By Margaret E. Sangster
To My Father
Some of the verses in this book have been printed by The Christian Herald, Good Housekeeping, Pictorial Review, New Fiction Publishing Company and the C. H. Young Publishing Company. I wish to acknowledge, with thanks, permission to reprint them.
PREFACE WOOD MAGIC WATERIN' THE HORSES AT DAWN THE HAUNTED HOUSE TO A PAIR OF GLOVES PEAKS LI'L FELLER TO AN OLD SCHOOLHOUSE THE OLD SAILOR THE RIVER AND THE TREE AUTUMN SONG SCARLET FLOWERS ON FIFTH AVENUE FROM A CITY WINDOW THE LADY ACROSS THE COURT TO A PORCELAIN PUPPY DOG COLORS POSSESSION (A TENEMENT MOTHER SPEAKS) LIGHTS OF THE CITY STEEL MUSIC OF THE SLUMS "BE OF GOOD CHEER!" FROM MY ROOM THE BALCONY SCENE A BOWERY PAWN-SHOP SPRING IN THE CITY LI'L EMPTY CLOSET TWO LULLABYS I DREAMED YOUR FACE ANSWER A BABY'S HANDS ALL ALONG THE BROAD HIGHWAY MY MOTHER HEREDITY APRIL THE DESERT PATH (SEVEN SONNETS) SUMMER SONG COMPREHENSION (A MOTHER'S SONG) SINGING ON THE MARCH EASTER RESURRECTION THE QUEEN FRAGMENTS IT'S LOTS OF FUN VALENTINE THE SACRIFICE TO A CERTAIN ROOM OTHER DAYS AT TWILIGHT THERE ARE SUCH WEARY LITTLE LINES THREE SONGS OF AWAKENING IN A CANOE CAPTIVE-HEART EVENING SONG AFTER A DAY OF WAITING INTANGIBLE AT FIRST SIGHT FIVE SONNETS FORGIVEN THE WRITING AT PARTING WHEN I AM OLD THE REFUGE TO DREAM ALONE NOW I MAY SING OF SADNESS WHEN WAR CAME WHEN YOU WENT BY IN MEMORIAM A PEASANT GIRL SINGS TOGETHER JIM-DOG SIX SONNETS AFTER PEACE FROM THE DECK OF A TRANSPORT TIM—MY BUNKIE A PRAYER FOR OUR BOYS RETURNING PARIS SONG FROM FRANCE FROM PARIS TO CHATEAU-THIERRY A RUINED CHURCH CHILD FACES AFTER HEARING MUSIC COMING FROM A DEVASTATED FARMHOUSE RETURN THE PHOENIX A PRAYER ON EASTER FOR OUR BOYS KILLED IN ACTION INDEPENDENCE DAY, 1919 SHADOWS L'ENVOI
The candlelight sweeps softly through the room, Filling dim surfaces with golden laughter, Touching with mystery each high hung rafter, Cutting a path of promise through the gloom.
Slim little elves dance gently on each taper, Wistful, small ghosts steal out of shrouded corners— And, like a line of vague enchanted mourners, Great shadows sway like wind-blown sheets of paper.
Gently as fingers drawn across your hair, I see the yellow flicker of it creep— And in a silence that is kin to sleep, I feel a world away from pain and care.
Roads stretch like arms across the world outside, Roads reach to strife, to happiness, to fame— Here, in the candlelight, I speak your name, Here we are at life's cross way, side by side!
OH, THERE ARE BROOKS THERE, AND FIELDS THERE AND NOOKS THERE— NOOKS WHERE A SEEKER MAY FIND FOREST FLOWERS; BLUE IS THE SKY THERE, AND SOFT WINDS CREEP BY THERE, SINGING A SONG THROUGH THE LONG SUMMER HOURS.
The woods lay dreaming in a topaz dream, And we, who silently roamed hand in hand, Were pilgrims in a strange, enchanted land, Where life was love, and love was all a-gleam.
And old remembered songs came back to greet Our ears, from other worlds of long ago, The worlds that we of earth may seldom know— And to those songs we timed our vagrant feet.
We did not speak, we did not need to say The thought that lay so buried in our hearts— The thoughts as sweet as springtime rain, that starts The buds to blossoming in wistful May.
We did not need to speak, we could not speak, The wonder words that we in silence knew— We walked, as very little children do, Who feel, but cannot tell, the thing they seek.
Beyond a screen of bushes, bending low, We knew that fair Titania lay at rest, Her pillowed head upon her lover's breast, Her kisses swift as birds that come and go!
And underneath a wall of mottled stone, We knew the sleeping beauty lay in state, Entangled in a mist of tears, to wait The prince whose kiss would raise her to a throne.
Perhaps a witch with single flaming eye, Was watching from beneath the hemlock tree; And fairies that our gaze might never see, Laughed at us as we, hand in hand, crept by.
Laughed at us? No, I somehow think they knew That you and I were kin to them that day! I think they knew that we were years away From everything but make-believe, come true.
I think they knew that, singing through the air, There thrilled a vague, insistent, harp-like call— And that, where woodbine blazed against the wall, You held me close and kissed my wind-tossed hair!
