Discord

The hurdy-gurdy sings in the golden morning;
In the hazy morning,
It sings to the budding trees, and creeps away.
Children take hands and play,
Sparrows whir upward from the dusty street;
But all that the music seems, somehow, to say
Is ‘Death is hiding among the cherry blossoms:
The eyes of death look out through cherry blossoms;
Death’s hand is on the bough and makes it sweet.’
In the quiet of the morning,
The silver music plays among the trees;
It dances over the sunlit stones,
It is blown like rain, it is silent, it sings again,
It is scattered and spilled like petals upon a breeze …
The sunlight swirls and shatters in broad cascades,
But somehow all the music seems to sing
A sinister thing–
That death is moving among the cool white blossoms,
Peering out through the blossoms with yellow eyes,
That the shadow of death is blue in the golden sunlight;
Blue in the sun it lies. Over the cold fields and the cold new grass
Cloud-shadows silently blow and pass;
And the shadows of clouds are blue, of changing shape.
Shadows of trees are huddled by gusty wind,
They crouch, they hurry, they whirl, they half escape.
And as the music, stealing down cold air,
Creeps to the heart again,
To whisper a suddenly flowering pain:
The lover leans to her lover, and over his eyes
See something pass, something remote and blue,
Like a cold cloud silently blowing across cold skies …
And the music, rising on air, so slowly to drift away,
Like one grown tired at length, desiring rest,
Seems only to say
‘Blue death is hiding among the cherry blossoms,
Parting the blossoms with white and silent hands,
To look at the world, and smile, and creep away.’
The snowdrops shake their bells against the grass.
The yellow crocus quivers and then is still.
But it is not the breeze that sets them nodding,
Not the wind, that makes them spill
The gliding silver raindrop in the sun:
It was the green and purple sinuous one,
It was the one with small red upward eyes;
Slowly breathing among the leaves he lies,
Slowly pushing against the delicate stems,
Drawing his silvered coils
Through tremulous clover and cinquefoils …
What was the echo heard, then, as we fled?
What was it the music said?
Something about a ghost that smiled through flowers,
A ghost who chilled us, a ghost of icy music,–
And cherry blossoms crowding to hide the dead.

by Conrad Aiken

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