The sun has sunk below the level plain,
And yet above the forest's leafy gloom
The glory of the evening lightens still.
Smooth as a mirror is the river's face
With Heaven's light, and all its radiant clouds
And shadows which against the river's shore
Already are as night. From some retreat
Obscure and lonely, evening's saddest bird
Whistles, and beyond the water comes
The musical reply, and silence reigns-
Save for the noisy chorus of the frogs,
And undistinguished sounds of faint portent
That night has come. There is a rustic bridge
Which spans the stream, from which we look below
At Heaven above, till revery reclaims
The mind from hurried thought and merges it
Into the universal mind which broods
O'er such a scene. Strange quietude o'erspreads
The restless flame of being, and the soul
Beholds its source and destiny and feels
Not sorrowful to sink into the breast
Of that large life whereof it is a part.
What are we? But the question is not solved
Here in the presence of intensest thought,
Where nature stills the clamor of the world,
And leaves us in communion with ourselves.
Hence to the strivings of the clear-eyed day
What take we that shall mitigate the pangs
That each soul is alone, and that all friends
Gentle and wise and good can never soothe
The ache of that sub-consciousness which is
Something unfathomed and unmedicined?
Yet this it is which keeps us in the path
Of some ambition cherished or pursued;
The still, small voice that is not quieted
By disregard, but ever speaks to us
It mandates while we wake or sleep, and asks
A closer harmony with that great scheme
Which is the music of the universe.
So as the cherubim of Heaven defend
The realms of the unknown with flaming swords,
Thence are we driven to the world which is
Ours to be known through Art, who beckons us
To excellence, and in her rarer moods
Casts shadowy glances of serener lands,
Where all the serious gods, removed from stress
And interruption, build, as we conceive,
In fellowship that knows not that reserve
Which clouds the heart of those who wish to life
As they, in that large realm of perfect mind.
About this poem
"The Desplaines Forest" was published in Edgar Lee Master's book "The Great Valley" (The Macmillan Company, 1916).
About Edgar Lee Masters
Edgar Lee Masters was born in Garnett, Kan., on Aug. 23, 1868. His books include "A Book of Verses" (Way & Williams, 1898) and "Spoon River Anthology" (The Macmillan Company, 1915). Masters died on March 5, 1950.
The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.
This poem is in the public domain. Distributed by King Features Syndicate