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LYRICS AND SONNETS
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Sincerely, Ethelwyn Wetherald.
LYRICS and SONNETS
Complete edition arranged
in seven groups and with an
JOHN W. GARVIN
THOMAS NELSON & SONS LIMITED
Ethelwyn Wetherald is of English-Irish descent. Her paternal grandmother, née Isabel Thistlethwaite, died in Yorkshire, England, in 1826; and in 1834, grandfather Wetherald and several of his large family took ship for New York, on their way to Upper Canada. Such an ocean voyage in those days required nearly six weeks. The journey from New York, by way of Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Oswego, Kingston and Toronto, was also long and wearisome, but these travellers in a strange new land never lost their interest in sight-seeing.
John Wetherald bought a farm of one hundred acres in Puslinch township, near Guelph, the cost price of which was two hundred and fifty dollars for the settler’s right and title, and in addition two hundred and seventy dollars to the Government agent in Toronto, payable in nine annual instalments. As one acre only was cleared, the family had to settle down to pioneering in earnest. The remaining children, with the exception of one daughter, Agnes, who had married in England, joined them the next year.
Miss Wetherald’s maternal grandparents were natives of Ireland. Miss Sarah Harris was a refined and culture governess in a wealthy family, in the north of Ireland when the attentions of a young [page v] and ardent wooer by the name of Balls, who was thirteen years her junior, so embarrassed and agitated her, that she sought escape by resigning and voyaging to Canada. The young man was not so easily shaken, however, for he promptly followed and succeeded shortly in making her a pioneer’s wife. Later Mrs. Balls opened a backwoods school and received a grant from the Government. She was an excellent teacher and disciplinarian. . . . Her husband played the fiddle and was popular in his family and with the neighbours. He raised wheat, and about the year 1840 won a prize of nine dollars at the Guelph Fall Fair for the best bushel of that grain. Every kernel was hand-picked by himself and his three children. Also he interested himself in raising chickens, making maple sugar, and in hunting and shooting wolves. . . . . Mrs. Balls was reticent and dignified. The old country custom of five o’clock tea was retained by her, and Miss Wetherald had still the teapot, ‘cream ewer’ and ‘sugar shovel’ that she used.
The maiden name of Miss Wetherald’s mother was Jemima Harris Balls. She was born at Rockwood, a few miles from Guelph, and was married in her eighteenth year.
William Wetherald, the father of our poet, was the ninth of eleven children. He was born at Healaugh, Yorkshire, England, September 26, 1820. For four years before coming to Upper Canada, he attended Ackworth School, and institution of The Society of Friends. The discipline was severe and holidays were few, but not withstanding, he left this school with a genuine loe of knowledge and with his ambition aroused and quickened. As he was not [page vi] [unnumbered page, includes illustration: The Rockwood Academy at Rockwood, Ontario, where Ethelwyn Wetherald was born, on April 26, 1857.] [blank page] strong physically it was his desire to become a teacher, and so he was detected sometimes in the fields working out mathematical problems while the team and plough were resting. For several years he taught a district school. After his marriage he opened a Boarding School at Rockwood. This was in 1851. (Four years later it became the Rockwood Academy with a large stone building,) In December, 1857, the Academy had fifty pupils enrolled, two or three assistant teachers, a capable housekeeper with several women helpers, and a man to do the chores. It provided also an apartment for the Wetherald family and a beloved nurse.
A number of the students afterwards became distinguished men, among them the late James J. Hill, railway magnate; Hon. Arthur Sturgis Hardy, K.C., LL.D., Prime Minister of Ontario, later the Jarvis Street Collegiate Institute.
In September, 1864, Mr. Wetherald resigned his principalship to accept the position of superintendent of Haverford College, near Philadelphia. A few years later he returned to Ontario and bought a fruit and dairy farm, in Pelham township, near Fenwick, in the beautiful Niagara Peninsula.
In his later years, Mr. Wetherald became an ordained minister of The Society of Friends, and devoted himself almost exclusively to his religious duties. He travelled extensively and became widely known. By hard study and much reading of classical literature, this prominent educator and preacher gained a fine mastery of English, which he imparted [page vii] to his children. His distinguished daughter acknowledges with loving gratitude her indebtedness to him.
Agnes Ethelwyn was born at Rockwood, April 26, 1857, the sixth of eleven children. Her early education was received at home. Later she attended The Friends Boarding School, at Union Springs, N.Y., and subsequently, Pickering College, Ontario.
As a writer, Miss Wetherald won her first prominence, in the years, 1887-’88-’89, when she contributed articles frequently to the Toronto Globe. Each article was about a column in length and was signed by the nom de plume, ‘Bel Thistlethwaite,’ a contraction of the maiden name of her paternal grandmother. . . . In June, 1889, when a member of the Globe staff, now a Canadian Senator, was about to take his holidays, Miss Wetherald was requested by the editor to come to the city to write ‘Noes and Comments’ and an occasional editorial. The editor was Mr. John Cameron.
The following year, Mr. Cameron resigned and returned to London, Ontario, as Managing Editor of the Advertiser. In September, 1890, he founded a small monthly magazine, entitled Wives and Daughters, with his wife as editor and Ethelwyn Wetherald as assistant. This little magazine continued publication for three years. Miss Wetherald wrote nearly all the editorials and they were creditable indeed. She wrote also most of the book reviews, in which she sought to make the reader acquainted with the particular characteristics, flavour and quality of each author and volume. She was responsible as well for the “Selected Poetry”, “Children’s Department,” etc. [page viii]
It was during those years in London, that Miss Wetherald began writing her exquisite lyrics and sonnets, which have since charmed so many readers. By 1895, she had enough for her first book, The House of the Trees and Other Poems. In 1902, appeared Tangled in Stars; and in 1904, The Radiant Road. In the autumn of 1907, a larger collection of her verse was published in Toronto, The Last Robin; Lyrics and Sonnets. It was this book, presented to him by Clara Kirchhoffer, wife of Senator Kirchhoffer, that attracted the attention of His Excellency, Earl Grey, at that time Governor-General of Canada. The poems appealed to him to such a degree that he wrote the author a lengthy, appreciative letter, and ordered twenty-five copies from the publishers to send as gifts to his friends.
It was Mrs. Kirchhoffer also who presented the copy to Sir Wilfred Laurier, from which he quoted in the House of Commons in 1911, while speaking in favour of unrestricted reciprocity with the United States, the lines:
My orders are to fight Then if I bleed, or fail, Or strongly win, what matters it? God only doth prevail. The servant craveth naught Except to serve with might. I was not told to win or lose,— My orders are to fight.
This Complete Edition contains every poem that Miss Wetherald wishes preserved. There are three hundred and fifty and all, arranged in seven groups: [page ix] ‘Lyrics of the Seasons,’ ‘Bird Songs,’ ‘Love Songs,’ ‘Humorous Verse,’ ‘Lyrics of Life and Wisdom,’ ‘Sonnets’ and ‘Rhymes for Children’.
It would be difficult to criticize adversely any one of these charming lyrics and sonnets. In such fundamentals as clarity, melodious rhythm and rhyme, spontaneity and originality, they are uniformly excellent. Moreover, Miss Wetherald’s poetry exemplifies to a marked degree “that artless simplicity which is very exquisite art”.
Reminiscences of the Poet
As a child I was never robust enough to enjoy outdoor exercise, although I took pleasure in all-day excursions after wild raspberries among the hills of Rockwood, usually accompanied by several of our household. Large pails were brought back brimming with the perfumed fruit, which was ‘put down pound for pound’ (a pound of sugar to each pound of berries) to ensure freedom from mould. Long walks especially through the woods, which never had enough mosquitoes to frighten me away, were always a delight. . . . I am very fond of country life; less enthusiastic over farm activities. I was seven years old when we left Rockwood. Hills and rocks, woods and the smell of cedars, all come back in the name. (At the age of eight, accompanied by my sister and three brothers, I watched the slow-moving train draped in black, passing by the railroad station near Haverford College bearing the dead body of President Lincoln. The aura of intense grief, nationwide, [page x] and the sorrowful face of my father, made a deep impression.)
At school I had no love of mathematics and have always thought that for me to go beyond the multiplication table was a waste of time. . . . I have studied French and have taken private lessons from a native Frenchman, who shook his head over my hopelessly British accent. I attended Pickering College and shall never forget the endless patience of my favourite teacher, who would take me into her room in the evening and go over and over the mathematical puzzle that perplexed and baffled me, in a usually vain attempt to make it clear. Really in the realm of figures I am a hopeless moron. . . .
The very first cheque I received for verse was when I was seventeen and sent a string of stanzas to the St. Nicholas of New York, in which I described some of the antics of my two brothers, Lewis and Herbert, aged four and two respectively. I have forgotten the words. It was a mere rhyme, so I don’t regret its oblivion; but I have some poems that I should have kept copies of. One was called “The Fire Builders”, which appeared in Youth’s Companion in 1890—I think in July of that year. Another July contribution to Youth’s Companion—I’ve forgotten the year,—dealt with the misunderstanding between two children, a Canadian and an American, one praising the ‘glorious fourth’ the other protesting it was the ‘glorious first’, and correcting each other very frequently. There was an editor’s note at the end explaining that July 1st was Confederation Day in Canada. . . . Most of the poems in The House of the Trees appeared first in that periodical. [page xi]
Just before moving to London, Ontario, in 1890, I sent ‘The Wind of Death’ to the Travellers Record and when I showed the ten dollar cheque received for it to my fellow-boarders, they were openly astonished. To get real money for a string of verses seemed absurd. . . .
The impulse to write verse became irresistible between 1893, when I returned home, and 1896, when The House of the Trees appeared.
A humorous poem sent to Munsey’s Magazine has been lost. The editor returned it with a note saying it was a dreadful mistake to make ‘swan’ rhyme with ‘dawn’, but if I would remove that defect he would gladly accept it.
Nearly all the verse I have had printed appeared between 1890 and 1900. . . . While I was in London, Ontario, I took lessons in horseback riding—the old fashioned side-saddle kind, and my friends and I often went for a twenty-mile ride in the moonlight. No mere motor-car could give such pleasure as that. . . . . Part of the summer of 1888 I spent with cousins on a large prairie farm in Iowa. There were two boys and three girls in the family, hospitable parents, numerous horses. My favourite cousin, Clara, and I had many a horseback ride over the prairies. The farm and the congenial society of my relatives gave me a sense of peace and freedom.
Most of my journeys were in company with my brother Sam who was six years my senior. When he suffered from a nervous breakdown, I was his nurse, private secretary, companion and closest friend. When he recovered we went together to Florida, to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Washington, on a ‘pay [pave xii] trip’ to Devil’s Lake, while he was paymaster on the Great Northern, and to California.
Unless there is a direct inspiration I prefer discursive essay writing to writing stories. ‘The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table’ by Oliver Wendell Holmes, I have read again and again. Also his ‘Professor and Poet’ at the same unwearying table. . . . . I have had sketches accepted by the Youth’s Companion and New York Outlook (formerly Christian Union). On appearance of the sketches one of the editors of the David Cook Company in Chicago wrote to me asking for stories for their Sunday School papers. I wrote a few for them, and several stories for young people in the Sunday Edition of a Philadelphia Daily. I also wrote a host of brief stories and articles for agricultural papers all of which brought modest sums. But I cared little for the work and much more enjoyed sending aphorisms and pointed paragraphs to the Detroit Free Press, to Smart Set, and to Puck, Judge and Life of New York. The Star Weekly of Toronto accepted a weekly column entitled Reflections of an Old Maid.
The house in the tree was built in March, 1910, and was blown down in a high gale in the fall of 1920. The old willow, being very much alive and steadily growing, seemed to work itself loose from the house fastened to its branches. The last nights I slept in it were memorable. Every joint and ligament shrieked and groaned in the wind; so finally when the dear things was pulled away by the gale and fell to the ground, roof downward, I saw the Finis had been written. It was taken apart, but the old willow still survives. It is a lovely memory. Sam called it Camp Shelbi, a name made up of the first [page xiii] letters of the ten kinds of wood used: chestnut, ash, maple, pine, spruce, hemlock, elm, linden, birch, and ironwood. These and these only were the woods represented in my dear little tree house.
“The Tall Evergreens,” the name of the Wetherald homestead came very naturally by its name. So many times friends of the family, coming for the first time to this neighbourhood and inquiring for us, would be told at the station (Fenwick), ‘Take the next road south and go east a mile till you come to some tall evergreens: that’s the place’. My father and Sam planted these spruces and pines in 1867.
I frequently met James J. Hill when I lived in St. Paul with my brothers, Sam and Charlie. They were employed in the Great Northern Railway office. Mrs. Hill’s splendid team of blacks made a sensation in our quiet street on the occasions when she called on me. We spent pleasant evenings in their home. I recall the great gallery of famous paintings and the admonitory gesture with which Mrs. Hill checked her husband’s rather too audible conversation while her three youngest children were saying their evening prayers at their mother’s knee.
When I was nineteen I visited friends in New York who took me to their Unitarian Church to hear Dr. Bellows preach. I was less impressed by his discourse than by the fact that William Cullen Bryant was seated in the pew before me. I was thrilled by the thought that at my age he had written the wonderful poem, ‘Thanatopsis’.
One of my classmates at Pickering College was the later internationally known Dr. Barker of Johns’ Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was a small, slight, white-faced boy, known to all of us as Lewy [page xiv] Barker. He was easily first in everything, simply ate up knowledge, like a child at a candy box. His father, a Quaker, was superintendent at Pickering, and often preached in meeting.
Another noted man whom I knew was Lyman Abbott, successor to Beecher, who lectured in London in the fall of 1890, and was entertained by the Camerons when I was with them.
When Wilfred Campbell happened to be in London he called on me several times and read aloud to me from a sheaf of his poems. We had considerable argument, as I could not agree with his estimate of Lampman as a ‘carver of cherry stones’.
I have always prized the friendship of Paul Peel. His was a very charming personality. I have his autograph on a picture he gave me.
I have been asked, frequently about my favourite books. In my teens I was fond of Emerson, Carlyle and Matthew Arnold, and can truthfully say that they have never wearied me. The New England poets and essayists, Holmes and Lowell, always delighted me. I had read all of Dickens before I was fifteen, and all of Shakespeare before I was twenty. I always enjoyed the prose of Swift and Addison, but disliked Dr. Johnson, because of his rough ways and the pleasure he evidently took in snubbing others. Cowper’s gentle and sympathetic nature attracted me more than his poetry. Of course all the poets are dear to me, though of the Brownings I much prefer Elizabeth to Robert.
As for fiction I never cared for the realism of Zola; but there is a realism I greatly admire—that of Arnold Bennett, Jane Austen, W. D. Howells, Mary E. Wilkins, Booth Tarkington, George Eliot, and the [page xv] class of novelists who tell what is going on in people’s minds and show that character always compels destiny.
Most of the winter of ’95-’96 I spent in Philadelphia as assistant to Francis Bellamy, the literary editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal. There I met Mr. Edward Bok, who always impressed me as a man just fresh from a bout with the punching bag and a cold shower. Also I met, and very much liked, Mrs. George T. Lanigan, managing editor, and widow of the famous author of ‘The Ahkoond of Swat’. Mr. Lanigan, I fancy, did not shine as a money-maker, as she told me that, at the time of his death, she was left with five children and seven dollars. She was amazed to hear me say I would rather be the author of ‘The Ahkoond of Swat’ than of any other humorous poem in the English language, with the possible exception of Bret Harte’s ‘Heathen Chinee’ and Oliver Wendell Holmes’ ‘One Hoss Shay’ . . . My work was altogether critical—the reading of manuscripts which came in by the hundred every day, and writing out an estimate of worthwhile articles of their availability for the Journal. In some ways I enjoyed the experience, but it was a lasting dissatisfaction to feel, at the end of each day, that I was too tired to do any creative work of my own.
My chance to assist one of the editors of The World’s Best Literature came about through correspondence. He had written in praise of my ‘Wind of Death’, and we had corresponded for years before we met. If ever there was a human cyclopaedia it was Forrest Morgan. He did a tremendous amount of work on ‘The World’s Best’. When the mother of his assistant was so seriously ill that the girl had [page xvi] to give up her work and go home, Mr. Morgan wrote, urging me to take her place. I acted as his assistant for nearly a year, when the thirtieth and last volume of the series was published. This final volume consisted entirely of verse, and Charles Dudley Warner, editor-in-chief, included in it five or six little poems of my own. I was paid eighteen dollars a week. . . . When the work was finished Mr. Morgan offered me a position as first-class proofreader at a larger salary, but I longed for home. I was not homesick but there was an indefinable feeling that too much ‘learned lumber in the head’ must crush out whatever repressed spontaneous growth of my own was still surviving. Our correspondence ceased in 1923, just after his physician had told him he had only a few weeks to live. Certainly to know him was a liberal education.
Among the most memorable weeks of my life are two spent at Pinehurst, Helena Coleman’s island home in the St. Lawrence, near Gananoque. It was an ideal spot for a vacation in that exceptionally hot July of 1911, as it consisted of a three-acre island, satisfyingly rough and rocky, with paths leading from the wide-verandaed residence to boat-house and bathing pool. We were a group of women and girls; Miss Coleman, her two nieces, a literary friend from Australia, Marjorie Pickthall and myself, not to mention the cook, who produced the outdoor meals we so much enjoyed. These were moveable feasts, as, when the wind was fresh from the west, we moved to the east veranda, and when the sun was hot at the east the table was set at the other side. My sleeping-room was open on one side to the St. Lawrence, and when a great steamer moved past in the night, the [page xvii] impression was unforgettable. My choicest pleasure came in the morning, for, as the early light awakened Marjorie Pickthall in the room next to mine and Helena Coleman just across the hall, we fell into frequent talk and discussion before arising. How I wish I had taken notes of these impromptu exchanges of thought, fancy and opinion. I remember distinctly that Marjorie Pickthall did not argue. She questioned, mused awhile, differed gently, or expressed her differing attitude by a little laugh that was as charming as it was free from self-consciousness. She was a poet to the innermost fibre of her beautiful and totally unaffected nature. Her Three Island Songs I am confident were written at Pinehurst.
The amusements of these harmonious housemates were boating and bathing, rambles after wild berries, fishing, five-o’clock tea, discussion of just-read books and visiting picturesque points of interest. I remember in particular the Sunday morning when the cook wished to go to church. Miss Coleman and I rowed her across to Gananoque and while she went to her place of worship, we waited outside in the boat and talked of churches and creeds, of Christianity and the meaning of existence, of things that remind us we are infinite. The best of herself is what Helena Coleman gives in her talk as in her written prose and poetry.
These reminiscences were kindly sent to the undersigned by Miss Wetherald in reply to questions in letters.
JOHN W. GARVIN.
Oct. 1, 1931. [page xviii]
|LYRICS OF THE SEASONS||1|
|LYRICS OF LIFE AND WISDOM||107|
|RHYMES FOR CHILDREN||235|
LYRICS OF THE SEASONS
The Door of Spring
How shall we open the door of spring That winter is holding wearily shut? Though winds are calling and waters brawling, And snow decaying and light delaying, Yet will it not move in its yielding rut And back on its flowery hinges swing, Till wings are flapping And woodpeckers tapping With sharp, clear rapping At the door of spring. How shall we fasten the door of spring Wide, so wide that it cannot close? Though buds are filling and frogs are trilling, And violets breaking and grass awaking, Yet doubtfully back and forth it blows Till come the birds, and the woodlands ring With sharp beak stammer— The sudden clamour Of the woodpecker’s hammer At the door of spring. [page 1]
A March Night
A wild wind and a flying moon, And drifts that shrink and cower; A heart that leaps at the thought, How soon The earth will be in flower! Behind the gust and the ragged cloud And the sound of loosening floods, I see young May with her fair head bowed, Walking in a world of buds.
When October’s shining arms are drooping Burdened with the gold of all her winnings, Oft I think of April, gleaming, glinting, On a million little green beginnings. Or within the city’s dust and clamour Fancy spins a web, and all her spinnings Are of bending branch and running water And a sward of little green beginnings. Spring and springtime hopes are with us always. E’en the heart grown aged in its sinnings Holds till death the budding boughs of promise, With their myriad little fair beginnings. [page 2]
The March Orchard
Unleaved, undrooping, still, they stand, This staunch and patient pilgrim band; October robbed them of their fruit, November stripped them to the root, The winter smote their helplessness With furious ire and stormy stress, And now they seem almost to stand In sight of Summer’s Promised Land. Yet seen through frosty window-panes, When bared and bound in wintry chains, Their lightsome spirits seemed to play With February as with May. The snow that turned the skies afrown Enwrapt them in the softest down, And rains that dulled the landscape o’er But left them livelier than before. But now this June-like day of March With patient strength their branches arch, Not as unmindful of the breeze That makes midsummer melodies, But knowing Spring a fickle maid, And that rough days must dawn and fade, Before, all blossoming bright, they stand In sight of Summer’s Promised Land. [page 3]
April in the City
April sunshine along the street Is turning the motes of dust to gold. Scant is the green to our longing feet, To our longing eyes few buds unfold. Only in vision are slopes unrolled And orchards full as their arms can hold, And stories in exquisite cadence told By the willowed stream in its sweet retreat. Yet even here the heart grown cold Flushes with sudden inward heat, When April sunshine along the street Is turning the motes of dust to gold.
Come, O Spring!
Come, O Spring! unpack thy leaves, Flood the boughs and flush the gloom; Brush the cheek of him who grieves With a branch of apple-bloom. Mock at care with all thy birds, Pierce despair with all thy beams, Write upon my heart the words For the music of thy streams. [page 4]
The House of the Trees
Ope your doors and take me in, Spirit of the wood; Wash me clean of dust and din, Clothe me in your mood. Take me from the noisy light To the sunless peace, Where at midday standeth Night, Singing Toil’s release. All your dusky twilight stores To my senses give; Take me in and lock the doors, Show me how to live. Lift your leafy roof for me, Part your yielding walls, Let me wander lingeringly Through your scented halls. Ope your doors and take me in, Spirit of the wood; Take me—make me next of kin To your leafy brood. [page 5]
In Earliest Spring
When roofs are steaming in the sun And down and down the big drift sinks, And at his door the woodchuck blinks, And streams that in the noontide run Are prisoners when day is done, I know, Whatever winds may blow, The springtime, the springtime has begun. When easier opes the arbour door, And paler grow the lilac tips, And yellower glow the willow whips, And lambs that roam the meadow o’er Seem daily snowier than before, I know, Whatever winds may blow, The winter, the winter is no more.
When spring unbound comes o’er us like a flood My spirit slips its bars And thrills to see the trees break into bud As skies break into stars; [page 6] And joys that earth is green with eager grass, The heavens gray with rain, And quickens when the spirit breezes pass, And turn and pass again; And dreams upon frog melodies at night, Bird ecstasies at dawn, And wakes to find sweet April at her height And May still beckoning on; And feels its sordid work, its empty play, Its failures and its stains Dissolved in blossom dew, and washed away In delicate spring rains.
A Rainy Morning
The low sky and the warm wet wind, And the tender light on the eyes; A day like a soul that has never sinned, New dropped from Paradise. And ‘tis oh, for a long walk in the rain, By the side of the warm wet breeze, With the thoughts washed clean of dust and stain As the leaves on the shining trees. [page 7]
Leafless April, chased by light, Chased by dark and full of laughter, Stays a moment in her flight Where the warmest breezes waft her, By the meadow brook to lean, Or where winter rye is growing, Showing in a lovelier green Where her wayward steps are going. Blithsome April, brown and warm, Showing slimness through her tatters, Chased by sun or chased by storm— Not a whit to her it matters. Swiftly through the violet bed Down to where the stream is flooding, Light she flits—and round her head See the orchard branches budding!
The Woodside Way
I wandered down the woodside way, Where branching doors ope with the breeze, And saw a little child at play Among the strong and lovely trees. The dead leaves rustled to her knees; Her hair and eyes were brown as they. [page 8] ‘O little child,’ I softly said, ‘You come a long, long way to me; The trees that tower overhead Are here in sweet reality, But you’re the child I used to be, And all the leaves of May you tread.’
Amid the young year’s breathing hopes, When eager grasses wrap the earth, I see on greening orchard slopes The blossoms trembling into birth. They open wide their rosy palms To feel the hesitating rain, Or beg a longed-for golden alms From skies that deep in clouds have lain. They mingle with the bluebird’s songs, And with the warm wind’s reverie; To sward and stream their snow belongs, To neighbouring pines in flocks they flee. O doubly crowned with breathing hopes The branches bending down to earth That feel on greening orchard slopes Their blossoms trembling into birth! [page 9]
The Weeks That Walk in Green
The weeks that walk in green Came to my willow lane, And wrapt me in their leafy screen Against the sun and rain. Then far and far we went By stream and wood and steep, Until, all love-worn and joy-spent I yielded me to sleep. And they—they died unseen; Their ghosts are haunting me— The gentle ghosts that walk in green Through vales of memory.
The Sky Path
I hear the far moon’s silver call High in the upper world; And shepherd-like it gathers all My thoughts into its fold. Oh happy thoughts, that whereso’er They wander through the day, Come home at eve to upper air Along a shining way. [page 10] Though some are weary, some are torn, And some are fain to grieve, And some the freshness of the morn Have kept until the eve. And some perversely seek to roam E’en from their shepherd bright, Yet all are gathered safely home, And folded for the night. O happy thoughts, that with the streams The trees and meadows share The sky path to the gate of dreams, In their white shepherd’s care.
A spirit through My window came when earth was soft with dew, Close at the tender edge of dawn, when all The spring was new. And bore me back Along her rose-and-starry tinted track, And showed me how the full-winged day emerged From out the black. [page 11] She knew the speech Of all the deep-pink blossoms of the peach, Told in my ear the meanings of the trees, The thoughts of each; Explained to me The language of the bird and frog and bee, The messages the streams and rivers take Unto the sea. And now when I Roam this strange earth beneath a stranger sky, Soft syllables of that forgotten speech, Faint as a sigh, Come back again, With sweet solicitings that urge like pain And brood like love—as full of light and dark As April rain.
Yesterday and To-day
Love met Youth in the churchyard old, Under a branch of hawthorn blossom; Love gave Youth a flower to hold Freshly grown from a dead girl’s bosom. [page 12] Youth sang Love a heart-warm rhyme, Writ by an ancestor turned to ashes; And all the song was of blossom time And the spring-soft light ‘neath a maiden’s lashes.
