The Past (Whitman)

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So fern, und doch so nah.—GOETHE.


Thick darkness broodeth o'er the world
     The raven pinions of the Night,
Close on her silent bosom furled,
     Reflect no gleam of orient light.
E'en the wild Norland fires that mocked
     The faint bloom of the eastern sky,
Now leave me, in close darkness locked,
     Tonight's weird realm of fantasy.

Borne from pale shadow-lands remote,
     A morphean music, wildly sweet,
Seems, on the starless gloom, to float,
     Like the white-pinioned Paraclete.
Softly into my dream it flows,
     Then faints into the silence drear;
While from the hollow dark outgrows
     The phantom Past, pale gliding near.

The visioned Past; so strangely fair!
     So veiled in shadowy, soft regrets.
So steeped in sadness, like the air
     That lingers when the day-star sets!
Ah! could I fold it to my heart,
     On its cold lips my kisses press,
This waste of aching life impart,
     To win it back from nothingness!

I loathe the purple light of day,
     And shun the morning's golden star,
Beside that shadowy form to stray,
     Forever near, yet oh how far!
Thin as a cloud of summer even,
     All beauty from my gaze it bars;
Shuts out the silver cope of heaven,
     And glooms athwart the dying stars.

Cold, sad, and spectral, by my side,
     It breathes of love's ethereal bloom—
Of bridal memories, long affied
     To the dread silence of the tomb
Sweet, cloistered memories, that the heart
     Shuts close within its chalice cold;
Faint perfumes, that no more dispart
     From the bruised lily's floral fold.

"My soul is weary of her life;"
     My heart sinks with a slow despair;
The solemn, star-lit hours are rife
     With fantasy; the noontide glare,
And the cool morning, fancy free,
     Are false with shadows; for the day
Brings no blithe sense of verity,
     Nor wins from twilight thoughts away.

Oh, bathe me in the Lethean stream,
     And feed me on the lotus flowers;
Shut out this false, bewildering dream,
     This memory of departed hours!
Sweet haunting dream! so strangely fair—
     So veiled in shadowy, soft regrets—
So steeped in sadness, like the air
     That lingers when the day-star sets!

The Future can no charm confer,
     My heart's deep solitudes to break;
No angel's foot again shall stir
     The waters of that silent lake.
I wander in pale dreams away,
     And shun the morning's golden star,
To follow still that failing ray,
     Forever near, yet oh how far!