night's single mystery at last;
Nor vocal sun nor singing world remain
As Time's elegiast.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.


The author died in 1961, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.