Ballad of Past and Present Time        

Sometime: on summer evenings

     A wind at twilight blows:

Suddenly the past is present.

     Shines from an open rose.


Then you were always happy.

     Then you were young, it seems.

The sunlight cast no shadow;

     You bathed in tranquil streams.


Like you, your friends were famous,

     Or one day soon would be:

Their eyes held dawning vistas.

     Their ships were on the sea.


Dark curls would be dark forever;

     The blond be always fair;

Success would never falter;

     Always that springtime air.


Together you won the prizes;

     Together you matched the stars.

Ah, prizes contrived from ashes;

     Friends doomed in fatal wars.


Those handsome looks departed;

     Light hearts were weighted down;

And the ones who did not perish

     Achieved no laurel crown.


Not all the past was pleasant;

     Then, even then, were tears;

But who had ever bargained

     For such lacklustre years?


Yet time does more than triumph,

     It makes a ruin of pride,

From which disastered fortress

     The heart peers, mystified.


For some once decked with garlands

     Have seen their garlands shorn

Of every masking petal

     Which hid the rose’s thorn.


And those whose diadems dazzled,

     The charioteers of youth,

Have now encountered wisdom

     In the long baggage-train of truth.


Sometimes on summer evenings

     You sense the mists of fall,

When the enshadowed swans will

     Leave with a lingering call.


Then friends who died in summer,

     Like friends who died in spring,

Will to the autumn dreamer

     Be each a harvest king.


With any faults forgiven,

     With only goodness seen,

They will be like Greek statues,

     Immutably serene.


No sorrow may oppress them,

     These friends who will have done

With battles which seemed lost, but,

     Unknown to them, were won.


Like those Hellenic princes

     Whose youthful smiles endure,

Then will they wear the laurel,

     Then will they stand secure.


But these are thoughts that waver

     Like moths about the rose,

Whose passing beauty draws them

     Until the sunlight goes.


And at that rose you wonder:

     Why must it fade so soon?

And in your heart you try to

     Read a forgotten rune.


Your heart and the rose are symbols

     Of things you cannot know:

You must wait for the final flower

     And its translucent glow.


Then all will come together:

     The spring and fall be friends:

For the story finds its meaning

     When it ends.