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The Vision of Sir Launfal
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Prelude to Part First

Over his keys the musing organist,
     Beginning doubtfully and far away,
First lets his fingers wander as they list,
     And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay:
Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
     Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme,
First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent
     Along the wavering vista of his dream.

Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
We Sinais climb and know it not.

Over our manhood bend the skies;
     Against our fallen and traitor lives
The great winds utter prophecies;
     With our faint hearts the mountain strives;
Its arms outstretched, the druid wood
     Waits with its benedicite;
And to our age's drowsy blood
     Still shouts the inspiring sea.

Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;
     The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,
     We bargain for the graves we lie in;
At the devil's booth are all things sold,
     Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
     Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking:
'T is heaven alone that is given away,
     'T is only God may be had for the asking;
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
     Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
     And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
     An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
     Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
     Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
     The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
     To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
     Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
     With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,--
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
     And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
     Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop over-fills it,
     We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
     'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
     How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
     That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
     We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing, --
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
     Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
     Everything is upward striving;
'T is as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue, --
     'T is the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
     In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake;
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
     The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
     And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
     Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
What wonder if Sir Launfal now
Remembered the keeping of his vow?

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