We left in the cool hour, the green hour before the dawn,
And drove the frightened sheep before us up the hills To higher pasture, there to graze upon The wind-combed fields, and to lamb among the mountain daffodils.
Then on the peak that daily folds the setting sun,
We came upon the naked elders looking down the west With faded eyes, and saw a host again in every one: The god returned to the empty chapel in each breast.
And when they marked the serpent muscles of our limbs Eagerly sinuous beneath the tawny skin,
Their voices broke—sighs rose among the morning hymns—
Remembering white-fleeced hours, youth, and the god within.
They strained their lean and corded necks,
And out of wrinkled lids the tears
Fell, and were lost in the dark, withered orchids of their sex.
We paused to pay them honor for their years,
And they entreated, pled with us to stay,
Offering fusty saws; then prayed that we might tread,
Like knights who never lived, the solitary way
The god had lightened with the spiny crown upon his head.
But were there not the sheep to herd somewhere against the sky,
The day already on the hills, and after,
The mountain women, and deep grass in which to lie? How could they understand?—so facing up, we left them with our laughter.