Dearest, a look is but a ray
Reflected in a certain way;
A word, whatever tone it wear,
Is but a trembling wave of air;
A touch, obedience to a clause
In nature’s pure material laws.
The very flowers that bend and meet,
In sweetening others, grow more sweet;
The clouds by day, the stars by night,
Inweave their floating locks of light;
The rainbow, Heaven’s own forehead’s braid,
Is but the embrace of sun and shade.
How few that love us have we found!
How wide the world that girds them round!
Like mountain streams we meet and part,
Each living in the other’s heart,
Our course unknown, our hope to be
Yet mingled in the distant sea.
But Ocean coils and heaves in vain,
Bound in the subtle moonbeam’s chain;
And love and hope do but obey
Some cold, capricious planet’s ray,
Which lights and leads the tide it charms
To Death’s dark caves and icy arms.
Alas! one narrow line is drawn,
That links our sunset with our dawn;
In mist and shade life’s morning rose,
And clouds are round it at its close;
But ah! no twilight beam ascends
To whisper where that evening ends.
Oh! in the hour when I shall feel
Those shadows round my senses steal,
When gentle eyes are weeping o’er
The clay that feels their tears no more,
Then let thy spirit with me be,
Or some sweet angel, likest thee!
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809-1894