Nocturne of Remembered Spring

Original Text: 
Conrad Aiken, Nocturne of Remembered Spring and other Poems (Boston: Four Seas, 1917): 11-17. Internet Archive
1Moonlight silvers the ghostly tops of trees,
2Moonlight whitens the lilac-shadowed wall;
3And through the soft-starred evening fall
4Clearly as if through enchanted seas
5Footsteps passing, an infinite distance away,
6In another world and another day.
7Moonlight turns the purple lilacs to blue.
8Moonlight leaves the fountain hoar and old,
9Moonlight whitens the sleepy dew,
10And the boughs of elms grow green and cold ...
11Our footsteps echo on gleaming stones.
12The leaves are stirred to a jargon of muted tones ...
13This is the night we have kept, you say:
14This is the moonlight night that never will die ...
15Let us return there, let us return, you and I, -
16Through the grey streets our memories retain
17Let us go back again.
18Mist goes up from the river to dim the stars,
19The river is black and cold; so let us dance
20To a tremor of violins and troubled guitars,
21And flare of horns, and clang of cymbals, and drums;
22And strew the glimmering floor with petals of roses
23And remember, while rich music yawns and closes.
24With a luxury of pain, how silence comes ...
25Yes, we have loved each other, long ago,
26We moved like wind to a music's ebb and flow ...
27At a phrase from the violins you closed your eyes.
28And smiled, and let me lead you ... how young we were!
29Waves of music beneath us dizzied to rise ...
30Your hair, upon that music, seemed to stir ...
31Let us return there, let us return, you and I,
32Through changeless streets our memories retain.
33Let us go back again.
34Mist goes up from the rain-steeped earth, and clings
35Ghostly with lamplight among drenched maple trees,
36We walk in silence and see how the lamplight flings
37Fans of shadow upon it ... the music's mournful pleas
38Die out behind us, the door is closed at last,
39A net of silver silence is softly cast
40Over our dreams ... slowly and softly we walk,
41Quietly, with delicious pause, we talk,
42Of foolish trivial things, of life and death,
43Time, and forgetfulness, and dust and truth,
44Lilacs and youth.
45You laugh, I hear the after-taken breath,
46You darken your eyes, and turn away your head,
47At something I have said -
48Some tremulous intuition that flew too deep,
49And struck a plangent chord ... to-night, to-night,
50You will remember it as you fall asleep,
51Your dream will suddenly blossom with sharp delight ...
52Good-night! you say ...
53The leaves of the lilac softly dip and sway,
54The purple spikes of bloom
55Nod their sweetness upon us, and lift again,
56Your white face turns away, I am caught with pain, -
57And silence descends ... and the dripping of dew from the eaves
58And jewelled points of leaves.
59I walk in a pleasure of sorrow along the street
60And try to remember you ... the slow drops patter,
61The mist upon the lilacs has made them sweet,
62I brush them with my sleeve, the cool drops scatter,
63And suddenly I laugh... and stand and listen
64As if another had laughed ... a fragrant gust
65Rustles the laden leaves, the wet spikes glisten,
66A shower of drops goes down on stones and dust.
67And it seems as though it were you who had shaken the bough,
68And spilled the fragrance - I pursue your face again.
69It grows more vague and lovely, it eludes me now ...
70I remember that you are gone, and drown in pain ...
71Something there was I said to you, I recall,
72Something, just as the music seemed to fall.
73That made you laugh, and burns me still with pleasure ...
74What were the words - the words like dripping fire? ...
75I remember them now, and smile, and in sweet leisure
76Rehearse the scene, more exquisite than before,
77And you more beautiful, and I more wise ...
78Lilacs and spring, and night, and your clear eyes.
79And you, in white, by the darkness of a door ...
80These things, like voices weaving to richest music,
81Flow and fall in the cool night of my mind,
82I pursue your ghost among green leaves that are ghostly,
83I pursue you, but cannot find ...
84And suddenly, with a pang that is sweetest of all,
85I become aware that I cannot remember you;
86The beautiful ghost I knew
87Has silently plunged in the shadows, shadows that stream and fall.
88Let us go in and dance once more
89On the dream's glimmering floor,
90Beneath the balcony festooned with roses.
91Let us go in and dance once more ...
92The door behind us closes
93Against an evening purple with stars and mist ...
94Let us go in and keep our tryst
95With music and white roses, and spin around
96In lazy swirls of sound.
97Do you foresee me, married and grown old? ...
98And you, who smile about you at this room
99Dizzy with whirling dancers - is it foretold
100That you must step from tumult into a gloom,
101Forget me, love another, grow white and cold?
102No, you are Cleopatra, fiercely young,
103Laughing upon the topmost stair of night;
104Roses upon the desert must be flung.,
105It is your wish ... Above us, light by light,
106Weaves the delirious darkness, petals fall,
107They fall upon your jewelled hands, they tremble upon your hair, -
108And music breaks in waves on the pillared wall,
109And you are Cleopatra, and do not care ...
110And so, in memory, you will always be -
111Young and foolish, a thing of dream and mist;
112And so, perhaps, when all is disillusioned.
113And eternal spring returns once more,
114Bringing a ghost of lovelier springs remembered.
115You will remember me.
116Yet when we meet we seem in silence to say,
117Pretending serene forgetfulness of our youth,
118"Do you remember ... but then why should you remember! ...
119Do you remember, a certain day,
120Or evening rather, - spring evening long ago, -
121We talked of death, and love, and time, and truth ...
122And said such wise things, things that amused us so ... ?
123How foolish we were, who thought ourselves so wise!" -
124And then we laugh, with shadows in our eyes.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: