A LITTLE WINDOW
JEAN M. SNYDER
A LITTLE WINDOW
JEAN M. SNYDER
"In good sooth, my masters this is no door, yet it is a little window that looketh upon a great world."
FOSTER & STEWART PUBLISHING CORPORATION BUFFALO, NEW YORK
All but two of the verses in this volume originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, and are reprinted by permission.
The two exceptions are "Joy" (page 46) and "Triumph" (page 49), which are also copyrighted and reprinted by permission.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Brook 8
In Eden Valley 9
A Moment 11
The Month of Moonlight 12
Heart's Ease 14
The Sign Reads—"To Troutbeck" 15
I, Too 16
In Early Evening 17
Fearless Winging 18
September's End 23
A Reminder 31
Buffalo Harbor 32
From a Train Window 34
A Poem of Color 37
When You Were a Little Girl 42
Petit Trianon 45
Twilight Song Service 48
A Little Window
Have you walked in the woods When twilight wraps a veil of mist Around the gray-green trees In early spring? It is then the snow-white trillium Gleam like stars from the carpet Of last year's leaves: And tall white violets glow Like clouds of nebulae along the path. And flecked, like points of light In the quiet pools of water Among the gray-green boles, Are the stars of heaven.
(Westfield, N. Y.)
Curling and humming its cadences, It slips past me under the rim of the gorge, As I peer down through the scarlet sumacs. Sparkling in the sunlight, Shimmering in the moonlight, On and on it goes, A silvery sheet of song.
In Eden Valley
A spray of orange berries etched against the silver of a stone wall:
A scarlet vine encircling a golden sapling;
On the ground, a carmine robe that had slipped from the shoulders of a maple.
A sweep of meadow, A curve of bronzy hill, A glow of ruby and amethyst And the evergreens making deep quiet spots in it.
Silent, I stood in the forest— Lured by the liquid song Of a thrush. Clear, it was, then fading And softly echoed, As he slipped into the embrace Of the night. So pure, so holy, was his song That my heart was calmed And I was filled With serenity.
The beaten silver waters cut By the prow of our ship, Send off stars of phosphorous To vie with the stars overhead. Nothing but sky and the starlight, And a stretch of limitless sea, Nothing but peace and dominion,— Silence, immensity.
The Month of Moonlight
Moonlight is not cold! It is tender and benignant, Softening all it touches, Hiding the roughness, Covering the coarseness, With a glow of silver splendor And a lucent flood Of beauty.
There come to the flowers In my garden Butterflies, golden-spotted tawny, Blue-spangled and sulphur; Glistening dragon-flies, zooming bumble bees, Droning honey-bees.
Softly whirring comes The vivid humming-bird, Sipping, sipping all day long. At nightfall I hear the flutter of the Luna's wings, as She caresses the velvet cheek Of the lily.
I love to tread a winding path Through the woods, And, world weary, pause upon it. The trees bend and enclose me In brooding calm; I feel the presence of Deity.
I hear the cadence of the stillness— A stillness so alive. The whisper of the leaves, The song of the brook over golden stone The whir of a bird's wings; And I know the presence of Deity.
The Sign Reads—"To Troutbeck"
An upcurving lane, hedged high, An ancient stile, A rambling path, A brook, And musk,— Golden bells of fragrance, Fusing all the odors Of English earth.
Robin, robin, Shouting your song, Your throat swelling With joy! Yes, I hear, I know What you say. For I, too, Would sing My praise and Gratitude To God!
In Early Evening
When I drive through The villages and the countryside In early evening, And see people sitting in gardens Or at their doors In peace and contentment, I long to stop and speak to them. They might tell me of a loved one Doing some great work In a big city, Or of a deep sorrow, And I might say a word To help lighten it. They might show me treasured china Or a bit of lace, handmade; Once some one did. And I could talk with the children. I long to do this, But it always seems That there is a hurry To get to the next place.
Into Niagara's abyss of blackness, Into its cavernous chaos, I saw birds wing. Sweeping down Through the mist Of its mighty waters, Undaunted by the roar, Unmindful of the churning, Of the terror of its power, On sure pinions And happy in flight They dipped and soared and Mounted, upward and upward. Into the light And the rainbow Above them.
In spring my hemlock Dances gayly in flounces Of jade green lace.
In summer moonlight When a soft wind stirs She dances with a delicate sapling. They sway and bend in the wind, And bow to the trees encircling. I hear the laughter of their leaves.
In autumn she dances With beech leaves in her hair,
But in winter I have found her still, Crouching under a blanket of snow.
There is a spot in the woods That is "forever England" to me. A clump of beech trees Steeped in silence, Whose shade and solitude Shuts me in with my dreams. The sunshine slants through Their limpid leaves And turns them to translucent jade, Just as it does in an English spring. Violets are there, and I pluck them, Remembering the bluebells In the beech wood At Sevenoaks.
