Time gathers head until the full leaf wanes,
Its green all pinked and bitten to the veins,
A puckered page of rusty blights and banes,
A laborer’s hand, its toiled and horny palm Scarred with its trade, mature and ripe for rest.
The lusty growing-heat burns down to calm But the unsatisfied and smothered breast Lives on in baffled pains.
Now all the voices that were quick and strong To toss their music down in flight daylong With such a promised constancy of song Fall still and the woods are silent and the hill Save for the rabble wings in restless crowds That fly off whickering with curt notes and shrill To trace dark eddies on the standing clouds —
A footfall starts a throng.
If any in this fitful interim Dreams of a summer always at the brim How great and solemn a witness threatens him! The red leaf reads court sentence on his hope,
The stubble arraigns him and the dusty weeds Indict his frailty and contract his scope.
Now but to keep alive desires and needs Will tax his heart and limb.
Yes, all the summer’s world-bright face is marred,
The leaves with their maturity hang scarred,
The sky with earlier brilliances is starred.
One after one the witnesses appear,
The fatal rite proceeds till it is done.
The sense can smell far off a hackled fear,
But now it is only ripeness coming on.
Is ripeness then so hard?