From My Window
The plums and cherries are in bloom, The apple trees are on the brink Of swimming in a sea of pink; The grass is thick’ning like the gloom Of winter twilights, and from far Each dandelion is a star. The birds fill all the air, and one Is building at my window sill. Across the lane the squirrels run, And like a poet’s ghost, so still And spirit white, a butterfly Appears and slowly wavers by. Beyond the pine trees, tall and dark, Across the lower orchard, where The honey-laden peach and pear Give to the bees their burden—hark! Swift flies the thunderous express, And leaves more quiet quietness. [page 13]
If One Might Live
If one might live ten years among the leaves, Ten—only ten—of all a life’s long day, Who would not choose a childhood ‘neath the eaves Low-sloping to some slender footpath way? With the young grass about his childish feet, And the young lambs within his ungrown arms, And every streamlet side a pleasure seat Within the wide day’s treasure-house of charms. To learn to speak while young birds learned to sing, To learn to run e’en as they learned to fly; With unworn heart against the breast of spring, To watch the moments smile as they went by. Enroofed with aplle buds afar to roam, Or clover-cradled on the murmurous sod, To drowse within the blessed fields of home, So near to earth—so very near to God. [page 14] How could it matter—all the after strife, The heat, the haste, the inward hurt, the strain, When the young loveliness and sweet of life Came flood-like back again and yet again? When best begins it liveth through the worst; O happy soul, beloved of Memory, Whose youth was joined to beauty as at first The morning stars were wed to harmony.
Green Boughs of Home
Green boughs of home, that come between Mine eyes and this far distant scene, I see, whene’er my thought escapes, Your old serene familiar shapes; Each lissom willow tree that dips Into the stream her golden whips, The sassafras beside the gate, Where twilight strollers linger late; The hemlock groups that dimly hold Their own against the noon-day gold, The maple lines that give the view A green or luminous avenue; [page 15] Those oldest apple trees whose forms Have braved a hundred years of storms, And turn a face as blithe and free To greet their second century; The younger orchard’s heavy edge, Framed in the honey locust hedge; Fruit-flushed, snow-burdened or bloom-bright, It comes to my home-longing sight; The billowy woods across the road, Where all the winds of heaven strode, And sang in every towering stem, Would that I were at home with them! For under these down-bending boughs A thousand tender memories house. Oh, while your old companions roam, Your peace be theirs, green boughs of home!
The woodland stretched its arms to me, And into its heart I went; While by my side invisibly Walked musing-eyed Content. [page 16] The woodland spake no word to me, But, oh, its thoughts were sweet; Against my spirit like a sea I felt the thought-waves beat. Before my vision, starved and dull, The wood-shapes dropped their gold; The young child-trees were beautiful, More beautiful the old. Within their halls of memory What heavenly scenes are drawn: The stream, the wild bird’s company, The sky’s cool face at dawn, The golden lances of the sun, The rain that feels its way, The twilight steps that, one by one, Lead to the moon’s white ray; The multitude of bright leaf-forms Engraved on earth and air, The black and gold of midnight storms, The blue that violets wear; The wind that brings from clover farms A picture white and red, Or later gathers in his arms The woodland’s fragile dead. [page 17] These throng the greenwood memories; Upon this perfumed track The thoughts of all the silent trees Go wandering back and back. This is the charm that cometh last, Of all their sweets the sum: The feeling of green summers past, And fair green springs to come.
The trees are full, the winds are tame, The fields are pictures in a frame Of leafy roads and fair abodes, Steeped in content too large for name. Across a slender bridge of night The luminous days are swift in flight, As though ‘twere wrong to cover song And scent and greenness from the light. Within the snowy clouds above Sits viewless Peace, a brooding dove; For every nest there beats a breast, For every love some answering love. The ways are thronged with angel wings, The heart with angel whisperings; And as it seems in happy dreams The bird of gladness sings and sings. [page 18] Here is my summer sleeping-room Within a grove of towering pine; These latticed walls, this fragrant gloom, This ever-open door, are mine. However hot the heart of day, When all its insect cares have flown, Unto the green I nightly stray In moonlight silence all alone. Four pines are close. They pierce the roof, One at each corner of my nest, And all my dreams are trouble-proof As though four angels watched my rest. Tree-toads and crickets sing to me, The screech-owl sends his note from far; The night wind moves, and dazzlingly Comes to my couch the eastern star. At dawn I hear the squirrels run, A larger wind its coolness pour, And with the first red ray of sun Behold the Redbreast at the door. Oh, sweet to waken with the flowers, A morning spirit steeped in calm, And bear through all the dusty hours The night-pure heart, the breath of balm. [page 19]
Before the green wheat turneth yellow, Before green pears begin to mellow, Before the green leaf reddeneth, Before the green grasses fade in death, Before the green corn comes in ear, Then is the keen time, Then is the queen time, Then is the green time of the year. Before young thimble-berries thicken, Before young grapes begin to quicken, Before young robins flutter down, Before young butternuts embrown, Before young love has grown too dear, Then are the long days, Then are the song days, Then are the young days of the year.
In the Grass
Face downward on the grass in reverie, I found how cool and sweet Are the green glooms that often thoughtlessly I tread beneath my feet. [page 20] In this strange mimic wood where grasses lean— Elf trees untouched of bark— I heard the hum of insects, saw the sheen Of sunlight framing dark, And felt with thoughts I cannot understand, And know not how to speak, A daisy reaching up its little hand To lay it on my cheek.
Green apple branches full of green apples All around me unfurled, Here where the shade and the sunlight dapples A grass-green, apple-green world. Little green children stirred with the heaving Of the warm breast of the air, When your old nurse, the wind, is grieving Comfortlessly you fare. But now an old-time song she is crooning, Nestle your heads again, While I dream on through the golden nooning, Or look for the first red stain [page 21] On some round cheek that the sunshine dapples, Near me where I lie curled Under green trees athrong with green apples, In a grass-green, apple-green world.
The Heart of Spring
When the grass is new, and not as long As a baby’s tender hand, When the early light is a sea of song, By a delicate dawn-wind fanned; When the buds like little green stars appear And the willow flames in gold, I feel that the inmost heart of the year Is as full as it can hold. Drip, drip, I hear it overflow, Where the rivulets slip to the stream below; At the branch’s tip, where the raindrops cling, I see the overflowing of the heart of spring. When the forest aisles are thronged with tints Of a visible ecstasy, When the morning fields are warm with hints Of a wealth that is to be, [page 22] When the old clods burn and the old groves ring With a joy that cannot stop, I know that the full-pressed heart of spring Is running over drop by drop. Drip, drip, I see it overflow, Where the roof-streams slip to the pipes below; At the rain-tub’s lip, where the swift drops sing, I hear the overflowing of the heart of spring.
In Summer Rain
How vividly in summer rain The commonest of tints are seen; The robin is a scarlet stain Against the shining evergreen. The last scant strawberries—a score That hid behind the reddening leaves— Rain-flushed, wind-tossed, and waiting for Red-lipped or redder-breasted thieves. The willows, pallid in the sun, Are sunny in the rainy dark, A deeper brown the streamlets run And deeply black the orchard bark. [page 23] And yet, although the clouds are gray, These freshening tints of every hue Would intimate a rain at play, Or at the worst a storm of dew. The quality of mercy flows Upon the meadows’ thirsty brood, And every brightening grass blade shows The quality of gratitude.
The Shy Sun
The sun went with me to the wood, And lingered at the door; One glance he gave from where he stood, But dared not venture more; Nor knew that in the heart of her Who felt his presence nigh, His love was all the lovelier Because his look was shy.
The Hay Field
With slender arms outstretching in the sun The grass lies dead; The wind walks tenderly and stirs not one Frail fallen head. [page 24] Of baby creepings through the April day Where streamlets wend, Of child-like dancing on the breeze of May, This is the end. No more these tiny forms are bathed in dew, No more they reach To hold with leaves that shade them from the blue A whispered speech. No more they part their arms and wreathe them close Again, to shield Some love-full little nest—a dainty house Hid in a field. For them no more the splendor of the storm, The fair delights Of moon and star-shine, glimmering faint and warm On summer nights. Their little lives they yield in summer death, And frequently Across the field bereaved their dying breath Is brought to me. [page 25]
When lamps are out and voices fled, And moonlight floods the earth like rain, I steal outside and cross the lane And stand beside the sunflower bed; Each blind, unopened face is turned To where the western glories burned, As though the sun might come again, With some last word he left unsaid. When Dawn with slender shining hand Inscribes a message on the wall, I follow at the silent call To where my tall sun-lovers stand. Their wistful heads are lifted high Toward the flaming eastern sky, As though some voice had turned them all, Some secret voice of strong command. Ah, should I from the windowed height Keep vigil in the room above, And see them lightly, surely move Through the chill stretches of the night, Would not the heart within me burn, As loyally I watched them turn, With sweet undoubting faith and love, From vanished light to dawning light? [page 26]
Give Me the Poorest Weed
Give me the poorest weed To satisfy my spirit’s need. The brownest blade of grass Will know and greet me when I pass. Of their own feeling wrought, They live like simple, vital thought; The mind could not invent A better thing than Nature meant.
The Sun in the Woods
The sun within the leafy woods Is like a midday moon, So soft upon these solitudes Is bent the face of noon. Loosed from the outside summer blaze A few gold arrows stray; A vagrant brilliance droops or plays Through all the dusky day. The gray trunk feels a touch of light, While, where dead leaves are deep, A gleam of sunshine, golden white, Lies like a soul asleep. [page 27] And just beyond dark-rooted ferns, Where darkening hemlocks sigh And leaves are dim, the bare road burns, Beneath a dazzling sky.
The phantom time of day is here, Some spirit from diviner air Unto our blindness draweth near, And in our musing seems to share. Who hath not in a darkening wood, At twilight’s moment, dimly known That all his hurts were understood By some near presence not his own; That all his griefs were comforted, His aspirations given release; And that upon his troubled head Was laid the viewless hand of Peace. Too sure for doubt, too sweet for fear, Unfelt in days of toil and stress; But when the twilight brings it near Who hath not felt its tenderness? [page 28]
When Days are Long
When twilight late delayeth, And morning wakes in song, And fields are full of daisies, I know the days are long; When Toil is stretched at nooning, Where leafy pleasures throng, When nights o’errun in music, I know the days are long. When suns afoot are marching, And rains are quick and strong, And streams speak in a whisper, I know the days are long. When hills are clad in velvet, And winds can do no wrong, And woods are deep and dusky, I know the days are long.
To-day the green hill was at strife With me; it robbed my feet of life. The wind that loudly speaks his mind, Said in my presence nothing kind. The sky’s clear face was from me turned, Behind a cloud his great fire burned. [page 29] An exile in his native cot, Who finds his very name forgot, Was I this afternoon, until At the wood’s edge behind the hill, A chipmunk flashed, and leapt a limb, And took my heart away with him.
The Wild Jessamine
(In the South)
The sun of March is hot and bold, The rain of March is loud. O jessamine, your cups of gold Uplift to sun and cloud; To song of bird, to breath of herd, To light and wind and dew, Lift up, lift up, the golden cup, And bid me drink with you! The woods of March are hung with green, The green is hung with bloom; The olive boughs, O jessamine, Let all your gold illume. To woodland wine—the drink that pine And oak and yeupon brew— Lift up, lift up, the golden cup, And let me drink with you! [page 30] The breath of March is violet sweet, The arms of March are soft; O jessamine, the time is fleet, Lift all your cups aloft! To looks that make the spirit ache— That pierce, deny, pursue— Lift up, lift up the golden cup, And I will drink with you!
Summer in the City
‘If I were out of prison’—ah! the leap That Arthur’s heart gave with its yearning strong— ‘If I were out of prison and kept sheep, I should be merry as the day is long.’ O little prince, whose feet were strange to grass, Whose royal hands no dandelions knew, Whose wistful child-eyes saw no seasons pass. Within the city walls I think of you; For here on pavements hot to work I creep, Walls, roofs and chimneys at my window throng; ‘Ah, were I out of prison and kept sheep, I should be merry as the day is long!’ [page 31]
Flower and Flame
Between the flowering and the flaming woods, All greening in the rain, The fields unfold; The sun upon the grain Outpours its gold, And sweet with bloom and dew are nature’s moods Between the flowering and the flaming woods. Between the flowering and the flaming woods The wind bemoans a host Of withered leaves; The winter is a ghost That grieves and grieves Around a ruined house where none intrudes, Between the flaming and the flowering woods. O woods that break in flower or in flame, My winged days and hours Shall meet their doom Like to your leaves and flowers; Let not your bloom And brightness put my flying years to shame, O woods that break in flower or in flame! [page 32]
The Fields of Dark
The wreathing vine within the porch Is in the heart of me, The roses that the noondays scorch Burn on in memory; Alone at night I quench the light, And without star or spark The grass and trees press to my knees, And flowers throng the dark. The leaves that loose their hold at noon Drop on my face like rain, And in the watches of the moon I feel them fall again. By day I stray how far away To stream and wood and steep, But on my track they all come back To haunt the vale of sleep. The fields of light are clover-brimmed, Or grassed or daisy-starred; The fields of dark are softly dimmed, And safety twilight-barred; But in the gloom that fills my room I cannot fail to mark The grass and trees about my knees, The flowers in the dark. [page 33]
Here ‘mid these leafy walls Are sylvan halls, And all the Sabbaths of the year Are gathered here. Upon their raptured mood My steps intrude, Then wait—as some freed soul might wait At heaven’s gate. Nowhere on earth—nowhere On sea or air, Do I as easily escape This earthly shape. As here upon the white And dizzy height Of utmost worship, where it seems Too still for dreams.
A Midday in Midsummer
The sky’s great curtains downward steal, The earth’s fair company Of trees and streams and meadows feel A sense of privacy. [page 34] Upon the vast expanse of heat Light-footed breezes pace; To waves of gold they tread the wheat, They lift the sunflower’s face. The cruel sun is blotted out, The wrest is black with rain. The drooping leaves in mingled doubt And hope look up again. The weeds and grass on tiptoe stand, A strange exultant thrill Prepares the dazed uncertain land For the wild tempest’s will. The wind grows big and breathes aloud As it runs hurrying past; At one sharp blow the thunder-cloud Lets loose the furious blast. The earth is beaten, drenched and drowned, The elements go mad; Swift streams of joy flow o’er the ground, And all the leaves are glad. Then comes a momentary lull; The darkest clouds are furled, And lo, new washed and beautiful And breathless gleam the world! [page 35]
To the Wistaria
(In the South)
I see you on the cedar swinging, To higher branches reaching, clinging, Then all your lovely weight out-flinging Upon his dark and stately strength; O many and many an odorous blossom From overflowing arms you toss him! The royal purple flung across him Is dripping perfume all its length. Upon the cedar branches swaying, You seem a flowery fountain playing, Then April comes—no more delaying— The flakes drop down in sun and gloom; The garden seat they thickly cover, The girl that leans against her lover Hears in the purple air above her Love’s whisper through a storm of bloom.
Noonday of the Year
The streams that chattered in the cold Are sleeping in the sun; The winds of March were overbold Until their race was run. [page 36] O mad with haste the morning went, But now love-warm and deep, The fields, their first ambition spent, Life in their noonday sleep.
The Pasture Field
When spring has burned The ragged robe of winter, stitch by stitch, And deftly turned To moving melody the wayside ditch, The pale-green pasture field behind the bars Is goldened o’er with dandelion stars. When summer keeps Quick pace with sinewy, white-shirted arms, And daily steeps In sunny splendor all her spreading farms, The pasture field is flooded foamy white With daisy faces looking at the light. When autumn lays Her golden wealth upon the forest floor, And all the days Look backward at the days that went before, A pensive company the asters stand, Their blue eyes brightening the pasture land. [page 37] When winter lifts A sounding trumpet to his strenuous lips, And shapes the drifts To curves of transient loveliness, he slips Upon the pasture’s ineffectual brown A swan-soft vestment delicate as down.
When I see the ghost of night Stealing through my window-pane, Silken sleep and silver light Struggle for my soul in vain; Silken sleep all balmily Breathes upon my lids oppressed Till I sudden start to see Ghostly fingers on my breast. White and skyey visitant, Bringing beauty such as stings All my inner soul to pant After undiscovered things, Spare me this consummate pain! Silken weavings intercreep Round my senses once again, I am mortal—let me sleep. [page 38]
At the Window
How thick about the window of my life Buzz insect-like the tribe of petty frets: Small cares, small thoughts, small trials, and small strife, Small loves and hates, small hopes and small regrets. If ‘mid this swarm of smallnesses remain A single undimmed spot, with wondering eye I note before my freckled window-pane The outstretched splendor of the earth and sky.
The Long Days of the Year
The long days of the year, How sweet they are to the ear! The happy birds begin them before I awake from sleep, And tenderly they are ended by the voices of the sheep, Coming home in the twilight. Oh, happy child that I am, Roused by a bird in the morning and lulled at night by a lamb! [page 39] The long days of the year, How fair to the eye and dear! The grass is thick in the meadows, the branches heavy with leaves, And gaily the roses are running up to the cottage eaves, Steeping the porch in perfume. Oh, loving child should I be, When thick and rosy and fragrant my joys are coming to me!
Room for the children out of doors, For heads of gold or gloom; For raspberry lips and rose-leaf cheeks and palms, Make room—make room! Room for the springtime out of doors, For buds in green or bloom; For every brown bare-handed country weed Make room—make room! Room for earth’s sweetest out of doors, And for its worst a tomb; For housed-up griefs and fears, and scorns, and sighs, No room—no room! [page 40]
When with an airy covering Around the summer’s woodland wall, Or wreathing all the doors of spring, Or painting all the paths of fall, The leaves go on their lovely ways, With naught to ask, with all to give, They make for me the empty days Of winter lonelier to live.
In the Heart of the Woods
I lost my heart in the heart of the woods; It stayed there through the day, It stayed there through the solitudes Of a night with no moon ray. Through the day so dusty, worn and sere My heart was cool and free, Through the wild night, tempest-tossed and drear, My heart slept peacefully. I found my heart in the heart of the woods, I looked on it and smiled; And over it still the woodland broods, As a mother over her child. [page 41]
When Twilight Comes
All out of doors for all life’s way, The fields and the woods and the good sunlight; And then in the chill of the evening gray, A sheltered nook and the hearth-fire bright. No hearth, no shelter attend my way! Not late, dear life, linger not too late; But before the chill and before the gray, Let the sunset gild the grave-stone date.
The Sound of the Axe
With the sound of an axe on the light wind’s tracks For my only company, And a speck of sky like a human eye Blue, bending over me, I lie at rest on the low moss pressed, Whose loose leaves downward dript; As light they move as a word of love Or a finger to the lip. ‘Neath the canopies of the sunbright trees Pierced by an Autumn ray, To rich red flakes the old log breaks In exquisite decay. [page 42] While in the pines where no sun shines Perpetual morning lies. What bed more sweet could stay her feet, Or hold her dreaming eyes? No sound is there in the middle air But sudden wings that soar, As a strange bird’s cry goes drifting by— And then I hear once more That sound of an axe till the great tree cracks, Then a crash comes as if all The winds that through its bright leaves blew Were sorrowing in its fall.
The fires of Autumn are burning high; Bright the trees in the woods are blazing— A wall of flame from the brilliant sky Down to the fields where the cattle are grazing. O, the warm, warm end of the year! Even the shrubs their red hearts render; All the bushes are bright with cheer And the tamest vine has a touch of splendour. [page 43] The fires of Autumn are burning low; Blow, ye winds, and cease not blowing! Blow the flames to a ruddier show, Heap the coals to a hotter glowing. Ah, the chill, chill end of the year! Naught is left but a few leaf flashes; White is the death stone, white and drear, Over a desolate world of ashes.
Where Pleasures Grow
Where pleasures grow as thick as grass, And joys of silence, soft, profound, Are sweeter e’en than joys of sound, The long, long days of summer pass. I see them sitting in the sun, Or moving river-like between The climbing and down-bending green, I watch them vanish one by one, And strive to clasp them as they flee, But only hold their shadows fast— The summer shadows that they cast Upon the path of memory. [page 44]
A Rainy Day
It has been twilight all the day And as the twilight peace On daily fetters seems to lay The finger of release, So, needless as to tree and flower Seem care and fear and pain; Our hearts grow fresher every hour, And brighten in the rain.
Come Back Again
Child-thoughts, child-thoughts, come back again! Faint, fitful, as you used to be; The dusty chambers of my brain Have need of your fair company, As when my child-head reached the height Of the wild rose-bush at the door, And all of heaven and its delight Bloomed in the flow’rs the old bush bore. Come back, sweet long-departed year, When, sitting in a hollow oak, I heard the sheep bells far and clear, I heard a voice that silent spoke, [page 45] And felt in both a vague appeal, And both were mingled in my dreams With leaves that viewless breezes feel, And skies clear mirrored in the streams. Child-heart, child-thoughts, come back again! Bringback the tall grass at my cheek, The grief more swift than summer rain, The joy that knew no words to speak. The buttercup’s uplifted gold That strives to reach my hands in vain, The love that never could grow cold— Child-heart, child-thoughts, come back again!
Autumn days are sun crowned, Full of laughing breath; Light their leafy feet are dancing Down the way to death. Scarlet-shrouded to the grave I watch them gayly go; So may I as blithely die Before November snow. [page 46]
Children in the City
Thousands of childish ears, rough chidden, Never a sweet bird-note have heard, Deep in the leafy woodland hidden Dies, unlistened to, many a bird. For small soiled hands in the sordid city Blossoms open and die unbreathed; For feet unwashed by the tears of pity Streams around meadows of green are wreathed. Warm, unrevelled in, still they wander, Summer breezes out in the fields; Scarcely noticed, the green months squander All the wealth that the summer yields. Ah, the pain of it! Ah, the pity! Opulent stretch the country skies Over solitudes, while in the city Starving for beauty are childish eyes.
The Wind World
Alone within the wind I lie And reck not how the seasons go; The winter struggling through its snow, The light-winged summer flitting by. [page 47] I am not of the cloud nor mold, I move between the stars and flowers, I know the tingling touch of hours When all the storms of night unfold. Within the wind world drifting free I hear naught of earth’s murmurings, Naught but the sound of songs and wings Among the tree-tops comes to me. At night earth stars flash out below, And heaven stars shine out above; I look down on the lights of love, And feel the higher love-lights glow.
The eyes like the lips have their choice of wines, And one that tingles and cheers they know; A sky that burns through a bar of pines On a wintry world of snow. Ah, what are the empty eglantines, And what the desolate earth below, When the sky is ablaze, and aflame the pines, And rosily gleams the snow? [page 48]
But yesterday, all faint for breath, The summer laid her down to die; And now her frail ghost wandereth In every breeze that loiters by. Her wilted prisoners look up As wondering who broke their chain; Too deep they drank of summer’s cup, They have no strength to rise again. How swift the trees, their mistress gone, Enrobe themselves for revelry! How wild and vagrant wings upon The wold are dancing merrily! With crimson fruits and bursting nuts, And whirling leaves and flushing streams, The spirit of September cuts Adrift from August’s languid dreams. A little while the revelers Shall flame and flaunt and have their day, And then will come the messengers Who travel on a cloudy way. And after them a form of light, A sense of iron in the air, Upon the pulse a touch of might, And winter’s legions everywhere. [page 49]
Here where the pine tree to the ground Lets slip its fragrant load, My footsteps fall without a sound Upon a velvet road. O poet pine, that turns thy gaze Alone unto the sky, How softly on earth’s common ways Thy sweet thoughts fall and lie! So sweet, so deep, seared by the sun, And smitten by the rain, They pierce the heart of every one With fragrance keen as pain. Or if some pass nor heed their sweet, Nor feel their subtle dart, Their softness stills the noisy feet, And stills the noisy heart. O poet pine, thy needles high In starry light abode, And now for foot-sore passers-by They make a velvet road! [page 50]
Ah, Sir Freeheart, where are you going, You with your light canoe? I go from streets that smoke is wreathing Up where the air is good for breathing, Up to the still and fragrant places Of lapsing water and starry spaces, Where woods are deep and crags are lonely And you meet the spirit of beauty only; Where the paddle dips and the water drips And down from the shoulder Black Care slips, And every hour is new. Dear Sir Freeheart, bring me, I pray you, Visions that shall not cease: Sound of a stream on the rocks descending, Glimpse of a sky through tall boughs bending, Chant of the pine and scent of cedar, Nature’s page new-cut for the reader, Lure of the camp-fire, bliss of sleeping Out where the dryads their watch are keeping; Taste of the wild, the heart of a child, Life as a lake breeze undefiled, And the long day steeped in peace. [page 51]
Fall and Spring
From the time the wind wakes To the time of snowflakes, That’s the time the heart aches Every cloudy day; That’s the time the heart takes Thought of all its heart-breaks, That’s the time the heart makes Life a cloudy way. From the time the grass creeps To the time the wind sleeps, That’s the time the heart leaps To the golden ray; That’s the time that joy sweeps Through the depths of heart-deeps, That’s the time the heart keeps Happy holiday.
When the sun is growing weaker, And his look is meek and meeker, Comes the frost—the pale betrayer— Light of foot, a stealthy slayer. [page 52] In the night abroad he stealeth, For each trembling leaf he feeleth; Something softened by its pleading, Kills it not but leaves it bleeding.
Silently as twilight shades woodland leaves are dropping; Each through stilly autumn air a winding way is taking; Each through yielding golden air a path of beauty making, Loosening and wavering and exquisitely stopping. Little fellow-travellers, gentle, frail and flaming, Near of kin you are to me as brother is to brother; I, like you, am journeying to the self-same mother, On a path of mystery and beauty past my naming. [page 53]
To the October Wind
Old playmate, showering the way With thick leaf storms in red and gold, I’m only six years old to-day, You’ve made me feel but six years old. In yellow gown and scarlet hood I whirled, a leaf among the rest, Or lay within the thinning wood, And played that you were Red-of-breast. Old comrade, lift me up again; Your arms are strong, your feet are swift, And bear me lightly down the lane Through all the leaves that drift and drift, And out into the twilight wood, And lay me softly down to rest, And cover me just as you would If you were really Red-of-breast.
A Slow Rain
A drowsy rain is stealing In slowness without stop; The sun-dried earth is feeling Its coolness, drop by drop. [page 54] The clouds are slowly wasting Their too long garnered store, Each thirsty clod is tasting One drop—and then one more. O ravishing as slumber To wearied limbs and eyes, And countless as the number Of stars in wintry skies, And sweet as the caresses By baby fingers made These delicate rain kisses On leaf and flower and blade!
The Good Brown Earth
O winter, thunder as you will Upon your harp of naked trees; The sheeted field, the buried rill, The whited pane more deeply freeze. Soon, soon, enframed in wasting snow, A drenched and dead-leaved little isle Of earth will rise, enough to show Our mother’s face, our Mother’s smile. [page 55]
Among the Leaves
The near sky, the under sky, The low sky that I love! I lie where fallen leaves lie, With a leafy sky above, And draw the coloured leaves nigh, And push the withered leaves by, And feel the woodland heart upon me, Brooding like a dove. The bright sky, the moving sky, The sky that autumn weaves. I see where scarlet leaves fly, The sky the wind bereaves. I see the ling’ring leaves die, I hear the dying leaves sigh, And breathe the woodland breath made sweet Of all her scented leaves.