WATERIN' TH' HORSES
I took th' horses to th' brook—to water 'em you know, Th' air was cold with just a touch o' frost; And as we went a-joggin' down I couldn't help but think, O' city folk an' all the things they lost.
O' cause they have their lighted streets—their Great White Way an' such, O' course they have their buildings large an' tall; But, my! they never know th' joy o' ridin' ter th' brook, An' somehow I don't envy 'em at all!
Perhaps I'd like it—for awhile—to hear th' songs an' laughter, But somehow, I don't know exactly why; I'd feel th' country callin' me; I'd long again fer silence, An' fer God's mountains, blue against the sky.
I took th' horses to th' brook—to water 'em you know, Th' day was pretty as a day can be; An' as we went a-joggin' down I couldn't help but think, O' city folk an' all they never see!
I. THE CAVEMAN
I live! And the scarlet sunrise is climbing the mountain steep, I live... And below, in the caverns, the rest of my clansmen sleep; But I—I am here, and chanting, I could slay a beast with my hand, And I thrill as the mist of the morning creeps up from the rock-strewn land!
I live, I have strength for fighting—and courage to rend and slay, I live! And my eyes are lifting to gaze at the new- born day; And I pause, on the way to my hewn-out cave, though I know that she waits me there, My mate, with her eyes on the scarlet dawn, and the wind in her flame-like hair.
I live—and the joy of living leaps up in my searching eyes, I live, and my soul starts forward, to challenge the waking skies! Far down are the torrents roaring, far up are the clouds, unfurled; And I stand on the cliff, exultant, akin to the waking world.
The mists are gone, and an eagle sweeps down from the mountain high, And I wish that my arms were feathered and strong, that I, too, might fly; I live! I am one with the morning! Ah, I am a MAN, and free! And I shout aloud, and the scarlet dawn shouts back, on the gale, to me!
II. THE PIONEER
I creep along, but silently, For, oh, the dawn is coming; I creep along, for I have heard A flint-tipped arrow, humming; And I have heard a snapping twig, Above the wind's low laughter; And I have known—and thrilled to know, That swift THEY followed after!
The forest turns from black to grey, The leaves are silver-shining; But I have heard a far-off call— The war-whoop's sullen whining. And I have been a naked form, Among the tree trunks prowling; And I have glimpsed a savage face, That faded from me, scowling.
A rosy color sweeps the sky, A vagrant lark is singing, But, as I steal along the trail, I know that day is bringing A host of red-skins in its train, Their tommy-hawks are gleaming— I SEE THEM NOW; or can it be The first pale sunlight beaming?
I creep along, but stealthily, For, oh, the dawn is coming! I creep along—but I have heard A flint-tipped arrow, humming.... And yet, my heart is light, inside, My soul, itself, is flying To greet the dawn! I AM ALIVE— AND WHAT IS DEATH—BUT DYING?
III. THE FARMER
The dawn is here! I climb the hill; The earth is young and strangely still; A tender green is showing where But yesterday my fields were bare.... I climb and, as I climb, I sing; The dawn is here, and with it—spring!
My oxen stamp the ground, and they Seem glad, with me, that soon the day Will bring new work for us to do! The light above is clear and blue; And one great cloud that swirls on high, Seems sent from earth to kiss the sky.
The birds are coming back again, They know that soon the golden grain Will wave above this fragrant loam; The birds, with singing, hasten home; And I, who watch them, feel their song Deep in my soul, and nothing wrong, Or mean or small, can touch my heart.... Down in the vale the smoke-wreaths start, To softly curl above the trees; The fingers of a vagrant breeze Steal tenderly across my hair, And toil is fled, and want, and care!
The dawn is here! I climb the hill; My very oxen seem to thrill— To feel the mystery of day. The sun creeps out, and far away From man-made law I worship God, Who made the light, the cloud, the sod; I worship smilingly, and sing! * * * The dawn is here, and with it—spring!
THE HAUNTED HOUSE
It stands neglected, silent, far from the ways of men, A lonely little cottage beside a lonely glen; And, dreaming there, I saw it when sunset's golden rays Had touched it with the glory of other, sweeter days.
They say the house is haunted, and—well, it is, I guess, For every empty window just aches with loneliness; With loneliness that tortures and memory that flays; Ah, yes, the house is haunted with ghosts of other days.
The ghost of childish laughter rings on the narrow stair, And, from a silent corner, the murmur of a prayer Steals out, and then a love song, and then a bugle call, And steps that do not falter along the quiet hall.
The story of the old house that stands beside the glen? That story is forgotten by every one; but when The house is touched and softened by sunset's golden rays, I know that ghosts must haunt it, the ghosts of sweeter days.
TO A PAIR OF GLOVES
Jus' a little pair o' gloves, Sorter thin an' worn; With th' fingers neatly darned, Like they had been torn. Jus' a little pair o' gloves, Not s' much ter see.... Not a soul on earth can guess What they mean ter me!
Jus' a little pair o' gloves, Sorter tossed aside; Limp an' quiet, folded up, Like their soul had died. Every finger seems ter look Lonely, an' my hand Trembles as it touches them— Who can understand?
Jus' a little pair o' gloves, Ah, she tossed 'em there.... Singin'-like, she turned ter go, Didn't have a care! Kissin' them? A prayer, a tear? God, my head WILL bow— Jus' a little pair o' gloves, .... Empty, now!
