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POEM: THE RETURN
The grass was gray with the moonlit dew,
The stones were white as I came through;
I came down the path by the thirteen yews,
Through the blocks of shade that the moonlight hews.
And when I came to the high lych-gate
I waited awhile where the corpses wait;
Then I came down the road where the moonlight lay
Like the fallen ghost of the light of day.
The bats shrieked high in their zigzag flight,
The owls' spread wings were quiet and white,
The wind and the poplar gave sigh for sigh,
And all about were the rustling shy
Little live creatures that love the night -
Little wild creatures timid and free.
I passed, and they were not afraid of me.
It was over the meadow and down the lane
The way to come to my house again:
Through the wood where the lovers talk,
And the ghosts, they say, get leave to walk.
I wore the clothes that we all must wear,
And no one saw me walking there,
No one saw my pale feet pass
By my garden path to my garden grass.
My garden was hung with the veil of spring -
Plum-tree and pear-tree blossoming;
It lay in the moon's cold sheet of light
In garlands and silence, wondrous and white
As a dead bride decked for her burying.
Then I saw the face of my house
Held close in the arms of the blossomed boughs:
I leaned my face to the window bright
To feel if the heart of my house beat right.
The firelight hung it with fitful gold;
It was warm as the house of the dead is cold.
I saw the settles, the candles tall,
The black-faced presses against the wall,
Polished beechwood and shining brass,
The gleam of china, the glitter of glass,
All the little things that were home to me -
Everything as it used to be.
Then I said, "The fire of life still burns,
And I have returned whence none returns:
I will warm my hands where the fire is lit,
I will warm my heart in the heart of it!"
So I called aloud to the one within:
"Open, open, and let me in!
Let me in to the fire and the light -
It is very cold out here in the night!"
There was never a stir or an answering breath -
Only a silence as deep as death.
Then I beat on the window, and called, and cried.
No one heard me, and none replied.
The golden silence lay warm and deep,
And I wept as the dead, forgotten, weep;
And there was no one to hear or see -
To comfort me, to have pity on me.
But deep in the silence something stirred -
Something that had not seen or heard -
And two drew near to the window-pane,
Kissed in the moonlight and kissed again,
And looked, through my face, to the moon-shroud, spread
Over the garlanded garden bed;
And - "How ghostly the moonlight is!" she said.
Back through the garden, the wood, the lane,
I came to mine own place again.
I wore the garments we all must wear,
And no one saw me walking there.
No one heard my thin feet pass
Through the white of the stones and the gray of the grass,
Along the path where the moonlight hews
Slabs of shadow for thirteen yews.
In the hollow where drifted dreams lie deep
It is good to sleep: it was good to sleep:
But my bed has grown cold with the drip of the dew,
And I cannot sleep as I used to do.
Turn to the next chapter: POEM: FOR DOLLY - WHO DOES NOT LEARN HER LESSONS