Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunday Thought: An Ancient Story (by John Hall Wheelock)

I've been working on an article about marriage, which I doubt will ever see the light of day, for it occurred to me during the writing that I don't really have anything new or arresting to say about it. But those of you, of whatever age, who have set out on the journey with good hope might take something from this, which I rediscovered while thumbing through some pages from the ancient past:


by John Hall Wheelock

Young thrush heard singing from some hidden bough
In the west wood nearby,
Your tender song recalls to memory
A day, still unforgotten now,
That blesséd day when we,
My dear true love and I,
After such sundering, such salt seas between,
Once more together, in this same west wood,
Where we so often had together been,
In silence stood,
Listening to your loved song,
Unchanged through all these many years,
And kissed, while the soft May-time green
Swam round us, prismed in our tears.
Oh, if you will,
Sing to us, now as then,
That self-same song -
We are together still,
Bring back again
That day when all was young.

Or, since this may not be -
When, at a not too far-off time, our time is come,
And, under the cloudy shade
Of some, perhaps, young springtime-flowering tree,
Deep in the earth our bodies shall be laid,
Oh, from a hidden bough,
Let fall upon us, where we lie at rest,
Together still, your antique elegy,
The half-remembered story
Of two fond lovers, faithful to their vow,
For love's sake, doubly blest;
Pour out, pour out, upon that quiet air
The pent up fury and ardor in your breast,
Shatter the silence there
With love's high plaint amid things transitory -
Oh, if you will,
Sing to us - then as now
Together still -
That self-same song,
Life's fierce and tender glory,
Once ours, when all was young.

© from the Winter 1973 issue of the Sewanee Review

Mr. Wheelock was a frequent contributor. His first poem was published in the year 1900. He worked for years at Charles Scribner and Sons, and in 1947, upon the death of Maxwell Perkins, became senior editor. Mr. Wheelock passed away in 1978, five years after the publication of this poem, at the age of 92.

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