John Howard Payne

(9 June 1791 – 10 April 1852 / New York City, New York)

Love's Autumn


YES, love, the Spring shall come again,
But not as once it came:
Once more in meadow and in lane
The daffodils shall flame,
The cowslips blow, but all in vain;
Alike, yet not the same.

The roses that we pluck’d of old
Were dew’d with heart’s delight;
Our gladness steep’d the primrose-gold
In half its lovely light:
The hopes are long since dead and cold
That flush’d the wind-flowers’ white.

Oh, who shall give us back our Spring?
What spell can fill the air
With all the birds of painted wing
That sang for us whilere?
What charm reclothe with blossoming
Our lives, grown blank and bare?

What sun can draw the ruddy bloom
Back to hope’s faded rose?
What stir of summer re-illume
Our hearts’ wreck’d garden-close?
What flowers can fill the empty room
Where now the nightshade grows?

’T is but the Autumn’s chilly sun
That mocks the glow of May;
’T is but the pallid bindweeds run
Across our garden way,
Pale orchids, scentless every one,
Ghosts of the summer day.

Yet, if it must be so, ’t is well:
What part have we in June?
Our hearts have all forgot the spell
That held the summer noon;
We echo back the cuckoo’s knell,
And not the linnet’s tune.

What shall we do with roses now,
Whose cheeks no more are red?
What violets should deck our brow,
Whose hopes long since are fled?
Recalling many a wasted vow
And many a faith struck dead.

Bring heath and pimpernel and rue,
The Autumn’s sober flowers:
At least their scent will not renew
The thought of happy hours,
Nor drag sad memory back unto
That lost sweet time of ours.

Faith is no sun of summertide,
Only the pale, calm light
That, when the Autumn clouds divide,
Hangs in the watchet height,—
A lamp, wherewith we may abide
The coming of the night.

And yet, beneath its languid ray,
The moorlands bare and dry
Bethink them of the summer day
And flower, far and nigh,
With fragile memories of the May,
Blue as the August sky.

These are our flowers: they have no scent
To mock our waste desire,
No hint of bygone ravishment
To stir the faded fire:
The very soul of sad content
Dwells in each azure spire.

I have no violets: you laid
Your blight upon them all:
It was your hand, alas! that made
My roses fade and fall,
Your breath my lilies that forbade
To come at Summer’s call.

Yet take these scentless flowers and pale,
The last of all my year:
Be tender to them; they are frail:
But if thou hold them dear,
I ’ll not their brighter kin bewail,
That now lie cold and sere.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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