THEY say that fair Romance is dead, and in her cold grave lying low,
The green grass waving o'er her head, the mould upon her breasts of snow;
Her voice, they say, is dumb for aye, that once was clarion-clear and high—
But in their hearts, their frozen hearts, they know that bitterly they lie.
Her brow of white, that was with bright rose-garland in the old days crowned,
Is now, they say, all shorn of light, and with a fatal fillet bound.
Her eyes divine no more shall shine to lead the hardy knight and good
Unto the Castle Perilous, beyond the dark Enchanted Wood.
And do they deem, these fools supreme, whose iron wheels unceasing whirr,
That, in this rushing Age of Steam, there is no longer room for HER?—
That, as they hold the Key of Gold that shuts or opens Mammon's Den,
Romance has vanished from the earth and left the homes and hearts of men?
Yea, some there be who fain would see this consummation sad and drear,
And set their god Machinery with iron rod to rule the year.
They go their way, day after day, with forward-staring, famished eyes,
Whose level glances never stray—fixed fast upon a sordid prize!
The sun may rise in god-like guise, the stars like burning seraphs shine,
But, ah, for those sad souls unwise, nor Earth nor Heaven bears a sign.
All visions fair, in earth and air, they gaze upon with sullen scorn.
God knows His own great business best; He only knows why they were born.
They never saw, with sacred awe, the Vision of the Starry Stream
That is the source of Love and Law; they never dreamt the Wondrous Dream;
They never heard the Magic Bird, whose strains the poet's soul entrance;
Their souls are in their money-bags—what should they know of fair Romance?
She still is here, the fair and dear, and walks the Earth with noiseless feet;
Her eyes are deep, and dark, and clear, her scarlet mouth is honey-sweet;
A chaplet fair of roses rare and lordly laurel crowns her head;
Her path is over land and sea. She is not dead; she is not dead.
On roads of clay, 'neath skies of grey, though Fate compel us to advance,
Beyond the turning of the way there sits and waits for us Romance.
Around yon cape, of lion-shape, that meets the wave with lion-brow,
A ship sails in from lands unknown; Romance stands shining on her prow.
At dead of night, a fiery light, from out the heart of darkness glares;
The engine, rocking in its flight, once more into the darkness flares;
The train flies fast, the bridge is past; white faces for a moment gleam—
And at the window sits Romance and gazes down into the stream.
When first the child, with wonder wild, looks on the world with shining eyes,
Romance becomes his guardian mild, and tells to him her stories wise.
And, when the light fades into night, and ended is this life's short span,
To other wonder-worlds she leads the spirit of the Dying Man.
Right grim gods be Reality, and iron-handed Circumstance.
Cast off their fetters, friend! Break free!—and seek the shrine of fair Romance.
And, when dark days with cares would craze your brain, then she will take your hand,
And lead you on by greenwood ways unto a green and pleasant land.
There you will see brave company all making gay and gallant cheer—
Blanaid the Fair, and Deirdri rare, and Gold Gudrun and Guinevere;
And Merlin wise, with dreaming eyes, and Tristram of the Harp and Bow;
While from the Wood of Broceliande the horns of Elfland bravely blow.