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While She Sang


  She sang, and I heard the singing,
    Far out of the wretched past,
  Of meadow-larks in the meadow,
    In a breathing of the blast.

  Cold through the clouds of sunset
    The thin red sunlight shone,
  Staining the gloom of the woodland
    Where I walked and dreamed alone;

  And glinting with chilly splendor
    The meadow under the hill,
  Where the lingering larks were lurking
    In the sere grass hid and still.

  Out they burst with their singing,
    Their singing so loud and gay;
  They made in the heart of October
    A sudden ghastly May,

  That faded and ceased with their singing.
    The thin red sunlight paled,
  And through the boughs above me
    The wind of evening wailed;--

  Wailed, and the light of evening
    Out of the heaven died;
  And from the marsh by the river
    The lonesome killdee cried.


  The song is done, but a phantom
    Of music haunts the chords,
  That thrill with its subtile presence,
    And grieve for the dying words.

  And in the years that are perished,
    Far back in the wretched past,
  I see on the May-green meadows
    The white snow falling fast;--

  Falling, and falling, and falling,
    As still and cold as death,
  On the bloom of the odorous orchard,
    On the small, meek flowers beneath;

  On the roofs of the village-houses,
    On the long, silent street,
  Where its plumes are soiled and broken
    Under the passing feet;

  On the green crest of the woodland,
    On the cornfields far apart;
  On the cowering birds in the gable,
    And on my desolate heart.


William Dean Howells