Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
 
The Flight of Youth
By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)
 
NO, though all the winds that lie
In the circle of the sky
Trace him out, and pray and moan,
Each in its most plaintive tone,—
No, though Earth be split with sighs,        5
And all the Kings that reign
Over Nature’s mysteries
Be our faithfullest allies,—
All—all is vain:
They may follow on his track,        10
But He never will come back—
Never again!
 
Youth is gone away,
Cruel, Cruel youth,
Full of gentleness and ruth        15
Did we think him all his stay;
How had he the heart to wreak
Such a woe on us so weak,
He that was so tender-meek?
How could he be made to learn        20
To find pleasure in our pain?
Could he leave us to return
Never again!
 
Bow your heads very low,
Solemn-measured be your paces,        25
Gathered up in grief your faces,
Sing sad music as ye go;
In disordered handfuls strew
Strips of cypress, sprigs of rue;
In your hands be borne the bloom,        30
Whose long petals once and only
Look from their pale-leavèd tomb
In the midnight lonely;
Let the nightshade’s beaded coral
Fall in melancholy moral        35
Your wan brows around,
While in very scorn ye fling
The amaranth upon the ground
As an unbelievèd thing;
What care we for its fair tale        40
Of beauties that can never fail,
Glories that can never wane?
No such blooms are on the track
He has past, who will come back
Never again!        45
 
Alas! we know not how he went,
We knew not he was going,
For had our tears once found a vent,
We had stayed him with their flowing.
It was as an earthquake, when        50
We awoke and found him gone,
We were miserable men,
We were hopeless, every one!
Yes, he must have gone away
In his guise of every day,        55
In his common dress, the same
Perfect face and perfect frame;
For in feature, for in limb,
Who could be compared to him?
Firm his step, as one who knows        60
He is free where’er he goes,
And withal as light of spring
As the arrow from the string;
His impassioned eye had got
Fire which the sun had not;        65
Silk to feel, and gold to see,
Fell his tresses full and free,
Like the morning mists that glide
Soft adown the mountain’s side;
Most delicious ’twas to hear        70
When his voice was thrilling clear
As a silver-hearted bell.
Or to follow its low swell,
When, as dreamy winds that stray
Fainting ’mid Æolian chords,        75
Inner music seemed to play
Symphony to all his words;
In his hand was poised a spear,
Deftly poised, as to appear
Resting of its proper will,—        80
Thus a merry hunter still,
And engarlanded with bay,
Must our Youth have gone away,
Though we half remember now,
He had borne some little while        85
Something mournful in his smile—
Something serious on his brow:
Gentle Heart, perhaps he knew
The cruel deed he was about to do!
 
Now, between us all and Him        90
There are rising mountains dim,
Forests of uncounted trees,
Spaces of unmeasured seas:
Think of Him how gay of yore
We made sunshine out of shade,—        95
Think with Him how light we bore
All the burden sorrow laid;
All went happily about Him,—
How shall we toil on without Him?
How without his cheering eye        100
Constant strength enbreathing ever?
How without Him standing by
Aiding every hard endeavour?
For when faintness or disease
Had usurped upon our knees,        105
If he deigned our lips to kiss
With those living lips of his,
We were lightened of our pain,
We were up and hale again:—
Now, without one blessing glance        110
From his rose-lit countenance,
We shall die, deserted men,—
And not see him, even then!
 
We are cold, very cold,—
All our blood is drying old,        115
And a terrible heart-dearth
Reigns for us in heaven and earth:
Forth we stretch our chilly fingers
In poor effort to attain
Tepid embers, where still lingers        120
Some preserved warmth, in vain.
Of! if Love, the Sister dear
Of Youth that we have lost,
Come not in swift pity here,
Come not, with a host        125
Of Affections, strong and kind,
To hold up our sinking mind,
If She will not, of her grace,
Take her Brother’s holy place,
And be to us, at least, a part        130
Of what he was, in Life and Heart,
The faintness that is on our breath
Can have no other end but Death.
(1833.)    
 
 
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