The sea gives her shells to the shingle,

The earth gives her streams to the sea;

They are many, but my gift is single,

My verses, the firstfruits of me.

Let the wind take the green and the grey leaf,

Cast forth without fruit upon air;

Take rose-leaf and vine-leaf and bay-leaf

Blown loose from the hair.

The night shakes them round me in legions,


Dawn drives them before her like dreams;

Time sheds them like snows on strange regions,

Swept shoreward on infinite streams;

Leaves pallid and sombre and ruddy,

Dead fruits of the fugitive years;

Some stained as with wine and made bloody,

And some as with tears.

Some scattered in seven years’ traces,

As they fell from the boy that was then;

Long left among the idle green places,


Or gathered but now among men;

On seas full of wonder and peril,

Blown white round the capes of the north;

Or in islands where myrtles are sterile

And loves bring not forth.

O daughters of dreams and of stories

That life is not wearied of yet,

Faustine, Fragoletta, Dolores,

Félise and Yolande and Juliette,

Shall I find you not still, shall I miss you,


When sleep, that is true or that seems,

Comes back to me hopeless to kiss you,

O daughters of dreams?

They are past as a slumber that passes,

As the dew of a dawn of old time;

More frail than the shadows on glasses,

More fleet than a wave or a rhyme.

As the waves after ebb drawing seaward,

When their hollows are full of the night,

So the birds that flew singing to me-ward


Recede out of sight.

The songs of dead seasons, that wander

On wings of articulate words;

Lost leaves that the shore-wind may squander,

Light flocks of untameable birds;

Some sang to me dreaming in class-time

And truant in hand as in tongue;

For the youngest were born of boy’s pastime,

The eldest are young.

Is there shelter while life in them lingers,


Is there hearing for songs that recede,

Tunes touched from a harp with man’s fingers

Or blown with boy’s mouth in a reed?

Is there place in the land of your labour,

Is there room in your world of delight,

Where change has not sorrow for neighbour

And day has not night?

In their wings though the sea-wind yet quivers,

Will you spare not a space for them there

Made green with the running of rivers


And gracious with temperate air;

In the fields and the turreted cities,

That cover from sunshine and rain

Fair passions and bountiful pities

And loves without stain?

In a land of clear colours and stories,

In a region of shadowless hours,

Where earth has a garment of glories

And a murmur of musical flowers;

In woods where the spring half uncovers


The flush of her amorous face,

By the waters that listen for lovers,

For these is there place?

For the song-birds of sorrow, that muffle

Their music as clouds do their fire:

For the storm-birds of passion, that ruffle

Wild wings in a wind of desire;

In the stream of the storm as it settles

Blown seaward, borne far from the sun,

Shaken loose on the darkness like petals


Dropt one after one?

Though the world of your hands be more gracious

And lovelier in lordship of things

Clothed round by sweet art with the spacious

Warm heaven of her imminent wings,

Let them enter, unfledged and nigh fainting,

For the love of old loves and lost times;

And receive in your palace of painting

This revel of rhymes.

Though the seasons of man full of losses


Make empty the years full of youth,

If but one thing be constant in crosses,

Change lays not her hand upon truth;

Hopes die, and their tombs are for token

That the grief as the joy of them ends

Ere time that breaks all men has broken

The faith between friends.

Though the many lights dwindle to one light,

There is help if the heaven has one;

Though the skies be discrowned of the sunlight


And the earth dispossessed of the sun,

They have moonlight and sleep for repayment,

When, refreshed as a bride and set free,

With stars and sea-winds in her raiment,

Night sinks on the sea.