The Silence

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Ever since ending of the summer weather.
When last the thunder and the lightning broke,
Shatt'ring themselves upon it at one stroke,
The Silence has not stirred, there in the heather.

All round about stand steeples straight as stakes,
And each its bell between its fingers shakes;
All round about, with their three-storied loads,
  The teams prowl down the roads;
All round about, where'er the pine woods end,
The wheel creaks on along its rutty bed,
But not a sound is strong enough to rend
  That space intense and dead.

Since summer, thunder-laden, last was heard.
The Silence has not stirred;
And the broad heath-land, where the nights sink down
Beyond the sand-hills brown.
Beyond the endless thickets closely set,
To the far borders of the far-away.
  Prolongs It yet.

Even the winds disturb not as they go

The boughs of those long larches, bending low
  Where the marsh-water lies,
In which Its vacant eyes
Gaze at themselves unceasing, stubbornly.
Only sometimes, as on their way they move,
The noiseless shadows of the clouds above.
Or of some great bird's hov'ring flight on high,
  Brush It in passing by.

Since the last bolt that scored the earth aslant,
Nothing has pierced the Silence dominant.

Of those who cross Its vast immensity,
Whether at twilight or at dawn it be,
There is not one but feels
The dread of the Unknown that It instils;
An ample force supreme, It holds Its sway
Uninterruptedly the same for aye.
Dark walls of blackest fir-trees bar from sight
The outlook towards the paths of hope and light;
  Huge, pensive junipers
Affright from far the passing travellers;
Long, narrow paths stretch their straight lines unbent.
Till they fork off in curves malevolent;
And the sun, ever shifting, ceaseless lends
Fresh aspects to the mirage whither tends

Since the last bolt was forged amid the storm,
The polar Silence at the corners four
Of the wide heather-land has stirred no more.

Old shepherds, whom their hundred years have worn
To things all dislocate and out of gear,
And their old dogs, ragged, tired-out, and torn.
Oft watch It, on the soundless lowlands near,
Or downs of gold beflecked with shadows' flight,
Sit down immensely there beside the night.

Then, at the curves and corners of the mere.
  The waters creep with fear;
The heather veils itself, grows wan and white;
All the leaves listen upon all the bushes,
And the incendiary sunset hushes
Before Its face his cries of brandished light.
And in the hamlets that about It lie.
Beneath the thatches of their hovels small
The terror dwells of feeling It is nigh.
And, though It stirs not, dominating all.
Broken with dull despair and helplessness,
Beneath Its presence they crouch motionless,
As though upon the watch--and dread to see.
Through rifts of vapour, open suddenly
At evening, in the moon, the argent eyes
  Of Its mute mysteries.

© Emile Verhaeren