A storm may rage in the world below, It may tear great trees apart; But here on the mountain top, I know That it cannot touch my heart.
I have struggled up through the lightning's glare, I have walked where the cliffs fell sheer To a gorge below, but I breathed a prayer, And my soul passed doubt and fear!
Here on the mountain top the air Is clear as a silver song; And the sun is warm on my unbound hair; AND WHAT THOUGH THE WAY WAS LONG?
What though the way was steep and bleak, And what though the road was hard? I stand at last on the mountain peak, With my eyes upraised to God!
A storm may sweep through the world below, It may rend great rocks apart; But here on the crest of the world I know That it cannot touch my heart.
When th.' sunshine's golden-yeller Like th' curls upon his head, Then he wakes—th' lil' feller— An' he jumps up, outen bed; An' he scrambles fer his knickers Flung, perhaps, upon th' floor, An' he takes his hat (my old 'un), An' he races through th' door— An' I hear his voice, a-singin', In his odd, ole-fashioned way, 'Cause he's glad—th' lil' feller— In th' mornin' o' the day.
Kinder makes me feel, well, lazy, So I hurry up, outside, Where th' mountains smile down, friendly— And th' earth looks sorter wide; An' I hear his voice a-callin', Sayin', "Daddy, come an' see!" An' I find him makin' gardens Where a rock pile uster be— An' I shout, "How goes it, sonny?" An' my heart feels light an' gay, Fer he's singin'—lil' feller— In th' mornin' o' th' day.
Lil' feller, an' his gardens! It don't matter much ter him, If th' hoein's hard an' tedgious, An' th' crop he grows is slim; Fer he loves ter be a-workin', An' he loves ter see things start Outer nothin'.... There's a garden In th' rock-bed o' my heart That he's planted, just by singin' In his odd, ole-fashioned way— 'Cause he's glad, MY LIL' FELLER, In th' mornin' o' th' day!
TO AN OLD SCHOOLHOUSE
Down by the end of the lane it stands, Where the sumac grows in a crimson thatch, Down where the sweet wild berry patch, Holds out a lure for eager hands. Down at the end of the lane, who knows The ghosts that sit at the well-scarred seats, When the moon is dark, and the gray sky meets With the dawn time light, and a chill wind blows?
Ghosts—well not ghosts, perhaps, but dreams— Rather like wistful shades, that stand Waiting a look or an outstretched hand, To call them back where the morning gleams— Dreams of the hopes we had, that died, Dreams of the vivid youth we sold; Dreams of a pot of rainbow gold— Gold that we sought for, eager-eyed!
Dreams of the plans we made, that sleep With the lesson books on the dusty rack, Of the joyous years that will not come back— That are drowned in the tears we have learned to weep. Ghosts did I call them! Sweet they are As a plant that grows in a desert place, Sweet as a dear remembered face— Sweet as a pale, courageous star.
Where the sumac grows in a flaming wall, It stands, at the end of a little lane, And there do the children come again, Answering, still, the bell's shrill call, Just as we came, with their songs unsung, And their hopes all new, and their dreams dew kissed, Brave as the sun in a land of mist— JUST AS WE CAME WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG!
THE OLD SAILOR
I've crossed the bar at last, mates, My longest voyage is done; And I can sit here, peaceful, And watch th' setting sun A-smilin' kind of glad like Upon the waves so free. My longest voyage is done, mates, But oh, the heart of me, Is out where sea meets skyline! My longest voyage is done.... But—can I sit, in peace, mates, And watch the settin' sun?
For what's a peaceful life, mates, When every breeze so free, When every gale a-blowin', Brings messages to me? And is the sky so shinin', For all it's golden sun, To one who loves the sea, mates, And knows his voyage is done? And, can a year on land, mates, Match with one day—at sea? Ah, every wind a-singin' Brings memory to me!
I've crossed the bar at last, mates, My longest voyage is past, And I must watch the sunset, Must see it fade, at last. My steps are not so light, mates, As they were, years ago; And sometimes, when I'm tired, My head droops kind of low— Yet, though I'm old and—weary, The waves that dance so free, Keep callin' to my soul, mates, And thrill the heart of me!
THE RIVER AND THE TREE
"You are white and tall and swaying," sang the river to the tree, "And your leaves are touched with silver—but you never smile on me; For your branches murmur love songs to the sun- kissed turquoise sky, And you seem so far above me that I always hurry by!"
"You are laughing in your shallows, you are somber in your deeps, And below your shining surface there's a heart that never sleeps; But all day you pass me, dancing, and at evening time you dream, And I didn't think you liked me," sang the birch- tree to the stream.
So they got a bit acquainted on a glowing summer day, And they found they liked each other (which is often times the way); And the river got so friendly, and it ran so very slow, That the birch-tree shone reflected in the water down below!
Let's go down the road together, you and I, Let's go down the road together, Through the vivid autumn weather; Let's go down the road together when the red leaves fly. Let's go searching, searching after Joy and mirth and love and laughter— Let's go down the road together, you and I.
Let's go hunting for adventure, you and I, For the romance we are knowing Waits for us, alive and glowing, For the romance that has always passed us by. Let's have done with tears and sighing, What if summer-time IS dying? Let's go hunting for adventure, you and I.
