Nay, but we MUST! No tiny bud But thrills with rapture at the flood Of fresh young life which stirs to-day. The same wild thrill irradiates our blood; Why hint of "May"?
For us are coming fast and soon The delicate witcheries of June; July, with ankles deep in hay; The bounteous Autumn. Like a mocking tune Again sounds, "May."
Spring's last-born darling, clear-eyed, sweet, Pauses a moment, with white twinkling feet, And golden locks in breezy play, Half teasing and half tender, to repeat Her song of "May."
Ah, month of hope! all promised glee, All merry meanings, lie in thee; Surely no cloud can daunt thy day. The ripe lips part in smiling mockery, And murmur, "May."
Still from the smile a comfort may we glean; Although our "must-be's," "shall-be's," idle seem, Close to our hearts one little word we lay: We may not be as happy as we dream, But then we—may.
In the long, bright summer, dear to bird and bee, When the woods are standing in liveries green and gay, Merry little voices sound from every tree, And they whisper secrets all the day.
If we knew the language, we should hear strange things; Mrs. Chirry, Mrs. Flurry, deep in private chat. "How are all your nestlings, dear? Do they use their wings? What was that sad tale about a cat?"
"Where is your new cottage?" "Hush! I pray you, hush". Please speak very softly, dear, and make no noise. It is on the lowest bough of the lilac bush. And I am so dreadfully afraid of boys.
"Mr. Chirry chose the spot, without consulting me; Such a very public place, and insecure for it, I can scarcely sleep at night for nervousness; but he Says I am a silly thing and doesn't mind a bit."
"So the Bluebirds have contracted, have they, for a house? And a nest is under way for little Mr. Wren? Hush, dear, hush! Be quiet, dear; quiet as a mouse. These are weighty secrets, and we must whisper them."
Close the downy dowagers nestle on the bough While the timorous voices soften low with dread, And we, walking underneath, little reckon their Mysteries are couching in the tree-tops overhead.
Ah, the pretty whisperers! It was very well When the leaves were thick and green, awhile ago— Leaves are secret-keepers; but since the last leaf fell There is nothing hidden from the eyes below.
Bared are the brown tenements, and all the world may see What Mrs. Chirry, Mrs. Flurry, hid so close that day. In the place of rustling wings, cold winds rustling be, And thickly lie the icicles where once the warm brood lay.
Shall we tease the birdies, when they come back in spring,— Tease and tell them we have fathomed all their secrets small, Every secret hiding-place and dear and precious, thing, Which they left behind the leaves, the red leaves, in the fall?
They would only laugh at us and wink their saucy eyes, And answer, "Last year's secrets are all past and told. New years bring new happenings and fresh mysteries, You are very welcome to the stale ones of the old!"
HOW THE LEAVES CAME DOWN.
I'll tell you how the leaves came down. The great Tree to his children said, "You're getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown, Yes, very sleepy, little Red; It is quite time you went to bed."
"Ah!" begged each silly, pouting leaf, "Let us a little longer May; Dear Father Tree, behold our grief, 'Tis such a very pleasant day We do not want to go away."
So, just for one more merry day To the great Tree the leaflets clung, Frolicked and danced and had their way, Upon the autumn breezes swung, Whispering all their sports among,
"Perhaps the great Tree will forget And let us stay until the spring If we all beg and coax and fret." But the great Tree did no such thing; He smiled to hear their whispering.
"Come, children all, to bed," he cried; And ere the leaves could urge their prayer He shook his head, and far and wide, Fluttering and rustling everywhere, Down sped the leaflets through the air.
I saw them; on the ground they lay, Golden and red, a huddled swarm, Waiting till one from far away, White bed-clothes heaped upon her arm, Should come to wrap them safe and warm.
The great bare Tree looked down and smiled. "Good-night, dear little leaves" he said; And from below each sleepy child Replied "Good-night," and murmured, "It is so nice to go to bed."
Over the lapsing lagune all the day Urging my gondola with oar-strokes light, Always beside one shadowy waterway I pause and peer, with eager, jealous sight, Toward the Piazza where Pepita stands, Wooing the hungry pigeons from their flight.
Dark the canal; but she shines like the sun, With yellow hair and dreaming, wine-brown eyes. Thick crowd the doves for food. She gives ME none. She sees and will not see. Vain are my sighs. One slow, reluctant stroke. Aha! she turns, Gestures and smiles, with coy and feigned surprise.
