Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Old Man’s Return
By Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877)
Translation of Eiríkr Magnússon and Edward Henry Palmer

LIKE birds of passage, after winter’s days returning
            To lake-land home and rest,
I come now unto thee, my foster-valley, yearning
            For long-lost childhood’s rest.
Full many a sea since then from thy dear strands has torn me,        5
            And many a chilly year;
Full many a joy since then those far-off lands have borne me,
            And many a bitter tear.
Here am I back once more.—Great heaven! there stands the dwelling
            Which erst my cradle bore,        10
The selfsame sound, bay, grove, and hilly range upswelling:
            My world in days of yore.
All as before. Trees in the selfsame verdant dresses
            With the same crowns are crowned;
The tracts of heaven, and all the woodland’s far recesses        15
            With well-known songs resound.
There with the crowd of flower-nymphs still the wave is playing,
            As erst so light and sweet;
And from dim wooded aits I hear the echoes straying
            Glad youthful tones repeat.        20
All as before. But my own self no more remaineth,
            Glad valley! as of old;
My passion quenched long since, no flame my cheek retaineth,
            My pulse now beateth cold.
I know not how to prize the charms that thou possessest,        25
            Thy lavish gifts of yore;
What thou through whispering brooks or through thy flowers expressest,
            I understand no more.
Dead is mine ear to harp-strings which thy gods are ringing
            From out thy streamlet clear;        30
No more the elfin hosts, all frolicsome and singing,
            Upon the meads appear.
I went so rich, so rich from thee, my cottage lowly,
            So full of hopes untold;
And with me feelings, nourished in thy shadows holy,        35
            That promised days of gold.
The memory of thy wondrous springtimes went beside me,
            And of thy peaceful ways,
And thy good spirits, borne within me, seemed to guide me,
            E’en from my earliest days.        40
And what have I brought back from yon world wide and dreary?
            A snow-incumbered head,
A heart with sorrow sickened and with falsehood weary,
            And longing to be dead.
I crave no more of all that once was in my keeping,        45
            Dear mother! but one thing:
Grant me a grave, where still thy fountain fair is weeping,
            And where thy poplars spring!
So shall I dream on, mother! to thy calm breast owing
            A faithful shelter then,        50
And live in every floweret, from mine ashes growing,
            A guiltless life again.

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