The Hours Of Illness
How slow creeps time! I hear the midnight chime,
And now late revellers prepare for sleep;
A last gay voice rings in a passing rhyme,
And past my door the anxious footsteps creep.
The little clocks from hidden places call,
'Tis one o'clock; downstairs the big clock's bell
Tolls deep, and then comes forth the merry chime,
Like laughing children calling, 'All is well!'
'Tis two o'clock! Why in the lonesome room
This creak and crack, if there be no one here?
Whose feet disturb the loose board of the floor?
Whose secret presence fills the dark with fear?
'Tis three o'clock! O God, when comes sweet rest?
To sleep, to sleep, within this sleeping house,
Where all could wake with less fatigue than I,
Where no one stirs save some adventurous mouse!
'Tis four o'clock! Death stands at my bed-head
In meditation deep, with hidden face,
And I alone—a coward—alone, afraid,
Lest he from his dread brow the shroud displace.
'Tis five o'clock! Within the empty room,
Threading their way, the happy dead appear,
More living than the quick in this still night—
All whom I loved or held me ever dear.
'Tis six o'clock! Death moves from my bed-head,
Flings high the shroud from off his hidden face.
'O gentle death! O fair and lovely shade,
Lift this sad spirit from its dwelling-place!'
The clock at seven! Hear the milkman come.
Loud clangs the gate; the room is chill and dark.
The maid, reluctant rising, frees the door;
A dog runs forth with shrill, offensive bark.
The clock strikes eight! The curtains pulled aside
Let in the light, so cold, so bleak, so grey.
From their dark hiding come familiar things,
And through my window looks another day.