Nightfall in the Fens
by Ada Cambridge
|One hour ago the
red- hot sun below the bright horizon sank.
The long midsummer day is done. Our boat is moored
beneath the bank.
The glory of the crimson west dies slowly on the river's
The water- violet shuts its eye; the water- lily petals
So in the evening light we lie and dream in undisturbed
How far all petty cares have flown! How calm the fretful
world has grown!
We only hear the gentle breeze, in soft, delicious
Through osier beds and alder trees, and rustling flags
and bending grass;
The song of blackbird in the hedge, the quack of wild
duck in the sedge.
The distant bark of farmhouse dogs, the piping of a
clear- voiced thrush;
The murmurous babble of the frogs, of rippling stream in
reed and rush;
The splash of hungry trout that rise to passing gnats
and dragon- flies.
Sounds that make silence eloquent, but cannot break it,
The tranquil sense of still content that holds us like
At rest and free, in this lone fen, from noise of
streets and striving men.
What perfume in these dewy hours the rich earth to the
soft air yields!
Sweetbriar and bean and clover flowers breathe incense
from the quiet fields;
And every whiff that comes this way brings fragrant
scent of new- mown hay.
A long- legged heron stalks about that marshy meadow,
A little water- hen creeps out close by us, with her
A water- rat, in blank surprise, stares at us with his
The swallow lingers, and the swift, like arrow from a
bow, darts by;
Light clouds of little midges drift between us and the
Cockchafers hum as they whir past. But the hushed
twilight gathers fast.
All Nature takes her happy ease, and we no more can fume
No inward questions taunt and tease. All life's
disasters we forget
All life's injustice we forgive. To- night it is enough
No time is this to talk of books no time vexed
problems to discuss
Through all the upward spirit looks, and sees that Good
is meant for us
Sees more in these transparent skies than in all wise
The western glories fade and pass. The twilight deepens
more and more.
A thin mist, like a breath on glass, veils shining
stream and distant shore;
And night is falling, still and cool, on each broad
marsh and silent pool.
The moor- hen paddles in the weeds no longer, for her
chicks are fed;
The heron, rising from the reeds, goes slowly sailing
home to bed;
Just now, from off that mossy bank, the little brown rat
slipped and sank.
Night comes at length. The last pale gleam of lingering
day has disappeared.
On silent fields and quiet stream a few stars shine; the
mist has cleared;
The willows of the further shore stand outlined on the
sky once more.
No hum of gnat or bee is heard; no pipe of thrush on
No cry of any beast or bird to stir the solemn stillness
Though all the soundless air is rife with latent
energies of life
Only a vagrant bat we see on silken pinion flitting by;
Only a white owl, roaming free, with downy wings and
Two ghostly visions in their flight two noiseless
shadows of the night.
How clear the darkness, and how fine the plumes upon
those bulbous stumps!
A luminous greyness seems to shine behind those serried
And sharper in the pallid glow the stems of flag and
A faint dawn breaks on yonder sedge, and broadens in
that bed of weeds;
A bright disc shows its radiant edge, the round moon
rises from the reeds;
Its level rays of silver glide across the steel- dark
They burnish steel to silver bright a mirror for an
They bridge it with a bridge of light fit pathway for
an angel's feet;
If angel feet and angel face haunt mortal creatures'
The widening track of glory streams to this low margin
where we sit;
My sight swims in its dazzling beams, and heart and
brain are steeped in it
Are washed from all the dust and grime, the smears and
tears, of working time.
Like waves when stormy winds are past, my toils and
turmoils sink and cease;
Like long- bound captive free at last, I bask in
ecstasies of peace;
Like tired child I lie at rest upon my unknown parent's
There may be happier worlds than this a heavenly
country, vast and fair,
Where saints and seraphs dwell in bliss but I pray not
for entrance there.
While in my human flesh I live I ask no more than earth
Ethereal essences may roam Elysian fields beyond the
But I, a man, am in my home, with all I love and all I
How is it, faithful friend, with thee? This sweet world
is enough for me.