The Rising of the Curtain

WE sit before the curtain, and we heed the pleasant bustle:
The ushers hastening up the aisles, the fans’ and programmes’ rustle;
The boy that cries librettos, and the soft, incessant sound
Of talking and low laughter that buzzes all around.
How very old the drop-scene looks! A thousand times before
I’ve seen that blue paint dashing on that red distemper shore;
The castle and the gouache sky, the very ilex-tree,—
They have been there a thousand years, — a thousand more shall be.
All our lives we have been waiting for that weary daub to rise ;
We have peeped behind its edges, “as if we were God’s spies;”
We have listened for the signal; yet still, as in our youth,
The colored screen of matter hangs between us and the truth.
When in my careless childhood I dwelt beside a wood,
I tired of the clearing where my father’s cabin stood;
And of the wild young forest paths that lured me to explore,
Then dwindled down, or led me back to where I stood before.
But through the woods before our door a wagon track went by,
Above whose utmost western edge there huug an open sky ;
And there it seemed to make a plunge, or break off suddenly,
As though beneath that open sky it met the open sea.
Oh, often have I fancied, in the sunset’s dreamy glow,
That mine eyes had caught the walter of the ocean waves below;
And the wind among the pine-tops, with its low and ceaseless roar.
Was but an echo from the surf on that imagined shore.
Alas ! as I grew older, I found that road led down
To no more fair horizon than the squalid factory town :
So all life’s purple distances, when nearer them I came,
Have played me still the same old cheat, — the same, the same, the same!
And when, O King, the heaven departeth as a scroll,
Wilt thou once more the promise break thou madest to my soul ?
Shall I see thy feasting presence thronged with baron, knight, and page ?
Or will the curtain rise upon a dark and empty stage ?
For lo, quick undulations across the canvas run ;
The foot-lights brighten suddenly, the orchestra has done;
And through the expectant silence rings loud the prompter’s bell;
The curtain shakes, — it rises. Farewell, dull world, farewell!
Henry A. Beers.