Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy. 1844–1881
  
830. The Fountain of Tears
  
IF you go over desert and mountain, 
  Far into the country of Sorrow, 
  To-day and to-night and to-morrow, 
And maybe for months and for years; 
  You shall come with a heart that is bursting         5
  For trouble and toiling and thirsting, 
You shall certainly come to the fountain 
At length,—to the Fountain of Tears. 
 
Very peaceful the place is, and solely 
  For piteous lamenting and sighing,  10
  And those who come living or dying 
Alike from their hopes and their fears; 
  Full of cypress-like shadows the place is, 
  And statues that cover their faces: 
But out of the gloom springs the holy  15
And beautiful Fountain of Tears. 
 
And it flows and it flows with a motion 
  So gentle and lovely and listless, 
  And murmurs a tune so resistless 
To him who hath suffer'd and hears—  20
  You shall surely—without a word spoken, 
  Kneel down there and know your heart broken, 
And yield to the long-curb'd emotion 
That day by the Fountain of Tears. 
 
For it grows and it grows, as though leaping  25
  Up higher the more one is thinking; 
  And ever its tunes go on sinking 
More poignantly into the ears: 
  Yea, so blessèd and good seems that fountain, 
  Reach'd after dry desert and mountain,  30
You shall fall down at length in your weeping 
And bathe your sad face in the tears. 
 
Then alas! while you lie there a season 
  And sob between living and dying, 
  And give up the land you were trying  35
To find 'mid your hopes and your fears; 
  —O the world shall come up and pass o'er you, 
  Strong men shall not stay to care for you, 
Nor wonder indeed for what reason 
Your way should seem harder than theirs.  40
 
But perhaps, while you lie, never lifting 
  Your cheek from the wet leaves it presses, 
  Nor caring to raise your wet tresses 
And look how the cold world appears— 
  O perhaps the mere silences round you—  45
  All things in that place Grief hath found you— 
Yea, e'en to the clouds o'er you drifting, 
May soothe you somewhat through your tears. 
 
You may feel, when a falling leaf brushes 
  Your face, as though some one had kiss'd you,  50
  Or think at least some one who miss'd you 
Had sent you a thought,—if that cheers; 
  Or a bird's little song, faint and broken, 
  May pass for a tender word spoken: 
—Enough, while around you there rushes  55
That life-drowning torrent of tears. 
 
And the tears shall flow faster and faster, 
  Brim over and baffle resistance, 
  And roll down blear'd roads to each distance 
Of past desolation and years;  60
  Till they cover the place of each sorrow, 
  And leave you no past and no morrow: 
For what man is able to master 
And stem the great Fountain of Tears? 
 
But the floods and the tears meet and gather;  65
  The sound of them all grows like thunder: 
  —O into what bosom, I wonder, 
Is pour'd the whole sorrow of years? 
  For Eternity only seems keeping 
  Account of the great human weeping:  70
May God, then, the Maker and Father— 
May He find a place for the tears! 
 
 
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