A Forsaken Garden

In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland,
    At the sea-down's edge between windward and lea,
Walled round with rocks as an inland island,
    The ghost of a garden fronts the sea.
A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses
    The steep square slope of the blossomless bed,
Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of the roses
        Now lie dead.

The fields fall southward, abrupt and broken,
    To the low last edge of the long lone land.
If a step should sound or a word be spoken,
    Would a ghost not rise at the strange guest's hand?
So long have the gray bare walks lain guestless,
    Through branches and briars if a man make way,
He shall find no life but the sea-wind's, restless
        Night and day.

The dense hard passage is blind and stifled
    That crawls by a track none turn to climb
To the strait waste place that the years have rifled
    Of all but the thorns that are touched not of time.
The thorns he spares when the rose is taken,
    The rocks are left when he wastes the plain,
The wind that wanders, the weeds, wind-shaken,
        These remain.

Not a flower to be pressed of the foot that falls not,
    As the heart of a dead man the seed-plots are dry;
From the thicket of thorns whence the nightingale calls not,
    Could she call, there were never a rose to reply.
Over the meadows that blossom and wither
    Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
Only the sun and the rain come hither
        All year long.

The sun burns sere and the rain dishevels
    One gaunt bleak blossom of scentless breath;
Only the wind here hovers and revels
    In a round where life seems as barren as death;
Here, there was laughter of old, there was weeping,
    Haply, of lovers none ever will know,
Whose eyes went seaward a hundred sleeping
        Years ago.

Heart handfast in heart as they stood, "Look thither,"
    Did he whisper? "look forth from the flowers to the sea,
For the foam-flowers endure while the rose-blossoms wither,
    And men that love lightly may die - but we?"
And the same wind sang and the same wave whitened
    And forever the garden's last petals were shed;
In the lips that had whispered, the eyes that had lightened,
        Love was dead.

Or they loved their life through, and then went whither?
    And were one to the end - but what end who knows?
Love as deep as the sea as a rose must wither,
    As the rose-red seaweed mocks the rose.
Shall the dead take thought for the dead to love them?
    What love was ever as deep as the grave?
They are loveless now as the grass above them
        Or the wave.

All are at one now, roses and lovers,
    Not known of the cliffs or the fields or the sea;
Not a breath of the time that has been hovers
    In the air now soft with a summer to be.
Not a breath shall sweeten the seasons hereafter
    Of flowers or of lovers that laugh now or weep,
When as they who are free now of weeping and laughter
        We shall sleep.

Here death may deal not again for ever,
    Here change may come not till all change end.
From the graves they have made they shall rise up never
    Who have left nought living to ravage and rend.
Earth, stones and thorns of the wild ground growing,
    While the sun and the rain live, these shall be,
Till a last wind's breath upon all these blowing
        Roll the sea.

Till the slow sea rise and the sheer cliff crumble,
    Till terrace and meadow the deep gulfs drink,
Till the strength of the waves of the high tides humble
    The fields that lessen, the rocks that shrink;
Here now in his triumph where all things falter,
    Stretched out on the spoils that his own hand spread,
Like a god self-slain on his own strange altar,
        Death lies dead.