Sestina on autumn
Now the leaves fade and fall , speak not of dying :
Only in spring that thought befits the soul ,
When life flowers , and sweet birds embowered in music
Teach us to value joys that must depart :
While beauty fades , think not of death but judgment :
Harvest is done ; now comes the waiting time .
Pray then , dear love , how best to use this time ,
Too brief to waste in idle thoughts of dying ,
To store the winnowed harvest of the soul
For one year more , and sing to the wind’s music ,
Hoping to see yet one more spring depart ,
Yet one more spring , before we come to judgment .
What have we stored against the day of judgment ?
Be sure , however much we made of time ,
Hours will rebuke us when we come to dying :
Black hours that crabbed or atrophied the soul ,
Hours without rhythm , deaf to any music ,
Black hours , though pardoned , that may not depart .
With life alone these stiff rebukes depart :
Pardon , redemption , cannot temper judgment .
Yet though our sins stood judged before all time ,
Though hell were only our desert in dying ,
Rest we secure of mercy to the soul ,
That noble mercy of enduring music .
Faintly and far away we hear that music ,
By snatches and with echoes that depart
Before the ear can bring their tone to judgment :
Earth moves to music while the seas keep time ,
Stars in their courses mock your thought of dying ,
Who know the destined music of each soul .
When each of us has well attuned his soul ,
Learnt faultlessly his burden in the music ,
And stands perfected , ready to depart ,
His garners filled with harvest ripe for judgment ,
There will be time enough , there will be time
To mourn the yellow leaves and speak of dying .
Pray then that dying penitent of soul
We to that music may in peace depart
Leaving our judgment in the hands of time .
27 September 1952