Let's go down the road together, you and I— And if you are frightened lest you Weary grow, my arms will rest you, As we take the road together when the red leaves fly. Springtime is the time for mating? Ah, a deeper love is waiting Down the autumn road that calls us, you and I!
THE CITY— TOWERS AND CANYONS, AND SLUMS, MAN BUILT....
AND SOULS, GOD BUILT!
The window box across the street Is filled with scarlet flowers; They glow, like bits of sunset cloud, Across the dragging hours. What though the mist be like a shroud What though the day be dreary? The window box across the street Is warm, and gay, and cheery!
The window box across the street Is filled with scarlet flowers; I almost catch their perfume sweet.... Above the sound of tramping feet, They sing of country bowers. Against the house that looms so gray, They smile in—well, a friendly way.
A tired shop girl hurries by; Their color seems to catch her eye; She pauses, starts, and wistfully She gazes up. It seems to me That I can hear her longing sigh.... A little shop girl hurries by.
A newsboy stops to sell his wares; The crowds brush by him; no one cares To buy his papers. But above The scarlet flowers bravely grow In token of the Father's love.... The crowds brush coldly by below.
A blind man stumbles, groping past; He cannot see their scarlet shine; And yet some memory seems to twine About his soul. For, oh, he turns As trusting as a child who yearns For some vague dream, and smilingly He lifts the eyes that cannot see.... A blind man stumbles, groping past.
The window box across the street Is filled with scarlet flowers; They tell a secret, tender, sweet, Through all the dreary hours. And folk who hurry on their way Dream of some other brighter day.... The window box across the street Is filled with scarlet flowers.
ON FIFTH AVENUE
I walked down Fifth Avenue the other day (In the languid summertime everybody strolls down Fifth Avenue); And I passed women, dainty in their filmy frocks, And much bespatted men with canes. And great green busses lumbered past me, And impressive limousines, and brisk little 'lectrics.
I walked down Fifth Avenue the other day, And the sunshine smiled at me, And something, deep in my heart, burst into song. And then, all at once, I saw her— A woman with painted lips and rouge-touched cheeks— Standing in front of a jeweler's window. She was looking at diamonds— A tray of great blue-white diamonds— And I saw a flame leap out of her eyes to meet them (Greedy eyes they were, and cold, like too-perfect jewels); And I realized, for the first time, That diamonds weren't always pretty.
And then I SAW THE OTHER ONE: A thin little girl looking into a florist's shop At a fragrant mass of violets, dew-purple and fresh. She carried a huge box on her arm, And a man, passing, said loudly, "I guess somebody's hat'll be late today!" And the thin little girl flushed and hurried on, But not before I had seen the tenderness in her eyes— The tenderness that real women show When they look at vast rolling hills, or flowers, or very small pink babies.
I walked down Fifth Avenue the other day. (All the world walks, leisurely, down Fifth Avenue in the summertime.)
FROM A CITY WINDOW
The dust is thick on the city street, The smoke on the city sky Hangs dense and gray at the close of day— And the city crowds surge by With heavy feet through the summer heat Like a sluggish sullen tide;... But hand in hand through a magic land We are wandering side by side.
For somewhere, dear, there's a magic land On the shores of a silver sea; And there is a boat with turquoise sails— With sails that are wide and free; A boat that is whirling through the spray, That is coming for you and me!
Somewhere, dear, there's a singing breeze That creeps through the laughing air To the wide-flung boughs of a blue-black tree— It touches your joyous hair; And the touch of it is as soft and light As a baby's lisping prayer.
Somewhere, dear, there's a bit of beach Where the sand is warm and white; Where the sky seems close and the drifting clouds Are tenderly, warmly bright. And there is a ship with turquoise sails, With sails like a living light!
Ah, the ship is bringing us dreams come true, And hopes that are all dew-kissed; It is bringing us days that are all aglow With scarlet and amethyst;... Bringing us faith to find our way Through a world that is wrapped in mist.
Our window looks on the city street, We can glimpse the city sky; But our hearts are gay at the close of day, Though the tired crowds pass by With heavy feet through the blinding heat, Like a sullen, sluggish tide.... For hand in hand through a magic land. We are wandering side by side.
THE LADY ACROSS THE COURT
She only comes when night is near, And stands a moment quietly Beside her window, in the dusk— She lives across the court from me— And though I cannot see her eyes Because she is too far away, I somehow feel that they are kind, And very soft, and widely gray!
Her hands are only dim white blurs, That rest against the window pane; And yet I know that they are firm, And cool and sweet as April rain. And, oh, I cannot help but wish As, through the dark, I go to bed, That they might rest a moment like A little prayer upon my head!
She only comes when night is near, I do not know who she can be; I never see her anywhere But just across the court from me.... I am so small the curtains hide The wistful smiles that I have smiled, And yet I, somehow, think she feels The love of me—a lonely child.
TO A PORCELAIN PUPPY DOG
Oh, pudgy porcelain puppy dog from far-away Japan, I saw you in a shop to-day where lonesomely you sat Upon a velvet cushion that was colored gold and purple, Between a bowl of goldfish, and a sleeping wooden cat.
I wonder what you thought about as stolidly you sat there, A grin of faint derision on your pudgy porcelain face; I wonder if you dreamed about some cherry blossom tea house, And if the goldfish bored you in their painted Chinese case?
