Among the Laurels

THE sunset’s gorgeous dyes
Paled slowly from the skies,
And the clear heaven was waiting for the stars,
As side by side we strayed
Adown a sylvan glade,
And found our pathway crossed by rustic bars.
Beyond the barrier lay
A green and tempting way,
Arched with fair laurel-trees, a-bloom and tall,—
Their cups of tender snow
Touched with a rosy glow,
And warm sweet shadows trembling over all.
The chestnuts sung and sighed,
The solemn oaks replied,
And distant pine-trees crooned in slumberous tones ;
While music low and clear
Gushed from the darkness near,
Where a shy brook went tinkling over stones.
Soft mosses, damp and sweet,
Allured our waiting feet,
And brambles veiled their thorns with treacherous bloom ;
While tiny flecks of flowers,
Which own no name of ours,
Added their mite of beauty and perfume.
And hark ! a hidden bird —
To sudden utterance stirred,
As by a gushing love too great to bear
With voiceless silence long —
Burst into passionate song,
Filling with his sweet trouble all the air.
Then one, whose eager soul
Could brook no slight control,
Said, “Let us thread this pleasant path, dear friend,—
If thus the way can be
So beautiful to see,
How much more beautiful must be the end !
“Follow'! this solitude
May shrine the haunted wood,
Storied so sweetly in romance and rhyme, —
Secure from human ill,
And rarely peopled still
By Fauns and Dryads of the olden time.
“ A spot of hallowed ground
By mortal yet unfound,
Sacred to nymph and sylvan deity,—
Where foiled Apollo glides,
And bashful Daphne hides
Safe in the shelter of her laurel-tree ! ”
“Forbear!” the other cried,—
“ O, leave the way untried !
Those joys are sweetest which we only guess,
And the impatient soul,
That seeks to grasp the whole,
Defeats itself by its own eagerness.
“ Let us not rudely shake
The dew-drop from the brake
Fringing the borders of this haunted dell;
All the delights which are —
The present and the far —
Lose half their charm by being known too well!
“ And he mistakes who tries
To search all mysteries,—
Who leaves no cup undrained, no path untracked;
Who seeks to know too much
Brushes with eager touch
The bloom of Fancy from the brier of Fact.
“Keep one fair myth aloof
From hard and actual proof;
Preserve some dear delusions as they seem,
Since the reality,
How bright soe’er it be,
Shows dull and cold beside our marvellous dream.
“ Leave this white page unscored,
This rare realm unexplored,
And let dear Fancy roam there as she will ;
Whatever page we turn,
However much we learn,
Let there be something left to dream of still! ”
Wherefore, for aught we know,
The golden apples grow
In the green vale to which that pathway leads;
The spirits of the wood
Still haunt its solitude,
And Pan sits piping there among the reeds !