Sthephan G. Stephansson Poetry

EVENING

At twilight, when I am alone with my thoughts
— The trappings of labor have shed, —
Our earth, in pursuit of its ceaseless round,
From light into shadow fled
And garrulous talk to its ultimate end
The baying of hounds has sped,

And Care on my doorstep sits drowsy at last,
Who guards all my movements by day,
Who startled my songs — all the lightest of wing —
And silent they fluttered away,
Who bruised the wing of a thought as it soared
Its heavenward call to obey.

How fain to forgive and forget would I rest,
If I — my own master once more —
Through soft-falling darkness and silence could dream
The sweet but invisible shore
That claims all our hopes which are shipwrecked in life,
And longings, which poets adore.

Where wealth that is gathered by taxes and tolls
Or tariffs — is counted as vain,
Where no man's success is another man's loss,
Nor power the goal and the gain,
The first of commandments is justice to all,
And victory causes no pain.

Then looms up before me, all ghastly and pale,
A night-time of sleepless unrest.
And I am surrounded by specters of souls
Who failed to live up to their best.
And hark to the cry of the foundlings of life:
Abilities shunned and represt.

And then I see men in a woeful abyss
Whom toil has forced to their knees,
But indolent greed on their helplessness thrives,
— Disease at the heart of our trees —
And masses bereft of their reason and will
Are baited and governed by these —

With dealings and friendships as doubtful as those
Awaiting the wanderer slow
Whom night overtakes as he sees in dismay
A bandits' encampment below,
And hears through the darkness, while feigning to sleep,
The stealthy approach of the foe.

The night of our wand'rings seems woefully long,
The wayfarers lost as of yore,
Our dawn of advancement a boastful romance,
The shadows as dense as before.
The minds of the ancients soared equally high,
Where, then, is our wonderful score?

In this — that the dawn reaches numbers increased
Through centuries slipping away.
Not higher — nor deeper — but farther it seeks
Like shafts of the lengthening day.
On brief winged moments each lifetime departs,
And sees but the tragic delay.

For even the shepherds on moorlands afar
Have felt this benevolent ray
Of slow-creeping dawn, as it touches their hearts,
Transforming their arduous day —
And mine — this unquenchable longing to sing
Which sleepless at night I obey,

Till finally called — and shall calmy retire
Where sleeplessness may not assail,
Assured that whatever of good I conceived
Continues, and never shall fail.
The best that was in me forever shall live,
The sun over darkness prevail.

Written in 1899

Translated by Jakobína Johnson.



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