The Big Moon
The big moon came to the edge of the sky, And pierced me with its dart; I strove to put its brightness by Before it burned my heart. [page 56] I wrapped the windows thick and well, I closely barred the door, The light of my penny candles fell On low-built wall and floor. The little room and the little light Began to comfort me; But I heard—I heard the golden night Call like a sounding sea. I knew the moon swam in the sky, And the earth swam in the moon; I went outside in the grass to lie, To yield to the deadly swoon. My soul was filled with white moon rain Till it ran o’er and o’er, My soul was thrilled with bright moon pain Till it could bear no more; I stole back through the curtained gloom Up stairs unlit and steep, And in a low-ceiled darkened room My hurt was healed with sleep. [page 57]
The Stump Fence
Forced from the cool and darkened loam, And thrown up to the light and air, The pine roots mourned their ancient home, And felt themselves as aliens where The wind blew and the sunlight burned; But soon the living ministries Of earth and sky unto them turned, And gave the gnarly strangers ease. The red leaves drifted to their arms, The snow clung to them nestingly, And Spring vouchsafed them of her charms One delicate anemone. Dew-drenched, herb-perfumed, loved by wild Young blossoming brambles, and most dear To vines and moss and every child Bent school-ward, one could almost hear The roots say, whispering side by side, While breezes stooped their forms to kiss, ‘Yes, brothers, it was well we died, To wake in such a heaven as this.’ [page 58]
In the room where I was sleeping The sun came to the floor, Whose silent though went leaping To where in woods of yore It felt the sun before. At noon the rain was slanting In gray lines from the west; A hurried child all panting It pattered to my nest And smiled when sun-carest. At eve the wind was flying Bird-like from bed to chair; Of brown leaves sere and dying It brought enough to spare, And dropped them here and there. At night-time, without warning, I felt almost to pain The soul of the sun in the morning, The soul of the wind and the rain, In my sleeping-room remain.
A Winter Picture
An air as sharp as steel, a sky Pierced with a million points of fire; [page 59] The level fields, hard, white and dry, A road as straight and tense as wire. No hint of human voice or face In frost below or fire above, Save where the smoke’s blue billowing grace Flies flaglike from the roofs of love.
The Passing Year
The feast is over, the guests are fled; It is time to be old, it is time for bed. The wind has blown out every light, And the pleasure garden is turned to blight. The trees like puffed-out candles stand, And the smoke of their darkness is over the land. Heavily hangs the drowsy head, Heavily droop the lashes; To bed! to bed! Let prayers be said And cover the fire with ashes. How the pipers piped, and the dancers flew, Their hearts were piping and dancing, too. Wine of the sun and spell of the stream, Birds in an ecstasy, flowers that teem, All gone by; now the quiet sky Looks down on the earth where the snow must lie. [page 60] Heavily hangs the drowsy head, Heavily droops the lashes; To bed! to bed! Let prayers be said And cover the fire with ashes.
The crows are cawing Awing and loud, The snow is thawing, The drift is bowed; And drip—drip—drop! One by one In the strength of the sun The winter-drops slip and slowly stop. The field is showing A face half warmed The road is flowing, The buds have formed And drip—drip—drop! One by one In the strength of the sun The winter-thoughts slip and suddenly stop. [page 61]
The Indigo Bird
When I see, High on the tip-top twig of a tree, Something blue by the breezes stirred, But so far up that the blue is blurred, So far up no green leaf flies ‘Twixt its blue and the blue of the skies, Then I know, ere a note be heard, That is naught but the Indigo bird. Blue on the branch and blue in the sky, And naught between but the breezes high, And naught so blue by the breezes stirred As the deep, deep blue of the Indigo bird. When I hear A song like a bird laugh, blithe and clear, As though of some airy jest he had heard The last and the most delightful word: A laugh as fresh in the August haze As it was in the full-voiced April days; Then I know that my heart is stirred By the laugh-like song of the Indigo bird. [page 62] Joy on the branch and joy in the sky, And naught between but the breezes high; And naught so glad on the breezes heard As the gay, gay note of the Indigo bird.
The Song-Sparrow’s Nest
Here where tumultuous vines Shadow the porch at the west, Leaf with tendril entwines Under a song sparrow’s nest. She in her pendulous nook Sways with the warm wind tide, I with a pen or a book Rock as soft at her side. Comrades with nothing to say, Neither of us intrudes, But through the lingering day Each of us sits and broods. Not upon hate and fear, Not upon grief or doubt, Not upon spite or sneer, These we could never hatch out. [page 63] She broods on wonderful things: Quickening life that belongs To a heart and a voice and wings, But—I’m not so sure of my songs! Then in the summer night, When I awake with a start, I think of the nest at the height— The leafy height of my heart; I think of the mother love, Of the patient wings close furled, Of the sky that broods above, Of the Love that broods on the world.
Against my window-pane He plunges at a mass Of buds—and strikes in vain The intervening glass. O sprite of wings and fire Outstretching eagerly, My soul, with like desire To probe thy mystery, [page 64] Comes close as breast to bloom, As bud to hot heart-beat, And gains no inner room, And drains no hidden sweet.
The Golden Crowned Kinglet
Through the wintry cedars high, Hurry by Little lovers of the cold; Slender forms of olive green Rarely for a moment seen, Rarer still the glimpse of gold. Short straight beak held high as though Sleet and snow, Hunger, hardship, foes, might be Not worth one protesting word From the winter’s smallest bird Hid in cedared privacy. Ah, but when you hear that note Earthward float Like a faint high whispered call, Or a half heard fairy bell, Then you feel the kinglet spell, Soft, remote, aerial. [page 65]
The First Bluebird
First, first! That was thy song that burst Out of the spring of thy heart, Incarnate spring that thou art! Now must the winter depart, Since to his age-heavy ear Fluteth the youth of the year. Low, low, Delicate, musical, slow; Lighten, O heaven that lowers, Blossom, ye fields, into flowers, Thicken, ye branches, to bowers; And thou, O my heart, like a stone, Wilt thou keep winter alone?
Hearing the strange night-piercing sound Of woe that strove to sing, I followed where it hid, and found A soft small-throated thing, A feathered handful of gray grief, Perched by the year’s last leaf. [page 66] And heeding not that in the sky The lamps of peace were lit, It sent abroad that sobbing cry, And sad hearts echoed it. O hush, poor grief, so gray, so wild, God still is with His child!
The Birds’ Hour
The world at noon belongs to the sun, At eve to the home-coming herds; But while the dew is pearly—very, very early— The world belongs to the birds. As still as in a dream lie the meadow and the stream, ‘Neath the soaring and outpouring of the birds. Long, long before there is life at any door, Or smoke at any roof, or laughing words Of children fresh from sleeping, the outer world is steeping In the heaven-given rapture of the birds. Not a thought of grief or care can enforce admission there Through the winging and the singing of the birds. [page 67]
The Branch to the Bird
Sing to me, Love! My bloom belongs To you, and matches all your songs. Charm, charm my ear, And I shall hear Your voice amid my dewy blossoms, More sweet than they—more dear. Sing to me, Love! The bloom has gone, And yet the long, long months go on. Charm, charm, my heart, And I shall start To dream amid the autumn shadows That spring did not depart.
The Red-Winged Blackbird
Black beneath as the night, With wings of a morning glow, From his sooty throat three syllables float, Ravishing, liquid, low; And ‘tis oh, for the joy of June, And the bliss that ne’er can flee From that exquisite call, with its sweet, sweet fall— O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee! [page 68] Long ago as a child, From the bough of a blossoming quince, That melody came to thrill my frame, And whenever I’ve caught it since, The spring-soft blue of the sky And the spring-bright bloom of the tree Are a part of the strain—ah, hear it again!— O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee! And the night is tenderly black, The morning eagerly bright, For that old, old spring is blossoming In the soul and in the sight. The red-winged blackbird brings My lost youth back to me, When I hear it in the swale, from a gray fence rail, O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee!
The Last Robin
The spring was red with robins, The summer gay with their song; What doest thou here at bleak of the year, When the frost is sharp and strong, When even the red from the leaves has fled, And the stormy night is long? [page 69] Silent, alone, thou givest An April gleam to the lane; A sense of spring to the sorrowing Of autumn wind and rain. Dear gleam, good-bye! the dark is nigh; Good-bye—come back again!
Stout-hearted bird, When thy blithe note I heard From out the wind-warped tree— Chick-a-dee-dee!— There came to me A sense of triumph, an exultant breath Blown in the face of death. For what are harsh and bitter circumstances When the heart dances, And pipes to rattling branch and icy lea, Chick-a-dee-dee! Sing loud, sing loud Against that leaden cloud, That draggeth drearily, Chick-a-dee-dee!— Pour out thy free [page 70] Defiance to the sharpest winds that blow And still increasing snow. By courage, faith and joy art thou attended, And most befriended By thine own heart that bubbleth cheerily, Chick-a-dee-dee!
The Hornèd Larks in Winter
Where the tufted red-root Rises from the snow, See the flock of hornèd larks Crouching low, Beating, shaking all the seeds From the dry pods of the weeds, Calling from the knolls and furrows As they go. Lovers of the plowed field And the open sun, Pacing thoughtfully the ruts One by one. On each delicate small head Black and white are closely wed, And the horn-like tufts are lowered When they run. [page 71] Serious little fellows! Who would e’er surmise That such grave field labourers Could arise, Shaking from their yellow throats Ravishing cloud-surrounded notes, Flinging up the joy of springtime To the skies. [page 72]
Two came to me in the twilight, the vesper bird had begun, One was the man that loved me, and with him another one. Swift came the one that loved me, and sure as a river might run; But swifter and surer before him, entered the other one. Close came the one that loved me, his hand on my hand like a glove, But close to the heart of my heart was clinging the one that I love. ‘Come without’, said the lover, the stars are beginning above; So I walked by his side, while between us went viewless the one that I love. Strong was the voice of the lover, with tones like the warmth of the sun; Soon, soon they were drowned in the sea-strong voice of the viewless one. [page 73] He spoke and he left me in anger, there by the edge of the grove, And men say now I am lonely—they see not the one that I love.
Do You Remember?
Do you remember the drive we took Years ago, in the early fall, When the moonlight lay like the visible look Of God, deep-brooding over all? The prairie had broken into bloom Of golden-rod, like a web unrolled, And there wasn’t a tree to cast its gloom Over all that lustrous sweep of gold. Never a house for miles and miles, Save our airy castles’ columns and towers, That rose in dimly magnificent piles Above a foundation of moonlit flowers. We talked of our hopes and dreams, of how hard It was to live at the ideal height, And our future was just as thickly starred As the sky above us that shining night. [page 74] Miles and miles through the loneliness, A boy and a girl and a slow, slow steed, The young hearts fluttering to express Their highest thought and their deepest need. No hill of hardship, no vale of despair, But a golden plain and a golden sky. We felt that life was thrillingly fair, And cared not to ask the reason why. Ever so long ago, and we— How have we drifted each from each! The road to the height where we longed to be Is all untraversed by smile or speech. But still you remember that vanished year When we rode alone in the smile of God, And all of our wealth on this mortal sphere Was poetry, youth and golden-rod.
Tread lightly, lightly, eager feet, For every footfall when we part, And every footfall when we meet, Awakes my heart—awakes my heart. [page 75] Speak shyly, shyly, pleading eyes, The yearning message you impart, For all your questions and replies Are in my heart—are in my heart. Steal softly, softly, sweetest tone, The tender springs from which you start To flow into mine ear alone O’errun my heart—o’errun my heart. Love gently, gently, Love of mine, Through all the years where’er thou art, For every quick’ning thought of thine Doth stir my heart—doth stir my heart.
I heard my lover pleading Beneath the ivied pane, I looked out through the darkness And lo, it was the rain! I heard my lover singing His low, heart-stirring songs; I went without and sought him To whom my soul belongs. [page 76] I found him in the darkness, His tears were on my face; O Sweet, your voice has pierced me, And your unhurrying pace! He gave me, as we wandered Adown the winding lane, A thousand tender touches And that heart-stirring strain. The lamps and fires and faces No longer did I see; I walked abroad with Music And Love and Poetry.
The Dead Face
The pale moon and the pale, pale face Come back again to me; The pale moon to its skyey place, And the face to memory. Out of the darkness they arise, And with the dawn depart— The moon that lights the empty skies, The face that lights my heart. [page 77]
My own love, my tender love, my love who is to me As bird song to the June dawn, as blossoms to the tree, As to the rain the sun gleam As to the heart its one dream, As to the poet’s yearning words the singer’s melody. My life path one treasure hath, a presence angel-bright Who sings away the storm’s wrath, who puts the clouds to flight, Who lifts the rainbow arch there, Who makes my earthly march fair, Who lends me wings to scale with her, the rugged frowning height. My own love, my only love, my one star in the sky, I’ve put you in my heart, love, to still its pleading cry; I’ll keep you as my heart core, And never shall we part more, Until God sends his servant Death, to bid us say ‘Good-bye’. [page 78]
When It’s Time for Leaves to Fly
When it’s time for leaves to fly, Winds shall blow and leaves shall go; When it’s time for Love to die, Close his eyes and lay him low. When it’s time for frost to sting. Birds are dumb and streams are numb; Speak not of another spring— Nevermore our spring shall come. Nevermore our lives shall be What they seemed when first we dreamed, Since the leaves of memory Drop where passion’s river gleamed.
A Canty Thought
John Anderson, my jo, John, How strange I did not know Until last night that jo meant love! A Scotchman told me so, And also said that canty day Meant simply happy day. Good lack! ‘tis time my ignorance Was lightened by this ray. [page 79] John Anderson, my jo, John, How dear a word is jo! Sweet as a streamlet’s flow, John, That murmurs soft and low. It seems that love-notes from my love The postman has not brought, They’re simply jo notes from my jo— O canty, canty thought!
If You Love Me
If you love me, tell me so In your greeting, in your eyes, In your footstep, swift or slow, In your tender-voiced replies. Love that stays in heart and blood Lives forever in the bud: Once in words ‘tis past recall— Down the lovely petals fall. If you love me, tell me so, As the dawn may hint of noon, As a glance the deep heart’s glow, As hepaticas of June; When the summer riot runs ‘Neath the glare of burning suns, Naught so fair—not anything— As the first faint breath of spring. [page 80]
My lover comes down the leafy street Through tenderly falling rain; His footsteps near our portal veer, Go past—then turn again. Oh, can it be he is knocking below, Or here at my door above! So gentle and small it sounds in the hall, So loud in the ear of love. But never a word of love has he said, And never a word crave I, For why should one long for the daylight strong When the dawn is in the sky? Oh, a dewy rose garden is the house, A garden shut from the sun; The breath of it sweet floats up as my feet Float down to my waiting one. But if ever a word of love thinks he, It falls from his heart still-born; Who bends to the rose does not haste to close His hand around bud and thorn. [page 81] The beautiful soul that is in him turns His beautiful face agleam; My own soul flies to feast in his eyes, Where the silent love-words teem. Our talk is of books and of thoughts and moods, Of the wild flowers in the rain, And he leans his cheek when we do not speak On his chair where my hand had lain. Yet never a word of love does he say, And never a word crave I, For the faint green May would wither away At the quick touch of July. And at last—at last, we look our last, And the dim day grows more dim; But his eyes still shine in these eyes of mine. And my soul goes forth with him. For though not a word of love does he say, Still never a word crave I, For the words of earth are of little worth When a song drops out of the sky. [page 82]
He went upon a journey, And she was left at home; And yet ‘twas he who stayed behind And she that far did roam. For though he went by mountain And wood and stream and sea, A little cot enwrapt in green He saw perpetually. And she within the green leaves, Not knowing that he stood Forever by her, dreamed her way With him by mount and wood. Now heaven help these lovers, And bring her safely home, Or lead him back along the track Where she, e’en now, doth roam.
What Love Remembers
What Love anticipates may die in flower, What Love possesses may be thine an hour, But redly gleam in life’s unlit Decembers What Love remembers. [page 83]
The pretty girl you used to be, The pretty lover that you had, The front gate with its rosy tree, The falling blooms that gaily clad The waiting sweetheart, lingering lad,— Where are they? On what land or sea? That day unfathomably glad Is dead as words of poetry On a forgotten blotting-pad. Yet what avails reality, With humdrum prose of good and bad, When every blossoming May you see The pretty girl you used to be, The pretty lover that you had.
A Profitable Loss
There came a little blind boy to steal my heart away, Said I, ‘You little blind boy, I’ll have to say you nay, For I store my honey in it, And I keep my money in it, And I need it every minute of the day.’ [page 84] He stole it, did the blind boy, in spite of all my wrath, But surely she that hath not hath more than she that hath, For the air is sweet with honey, And the earth is rich with money, And the twain of them make sunny all my path. And if a sage should ask of me with corrugated brow, Why I do not wish my heart back, I only could avow It’s because a little money, And a small amount of honey, Would seem rather sadly funny to me now.
To My Friend
Forget not, dearest, when you go On high or homely task intent, Through summer bloom or winter snow With you my thoughts are blent; That how so harsh the city’s din, Or solitary seems your place, Still are you folded safely in My brooding heart’s embrace. [page 85]
Lips and Eyes
As I passed her house I thought I would call and take her by surprise. ‘Why, how do you do?’ said her lovely lips; What kept you away?’ asked her eyes. ‘I doubted my welcome,’ I sadly said, and spoke without disguise. ‘Are you sure of it now?’ asked her laughing lips. ‘You know you are sure,’ said the eyes. ‘I have tried my utmost and more’, I said, ‘to stifle my heart’s vain cries;’ ‘It’s a serious case’, said the careless lips; ‘It is for us’, said the eyes. ‘Your cruel words dug the grave of Hope, and in Hope’s grave Love lies.’ ‘White lies or black?’ asked the scoffing lips, ‘Oh, piteous sight’, said the eyes. ‘But now I must go, for I sail to-night, and time unpitying flies.’ ‘Don’t let me keep you’, exclaimed the lips; ‘Do not let us keep you’, said the eyes. [page 86] She gave me a cold, cold hand to take, and we said our last good-byes; And then as I feared her chilly lips, I kissed her on the eyes. A man can hear two languages at once if he only tries; ‘I don’t see how you dare’, said the lips; ‘But we see,’ said the eyes.
The Wild Columbine
Out from the edge of a barren rock Lightly sprang the columbine, Wild and red as the word unsaid, As the wish that sped From the heart of your heart to the heart of mine. Say not the word, let it die unheard, Let the wish unspurred Waste away under key and lock. Still we have seen them, felt them ours; From the rocks we tread with accustomed feet Sprang those delicate blood-bright flowers, Wild, and ah, so wistfully sweet! [page 87]
When Time Turns
When ashes go back to fire, And the cataract to the upper stream, And fulfilment to desire, And the rugged fact to airy dream, Then shall dead youth awake from its long sleep, And life like a tall, slim, silver fountain leap. When the mount becomes a slope, And the dead leaf a pointed bud, And memory is hope, And dying limbs bear dancing blood, Then shall young love—then shall young love return And the old love tales make the spirit burn.
Dearest, give your soul to me; Let it in your glances shine; Let a path of ecstasy Stretch between your eyes and mine. Should you press me to your heart, That enchanted, That enchanted little pathway must depart. [page 88] Dearest, give your thoughts to me; Let them through the distance drear Make unceasing melody To my ruptured inner ear. Should you clasp me—ah, the cost! All that elfin, All that elfin music were in clamour lost.
Under the King
Love with the deep eyes and soft hair, Love with the lily throat and hands, Is done to death, and free as air Am I of all my King’s commands. How shall I celebrate my joy? Or dance with feet that once were fleet In his adorable employ? Or laugh with lips that felt his sweet? How can I at his lifeless face Aim any sharp or bitter jest, Since roguish destiny did place That tender target in my breast? Nay, let me be sincere and strong; I cannot rid me of my chains. I cannot to myself belong, My King is dead—his soul still reigns. [page 89]
The Haunted Room
The sign on his heart read, ‘Room to Let’, And I thought I would just look through; The location was good, terms fair, and yet I feared it would hardly do; For while I inspected the walls and floor And furnishings of the heart, A ghost came in at the bolted door And gave me a sort of a start. A ghost of a girl with a movement frail As a deep-grassed stream. Her face Like a moon ray wandered, ah, how pale, In the glow of that rosy place!
Your face, dear love, your face! Not that which meets your fellow-man’s regard, Polite or sympathetic, sometimes hard, Indifferent, reticent, self-poised and still, The keen thought-miller toiling at his mill— But that which lights our small abiding-place, Your face, dear love, your face! [page 90] Your face, dear love, your face! That which, returning through the evening gloom, You bring into this waiting, happy room. The tired look, yet glad, as glad and warm As tender sunset after hours of storm. As if some hidden door were opened wide Within your heart on its home-loving side, A look that is a bodiless embrace— Your face, dear love, your face!
Rose-leaf damsel, tell me this— You with your seventeen years— How much honey is in a kiss, And how much salt in tears? ‘Nay’, she said, ‘such words, I wis, Are not for my maiden ears. How should I know the sweet of a kiss Or the bitterness of tears?’ White-haired woman, whose grief and bliss Overrun seventy years, Tell me true, does the sweet of a kiss Outweigh the bitter of tears? [page 91] ‘Yea’, she said, ‘but the bitterness Enmixed with the sweet appears: My life’s most tender and treasured kiss Is kept in the brine of tears.’
Love and Poverty
“When Poverty comes in at the door Love flies out of the window.” —Old Saying.
‘O do not from the window fly’, Said Poverty to Love, ‘But to my bosom come and I Will keep you there, my dove, ‘My harshness needs your gentleness, My grief your tender tone, Your breath would bless my spirit as A rose-vine wreathes a stone.’ So sweet Love flew to Poverty; She blest him heart and head. When lo, he vanished utterly And Wealth stood in his stead!’ And that is why, with smiling air, The ancient stories tell That Poverty and Love did ne’er Beneath the same roof dwell. [page 92]
The House of Love
My lover built a house for me, And roofed it with his tender smile, And walled it with his tender arms, A little while—a little while; And warmed it with his flaming heart, And windowed it with visions sweet, And floored it with the rosy dreams That stretched before my happy feet. But when a deathly storm arose, And choked the fire and rent the floor My flowering windows streamed with dark That flowed with sunny light before. So now a houseless wanderer I linger underneath the sky; My house of love is left a wreck Within the lane of memory. Is left a wreck. But night once more Enroofs me with a tender smile, And gives me back my rosy floor A little while—a little while. [page 93]
A Failure, who had ne’er achieved Self victory, at last lay dead. ‘Poor Failure’! thus his neighbours grieved. ‘Poor, pitiable wretch,’ they said, ‘His weakness was the worst of crimes, He failed at least a thousand times’. Meanwhile the Failure gave to God His vain attempts. Remorsefully And prostrate on the skyey sod, ‘I failed a thousand times’, said he. ‘Welcome’! rang out the heavenly chimes, ‘He strove—he strove a thousand times’!
Unto the diamond with a flaw The perfect pebble spake: ‘Alas, poor sister, some great law Of heaven you did break, ‘Since Imperfection’s curse I see Whene’er your form I view; But cheer up! some day you may be A perfect pebble, too.’ [page 94]
A good soul once, not without qualms, Knocked at the gates eternal, And begged of Lazarus an alms For use in realms infernal. ‘The rich man of whose crumbs you ate Needs water. O surprise him With just one drop!’ He smiled sedate: ‘I fear ‘twould pauperize him.’ ‘And then, you know, I can’t revoke My rule, which is unswerving; I never give to wealthy folk Unless they are deserving.’
The Deep Sea and the Devil
Whenever you’re between the deep sea and the devil, Don’t fancy for a moment that your lot is very hard, But keep your mind serene and your conduct on the level And follow the suggestions of a philosophic bard: [page 95] And that is, Let the deep sea go to the devil! The water will evaporate almost as quick as thought, His Majesty will simmer down, and oh, how you will revel In the comfort and relief that your sagacious act has wrought!
Thirty-one years ago this June, the proudest young mothers in Bly Were Mary Ella and Maud Estella and Isabella and I; Bella’s baby was called Louise, my little boy was John While Paul and Madeline were the names the other two hit upon. And which was the prettiest baby not one of us could say, And which turned out the smartest we don’t know to this day. All of them tip-top babies, sturdy of limb and spine— Isabella’s and Maud Estella’s and Mary Ella’s and mine. [page 96] They all had mumps together and ‘measles drear with spots’; They all played ‘Ring ‘round rosy’, the cunning little tots; They all made burdock baskets and dandelion chains, And turned to brilliant poppy shows their bits of broken panes; They all had a calf and a lamb apiece, and a garden plot that bore Some strawberries and melons and experience for four. Coming from school they kept as close as four grapes on a vine— Isabella’s and Mary Ella’s and Maud Estella’s and mine. Ah me, how fast the children grew! The seasons onward fare, And lift the childish faces, oh, so high up in the air! Their heads go up, their hearts go out, their thoughts are large and sweet, And mother love is not enough to make their lives complete. [page 97] No matter! John’s wed to Louise and Paul to Madeline; They still are Bella’ and Maud Estella’s and Mary Ella’s and mine. Thirty-one years ago! And now the proudest grandmothers in Bly Are Mary Ella and Maud Estella and Isabella and I.
A New Clean Slate
If you’re angry with yourself for being angry, If you’re sad because of sadness you have known, If you weep to think you’ve wasted nights in weeping, If you groan to think you took the time to groan; If you will regret the days you spent regretting, If you hate to think you once were ruled by hate, If you fret because you’ve not been cured of fretting, Why don’t you get a new clean slate? [page 98] If you must complain of time lost in complaining, If you suffer o’er the suffering you’ve gone through, If you miss the cherished memories pertaining To all the hard mishaps that came to you, Why don’t you sing and dance o’er vanished pleasures? Why don’t you count the blisses brought by Fate? Why don’t you clasp and kiss your present treasures? Why don’t you get a new clean slate?
He bragged of his ability His business tact and skill, His concentration, energy, Wit, insight, magnetism And wondrous strength of will. And when his talked-of fortune Failed to materialize, His splendid pluck and courage In getting on without it He bragged up to the skies. [page 99]
An average man awoke one night, And thought of his past in the pale moonlight; At times he muttered, at times he moaned, And once he very distinctly groaned, At which his guardian spirit inquired What secret cause this dole inspired. ‘Alas, why ask? I’m thinking,’ said he, ‘About the people I used to be.’ ‘There’s the simpleton I was when—well, It really would hardly do to tell; And the unutterable ass I was when—but we’ll let that pass; And the awful idiot I was when— No, don’t let’s speak of that again; And the inconceivable fool I made Of myself when—why don’t memories fade, Or drown, or fly, or die in a hole Instead of eternally burning the soul? But at any rate, you now can see Why I mourn o’er the people I used to be.’ The angel smiled with as undefiled A glance as that of a little child, And said, ‘I am musing happily About the people you’re going to be: [page 100] The soul that has learned to break its chains, The heart grown tenderer through its pains, The mind made richer for its thought, The character remorse has wrought To far undreamed capacities, The will that sits, a king at ease. Nay, marvel not for I plainly see And joy in the people you’re going to be.’ The average man felt a purer light About his soul that the moon-ray bright. For once no evil spirit jeered And the average man was strangely cheered.
The Poet’s Spring
“Don’t send me any spring poems after February 21st.”—Letter from an Editor.