Shifting and baffling is our Lido track, Blind and bewildering all the currents flow. Me they perplex not. In the midnight black I hold my way secure and fearless row, But ah! what chart have I to her, my Sea, Whose fair, mysterious depths I long to know?
Subtle as sad mirage; true and untrue She seems, and, pressing ever on in vain, I yearn across the mocking, tempting blue. Never she draws more near, never I gain A furlong's space toward where she sits and a miles; Smiles and cares nothing for my love and pain.
How shall I win her? What may strong arm do Against such gentle distance? I can say No more than this, that when she stands to woo The doves beside the shadowy waterway, And when I look and long, sometimes—she smiles Perhaps she will do more than smile one day!
Light and darkness, brown and fair, Ha! they think I do not see,— I behind them, swiftly rowing. Rowing? Yes, but eyes are free, Eyes and fancies:—
Now what fire in looks and glances! Now the dark head bends, grown bolder. Ringlets mingle—silence—broken (All unconscious of beholder) By a kiss!
What could lovers ask or miss In such moonlight, such June weather, But a boat like this, (me rowing!) And forever and together To be floating?
Ah! if she and I such boating Might but share one day, some fellow With strong arms behind, Pasquale, Or Luigi, with gay awning, (She likes yellow!)
She—I mean Pepita—mellow Moonlight on the waves, no other To break silence or catch whispers, All the love which now I smother Told and spoken,—
Listened to, a kiss for token: How, my Signor? What! so soon Homeward bound? We, born of Venice, Live by night and nap by noon. If 'twere me, now,
With my brown-eyed girl, this prow Would not turn for hours still; But the Signor bids, commands, I am here to do his will, He is master.
Glide we on; so, faster, faster. Now the two are safely landed. Buono mano, grazie, Signor, They who love are open-handed. Now, Pepita!
She has said "yes," and the world is a-smite. There she sits as she sat in my dream; There she sits, and the blue waves gleam, And the current bears us along the while For happy mile after happy mile, A fairy boat on a fairy stream.
The Angelus bells siring to and fro, And the sunset lingers to hear their swell, For the sunset loves such music well. A big, bright moon is hovering low, Where the edge of the sky is all aglow, Like the middle heart of a red, red shell.
The Lido floats like a purple flower; Orange and rose are the sails at sea; Silk and pink the surf-line free Tumbles and chimes, and the perfect hour Clasps us and folds us in its power, Folds us and holds us, my love and me.
Can there be sadness anywhere In the world to-night? Or tears or sighs Beneath such festal moon and skies? Can there be memory or despair? What is it, beloved? Why point you there, With sudden dew in those dearest eyes?
Yes! one sad thing on the happy earth! Like a mourner's veil in the bridal array, Or a sorrowful sigh in the music gay, A shade on the sun, in the feast a dearth, Drawn like a ghost across our way, Torcello sits and rebukes our mirth.
She sits a widow who sat as queen, Ashes on brows once crowned and bright; Woe in the eyes once full of light; Her sad, fair roses and manifold green, All bitter and pallid and heavy with night, Are full of the shadows of woes unseen.
Let us hurry away from her face unblest, Row us away, for the song is done, The Angelus bells cease, one by one, Pepita's head lies on my breast; But, trembling and full of a vague unrest, I long for the morrow and for the sun.
Yes, God has made me a woman, And I am content to be Just what He meant, not reaching out For other things, since He Who knows me best and loves me most has ordered this for me.
A woman, to live my life out In quiet womanly ways, Hearing the far-off battle, Seeing as through a haze The crowding, struggling world of men fight through their busy days.
I am not strong or valiant, I would not join the fight Or jostle with crowds in the highways To sully my garments white; But I have rights as a woman, and here I claim my right.
The right of a rose to bloom In its own sweet, separate way, With none to question the perfumed pink And none to utter a nay If it reaches a root or points, a thorn, as even a rose-tree may.
The right of the lady-birch to grow, To grow as the Lord shall please, By never a sturdy oak rebuked, Denied nor sun nor breeze, For all its pliant slenderness, kin to the stronger trees.
The right to a life of my own,— Not merely a casual bit Of somebody else's life, flung out That, taking hold of it, I may stand as a cipher does after a numeral writ.
The right to gather and glean What food I need and can From the garnered store of knowledge Which man has heaped for man, Taking with free hands freely and after an ordered plan.
