Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
1306. Song and Science
 
“The Twilight of the Poets”
 
By Milicent Washburn Shinn
 
 
SPIRIT of song, whose shining wings have borne
Our souls of old to many a clear blue height,
Comes there the day that leaves our world forlorn
Of thy clear singing in the haunted night?
For while from out the western radiance low        5
Like stars the great dead shining upward go,
Behold, thy wings are poised to join their flight:
Yet follow not within the golden door
Those starry souls; but when the time is full,
Let thy fair-shining garments, white as wool,        10
Glimmer once more across our earth’s green floor.
 
Well was it for thee when the moonlight filled
The Syrian nights, and all the air was stilled
With large and simple faith, until men felt
Somewhat most stern and mighty brooding o’er them,        15
And grimly as Jehovah’s warriors bore them.
Well was it for thee where the glad gods dwelt
In happy Hellas, clasped by silver nights,
When on the clear blue of Olympian heights
Apollo’s lyre, and by the reedy stream        20
Pan’s shrill, sweet pipe made life a sunny dream.
Well was it for thee in the English wood,
When red, new leaves were bursting out of bud,
And hearts were fresh as young leaves on the elm.
And well, through all the centuries since, thy realm        25
Has loyally been kept for thee, and thou,
Departing oft, hast still returned; but now
New powers devour thy kingdom day by day.
How shouldst thou come amidst such waste to stay?
 
For even now, across that western glow,        30
A keen light whitens coldly in the east,
And glittering on the slopes of morning, lo,
One comes in silver arms; and aye increased
The sharp light shines, and men beholding turn
From thee, and kneel before this wonder new,        35
Upon whose crest the conquered stars do burn.
No white wings gleam like thine against the blue,
Yet swift his foot and strong; and in his hand—
Ah, bright and terrible!—he bears the brand
Of truth, and in its gleam the lightning plays.        40
Exultant, young, full-armed from spur to helm,
Spirit of song, he comes to claim thy realm;
And coldly o’er thy lingering radiance low
The keener splendors that attend him flow.
What place is left for thee in all earth’s ways?        45
 
Yet that strong warrior that recks not of thee
Shall one day turn his eyes and see thy face
Shine like a star from some far deep of space,—
And all his spirit unto thee shall yearn,
Until he call thee back, and win thy grace.        50
And on thy brow his captive stars shall burn;
And in wide realms, new-conquered unto thee
By that great sword, thine olden smile shall shine;
Unto deep chords of many an unknown sea,
Thy voice shall join its world-old notes divine.        55
 

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