When January’s icy beard Shakes like a rattling bough, The poet’s heart is sweetly cheered, ‘Tis springtime with him now. The streamlets flow, the warm winds ebb, Although the pipes have burst, For summer ‘poems’ are due on February 21st. [page 101] The yellow dandelions gild The snowdrifts eight feet high, The bluebird’s song of joy is spilled Beneath an iron sky. How sweet on zero days the web Of fancies, poet-nursed, And sad that blossoms fade on February 21st! Ah, would I were an editor, While wintry blasts endure, A daisy time with daisy rhyme I’d have, you may be sure. I’d bathe in buttercups ad lib, And all my buds should burst And bloom till long long after February 21st.
A Waste of Time
She said that reading poetry was just a waste of time, That so to spend a single hour was equal to a crime; And then she turned the pages of an ancient book to quote The words that those immortal bards of bygone ages wrote: [page 102] The mystic songs of Solomon, the flower-like take of Ruth, That wraps her form unfadingly in poetry and youth; She trembled at the splendid fire of Job’s imaginings, And David’s poet-fervour touched her heart’s most secret strings. Perhaps she merely meant to say she disapproved of rhyme, But she said that reading poetry was just a waste of time!
As Good as a Throne
Here is a thought as good as a throne— I am my own, yes wholly my own, No burdensome parent, and nobody’s wife, I can simply do as I choose with my life! True I have millions of human brothers, But they have no claim on me at all, I certainly shall not live for others Nor hear an imagined duty’s call. So I stretched out my feet, as women will, To the open fire, for the day was chill; When, swift as the rush of running water, Burst in my little adopted daughter. [page 103] She wanted ice cream—the half of a brick— She wanted help in arithmetic, She wanted to know the reason why I had not made a blueberry pie; She wanted sympathy, candy and ink, She wanted a dress of rosy pink, And help in collecting leaves and barks— At this, with a few sarcastic remarks, My Ownness arose and wished me ‘Good day!’ And all in reply that I could say Was, ‘Throne are no good anyway!’
The Rich Mr. Smith
As past the magnificent palace we bowled, The driver explained this exhibit in gold Was made by the millionaire, Everard Smith, A man whom Success was on pleasant terms with. But while we exclaimed and admired and oh, oh’d, Till the horses were turned at the bend of the road, He corrected himself: ‘It belongs to his kith And his kin; he is now the late Mr. Smith.’ [page 104] Somehow that word ‘late’ struck us cold as the chill Of a new-opened grave when the night-wind is still, And it made wealth and splendour the veriest myth, As we sighed in a whisper, ‘Oh, poor Mr. Smith!
The Nightingale and the Thorn
A nightingale quite forlorn Thus made her plaint to the morn: ‘I’ve hunted in vain,’ ran the pitiful strain, ‘And I can’t find a sign of a thorn. There’s nothing to make me sad, There’s not a thorn to be had, All the rest of my years’—here she burst into tears— ‘I’ll have to be merry and glad.’ I always sing my best When a cruel thorn is pressed (So my friends have said and I’ve frequently read) Quite close to my tender breast. [page 105] O birds with grievances great, O men with grievances small, Think what it would be, if you, like me, Had never a grievance at all!’ The moral, my little dear, Is quite remarkably clear; When lessons are long and things go wrong, And everyone’s acting queer, Don’t murmur and bewail, Don’t rue the day you were born, But think of the poor, poor nightingale, Who hadn’t a sign of a thorn.
A Poet’s Joy and Gratitude
A critic praised my book in print, O happy, happy day! Of those one hundred thousand readers Who gulp the news and glance at leaders, There may be one who took the hint, One soul impelled to say, Why, if this book is praised in print It’s possible there’s something in’t’ Oh, Glory! Joy! Hurray! [page 106]
LYRICS OF LIFE AND WISDOM
Unto my friends I give my thoughts, Unto my God my soul, Unto my foe I leave my love— These are of life the whole. Nay, there is something—a trifle—left; Who shall receive this dower? See, Earth Mother, a handful of dust— Turn it into a flower.
The White Gifts
These are thy gifts, O Life: A white frost on the hair, And a wintry whiteness on the cheek That once was red and fair. These are thy gifts, O Love: A white frost in the veins, And a deep-snow silence in the soul, Where once were fiery pains. And thy great gifts, O Death, Are in the frost-bound frame, The ice-locked lips, the white, white peace That is too deep for name. [page 107]
Boating by Starlight
The breeze has washed me clean of cares, The night has broken Labour’s bars; My soul and I through heavenly airs Are voyaging among the stars. Soft shadows wrap the shore, the lake, The pier, the bridge, the gazing eyes. In splendid loneliness we take This jewelled journey through the skies.
The White Moth
She was new-wedded, you understand, As frail a thing As a breath of spring, When the hosts of winter besiege the land; And he was a man with a heart aglow, Who flamed at the breath And loved it till death— Yes, she died not more than a year ago. But just at the close she called him in Where she lay like a wraith, With the light of her faith In his love on her face from brow to chin. [page 108] And said, ‘Be comforted, dear, my heart, The soul returns When deep love burns, And my only heaven is where thou art.’ ‘As a still white moth I’ll come to you; Look for me When the dusk you see, And the summer lamp and the falling dew.’ He bowed his head her hand above, And the only word That his pale lips stirred Was ‘love’—and again, ‘O love, love, love!’ And lo! she had gone beyond his cries, Beyond the moan Of his undertone, The plea of his passionate lips and eyes. But vainly he watched the summer through; The twilights came, And his lamp, aflame, Only the dust-coloured winged things drew. In winter Fancy’s a vagrant elf; The summer moth And the vanished troth Had faded—he was a moth himself. [page 109] And the flame that drew him the most was that On a rounded cheek; When nights were bleak It moved at his side ‘neath a picture hat. And afterward summer came again, And he looked with a sigh As the nights went by For a satin-white moth, and looked in vain. But once, as he sat up late, so late, To write to the girl Who had set him awhirl That she was his life, his love, his fate, The notepaper seemed a trifle thick At just one place. He made a grimace, And turned the sheet over angrily, quick. And lo! there lay a white moth, dead! Crushed by his hand, You understand, Under the page where he had said [page 110] That he loved another. Now do you suppose— A chance, you say? Perhaps so—nay, Of course it must have been—yet—who knows?
The fisher’s face is hard to read, His eyes are deep and still; His boots have crushed as pungent weed Beside a far-off rill. Oh, early lifted he the latch And sped through dew away, But when we ask him of the catch That was to mark the day, He lifts his empty hands and smiles: ‘I fished for hours, I fished for miles.’ The fisher has an open mind, A meditative heart; He walks companioned by the wind Or sits alone, apart, Within some stream-enchanted dell. The fish about him play [page 111] In sweet content. They know full well That friends of his are they. Dame Nature all his soul beguiles With murmurous hours and emerald miles. But one who trod the path he took By fragrant woodland ways, To where the cold trout-haunted brook Ran thick-leaved from the gaze, Heard him but sigh, ‘How fair it is! My God—and what am I That Thy most secret harmonies Should flood the ear and eye?’ At eve with empty hands he smiles: ‘I caught the best of hours and miles.’
Stars and Flowers
The stars enchant the upper skies, The flowers chain the feet; They look into each other’s eyes, And flame and fragrance meet. So will it be when Death unbars These slender doors of ours, And turns our spirits into stars, Our bodies into flowers. [page 112]
An Old Influence
A child, I saw familiar things In sweet imagined guise; For me the clouds were angels’ wings The stars were angels’ eyes. Not so to-day: the grassless ways Of older years invite No wings to whiten common days, No eyes to hallow night. Yet when with grief my heart is loud, Or harsh thoughts leave their scar, I feel reproach from every cloud, Reproof from every star.
Angel of Youth, how swift you flew! Perhaps you’re worth a sigh. Angel of Love, good-bye to you— Good-bye! Good-bye! Angel of Work, your strong demand My soul enliveneth, Till on my hands you lay your hand, Angel of Death. [page 113]
Poverty bought our little lot, Flooded with daisy blooms; Poverty bought our little cot And furnished all its rooms. Yet Peace leans over Labour’s chair, Joys at the fireside throng, While up and down on Poverty’s stair Love sings the whole day long.
The School of Pain
Here is the hard school kept by Pain, With pupils sad and white: While some shed tears like falling rain From dreary morn till night, Some knit the brow and clinch the fist, And fill the heart with hate, And some cross languid wrist on wrist, And say Pain is their fate; But those that study very hard, And learn that Pain can bless, Are sent out in a leafy yard To play with Happiness. [page 114]
News of Life
A bird flew in at my window: ‘That’s news of death,’ they said. O heart life-packed, it was heaven you lacked As you suffered and strove and fled. A message of life you bring me: Caught fast in the strange unknown, We strive with the gloom in earth’s low room, Then escape to the skies—our own.
I talked with you to-day, all three, Two of you lurked unseen: Yourself, the boy you used to be, And the man you might have been. You said that hopes to dead buds turned, That love was but a dream, Ambition soon to ashes burned, Joy was a fleeting gleam. You never saw that constantly They smiled at you unseen— The ardent boy you used to be, The man you might have been. [page 115]
The Little Noon
My life that goes from dark to dark, From leaping light to towering light, Must have its little noonday spark Of heat and flame before the night. My little noon! How strong it seems, How dazzling fair and deep its tide, And yet a million million beams Of day have burned before and died. Long, long ago—a thousand years— Was Fear all white and Rage all red? Did Love meet love with shining tears That eased the stress of words unsaid? A thousand years ago did Hope Fly outward with tumultuous breast? Youth wake at night to sing? Age grope Through gathering darkness to his rest? Back in the ages past was sweet As sweet as now? Did bitterness Flavour the very drink and meat? Did Rapture wear her April dress? [page 116] Did strong men give their hands to men, Their hearts to women? Did the wife Joy in her budding secret then? Did children throng the doors of life? Ah, these had all their little noons, Yet cradled in the earth they lie, And still beside them Ocean croons Her immemorial lullaby.
Bold as thou art There cometh one more bold To turn thy strenuous heart All masterless and cold. Unmoved, strong-stayed Art-thou? Yet cometh one Whose whisper will persuade Thee with him to be gone. King of the fray? Lord of the time and race? And yet shall come the ray To light thy vacant place. [page 117]
As Leaves in the Stream
As dead leaves lie beneath the stream That merrily doth sing, And give its flow a darker gleam By their deep colouring. So every stream of joy that starts Hath its remembered dead, And love runs richer in our hearts Because of sweetness fled.
Where forest fires have swept the land, The musing traveller sees These little bright-faced flowers stand In crowded companies. So in the heart that grief has charred New fairness decks the sod, And every blackened life is starred With tender gifts from God.
Thank God for pluck—unknown to slaves— The self ne’er of its Self bereft, Who, when the right arm’s shattered, waves The good flag with the left. [page 118]
My Guardian Angel
When from my task I fain would steal, And into vacuous languor slip, With inward bleeding then I feel My guardian angel’s whip. Or when to empty revelry I give my spirit, though it sears And shames that inner self, I see My guardian angel’s tears. Or when I yield to grief or fear, Or scorn, or say that life is chaff, Blown by an idle wind, I hear My guardian angel’s laugh.
The World Well Lost
My one dark love shall fix the day, The solemn day when we shall wed; Nor know I if on green or gray, On winter white or autumn red, My happy bridal moon shall rise, Nor which of all the blossoming Mays Shall wreathe the gates of Paradise Upon my dark love’s day of days. [page 119] But this I know: her steps will be Like rose-leaves falling from the rose, Her eyes a fathomless strange sea To which my stream of being flows. And this I know: her lips will rest As lightly on the drowsing lid As leafy shadows on the breast Of some sweet grave all flower-hid. In some sweet grave all flower-hid A thousand times the blooms of May Shall visit us the leaves amid, When my love, Death, has named the day.
A Fairer Art
The soul of beauty speaks through roughest stone And makes the sculptor’s task A glory and a rapture. He alone May lift the clinging mask. Be thine a fairer art: to bare thine ear To life’s unresting sea, And in its harshest discords feel and hear The soul of harmony. [page 120]
One Day of Ecstasy
One day of ecstasy my soul has known: All through the black night I had striven alone With Pain’s unsated beak at flesh and bone. Then just at dawn, like to a healing rain. Soft slumber fell on writhing nerve and brain; I woke to find my enemy was slain. Body and soul sheer bliss! The hours a fleece Of young lambs nestling at the feet of Peace. How will it be when all life’s pain shall cease?
My orders are to fight. Then if I bleed, or fail, Or strongly win, what matters it? God only doth prevail. The servant craveth naught Except to serve with might. I was not told to win or lose,— My orders are to fight. [page 121]
Alone in the Wood
Out-gazing from her cabin door On lift of pine and leap of stream She felt her spirit shine and soar With arching bough and foamy gleam. The slender sunbeam driven through The tangled brake or mossy mould Pierced all her wandering fancies, too, And held them with a nail of gold. Her spirit greatened with the bud, And brightened with the leaves that fell, And life with her was at the flood When melting snow o’erwhelemed the dell. The naked, new-born birds, that slept Secure and warm when storms were loud, Gave her their perfect trust. She kept Her bird-like faith beneath the cloud.
For the bird the rosy branch, For the lake the sunset dying, For the bee its clover ranch, For the pine the night wind sighing; [page 122] For every tree that is bending The sound of stream descending; For the lonely attic window The sky with its starry host, And for every heart that is troubled The heart that needs it most. How happy the grey fence-rail With a russet chipmunk running, How grateful the windflower pale In the springtime noonday sunning. How charmed is the twilight falling At the voice of the robin calling; How tenderly falls the moonlight On a cold and sterile coast, And how good for the heart of the troubled Is the heart that needs it most.
Ah, when our eyes look backward On visions deeply sweet, And consciously life’s remnant Is narrowing to our feet, May every joy that perished Be mirrored in our gaze, And in our speech the beauty Of all our vanished days. [page 123]
The Hut by the Sea
Here is my hut beside the hilly sea, A sweet, small resting-place, so soft and warm, Though framed by desolate immensity, And rocked within the arms of every storm. Each home where love abides is even so. A steadfast joy beneath a changing sky; And all the storms of life that round it blow Are but its cradle and its lullaby.
The Rose in the Heart
Grant me one wish, O heart, I cried, Give me a rose each day of the year. ‘How can that be?’ my heart replied, ‘Roses bloom not when thoughts are sere; Roses bloom not in autumnal moods, Nor in the soul’s bleak solitudes, Nor yet in a restless springtime storm; But give me a nature fair and warm, And a tender, June-sweet atmosphere, And roses are yours each day in the year.’ [page 124]
The Unforgotten Grave
I heard a blackbird whistle By a ‘forgotten grave,’ Where mullein weed and thistle In rank profusion wave, As though they had been bringing Some gift to match the singing. What could have been the message Of comfort that they gave? They brought—these kindly neighbours In rustic cap and gown— The fruit of summer labours, Their blankets and their down. O sweet must be the sleeping, Afar from human weeping, Of him, enwrapped in kindness From weary feet to crown.
Mother and Child
I saw a mother holding Her play-worn baby son, Her pliant arms enfolding The drooping little one. [page 125] Her lips were made of sweetness, And sweet the eyes above; With infantile completeness He yielded to her love. And I who saw the heaving Of breast to dimpling cheek, Have felt, within, the weaving Of thoughts I cannot speak; Have felt myself the nestling, All strengthless, love-enisled; Have felt myself the mother Abrood above her child.
The violet’s life is in the sheltering glade. The rose bud, forced to meet admiring eyes, In many-leaved withdrawal is arrayed; ‘Tis reticence in which her beauty lies. Thou art a rose, my child. Enchantingly She veils herself, e’en from the eye of morn, For, stripped of all her soft defences, she Is but a mark for pity and for scorn. [page 126]
Youth and Age
Bent over some heroic book, In nights gone by, his boyish head So filled with eager dreams he took Them with him to his bed. The splendid strife, the rush of life, The trump of fame, inspiring, strong, His heart so stirred he scarcely heard His mother’s slumber song. But now the glowing book of life Is falling from his nerveless hand; Gone are the splendours of the strife, The conquering hopes—a daring band; No plaudits pierce those aged ears, No trump of fame, though loud and strong, He only hears across the years His mother’s slumber song.
The Old Home
My thoughts are with my far home, my old home, my only home, My mother waiting at the door to welcome me within; [page 127] Her eyes are like November leaves upon the furrowed, lonely loam, Her hair is white as night-frost when all the boughs are thin. I want to see the moon climb the arms of our great pine again, I want to feel the dew fall upon the pasture path, I want to haunt the wood glades and dream that they are mine again, I want to hear the Bob White across the aftermath. I want to see the white stream in springtime burst its tomb again, I want to feel the young grass about my jaded feet, I want to set my heart free and give it air and room again To move to those forgotten strains to which it used to beat. O mother, mother, mother, do you know that barefoot boy of yours, Who went up to the city and was lost in heat and strife, [page 128] Has found no bliss that matches with that quiet harvest joy of yours? That wealth and depth of living beggars all that he called life. My thoughts are with my old home, my wide-boughed, clover-meadowed home, Astir beneath the skies of peace when morning birds begin, Asleep beneath the early stars—my deep-grassed, ivy-shadowed home, With Mother waiting at the door to welcome me within.
Glutton and sluggard! Thus against his name Wrote the stern Angel, and with burning flame Branded upon his form the mark of shame. Could he escape the Angel? Nay, not he! What earthly power, or what divinity, Can set a spirit from its own self free? [page 129]
Crosses and Kisses
The letters I get from my little girl
Are sure to end like this:
x x x x x
A score of crosses, row on row,
And every cross is a kiss.
And through the miles that separate
My own little one from me,
I feel the tug of her loving arms,
And her loving face I see.
Every cross is a kiss, she says;
My crosses are never few.
They wait for me when I wake at morn,
They follow the long day through.
I never dreamed they were sent in love—
Ah me, what good I miss
When I push away with angry hands
The cross that was meant for a kiss!
We mortals walk in a world of love,
But we make it a world of care.
Some crosses are sharp and bring the blood,
And some are heavy to bear.
But I think when we go in the arms of Death
To heights of perfect bliss,
We shall see at a backward glance below
That every cross was a kiss. [page 130]
The Crowning Satire
Here is the crowning satire, In a world where springtime wreathes The naked forest arches With a loveliness that breathes; Where myriad blooms are thickening With beauty Earth’s old crust, That men are chasing dollars, And the women chasing dust. The splendour of a palace Is naught to that of a hut Rained on by the gold of autumn, With a door that is never shut; With Peace for the nearer neighbour, And Joy and Love and Trust Singing in woods and waters, Far off from dollars and dust. Ah, would it be a wonder If the gods above us bowed Should rebuke us in the thunder, Should scoff at us in the cloud, Should mock at us in laughter, That swept from earth in a gust The men that are chasing dollars And the women chasing dust? [page 131] O housekeepers peerless and cheerless, And men who are gluttons of gold, The only joy that is tearless Can never be swept up nor sold; It beckons to us from the branches, It yearns to us from the blue: O seekers of dust and dollars, It is your dream come true!
They journeyed east, they journeyed west, From sea to sea did roam; I, changeless, chose the summer leaves, The winter lamps, of home. They came and viewed my whitened hair, My face writ like a page, ‘Ah, you,’ they said, ‘have journeyed far Into the realm of age!’ A traveller against my will, No longer would I roam. But where—where are the sheltering boughs? Where are the lamps of home? [page 132]
The Heart and the Cross
O Pilgrim, faring through the night, Why singest thou so cheerily? The cross upon thy shoulders laid Of heaviness itself is made,— ‘But oh, the heart beneath is light, And so my load is naught,’ said he. O sluggard, drooping drowsy head, Why moanest thou unceasingly? By some unknown benignant law, Thy slender cross is built of straw. ‘The heart beneath is made of lead, And so my load is great,’ said he. O Angel, treading life’s long road With me, explain this mystery: When men find burdens hard and strange Each longs his heavy cross to change— ‘Yet joy would lighten every load With but a change of heart,’ said he. [page 133]
Every Common Day
Every common day that we live is clasped and jewelled with love; The stars of night are beneath it, the morning stars above. The peace of God broods on it, as on her nest the bird, And over its weariest moments the music of hope is heard. So, when my life-work is finished, and I go to God for my wage, I wonder if He can give me a heavenlier heritage Than to feel that each day that I live is clasped and jewelled with love, With the stars of night beneath it and the morning stars above.
Under the Arches
An arch of blue, an arch of green, Whichever be above me, God send a happiness serene To all the hearts that love me. [page 134] For while I walk beneath the blue Their love is still my solace true, And when beneath the green I’m laid ‘Twill make a sunshine in the shade.
The Radiant Road
There is a radiant road that lies ‘Neath sombre, starred, or luminous skies, And every sky is deep with meaning, And big with hints of paradise. Sometimes by fields of youth it burns, Or up some strenuous steep it yearns, Or moves through Memory’s haunted woodland, Or to Love’s dreamful stream returns. Whatever ills it struggles through, Or rocks and snares be thick or few, A gleam of some celestial splendour Shows in its ever drop of dew. Ah, fellow-traveller, who reads This slender rhyme and little heeds, ‘Tis we who tread that radiant highway That to a larger radiance leads. [page 135] We who in doubt and sadness strive, Whose earthy thoughts at earth arrive, Would we could feel with lifted spirit How blest a fate to be alive.
The little tree I planted out And often muse upon, May be alive to grow and thrive And out into the sunlight strive When I am dead and gone. So it shall be my legacy To toilers in the sun. So sweet its shade, each man and maid May be induced to take a spade And plant another one.
To the Mark
To the mark goes the ship, Bird and boat and booming train; To the mark go eye and lip Deeply loved that love again. [page 136] To the mark the arrow sings, Planets move and rains descend; To the mark the hammer rings, To the mark speaks friend with friend. To the mark goes axe and plough. shame upon thy listless aim If it glance aside, and thou Fail to give thy work thy name.
Soul and Body
The body says, ‘I am thirsty,’ The body says, ‘I am cold,’ The body says, ‘I am weary,’ And last of all, ‘I am old.’ And for its thirst there is water, And shelter warm in the blast, And for its ache there is slumber; But it dies, it dies at last. But I am a soul, please heaven, And though I freeze in my cage, Or burn in a sleepless fever, I shall live untouched of age. [page 137]
The House We Used to Live In
The house we used to live in looks at us So wistfully as we go driving by. The wind that makes its lone tree murmurous Flies swiftly after with entreating sigh. ‘Come back, come back,’ we hear it low implore, ‘Lift up the grass-choked gate, the earth-stained door, And enter in your childhood’s home once more.’ Ah, no, let us make merry with light speech Of newer days, and thrust the past aside. Close to that door the baby used to reach The knob and play with it—before he died. He used to sleep on the broad window-sill, A sunbeam on his curls. No, not that hill. This level road. Drive fast—oh, faster still! How small it was! Before the birds have grown They lie so warmly in one tiny nest; But all the world is theirs when they are flown, [page 138] And foreign roofs replace the mother’s breast. Ah, well, God careth. See, before us now, The ampler home beneath its stately bough. Lift up the saddened heart and clear the brow. For in that empty nest beyond the hill Are blessed shadows at immortal ease: The sun-crowned baby on the window-sill, The happy children underneath the trees. Old house, look not so piteous! thou art Of larger lives the very sweetest part, The first love of the unforgetting heart.
Beautiful body and beautiful soul, They met on the street one day. And thebeautiful spirit’s compassion stole Through her ugly eyes of gray; And the dark soul’s pity showed its face Through her lovely eyes of blue; But to help each other’s evil case Was out of their power to do. [page 139]
When We Cease to Toil and Suffer
When we cease to toil and suffer and beneath the falling leaves, Take the long, long sleep that comes to all, Will an angel come to comfort every soul that sits and grieves, With a message clear as writing on a wall; Saying, ‘She that passed away, though her feet were made of clay, Bore a heart as chaste as gold; Though she wore the common yoke, every syllable she spoke Was uplifting, love-controlled. No indifference or disdain kept her free from others’ pain, Life was precious to her—every drop; For the querulous complaint, for the breath of scandal faint, She had never time to stop; She has gone, but still her face, like a sunbeam, haunts the place, And the memory of her foot upon the stair, [page 140] Like a breeze upon the brow, like a perfume from a bough, Puts an end to sorrow, mourning and despair.’ When the silent voices call, and the days and years shall fall, Silent fall, like the leaves upon the lea, Will the angel say such words of you and me?
A Happy Lot
To-day I took the special book That doth my spirit please Out to the tree, where, after tea, I like to lie at ease. The boughs were long. A bluebird’s song Blent with the printed words. I seemed to hear a poet near And read the thoughts of birds. To me there’s not a happier lot On earth than comes with these: A book that sings, a bird that brings Leaf-shadowed reveries. [page 141]
O ardent youth who covets truth, And follows its decrees, Remember this: whatever bliss Awaits thee, ‘tis not ease; No, ne’er shalt thou find ease. O loving heart, where’er thou art, The tumult in the vein And in the soul is not the whole Of life. For thee is pain; No love but hath its pain. O ye who strive, the fates that drive You forward in your quest, Will give in strife your deepest life And not in empty rest; No joy for you in rest.
To A Young Child
Sweet infant, lately born, Almost I envy you Your little heart unworn, Your little senses new. [page 142] You sleep and sleep—the spell Of sleep is like a chain; Ah, once I slept as well, So shall I sleep again! Soon, soon your cup of life Shall run in wine and foam And afterward come strife, And hurts, and thoughts of home. Your first act on this earth— This vale of tears and mist— Was but to wail your birth, Poor infant pessimist! My last act ere I die, When fades the final mile, And fails the final sigh, I think will be to smile. But should you linger near That happy smile to see, I truly hope, my dear, You will not envy me. [page 143]
On one side stands the world-destroyer, Death, And on the other, oh, most piteous strife, An infant with a rose leaf’s look and breath, A baby fighting for its little life. Death hath seen much of anguish, dull and wild, And terrible and sharp-edged as a knife; But this might move e’en Death, this stricken child, This baby struggling for its little life.
‘Another year,’ we mourn, ‘another year Has gone,’ and look with mingled grief and fear At all our vanished years—a goodly sum— And think with pain how few the years to come. As it might be some ignorant small child Roaming in forests limitless and wild, Should cry with apprehension, fear, and grief, ‘Another leaf has dropped, another leaf.’ [page 144] Compared with periods that angels count, Six years and sixty seem the same amount. We mourn the pebbles washed into the sea, Forgetting that we own eternity.
