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The Poems of William Watson

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The mighty poets from their flowing storeDispense like casual alms the careless ore;Through throngs of men their lonely way they go,Let fall their costly thoughts, nor seem to know.—Not mine the rich and showering hand, that strewsThe facile largess of a stintless Muse.A fitful presence, seldom tarrying long,Capriciously she touches me to song—Then leaves me to lament her flight in vain,And wonder will she ever come again.


Thou burden of all songs the earth hath sung,  Thou retrospect in Time's reverted eyes,  Thou metaphor of everything that dies,That dies ill-starred, or dies beloved and young    And therefore blest and wise,—O be less beautiful, or be less brief,  Thou tragic splendour, strange, and full of fear!  In vain her pageant shall the Summer rear?At thy mute signal, leaf by golden leaf,    Crumbles the gorgeous year.

Ah, ghostly as remembered mirth, the tale  Of Summer's bloom, the legend of the Spring!  And thou, too, flutterest an impatient wing,Thou presence yet more fugitive and frail,    Thou most unbodied thing,Whose very being is thy going hence,  And passage and departure all thy theme;  Whose life doth still a splendid dying seem,And thou at height of thy magnificence    A figment and a dream.

Stilled is the virgin rapture that was June,  And cold is August's panting heart of fire;  And in the storm-dismantled forest-choirFor thine own elegy thy winds attune    Their wild and wizard lyre:And poignant grows the charm of thy decay,  The pathos of thy beauty, and the sting,  Thou parable of greatness vanishing!For me, thy woods of gold and skies of grey    With speech fantastic ring.

For me, to dreams resigned, there come and go,  'Twixt mountains draped and hooded night and morn,  Elusive notes in wandering wafture borne,From undiscoverable lips that blow    An immaterial horn;And spectral seem thy winter-boding trees,  Thy ruinous bowers and drifted foliage wet—  Past and Future in sad bridal met,O voice of everything that perishes,    And soul of all regret!


Strange the world about me lies,  Never yet familiar grown—Still disturbs me with surprise,  Haunts me like a face half known.

In this house with starry dome,  Floored with gemlike plains and seas,Shall I never feel at home,  Never wholly be at ease?

On from room to room I stray,  Yet my Host can ne'er espy,And I know not to this day  Whether guest or captive I.

So, between the starry dome  And the floor of plains and seas,I have never felt at home,  Never wholly been at ease.


When birds were songless on the bough    I heard thee sing.The world was full of winter, thou    Wert full of spring.

To-day the world's heart feels anew    The vernal thrill,And thine beneath the rueful yew    Is wintry chill.


Few friends are mine, though many wights there beWho, meeting oft a phantasm that makes claimTo be myself, and hath my face and name,And whose thin fraud I wink at privily,Account this light impostor very me....