The Milky Way
Evening has come; and across the skies—
Out through the darkness that, quivering, dies—
Beautiful, broad, and white,
Fashioned of many a silver ray
Stolen out of the ruins of Day,
Grows the pale bridge of the Milky Way,
Built by the architect Night.
Dim with shadows, and bright with stars,
Hung like gold lights on invisible bars
Stirred by the wind’s spent breath,
Rising on cloud-shapen pillars of grey,
Perfect it stands, like a tangible way
Binding to-morrow with yesterday,
Reaching to Life from Death.
Dark show the heavens on either side;
Soft flows the blue in a waveless tide
Under the silver arch;
Never a footstep is heard below,
Echoing earthward, as measured and slow,
Over the bridge the still hours go
Bound on their trackless march.
Is it a pathway leading to Heaven
Over Earth’s sin-clouds, rent and riven
With its supernal light,
Crossed by the souls of the loved who have flown
Stilly away from our arms, and alone
Up to the beautiful, great, white Throne
Pass in the hush of night?
Is it the road that our wild dreams walk,
Far beyond reach of our waking talk,
Out to the vague and grand
Far beyond Fancy’s uttermost range,
Out to the Dream-world of marvel and change,
Out to the mystic, unreal and strange—
Out to the Wonderland?
Is it the way that the angels take
When they come down by night to wake
Over the slumbering Earth?
Is it the way the faint stars go back,
Driven by insolent Day from his track
Into the distant mysterious Black
Where their bright souls had birth?
What may it be? Who may certainly say?
Over the shadowy Milky Way
No human foot hath trod.
Aons have passed; but unsullied and white,
Still it stands, fair as a rainbow of night,
Held like a promise above our dark sight,
Guiding our thoughts to God.