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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Music in the Night

By Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835–1921)

[From Poems. 1882.]

WHEN stars pursue their solemn flight,

Oft in the middle of the night,

A strain of music visits me,

Hushed in a moment silverly,—

Such rich and rapturous strains as make

The very soul of silence ache

With longing for the melody.

Or lovers in the distant dusk

Of summer gardens, sweet as musk,

Pouring the blissful burden out,

The breaking joy, the dying doubt;

Or revellers, all flown with wine,

And in a madness half divine,

Beating the broken tune about.

Or else the rude and rolling notes

That leave some strolling sailors’ throats,

Hoarse with the salt sprays, it may be,

Of many a mile of rushing sea;

Or some high-minded dreamer strays

Late through the solitary ways,

Nor heeds the listening night nor me.

Or how or whence those tones be heard,

Hearing, the slumbering soul is stirred,

As when a swiftly passing light

Startles the shadows into flight;

While one remembrance suddenly

Thrills through the melting melody,—

A strain of music in the night.

Out of the darkness bursts the song,

Into the darkness moves along:

Only a chord of memory jars,

Only an old wound burns its scars,

As the wild sweetness of the strain

Smites the heart with passionate pain,

And vanishes among the stars.