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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the First. Epimetheus, or the Poet’s Afterthought

HAVE I dreamed? or was it real,

What I saw as in a vision,

When to marches hymeneal

In the land of the Ideal

Moved my thought o’er Fields Elysian?

What! are these the guests whose glances

Seemed like sunshine gleaming round me?

These the wild, bewildering fancies,

That with dithyrambic dances

As with magic circles bound-me?

Ah! how cold are their caresses!

Pallid cheeks, and haggard bosoms!

Spectral gleam their snow-white dresses,

And from loose, dishevelled tresses

Fall the hyacinthine blossoms!

O my songs! whose winsome measures

Filled my heart with secret rapture!

Children of my golden leisures!

Must even your delights and pleasures

Fade and perish with the capture?

Fair they seemed, those songs sonorous,

When they came to me unbidden;

Voices single, and in chorus,

Like the wild birds singing o’er us

In the dark of branches hidden.

Disenchantment! Disillusion!

Must each noble aspiration

Come at last to this conclusion,

Jarring discord, wild confusion,

Lassitude, renunciation?

Not with steeper fall nor faster,

From the sun’s serene dominions,

Not through brighter realms nor vaster,

In swift ruin and disaster,

Icarus fell with shattered pinions!

Sweet Pandora! dear Pandora!

Why did mighty Jove create thee

Coy as Thetis, fair as Flora,

Beautiful as young Aurora,

If to win thee is to hate thee?

No, not hate thee! for this feeling

Of unrest and long resistance

Is but passionate appealing,

A prophetic whisper stealing

O’er the chords of our existence.

Him whom thou dost once enamor,

Thou, beloved, never leavest;

In life’s discord, strife, and clamor,

Still he feels thy spell of glamour;

Him of Hope thou ne’er bereavest.

Weary hearts by thee are lifted,

Struggling souls by thee are strength ened,

Clouds of fear asunder rifted,

Truth from falsehood cleansed and sifted,

Lives, like days in summer, lengthened!

Therefore art thou ever dearer,

O my Sibyl, my deceiver!

For thou makest each mystery clearer,

And the unattained seems nearer,

When thou fillest my heart with fever!

Muse of all the Gifts and Graces!

Though the fields around us wither,

There are ampler realms and spaces,

Where no foot has left its traces:

Let us turn and wander thither!