By Richard Aldington 1892–1962 Richard Aldington
The ancient songs   
Pass deathward mournfully.

Cold lips that sing no more, and withered wreaths,
Regretful eyes, and drooping breasts and wings—
Symbols of ancient songs
Mournfully passing
Down to the great white surges,
Watched of none         - -
Save the frail sea-birds
And the lithe pale girls,
Daughters of Okeanos.

And the songs pass   
From the green land   
Which lies upon the waves as a leaf   
On the flowers of hyacinth;   
And they pass from the waters,   
The manifold winds and the dim moon,   
And they come,   
Silently winging through soft Kimmerian dusk,   
To the quiet level lands   
That she keeps for us all,   
That she wrought for us all for sleep   
In the silver days of the earth's dawning—
Proserpine, daughter of Zeus.   

And we turn from the Kuprian's breasts,   
And we turn from thee,   
Phoibos Apollon,   
And we turn from the music of old   
And the hills that we loved and the meads,   
And we turn from the fiery day,   
And the lips that were over-sweet;   
For silently   
Brushing the fields with red-shod feet,   
With purple robe   
Searing the flowers as with a sudden flame,   
Thou hast come upon us.

And of all the ancient songs   
Passing to the swallow-blue halls   
By the dark streams of Persephone,   
This only remains:   
That in the end we turn to thee,   
That we turn to thee, singing   
One last song.

O Death,
Thou art an healing wind
That blowest over white flowers
A-tremble with dew;
Thou art a wind flowing   
Over long leagues of lonely sea;   
Thou art the dusk and the fragrance;   
Thou art the lips of love mournfully smiling;   
Thou art the pale peace of one   
Satiate with old desires;   
Thou art the silence of beauty,   
And we look no more for the morning;   
We yearn no more for the sun,   
Since with thy white hands,   
Thou crownest us with the pallid chaplets,   
The slim colorless poppies   
Which in thy garden alone   
Softly thou gatherest.

And silently;   
And with slow feet approaching;   
And with bowed head and unlit eyes,   
We kneel before thee:   
And thou, leaning towards us, Caressingly layest upon us   
Flowers from thy thin cold hands,   
And, smiling as a chaste woman Knowing love in her heart,   
Thou sealest our eyes   
And the illimitable quietude   
Comes gently upon us.

Source: Poetry (November 1912).


This poem originally appeared in the November 1912 issue of Poetry magazine

View this poem in its original format

November 1912
 Richard  Aldington


Richard Aldington was prominent in several literary capacities; most notably as a founding poet of the Imagist movement and as a novelist who conveyed the horror of World War I through his written works. He was also a prolific critic, translator, and essayist. Though he considered his novels to be his most important works, he received much critical attention for his biographies of such contemporaries as Lawrence of Arabia and

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Heroes & Patriotism, The Body, Nature, Death, Mythology & Folklore, The Mind, Greek & Roman Mythology



Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.