Chant Of The Changing Hours

Don Marquis

The Hours passed by, a fleet, confused crowd;
  With wafture of blown garments bright as fire,
Light, light of foot and laughing, morning-browed,
  And where they trod the jonquil and the briar
Thrilled into jocund life, the dreaming dells
Waked to a morrice chime of jostled bells;—
They danced! they danced! to piping such as
The garnered music of a million Springs
  Into one single, keener ecstasy;—
One paused and shouted to my questionings:
  “Lo, I am Youth; I bid thee follow me!”

The Hours passed by; they paced, great lords and
  Crowned on with sunlight, robed in rich attire;
Before their conquering word the brute deed
  And Ariel fancies served their large desire;

They spake, and roused the mused soul that dwells
In dust, or, smiling, shaped new heavens and
Dethroned old gods and made blind beggars kings:
“And what art thou,” I cried to one, “that brings
  His mistress, for a brooch, the Galaxy?”—
“I am the plumed Thought that soars and sings:
  Lo, I am Song; I bid thee follow me!”

The Hours passed by, with veiled eyes endowed
  Of dream, and parted lips that scarce suspire,
To breathing dusk and arrowy moonlight vowed,
  South wind and shadowy grove and murmuring
Swaying they moved, as drows’d of wizard spells
Or tranc’d with sight of recent miracles,
And yet they trembled, down their folded wings
Quivered the hint of sweet withholden things,
  Ah, bitter-sweet in their intensity!
One paused and said unto my wonderings:
  “Lo, I am Love; I bid thee follow me!”

The Hours passed by, through huddled cities loud
  With witless hate and stale with stinking mire:

So cowled monks might march with bier and shroud
  Down streets plague-spotted toward some cleans-
      ing pyre;—
Yet, lo! strange lilies bloomed in lightless cells,
And passionate spirits burst their clayey shells
And sang the stricken hope that bleeds and
Earth’s bruised heart beat in the throbbing strings,
  And joy still struggled through the threnody!
One stern Hour said unto my marvelings:
  “Lo, I am Life; I bid thee follow me!”

The Hours passed by, the stumbling hours and
  Uncertain, prone to tears and childish ire,—
The wavering hours that drift like any cloud
  At whim of winds or fortunate or dire,—
The feeble shapes that any chance expells;
Their wisdom useless, lacking the blood that swells
The tensed vein: the hot, swift tide that stings
With life.  Ah, wise! but naked to the slings
  Of fate, and plagued of youthful memory!
A cracked voice broke upon my pityings:
  “Lo, I am Age; I bid thee follow me!”

Ah, Youth! we dallied by the babbling wells
Where April all her lyric secret tells;—
Ah, Song! we sped our bold imaginings
As far as yon red planet’s triple rings;—
  O Life!  O Love!  I followed, followed thee!
There waits one word to end my journeyings:
  “Lo, I am Death; I bid thee follow me!”

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