Once, on the far blue hills,
Alone with the pine and the cloud, in those high still places;
Alone with a whisper of ferns and a chuckle of rills,
And the peat-brown pools that mirrored the angels’ faces,
Pools that mirrored the wood-pigeon’s grey-blue feather,
And all my thistledown dreams as they drifted along;
Once, oh, once, on the hills, thro’ the red-bloomed heather
I followed an elfin song.
Once, by the wellsprings of joy,
In the glens of the hart’s-tongue fern, where the brooks came leaping
Over the rocks, like a scrambling bare-foot boy
That never had heard of a world grown old with weeping;
Once, thro’ the golden gorse (do the echoes linger
In Paradise woods, where the foam of the may runs wild?)
I followed the flute of a light-foot elfin singer,
A god with the eyes of a child.
Once, he sang to me there,
From a crag on a thyme-clad height where the dew still glistened;
He sang like the spirit of Spring in that dawn-flushed air,
While the angels opened their doors and the whole sky listened:
He sang like the soul of a rainbow, if heaven could hear it,
Beating to heaven, on wings that were April’s own;
A song too happy and brave for the heart to bear it,
Had the heart of the hearer known.
Once, ah, once, no more,
The hush and the rapture of youth in those holy places,
The stainless height, the hearts that sing and adore
Till the sky breaks out into flower with the angels’ faces!
Once, in the dawn, they were mine; but the noon bereft me.
At midnight now, in an ebb of the loud world’s roar,
I catch but a broken stave of the songs that left me
On hills that are mine no more.