Once did an ancient poet see,
When antique dawn spread out her light,
Two birds of song and poetry
Upon a bending, flowering tree.
And as each day went on toward night,
One bird did hunt and fly and sing
And busy lay the nest in leaf,
Sought high and low on restless wing --
The other never did a thing
In sun or rain, in joy or grief,
But drink from the trembling trumpet flowers
And taste of the nectar of the fruit,
Partake of divine ambrosial powers --
The first kept on through its fleeting hours
Scattering pollen and gathering root,
Sheltering, singing in morning’s cold,
Hoping to catch a wink of bliss --
The other by nectar never grew old,
But only dreamed of how days unfold --
And now and then they shared a kiss.
And when they kissed, there passed along
With only the ruffling of a wing,
A drop of nectar on the tongue,
That made the toiling moment young
And filled long days, remembering.
They vanished; the poet did not say
A reason why they fled from there --
It may be death took one away,
And the other wished no more to play --
But the tree was bending empty there.
Ages are gathered around those days;
Where is that land the poet knew?
Gone are the towers and splendid ways,
The cities, the ships on the teeming bays --
Only the nectar is fresh and true.
Paul Gallagher is a poet, translator and also an economics journalist. He has spent much of his life fighting for the revival of classical poetry and classical culture. See his other works on Keats and Shelley as well as more of his poetry here.