I wonder if you dreamed about the laughter of the geishas As languidly they danced across the shining lacquered floor, I wonder if your thoughts were with a purple clump of iris That bloomed, all through the summer, by the little tea house door?
I wonder if you hated us who passed, you by unheeding, You who had known the temples of another, older land? And, oh, I wonder if you knew when I had paused beside you To pat you, porcelain puppy dog, that I could understand?
I love color. I love flaming reds, And vivid greens, And royal flaunting purples. I love the startled rose of the sun at dawning, And the blazing orange of it at twilight.
I love color. I love the drowsy blue of the fringed gentian, And the yellow of the goldenrod, And the rich russet of the leaves That turn at autumn-time.... I love rainbows, And prisms, And the tinsel glitter Of every shop-window.
I love color. And yet today, I saw a brown little bird Perched on the dull-gray fence Of a weed-filled city yard. And as I watched him The little bird Threw back his head Defiantly, almost, And sang a song That was full of gay ripples, And poignant sweetness, And half-hidden melody.
1 love color.... I love crimson, and azure, And the glowing purity of white. And yet today, I saw a living bit of brown, A vague oasis on a streak of gray, That brought heaven Very near to me.
POSSESSION (A TENEMENT MOTHER SPEAKS)
Y' ain't as pretty as some babies are— But, oh, yer mine! Yer lil' fingers sorter seem t' twine Aroun' my soul. Yer eyes are bright, t' me, as any star, Yer hair's like gol'.
Some people say yer hair is sandy-red, An' that yer eyes is sorter wan an' pale, An' that yer lil' body looks, well, frail.... Y' ain't been fed Like rich folks children are.... It takes fresh air Ter keep a baby fat an' strong an' pink! It takes more care, 'N I have time ter give.... An' yet, if God'll only let yer live—
When yer first came, An' when I seen yer face, deep down inside My heart I felt—well, sorter broke an' tore, 'Cause when yer came ter me I like ter died, An' I had lost my job, there at th' store. I looked at you, an' oh, it wasn't pride I felt, but bitterness an' shame!
An' then yer gropin' fingers touched my hand, As helpless as a snow-flake in the air, Yer didn't know, yer couldn't understand, ('Cause yer was new t' this cold-hearted land), That life ain't fair! Yer didn't know if I was good, 'r bad, 'R much ter see— Y' only knew that I belonged, an' oh, Yer trusted me!
Somehow, right there, I didn't stop ter think That yer was white an' thin—instead o' pink, An' that yer lips, an' not yer eyes, was blue... I got t' thinkin' how, when work was through I'd sing t' yer, an' rock yer off t' rest. I got t' thinkin' that I had been blessed, More than th' richest girl I'd ever knew! An' oh, I held yer tight against my breast, An', lookin' far ahead, I dreamed an' planned That I would work th' fingers off my hand Fer you! An' mother-love swept on me like a tide, An', oh, I cried!
Some people say yer hair is sandy-red, But they don't know; They say yer eyes is sorter pale an' weak, But it ain't so! It's jus' because yer never been well fed, An' never had a lil' cribby bed; It's jus' because yer never had a peek At th' blue sky— That's why!
Yer ain't so pretty as some babies are, But, oh, t' me yer like a silver star That, through th' darkest night can smile an' shine.... Yer ain't as pretty as some babies are, But, God, yer mine!
LIGHTS OF THE CITY
He was young, And his mind Was filled with the science of economics That he had studied in college. And as we talked about the food riots, And high prices, And jobless men, He said: "It's all stupid and wrong, "This newspaper talk! "Folk have no business to starve. "The price of labor always advances, "Proportionally, "With the price of food!"
"Any man," he said, A moment later, "Can earn at least two dollars a day "By working on a railroad, "Or in the street cleaning department! "What if potatoes DO cost "Eight cents a pound? "Wages are high, too.... "People have no reason to starve."
I listened to him prayerfully (More or less), For I had never been to college, And I didn't know much about economics.
But— As I walked to the window, And looked out over the veiled, mysterious lights Of the city, I couldn't help thinking Of a little baby That I had seen a few days ago; A baby of the slums—thin, and joyless, And old of face, But with eyes Like the eyes of the Christ Child.. .. A baby—crying for bread—
And.... I wondered....
They think that we're just animals, almost, We men who work with steel. A lady visitor was here th' other day, She looked at me, an' I could hear her say, "My, what a life! I s'pose his only boast "Is muscles!" She's wrong. We feel A certain pride, a certain sort o' joy, When some great blazin' mass is tamed an' turned Into an engine wheel. Our hands get burned, An' sometimes half our hair is scorched away— But, well, it's fun! Perhaps you've seen a boy, Who did hard work he loved, an' called it play? Know what I mean? Well, that's the way we feel, We men who work with steel.
A lady visitor was here th' other day; She held her skirts right dainty in her hand, An' as she passed me by, I heard her say, "I wonder what he THINKS—or if his head "Is just a piece o' metal, too!" She said It laughin'-like. She didn't understand, She couldn't know that we have dreams as grand, As any SHE could have. We wonder where Th' rivets that we make are goin' to, An' if th' engine wheels we turn, will go Through tropic heat, or if they'll plow through snow; An' as we watch, we sorter grow to care About th' steel. Why it's as shiny blue As j'ew'ls! An' every bit is, well, a part Of life to us. Sometimes my very heart Thanks God that I've a man-sized job to do!
