We bore him through the golden land,
One early harvest morn;
The corn stood ripe on either hand—
He knew all about the corn.
How shall the harvest gathered be
Without him standing by?
Without him walking on the lea,
The sky is scarce a sky.
The year’s glad work is almost done;
The land is rich in fruit;
Yellow it floats in air and sun—
Earth holds it by the root.
Why should earth hold it for a day
When harvest-time is come?
Death is triumphant o’er decay,
And leads the ripened home.
And though the sun be not so warm,
His shining is not lost;
Both corn and hope, of heart and farm,
Lie hid from coming frost.
The sombre woods are richly sad,
Their leaves are red and gold:
Are thoughts in solemn splendour clad
Signs that we men grow old?
Strange odours haunt the doubtful brain
From fields and days gone by;
And mournful memories again
Are born, are loved, and die.
The mornings clear, the evenings cool
Foretell no wintry wars;
The day of dying leaves is full,
The night of glowing stars.
‘Tis late before the sun will rise,
And early he will go;
Gray fringes hang from the gray skies,
And wet the ground below.
Red fruit has followed golden corn;
The leaves are few and sere;
My thoughts are old as soon as born,
And chill with coming fear.
The winds lie sick; no softest breath
Floats through the branches bare;
A silence as of coming death
Is growing in the air.
But what must fade can bear to fade—
Was born to meet the ill:
Creep on, old Winter, deathly shade!
We sorrow, and are still.
There is no longer any heaven
To glorify our clouds;
The rising vapours downward driven
Come home in palls and shrouds.
The sun himself is ill bested
A heavenly sign to show;
His radiance, dimmed to glowing red,
Can hardly further go.
An earthy damp, a churchyard gloom,
Pervade the moveless air;
The year is sinking to its tomb,
And death is everywhere.
But while sad thoughts together creep,
Like bees too cold to sting,
God’s children, in their beds asleep,
Are dreaming of the spring.
© George MacDonald