The Journey

Heart-sick of his journey was the Wanderer;
Footsore and parched was he;
And a Witch who long had lurked by the wayside,
Looked out of sorcery.

" Lift up your eyes, you lonely Wanderer, "
She peeped from her casement small;
" Here's shelter and quiet to give you rest, young man,
And apples for thirst withal. "

And he looked up out of his sad reverie,
And saw all the woods in green,
With birds that flitted feathered in the dappling,
The jewel-bright leaves between.

And he lifted up his face towards her lattice,
And there, alluring-wise,
Slanting through the silence of the long past,
Dwelt the still green Witch's eyes.

And vaguely from the hiding-place of memory
Voices seemed to cry:
" What is the darkness of one brief life-time
To the deaths thou hast made us die?

" Heed not the words of the Enchantress
Who would us still betray! "
And sad with the echo of their reproaches,
Doubting, he turned away.

" I may not shelter beneath your roof, lady,
Nor in this wood's green shadow seek repose,
Nor will your apples quench the thirst
A homesick wanderer knows. "

" " Homesick" forsooth! " she softly mocked him:
And the beauty in her face
Made in the sunshine pale and trembling
A stillness in that place.

And he sighed, as if in fear, that young Wanderer,
Looking to left and to right,
Where the endless narrow road swept onward,
Till in distance lost to sight.

And there fell upon his sense the brier,
Haunting the air with its breath,
And the faint shrill sweetness of the birds' throats,
Their tent of leaves beneath.

And there was the Witch, in no wise heeding;
Her arbour, and fruit-filled dish,
Her pitcher of well-water, and clear damask —
All that the weary wish.

And the last gold beam across the green world
Faltered and failed, as he
Remembered his solitude and the dark night's
Inhospitality.

And he looked upon the Witch with eyes of sorrow
In the darkening of the day;
And turned him aside into oblivion;
And the voices died away. . . .

And the Witch stepped down from her casement:
In the hush of night he heard
The calling and wailing in dewy thicket
Of bird to hidden bird.

And gloom stole all her burning crimson,
Remote and faint in space
As stars in gathering shadow of the evening
Seemed now her phantom face.

And one night's rest shall be a myriad,
Mid dreams that come and go;
Till heedless fate, unmoved by weakness, bring him
This same strange by-way through:

To the beauty of earth that fades in ashes,
The lips of welcome, and the eyes
More beauteous than the feeble shine of Hesper
Lone in the lightening skies:

Till once again the Witch's guile entreat him;
But, worn with wisdom, he
Steadfast and cold shall choose the dark night's
Inhospitality.
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