The Gray Years: A Mood by Frank Morton

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"Yet ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth's sweet-scented manuscript should close!
   The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah whence and whither flown again, who knowst!"

Omar Khayyam.

We have passed our flood, and ceaseless makes the steady ebb, and slacker
   Grows the spring of life within us; with uncertain feet we tread;
And the shadows lengthen daily, ever broader, ever blacker,
   And the joys of life pall sadly, and the rest of life has fled,

And the lamp of life burns feebly, and the prospects when environ
   Are depressingly unlovely and of dead-gray dubious tone;
Dull the eye which erst flashed brightly, flaccid too those thews of iron;
   Nerves of steel have lost their temper; poignant memory alone

Tells us ever what we once were, when our hot hearts thrilled ecstatic
   To the subtle-tinted music of a thousand golden strings
Struck by gleeful gods and graces in a melody chromatic,
   Voicing love and lust and laughter, and delicious nameless things.   

Oh! but blood was thick in those days, and rushed turbulently, madly,
   Through the veins that throbbed and quivered to the glory of its flow!
And though penitence came sorely, yet we spent our Morning gladly,
   And we will not sulk in sackcloth now the once-swift pulse goes slow.

For our memory, though poignant, is not wholly chill and bitter:
   Solace mingles with its sadness, and its archives are intact.
Not for us warm exploits, these days; but we can (and this is fitter)
   Taste again in recollection joys we may not face in fact.

We have drunk our meed of Pleasure till no drop remains for drinking,
   And we mourn in weary leisure what we drained in needless haste.
But the emptied chalice still is not ill-seeming to our thinking,
   And we keep some touch of sweetness in the fragrant after-taste.

Ah! we charm no smile from Beauty now --- the gifts to charm have perished;
   No soft lips reach forth responsive to the breathing of our vows
As they once did; which is proper, for the beauties whom we cherished
   Bear the brand of Time's coarse finger on their one-time perfect brows.

Ichabod! No Song Celestial glads us now. The clay is clinging
   Close about our hearts and senses. We can never know again
Deeds that move the soul to frenzy, thoughts that set the spirit singing,
   Passion's march of tense emotions, Love's exuberance of pain!

And to her whom once we worshipped we can frame no fit orison;
   These our feet shall never press again the path our feet have trod.
But -- the soft pale face of Death shines forth above the near horizon:
   We are willing now to meet him, even eager.-- Ichabod!

Brothers! dusk has come, and ceaseless makes the steady ebb, and slacker
   Grows the spring of life within us. Hope has lost all nutriment . . .
But the shadows lengthen daily, ever broader, ever blacker:
   Soon shall come the closing darkness -- and nepenthe
      Be content!

First published in The Queenslander, 17 July 1897

Author: Frank Morton (1869-1923) was born in Kent, England and arrived in Australia in 1885.  He began his working life as an engineering apprentice, and served on a ship in 1899, before leaving it in Hong Kong.  He taught in Singapore before taking a job on the staff of the Straits Times.  That was followed by work on a number of Indian newspapers before returning to Australia in 1894.  He then moved about the country and to New Zealand working as a journalist and editor on a series of newspapers before settling in Sydney in 1914.  He died there in 1923.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 17, 2011 10:02 AM.

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