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WHITCOMB RILEY, James


August

A day of torpor in the sullen heat

Of Summer's passion: In the sluggish stream

The panting cattle lave their lazy feet,

With drowsy eyes, and dream.

Long since the winds have died, and in the sky

There lives no cloud to hint of Nature's grief;

The sun glares ever like an evil eye,

And withers flower and leaf.

Upon the gleaming harvest-field remote

The thresher lies deserted, like some old

Dismantled galleon that hangs afloat

Upon a sea of gold.

The yearning cry of some bewildered bird

Above an empty nest, and truant boys

Along the river's shady margin heard--

A harmony of noise--

A melody of wrangling voices blent

With liquid laughter, and with rippling calls

Of piping lips and thrilling echoes sent

To mimic waterfalls.

And through the hazy veil the atmosphere

Has draped about the gleaming face of Day,

The sifted glances of the sun appear

In splinterings of spray.

The dusty highway, like a cloud of dawn,

Trails o'er the hillside, and the passer-by,

A tired ghost in misty shroud, toils on

His journey to the sky.

And down across the valley's drooping sweep,

Withdrawn to farthest limit of the glade,

The forest stands in silence, drinking deep

Its purple wine of shade.

The gossamer floats up on phantom wing;

The sailor-vision voyages the skies

And carries into chaos everything

That freights the weary eyes:

Till, throbbing on and on, the pulse of heat

Increases--reaches--passes fever's height,

And Day sinks into slumber, cool and sweet,

Within the arms of Night.