Christina Rossetti: Poems

Twilight Calm

Oh, pleasant eventide!

Clouds on the western side

Grow grey and greyer hiding the warm sun:

The bees and birds, their happy labours done,

Seek their close nests and bide.

Screened in the leafy wood

The stock-doves sit and brood:

The very squirrel leaps from bough to bough

But lazily; pauses; and settles now

Where once he stored his food. 10

One by one the flowers close,

Lily and dewy rose

Shutting their tender petals from the moon:

The grasshoppers are still; but not so soon

Are still the noisy crows.

The dormouse squats and eats

Choice little dainty bits

Beneath the spreading roots of a broad lime;

Nibbling his fill he stops from time to time

And listens where he sits. 20

From far the lowings come

Of cattle driven home:

From farther still the wind brings fitfully

The vast continual murmur of the sea,

Now loud, now almost dumb.

The gnats whirl in the air,

The evening gnats; and there

The owl opes broad his eyes and wings to sail

For prey; the bat wakes; and the shell-less snail

Comes forth, clammy and bare. 30

Hark! that's the nightingale,

Telling the selfsame tale

Her song told when this ancient earth was young:

So echoes answered when her song was sung

In the first wooded vale.

We call it love and pain

The passion of her strain;

And yet we little understand or know:

Why should it not be rather joy that so

Throbs in each throbbing vein? 40

In separate herds the deer

Lie; here the bucks, and here

The does, and by its mother sleeps the fawn:

Through all the hours of night until the dawn

They sleep, forgetting fear.

The hare sleeps where it lies,

With wary half-closed eyes;

The cock has ceased to crow, the hen to cluck:

Only the fox is out, some heedless duck

Or chicken to surprise. 50

Remote, each single star

Comes out, till there they are

All shining brightly: how the dews fall damp!

While close at hand the glow-worm lights her lamp

Or twinkles from afar.

But evening now is done

As much as if the sun

Day-giving had arisen in the East:

For night has come; and the great calm has ceased,

The quiet sands have run. 60