James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 4

Hans Christian Andersen

By Edmund Gosse (1849–1928)

(Died August 4, 1875)

A BEING cleaves the moonlit air,

With eyes of dew and plumes of fire,

Newborn, immortal, strong and fair;

Glance ere he goes!

His feet are shrouded like the dead,

But in his face a wild desire

Breaks like the dawn that flushes red,

And like a rose.

The stars shine out above his path,

And music wakes through all the skies;

What mortal such a triumph hath,

By death set free?

What earthly hands and heart are pure

As this man’s, whose unshrinking eyes

Gaze onward through the deep obscure,

Nor quail to see?

Ah! this was he who drank the fount

Of wisdom set in speechless things,

Who, patient, watched the day-star mount,

While others slept.

Ah! this was he whose loving soul

Found heart-beats under trembling wings,

And heard divinest music roll

Where wild springs leapt.

For poor dumb lips had songs for him

And children’s dreamings ran in tune,

And strange old heroes, weird and dim,

Walked by his side.

The very shadows loved him well

And danced and flickered in the moon,

And left him wondrous tales to tell

Men far and wide.

And now no more he smiling walks

Through greenwood alleys full of sun,

And, as he wanders, turns and talks,

Though none be there;

The children watch in vain the place

Where they were wont, when day was done,

To see their poet’s sweet worn face,

And faded hair.

Yet dream not such a spirit dies,

Though all its earthly shrine decay!

Transfigured under clearer skies,

He sings anew;

The frail soul-covering, racked with pain,

And scored with vigil, fades away,

The soul set free and young again

Glides upward through.

Weep not; but watch the moonlit air!

Perchance a glory like a star

May leave what hangs about him there,

And flash on us!….

Behold! the void is full of light,

The beams pierce heaven from bar to bar,

And all the hollows of the night

Grow luminous!