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Songs from the Southland

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GEORGE D. PRENTICE. 'Tis midnight's holy hour, and silence nowIs brooding, like a gentle spirit o'erThe still and pulseless world. Hark! on the windsThe bell's deep tones are swelling; 'tis the knellOf the departed year. No funeral trainIs sweeping past; yet, on the stream and wood,With melancholy light, the moonbeams restLike a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirred,As by a mourner's sigh; and, on yon cloud,That floats so still and placidly through heaven,The spirits of the Seasons seem to stand.Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn form,And Winter with its aged locks—and breatheIn mournful cadences, that come abroad,Like the far windharps wild, touching wail,A melancholy dirge o'er the dead year,Gone from the earth forever. 'Tis a timeFor memory and for tears. Within the deep,Still chambers of the heart, a spectre dim,Whose tones are like the wizard voice of time,Heard from the tomb of ages, points its coldAnd solemn finger to the beautifulAnd holy visions, that have passed away,And left no shadow of their lovelinessOn the dead waste of life. The spectre liftsThe coffin-lid of Hope and Joy and Love,And bending mournfully above the pale,Sweet forms that slumber there, scatters dead flowersO'er what has passed to nothingness. The yearHas gone, and with it many a glorious throngOf happy dreams. Its mark is on each brow,Its shadow in each heart. In its swift course,It waved its sceptre o'er the beautiful;And they are not. It laid its pallid handUpon the strong man: and the haughty formIs fallen, and the flashing eye is dim.It trod the hall of revelry, where throngedThe bright and joyous; and the tearful wailOf stricken ones is heard, where erst the songAnd reckless shout resounded. It passed o'erThe battle plain, where sword, and spear and shield,Flashed in the light of midday; and the strengthOf serried hosts is shivered, and the grass,Green from the soil of carnage, waves aboveThe crushed and mouldering skeleton. It came,And faded like a wreath of mist at eve;Yet, ere it melted in the viewless air,It heralded its millions to their home,In the dim land of dreams. Remorseless time!Fierce spirit of the glass and scythe! What powerCan stay him in his silent course, or meltHis iron heart to pity! On, still on,He presses and forever. The proud bird,The Condor of the Andes, that can soarThrough heaven's unfathomable depths, or braveThe fury of the northing hurricane,And bath its plumage in the thunder's homeFurls his broad wing at nightfall, and sinks downTo rest upon his mountain crag; but TimeKnows not the weight of sleep or weariness,And Night's deep darkness has no chain to bindHis rushing pinion. Revolutions sweepO'er earth, like troubled visions o'er the breastOf dreaming sorrow; cities rise and sinkLike bubbles on the water; fiery islesSpring blazing from the ocean, and go backTo their mysterious caverns; mountains rearTo heaven their bold and blackened cliffs, and bowTheir tall heads to the plain; and empires rise,Gathering the strength of hoary centuries,And rush down, like the Alpine avalanche,Startling the nations; and the very stars,Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God,Glitter awhile in their eternal depths,And like the Pleiad, loveliest of their train,Shoot from their glorious spheres, and pass awayTo darkle in the trackless void; yet Time,Time, the tomb-builder, holds his fierce career,Dark, stern, all pitiless, and pauses notAmid the mighty wrecks that strew his path,To sit and muse, like other conquerors,Upon the fearful ruin he hath wrought.