The Dawn

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 205th birthday.

José Jacinto Milanés
Cuban
1814 – 1863

 

I can but pity him, the one
Who lingers in dull Slumber’s thralls,
While on his roof, unnoticed, fall
The effulgence of the rising sun.

Is there a purer, rarer treat
Than to leap off the wrinkled bed,
And, in the country, lightly tread
Of dewy grass the carpet neat?

I say the country, for I ween
Sweet Morning loses half her smile
Without there be soft winds the while,
And much of blue, and much of green.

These are not had in town, where gray,
And cold and damp, the misty gloom,
As in a suffocating tomb,
Shuts out the morning smile of day.

And then, those rows of houses tall,
With their grim faces, rigid, even,
Weary the soul: the light of heaven
By fragments seems on them to fall.

No! I must stray with footsteps free,
In some delightful rustic place
Without a blur the virgin face
Of life-restoring Morn to see.

To see her in her robe of light,
Far in the crimson Orient shine, —
Like a pure maid, whose smile divine
Elates the soul with chaste delight.

Oh! is there one so poor of thought,
And with a heart so dead and cold,
Who can at the break of day behold
Sweet Nature’s charms, and love her not?

See her with life and beauty new
Roll with the ever murm’ring river;
With the lithe branches dance and quiver;
Sparkle in the resplendent dew.

Low in the reptile on the ground;
Erect and nimble in the brute;
Delicious in the hanging fruit;
Smiling in all the flowers around!

Ah me! I do remember well
When but a simple, beardless boy,
How oft, and with what eager joy,
Came I upon such scenes to dwell!

Now would a butterfly’s light wings
Entrance me with their gaudy hues;
Then would I set myself to muse
Upon a rose, — and dream such things!

And always gay! ‘Twas natural:
Care had not yet impress’d its furrow
Upon my brow, nor had of sorrow
Tasted my lips the bitter gall!

Those days of boyhood vanish’d soon;
Anon, I felt Love’s burning sting;
And then I deemed a foolish thing
To doat on hill, and sun, and moon.

Ungrateful that I was! But how
Severely, Nature, did I pay
For my neglect! She who for aye
Had vowed to love, — forgot her vow!

Most bitterly I wept, and yearned
For her dear presence; and my strength
I fear’d me would have failed… At length
Peace to my shatter’d heart returned.

Oh! what an anguish most sublime
‘Tis to forget! But ah! at last
The iron chain that bound me fast
Fell ‘neath the steady strokes of Time.

Time! Who with hand unseen and noiseless
Pours on our raven locks his snow;
Quenches the light in eyes that glow,
And Beauty’s lips makes pale and voiceless!

And now, once more, I love to stroll
And view sweet Nature at this hour;
For, then, her freshness has the pow’r
To soothe the fever of my soul.

But still I feel deep in my breast
The old wounds bleeding, and I sigh
Whene’er I happen to pass by,
Hand clasp’ed in hand, two lovers blest.

And even sometimes, if I hear
The tender whisp’rings, fraught with meaning,
Of two palms to each other leaning,
I feel a loneliness most dreer!…

If, on a bough, I see, alone,
Two birds exchange delightful lays;
If two stars blend their am’rous rays;
If two waves rolling into one;

If two clouds in the heavens glide,
And on their way their shadows mingle;
If two paths, meeting, form a single;
If two hills standing side by side;

I linger; and with gloomy mood
Remember that I’m loved by none;
That while so many a mated one
There be, I weep in solitude!

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