I knew a forest tranquil and august
Down whose green deeps my steps would often stray,
When leisure met my life as dew meets dust.
Proud spacious chestnuts verged each winding way,
And hickories in whose dry boughs winds were shrill,
And tremulous white-boled birches. Here, one day,
Strolling beside the scarce-held steed of will,
I found a beautiful monastic grove
Of old primeval hemlocks, living still.
Round it the forest rustled, flashed and throve,
But here were only silence and much gloom,
As though some sorcerer in dead days had wove,
With solemn charms and muttered words of doom,
A cogent spell that said to time "Depart!"
And locked it in the oblivion of a tomb.
Thick was its floor, where scant ferns dared to start,
With tawny needles, and an old spring lay
Limpid as crystal in its dusky heart.
Vaguely enough can language ever say
What sombre and fantastic dreams, for me,
Held shadowy revel in my thought that day:
How stern similitudes would dimly be
Of painted braves that grouped about their king;
Or how in crimson firelight I would see
Some ghostly war-dance, whose weak cries took wing
Weirdly away beyond the grove's dark brink;
Or how I seemed to watch by that old spring
The timid phantom deer steal up to drink!