James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

The Song of Yesterday


I
But yesterday
I looked away
O'er happy lands, where sunshine lay
In golden blots,
Inlaid with spots
Of shade and wild forget-me-nots.

My head was fair
With flaxen hair,
And fragrant breezes, faint and rare,
And, warm with drouth
From out the south,
Blew all my curls across my mouth.

And, cool and sweet,
My naked feet
Found dewy pathways through the wheat;
And out again
Where, down the lane,
The dust was dimpled with the rain.

II
But yesterday! --
Adream, astray,
From morning's red to evening's dray,
O'er dales and hills
Of daffodils
And lorn sweet-fluting whippoorwills.

I knew nor cares
Nor tears nor prayers --
A mortal god, crowned unawares
With sunset -- and
A scepter-wand
Of apple-blossoms in my hand!

The dewy blue
Of twilight grew
To purple, with a star or two
Whose lisping rays
Failed in the blaze
Of sudden fireflies through the haze.

III
But yesterday
I heard the lay
Of summer birds, when I, as they
With breast and wing,
All quivering
With life and love, could only sing.

My head was leant
Where, with it, blent
A maiden's, o'er her instrument;
While all the night,
From vale to height,
Was filled with echoes of delight.

And all our dreams
Were lit with gleams
Of that lost land of reedy streams,
Along whose brim
Forever swim
Pan's lilies, laughing up at him.

IV
But yesterday! . . .
O blooms of May,
And summer roses -- where away?
O stars above;
And lips of love,
And all the honeyed sweets thereof! --

O lad and lass,
And orchard pass,
And briered lane, and daisied grass!
O gleam and gloom,
And woodland bloom,
And breezy breaths of all perfume! --

No more for me
Or mine shall be
Thy raptures -- save in memory, --
No more -- no more --
Till through the Door
Of Glory gleam the days of yore.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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