The Dwelling-Place

Deep in a forest where the kestrel screamed,
Beside a lake of water, clear as glass,
The time-worn windows of a stone house gleamed
Named only “Alas.”

Yet happy as the wild birds in the glades
Of that green forest, thridding the still air
With low continued heedless serenades,
Its heedless people were.

The throbbing chords of violin and lute,
The lustre of lean tapers in dark eyes,
Fair colours, beauteous flowers, faint-bloomed fruit
Made earth seem Paradise

To them that dwelt within this lonely house:
Like children of the gods in lasting peace,
They ate, sang, danced, as if each day's carouse
Need never pause, nor cease.

Some to the hunt would wend, with hound and horn,
And clash of silver, beauty, bravery, pride,
Heeding not one who on white horse upborne
With soundless hoofs did ride.

Dreamers there were who watched the hours away
Beside a fountain's foam. And in the sweet
Of phantom evening, 'neath the night-bird's lay,
Did loved with loved-one meet.

All, all were children, for, the long day done,
They barred the heavy door against lightfoot fear;
And few words spake though one known face was gone,
Yet still seemed hovering near.

They heaped the bright fire higher; poured dark wine;
And in long revelry dazed the questioning eye;
Curtained three-fold the heart-dismaying shine
Of midnight streaming by.

They shut the dark out from the painted wall,
With candles dared the shadow at the door,
Sang down the faint reiterated call
Of those who came no more.

Yet clear above that portal plain was writ,
Confronting each at length alone to pass
Out of its beauty into night star-lit,
That worn “Alas!”
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