THE PARTHENON BY MOONLIGHT
by: Richard Watson Gilder
is an island of the golden Past
- Uplifted in the tranquil sea of night.
- This is true Athens! How the heart beats fast
- When climbs the pilgrim to this gleaming height:
- The crown and glory of consummate form;
- The jewel of all the world, most nobly set;
- High Beautys shrine, outwearing every storm;
- Shattered, but not undone; thrice lovely yet.
- Ah, Heaven, what tragic waste! Is Time so lavish
- Of dear perfection, thus to see it spilled?
- 'T was worth an empire; now behold the ravish
- That laid it low. The soaring plain is filled
- With the wide-scattered letters of one word
- Of loveliness that nevermore was spoken;
- Nor ever shall its like again be heard:
- Not dead is art -- but that high charm is broken.
- Now moonlight builds with swift and mystic art
- And makes the ruin whole -- and yet not whole,
- But exquisite, though crushed and torn apart.
- Back to the temple steals its living soul:
- In the star-silent night it comes all pale--
- A spirit breathing beauty and delight,
- And yet how stricken! Hark! I hear it wail,
- Self-sorrowful, while every wound bleeds white.
- And though more sad than is the nightingale
- That mourns in Lycabettus fragrant pine,
- That soul to mine brings solace; nor shall fail
- To heal the heart of man while still doth shine
- Yon planet, doubly bright in this deep blue;
- Yon moon that brims with fire these violet hills:
- For Beauty is of God, and God is true,
- And with his strength the soul of mortal fills.
MORE POEMS BY RICHARD WATSON GILDER
"The Parthenon by Moonlight"
is reprinted from The Century, vol. 53, issue 3 (Jan 1897).