William Morris

William Morris (1834-1896)







O love, this morn when the sweet nightingale

Had so long finished all he had to say,

That thou hadst slept, and sleep had told his tale;

And midst a peaceful dream had stolen away

In fragrant dawning of the first of May,

Didst thou see aught? didst thou hear voices sing

Ere to the risen sun the bells 'gan ring?

For then methought the Lord of Love went by

To take possession of his flowery throne,

Ringed round with maids, and youths, and minstrelsy;

A little while I sighed to find him gone,

A little while the dawning was alone,

And the light gathered; then I held my breath,

And shuddered at the sight of Eld and Death.

Alas! Love passed me in the twilight dun,

His music hushed the wakening ousel's song;

But on these twain shone out the golden sun,

And o'er their heads the brown bird's tune was strong,

As shivering, twixt the trees they stole along;

None noted aught their noiseless passing by,

The world had quite forgotten it must die.

* * * * *

Now must these men be glad a little while

That they had lived to see May once more smile

Upon the earth; wherefore, as men who know

How fast the bad days and the good days go,

They gathered at the feast: the fair abode

Wherein they sat, o'erlooked, across the road

Unhedged green meads, which willowy streams passed through,

And on that morn, before the fresh May dew

Had dried upon the sunniest spot of grass,

From bush to bush did youths and maidens pass

In raiment meet for May apparelled,

Gathering the milk-white blossoms and the red;

And now, with noon long past, and that bright day

Growing aweary, on the sunny way

They wandered, crowned with flowers, and loitering,

And weary, yet were fresh enough to sing

The carols of the morn, and pensive, still

Had cast away their doubt of death and ill,

And flushed with love, no more grew red with shame.

So to the elders as they sat, there came,

With scent of flowers, the murmur of that folk

Wherethrough from time to time a song outbroke,

Till scarce they thought about the story due;

Yet, when anigh to sun-setting it grew,

A book upon the board an elder laid,

And turning from the open window said,

"Too fair a tale the lovely time doth ask,

For this of mine to be an easy task,

Yet in what words soever this is writ,

As for the matter, I dare say of it

That it is lovely as the lovely May;

Pass then the manner, since the learned say

No written record was there of the tale,

Ere we from our fair land of Greece set sail;

How this may be I know not, this I know

That such-like tales the wind would seem to blow

From place to place, e'en as the feathery seed

Is borne across the sea to help the need

Of barren isles; so, sirs, from seed thus sown,

This flower, a gift from other lands has grown.

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