The Red Rose
What is that on your breast, my lady? Burning—with lips apart? ‘Oh, that is a rose, The fairest that grows, And its thorn is in my heart.’ Why are its lips so red, my lady? ‘I for its sake have bled; My life-blood glows In the life of the rose, Therefore its lips are red.’ Why is its breath so sweet, my lady? ‘Hasting my pulse’s beat My deep love flows Through the lips of the rose, Therefore its breath is sweet. Why does it wither and die, my lady? ‘There is the stinging smart: The red rose dies, But forever lies That cruel thorn in my heart.’ [page 145]
Luck in the House
My love departs in the morning; Good-bye, my love, good-bye! I work the harder when you’re gone, The happier when you’re nigh. The busy hours will bring their cares, Their trials great and small, Their pretty frets, their vain regrets, And I must meet them all. For there’s nae luck about the hoose, There’s nae luck at a’, There’s nae luck aboot the hoose When my gudemon’sawa’. My love returns at night-fall; Come in, my love, come in! About my waist his arm is placed, His hand beneath my chin. The weariness, the troubled thought, The sense of weight and care, Are all become as they were naught, And vanished into air. For there’s great luck aboot the hoose, And peace too deep for name. There’s great luck aboot the hoose When my gudemon’s at hame. [page 146]
Beginning and End
Once it was, in my life’s beginning, Roses were tall in their summer beds, Dandelions within my fingers Thrust their confident golden heads; Wading waist-deep amid the daisies, Feeling the grasses about me climb; Thus it was in my life’s beginning,— What have you done to me, Father Time? So shall it be when life has ended: Roses shall bloom above my bed, Dandelions will know I am lying Hidden in grass from foot to head. Hidden in grass and hidden in daisies, Over my breast I shall feel them climb; Thus it will be when life has ended,— This will you do to me, Father Time.
The leaves within the orchard walls Give to the wind at play Light-hearted plunges, leaps and falls, Throughout the summer day. And yet with still, unswerving power The fruit is ripening hour by hour. [page 147] So I have seen a spirit strong Give to a passing breeze Of jest and laughter, mirth and song, Compliant courtesies; And his soul’s purpose lost no whit Of that great strength that flowed to it.
The Budding Child
Here are the budding boughs again, But where the budding child, That from green slopes to greener shores Last April was beguiled? Here is the hurrying stream again, But where the hurrying feet That vanished with the ebbing wave Last year when spring was sweet? Into my life the springtime came, Soft-aired and thickly starred; Out of my life the springtime went, Though I prayed hard—prayed hard. O little life, with all thy buds, Close-folded—laid in death; Would they had open in bloom and fruit About thy mother’s path! [page 148] Or would that Faith might build more strong The bridge between my heart And thy fair dwelling-place, so thou And spring should not depart.
The Bride of Death
But tell us of the bride, we said. ‘So one with him she seemed to be, The bridegroom’s kiss upon her lips Lay almost visibly. ‘Her dress? Oh, roses, roses white, That heaped the hands, the neck, the breast Of her, the whitest rose of all That ever bridegroom pressed.’ ‘A glad look? Yes, the raptured look Of one that drops from out her slim Sweet hands all other gifts of life To hold them out to him. ‘Her dower? She brought him nothing save Her loveliness, her life, her breath; He gave her wealth. And title? Yes, The old, old name of Death.’ [page 149]
Pity Me Not
Pity me not: it makes me pitiable. Grieve not for me, ‘twill set me grieving, too. Come not forebodingly but courage-full, And speak the shining word that’s strong and true. If you would have me fearless, have no fear; If you would have me light and sorrow-free, Like splendid marching music to the ear, Let your heart-lifting footstep come to me.
A Line From Emerson
To thy soul’s highest instincts, oh, be true, Though thick around thy heaven-girt solitude The earth’s low aims, low thoughts, low wants shall teem. The myriad voices of the world shall sue With scorn, persuasive wile, or clamorous rude. ‘But thou, God’s darling, heed thy private dream!’ [page 150]
Wherever on far distant farms The orchard trees lift bounteous arms, The lane is grape-leaved, woodland dense, The chipmunk leaps the zigzag fence, The horses from the plough’s last round Drink with a deep sweet cooling sound, And with the thin young moon afloat Comes up the frog’s heart-easing note, And tree-toads’ endless melody, Oh, that is home, Is restful home to me. Whenever on a distant street Two charmful eyes I chance to meet, The look of one that knows the grace Of every change on nature’s face, Whose sea-like soul is open wide To breezes from the farther side, Whose voice and movement seem to give The knowledge of how best to live And how to live most happily, Oh, that is home, Is blessed home to me. [page 151]
Buds on the living tree, Buds in the heart. Tree hopes and heart hopes, Thickly they start. If to the cold ground All the hopes depart, Trustfully looks the tree, Why not the heart?
The Deserted House
With sagging door and staring window-place And sunken roof it stands among its tree, Befriended by the boughs that interlace Between it and the light ghost-footed breeze. Poor human nest, how desolately torn! Yet in these ragged rooms young children slept, And on this floor, all broken and forlorn, The baby with the sunshine daily crept. [page 152] See where some older ‘Ruth’ and ‘Archie’ stood, And marked their names a yard space from the ground— That little height where all of sweet and good Within the narrow plot of home is found. Such tiny sleeping-rooms, with space for naught Except a place to dress, a place to dream, A book, a little shelf, a good-night thought, A childish treasure brought from field or stream. Upon this curbstone, picking bit by bit The grass that grew before the cottage door, The blessed baby sat, examining it As one who ne’er had seen its like before. Here by the window, in her willow chair, The mother sewed and sang a low refrain. Are those the patches from her piece-bag there? Nay, they are leaves that blew in with the rain! [page 153] The leaves blow in, the moss is on the roof, The squirrels bring their treasures from the boughs, The storm comes, and with dull unhastening hoof Into this partial shelter stray the cows. Ah, come away! Some woman’s youth lies here, Some man’s fair childhood, dead but wondrous sweet; Some heart this cot has sheltered holds it dear, And fills it with old loves and joys complete. What right have we to pry or speculate? The sun goes down; the twilight, like a pall, Encloseth ruined house and porch and gate, And tender darkness broodeth over all.
The old man and his apple-tree Are verging close on eighty-three; ‘Twas planted there when he was two, And almost side by side they grew. [page 154] How strong and straight they were at eight, One leafy, one with curly pate! How fine at twenty, how alive And prosperous at twenty-five! What health and grace in every limb, Was said of it—was said of him! Then when he blushed, a marriage groom, The tree outvied the bride in bloom; And in the after years there played Within its ample sweep of shade A little child with cheeks as red As had the apples overhead. Her father called the tree his twin, And surely it was next of kin. The best of life came to the twain: The beauty of the stars, the rain, Soft-stepping, and the liquid notes That overflow from feathered throats. Unto the soul that selfish strives Was borne the fragrance of their lives, And anxious folk with brow down bent Bathed in their dewy cool content. They held their heads up in the storm, And gloried when the winds were warm; Their shadows lay but at their feet, And all of life above was sweet. [page 155] And now that they are eighty-three They’re almost as they used to be. The blossoms are as pink and white, The old man’s heart as pure and light. The apples—fragrant balls of flame— Are looking, tasting, just the same. And just the same his uttered thought Of mirth and wisdom quaintly wrought. Through all their years they kept their truth, Their strength and that sweet look of youth.
The Blind Man
The blind man at his window bars Stands in the morning dewy dim; The pearly-mantled dawn, the stars That wait for it, are naught to him. And naught to his unseeing eyes The brownness of a sunny plain, Where worn and drowsy August lies, And wakens but to sleep again. And naught to him a greening slope, That yearns up to the height above, And naught the leaves of May that ope As softly as the eyes of love. [page 156] And naught to him the branching aisles, Athrong with woodland worshippers, And naught the fields where summer smiles Among her sunburned labourers. The way a trailing streamlet goes, The barefoot grasses on its brim, The dew a flower-cup o’erflows With silent joy, are hid from him. To him no breath of nature calls; Upon his desk his work is laid; He looks up at the dingy walls, And listens to the voice of Trade.
We must work to live— Not body-life alone, but soul-life. If to our work ourselves we do not give, Our thoughts, our aspirations and our whole life, Then days become a torture, moments wound, The lightest hours are leaden at the core, And oftentimes we hear that awful sound— Time’s ocean with its spirit-crushing roar. [page 157]
The Roads of Old
The roads of old, how fair they gleamed, How long each winding way was deemed; In days gone by, how wondrous high Their little hills and houses seemed. The morning road, that led to school, Was framed in dew that clung as cool To childish feet as waves that beat About the sunbeams in a pool; The river road, that crept beside The dreamy alder-bordered tide, Where fish at play on Saturday Left some young hopes ungratified; The valley road,that wandered through Twin vales and heard no wind that blew— The cowbell’s clank from either bank Was all the sound it ever knew; The woodland road, whose windings dim Were known to watchers straight and slim; How slow it moved, as if it loved Each listening leaf and arching limb; The market road, that felt the charm Of lights on many a sleepy farm, [page 158] And whirring clocks and crowing cocks Gave forth the market-man’s alarm; The village road, that used to drop Its daisies at the blacksmith shop, And leave some trace of rustic grace To tempt the busiest eye to stop; These all renew their olden spell. With rocky cliff and sunny dell, With purling brook and grassy nook, They bordered childhood’s country well. And we who near them used to dwell Can but the same sweet story tell, That on them went glad-eyed Content; They bordered childhood’s country well.
The student sits within his room, So small and worn and white; His lamp flames out remote and strange Through all the hours of night. And all day long within his face, So small and worn and white, His eyes flame out—those lamp-like eyes, So weirdly, strangely bright. [page 159]
The Wind of Death
The wind of death, that softly blows The last warm petal from the rose, The last dry leaf from off the tree, To-night has come to breathe on me. There was a time I learned to hate As weaker mortals learn to love; The passion held me fixed as fate, Burned in my veins early and late; But now a wind falls from above— The wind of death, that silently Enshroudeth friend and enemy! There was a time my soul was thrilled By keen ambition’s whip and spur; My master forced me where he willed, And with his power my life was filled: But now the old-time pulses stir How faintly in the wind of death, That bloweth lightly as a breath. And once, but once, at Love’s dear feet I yielded strength and life and heart; His look turned bitter into sweet, His smile made all the world complete; The wind blows loves like leaves apart—[page 160] The wind of death, that tenderly Is blowing ‘twixt my love and me. O wind of death, that darkly blows Each separate ship of human woes Far out on a mysterious sea, I turn, I turn my face to thee.
The Prayer of the Year
Leave me Hope when I am old; Strip my joys from me, Let November to the cold Bare each leafy tree; Chill my lover, dull my friend, Only, while I grope To the dark, the silent end, Leave me Hope! Blight my bloom when I am old, Bid my sunlight cease; If it need be, from my hold Take the hand of Peace. Leave no springtime memory, But upon the slope Of the days that are to be, Leave me Hope! [page 161]
The Little Wrenches
One big wrench and you’re born, ‘tis said; Another big wrench and you’re dead. (Those are the cradle and coffin trenches). But here is the thing I find a bother: The line of travel from one to the other Is marred by a million little wrenches.
Dead leaves in the bird’s nest, And after that the snow; That was where the bird’s breast Tenderly did go, Where the tiny birds pressed Lovingly—and lo! Dead leaves in the bird’s nest Under falling snow. Dead leaves in the heart’s nest, And after that the snow; That was where the heart’s guest Brooded months ago, Where the tender thoughts pressed Lovingly—and lo! Dead leaves in the heart’s nest Under falling snow. [page 162]
The Patient Earth
The patient earth that loves the grass, The flocks and herd that o’er it pass, That guards the smallest summer nest Within her scented bosom pressed, And gives to beetle, moth and bee A lavish hospitality, Still waits through weary years to bind The hearts of suffering human kind. How far we roamed away from her, The tender mother of us all! Yet ‘mid the city’s noises stir The sound of birds that call and call, Wind melodies that rise and fall Along the perfumed woodland wall We looked upon with childhood’s eyes; The ugly streets are all a blue, And in our hearts our homesick cries. The loving earth, that roots the trees So closely to her inmost heart, Has rooted us as well as these; Not long from her we live apart. We draw upon a lengthening string, For months perhaps, perhaps for years, And plume ourselves that we are free, And then—we hear a robin sing [page 163] Where starving grass shows shunted spears, Or hay-cart moving fragrantly Where creaking tavern sign-boards swing; Then closer, tighter draws the chain— The man, too old and worn for tears, Goes back to be a child again. The greed that took us prisoner First led our steps away from her; For lust of gold we gave up life, And sank heart-deep in worldly strife. And when Success—beloved name— At last with faltering footsteps came, The city’s rough, harsh imps of sound And competition’s crush and cheat Were in her wreath securely bound; Her fruits still savoured of the street, Its choking dust, its wearied feet; Her poorest like her richest prize Was rotted o’er by envious eyes, And sickened by the human heat Of hands that strove to clutch it fast, And, struggling, gave it up at last. Not so where nature, summer-crowned, Makes fields and woods a pleasure-ground, Sky-blest, wind-kissed, and circled round With waters lapsing cool and sweet. [page 164] O Earth, sweet Mother, take us back! With woodland strength and orchard joy, And river peace without alloy, Flood us who on the city’s track Have followed stifling, sordid years; Cleanse us with dew and meadow rain, Till life’s horizon lights and clears And nature claims us once again!
The First Stone
“Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”
All their hands loaded with missiles, Yet not a pebble is thrown; All their hearts harder than granite, Yet I stand free and alone. Sweet fellow-sinners, why leave me? Come, here is sport without stint! You who have slept in my bosom, Shatter it now with your flint! You who have scorned me in whispers, Storm at mew now with your stones! Breakers of statues in secret, Leave not unbroken my bones! [page 165] Drown my red lips in wet scarlet, Blind my hard eyes at a blow, You who abstained from their sweetness, Lest your strait-laced world should know! Lovers of life do you falter, Life from my body to beat? Downcast, ashamed are your faces? Far off the sound of your feet? Not one of them has condemned me; Nay, Lord, I stand here alone; Only from Thy hand, Thou Sinless, Shall be outflung the first stone. Neither dost Thou then condemn me? Ah, Thou hast aimed at my breast! Crushed is the pride, hot and stubborn That called me no worse than the rest. All my heart lies black and bleeding, Felled to the earth by Thy stroke, I who have outscorned the scorners— Give me Thy burden, Thy yoke. Beauty of lambs and lilies, Give to me, foul, overthrown! Free me from all my life-wreckage, Thou who hast flung the first stone. [page 166]
The man I cannot comprehend Is he who dreads alone to be, Who, if he cannot have a friend, Would welcome e’en an enemy; The beggared and unhappy elf Who craves an alms of words from all, With no resources in himself And no internal festival; Who never felt the shy caress, When voices failed and footsteps fled, From the soft hand of Loneliness; Who never wakened from the dead The blessed thoughts that shun the crowd, And over wood and meadow brood, Where bird and branch and bending cloud Enweave the spell of solitude; Who never knew the scholar’s lust, The artist’s lone ecstatic day; Who never strove because he must, And not for praise or place or pay. Give me the friend whose honest hand Glad greeting, glad good-bye, has shown, Whose soul is fragrant of the land Where Silence dwelleth all alone. [page 167]
When airy joy doth hail me I follow on behind, And lest my feet should fail me I follow on the wind; I hear lightsome laughter Go floating past the door, And swift I follow after As she flies on before. When I am faint and falling, And lose her skyey wings, I hear her liquid calling, And feel the charm she flings On all the earth and o’er me Go glittering up the skies. The best of life would daunt me Ungirdled by her grace, And foreign demons haunt me Whene’er she hides her face. Up roughest steeps with laughter My airy joy doth soar, As wind-like I come after, And she flies on before. [page 168]
The Gift and the Need
The babe clings close to the mother’s breast, The man grips hard on his Father’s hand; Each by the pang of hunger pressed, Each unable to understand. Life, they say, is a pitiful jest, Carelessly or with rancour planned; Yet straight is the way of the lip to the breast, Of the groping hand to the clasping Hand. The gift by the need is measured best, And Love by loving alone is spanned; For the famished lip is the swelling breast, For the empty palm is the lavish Hand.
The Poet’s Daughter
Slim-throated girl, borne down By that great jewelled crown, Her father’s merciless renown. Silent she goes through days Unmarked by blame or praise; Yet in the shadowed blaze Of her deep eyes I see A spear-sharp ecstasy— Unworded poetry. [page 169]
The Girls Among the Ancient Trees
The girls among the ancient trees Are lightly wandering, Or lying in elastic ease Where leafy waters sing. Their thoughts are all of future days, The trees dream of the past; The light of hope and memory plays On regions rich and vast. And we who know them see in truth As on a pictured page, How exquisite the age of youth, How fair the youth of age.
A generous gentleness that flowed, Stream-like, beside a dusty road; Gave labourers shade, and prisoners sun, And easeful joy to every one; With liquid melodies for such As work or wearied overmuch, And ministrations cool and sweet For fevered hands and aching feet. [page 170] So delicately fair she moved— That stream-like girl, of all beloved. Along her path no grief nor care But lulled and lightened unaware. She bore the sky within her breast, And child-like wings her soul caressed, Until her spring of life was dried, And with a smile Philippa died.
For strength we ask For the ten thousand times repeated task, The endless smallness of every day. No, not to lay My life down in the cause I cherish most, That were too easy. But whate’er it cost, To fail no more In gentleness toward the ungentle, nor In love toward the unlovely, and to give Each day I live, To every hour with outstretched hand its meed Of not-to-be-regretted thought or deed. [page 171]
In the far deeps of consciousness, Something that lies profoundly sleeping Awakes to life beneath the stress Of heart-sore weeping. Some certainty, some final strength, From which there can be no appealing, An inward sureness that at length Shall work our healing. How strange it is! The dark, dark path That seems to lead to blackness only, Will surely bring us peace. It hath Its angel lonely, Who at the parting of the ways Awaits us, for our grieving clearer, And to our dulled, earth-blinded gaze Brings heaven nearer.
Three Years Old
What is it like, I wonder, to roam Down through the tall grass hidden quite? To feel very far away from home When the dear house is out of sight? [page 172] To want to play with the broken moon In the star garden of the skies? To sleep through twilight eves of June Beneath the sound of lullabies? To hold up hurts for all to see, Sob at imaginary harms, To clasp in welcome a father’s knee, And fit so well to a mother’s arms? To have life bounded by one dull road, A wood and a pond, and to feel no lack, To gaze with pleasure upon a toad, And caress a mud-turtle’s horny back? To follow the robin’s cheerful hop With all the salt small hands can hold, And plead in vain for it to stop— What is it like to be three years old? Ah, one I knew, but t’was long ago; I try to recall it in vain—in vain! And now I know I shall never know What it is to be a child again.
The Last Word
To-day when I heard you were dead, I remembered that you had said That death is the end of all. [page 173] ‘Twas a long close argument We had—and my words were spent Like dew on a marble wall. You conquered my intellect quite. But—oh, my comrade, to-night I know that you know I was right.
The Hill of Sleep
At night when I was a very little boy, Top-heavy as a poppy with sleep, My mother led me up in her slender, loving arms To the Hill of Slumber steep. Then up, up, up, we went on the hill, And up, up, up through the air, Till we came to an angel leaning through the clouds, And she gave me up to her care. And often when my mother kissed me on the brow, I thought it was the angel at my head; And often when the angel took me in her arms, I dreamed that I was in my mother’s bed; [page 174] And often when I woke with my mother smiling down, I thought it was the angel that had smiled, And it seemed to me the angel wore a dress of leafy brown, And called me her precious little child. And when my mother died and went away from me to stay, It seemed that I should all my life be sad; But afterwards when someone said, ‘How is it that the boy Is growing such a happy little lad When his mother is in Heaven?’ I felt a sort of pang Of gladness, though my eyes were all a blur. ‘Yes, my mother is in Heaven,’ I said to him—and I— I spend my nights with her.’
Not at Home
The Weariness of Idleness, She waited all the day In the parlour of her neighbour, The Weariness of Labour— A visit she had long meant to pay. [page 175] But not until the evening Did her hostess come in sight; Then the Weariness of Labour Explained unto her neighbour That she lived but a brief hour at night.
The Wind of Memory
Red curtains shut the storm from sight, The inner rooms are live with light; The fireside faces all aglow See not the pale ghost in the snow, The pale ghost at the window pressed, With the wind moaning in her breast. She sees the face she hurt with scorn, The other face where joy, new born, Died out at her cheap mockery; The eyes she filled, how bitterly! The head that dropped beneath her jest— The wind is moaning in her breast. Invisible, unfelt, unknown, She lingers trembling. She alone Notes tenderly her vacant place, And sees it in her vanished face; She only—of this happy nest! The win is moaning in her breast. [page 176] Star-like the happy windows glow, Framed in with mile on mile of snow; And from their light a thing of death, Of grief and memory vanisheth, Her sin not deep but unredressed, And the wind moaning in her breast.
Since God hath wed me to myself, There can be no divorce for me; No easy flight, no sure escape, From what I have been and shall be. So, as a masterful brave spouse, I’ll make the weaker vessel strong: She shall observe her marriage vows And to her Higher Self belong. No indolence nor greed shall mar The supple liveness of her frame; No sullen doubt nor coldness bar The path of the creative flame. She shall not din within mine ears The tale of old mistake and woe, But let the dead and buried years Lie nameless under silent snow. [page 177] Since with myself I’m forced to house I’ll make the weaker vessel strong; She shall observe her marriage vows, And unto me, her lord, belong.
Life, like a wood-path, is a wavering, Love-shadowed, changeful beauty-haunted thing. Some gleam of sun-gold dazzles and is gone; Some fleeting fawn-like rapture lures us on. Be thine sense of wings, the subtle call That comes from some bird-breasted waterfall; The comradeship of trees, the hearts of friends, And one Near Presence where the footpath bends.
Give Me Thorns
Life, give me thorns. The crackling of them underneath the pot Cheers the dull fire and charms the arid lot. Give me the fuel that the gray sage scorns. [page 178] Each crackling thorn Shows lightning wit and sprightly joy newborn. The cripple nailed to his eternal cot Hears laughter blowing on an elfin horn, And all his ills in that sweet sound are not. More thorns! More thorns! Contempt, misunderstanding, hymns of hate, Intolerance, malice, bitter gibe of Fate— These are the blessed stuff that fun is made of. God-sent, they come in aid of A failing flame. Throw on the light sharp thorn, From richly-thistled human paths uptorn.
Old Years and New Days
He died in action. That is all. ‘Tis writ above my door. Grief sits and walks beside me, And oh, my heart is sore! The heart that still is dreaming In a tear-dim haze, Of the blind years, the kind years, And the long long empty days. [page 179] So brave he lived, so bravely died. A man could do no more. His young eyes smiled in Death’s eyes— But oh, my heart is sore! The heart that will be dreaming With changeless inner gaze Of the sweet years, the fleet years, And the long long empty days.
Rich, is she? Very rich. The dower That puts her wealth all wealth above, Is vested simply in the power To love. And young? Her youth will never fade: The same child-heart, child-laugh, child-zest; The bird of youth with her has made Its nest. And beautiful? Within her eyes You see a noble soul at ease, That pleases, though it seldom tries To please. [page 180]
This is my life’s desire, This is my prayer of prayers: Not for the soul of fire, Not for the will that dares; Not for the brain of power, Not for the heart that leaps Light as a climbing flower, Over the ruggedest steeps. These must I have would I live; Yet were they naught but a sword Rending me, didst Thou not give Courage to master them, Lord.
The Conquered Peace
There may be time for sorrow, for dull remorse and pain, But it comes not in the conflict, ‘mid bullets thick as rain; And afterwards, when strife is done and all the hurts are healed, How soon the birds are building in the reddest battlefield! [page 181] Count not your sins and errors, brood not o’er each mistake. The garden of your spirit is greater than its snake! A million birds are coming that the winter has concealed, And the birds will soon be building in your reddest battlefield.
Hester Prynne Speaks
Two fires are mine: one strong within, love-born, One fierce without, of human hate and scorn, And on my breast, my Pearl, my flower of fire. Two woes are mine: the sharp pang of desire, And that sick moan of her who anguished much Until she found the Garment’s hem to touch. Two loves: my Pearl, and him who on my breast Gave me my shame, my child, life’s worst and best, Of lowest hell, of highest heaven are such. [page 182] Two souls have I: one in these baby eyes, One answering human scorn with scornful cries. Lord, would I had Thy Garment’s hem to touch!
Words and Tones
If all the words you said to-day, If all the tones in which you said them, Were handed to you on a tray, I wonder what your heart would say To soothe or hurt you while you read them. Those words implacably polite You said to some one that you hated, That dangerously gentle flight Of gossip uttered just for spite, With diabolic tones were mated. For words may say ten thousand things, But just, ‘I like you’ or ‘I hate you’ Are in the tone. The voice that stings May speak in words as soft as wings— So soft they nearly suffocate you. [page 183] The Prince of Darkness, so I’ve heard, Is always gentlemanly—very! He never says an unkind word; But are his low tones ever stirred With loving laughter, sweet and merry? So, with to-morrow’s words in view, Don’t too punctiliously weigh them; They may be large or little, few Or many—what we listen to Is just the tone in which you say them.
To A Young Wife
No more put rubies on your neck Nor diamonds in your hair, Such earthy jewels ill bedeck The spirit face you bear. Your hidden hopes and dreams are far More fair than any gem, And in your eye gleams like a star The consciousness of them. So from the rapture of your thought, Shown in your looks and ways, Let stones that may be sold and bought Hide their diminished rays. [page 184]
When I become A little gray slim bundle of old age, With hopes gone dumb And thoughts that turn a dim and backward page, Then shall I dream On comrades who have loved me for my mirth, Or for the stream Of rapture pulsing through my love of earth; Or for the light Of comprehension in my eyes for one By fate’s despite Baffled and bruised and utterly undone. With these in sure Far ways shall I abide, but most with thee, O thou most dear, Who loved alone the lonely soul of me.
Either God’s heaven is all— All of our fondest belief, Or life is a year at the fall And death is the drop of the leaf. [page 185] Either God’s will is the whole That we can imagine or dream Or time is a storm, and the soul A straw on the merciless stream. Either God’s love is the kiss Of peace at the end of the strife, Or woe is the meaning of bliss And naught is the meaning of life.
How dear to hearts by hurtful noises scarred The stillness of the many-leaved trees, The quiet of green hills, the million-starred Tranquility of night, the endless seas Of silence in deep wilds, where nature broods In large, serene, uninterrupted moods. Oh, but to work as orchards work—bring forth Pink bloom, green bud, red fruit and yellow leaf, As noiselessly as gold proclaims its worth, Or as the pale blade turns to russet sheaf, Or splendid sun goes down the glowing west, Still as forgotten memories in the breast. [page 186] How without panting effort, painful word, Comes the enchanting miracle of snow, Making a sleeping ocean. None have heard Its waves, its surf, its foam, its overflow; For unto every heart, all hot and wild, It seems to say, ‘Oh, hush thee! hush, my child!’
