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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

A Shadow of the Night

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

CLOSE on the edge of a midsummer dawn

In troubled dreams I went from land to land,

Each seven-colored like the rainbow’s arc,

Regions where never fancy’s foot had trod

Till then; yet all the strangeness seemed not strange,

At which I wondered, reasoning in my dream

With twofold sense, well knowing that I slept.

At last I came to this our cloud-hung earth,

And somewhere by the seashore was a grave,

A woman’s grave, new-made, and heaped with flowers;

And near it stood an ancient holy man

That fain would comfort me, who sorrowed not

For this unknown dead woman at my feet.

But I, because his sacred office held

My reverence, listened; and ’twas thus he spake:—

“When next thou comest thou shalt find her still

In all the rare perfection that she was.

Thou shalt have gentle greeting of thy love!

Her eyelids will have turned to violets,

Her bosom to white lilies, and her breath

To roses. What is lovely never dies,

But passes into other loveliness,

Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower, or wingèd air.

If this befalls our poor unworthy flesh,

Think thee what destiny awaits the soul!

What glorious vesture it shall wear at last!”

While yet he spoke, seashore and grave and priest

Vanished, and faintly from a neighboring spire

Fell five slow solemn strokes upon my ear.

Then I awoke with a keen pain at heart,

A sense of swift unutterable loss,

And through the darkness reached my hand to touch

Her cheek, soft-pillowed on one restful palm—

To be quite sure!