by: John Vance Cheney (1848-1922)

      UT out thy torch, O watcher by the dead,
      Unto the darkness give its own;
      Silence and darkness -- they alone
      May minister about this breathless bed;
      Put out thy mocking torch, good watcher gray,
      Thine old head cover; come away.
      And so I leave thee, Ilmar! That queen brow
      Where diamond light were pale as mist,
      I yield it up to Death, unkissed.
      He took thee from me; thou’rt his only, now:
      No, no -- I cannot lay on that still hand
      Mine own, and thou not understand.
      Mine was no little wingèd fantasy --
      Gnat-passion of a summer day,
      I loved not in the common way;
      Therefore must I accept this misery,
      Must hug it close, feed me upon its pain,
      No more than thou to smile again.
      The spider can restore each riven thread,
      The bee refill its empty comb;
      Alas! the heart’s imperial home,
      Once plundered, goes for aye untenanted.
      Henceforth I wander, homeless, helpless, lone,
      Only my bitterness mine own.
      The haggard night, with wet, disheveled hair,
      On her black path at large, shall be
      My mate; the gesturing specter-tree
      Shall reach his arms to me through glitt’ring air;
      Friends will I make where, with despairing roar,
      The baffled sea assaults the shore.
      Wan as the bleachen kerchief smoothed around
      Thy whiter neck, the realm of Death
      Shall be my realm; and my stopt breath
      Shall be unheard as thine down in the ground.--
      Mine own are deaf as that sweet sleeper’s ears;
      Watcher, why speak when neither hears? --
      Thou art so meek! Ah, why am I not so
      Because thou art? -- It cannot be:
      My tameless blood increasingly
      Does heat me fierce as tiger crouchèd low,
      Hard-spotted pard, that, glancing back the glare
      Of sun-fire, dapples all the air.
      Had I, O wind, your liberty, the sea
      Should lift so wildly he must spray
      The shining azure Death’s own gray,
      Put out the splutt’ring stars, to say for me
      How black is all this world! -- No, no;
      I must be calm. Lo, she is so!
      Quench thy poor torch, good watcher. Death sleeps sound:
      A candle cannot cheat her night.
      Do men strengthen with smiles the noon-sun’s light?
      And shall we weep but to make wet the ground?
      Old man, the gaping grave -- didst ever note
      The swallowed coffin choke his throat?
      I tell thee she is Death’s -- Death’s only, now:
      Let us be gone. Haadin’s tear
      Would be a rain-drop on that bier,
      His breath but wind against that brow.
      Put out thy torch -- ay, thou hast done it. All
      Is dark -- how dark! -- Ilmar! -- I -- fall!

"The Parting of Ilmar and Haadin" is reprinted from The Century, vol. 30, issue 1 (May 1885).




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