MUSIC OF THE SLUMS
I. THE VIOLIN-MAKER
Over a slum his sign swings out, Over a street where the city's shout Is deadened into a sob of pain— Where even joy has a minor strain.
"Violins made," read the sign. It swings Over a street where sorrow sings; Over a street where people give Their right to laugh for a chance to live.
He works alone with his head bent low And all the sorrow and all the woe, And all the pride of a banished race, Stare from the eyes that light his face.
But he never sighs and his slender hand, Fastens the cat-gut, strand by strand— Fastens it tight, but tenderly As if he dreams of some melody.
Some melody of his yesterday.... Will it, I wonder, find its way Out to the world, when fingers creep Over the strings that lie asleep?
Or will the city's misery Mould the song in a tragic key— Making its sweetest, faintest breath Thrill with sorrow, and throb with death?
Maker of music—who can know Where the work of his hand shall go? Maybe its slightest phrase will bring, Comfort to ease the suffering—
Maybe his dreams will have their part Buried deep in the music's heart.... Out of a chain of dreary days, Joy may come as some master plays!
Over a slum his sign hangs out, Over a street where dread meets doubt— "Violins made," reads the sign. It swings Over a street where sorrow sings.
II. THE PARK BAND
(Side by side and silent—eagerly they stand— Souls look out of tired eyes, hands are clasped together, Through the thrilling softness of the late spring weather, All a city slum is out to listen to the band.)
Young love and Maytime, hear the joyous strain, Listen to a serenade written long ago! You will recognize the song—you who care must know Fear that blends with happiness, joy that touches pain.
Rabbi with the grizzled beard hear adventure's story! Hear the tale the music tells, thrilling with ro- mance, Hear the clatter of a sword, hear a broken lance Falling from some hero's hand, red with blood- stained glory.
(Tenements on either side, light-flecked in the gloam- ing, Tenements on either side, stark and tall and gray— Ah, the folk who line your halls wander far away, All a crowded city slum is a-gypsie roaming!)
Woman with the brooding gaze, hear the lilting laughter Of the children that you loved, feel their soft- lipped kisses; Think of all the little joys that a hard world misses- What though bitter loneliness always follows after?
Gangster with the shifty eyes, listen to the sighing Of the hymn tune that you heard at your mother's knee; Listen to the restless ghost of the used-to-be, Listen to a wistful ghost's empty-hearted crying.
(Tenements on either side—menacing they stand— Light-flecked in the softness of the late spring weather.... But young love and broken life are standing close together, And all a city slum is out to listen to the band.)
III. THE ORGAN MAN
He's very old, his music box is old and rusty, too, And half the notes of it are harsh, and half of them are slow; One wonders if the coat he wears could ever have been new— And if the tune he plays was quite forgotten long ago.
He finds a sunny place to stand, and lifts his bleary eyes, And smiles a bit—a toothless smile half touched, perhaps, with fear; And though he cannot see them he is looking at the skies, As if he prays, but silently, for hope and faith and cheer.
The foreign women pass him by, their tarnished coins held tight, They toss their heads and will not hear his music's wistful hum— But through each alley way and street, like moths that seek the light, With eager eyes and laughing lips the little chil- dren come.
He plays his ancient, shaky song, his mouth moves to its sway, He does not know the tune of it is old and out of key; For, through his eyes, a soul stares out that wanders far away, In some fair land of youth and love—some land that used to be.
The little children cluster close, bareheaded, bare of limb— They hold their ragged frocks and dance, they do not care—or know, That they are like a garden place, a fragrant dream to him, Or that the tune he plays was quite forgotten long ago.
"BE OF GOOD CHEER!"
Temptation came to me today, And oh, I felt that I must stray Down primrose paths, forgetting all.... The city's fevered, siren call Spoke to my soul, its whispered cry Said, "Live, for Youth, too soon, will die!"
So all alone, when work was done, I sought the park. The setting sun Had left a bit of warmth for me— I found a bench beneath a tree, And sat and thought. My life is hard, Sometimes my heart seems battle-scarred, With longings keen, and bitter fears, And want, and suffering, and tears.
Temptation spoke, and Youth spoke back; The night seemed cold and grimly black, And every light was like a star That cleft the sky—they were so far, So very far away! And I Was lonely, there, beneath the sky....
There used to be a little farm A tiny place, remote from harm; There used to be a mother frail And sweet, with hair as silver-pale As the faint moon. She heard me say The words when first I learned to pray....
Above me in the silent trees, I heard the rustles of the breeze, It sounded like her step, as light As dreams across an endless night. My mother— Ah, the name so sweet, Brought memories on noiseless feet, And softly in the darkness, there, I breathed my little childhood prayer....
Do prayers have answers? As I prayed A Presence came, and gently laid A Hand upon my arm. I knew That Someone kind, and good, and true Was very near. Upon my soul A peace swept down, and left it whole. I felt a calm steal over me, The same that stilled the troubled sea Where Jesus walked. My fears were laid, Temptation left me unafraid. And as I smiled, there in the park, A voice spoke through the fragrant dark. "Be of good cheer!" the words rang out Like music through the city's shout.