The right—ah, best and sweetest!— To stand all undismayed Whenever sorrow or want or sin Call for a woman's aid, With none to call or question, by never a look gainsaid.
I do not ask for a ballot; Though very life were at stake, I would beg for the nobler justice That men for manhood's sake Should give ungrudgingly, nor withhold till I must fight and take.
The fleet foot and the feeble foot Both seek the self-same goal, The weakest soldier's name is writ On the great army-roll, And God, who made man's body strong, made too the woman's soul
I sit at evening's scented close, In fulness of the summer-tide; All dewy fair the lily glows, No single petal of the row; Has fallen to dim the rose's pride.
Sweet airs, sweet harmonies of hue, Surround, caress me everywhere; The spells of dusk, the spells of dew, My senses steal, my reason woo, And sing a lullaby to tare,
But vainly do the warm airs sing, All vain the roses' rapturous breath; A chill blast, as from wintry wing, Smites on my heart, and, shuddering, I see the beauty changed to death.
Afar I see it loom and rise, That pitiless and icy shape. It blots the blue, it dims the skies; Amid the summer land it cries, "I come, and there is no escape!"
O, bitter drop in bloom and sweet! O, canker on the smiling day! Have we but climbed the hill to meet Thy fronting fare, thy eyes of sleet? To hate, yet dare not turn away?
I sit beneath a leaden sky, Amid the piled and drifted snow; My feet are on the graves where lie The roses which made haste to die So long, so very long ago.
The sobbing wind is fierce and strong, Its cry is like a human wail, But in my heart it sings this song: "Not long, O Lord! O Lord, not long! Surely thy spring-time shall prevail."
Out of the darkness and the cold, Out of the wintry depths I lean, And lovingly I clasp and hold The promises, and see unrolled A vision of the summer green.
O, life in death, sweet plucked from pain! O, distant vision fair to see! Up the long hill we press and strain; We can bear all things and attain, If once our faces turn to Thee!
IN THE MIST.
Sitting all day in a silver mist, In silver silence all the day, Save for the low, soft kiss of spray, And the lisp of sands by waters kissed, As the tide draws up the bay.
Little I hear and nothing I see, Wrapped in that veil by fairies spun; The solid earth is vanished for me, And the shining hours speed noiselessly, A web of shadow and sun.
Suddenly out of the shifting veil A magical bark, by the sunbeams lit, Flits like a dream,—or seems to flit,— With a golden prow and a gossamer sail, And the waves make room for it.
A fair, swift bark from some radiant realm, Its diamond cordage cuts the sky In glittering lines; all silently A seeming spirit holds the helm And steers: will he pass me by?
Ah, not for me is the vessel here! Noiseless and fast as a sea-bird's, flight, She swerves and vanishes from my sight; No flap of sail, no parting cheer,— She has passed into the light.
Sitting some day in a deeper mist, Silent, alone, some other day, An unknown bark from an unknown bay, By unknown waters lapped and kissed, Shall near me through the spray.
No flap of sail, no scraping of keel: Shadow, dim, with a banner dark, It will hover, will pause, and I shall feel A hand which beckons, and, shivering, steal To the cold strand and embark.
Embark for that far mysterious realm, Whence the fathomless, trackless waters flow. Shall I see a Presence dim, and know A Gracious Hand upon the helm, Nor be afraid to go?
And through black wave and stormy blast, And out of the fog-wreath dense and dun, Guided and held, shall the vessel run, Gain the fair haven, night being past, And anchor in the sun?
Could my heart hold another one? I cannot tell. Sometimes it seems an ample dome, Sometimes a cell,
Sometimes a temple filled with saints, Serene and fair, Whose eyes are pure from mortal taints All lilies are.
Sometimes a narrow shrine, in which One precious fare Smiles ever from its guarded niche, With deathless grace.
Sometimes a nest, where weary things, And weal; and shy, Are brooded under mother wings Till they can fly.
And then a palace, with wide rooms Adorned and dressed, Where eager slaves pour sweet perfumes For each new guest.
Whiche'er it be, I know always Within that door— Whose latch it is not mine to raise— Blows evermore,
With breath of balm upon its wing, A soft, still air, Which makes each closely folded thing Look always fair.
My darlings, do you feel me near, As every day Into this hidden place and dear I take my way?
Always you stand in radiant guise, Always I see A noiseless welcome in the eyes You turn on me.
And, whether I come soon or late, Whate'er befall, Always within the guarded gate I find you all.
