Lyrics of Earth

by Archibald Lampman





Once, long ago, before the gods
    Had left this earth, by stream and forest glade,
Where the first plough upturned the clinging sods,
    Or the lost shepherd strayed,

Often to the tired listener’s ear                                                   5
    There came at noonday or beneath the stars
A sound, he knew not whence, so sweet and clear,
    That all his aches and scars

And every brooded bitterness,
    Fallen asunder from his soul took flight,                              10
Like mist or darkness yielding to the press
    Of an unnamed delight,—

A sudden brightness of the heart,
    A magic fire drawn down from Paradise,
That rent the cloud with golden gleam apart,—                      15
    And far before his eyes

The loveliness and calm of earth
    Lay like a limitless dream remote and strange,
The joy, the strife, the triumph and the mirth,
    And the enchanted change;                                                  20

And so he followed the sweet sound,
    Till faith had traversed her appointed span,
And murmured as he pressed the sacred ground:
    "It is the note of Pan!"

Now though no more by marsh or stream                               25
    Or dewy forest sounds the secret reed—
For Pan is gone—Ah yet, the infinite dream
    Still lives for them that heed.

In April, when the turning year
    Regains its pensive youth, and a soft breath                     30
And amorous influence over marsh and mere
    Dissolves the grasp of death,

To them that are in love with life,
    Wandering like children with untroubled eyes,
Far from the noise of cities and the strife,                              35
    Strange flute-like voices rise

At noon and in the quiet of the night
    From every watery waste; and in that hour
The same strange spell, the same unnamed delight,
    Enfolds them in its power.                                                   40

An old-world joyousness supreme,
    The warmth and glow of an immortal balm,
The mood-touch of the gods, the endless dream;
    The high lethean calm.

They see, wide on the eternal way,                                         45
    The services of earth, the life of man;
And listening to the magic cry they say:
    "It is the note of Pan!"

For, long ago, when the new strains
    Of hostile hymns and conquering faiths grew keen,         50
And the old gods from their deserted fanes,
    Fled silent and unseen,

So, too, the goat-foot Pan, not less
    Sadly obedient to the mightier hand,
Cut him new reeds, and in a sore distress                           55
    Passed out from land to land;

And lingering by each haunt he knew,
    Of fount or sinuous stream or grassy marge,
He set the syrinx to his lips, and blew
    A note divinely large;                                                          60

And all around him on the wet
    Cool earth the frogs came up, and with a smile
He took them in his hairy hands, and set
    His mouth to theirs awhile,

And blew into their velvet throats;                                         65
    And ever from that hour the frogs repeat
The murmur of Pan’s pipes, the notes,
    And answers strange and sweet;

And they that hear them are renewed
    By knowledge in some god-like touch conveyed,          70
Entering again into the eternal mood,
    Wherein the world was made.