And all the lights that I could see Were stars of home, agleam for me!
FROM MY ROOM
I love you, dear.... Here, alone in my room tonight, it is all that matters, Out through my window, vaguely hushed, the city clatters, Telling ever its tale of woe and mirth, Sighing ever its song of death and birth, Singing ever its potent, mad refrain, Swept with tears and the bitter weight of pain.
Here in my room I kneel, alone, to pray, But there seems very little, dear, to say Even to God. So, kneeling by my bed, I think dim thoughts, and dream long dreams instead. Wide-eyed I kneel and watch the candle flame, Making swift shadows on the wall; your name Throbs in my heart, and makes my pulse to thrill— Wide-eyed I kneel, with soul a-light, until Somewhere a clock starts chiming.... It is late.... Out through the dark wan tenderness and hate Press pale kisses upon the city's lips— Dawn comes creeping, the weary nighttime slips Furtively by, like some hurt thief with plunder.... Dear, I cross to my window, and I wonder Whether you are asleep, or if you lie, Sleepless beneath the smoke-hung purple sky....
Down in the streets the tired city vaguely clatters, Here alone in my room I stand, and nothing matters, Only.... I love you!
THE BALCONY SCENES
The stage is set, like a garden, And the lights are flickering and low; And a Romeo with fat legs, Is telling a Juliet with dyed hair and tired, disillusioned eyes, That love—real love—is the only thing in the world.
And up in the balcony of the theatre Where the seats cost twenty-five cents, A slim little girl in a shiny serge frock, And a boy with a wistful mouth Are holding hands. And as they listen, breathlessly, to the studied voice of the actor, Their fingers are all a-thrill, With the music of the ages.
A BOWERY PAWN-SHOP
A dusty, musty little shop set in a dingy street, A doorsill old and scarred and worn by many tired feet, A row of cases, vaguely glassed, a safe against the wall, And, oh, the ache of many hearts—the fabric of it all!
A violin with broken strings that fingers have caressed, A diamond-set betrothal ring that lover's lips have pressed, A high shell comb, a spangled fan, a filmy bit of lace, A heart-shaped locket, ribbon-tied, that frames a laughing face.
A pair of blankets folded up, an overcoat, a shawl, A tall old clock that might have chimed in some wainscoted hall, And in the farthest corner, where the purple shadows lie, The echo of a woman's sob, the phantom of a sigh.
Ah, wedding-rings—a score of them—not many of them new, A grim revolver laid beside a baby's tiny shoe, A satin coat, a ragged gown, a gold-clasped book of verse, A necklace of bedraggled pearls, an empty silver purse.
A dreary weary little shop set in a sunless place. A little shop where love has met with sorrow and disgrace.... A row of cases, double-locked, a safe against the wall; And, oh, the ache of countless hearts that lies behind it all!
SPRING IN THE CITY
I saw a crocus blooming in the park, I felt a hint of magic in the air, I heard faint music sighing everywhere, And so, as all the world, grew softly dark—
I found again the hope that never dies, And hungrily, with out-flung arms, I came Once more to you. And when you spoke my name I read springtime eternal in your eyes!
ROSE PETALS IN THE EARLY RAIN, FORGOTTEN DREAMS, AND A TORN SKETCH BOOK!
LI'L EMPTY CLOSET
There's a li'l empty closet in a li'l empty room, Where th' shadows lie like dust upon th' floor; It uster be HIS closet not s' very long ago— That's why I don't go near it any more. Every li'l hook is empty, 'ceptin' one, an' from it hangs (Th' whitest li'l ghost that ever grew In a heart that's near ter breakin' with it's agony o' grief! ) An empty flannel nightie piped with blue.
Jus' a li'l flannel nightie that was shrunken in th' wash, In spots th' blue has ran inter th' white; But I've seen him in it, sleepy, when I tucked th' covers in, An' kissed him, soft, an took away th' light. Jus' a li'l flannel nightie, hangin' empty on a hook, As if it was ashamed—or in disgrace— Jus' a li'l flannel nightie an' it ain't no use no more, But I couldn't bear t' take it from its place!
Jus' a li'l empty closet in a li'l empty room, Where th' shadows lie like dust upon th' floor— It uster be his closet, where I'd put his clothes away, That's why I hate ter go there any more. But I've left his li'l nightie hangin' on a single hook, I sorter had ter leave it there, I guess; Ah, that li'l empty closet in that li'l empty room Is crowded—crowded ful o' loneliness!
I. To A DREAM BABY
Oh, little child whose face I cannot see, I feel your presence very near tonight, I feel the warmth of you creep close to me... The grey moths drift across the candlelight, And tiny shadows sway across the floor, Like wistful elves who do a fairy dance; The wind is tapping softly at the door, And rain is beating, like a silver lance, Against the tightly curtained window pane. Oh, little child whose face I cannot see, The loneliness, the twilight, and the rain, Have brought your dearness very close to me. And though I rock with empty arms, I sing A lullaby that I have made to croon Into your drowsy shadow ear—a song About the star sheep and the shepherd moon!
