Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
The Nightingale
 
John Addington Symonds (1840–93)
 
 
I WENT a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.
 
Hard task it were to tell how dewy-still
  Were flowers and ferns and foliage in the rays
Of Hesper, white amid the daffodil        5
  Of twilight fleck’d with faintest chrysoprase;
  And all the while, embower’d in leafy bays,
The bird prolong’d her sharp soul-thrilling tone.
 
I went a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.        10
 
But as I stood and listened, on the air
  Arose another voice more clear and keen,
That startled silence with a sweet despair,
  And still’d the bird beneath her leafy screen:
  The star of Love, those lattice-boughs between,        15
Grew large and lean’d to listen from his zone.
I went a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.
 
The voice, methought, was neither man’s nor boy’s,
  Nor bird’s nor woman’s, but all these in one:        20
In Paradise perchance such perfect noise
  Resounds from angel choirs in unison,
  Chanting with cherubim their antiphon
To Christ and Mary on the sapphire throne.
 
I went a roaming through the woods alone,        25
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.
 
Then down the forest aisles there came a boy,
  Unearthly pale, with passion in his eyes;
Who sang a song whereof the sound was joy,
  But all the burden was of love that dies        30
  And death that lives—a song of sobs and sighs,
A wild swan’s note of Death and Love in one.
 
I went a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.
 
Love burn’d within his luminous eyes, and Death        35
  Had made his fluting voice so keen and high,
The wild wood trembled as he pass’d beneath,
  With throbbing throat singing, Love-led, to die:
  Then all was hush’d, till in the thicket nigh
The bird resum’d her sharp soul-thrilling tone.        40
 
I went a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.
 
But in my heart and in my brain the cry,
  The wail, the dirge, the dirge of Death and Love,
Still throbs and throbs, flute-like, and will not die,        45
  Piercing and clear the night-bird’s tune above,—
  The aching, anguish’d, wild-swan’s note, whereof
The sweet sad flower of song was over-blown.
 
I went a roaming through the woods alone,
And heard the nightingale that made her moan.        50
 

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