Three Sunsets and Other Poems/After Three Days

AFTER THREE DAYS.

I stood within the gate
Of a great temple, 'mid the living stream
Of worshipers that thronged its regal state
Fair-pictured in my dream.

Jewels and gold were there;
And floors of marble lent a crystal sheen
To body forth, as in a lower air,
The wonders of the scene.

Such wild and lavish grace
Had whispers in it of a coming doom;
As richest flowers lie strown about the face
Of her that waits the tomb.

The wisest of the land
Had gathered there, three solemn trysting-days,
For high debate: men stood on either hand
To listen and to gaze.

The aged brows were bent,
Bent to a frown, half thought, and half annoy,
That all their stores of subtlest argument
Were baffled by a boy.

In each averted face
I marked but scorn and loathing, till mine eyes
Fell upon one that stirred not in his place,
Tranced in a dumb surprise.

Surely within his mind
Strange thoughts are born, until he doubts the lore
Of those old men, blind leaders of the blind,
Whose kingdom is no more.

Surely he sees afar
A day of death the stormy future brings;

The crimson setting of the herald-star
That led the Eastern kings.
 
Thus, as a sunless deep
Mirrors the shining heights that crown the bay,
So did my soul create anew in sleep
The picture seen by day.
 
Gazers came and went—
A restless hum of voices marked the spot—
In varying shades of critic discontent
Prating they knew not what.
 
"Where is the comely limb,
The form attuned in every perfect part,
The beauty that we should desire in him?"
Ah! Fools and slow of heart!
 
Look into those deep eyes,
Deep as the grave, and strong with love divine;
Those tender, pure, and fathomless mysteries,
That seem to pierce through thine.

Look into those deep eyes,
Stirred to unrest by breath of coming strife,
Until a longing in thy soul arise
That this indeed were life:

That thou couldst find Him there,
Bend at His sacred feet thy willing knee,
And from thy heart pour out the passionate prayer
"Lord, let me follow Thee!"

But see the crowd divide:
Mother and sire have found their lost one now:
The gentle voice, that fain would seem to chide
Whispers "Son, why hast thou"—

In tone of sad amaze—
"Thus dealt with us, that art our dearest thing?
Behold, thy sire and I, three weary days,
Have sought thee sorrowing."

And I had stayed to hear
The loving words "How is it that ye sought?"—

 
But that the sudden lark, with matins clear,
Severed the links of thought.

Then over all there fell
Shadow and silence; and my dream was fled,
As fade the phantoms of a wizard's cell
When the dark charm is said.

Yet, in the gathering light,
I lay with half-shut eyes that would not wake,
Lovingly clinging to the skirts of night
For that sweet vision's sake.

Feb. 16, 1861.

FAIRIES RIDING ON FISH