Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By William Watson (1858–1935)
THOU burden of all songs the earth hath sung,
  Thou retrospect in Time’s averted eyes,
  Thou metaphor of everything that dies,
That dies ill-starr’d, or dies beloved and young
  And therefore blest and wise—        5
O be less beautiful, or be less brief,
  Thou tragic splendour, strange and full of fear!
  In vain her pageant shall the summer rear?
At thy mute signal, leaf by golden leaf,
  Crumbles the gorgeous year.        10
Ah, ghostly as remembered mirth, the tale
  Of summer’s bloom, the legend of the spring!
  And thou, too, flutterest an impatient wing,
Thou presence yet more fugitive and frail,
  Thou most unbodied thing,        15
Whose very being is his going hence.
  And passage and departure all thy theme,
  Whose life doth still a splendid dying seem,
And thou, at height of thy magnificence,
  A figment and a dream.        20
Still’d is the virgin rapture that was June,
  And cold is August’s panting heart of fire;
  And in the storm-dismantled forest choir,
For thine own elegy thy winds attune
  Their wild and wizard lyre.        25
And poignant grows the charm of thy decay,
  The pathos of thy beauty and the sting,
  Thou parable of greatness vanishing!
For me, thy woods of gold and skies of grey
  With speech fantastic ring.        30
For me, to dreams resign’d, there come and go,
  ’Twixt mountains draped and hooded night and morn,
  Elusive notes in wandering wafture borne
From undiscoverable lips that blow
  An immaterial horn;        35
And spectral seem thy winter-boding trees,
  Thy ruinous bowers and drifted foliage wet;
  O Past and Future in sad bridal met,
O voice of everything that perishes,
  And soul of all regret!        40

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