Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Ode to the Moon
By Thomas Hood (1799–1845)
 
I
MOTHER of light! how fairly dost thou go
Over those hoary crests, divinely led!—
Art thou that huntress of the silver bow
Fabled of old? Or rather dost thou tread
Those cloudy summits thence to gaze below,        5
Like the wild Chamois from her Alpine snow,
Where hunter never climb’d,—secure from dread?
How many antique fancies have I read
Of that mild presence! and how many wrought!
      Wondrous and bright,        10
      Upon the silver light,
Chasing fair figures with the artist, Thought!
 
II
What art thou like? Sometimes I see thee ride
A far-bound galley on its perilous way,
Whilst breezy waves toss up their silvery spray;—        15
      Sometimes behold thee glide,
Cluster’d by all thy family of stars,
Like a lone widow, through the welkin wide,
Whose pallid cheek the midnight sorrow mars;—
Sometimes I watch thee on from steep to steep,        20
Timidly lighted by thy vestal torch,
Till in some Latmian cave I see thee creep,
To catch the young Endymion asleep,—
Leaving thy splendour at the jagged porch!
 
III
Oh, thou art beautiful, howe’er it be!
        25
Huntress, or Dian, or whatever nam’d;
And he the veriest Pagan, that first fram’d
A silver idol, and ne’er worshipp’d thee!
It is too late, or thou should’st have my knee;
Too late now for the old Ephesian vows,        30
And not divine the crescent on thy brows!—
Yet, call thee nothing but the mere mild Moon,
      Behind those chestnut boughs,
Casting their dappled shadows at my feet;
I will be grateful for that simple boon,        35
In many a thoughtful verse and anthem sweet,
And bless thy dainty face whene’er we meet.
 
IV
In nights far gone,—aye, far away and dead,—
Before Care-fretted with a lidless eye,—
I was thy wooer on my little bed,        40
Letting the early hours of rest go by,
To see thee flood the heaven with milky light,
And feed thy snow-white swans, before I slept;
For thou wert then purveyor of my dreams,—
Thou wert the fairies’ armourer, that kept        45
Their burnish’d helms, and crowns, and corslets bright,
      Their spears, and glittering mails;
And ever thou didst spill in winding streams
Sparkles and midnight gleams,
For fishes to new gloss their argent scales!        50
 
V
Why sighs?—why creeping tears?—why clasped hands?—
Is it to count the boy’s expended dow’r?
That fairies since have broke their gifted wands?
That young Delight, like any o’erblown flow’r,
Gave, one by one, its sweet leaves to the ground?—        55
Why then, fair Moon, for all thou mark’st no hour,
Thou art a sadder dial to old Time
      Than ever I have found
On sunny garden-plot, or moss-grown tow’r,
Motto’d with stern and melancholy rhyme.        60
 
VI
Why should I grieve for this?—O I must yearn,
Whilst Time, conspirator with Memory,
Keeps his cold ashes in an ancient urn,
Richly emboss’d with childhood’s revelry,
With leaves and cluster’d fruits, and flowers eterne,—        65
(Eternal to the world, though not to me),
Ay there will those brave sports and blossoms be,
The deathless wreath, and undecay’d festoon,
      When I am hears’d within,—
Less than the pallid primrose to the Moon,        70
That now she watches through a vapour thin.
 
VII
So let it be! Before I liv’d to sigh,
Thou wert in Avon, and a thousand rills,
Beautiful Orb! and so, whene’er I lie
Trodden, thou wilt be gazing from thy hills.        75
Blest be thy loving light, where’er it spills,
And blessèd thy fair face, O Mother mild!
Still shine, the soul of rivers as they run,
Still lend thy lonely lamp to lovers fond,
And blend their plighted shadows into one:—        80
Still smile at even on the bedded child,
And close his eyelids with thy silver wand!
 
 
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