Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  Love’s Autumn

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John Payne b. 1842

Love’s Autumn

YES, love, the Spring shall come again,

But not as once it came:

Once more in meadow and in lane

The daffodils shall flame,

The cowslips blow, but all in vain;

Alike, yet not the same.

The roses that we pluck’d of old

Were dew’d with heart’s delight;

Our gladness steep’d the primrose-gold

In half its lovely light:

The hopes are long since dead and cold

That flush’d the wind-flowers’ white.

Oh, who shall give us back our Spring?

What spell can fill the air

With all the birds of painted wing

That sang for us whilere?

What charm reclothe with blossoming

Our lives, grown blank and bare?

What sun can draw the ruddy bloom

Back to hope’s faded rose?

What stir of summer re-illume

Our hearts’ wreck’d garden-close?

What flowers can fill the empty room

Where now the nightshade grows?

’T is but the Autumn’s chilly sun

That mocks the glow of May;

’T is but the pallid bindweeds run

Across our garden way,

Pale orchids, scentless every one,

Ghosts of the summer day.

Yet, if it must be so, ’t is well:

What part have we in June?

Our hearts have all forgot the spell

That held the summer noon;

We echo back the cuckoo’s knell,

And not the linnet’s tune.

What shall we do with roses now,

Whose cheeks no more are red?

What violets should deck our brow,

Whose hopes long since are fled?

Recalling many a wasted vow

And many a faith struck dead.

Bring heath and pimpernel and rue,

The Autumn’s sober flowers:

At least their scent will not renew

The thought of happy hours,

Nor drag sad memory back unto

That lost sweet time of ours.

Faith is no sun of summertide,

Only the pale, calm light

That, when the Autumn clouds divide,

Hangs in the watchet height,—

A lamp, wherewith we may abide

The coming of the night.

And yet, beneath its languid ray,

The moorlands bare and dry

Bethink them of the summer day

And flower, far and nigh,

With fragile memories of the May,

Blue as the August sky.

These are our flowers: they have no scent

To mock our waste desire,

No hint of bygone ravishment

To stir the faded fire:

The very soul of sad content

Dwells in each azure spire.

I have no violets: you laid

Your blight upon them all:

It was your hand, alas! that made

My roses fade and fall,

Your breath my lilies that forbade

To come at Summer’s call.

Yet take these scentless flowers and pale,

The last of all my year:

Be tender to them; they are frail:

But if thou hold them dear,

I ’ll not their brighter kin bewail,

That now lie cold and sere.