How still it is! Sunshine itself here falls
In quiet shafts of light through the high trees
Which, arching, make a roof above the walls
Changing from sun to shadow as each breeze
Lingers a moment, charmed by the strange sight
Of an Italian theatre, storied, seer
Of vague romance, and time's long history;
Where tiers of grass-grown seats sprinkled with white,
Sweet-scented clover, form a broken sphere
Grouped round the stage in hushed expectancy.
What sound is that which echoes through the wood?
Is it the reedy note of an oaten pipe?
Perchance a minute more will see the brood
Of the shaggy forest god, and on his lip
Will rest the rushes he is wont to play.
His train in woven baskets bear ripe fruit
And weave a dance with ropes of gray acorns,
So light their touch the grasses scarcely sway
As they the measure tread to the lilting flute.
Alas! 't is only Fancy thus adorns.
A cloud drifts idly over the shining sun.
How damp it seems, how silent, still, and strange!
Surely 't was here some tragedy was done,
And here the chorus sang each coming change?
Sure this is deep in some sweet, southern wood,
These are not pines, but cypress tall and dark;
That is no thrush which sings so rapturously,
But the nightingale in his most passionate mood
Bursting his little heart with anguish. Hark!
The tread of sandalled feet comes noiselessly.
The silence almost is a sound, and dreams
Take on the semblances of finite things;
So potent is the spell that what but seems
Elsewhere, is lifted here on Fancy's wings.
The little woodland theatre seems to wait,
All tremulous with hope and wistful joy,
For something that is sure to come at last,
Some deep emotion, satisfying, great.
It grows a living presence, bold and shy,
Cradling the future in a glorious past.