The Wind Spirit
Alone within the wind I lie And reck not how the seasons go: The winter struggling through its snow, The light-winged summer flitting by. I am not of the cloud nor mould, I move between the stars and flowers, I know the tingling touch of hours When all the storms of night unfold. Within the wind world drifting free I hear naught of earth’s murmurings; Naught but the sound of songs and wings Among the tree-tops comes to me. At night earth stars flash out below And heaven stars shine out above; I look down on the lights of love And feel the higher love-lights glow. [page 187]
The Soul Knows
I wonder much about Life, As it goes hurrying past,— A medley of hopes and fears and strife, A dream too strange to last. I wonder much about Life, Yet I know, whate’er befall, That Love is larger than hates and hurts,— That it holds and folds us all; That there are no words in the world below, No words in the worlds above, To say how much my soul is at peace About Life and Death and Love. I wonder much about Death— That old old friend of ours; Whose head is wrapped in eternal snow, Whose arms are heaped with flowers. I wonder much about Death. Does it answer the soul’s long call? Is it rich and sweet or a monstrous cheat? Yet I know, most sure of all, That there are no words in the world below, No words in the worlds above, To tell how much my soul is at peace About Life and Death and Love. [page 188]
Thou conqueror of chaos, lord of kings, Who with a touch can rein the untamed steeds Of passion, impulse, wild imaginings, To the straight road where large achievement leads, Be thou my ruler! Crush, I pray, the press Of tyrant gnats with clamorous appeals, And let remorse, fear, doubt and fickleness Be as the dust from off thy chariot wheels.
Knowing the Worst
Knowing the worst we reach a cell so narrow, So breathless, rayless, faith itself must grope, The soul is stripped of all its rosy raiment Of fluttering ardour, gaiety and hope. And holding out faint hands—to feel the answer Of stony walls that tower heaven high— She sinks to find there yet is space to kneel in, Space for her Father’s undelayed reply. [page 189] Yea, in that secret chamber, chill, un-windowed, She finds the heart of God, and evermore Leans on a strength she never knew was near her In the blithe world outside the prison door.
The Lonely Lake
The lap of waves on a lonely shore Will find in me not a pulse unstirred. No sound beside save the splash of an oar, Whisper of leaves or cry of bird. I know the brawl of a mountain brook, The gleam of a pool in a forest nook, Cold spring water bubbling up To the fevered lip and the waiting cup, The thunder of ocean along the beach And all the languages rivers teach. But a lonely lake a lonely shore Speak to the loneliness in my heart, And a vehement kinship evermore Binds us together though apart. [page 190]
We live among unheard Niagaras. The force that pushes up the meadow grass, That swells to ampler roundness ripening fruit, That lifts the brier rose, were it not mute, Would thunder o’er the green earth’s sunlit tracts More loudly than a myriad cataracts.
Wings, wings, And a sense of fear and loathing; The mystery clothing A blackness that seeks to hide Out in the starlit spaces, Far from the lamps and faces. See where it beats and clings There by the window bars. Horror on wings, Striving out to the stars! Lord, Lord, Thou art the star to the spirit That doth inherit To be of all men abhorred. [page 191] Thou art the sheltered spaces To blackness fleeing from faces, Through terrified tumult of flight. Earth-foul, ripe for Thy sword. Yet Thine are the wings that bear it, And Thou art the house of its spirit, Lord, Lord!
What would you be of all the world, tell me what would you choose Of all the earth, of all the sea, of all the sky above? A forest wrapped in shadows or a star in its own beams, A meadow deep in sunshine or a flower drenched in dews, A princess brimmed in beauty or her lover steeped in love, A scholar rich in knowledge or a poet wan with dreams? A poet is of all the world the one that I should choose, Of all the earth, of all the sea, of all the sky above; [page 192] For he is wrapped in shadows and he is crowned with beams, And he is deep in sunshine, and he is drenched in dews, And he is brimmed in beauty and he is stepped in love, And he is rich in knowledge—the knowledge of his dreams.
Within her wilds we used to play and found Her brier-berries sweet. What matter that we roved on stony ground With chilled or sunburned feet? Health roamed with us and Hope—a witching child— Love near us used to flit, And in our games among the rocks, rough-piled, Delight was always ‘It’.
The Dusty Trumpet
To make the dusty trumpet clear, Blow music through it.’ So spake a bard of yester-year, And he could do it. [page 193] When we, poor human trumpets, lie And dull and dusty, Some poet with a magic cry, Love-sweet and lusty, Blows angel music through our frames, High-wrought, inspiring, And life moves to its larger aims, Joy-brimmed, untiring. O poet of the wondrous tone Dust will undo us! Blow till the last faint speck has flown— Blow music through us!
I heard the ploughman sing in the wind, And sing right merrily, As down in the cold of the sunless mould The grasses buried he. And now the grasses sing in the wind, Merrily do they sing, While down in the cold of the sunless mould Is the ploughman slumbering. [page 194]
The Prodigal Son
A Week After His Return
Muck of the sty, reek of the trough, Blackened my brow where all might see; Yet while I was a great way off, My Father ran with compassion for me, He put on my hand a ring of gold (There’s no escape from a ring, they say) He put on my neck a chain to hold My passionate spirit from breaking away. He put on my feet the shoes that miss No chance to walk in the narrow path, He pressed on my lips the burning kiss That scorches deeper than fires of wrath. He filled my body with meat and wine, He flooded my heart with Love’s white light, Yet deep in the mire with sensual swine. I long—God help me—to wallow to-night. Muck of the sty, reek of the trough, Blacken my soul where none may see; Father, I yet am a long way off, Come quickly, Lord! Have compassion on me! [page 195]
The Villager in Love
I know the world; yes, I who rate The best this village life can give As a child’s circle on a slate, Where I have lived, and still must live. For I, in grey, untravelled eyes, Last night beheld the sounding sea, I saw the peaks that pierce the skies, The flowering vales of Arcady. No more I care for traveller’s tales, The groves and galleries of delight; The palaces and nightingales, Showed in one blinding glimpse last night.
Grandmother Speaks Her Mind
It’s queer the way that some folks talk Of how they felt when they were younger, How straight and brisk they used to walk, How light their heart and keen their hunger; Though I know lots of girls, like me, Who don’t speak of their days of yore so, But laugh and chat as full of glee As in their youth—but only more so. [page 196] That phrase, “The snows of seventy years,” Is one I never took a shine to, For somehow no one ever hears That seventy lovely springs were mine, too; That seventy summers oped their gates And let me wander through their sweetness, That seventy autumns—praise the fates!— Have crowned me with their rich completeness. What’s all this stuff of years and snow? The sunshine’s all they need, I’m thinking, And every warm heart-beat, I know, Will set the years and snows to shrinking; But anyway, we maids and wives, Who lived through seventy Junes of clover, Have had more bird-song in our lives Than snow and sleet—yes, ten times over! When did your grandpa charm me most? No, not in youth, nor long years after. Glued close to his wage-earning post, With little time for love or laughter, He seldom talked—too much to do — But sweetness, insight, wit and leisure Fall thick on him at seventy-two; He hands them on to me with pleasure. [page 197] The world belongs to young folks—yes, Young folks of sixty years—God bless ‘em! How they would thrill to a caress, If they had someone to caress ‘em. Their backs are bent, their locks are gray, Their lives were spent in toil for others, And in their stiffening work-worn clay The fire of youth burns bright—or smothers. Spirit of youth! We often spend Full three score years in looking for thee, And find thee near our journey’s end, A thing so fair we must adore thee. The face of peace that never clouds, The eyes of faith that cannot falter, The hopes and plans that come in crowds, The lips of love that never alter. I think ‘the heavy weight of years’ Is laid on those who haven’t spent ‘em; We can’t hang on to toil and tears, They just will fly—you can’t prevent ‘em. Whene’er I muse on misery And trials I no more shall go through, I feel that life’s a smiling sea, With not a blessed wave to row through! [page 198] Talk of the twilight of old age! Why, when life’s sun is bright and shining, How can you reach the twilight stage, Unless your sky clouds with repining? I’ve had some sunless days, I own, I knew what twilight meant at twenty, But now my unripe fears have flown, The sunlight is so good and plenty. I used to grieve on Christmas day, And goodness! how I dreaded New Year’s! It seemed so hard to have to say I’d reached the age of thirty-two years. But now the days are smiles of God, And she who has the greatest number Has seen her griefs grow drowsy—nod— Then sink to everlasting slumber. Come Christmas! Come with all your joy, And swell the stream of youth within us; Give strength to every dear old boy, And show each old girl how to win us. Lift all us grown-up little folks Upon your massive jolly shoulder, And make the subject of your jokes The foolishness of growing older. [page 199]
To A Young Girl Weeping
Poor piteous broken thing! To ease your sorrowing What balm can I employ? There’s naught on earth so brief As in a youngling’s grief, Except a graybeard’s joy. Say you, ‘This woe shall last’? Nay, nay! The wolfish Past Shall mouth it, shall destroy. There’s naught on earth so brief As is a youngling’s grief, Except a graybeard’s joy. What maid through arid years Has watered with her tears The thought of her lost boy? There’s naught on the earth so brief As is a youngling’s grief, Except a graybeard’s joy.
Fate and Freewill
Fate locked her in a narrow room: There was no light from any side; But when accustomed to the gloom Long curtained windows she espied. [page 200] Then Freewill raised the curtains high, And lo, her cell’s contracted girth Held all the glory of the sky And all the beauty of the earth!
I meet them in the country lane, In village shop and city street, With cheeks all glowing in the rain, Or voices gladdening in the sleet, Or eyes enraptured with the snow— The children I should like to know. How fair creation is to them! Unweighted by the cloak of years They dance upon its lustrous hem, And lose in rainbows all their tears, How easily the hearts o’erflow Of children we should like to know! Their sleep is deeper than our peace, Their waking gladder than our dreams, Their guardian angels never cease To speak to them in winds and streams. The days are lifetimes sweet and slow, To children we should like to know. [page 201] O little heart above this page, The road is long, the road is hard. But do not you obscure in age That early sky so thickly starred. Keep sweet the faith of long ago, Dear child, whom I shall never know.
From the depth of dream I am drawn To the inner depth of a pine, That near my window keeps the dawn— A dawn that is wholly mine. Dream-rest and pine-rest, And a cool, gray path between— A cool, gray path from the night’s breast To the heart of the living green. To the depth of dream I go On the sounds of falling rain, That in the night-time gently flow In a stream on my window-pane. Stream-rest and dream-rest, And a cool, dark path between— A cool, dark path from the rain’s breast To the heart of the soft unseen. [page 202]
Each to Her Own
One took me to a skyward-climbing vine, Behind whose pointed leaves a poet sang Soul-stealingly, so that the stones outrang In praise of her, and hearts that ache and pine Felt through their tears a radiance divine From farthest stars, until within them sprang Responsive holiness that dulled the pang— And said, ‘Her matchless power might be thine.’ Then sharp I called to my light-thoughted muse, Running with brook-like rapture through the marsh, Her berry-scented garments stained and torn, And clothed her in white robe and careful shoes, And told her heaven was fair and earth was harsh, While she with hanging head looked all forlorn [page 203]
The One Face
When the long miles flew from the flying train, And carried with them river-bend and bay, Sky-reaching hills and little streams at play, Dank marsh and many a fenceless, boundless plain Freckled with cattle, fields of lustrous grain, Long rocky stretches, cities smoky gray, Sparkling at night and one dull roar by day, And forests darkly glistening after rain. I looked upon my fellow-travellers And saw, though each was gazing from his place, He chiefly viewed the spot from whence he came: Mount, stream, town, prairie, deeply glistening firs, Were clustering round the one beloved face. Of which the outer world was but the frame. [page 204]
Clothed in the virginal green of early spring, Or, later, fragrant with her miles of sweet Wild roses flushing in the summer heat, Or mantled in a shining robe a king Might wear when golden-rod is flowering, Or thrilled responsive to the dancing feet Of little laughing rains, or feeling fleet Yet strong—how strong! the wind’s unwearied wing; What’er her garb, the prairie speaks of love— Love’s virginal beginnings, rosy moods, Her golden joys and happy, happy tears. The mighty wing that tireless sweeps above Her summer sweets and winter solitudes Is weariless as love’s unending years.
When I shall go to sleep and wake again At dawning in another world than this, What will atone to me for all I miss? The light melodious footsteps of the rain, The press of leaves against my window-pane, The sunset wistfulness and morning bliss, [page 205] The moon’s enchantment, and the twilight kiss Of winds that wander with me through the lane. Will not my soul remember evermore The earthly winter’s hunger for the spring, The wet sweet cheek of April, and the rush Of roses through the summer’s open door; The feelings that the scented woodlands bring At evening with the singing of the thrush?
The Larger Love
When other poets sing of love, and pour The honeyed stream of love’s idolatry About the fret of some supremest she. Until, sheet-saturated to the core. Her wings are drowned and can no longer soar, I think of my strong lover—like the sea, More full of salt than sweetness—challenging me For his love’s sake to heights unscaled before. [page 206] Not his to exhale the airs that dull the brain With poison of dense perfume, but to sting Thought, feeling, fancy, into luminous deed; That through the splendid tumult and the strain The form of Love may tower, a god-like thing, Crowned, shod and girdled with his richest meed.
Next time my lover comes—I often say— We shall talk love and love and love alone; Speak in love’s faint vibrating undertone, With breathings tender as the breath of May, And bendings as of those who bow to pray, And waverings as of birds but newly flown, And sweet revealings as of petals blown From some red rose heart on a woodside spray. Then when we meet flies forth impetuous speech, Thought thrust in word as hand within its glove, [page 207] The rush of comment and the play of wit, Opinions wrestling, laughing, each to each . . . Next time he comes we shall talk love, love, love! This time keen thought and all the joy of it!
Youth in Age
When younger women stand a breathing space Before their mirrors, with an inward smile At burnished hair or slender throat or wile Of dimpled chin, or nest a rose in lace And note how perfectly it mates the face, I, pallid, worn and hollow-templed, pile My heart with thoughts of secret triumphs, while Young hopes are mine, young bliss and youth’s light pace. For when my lover’s eyes are fixed on me There are no years, no hollows, no gray days, No harsh realities, no endless prose; [page 208] But only flowery lanes of poetry, Through which we wander, lost in sweet amaze That life could hold such fairness near its close.
When I Am Weariest
O love who comes when I am weariest, And lifts my burden from me by a word, Draw not too near, for as a wounded bird Droops blindly to the shelter of its nest, So would I feel my way unto thy breast. Ah, why are God’s best gifts on me conferred? The transport of the heart, the spirit stirred Yet softened, and this absolute sweet rest. The dark and empty-handed day sets sail On ruddy waves of sunset, leaving this Dear joy beyond all power to conceal, All power to give utt’rance. What avail Dim words? You bring me all things save the bliss Of knowing how to tell the bliss I feel. [page 209]
Dear gray-winged angel, with the mouth set stern And time-devouring eyes, the sweetest sweet Of kisses when two severed lovers meet Is thine; the cruellest ache in hearts that yearn, The fears that freeze, the hopes that leap and burn, Thine—thine! And thine the drum-and-trumpet beat Of hearts that wait for unreturning feet, When comes at last the hour of their return. Of Love’s fair ministers thou art the chief. To jaded souls, asleep beside their vows, Thou givest hopes, keen joys and vague alarms; Beneath thy touch the brown and yellow leaf Turns to pink blossom, and the spring-bright boughs Frame lovers running to each other’s arms. [page 210]
The Moonlit River
Dear other self, whose love is more to me Than to a fevered soul are sudden gleams In desert wastes of swiftly flowing streams, In this drear land my spirit faints for thee. Far off across the empty miles I see Thy radiant face; its tender yearning seems A moonlit river that, within my dreams, Flows on and on into eternity. My glad soul hastens to the river side, And launches forth. Oh, joy beyond compare, To feel the heavenly winds that blowing wide, Fill the white sail with an ethereal air, To see within the tremulous deep tide That all the stars of God are mirrored there.
The Swiftest Thought
O sounding winds that tirelessly are blowing Through the wide starlit spaces of the night; O eager rains that sweep the distant height, And restless streams impetuously flowing, [page 211] And clouds that will delay not in your going, And ships that sail and vanish from the sight, And happy birds that stay not in your flight, And suns upon your skyey pathway glowing:— Poor laggards all! One tender thought outstrips you. Go, little thought, and tell my love from me I care for him to-day as yesterday, Ah, how its strength and swiftness doth eclipse you! For now the answer comes invisibly And instantly, and in the surest way.
Sometime, I Fear
Sometime, I fear, but God alone knows when, Mine eyes shall gaze on your unseeing eyes, On your unheeding ears shall fall my cries. Your clasp shall cease, your soul go from my ken, Your great heart be a fire burned out,—Ah, then, [page 212] What shall remain for me beneath the skies Of glad, or good, or beautiful, or wise, That can relume and thrill my life again? This shall remain, a love that cannot fail, A life that joys in your great joy, yet grieves In memory of sweet days fled too soon, Sadness divine! as when November pale Sits broken-hearted ‘mong her withered leaves, And feels the wind about her warm as June.
I like those words that carry in their veins The blood of lions. ‘Liberty’ is one, And ‘Justice,’ and the heart leaps to the sun When the thrilled note of ‘Courage! Courage!’ rains Upon the sorely stricken will. No pains Survive when ‘Life and Light,’ twin glories, run From the quick page to some poor soul undone, And beggar by their glow all other gains. [page 213] How splendidly does ‘Morning’ flood our night; How the word ‘Ocean’ drowns our paltry cares, And drives a strong wind through our housed-up grief; While ‘Honour’ lifts us to the mountain height, And ‘Loyalty’ the heaviest burden bears As lightly as a tree a crimson leaf.
Good-bye, my love! Though multitudes of years And miles and faces come between us twain, Though I should never hear your voice again, Still are you mine, still mine! Not by my tears— You never made them flow—nor by my fears, For I was fearless born: but by the rain Of joys that turned to seas of sunny grain This heart that showed aforetime slender spears. [page 214] Now on my clouded day of life shall come No loss. The streams of gold that poured from suns Unseen have turned to gold this harvest heart; I am all sunlight-coloured, and the sum Of by-gone happiness that through me runs Will make you mine forever, though apart.
TO H. C.
Dear, I would be your friend, but not as those Whose eager breaths and hands are hot out-thrown; When you are far then are you most my own. I am as one who in the dawnlight goes Down dewy paths and finds the perfect rose And leaves it in the stillness all alone, God being with it. From its heart half blown His deepest and divinest thoughts unclose. Something from air and sky, from rain and sod You send across the hedge of reverence To me who see you only but to bless. [page 215] Ah, when I leave you all alone with God It is as if my heart and soul and sense The more enclosed your spirit’s loveliness!
The Climbing Trees
Where the great trees went climbing mountain high, To crown the tops of monster bluffs and throw Wild beauty on the evening’s afterglow, And, as it were, fence in the burning sky, I looked up at their tops and questioned why Their splendid vastness did not bring more low My pretty pride, and teach my soul to know How insect-like in heart and life was I. Then of a sudden I remembered how I, too, have marched, tree-like, up skyey heights Of your great thoughts, beloved, and have felt My spirit with their greatness blend and melt. So have I been made fit for starry flights, Love-lifted to the utmost then as now. [page 216]
Love has a thousand phases. Oftentimes For very joy of her own life she weeps; Or like a timid wistful child she creeps To sheltering arms; or like a spirit climbs The white heights scaled by poets in their rhymes— Imagination’s lone and splendid steeps— Or drifts with idle oar upon the deeps Of her own soul to undiscovered climes. Here is the rapture of the dying saint, The exultation of the mother when Upon her breast her first-born faintly stirs For the first time; and every morn doth paint Upon each rock and tree and stream and glen Some inextinguishable look of hers.
Point Defiance Park
Defiance! How that name arouses me! Her redwood trees, like guardian angels great And giant-hearted, weave about her gate The splendour of their leafy canopy. [page 217] In their encircling arms upstandeth she, And breathes defiance to the harshest fate, To evil-speaking winds, to stormy hate, To all the waves of her uncertain sea. But most she feels defiance to the tide Of mellow sunshine with its day of calm And fainting breezes bidding effort cease. O shining angels walking at my side, Keep me defiant of life’s langourous soul-consuming peace!
The Red Rose
When all the winds of life were dull and time She looked out where her bed of roses burned, And saw that whether each red bud was turned Down to the arid earth from which it came, Or up to Him who shaped its lovely frame, The infinite perfection of it yearned To her, because in her the rose discerned A life of fragrance and a soul of flame. [page 218] Ah, weary heart, thou art thyself a rose! Perfection holds thee in her clinging hand And whispers to thee all her sweet desire. Faint not! The most monotonous wind that blows Shall waft thy fragrance through a bloomless land And fan thy dulling flame to deeper fire.
Good-bye! Good-bye! My soul goes after thee, Quick as a bird that quickens on the wing, Softly as winter softens into spring; And as the moon sways to the swaying sea, So is my spirit drawn resistlessly. Good-bye! Yet closer round my life shall cling Thy tenderness, the priceless offering That drifts through distance daily unto me. O eager soul of mine, fly fast, fly fast! Take with thee hope and courage, thoughts that thrill The heart with gladness under sombre skies. [page 219] O living tenderness, that no sharp blast Of bitter fate or circumstance can chill, My life with thine grows strong or fails or dies.
Breather of hope upon the face that grieves, Redd’ner of paleness, mocker at despair, Playground of happy wings that upward fare, Lover of violets and sodden leaves, Of roses running to the cottage eaves, And hayfields sweet’ning in the sunny glare; Companion of the heart that knows no care, And of the budding boughs and bursting sheaves, Though armed with weapons of the icy north, Or red with drooping leaves, or fair with flakes, Or scorched with sun, or wistful in the rain, Out of my cell your spirit calls me forth, Out to the splendid open, where the aches And hurts of life are bathed and healed again. [page 220]
In a Dark Hour
Yes, yes, I know what you would say, and yet Life is so sweet! life is so very sweet! Leaves dancing in the sun make quick the beat Of saddest heart, and Love must still forget Life’s toil and care, its fever and its fret. How blue the sky shines through the summer’s heat! How merrily the blood defies the sleet! One golden hour illumes a gray year. Let Them talk of tears who never knew relief; For me the hoarded honey of the past Outlives the wintry interval of the past Come loneliness, or lovelessness, or grief, The memory of days too sweet to last Shall make my heart run o’er with joy again.
By Fields of Grass
By fields of grass and woodland silences The city’s tumult is encamped around; The jingling, clanging, shrieking fiends of sound [page 221] Expire within the wide world-circling breeze. The soul amid a multitude of trees, Or grass-enveloped on the fragrant ground, Is lifted to its utmost starry round, And listens to celestial harmonies. From this unspeakably divine rebirth, Its sordid life returning shows through rifts How purely spreads the sky, how musical The streams and breezes flow across the earth, How light the tree its fruity load uplifts, How easily the weed is beautiful.
In the Crowd
Here in the crowded city’s busy street, Swayed by the eager, jostling, hasting throng, Where Traffic’s voice grows harsher and more strong, I see within the stream of hurrying feet A company of trees in their retreat, Dew-bathed, dream-wrapped, and with a thrush’s song Emparadising all the place along Whose paths I hear the pulse of Beauty beat. [page 222] ‘Twas yesterday I walked beneath the trees, To-day I tread the city’s stony ways; And still the spell that o’er my spirit came Turns harshest sounds to shy bird ecstasies, Pours scent of pine through murky chimney haze, And gives each careworn face a woodland frame.
Near the slim bridge at Minnehaha Falls, Below the impetuous current’s foaming roar, I followed down a path that ran before And led me into Summer’s sylvan halls. Full-boughed and mossy were the mist-clad walls, While in diminished cadence came the pour, Attenuated ever more and more Until it seemed the least of elfin calls. So is it with the turbulent stream of life: In youth it storms the soul; grows less and less As down the middle years our footsteps wend. [page 223] We lose at first the tumult and the strife, Then find with the departing urge and stress Pure melody before the silent end.
Now when the grove is stifled to the core, And all the parchèd grass is summer-killed, I think of vehement March, and how he filled These arid roadside with a murmurous pour Of rushing streams from an exhaustless store. This breathless air, to tropic slumber stilled, Recalls those early passionate winds that thrilled The spirit, blending with the water’s roar. Just as in rich and dusty-leavèd age The soul goes back to brood on swelling buds Of hope, desire and dream, in childhood’s clime, So I turn backward to the spring-lit page, And hear with freshening heart the deep-voiced floods That to the winds give their melodious rhyme. [page 224]
At twilight on this unfamiliar street, With its affronts to aching ear and eye, I think of restful ease in fields that lie Untrodden by a myriad fevered feet. O green and dew and stillness! O retreat Thick-leaved and squirrel-haunted! By and by I too shall follow all the thoughts that fly Bird-like to you, and find you, ah, how sweet! Not yet—not yet. To-night it almost seems That I am hasting up the hemlock lane, Up to the door, the lamp, the face that pales And warms with sudden joy. But these are dreams; I lean on Memory’s breast, and she is fain To soothe my yearning with her tender tales.
The Silent Snow
To-day the earth has not a word to speak. The snow comes down as softly through the air As pitying heaven to a martyr’s prayer, Or white grave roses to a bloodless cheek. [page 225] The footsteps of the snow, as white and meek As angel travellers, are everywhere— On fence and brier and up the forest stair, And on the wind’s trail o’er the moorland bleak. They tread the rugged road as tenderly As April venturing her first caress; They drown the old earth’s furrowed griefs and scars Within the white foam of a soundless sea, And bring a deeper depth of quietness To graves asleep beneath the silent stars.
Tangled in Stars
Tangled in stars and spirit-steeped in dew, Thy city worker to his desk returns. While ‘mid the stony streets remembrance burns, Like honeysuckle running through and through A barren hedge. He lifts his load anew, And carries it amid the thronging ferns And crowding leaves of memory, while yearns Above him once again the open blue. [page 226] His letter-littered desk goes up in flowers; The world recedes, and backward dreamily Come days and nights, like jewels rare and few. And while the consciousness of those bright hours Abides with him, we know him yet to be Tangled in stars and spirit-steeped in dew.
Against the winter’s heav’n of white the blood Of earth runs very quick and hot to-day; A storm of fiery leaves are out at play Around the lingering sunset of the wood. Where rows of blackberries unnoticed stood Run streams of ruddy colour wildly gay; The golden lane half dreaming picks its way Through whelming vines as through a gleaming flood. O warm outspoken earth, a little space Against thy beating heart my hear shall beat, A little while they twain shall bleed and burn, [page 227] And then the cold touch and the gray, gray face, The frozen pulse, the drifted winding-sheet, And speechlessness, and the chill burial urn!
The great, soft, downy snow falls like a cloak Descends to wrap the lean world head to feet; It gives the dead another winding-sheet, It buries all the roofs until the smoke Seems like a soul that from its clay has broke; It broods moon-like upon the autumn wheat, And visits all the trees in their retreat, To hood and mantle the poor shivering folk. With wintry bloom it fills the harshest grooves In jagged pine stump fences; every sound It hushes to the footstep of a nun; Sweet Charity, that brightens where it moves, Inducing darkest bits of churlish ground To give a radiant answer to the sun. [page 228]
Now that the earth has hid her lovely brood Of green things in her breast safe out of sight, And all the trees have stripped them for the fight, The winter comes with wild wings singing rude, Hoarse battle songs—so furious in feud That nothing lives that has not felt their bite. They sound a trumpet in the dead of night That makes more solitary solitude. Against the forest doors how fierce they beat! Against the porch, against the school-bound boy With crimson cheek bent to his shaggy coat. The earth is pale but steadfast, hearing sweet But far—how far away!—the stream of joy Outpouring from a bluebird’s tender throat. [page 229]
August in November
On this bleak evening, pacing to and fro The silent rooms beneath this lonely roof, Noting the echo of a distant hoof, Or the November winds that wildly blow, One thought pursues me wheresoe’er I go— As close entwined with me as warp to woof— Dear love, no power can hold our hearts aloof, Because I love you so! I love you so! To-night your shadowy form to me is real, As when your visible presence made more blue The August sky and turned to song its rain. Gone is the storm—the solitude—I feel You near to me. What can November do? For us midsummer days have come again.
