Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  To a Moth That Drinketh of the Ripe October

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

Emily Pfeiffer 1841–90

To a Moth That Drinketh of the Ripe October

A MOTH belated, sun and zephyrkist,

Trembling about a pale arbutus bell,

Probing to wildering depths its honey’d cell,—

A noonday thief, a downy sensualist!

Not vainly, sprite, thou drawest careless breath,

Strikest ambrosia from the cool-cupp’d flowers,

And flutterest through the soft, uncounted hours,

To drop at last in unawaited death;

’T is something to be glad! and those fine thrills,

Which move thee, to my lip have drawn the smile

Wherewith we look on joy. Drink! drown thine ills,

If ill have any part in thee; erewhile

May the pent force—thy bounded life, set free,

Fill larger sphere with equal ecstasy.

With what fine organs art thou dower’d, frail elf!

Thy harp is pitch’d too high for dull annoy,

Thy life a love-feast, and a silent joy,

As mute and rapt as Passion’s silent self.

I turn from thee, and see the swallow sweep

Like a wing’d will, and the keen-scented hound

That snuffs with rapture at the tainted ground,—

All things that freely course, that swim or leap,—

Then, hearing glad voiced creatures men call dumb,

I feel my heart, oft sinking ’neath the weight

Of Nature’s sorrow, lighten at the sum

Of Nature’s joy; its half unfolded fate

Breathes hope—for all but those beneath the ban

Of the inquisitor and tyrant, man.