A Memory By Abram Joseph Ryan

    Adown the valley dripped a stream,
     White lilies drooped on either side;
    Our hearts, in spite of us, will dream
     In such a place at eventide.

    Bright wavelets wove the scarf of blue
     That well became the valley fair,
    And grassy fringe of greenest hue
     Hung round its borders everywhere.

    And where the stream, in wayward whirls,
     Went winding in and winding out,
    Lay shells, that wore the look of pearls
     Without their pride, all strewn about.

    And here and there along the strand,
     Where some ambitious wave had strayed,
    Rose little monuments of sand
     As frail as those by mortals made.

    And many a flower was blooming there
     In beauty, yet without a name,
    Like humble hearts that often bear
     The gifts, but not the palm of fame.

    The rainbow’s tints could never vie
     With all the colors that they wore;
    While bluer than the bluest sky
     The stream flowed on ‘tween shore and shore.

    And on the height, and down the side
     Of either hill that hid the place,
    Rose elms in all the stately pride
     Of youthful strength and ancient race.

    While here and there the trees between —
     Bearing the scars of battle-shocks,
    And frowning wrathful — might be seen
     The moss-veiled faces of the rocks.

    And round the rocks crept flowered vines,
     And clomb the trees that towered high —
    The type of a lofty thought that twines
     Around a truth — to touch the sky.

    And to that vale, from first of May
     Until the last of August went,
    Beauty, the exile, came each day
     In all her charms, to cast her tent.

    ‘Twas there, one long-gone August day,
     I wandered down the valley fair:
    The spell has never passed away
     That fell upon my spirit there.

    The summer sunset glorified
     The clouded face of dying day,
    Which flung a smile upon the tide
     And lilies, ere he passed away.

    And o’er the valley’s grassy slopes
     There fell an evanescent sheen,
    That flashed and faded, like the hopes
     That haunt us of what might have been.

    And rock and tree flung back the light
     Of all the sunset’s golden gems,
    As if it were beneath their right
     To wear such borrowed diadems.

    Low in the west gleam after gleam
     Glowed faint and fainter, till the last
    Made the dying day a living dream,
     To last as long as life shall last.

    And in the arches of the trees
     The wild birds slept with folded wing;
    And e’en the lips of the summer breeze
     That sang all day, had ceased to sing.

    And all was silent, save the rill
     That rippled round the lilies’ feet,
    And sang, while stillness grew more still
     To listen to the murmur sweet.

    And now and then it surely seemed
     The little stream was laughing low,
    As if its sleepy wavelets dreamed
     Such dreams as only children know.

    So still that not the faintest breath
     Did stir the shadows in the air;
    It would have seemed the home of Death,
     Had I not felt Life sleeping there.

    And slow and soft, and soft and slow,
     From darkling earth and darkened sky
    Wide wings of gloom waved to and fro,
     And spectral shadows flitted by.

    And then, methought, upon the sward
     I saw — or was it starlight’s ray?
    Or angels come to watch and guard
     The valley till the dawn of day?

    Is every lower life the ward
     Of spirits more divinely wrought?
    ‘Tis sweet to believe ’tis God’s, and hard
     To think ’tis but a poet’s thought.

    But God’s or poet’s thought, I ween,
     My senses did not fail me when
    I saw veiled angels watch that scene
     And guard its sleep, as they guard men.

    Sweet sang the stream as on it pressed,
     As sorrow sings a heart to sleep;
    As a mother sings one child to rest,
     And for the dead one still will weep.

    I walked adown the singing stream,
     The lilies slept on either side;
    My heart — it could not help but dream
     At eve, and after eventide.

    Ah! dreams of such a lofty reach
     With more than earthly fancies fraught,
    That not the strongest wings of speech
     Could ever touch their lowest thought.

    Dreams of the Bright, the Fair, the Far —
     Heart-fancies flashing Heaven’s hue —
    That swept around, as sweeps a star
     The boundless orbit of the True.

    Yea! dreams all free from earthly taint,
     Where human passion played no part,
    As pure as thoughts that thrill a saint,
     Or hunt an archangelic heart.

    Ah! dreams that did not rise from sense,
     And rose too high to stoop to it,
    And framed aloft like frankincense
     In censers round the infinite.

    Yea! dreams that vied with angels’ flight!
     And, soaring, bore my heart away
    Beyond the far star-bounds of night,
     Unto the everlasting day.

    How long I strolled beside the stream
     I do not know, nor may I say;
    But when the poet ceased to dream
     The priest went on his knees to pray.

    I felt as sure a seraph feels
     When in some golden hour of grace
    God smiles, and suddenly reveals
     A new, strange glory in His face.

    Ah! starlit valley!    Lilies white!
     The poet dreamed — ye slumbered deep!
    But when the priest knelt down that night
     And prayed, why woke ye from your sleep?

             *        *        *        *        *

    The stream sang down the valley fair,
     I saw the wakened lilies nod,
    I knew they heard me whisper there,
     “How beautiful art Thou, my God!”