Down among the docks and elevators and railroad tracks On the way out of the city, I pass a tiny cottage so rickety That its neighbors crowd close To hold it up. But there it is, Its one window shining clean, and glowing With a plant in a tin can and pure white curtains. Hanging over the fence and filling the whole place With its beauty and almost hiding the cottage Is a peach tree in full bloom. In the doorway I glimpse a girl In a purple dress. But what matters the smoke and the noise and the fog To the peach tree?
(Eden, N. Y.)
Atop Aries hill am I, The lone flyer, throbbing Against the sunset Is higher. He sees more than I, But he cannot hear What I hear.
I hear the wood-thrush And the veery, Answer each other. I hear the voices Of happy children And the baying of hounds Float up from the valley; The chirp of the cricket At my feet, and, then, The silence of nightfall.
He sees more than I, But he cannot hear What I hear.
In the ash tree There is a soft rustling, Lingering, like A silken whisper, Quite different Than sound the other trees; As if the bronzy leaves Had much to say Before they part, And were loath To bid farewell.
(Westfield, N. Y.)
When I linger in my garden And see black swallowtails hovering Over white phlox and orange zinnias, And morning glories, in a heavenly blue mass Surge upward on their trellis; When I watch the scintillating humming-bird Sip from the trumpet blossoms across my doorway, I feel no urge of travel to behold More of earth's beauty. Here in my little garden I have it all— And here I am content.
Firelight, and strains of a symphony Wafting in. Outside, bare trees Against leaden skies Weave their own music That throbs with the rhythm Of the orchestra. The wind moans, and Strong, black branches Sway slowly, Mark the beat, Then stop. The wind hums, Delicate, lacelike tops Quiver and ripple With the quick response Of the violins. With the shriek of the wind They writhe and toss, Measuring the crescendo Of the brasses.
In an old world palace, Room after room Is filled with treasures— Old masters, jewels, glass. Yet all I remember Is the stark whiteness of a gardenia Blowing against a wall, And the fairy music of a fountain In the patio.
I needed the dawn, but My eyes beheld only clouds And a valley filled with mists And a mountain shutting out the east. I needed the dawn, so I could but wait. Surely, Slowly Through the clouds The light came, Like a presence Dispelling mist and cloud: Even the mountain Could not hide it. My eyes beheld all clear, And in the roseate glow, Like a diamond, Hung the morning star.
There was emptiness When the birds left in the fall. But to fill it came late butterflies, Dawdling flocks of brilliant things In clouds of scintillating beauty, Covering every bush and flower. As silently as they came did they disappear And in their place came the music Of the katydid and the cricket. Day and night the cheerful songs Of these tiny insects were our company.
An early blizzard Buried every green blade and bent to earth Great trees and slender saplings Under a thick weight of snow. To our door came the thrushes That we thought were gone,— Shy thrushes, that had turned their backs Upon us in summer and slipped Into the depth of the woods,— And whitethroats and tree sparrows, Unafraid, waiting for food. Even now the stillness is alive With the memory of these friendly folk.
When the storm rushes upon the deep woods, It lets down curtains of mist And sheets of rain, that drip Crystal beads among the trees. Way above, the branches lash and moan And weave. Below, it is still, Still as the undersea. Soft fern and feathery bracken Loom through the mist Like branching coral, And drifting leaves float down Like snowy fishes, Lazily moving.
Down beneath the office windows In a chestnut clump, A robin sings all day long, "Joyously, joyously!"
Above the whir of traffic, The bands and the sirens, Floats his song all day, "Joyously, joyously!"
The lilting song brings to me, The peace of field and merry brook, And I myself, sing all day, too, "Joyously, joyously!"
Some say that it is ugly and hurry on through, But I love these impressive symbols Of man's ingenuity. Here are the great grain elevators, looming In tones and shades of grey, veiled In the clouds of black smoke from the Tugs at their feet; Puffing engines shifting strings of cars, And huge ships nosed in against each other Or riding at anchor, and canal boats In straight lines at the docks. Farther on, across a slip, there are Mountains of ore in reds and brown, And pile upon pile of gravel and slag, And sand in soft saffron hues, Heaped up for the steel mills to devour; Those gigantic mills whose tall stacks Belch varicolored gases, against The deep blue of the inner harbor, Where the waves pound in Over the sea wall. All this cupped by the towering City skyscrapers, and outlined against The peaceful Eden hills, Miles to the south. And when I wait for the big bridge to lift For a freighter with its important tugs, I pull out of line, off to the side, And let the other cars go by, And look, and look. I never seem to get enough.
From a Train Window
Once, before dawn, In the Mohawk valley, Dots of light flashed And floated off Into the blackness, Like sparks of flame Blasted from the engine. Then more and more, Mile after mile, Almost never ending— Millions of fire-flies, Like tiny torches, Dancing over swamp lands In the night air.
Mountains, Veiled in shifting vapors, Mountains, Bleak, foreboding, Mountains, Stark and overpowering. Torrents, Tumbling, crashing, Dragging boulders In their rushing, Lakes, Forlorn and lonesome Heather In magenta patches, Sheep, and cattle Black and somber, Winding roads Through massive passes. Rain, Sun, Flowers, Mist, Rain,— Loved Scotland!
