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And all the great traditions of the Past
They saw reflected in the coming time.
And thus for ever with reverted look
The mystic volume of the world they read, Spelling it backward, like a Hebrew book,
Till life became a Legend of the Dead.
But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
The groaning earth in travail and in pain Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
And the dead nations never rise again.
In the Valley of the Vire
Still is seen an ancient mill, With its gables quaint and queer,
And beneath the window-sill,
On the stone,
These words alone:
« Oliver Basselin lived here."
Far above it, on the steep,
Ruined stands the old Château; Nothing but the donjon-keep
Left for shelter or for show.
Its vacant eyes
Stare at the skies, Stare at the valley green and deep.
Once a convent, old and brown,
Looked, but ah! it looks no more, From the neighboring hillside down On the rushing and the roar
Of the stream
Whose sunny gleam
Cheers the little Norman town.
In that darksome mill of stone,
To the water's dash and din,
Songs that fill
With a splendor of its own.
Never feeling of unrest.
Broke the pleasant dream he dreamed ;
Of soaring higher
True, his songs were not divine;
Were not songs of that high art,
But the mirth
Of this green earth
From the alehouse and the inn,
Opening on the narrow street,
Singing and applause of feet,
The laughing lays
That in those days Sang the poet Basselin.
In the castle, cased in steel,
Knights, who fought at Agincourt, Watched and waited, spur on heel; But the poet sang for sport
Songs that rang
Another clang, Songs that lowlier hearts could feel.
In the convent, clad in gray,
Sat the monks in lonely cells,
But his rhymes
Nearer to the earth than they.