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Littell's Living Age/Volume 169/Issue 2185/The Return

All day the land in golden sunlight lay,
     All day a happy people to and fro
Moved through the quiet summer ways; all day
     I wandered with bowed head and footstep slow,
A stranger in the well-remembered place,
Where Time has left not one familiar face
          I knew long years ago.

By marsh-lands golden with bog asphodel,
     I saw the fitful plover wheel and scream;
The soft winds swayed the foxglove's purple bell;
     The iris trembled by the whispering stream;
Gazing on these blue hills which knew not change,
All the dead years seemed fallen dim and strange,
          Unreal as a dream.

Unchanged as in my dreams lay the fair land,
     The laughter-loving lips, the eager feet,
The hands that struck warm welcome to my hand,
     The hearts that at my coming higher beat,
Have long been cold in death; no glad surprise
Wakens for me in any living eyes,
          That once made life so sweet.

Slowly the day drew down the golden west;
     The purple shadows lengthened on the plain,
Yet I unresting through a world at rest,
     Went silent with my memory and my pain;
Then, for a little space, across the years
To me, bowed down with time and worn with tears,
          My friends came back again.

By many a spot where summer could not last,
     In other days, for all our joy too long,
They came about me from the shadowy past,
     As last I saw them, young and gay and strong;
And she, my heart, came fair as in the days
When at her coming all the radiant ways
          Thrilled into happy song.

Ah me! once here, on such a summer night,
     In silent bliss together, she and I
Stood watching the pale lingering fringe of light
     Go slowly creeping round the northern sky.
Ah, love, if all the weary years could give
But one sweet hour of that sweet night to live
          With thee — and then to die!

The old sweet fragrance fills the summer air,
     The same light lingers on the northern sea,
Still, as of old, the silent land lies fair
     Beneath the silent stars, the melody
Of moving waters still is on the shore,
And I am here again — but nevermore
          Will she come back to me.