Once there were daisies and butterflies.
Goldfish glowed in the stream.
Now there are soldiers,
Bases and rations,
Wheat, and nothing else green.
Peace is the talk of the table.
“Peace” is the word on the signs.
Councils of protest;
A march, a petition.
A child, left home: “Stay behind!”
Whispers of horror.
The months become years.
Still no sign.
A letter, unopened.
“One day, when you’re older.”
Sneaking out with a torch, to know why.
Once there were roses to dream of.
Trysts on the grass, by the stream.
Now, there are letters,
Lawyers, and archives.
Now there are things to achieve.
It is something like a shadow
that goes everywhere with me,
Cast by the light of distant lamps
that I shall never see.
For some, it is a chain I bear.
For others, it is I.
It fades faint when I am busy,
and it thickens when I cry.
Each morning, you’d a shadow-road
that rolled out from your feet,
And fell on places you should go
and people you should meet.
Then at dusk, your shadow trailed
from your feet back to the dawn,
And its fingers picked out places
where you had — or hadn’t — gone.
From afar, my shadow crossed your path,
and whispered to your mind.
In due course, our shadows mingled,
sharing face, and shape, and mind.
For our daughter, they stretched stronger,
showing all that she could prove.
Since we parted, each has faded
to a shadow of our love.
When I saw your shadow frozen,
cast alone upon the ground,
And I could not find you near it,
though your thoughts lay all around,
Then I knew that you had left us
for a life without decay,
Under light that casts no shadows
— so your shadow had to stay.
A force of love feared she was incomplete,
And sought, and caught a soul in tight embrace;
Lifted her darling from his mortal feet
And laid him gently in a web of lace.
The web was torn, and brighter than the Sun
Her eyes were lit with rage and righteous pain.
She sought the forts where slavery had begun
And taught their tyrants terror — but in vain.
Her sweetheart was not taken as a slave.
He had been mortal, and he had grown old;
Had seen her love would stretch him past the grave,
And chose to face a fate that he controlled.
Upon this secret, spend no further breath.
We dare not let her think to challenge death.
I know a place where waterfalls will dance:
Will from the cliff-side step, to take your hand,
With tinkling footstep, glide across the sand,
And share with you the blush of first romance.
But when the moon has set, they’ll dance no more,
With bow or curtsey clear, say night is done,
Return, against the cliff again to run,
And leave you standing lonely on the shore.
Some later night, you might well ask again.
Beseech the water with an offered arm,
But now the lake is lifeless in its calm.
Whatever loved you once does not remain.
No single nymph can more than once appear:
The flowing water differs every year.