The old year’s withered face is here again, The twilight look, the look of reverie, The backward gazing eyes that seem to see The full-leaved robin-haunted June remain [page 230] Through devastating wind and ruinous rain; A form that moves a little wearily, As one who treads the path of memory Beneath a long year’s load of stress and strain. Good-night! good-night! the dews are thick and damp, Yet still she babbles on, as loath to go, Of apple-buds and blooms that used to be, Till Indian Summer brings the bedside lamp, And underneath a covering of snow She dreams again of April ecstasy.
November and December
November and December, and again November and December as before; Dead season on dead season, o’er and o’er, Till leaflessness becomes most leafless. Then Naught for the lips, except the sad Amen, Naught for the eyes, except the darkened door, And for this pleasant House of Leaves no more The summer breezes with their light refrain. [page 231] November and December—ah, I hear Like unto heavy, sobbing winds, the old Novembers and Decembers mourn aloud. No red leaf lights the darkness of the year, But only fire that grips the heart of cold, And stars that burn behind a world of cloud.
O Master-builder, blustering as you go About your giant work, transforming all The empty woods into a glittering hall, And making lilac lanes and footpaths grow As hard as iron under stubborn snow, Through every fence stand forth a marble wall, The windy hollows drift to arches tall, There comes a might that shall your might o’erthrow. Build high your white and dazzling palaces, Strengthen your bridges, fortify your towers, Storm with a loud and a portentous lip; [page 232] And April with a fragmentary breeze, And half a score of gentle golden hours, Shall leave no trace of your stern workmanship.
There is a Solitude
There is a solitude within the heart, Unpenetrated by the eye of man. At its first dawn, when consciousness began, The birds sang strong as at Creation’s start, The sun illumed the stillness with his dart, And through the groves the naked spirit ran Rained on by dew-drenched boughs—his end and plan To be of loveliness the fairest part. O thou that feels the world’s dust mount and mount Up to the jaded nostrils, smarting eyes, Go, wash thyself in that transfiguring fount, And feel the primal bliss, the old surprise, Discovering how divine a thing thou art. [page 233]
One day I caught up with my angel, she Who calls me bell-like from a sky-touched tower. ‘Twas in my roof-room, at the stillest hour Of a still, sunless day, when suddenly A flood of deep unreasoned ecstasy Lifted my heart, that had begun to cower, And wrapped it in a flame of living power. My leader said, ‘Arise and follow me.’ Then as I followed gladly I beheld How all men baffled, burdened, crossed or curst, Clutch at an angel’s hem, if near or far; One-not-to-be-resisted voice, deep-belled, Speaks to them, and of those we call the worst, Lo, each poor blackened brow strains to a Star! [page 234]
RHYMES FOR CHILDREN
The Orphan Drake
My orphan drake is two weeks old, And a terrible bother is he. Though cheerful and bright the truth must be told That he’s too fond of me. When I go to the cellar he runs to the top Of the stairs and loudly peeps, When I go to the garret he’ll never stop Till he follows by jumps and leaps. When I go for a walk he nearly kills Himself keeping up with me; So I have to carry him over the hills, For he is so little, you see. He clings so close when I’m reading that I wish he would learn to swim; And I fear some day the family cat Will put a finish to him. The moral is, ‘Never tag,’ for though It makes the young heart ache To suffer unwanted, ‘Tis better so Than to be a goose of a drake. [page 235]
The Wise Frogs
Early in the spring, with the wind on my cheek, I went to the pond an old friend to seek. ‘Old Friend Frog, what’s the weather like? Speak!’ Then a voice responded very low and weak: ‘Still rather bleak, still rather bleak; Bu-bu-bu-bl-eak, bu-bu-bu-bl-eak.’ Later in the spring, with only just a few Of my frog acquaintances, I said, ‘How do you do? Pleasant weather this, and a very pleasant view, And isn’t that a lovely looking sky?’ ‘Quite true. Very pretty blue, very pretty blue; Bu-bu-bu-bl-ue, bu-bu-bu-bl-ue.’ Warm grew the nights, and loud as a loom Floated all the water voices up to my room. ‘Tell me of the earth,’ I whispered through the gloom. ‘Is it full of flowers?’ They answered with a boom, ‘Full, full of bloom, full, full of bloom, Bu-bu-bu-bl-oom, bu-bu-bu-bl-oom.’ [page 236]
How I like the tree-top mornings in the early early spring! There’s a steady sound of roaring, Like a score of rivers pouring, Or a hundred giants snoring, Or a thousand birds up-soaring. There’s a rattle as of battle and a sort of splendid swing Of the branches and the curtains and almost everything. Oh, I love the tree-top mornings in the early, early spring! Oh, what fun on tree-top mornings in the early early spring, When the wind is loud as thunder, And it snaps the boughs asunder, And it lifts you up from under, Just to run zig-zag and wonder At the hurry and the scurry that such windy mornings bring, At the flapping and the slapping of the clothes-line on the wing! Oh, I love the tree-top mornings in the early, early spring! [page 237]
This is somebody’s birthday, Just as sure as fate; Some little girl is five to-day, Some little boy is eight; Some little child is three to-day, Some older one thirteen; Some little twins are precisely two— Two apiece I mean. Someone is eating birthday cake, And picking out the plums; Someone is counting her birthday dolls On all her fingers and thumbs; Someone is bouncing his birthday ball, Or winding her birthday watch; Someone is not too wise or tall For birthday butterscotch. Think of the scores of birthday gifts, Think of the birthday cheer, Think of the birthday happiness, Every day of the year; Every day of the year, my dear, Every day we’re alive, Some happy child is one or two Or three or four or five. [page 238]
Four Classes of Children
The children born in winter-time Are bright as the stars in a frosty clime. Bright as the ice on a moon-lit lea, Bright as the gleam of a Christmas tree. And what you will notice about them all, Wherever you have found them, Is that they’re not only bright themselves— They brighten the lives around them. The children born in the time of spring Mirth and happiness with them bring. Cheery as crickets, blithe as a rill, Light as the breeze that is never still. Gay as the robin’s earliest song, Though chilly winds may flout them. And then, they’re not only glad themselves— They gladden the lives about them. The summer children are good and sweet, Sweet as berries and good as wheat, Sweet as the breath of a clover place, Sweet as a breeze to a sun-burned face, With voices sweet as the sound of streams, How pleasant it is to hear them! And then they’re not only sweet themselves— They sweeten the lives that are near them. [page 239] The autumn children are clever indeed. They love to study, to think and read. They walk in the empty woodland vast, And think of the future and think of the past. I’ve noticed it over and over again, And mentioned it to their mothers, The autumn children are thinkers themselves And very thoughtful of others.
Apple Blossom Time
Spring time, sing time, let us make a ring rhyme, Dancing down the orchard path in a bird-on-wing time. May dews are pearlier, May branches burlier, And the little school-bound feet early start and earlier, So as to have a long time, and a sunny song time Ere we reach the schoolhouse door, nine o’clock and gong time. Longer will the morns be and full of jubilation, When the harvest apples drop in the glad vacation. [page 240] May time, play time, don’t we have a gay time Underneath the orchard boughs at the close of daytime! Busy lips chattering, pink blooms scattering, On the lifted face and hands now we feel them spattering; Then with hearts as feather-light, tripping off together, quite Like a pair of birds, so happy are we in this weather bright. Fairer will the days be and full of jubilation, When the peaches colour up in the glad vacation.
The Skipping Rope Girl
There was once a child who used to skip Seventy times without a slip, Nip-etty trip at a regular clip, In her shiny shoes with a laugh on her lip; Over her head and shoulder and hip Up went the rope and down it would dip, And people would say, ‘She’s as smart as a whip, She’ll be a good worker and that’s a safe tip.’ [page 241] BUT Ask her to weed the onion bed Or bring an armful of wood from the shed, Or set the table or cut the bread, Or amuse her baby brother Fred, Or do her work with a willing tread, Then, oh, then she would hang her head And move as though she was nearly dead.
Now if you were this child that I used to know, You, I am sure, would never act so, But would make the work like a skipping rope go, Never too fast and never too slow. Nip-etty clip with heel and toe, Hands that swift and skilful grow, Laughing lip and a cheek aglow, And work would vanish like April snow.
A chicken aged less than a day And as large as a dandelion puff, Concluded that he had had enough Of unhatched eggs and a nest of hay, So scrambling out near a horse’s heels, He began at once to scratch for his meals. [page 242] The unhatched chicks neath their broken roofs, Called out, ‘Beware of those awful hoofs.’ But the elder brother replied, ‘My dears, ‘Tis only eggs that are troubled by fears. The chicken of genuine force and worth Is afraid of nothing on the earth.’
The Laughing Crow
There was once a crow who seemed to know That precisely the very best time to go For corn was when it began to grow, And into this business he used to throw Great zeal and his laugh would overflow Into haw, haw, haw, and caw, caw, caw! Which means ha, ha! and ho, ho, ho! Said the farmer, ‘No, my ancient foe, I can’t kill you with an arrow and bow; I’ll trap you instead,’ which he did and so The bird was brought to the house to show To the boys and girls, who shouted ‘Oh,’ With a haw, haw, haw, and a caw, caw, caw! And they chuckled, ‘Ha, ha! You are caught, ho, ho!’ [page 243] Now this mischievous crow is as tame as though He had never been wild six months ago. He romps with the children in the falling snow, Or sits with them when the hearth is aglow. He plays some tricks, for he isn’t slow, And they laugh together aloud or low, With a haw, haw, haw, and a caw, caw, caw! And a ha, ha, ha and a ho, ho, ho!
‘If you would only be gentle and kind,’ Said our little kitty one day, ‘And always speak low, and move rather slow, How pleasantly then we should play! For cat rhymes with mat, And with afternoon chat, And a little love-pat; So don’t forget that If you would only be gentle and kind, And smooth my fur just the right way, And call me some pet name, you’d certainly find How pleasantly then we should play.’ [page 244] ‘If you were only a livelier child,’ Said our puppy, Ravels,—called Rav,— ‘And would hop, skip and jump Over bush, snag and stump, What a glorious time we should have! For dog rhymes with log, And with loud-splashing frog, Or a twenty-mile jog Through a nice muddy bog; So if you were only a livelier child, And would call out, Here, Ravels; Come Rav! And then dash off and prance through the wilderness wild, What a glorious time we should have!’
Going to the Country
We are going to the country, come along my happy child; Through this breezy, easy summer you’re to run a trifle wild. Bring your flaxen, waxen dollies and your dearest, queerest one, And your little, brittle dishes, and your saucy squirrel Bun. [page 245] Put your tiny, shiny slippers on your agile, fragile feet, Wash your rosy, posy fingers till they’re very clean and neat. Stop to pop into the lightest and the brightest of your frocks, Tie your ramble-bramble hat upon your blowing, flowing locks. Get the ticket at the wicket where the bags and trunks are piled, For we’re going to the country,—Come along my happy child.
A Mental Family Tree
We were talking in the schoolyard about our family trees, And Gertrude said hers could be traced to Sir Horatio Freeze; And Rufe said he’d descended from the governor of a state; And Louie mentioned ancestors of hers about as great, While Reggie said his lineage embraced a lord, he knew; And Nell from her great-great-grandsire obtained her blood so blue; [page 246] But neither of the little Smiths could say a single word; For them to boast their ancient name of course would be absurd. Then teacher, smiling slightly, said that she was much inclined To think that there was such a thing as blue blood of the mind; That those who studied hard (and here she beamed on Tommy Smith) Had certainly descended from men of force and pith; And those who loved to tend the sick and serve the weak and frail Were morally related to Florence Nightingale. (Here Jennie Smith blushed to the ears). And when she saw a youth (How bright she smiled at Johnny Smith!) who always told the truth At school, at home, or when he was at work or having fun She knew him for a relative of General Washington. But Reggie doesn’t like such talk; he says it seems to throw So much responsibility upon yourself, you know. [page 247]
Under the Apple Tree
A little, little girl and a big, big tree Can have a lot of fun in blossom weather. When the rosy branches bend, She readily can send For her very dearest friend, And the two of them may spend, With a numerous and interesting dolly family, A leafy, branchy, blossomy, Dilly dally, dolor free, Pleasant, pretty, perfumy, Pinky time together. A little, little boy and a big, big tree Can have some fun in harvest-apple-weather. When the fruit is ripe and sweet, He can go with Dick and Pete To a comfortable seat, Nicely shaded from the heat, With some minutes for the refreshments and for mirth and jollity, And a hearty, happy, hammocky, Breeze, blithe and banquet, Joyous, juicy, junkety Time they’ll have together. [page 248] Some little, little folks and some big, big trees Can have a lot of fun in windy weather. When the leaves are on the ground, All the little chicken round Rake them up into a mound; Then you hear a scratching sound, And puff! the leaves are crackling and roaring cheerily. And noisy, boysy, rollicky, Girly, whirly, fancy-free, Flickering flaming, skylark Time they have together!
A Devoted Mother
If I had a little sick dolly, I know what I should do; I would tend it with care, and give it fresh air, And go to the doctor’s too. And then if the doctor should hand me Some candy pills from the shelf, And dolly said, ‘Oh, I can’t take them—no!’ I’d swallow them all myself. For you know, of course, I could never use force, So I’d swallow them all myself. [page 249] Yes, I am careful young mother, When dollies are sick and weak, I forbid them to walk, I don’t let them talk, Nor even permit them to speak. In winter I give them a straw ride, Well wrapped up is each little elf, And smiling to see with what vigour and glee I am skipping and singing myself. The unselfish and good and wise mother should Do the skipping and singing herself.
The Naughty Parrot
Once there was a little girl who spent the summer days With sheep and cows and pigeons and horses out to graze, And other gentle comrades. They all had pleasant ways, Except a horrid parrot with a green and yellow head, Who never made polite remarks, but always moaned instead, ‘Oh, ah wah, ah, hoop bah, I don’t want to go to bed!’ [page 250] Now all these other animals were very very good. They neighed or they brayed or they crowed or purred or mooed, They barked or they bleated or they quacked or clucked or cooed. But still that hateful parrot, he drooped his gaudy head, And with a twinkle in his eye, he dolorously said, ‘Oh, ah, wah, hoop bah, I don’t want to go to bed!’
The Rain-Pipe and the Roof
Pitter, patter, says the roof; pitter, patter pat! The water through the rain-pipe is slinking like a cat. Hurry, scurry! calls the roof; the drops are coming thick; And then we hear the pipe go, tick-a-lick-a-lick! Rattle-battle! cries the roof, rattle-battle-rush! Slusha-gusha! goes the pipe, slusha-flusha-gush! [page 251] Roaring, pouring! shouts the roof, and harder comes the roar; Close up all the windows, and fasten tight the door. Springing from the eave-trough with a splashing sound. See the merry water jumping to the ground! Slower, lower, chimes the roof, rinka, tanka, tink! Urgle, gurgle, says the pipe; tinka, linka, link! Pitter, patter! says the roof; pitter, patter, pat. Tinka-link, the rain pipe, ticka, licka—spat!
When I went to the sea shore I thought I’d better take My picture blocks and painting box, My wooden duck and drake, My cardboard bird that whistles, My train of cars, my Ted, My Mother Goose, my china Moose, My tin horn painted red. But when I got to Grandpa’s He said, ‘These sandy shores Won’t let you play with anything But All Outdoors.’ [page 252] My Teddy bear is in the trunk My Indian hatchet quaint, My Noah’s Ark, the picture park I just began to paint, My ball and top, my marbles, My rocking-horse and whip, My auto-car that winds up And goes biz-zook, gaz-zip, Are still unpacked, for since I came I find a hundred stores Can’t hold so many playthings As All Outdoors.
The Cheerful Ducks
Down to the pond when the weather was warm Hurried two ducks at signs of a storm. Quack, quack, quack! Splash, splash, splash! Fast come the big drops, faster the flash. Down, down we dive at a big thunder clap. Up, up we jump with a flap, flap, flap! Waves on the breast and rain on the back, Water, water, everywhere, quack, quack, quack! [page 253] Down to the pond when the weather was cold, The same two ducks one afternoon strolled. Quack, quack, quack! Why, isn’t this nice? A few drops of water at the edge of the ice. Paddle, paddle feet, bubble, bubble bill, Spatter, spatter ,cherrily, flap with a will. There goes a drop and a half on my back, Isn’t it glorious? Quack, quack, quack!
When Teddy Went to the Woods
He nearly caught a chipmunk, He nearly stunned an owl, He nearly saw a polar bear, He nearly heard it growl. He nearly killed a rattlesnake, He nearly felt it squirm, He nearly hooked the biggest fish With nearly half a worm. He nearly walked a dozen miles, He very nearly hit An eagle sitting in its nest, He nearly climbed to it. Now if he nearly did so much When young, it seems to me, What a wonderfully clever man He’ll nearly grow to be. [page 254]
By Sea and Lake
Twenty thousand horses Galloping abreast, Hard hoofs hammering, Foam on the crest; Thunderous, clamorous, Eager for the fray— That is how the waves seemed By the sea to-day. Twenty little babies Learning how to creep, Soft voices whispering Nearly half asleep; Murmuringly, lullingly, Lapped in slumber light— That is how the waves sound By the lake to-night.
The Whity Pink Pig
Arthur was a doctor And travelled in a gig, Edgar was a learned judge And wore a gown and wig. Fred was a comedian And danced a funny jig, [page 255] And Ernest was a farmer, With a whity pinky pig; A whity pinky, sharp and slinky Little blinky pig. Edith was a mamma, With a waxen baby big, Lucy was a florist, Who planted out a twig, Nellie as a grocer sold An apple and a fig; And all would have been happy Had it not been for the pig, That pinky whity, small and mighty, Queer and flighty pig. He gobbled up the groceries, He rooted up the twig, The doctor’s pony Rover Ran at him and broke the gig; He tangled up the learned judge Until he dropped his wig, And he stole the baby’s cookies, Did that whity pinky pig; That whity pinky, quick as winky, Swim-or-sinky pig. [page 256]
When Dimplefeet Was Cupid
When Dimplefeet was Cupid His marksmanship was fine; His bow was made of willow branch, His arrows all of pine, And first he sent an arrow straight At mamma’s dress of blue. ‘That means you’re sweet,’ said Dimplefeet, ‘And somebody loves you.’ And then he aimed at Grandma’s shoes. Oh, mercy, how she jumped! Her cheek it thumped and thumped. She caught the boy and kissed him well, Then as away he flew, ‘That means you’re sweet,’ said Dimplefeet, ‘And somebody loves you.’ And then when Katie went to hang Her towels on the hedge, He crept up close and took good aim And hit her apron’s edge. ‘That means you’re sweet,’ said Dimplefeet, ‘If all the signs are true!’ ‘Tis you that swate,’ said Irish Kate, ‘And everyone loves you.’ [page 257]
Once our little Benny went to steal a robin’s nest, It was a hot and darksome day with black clouds in the west. And just as he had climbed the tree and had the nest down bent, There came a sudden thunder storm, and here’s the way it went: B-r-roar, gr-r-roar, bad lad, bang! Cr-rack, is it back? Flash, whack, bang! Grumble-rumble-bumble-dumble, put it back before you tumble, Cr-rack, put it back, Flash, crash, bang! Oh, my, how shaky felt his legs and oh, how queer his head, He put the nest back in its place and off for home he sped. A rushing wind pursued him, the rain upon him poured, And in his startled ears the thunder ripped and tore and roared: Br-r-owl, gr-r-rowl, bad lad, bang! Cr-rack, is it back! flash, whack, bang! [page 258] Yes, you’ve had the best of luck, sir, Or you surely had been struck, sir, Hear me, Ben, Never again! Crash, flash, bang!
A Little City Child
He brought a flower from the field— That little city child— And when they asked him what it was, He said that it was wild. And when they asked him of the bird That sang so sweet and low, He said it was a robin, Or perhaps it was a crow. And when the names of trees he met They begged of him to tell ‘em, He seemed to think that every tree Was simply called an ‘ellum.’ The insects of the earth or air Which every day he sees, He calls when wingless, ‘funny bugs,’ The winged ones are ‘bees.’ [page 259] And if a garter snake should glide From out a bush or brake, ‘Twould hear him shouting far and wide, ‘I’ve found a rattlesnake!’
In the Water
Come ahead, Jim, I’ll show you how to swim, Dive into a deep place and hold your head up so; Push your arms out this way and kick back with a vim, Keep your nose above the wave and then away you go, While we all shout aloud, Oh, we’re a jolly crowd, As we’re splashing, dashing, slashing in the water. Don’t be afraid, Bess will lend her aid, I will hold your chest up and Marjorie your chin, Walt and Ben will follow close as further out out we wade, And all of us will rush to you if you should tumble in; [page 260] You’d hear my orders then, To the rescue quick, my men, And we’d bear you choking, soaking from the water. Tom, Jack and May, I’ll tell you what to play; Play that you are porpoises and I will be a whale; I’ll move in stately splendour while you sport about my way, And then I’ll dash against you like a ship against a gale, While you all raise a shout and spatter foam about, As we’re rushing, crushing, slushing in the water. That’s splendid, Jim, You’ll soon learn to swim, Isn’t this by far the greatest fun you ever had? Those fellows on the shore are coming with a roar And kicking up the cold waves and spluttering like mad. Hey, boys, hullo! We’re singing as we go, And laughing, chaffing, quaffing, in the water. [page 261]
Helping a Little
When the days are hot and growing hotter, And earth is dry as a worn-out blotter, When the grass is crisp and the sky is copper, And more than a burden is each grasshopper, When the shrill cicada’s red-hot voice is A note at which no heart rejoices, When at every crack the dust is sifting, And gasping hens their wings are lifting, I like to think of the deep snow drifting, Of frost-bound pond and icicles brittle: It helps a little. When out on the path the step is ringing, And keen as a whip the sleet is stinging, When buffalo robes are heaped to the shoulder, And the cold moon makes the night seem colder, When a few thin leaves on the beeches shiver, And dead and buried and gone is the river, And out of the north the flakes are flying, I like to think of the new hay lying, Of summer airs in the branches sighing, Of the hammock at noon where I lounge or whittle: It helps a little. [page 262]
Kitty, kitty, kitty, There’s a squirrel on a limb; If you know where Don’t you go there, Don’t you even glance at him. Quick he leaps from pine to balsam and along the bridge so gay; Now you should look quite indifferent, or glance off the other way. Kitty, kitty, kitty, There’s a robin near the eaves, If you know it, Don’t you show it, Don’t you touch the ivy leaves. Loud he sings as though there weren’t a cat in this harmonious world, While you lap your cream or slumber in the pleasant sunshine curled. Kitty, kitty, kitty, Don’t you know my duty stern Is to train you And restrain you, So I hope you’ll quickly learn [page 263] For a well-fed puss like you to murder things is wrong, and that If you follow my instructions, I’ll be proud of you, my cat.
Playing Tame Bear
I like to play with mamma best of anything I do, She always laughs so easy and gets me laughing too. Outside, our games are Hide and Seek, I Spy, or Hound and Hare, But when it’s raining hard we play I’m her tame bear. She ties a rope around me, I start to jump and prance, She pulls me to the door step and says, ‘Dance, Bear, dance!’ And makes me walk on all fours or clamber on a chair, And says, ‘Good fellow! whoa! come here, my nice tame bear!’ Then suddenly I tug my rope and act no longer mild, And mamma says, ‘I greatly fear my tame bear’s getting wild.’ [page 264] I pull her out into the hall and even up the stair, She says, ‘What shall I do with him, my rough tame bear! I hope he doesn’t hug me, I hope he doesn’t bite, Just hear him growl and mutter, just watch him snarl and fight!’ And then all of a sudden she’s in her rocking chair, And gets a lot of squeezing from her wild tame bear.
Song of a Spoon
There was once a bright little spoon On a breakfast table in June, Who sang this sad little tune: ‘I’ve been thrown down with a dash and a frown When I tried to get up to Redlip town, And the words outflung by Mr. Tongue Were the fretful kind that can’t be sung.’ And the thing that I tried to say Was oh, what a dreadful way That was to begin the day. [page 265] But the very next morn in June I heard the bright little spoon Sing this very different tune: ‘From a silver cup, with a bite and a sup To Redlip town I went gaily up; And just at the chin I met a grin, One came out as the other went in.’ And the thing that I tried to say, Was oh, what a splendid way That was to begin the day.
When I first awaken, my mother calls me Bubbins, When I try to dress myself she calls me Mother Bunch, When I rock my dolly she whispers, ‘Little Woman!’ And I’m always Missy Messy when I spill milk at lunch. When I shout and scamper she calls me ‘Happy Baby,’ When I get the ear ache or any other pain Warm in my crib she tucks me and pets her precious ducksy, But when I’m very naughty I am just plain Jane. [page 266] When I go to parties she calls me Popsy Pigeon, When I start to Sunday School I am her little lamb. But oh, I can’t remember all the funny names she gives me, I often sit and wonder what I really truly am. Only just this morning I did what was forbidden, I played out in the puddles and fell down in the rain, And instead of saying Lovey or even little Dovey, A voice called from the doorway, ‘Come here this moment, Jane.’
Dolls’ Slumber Song
Hushaby, my babies, now the day is closing, All the tired little birds are drowsing in the nest; Out upon the lake the lilies are reposing, And so must you, my little ones, upon your mamma’s breast. S-l-e-e-p, sleep, sink, sink to sleep— Claribel and Muriel, Polly and Bo-peep. [page 267] Hushaby, my dearies, now the dew is falling, Over on the meadow evening shadows creep. On the edge of Slumberland hear your mamma calling, ‘Come, my little family, it’s time to go to sleep.’ S-l-e-e-p, sleep, sink, sink to sleep— Claribel and Muriel, Polly and Bo-peep.’
Twenty little millionaires Playing in the sun: Millionaires in mother-love, Millionaires in fun, Millionaires in leisure hours, Millionaires in joys, Millionaires in hopes and plans, Are these girls and boys. Millionaires in health are they, And in dancing blood, Millionaires in shells and stones, Sticks and moss and mud; Millionaires in castles In the air, and worth Quite a million times as much As castles on the earth. [page 268] Twenty little millionaires, Playing in the sun; Oh, how happy they must be, Every single one! Hardly any years have they, Hardly any cares; But in every lovely thing Multi-millionaires.
