In The Desert
A cloudless sky o’erhead, and all around
The level country stretching like a sea—
A dull grey sea, that had no seeming bound,
The very semblance of eternity.
All common things that this poor life contained
Had passed from me, leaving no sign nor token;
My footfall first broke stillness that had reigned
For centuries unbroken.
Almost it was as if my steps had strayed
Into some strange old land or unknown isle,
Where Time himself, with drowsy hand had stayed
The shadow on the dial.
The sun at even sank down angry red
In the dim haze that bounded the far plain;
And then the stars usurped the heavens instead,
With silence in their train—
A deep, dread silence, save when fitful sighs
Of wailing wind were wafted from the south.
Nature seemed dying: light had left her eyes,
The smile of her mouth.
Only in dreams unquietly she talked,
In broken murmurs restlessly did ’plain;
Then came strange sounds, as if a spirit walked,
Wringing its hands in pain,
Crying, ‘No rest! no rest! Who dares intrude,
And waken silence that for countless years
Has been unbroken? Must our solitude
At last know human tears?
Leave but a little space, O restless race!
Free from your carking vanity and care.
Keep back! keep back!’ And then, a phantom face
Shone lurid in the air,
Gazing in mine, with a strange, earnest look
Of solemn sadness, more than mortal pain,
Then vanished with a bitter cry that shook
The dim, dead plain.
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