All green and fair the Summer lies, Just budded from the bud of Spring, With tender blue of wistful skies, And winds which softly sing.
Her clock has struck its morning hours; Noon nears—the flowery dial is true; But still the hot sun veils its powers, In deference to the dew.
Yet there amid the fresh new green, Amid the young broods overhead, A single scarlet branch is seen, Swung like a banner red;
Tinged with the fatal hectic flush Which, when October frost is in the near, Flames on each dying tree and bush, To deck the dying year.
And now the sky seems not so blue, The yellow sunshine pales its ray, A sorrowful, prophetic hue Lies on the radiant day,
As mid the bloom and tenderness I catch that scarlet menace there, Like a gray sudden wintry tress Set in a child's bright hair.
The birds sing on, the roses blow, But like a discord heard but now, A stain upon the petal's snow Is that one sad, red bough.
"HE THAT BELIEVETH SHALL NOT MAKE HASTE."
The aloes grow upon the sand, The aloes thirst with parching heat; Year after year they waiting stand, Lonely and calm, and front the beat Of desert winds; and still a sweet And subtle voice thrills all their veins: "Great patience wins; it still remains, After a century of pains, To you to bloom and be complete."
I grow upon a thorny waste; Hot noontide lies on all the way, And with its scorching breath makes haste Each freshening dawn to burn and slay, Yet patiently I bide and stay: Knowing the secret of my fate, The hour of bloom, dear Lord, I wait, Come when it will, or soon or late, A hundred years are but a day.
MY LITTLE GHOST.
I know where it lurks and hides, In the midst of the busy house, In the midst of the children's glee, All clay its shadow bides: Nobody knows but me.
On a closet-shelf it dwells, In the darkest corner of all, Mid rolls of woollen and fur, And faint, forgotten smells Of last year's lavender.
That a ghost has its dwelling there Nobody else would guess,— "Only a baby's shoe, A curl of golden hair," You would say, "a toy or two,—
"A broken doll, whose lips And cheeks of waxen bloom Show dents of fingers small,— Little, fair finger-tips,— A worn sash,—that is all."
Little to see or to guess; But whenever I open the door, There, faithful to its post, With its eyes' sad tenderness, I see my little ghost.
And I hasten to shut the door, I shut it tight and fast, Lest the sweet, sad thing get free, Lest it flit beside on the floor, And sadden the day for me,
Lest between me and the sun, And between me and the heavens, And the laugh in the children's eyes, The shadowy feet should run, The faint gold curls arise
Like a gleam of moonlight pale, And all the warmth and the light Should die from the summer day, And the laughter turn to wail, And I should forget to pray.
So I keep the door shut fast, And my little ghost shut in, And whenever I cross the hall I shiver and hurry past; But I love it best of all.
How did they keep his birthday then, The little fair Christ, so long ago? O, many there were to be housed and fed, And there was no place in the inn, they said, So into the manger the Christ must go, To lodge with the cattle and not with men.
The ox and the ass they munched their hay They munched and they slumbered, wondering not, And out in the midnight cold and blue The shepherds slept, and the sheep slept too, Till the angels' song and the bright star ray Guided the wise men to the spot.
But only the wise men knelt and praised, And only the shepherds came to see, And the rest of the world cared not at all For the little Christ in the oxen's stall; And we are angry and amazed That such a dull, hard thing should be!
How do we keep his birthday now? We ring the bells and we raise the strain, We hang up garland, everywhere And bid the tapers, twinkle fair, And feast and frolic—and then we go Back to the Mine old lives again.
Are we so better, then, than they Who failed the new-born Christ to see? To them a helpless babe,—to us He shines a Saviour glorious, Our Lord, our Friend, our All—yet we Are half asleep this Christmas day.
Thank God for life: life is not sweet always. Hands may he heavy-laden, hearts care full, Unwelcome nights follow unwelcome days, And dreams divine end in awakenings dull. Still it is life, anil life is cause for praise. This ache, this restlessness, this quickening sting, Prove me no torpid and inanimate thing, Prove me of Him who is of life the Spring. I am alive!—and that is beautiful.
Thank God for Love: though Love may hurt and wound Though set with sharpest thorns its rose may be, Roses are not of winter, all attuned Must be the earth, full of soft stir, and free And warm ere dawns the rose upon its tree. Fresh currents through my frozen pulses run; My heart has tasted summer, tasted sun, And I can thank Thee, Lord, although not one Of all the many roses blooms for me.