(At Lake Windermere, England)
Across the lake Lying calm and black Under the night, Floats the wail Of the pipes: And beyond, loom Langdale Pikes, dim, Shadowy sentinels. Over all, the stars, Like friends, faithful And changeless.
A Poem of Color
Stretched on the ground beneath the Hawthorn, The perfume of its blossoms mingled with falling petals, floats down to me. Winged things alight there on the blanket of fragrance above,—a bunting, blue as the sky, a warbler, all gold, an Admiral, wings banded with crimson, Make a poem of color of the Hawthorn tree.
One warm June evening I sat in the churchyard Of old Trinity. I sat there for hours On an ancient stone, forgetting time. The Avon, as silent as the centuries it had known, Glided past, carrying me on with its memories. From the lush meadow across the river came the bleating of lambs, And from the limes floated the song of blackbirds. All about the scent of roses hung heavy. Then, over the roof of Trinity, the moon arose. Shakespeare saw the Avon, thus, and loved it,— Winding on in the moonlight.
How simple life can be! A cabin, Mountains, afar and near, A brook, Deer, blowing at night. Perchance, Rain on the roof, Then, The loved books, A fire on the hearth, And endless time To think. How simple life is!
Would you choose The formal garden With lilac hedges And vistas of velvet lawn And marble fountain Shining pool and Marble bench o'er-topped By drooping willow; Massed color in trim beds, And stately garden house Festooned with wisteria And guarded by strutting peacock?
The wood's garden, The wild garden, Tumbling over itself With pale Jacks, and violets— Blue and gold, and Baby ferns, tucked Within sheltering gnarled roots! And mossy mounds, starred With Trillium and Crane's bill; And patches of lavender sunlight, (No, it's wild Phlox, In the flickering light)— And fire-flies and flapping owls, At twilight, and furry rabbits, Bobbing ahead up the path.
Which would you choose?
When You Were a Little Girl
When you were a little girl And you went driving with Grandfather, If it rained, didn't he braid up the horse's tail Binding it round with a bright silver band, And fasten on the side curtains of the carriage And pull the rubber "boot" over the dashboard? And do you remember how the horse's feet Went "Plop, plop," in and out of the mud, And you felt the mist blow in on your face When you managed to peer out over the curtain? And didn't you snuggle up close to Grandfather And hug the Fairy Tale book Which he was going to listen to When the rain stopped and you lunched Beside the road?
Didn't your Grandfather always drive over To the cheese factory, and bring out The fresh cheese curd to you? Can't you remember the taste, even now? And sometimes, when it stormed hard, and thundered And lightened, and the crashing made the horse Want to run, wouldn't your Grandfather always say: "Steady there, now, boy! Steady, boy!" so gently, That neither you nor the horse were afraid after that Because Grandfather said everything was all right, And he knew. And wasn't your Grandmother Waiting in the doorway, watching a bit anxiously, Until you turned into the yard? Mine was.
So still lay the city, So very quietly it slept, That from high in the west I heard the honking of geese Winging southward. Yearningly I listened As they swept over, Yearningly I cried— O wild things, that I Could fly as do you! Then out of the silent darkness, Like a flying star, Flashed a plane With its skyborne humans. And all of a sudden I remembered that I, too, Could take to wings.
When the long drawn notes of a bird's song Echoes through the trees, It brings to remembrance the songs Of the blackbirds at Petit Trianon: Chiming, reverberating, floating down From the tops of the tall cedars As from an invisible, celestial choir.
Nor can I forget the ages-old wisteria Clambering over gray palace walls, Nor the gamut of color in the azaleas there— Pink, orange, cerise, yellow— In pale green foliage.
When your heavens are as brass And joy has fled, and Every door is shut, Do not forget the one That opens inward— The door of your heart, Whose handle is on the inside And which only you can open. Go out through that door And find one whose skies Are darker than yours, Whose burden is heavier; Bring him back with you Into your heart.
There can you cleanse him with love, And clothe him with garments of truth, And put the ring of his unity With God upon his hand; There feed him with the word, And let him go. Then will your heavens be As radiant light, And your happiness and joy Such as never were On land or sea.
Twilight Song Service
("B.A." Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
In the deepening twilight there floats From the chapel above, the loved hymns of healing— Hymns of comfort, of courage, welling up from grateful hearts And bringing reassurance of God's power To one who listens below in silent prayer and praise. Great peace of God, be with us all! Great peace of God encompass us! Speak to the waves tonight, Father, that they stand. Stretch forth Thy hand and stay their power, Calm them, that they overwhelm not. For Thy voice is "mightier than the noise of many waters, Yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." This Thou canst do, O my God.
These are they, O God, Who came out of great tribulation And have washed their robes white. Oh, holy triumph of those Who have endured the fire And the tempest's rage and, delivered, Stand exalted in this very hour, Purged, sanctified, and satisfied. These are they who have surrendered All the vanities of mortal selfhood, And serve Thee Day and night in Thy temple, Lifting others to behold The tearless, ageless, deathless reality Of Thy glory.
Minor typographic errors have been corrected without note.