The Assignation

Echoes of voices stilled may linger on
Until a lapse of utter quiet steal in;
As 'tis hushed daybreak — the dark night being gone —
That calls small birds their matins to begin. . . .

Felled with such sickness I had lain that life
Nightmare's phantasmagoria seemed to be.
Alas, poor body, racked with woe and strife,
Its very weakness set my spirit free.

Wondrous the regions then through which I strayed,
Spectre invisible as the wind and air,
Regions that midnight fantasy had made,
And clear cold consciousness can seldom share.

But of these wanderings one remembered best
Nothing exotic showed — no moon-drenched vale,
Where in profound ravines dark forests rest,
The wild-voiced cataracts their nightingale;

But only a sloping meadow, rimed with frost;
Bleak pollard willows, and a frozen brook,
All tinkle of its waters hushed and lost,
Its sword-sharp rushes by the wind forsook:

An icy-still, grey-heavened, vacant scene,
With whin and marron hummocked, and flowerless gorse ...
And in that starven upland's winter green,
Stood grazing in the silence a white horse.

No marvel of beauty, or strangeness, or fable, this —
Una — la Belle Dame — hero — or god might ride;
Worn, aged with time and toil, and now at peace,
It cropped earth's sweetmeats on the stark hill's side.

Spellbound, I watched it — hueless mane and tail
Like wraith of foam upon an un-named sea;
Until, as if at mute and inward hail,
It raised its gentle head and looked at me —

Eyes blue as speedwell, tranquil, morning-fair:
It was as if for aeons these and I
Had planned this mystic assignation there,
In this lone waste, beneath that wintry sky. . . .

Strange is man's soul, which solace thus can win,
When the poor body lies at woe's extreme —
Yea, even where the shades of death begin —
In secret symbol, and painted by a dream!
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