SHE sat by the wayside and wept, where roses, red roses and white,
Lay wasted and withered and sere, like her life and its ruined delight;
Like chaff blown about in the wind whirled roses, white roses and red,
And pale, on night's threshold, the moon bent over the day that was dead.
She sat by the wayside and wept; far over the desolate plain
A noise as of one that is weeping re-echoed in wind and in rain,
And the long dim line of the spectral poplars with dolorous wail
Nodded their bald-headed tops as they chattered with cold in the gale.
She sat by the wayside and wept in a passion of vain desire,
And her weak heart fluttered and failed like the flame of a faltering fire,
Fluttered and failed in her breast like the broken wing of a bird
When its feathers are dabbled with gore, and the low last gurgle is heard.
And behold, like balm on her soul, while she sat by the wayside and wept,
There came a forgetting of sorrow, a lulling of grief, and she slept;
Yea, like the wings of a dove when cooing it broods on the nest,
So the wings of slumber about her assuaged and filled her with rest.
And a light that was not the sun's nor the moon's light illumined her brain;
From afar in the country of dreams three maidens stole over the plain,
Three loveliest maidens they were, like roses, red roses and white;
And behold the earth and the heavens were glorified in their light.
And the first of the maidens was fair, as fair as the blue-kirtled Spring,
When she comes with a snowfall of blossoms and a rustling of birds on the wing,
When a glimmer of green like a tide rolls over the woodland and vales,
And odours are blown on the winds with the song of the nightingales.
The second was loftier of stature, a huntress of grief;
The wilderness glowed as she passed and broke into blossom and leaf;
Yea, it seemed that her upturned eyes, with their fathomless gaze,
Could pierce to the shining stars through the veil of the noonday blaze.
But the third was a splendour incarnate, a luminous form,
Thrilling with raptures that keep the heart of the cold earth warm,
Who hidden far in the mystical glory of quivering rays
Sets the whole world on fire for an absolute sight of her face.
But darkling ever they see her, and ever as through a veil,
For if naked she lightens upon them, their lives must shrivel and fail,
Must fail and shrivel consumed by that burst of insufferable light,
As a tree set on fire by lightning which burns to the ground in a night.
The first one kissed her cheek, her cheek grew pallid and wan:
'Goodbye,' she cried, 'we must part; I am Youth, and I follow the sun;
I am Youth, and I love to build in the heart that is buoyant and gay;
Goodbye, we shall meet not again,' she cried, as she fluttered away.
The second she kissed her eyes, then the glamour went out of their gaze,
Through the magical show she beheld life staring her straight in the face;
With a terrible Gorgon stare that turned her heart into stone--
'Adieu,' she sighed, 'I am Hope, all is over between us and done.'
The third one she kissed her lips, and the kiss was a quenchless fire,
It burned up her life like a victim's in the flames of a funeral pyre--
'Farewell,' she wailed, 'I am Love,' and her wings were spread as for flight--
It seemed like the wail of the wind as they left her alone with the night.
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