A Rhyming Mother
One little sister and one little brother, Happy all day and helping each other, And oh, such a comfort they were to their mother. And what do you think that nice mother said, When she lighted the candle and took them to bed And tenderly smoothed each fair little head? She said with a smile that was well worth while, ‘I know now why pearl is a good rhyme for girl, And I know now why joy is a good rhyme for boy.’ [page 269]
The Snapping Turtle
A big snapping turtle came into our swale, Like a dinner plate upside down, With his four little feet and a cute head and tail And a breast bone polished brown. He snapped on the end of a stick I had And you should have seen us go! A turtle’s a mighty lively lad, Though some folks think he’s slow. He drew his four little feet inside, And then was ready for the stunt; Away on his big breast bone he’d slide While I tugged along at the front. I tied some sleigh bells to the stick And merrily they did sound, Jing-a-ling-ting as we went quick Over the stubbly ground. He couldn’t tell me if he was hurt As he’d have to let go to yell, But I sometimes think the poor old turt Didn’t like it so awfully well. [page 270]
A Funny Child
There is a girl in our town and she is full of fun, She prances and she dances with a laugh for everyone; Her eyes are full of merriment, her voice is full of glee, And oh, how happy, happy, you would think that child must be. And so she is when things go right, but oh, when they go wrong, You never get a smile from her, you never hear a song; But how I wish when things are queer she’d bring us mirth and glee, For oh, how happy, happy, then each one of us would be.
The Baby Who was Three-Fourths Good
‘Now will you be good?’ said little Bob Wood, To his baby sister Sue, As he lifted his hand with a look of command, And the baby answered ‘Goo.’ [page 271] ‘You’ve sucked Noah’s paint till he looks quite faint, And wrecked nearly all his crew. Is that being good?’ asked stern Bobby Wood And the baby gurgled out ‘Goo!’ ‘You mean pretty well, so seldom you yell, And you never were known to look blue; But you’re not always good—that’s quite understood—‘ And the little one laughed and said ‘Goo!’ ‘Goo is three-fourths of good,’ said wise Bobby Wood, ‘I suppose that’s the best you can do; But when you’re as big as I am, you sprig, You’ll have to be good clear through.’
Among the teachers in our land and those from foreign shores, Stands forth Professor Goodfellow, who teaches out-of-doors. His pupils roam the woods and fields and ramble down the lanes, And never go inside at all excepting when it rains. [page 272] Now when Professor Goodfellow says, ‘John had twenty-three Delicious peaches and ate five, how many then had he?’ The pupils are provided with peaches by the crate, And readily subtract from those they had the ones they ate. Or when he says, ‘Bound Texas,’ they board the Dixie train And study their geography with all their might and main. And when he says, ‘What is a noun?’ Why, anything in sight A boy or girl might single out would certainly be right. The reading classes read all day the book of Nature fair, The spelling classes find a spell in earth and sky and air. But when Professor Goodfellow finds some forlorn abode, An old deserted schoolhouse beside a lonely road, And it should be a wet or cold or very stormy day, He says, ‘Now children, school’s dismissed, all run inside and play!’ [page 273]
The Lost Maple
On the border of the wood it beckoned where he stood— That very young and tiny maple tree. It was scarcely one year old and its leaves were red and gold, And he said, ‘I think I’ll take it home with me.’ But while he went to play they softly blew away— Those little red and yellow leaves—and then, As it wasn’t very big it looked just like a twig, So he never found his maple tree again.
When Our Cheese is Done
I like a dinner pail that has some sort of a surprise, A hunk of spicy fruit cake or two kinds of saucer pies; Some candy or bananas, a pickled egg or two, Or cookies pink with icing and thick with raisins too. But oh, this everlasting bread and ham or bread and meat, It makes me tired all over from my freckles to my feet. [page 274] So then I stop at Uncle’s and lean on the gate real hard, And wait and wait and wait and wait till he comes in the yard. ‘Our cheese is done,’ I say to Uncle en, ‘Ours is just begun,’ He says to me, and then He cuts me off a big delicious chunk and off I run. My uncle is a widower and buys the stuff he eats, And my, he has a lot of dandy unexpected treats; One time he called me in and gave me fish he’d learned to fry, With mashed potatoes, cake chock full of nuts and lemon pie, With oranges and lemonade and honey dripping sweet, I tell you I felt splendid from my freckles to my feet; But just one thing was missing and I wasn’t quite at ease Till Uncle said, ‘My goodness! Why I clean forgot the cheese.’ [page 275] ‘Our cheese is done,’ I say to Uncle Ben, ‘Ours is just begun,’ He says to me and then He cuts me off a yellow tender chunk and off I run.
All on a windy morning what fun to go a-nutting, To get the poles and beat the boughs until, like popping corn, The nuts come dancing downward, the chest-nut prickles shutting Their hearts in velvet linings that must be bruised or torn; And while the burrs are scattering, To hear the squirrels chattering, And beechnuts pittering, pattering, All on windy morn. All on a windy morning to pick the odorous walnuts, And beat the blackening butternuts on highest branches borne, While both the babies fill their fists with acorns, which they call nuts, [page 276] Until there comes that startling, pleasing sound, the dinner horn. And then they throw them scattering, Like beechnuts pittering, pattering, And homeward we go chattering, All on a windy morn.
Little Joe and the English Language
When a bluejay wants to talk All it says is ‘squawk, squawk;’ When a cricket tries to speak All it says is ‘screak, screak;’ When a crow lays down the law All it says is ‘Caw, caw.’ And when you ask our Joey If this or that is so, He’s almost sure to answer *Ho-I-oh-wo. Bluejays, crickets, crows and boys Which makes the funniest noise? Squawk, screak, caw, how? Ho-I-oh-wo.
*Usually pronounced Oh, I don’t know. [page 277]
Dogs bow-wow, or else berpwerp, Hens cluck and sparrows chirp, Horses neigh, cows moo, Owls go to whit, to whoo. But if examination’s hard At school, I wonder why Joe says, when asked how he got on, *Ho-aw-wi! Horses, cows, dogs and birds All avoid the use of words. Joe can too and not half try, Ho-aw-wi!
*Preferably pronounced Oh, all right.
Our Old Friend
There’s a pleasant looking fellow living miles and miles away, Yet he manages to comes and see us nearly every day. He’ll peep in at the keyhole or through the smallest crack, And say, ‘Good morning, children! Aren’t you glad to see me back?’ Then he glances through the door, and he laughs along the floor And chases to the cellar all the shadows big and black. [page 278] No matter where he shows his face he is a welcome guest, He always wears a golden coat and lovely yellow vest. His smile is broad and generous—bright as a field of corn, And he makes you feel so frolicsome and glad that you were born. Now when you have guessed his name, you will praise him just the same, And will give him smile for smile when he appears tomorrow morn.
The driver whistled as he awoke, And he drove the dust like a cloud of smoke; He drove the clouds like a flock of sheep, He drove the leaves in a hurrying heap. He whipped the hats from the passers-by, And tossed them up till they seemed to fly, He drove the rain into level lines, And roared in the tops of the tallest pines. He never paused in his greeting rough, For it seemed he could not go fast enough, But where he was going none could say, And all you would hear if you went that way, Was, ‘Oh, what a dreadfully windy day!’ [page 279]
A great big house with such a lot of children, Happy little children, swinging all the day, Swinging and singing, and whispering together, Dancing to the tune that the merry winds play; Hiding the bird’s nest, sheltering the squirrel, Drooping o’er the dormouse, shadowing the mink, Playing with the raindrops, sifting the sunbeams, What a very busy time they’re having, don’t you think? Said the great tree-mothers, ‘If you will be very, Very, very good the whole summer through, All of you shall go to a big dance in autumn, Dressed in the prettiest style you ever knew. And after it is over and you begin to shiver, And down, down-drooping is each sleepy head, Won’t it be funny to see you all skipping And hopping and flying and jumping into bed?’ [page 280]
When you hear, loud and clear, on a sleepy afternoon, Such a noise as some boys very numerous might make, Whoops and cries, large in size, and a lively whistled tune, Scampering sounds, leaps and bounds, talk of pie and johnnycake; Then the fleeting dancing beat of half a dozen feet, Mixed with bumps, laughs and thumps, joyous shrieks and yelps, it’s plain You will say, sure as day, that the dog has gone to greet In the hall just a small lively boy from school again.
When Tommy learned the alphabet it took months more or less To teach him straight I, pointed A, round and crooked S. [page 281] We told him that the broken O was called the letter C, And that a table just in front turned it into a G, That F had roof and door knob and E roof, knob and floor, H was a bench between two posts, Q had a path before; P had a bundle on his back, B had two bundles, and T was a gimlet, Y a tree, a branch on either hand; M was fat N and W was simply double V, And anyone would know cross X, deep U and zigzag Z; R was K with a cover on, J was a 6 turned round, L had three corners, D with one straight line, one curved was found. But when poor Tommy with his hard won knowledge in his head, Went off to school he nearly swooned because the teacher said, ‘It cannot be your parents let you learn such ancient lore, We don’t teach little children their letters any more.’ [page 282]
Who e’er has watched a ploughman turning over The grassy sod, must have been moved to laughter To see from feces, poultry yard and clover, Crows, cowbirds, chickens, running fluttering after. Each diligently searches in the furrow, The robins near the plough, wrens at a distance; A chicken takes a beetle from a sparrow, But not without its mother’s kind assistance. Serene the ploughman treads, and all unknowing, His only care—to judge him by his actions— Is to make straight the way the plough is going: He moves unconscious of his benefactions. I think, were I a man, I would not yearn to Adorn the platform, parlour, or piano; For though applause is sweet, who would not turn to The living earth that most becomes a man? Oh, [page 283] How good to plough the morning soil with Dobbin’s Ungrudging aid, and hear the children’s laughter As wrens and bluebirds, song sparrows and robins, Crows, hens, and cowbirds, flutter gayly after.
A Big Bedtime
Once there was a mother with a hundred million children, And when she said, ‘It’s time for bed, my dears,’ They all of them would sigh and answer ‘By and by,’ And drive their parents to the verge of tears. So then she told her troubles to a neighbour. ‘O Mr. Wind, lend me your rod,’ she said; ‘I really hate to whip,’ she owned with trembling lip, ‘But otherwise they’d never go to bed.’ ‘Dear Madam Nature, let me do the whipping,’ Said Mr. Wind, ‘it’s fun; do let me, please.’ When this the children heard, without a single word, They scurried off to bed as thick as bees. [page 284] The willing ones went off with just a love-pat, The stubborn fellows fought and came to grief. Then down came the sleet and a splendid snowy sheet, And covered up each little naughty leaf.
When the sun is hot and growing hotter, And the pond is dry as the ink on a blotter, When dust on the lilac leaves is showing, And the grass is hay before the mowing, Then up where the orchard leaves are brittle, Comes the scrape of a violin sharp and little, Zeek, Zeek, Creak, creak, Sweet is the heat of the midsummer’s cheek. When everything glares excepting the pine-trees, And mercury stands tip-toe in the nineties, When even the grasshoppers, tree-toads and crickets Are gasping for breath in the meadows and thickets, [page 285] Then he tucks his fiddle beneath his green chin, And screek, screek, goes the shrill violin. Zeek, zeek, Creak, creak, Sweet is the heat of the weather I seek. Dear little fiddler, oh, how I wonder What you creep into or what you crawl under When the cold rain comes. Shall summer-lover, Where is your refuge and what is your cover? Play once again now the chill days begin, Weak, weak, goes the shrill violin. Weak, weak, Meek, meek, Music is weak as the days grow bleak.
There is something in thanksgiving That is better than the best Of the things upon the table or the Most successful jest, Or the smell of lemon, nutmeg, Summer savory and cloves, Or the sound of fires a-crackling In the newly lighted stoves. [page 286] ‘Tis the soul of good companionship and hospitality When Grandpa leads the people out and says so beamingly, ‘All of you take cheers Jest anywheers, Set by and lay to!’ It isn’t perfect grammar or cultivated charm That puts look in Grandma’s eyes when she accepts his arm. There’s something sad and long-ago-ish, yet so sweet, so sweet! The children and grand-children follow them with happy feet. Then all of us are standing while Grandpa’s saying grace, And then he calls, ‘Come Polly, Bessie, Dick, up here’s a place. All of you take cheers jest anywheers, set by and lay to!’
Little Gracie wrote a letter, it was only just a line And ‘twas printed very neatly: ‘Won’t you be my valentine?’ With a heart And a dart [page 287] And a Cupid pink and smart, And a shower of doves and roses, some together, some apart. These were only coloured pictures, cut from plates, you understand, Smeared with mucilage and pounded with a moist and chubby hand. Little Gracie in her letter printed neatly as before, ‘To the very sweetest dolly in my Uncle Joseph’s store:’ With an ‘Oh! Uncle Joe,’ Laughing loud and smiling low, Pinned the note upon the sweetest dolly in a lovely row. Pinned another note the said, ‘Yes, dear, I’ll be your valentine.’ Then he wrapped it up in paper and he tied it up in twine. Little Gracie was at supper when the bell went ting a ling And she said, ‘Why there’s the postman, Oh, I wonder what he’ll bring?’ Through the hall Pattered small [page 288] Eager feet and then a call, ‘Papa, mamma, Florence, here’s the dearest valentine of all; It’s that lovely, lovely dolly in a satin dress—Oh, Oh, Isn’t she as sweet—as sweet as—most as sweet as Uncle Joe!’
No, No, November!
What ho, November! Autumn crowns the glowing sphere, Winter’s grasp is full of cheer, You between them sad and drear Bind your brows with leafage sere, Saying, ‘I remember When the year was not a bier;’ Ah, woe, November! If so, November! Months like varying moods are sent: May is rapture, June content, Strength is with October blent, But when pale Discouragement Tends a dying ember, Weakly bent and sorely spent, Then lo, November! [page 289] Yet, O November! Red and gold before you glow, Dazzling near you shines the snow; Grief like yours is brief, and so Think not that with you I’ll go Sighing, ‘I remember!’ Weeping low and wailing; no, No, no, November!
A Country Girl’s Gifts
Among the country fields she strives, Apart from lavish living; And yet with tireless skill contrives To know the bliss of giving. The home-made gifts that from her hand Into a lengthening list pass, Would make the dullest understand The joy she feels at Christmas. A clover pillow and a fan Of peacock feathers tinted; A woodland cane—a lame old man Of it somehow had hinted; Some candy breathing sassafras, Or elderberry, maybe, In bag of bark sewed up with grass, To cheer the neighbour’s baby. A poppy-box with crimson leaves [page 290] Between its two glass covers; A rosejar where dead summer weaves A spell to thrall her lovers; A birchen book of ample size For valued thought or sonnet; Along its margins butterflies And moths are pasted on it; Ferns fastened singly and with care, A pictured face completing; A maiden framed in maidenhair— Their delicacies meeting; A paper cutter off the tree Wind-felled in January But why go on? So easily Love makes her gifts to vary. To give from out our wealth—or waste— Imparts some joy to living; But only loving hearts can taste The luxury of giving.
A Narrow Escape
A dear little bird flew in the woodshed, Chilly and hungry and looking for bread. And one moment later the door opened wide, And I sauntered in with the cat at my side. In a frenzy of fright the little things flew, When what did that terrible kitty cat do [page 291] But pounce on the bird. I pounced on the cat, And then just as quickly you could say scat, Took the bird from the cat’s mouth and let it go free; It lit on a fence and remarked, ‘Twee-dee.’ My little Twee-dee, you will have to look out. You can’t expect Me to be always about When cats are around. Yes, I’ll get you some bread, But remember in future keep out of the shed.
A Lovely Time
When I was a girl in youth’s fair clime All my thought was ‘a lovely time’. A perfectly lovely time indeed Was the length and the depth and the height of my need. I said, I will work and think and plan To have just as good a time as I can; And life shall be, when I come to my prime, That grand, sweet song called ‘A Lovely Time’. [page 292] Well now with my love for my brothers four, My sisters and parents and neighbours a score, My friends who number a hundred and three, And my own adorable family, My love for my baby, my love for my home, My love for all lovers wherever they roam, My busy life, like a silver chime, Is a lovely tune to a lovely time.
We sent a valentine one day To our dear father far away. It was a splendid big affair, Of loves and doves and flowers fair, Of cupids, roses, hearts and lace, And on each rose you saw a face— A photograph so cute and wee Of Rob and Lou and Babe and me. A big rose made the thing complete With mother’s picture smiling sweet, And verses; ‘Dear, for thee we pine; Say, wilt thou be our valentine?’ Soon came the answer, thick and wide, And thrillingly we looked inside. ‘Twas just a beauty, strewn with lots And piles of blue forget-me-nots. [page 293] And verses too: ‘Dear loves of mine, I sure will be your valentine, Your love is sweeter than the flowers That perfume all the summer hours. Each night before my eyelids close I kiss with ardour every rose. Goodbye! As long as sunbeams shine I’ll be your loving valentine.’
The Baby’s Photograph
That’s the baby’s photograph, Most as big as Grace herself. See it up there on the shelf? Dimpled face all one broad laugh. Not a sniggle, nor a giggle, Nor the least self-conscious wriggle, But as if a laugh should start From the center of the heart. Ah, ha, ha! and Oh, ho, ho! Shaking her from top to toe. Well, when I feel mean as sin I look up and catch that grin, And of course I’m smiling too; Can’t look at it and feel blue. Neither can her ma look sad, When that little face, as glad [page 294] As sunshine, cheers the room, Driving off the air of gloom. Even little Grace herself Points up to the chimney shelf When she cries, and wipes her eyes, Says, ‘Dat’s me,’ in some surprise. Then with a reflected laugh Greets her merry photograph. ‘Twasn’t much to get her taken, But—well, I should feel forsaken If we missed that bubbling laugh On our baby’s photograph.
When Father Is ‘It’
When it rains all day or the weather is rough, And dull in the house we sit, There is fun to be had playing blind man’s buff When father is ‘It.’ We tie a big handkerchief over his eyes. He moves very quick for a man of his size, And knows where we are by our laughter and cries, When father is ‘It.’ [page 295] The little girl creep up and tickle his ear, When father is ‘It.’ He doesn’t quite catch them, but comes pretty near, When father is ‘It.’ They pull at his coat tails, he gives a great start, Then spins around twice and is off like a dart. We dive ‘neath his fingers with loud-beating heart, When father is ‘It.’ He whoops and he prances, he capers and bounds, When father is ‘It.’ We’re a set of wild heathen, to judge by the sounds, When father is ‘It.’ Tom laughs till he has to lie down on the floor, And Archie and Joe—you should just hear them roar, For we feel that we simply can’t stand any more When father is ‘It.’ [page 296]
In Falling Snow
The snowy flakes are falling On roof and water spout, I hear the children calling, ‘O Ernest, Ed, come out!’ And then they go snow-balling With merry laugh and shout, While Teddy tumble sprawling, The funny little trout! Now here is Richie hauling His brother young and stout, While all the rest are mauling And pulling him about. Oh, dear, what joyous squalling, What happy-hearted bawling, It really sounds appalling. And yet I have no doubt It’s better far than crawling Around the fire with gout!
The Five Pair of Twins
Polly, Polly, Polly, tell the five pair of twins,— The tiny scraps of small ones, The thin and toppling tall ones, The cunningly-devised ones, [page 297] The four just middling-sized ones,— We’re going to have a candy pull— Tonight the fun begins— So Polly, Polly, Polly tell the five pair of twins. Polly, Polly, Polly, tell the five pair of twins They may make some candy dollies, Like the china one of Mollie’s, And some yellow candy kittens, And a pair of candy mittens, And a lot of candy fishes With the sweetest set of fins, So Polly, Polly, Polly, tell the five pair of twins. But Polly, Polly, Polly, if the five pair of twins Go swimming in molasses, Or to smearing Grandma’s glasses, Or to setting fire to paper, Or—well any other caper, They’ll all be tied together Till they’re sorry for their sins. So Polly, Polly, Polly, warn the five pair of twins. [page 298] And Polly, Polly, Polly, when the five pair of twins And the children of our neighbours Have finished with their labours, While without the sleet is pelting, And within the candy’s melting, You must scrub those sticky infants Till they’re neat as jeweled pins. Did you know your thumbs and fingers were the five pair of twins? [page 299]
|Alone in the Wood||122|
|Among the Leaves||56|
|An Old Influence||113|
|Apple Blossom Time||240|
|April in the City||4|
|As Good as a Throne||103|
|As Leaves in the Stream||118|
|At the Window||39|
|August in November||230|
|Baby’s Photograph, The||294|
|Baby Who Was Three-Fourths Good||271|
|Beginning and End||147|
|Big Bedtime, A||284|
|Big Moon, The||56|
|Bird’s Hour, The||67|
|Blind Man, The||156|
|Boating by Starlight||108|
|Branch to the Bird, The||68|
|Bride of Death, The||149|
|Budding Child, The||148|
|By Fields of Grass||221|
|By Sea and Lake||255|
|Canty Thought, A||79|
|Cheerful Ducks, The||253|
|Children in the City||47|
|Climbing Trees, The||216|
|Come Back Again||45|
|Come, O Spring||4|
|Conquered Peace, The||181|
|Country Girl’s Gifts, A||290|
|Crosses and Kisses||130|
|Crowning Satire, The||131|
|Dead Face, The||77|
|Deep Sea and the Devil, The||95|
|Deserted House, The||152|
|Devoted Mother, A||249|
|Doll’s Slumber Song||267|
|Door of Spring, The||1|
|Do You Remember?||74|
|Dusty Trumpet, The||193|
|Each to Her Own||203|
|Every Common Day||134|
|Fairer Art, A||120|
|Fall and Spring||52|
|Fate and Freewill||200|
|Fields of Darkness, The||33|
|First Bluebird, The||66|
|First Stone, The||165|
|Five Pair of Twins, The||297|
|Flower and Flame||32|
|Followers, The||234, 283|
|Four Classes of Children||239|
|From My Window||13|
|Funny Child, A||271|
|Gift and the Need, The||169|
|Girls Among the Ancient Trees, The||170|
|Give me the Poorest Weed||27|
|Give me Thorns||178|
|Going to the Country||245|
|Golden Crowned Kinglet, The||65|
|Good Brown Earth, The||55|
|Grandmother Speaks Her Mind||196|
|Green Boughs of Home||15|
|Haunted Room, The||90|
|Hay Field, The||24|
|Heart and the Cross, The||133|
|Heart of Spring, The||22|
|Helping a Little||262|
|Hester Prynne Speaks||182|
|Hill of Sleep, The||174|
|Horned Larks in Winter, The||71|
|House of Love, The||93|
|House of the Trees, The||5|
|House We Used to Live In, The||138|
|Hut by the Sea, The||124|
|If One Might Live||14|
|If You Love Me||80|
|In a Dark Hour||221|
|Indigo Bird, The||62|
|In Earliest Spring||6|
|In Falling Snow||297|
|In Summer Rain||23|
|In the Crowd||222|
|In the Grass||20|
|In the Heart of the Woods||41|
|In the Water||260|
|Knowing the Worst||189|
|Larger Love, The||206|
|Last Robin, The||69|
|Last Word, The||173|
|Laughing Crow, The||243|
|Leaves, The||41, 280|
|Line from Emerson, A||150|
|Lips and Eyes||86|
|Little City Child, The||259|
|Little Joe and the English Language||277|
|Little Noon, The||116|
|Little Wrenches, The||162|
|Lonely Lake, The||190|
|Long Days of the Year, The||39|
|Lost Maple, The||274|
|Love and Poverty||92|
|Lovely Time, A||292|
|Luck in the House||146|
|March Night, A||2|
|March Onward, The||3|
|Mental Family Tree, A||246|
|Midday in Midsummer, A||34|
|Moonlit River, The||211|
|Mother and Child||125|
|My Guardian Angel||119|
|Narrow Escape, A||291|
|Naughty Parrot, The||250|
|Nightingale, and the Thorn, The||105|
|New Clean Slate, A||98|
|News of Life||115|
|No, No, November||289|
|Noonday of the Year||36|
|Not at Home||175|
|November and December||231|
|Old Home, The||127|
|Old Years and New Days||179|
|One Day of Ecstasy||121|
|One Face, The||204|
|Orphan Drake, The||235|
|Our Old Friend||278|
|Passing Year, The||60|
|Pasture Field, The||37|
|Patient Earth, The||163|
|Pity Me Not||150|
|Playing Tame Bear||264|
|Poet’s Daughter, The||169|
|Poet’s Joy and Gratitude||106|
|Poet’s Spring, The||101|
|Point Defiance Park||217|
|Prayer of the Year, The||161|
|Prodigal Son, The||195|
|Profitable Loss, A||84|
|Radiant Road, The||135|
|Rain-Pipe and the Roof, The||251|
|Rainy Day, A||45|
|Rainy Morning, A||7|
|Red Rose, The||145, 218|
|Red-Winged Blackbird, The||68|
|Rhyming Mother, A||269|
|Rich Mr. Smith, The||104|
|Roads of Old, The||158|
|Rose in the Heart, The||124|
|School of Pain, The||114|
|Screech Owl, The||66|
|Shy Sun, The||24|
|Silent Snow, The||225|
|Skipping Rope Girl, The||241|
|Sky Path, The||10|
|Snapping Turtle, The||270|
|Sometime, I Fear||212|
|Song of a Spoon||265|
|Song-Sparrow’s Nest, The||63|
|Soul and Body||137|
|Soul Knows, The||188|
|Sound of the Axe, The||42|
|Stars and Flowers||112|
|Stump Fence, The||58|
|Summer in the City||31|
|Summer Sleeping Room, A||19|
|Sun in the Woods, The||27|
|Swiftest Thought, The||211|
|Tangled in Stars||226|
|There is a Solitude||233|
|Three Years Old||172|
|To a Young Child||142|
|To a Young Girl Weeping||200|
|To a Young Wife||184|
|To H. C.||215|
|To My Friend||85|
|To the Mark||136|
|To the October Wind||54|
|To the Wistaria||36|
|Tree Top Mornings||237|
|Under the Apple Tree||248|
|Under the Arches||134|
|Under the King||89|
|Unforgotten Grave, The||125|
|Villager in Love, The||196|
|Waste of Time, A||102|
|Weeks that Walk in Green||10|
|What Love Remembers||83|
|When Days are Long||29|
|When Dimplefeet Was Cupid||257|
|When Father Is ‘It’||295|
|When I am Weariest||209|
|When It’s Time for Leaves to Fly||79|
|When Our Cheese is Done||274|
|When Teddy Went to the Woods||254|
|When Time Turns||88|
|When Twilight Comes||42|
|When We Cease to Toil and Suffer||140|
|Where Pleasures Grow||44|
|White Gifts, The||107|
|White Moth, The||108|
|Whity Pinky Pig, The||255|
|Wild Columbine, The||87|
|Wild Jessamine, The||30|
|Wind of Death, The||160|
|Wind of Memory, The||176|
|Wind Spirit, The||187|
|Wind World, The||47|
|Winter Picture, A||59|
|Wise Frogs, The||236|
|Wish, A||123, 178|
|Woodside Way, A||8|
|Words and Tones||183|
|World Well Lost, The||119|
|Yesterday and To-day||12|
|Youth and Age||127|
|Youth in Age||208|
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