Alice Cary

April 26, 1820 - 1871


Hymn To The Night

by Alice Cary

Midnight, beneath your sky,
Where streaks of soft blue lie
Between the starry ranks
Like rivers with white lilies on their banks,
Frown not that I am come,
A little while to stay
From the broad light of day.
My passion shall be dumb,
Nor vex with faintest moan
For my life's summer flown
The drowsy stillness hanging on the air.
Therefore, with black despair
Let me enfold my brow --
I come to gather the gray ashes now
That in the long gone hours
Were blushing flowers.
Give me some gentle comfort, gentle Night,
For their untimely blight,
Feeding my soul with the delicious sounds
Of waters washing over hollow grounds
Through beds of hyacinths, and rushes green
With yellow ferns and broad-leaved flags between;
Where the south winds do sleep,
Forgetting their white cradles in the deep.

The future is all dim,
No more my locks I trim
With myrtles or gay pansies, as I used,
Or with slim jasmines strung with pretty flowers,
As in the blessed hours
Ere yet I sadly mused,
Or covered up from my lamenting eyes
The two sweet skies,
With withered holly or the bitter rue,
As now, alas! I do.
Since Lyra, for whose sake the world was fair,
Is lost, I know not where,
Ah me! my sweetest song
Must do his beauty wrong --
To his white hands I give my heavy heart,
Saying, Lovely as thou art,
Be kindly piteous of my hapless wo! --
Full well I know
How changed I am since all my young heart-beats
Were full of joyance, as of pastoral sweets
The long bright summer times
When Love first taught me rhymes.
Yet, dear one, in thy smile
The light they knew erewhile
My eyes would gather back, and in my cheek
Beneath thy lip the flush of spring would break.
Come, thou, about whose visionary bier
I strew in softest fear
Pale flowers of mandrakes in the nightly dreams,
That fly when morning streams
Slant through my casement and fades off again,
Soothing no jot my pain --
Come back and stay with me
And we will lovers be!
In the brown shadows of the autumn trees,
Lingering behind the bees
Till the rough winds do blow
And blustery clouds are full of chilly snow,
We'll sing old songs, and with love ditties gay
Beguile the hours away.
And I with ivy buds thy locks will crown,
And when in all their pretty lengths of gold
Straightened with moisture cold
Sorrowfully drop they down,
My hands shall press them dry, the while I keep
Soft watches for thy sleep,
Weaving some roundelay,
Of that pale huntress, haply, whose blue way
Along the heavens was lost,
Finding the low earth sweeter than the skies --
Kissing the love-lit eyes
Of the fair boy Endymion, as he crossed
The leafy silence of the woods alone,
In the old myth-time flown;
Haply of Proteus, all his dripping flocks
Along the wild sea-rocks
Driving to pastures in fresh sprouting meads,
His sad brows crownéd with green murmurous reeds
For love of Leonora -- she for whom
The blank blanched sands were shapen to a tomb,
Where, under the wild midnight's troubled frown,
With his pale burden in his arms, went down
Her mortal lover. Moaningly the waves
Wash by two lonesome graves;
One holds the ashes of the beauteous boy
Whose harmless joy
Of playing the fifth season in the sun,
Was all untimely done.

Away, my dream, away!
Like young buds blackened in the front of May
And wasted in the rude and envious frost,
My early hopes are lost.
Oh angel of the darkness, come and make,
For pity's sake,
My bed with sheets as white as sheets may be,
And give me sweeter grace to go with thee,
Than e'er became my life. No lures have I,
To draw thee nigh,
Of beauty, wit, or friends to make ado;
Haply, or one or two,
Seeing me in my shroud, would sigh, Alas!
As for a daisy gone out of the grass
Wherein bloomed better flowers. If so it fall,
It were an end befitting most of all
The close of my bad fortunes. Thou
Hearing my pleading now,
Knowest well how true I speak,
There be no prints of kisses on the cheek
I hide against thy bosom, praying to go
Down to the chamber low,
Wherein I shall be wed
With Lyra, dead.


Copyright 1855
Boston: Ticknor And Fields