II. POPPY LAND
Sleep, little tired eyes, close to the heart of me, Sleep while the sun trembles low in the west; You who are dream of my dreams, and a part of me— Sleep with your head lying warm on my breast.
Dear, there's a land that is filled with red flowers, Poppies, they call them, that sway in the breeze; Sometimes their petals, in soft scarlet showers, Fall in warm drifts that are high as your knees.... Dear, in your dreams you will laugh as you roll through them, Waving your arms in an effort to creep; Gently they nod as the wind sings its soul through them, Sleep, little tired eyes, sleep....
Dear, in this land there's a sky like a feather, Blue in some places, or white as a star; And there's a fragrance—a plant that's called heather Grows in the spot where the butterflies are. Dear, there are pastures as gay as glad laughter, Dotted with hundreds of woolly white sheep, Dear, you can pat them, for they'll follow after You, as you sleep....
Dream, little tired eyes, close to the breast of me, Wander in fields where red flowers are gloaming; All of my heart wanders with you, the rest of me Watches your dreaming....
I DREAMED YOUR FACE
I dreamed your face, one night, when Heaven seemed resting, Against the troubled fever of the earth; I dreamed that vivid throated birds were nesting, In trees that shook with elfin-hearted mirth. I dreamed that star-like purple flowers were springing A-throb with perfume all about the place, And that there was a far-off sound of singing— And then—I dreamed your face!
I dreamed your face, and then I waked from dreaming, (The creeping dawn seemed very cold and bare!) The rising sun seemed pallid in its beaming, Because its coming did not find you there! And I—I rose despondent in the morning, As one whose burning thirst has not been slaked; I dreamed your face, a wonder world adorning, And then—I waked.
And so I went upon a quest to find you, A quest that led through many bitter years; I journeyed far with strands of love to bind you, And found, not you, but bitterness and tears— So I returned, discouraged, through the gloaming, My shoulders bowed with weariness unguessed; I came back, unsuccessful, from my roaming— My sorry quest!
I had a bit of garden that I tended, It helped me dream, again, my dream of you— It was a joyous place of colors blended— A place where pansies and Sweet William grew. And one bright day I hummed as I was planting A border row of flowers slim and fair, And raised my eyes to see pale sunlight slanting Across your hair!
I am myself—you cannot take my dreams And pull the filmy stuff of them apart! I am myself—and life IS what it seems. I am myself, and love is in my heart! You cannot make me think by fast set rule, You cannot laugh beliefs like mine away, Experience MAY be a bitter school, And yet.... The golden sun shines every day, And stars at night lend magic to the sky, And all the world is vividly a-glow, You cannot make me pause to question why For we who dare to dream have learned to know!
THE WORLD IS RIGHT! There is a friendly One Who smiles when we have tried to do our part— I will not flinch, my journey's just begun.... I AM MYSELF—YOU CANNOT BREAK MY HEART!
A BABY'S HANDS
God made the rivers, the hills, and the seas, God made the flowers, the grass, and the trees; God made the clouds, and the waves, silver-crested, Then God made the hands of a baby—and rested!
How did He make them? Well, nobody knows— Some say He dreamed of the bud of a rose, And that He woke as the dawn swept away Night in the dancing pink promise of day.
Maybe He thought of the light of a star, (That's why He made them as soft as they are!) Maybe He watched while a new butterfly, Light as a sunbeam, went fluttering by.
Maybe He walked in a garden, dew-kissed, That's why He made them as frail as the mist— Then as He leaned from His heaven above, God made them strong as His greatest gift—LOVE!
God made the mountains—we wonder at these— God made the splendor of sunsets and trees; God made vast mines where a world's wealth is piled, Then God made the hands of a baby—and smiled!
ALL ALONG THE BROAD HIGHWAY
All along the broad highway the little dreams were growing, White as hope, and red as life, and bluer than the sea— All along the broad highway I felt their petals blowing, Like a storm of fragrant snow across the lips of me! So I danced with joyous heart, and bent above them singing. So I skipped along the road and smiled into the skies; ALL ALONG THE BROAD HIGHWAY THE LITTLE DREAMS WERE SPRINGING, FRAGRANT AS THE DEW OF STARS AND GLAD AS BUTTERFLIES!
All along the broad highway I danced and sang unheeding, Till One came with haughty step and traveled by my side; Traveled first beside my path then, suddenly, was leading— One who drew me after him and murmured, "I AM PRIDE!" All along the broad highway I hurried, ever faster, Faster through the purple dust that blinded like a mist, Blinded me until I felt that only Pride was master, (And I saw the little dreams through clouds of amethyst!)
All along the broad highway I toiled, no longer glancing Anywhere but straight ahead... I had no heart to sing— All along the broad highway, my feet no longer dancing; Followed I the steps of Pride, and felt the thick dust sting In the tired eyes of me... the eyes too sad for weeping! Still I struggled—struggled on until quite suddenly— All the strength that kept me up seemed drowsy, almost sleeping— And I paused with drooping head and lo, Pride went from me!
All along the broad highway the silent dusk was stealing, Quite alone I stood and stared about me in the gloom; And the voice of me was still, and my heart was kneeling Like a weary pilgrim soul in an attic room. And I stretched my empty hands to where the ghostly lighting, Showed a crumpled mist of blue, a heap of white and red— There along the broad highway like armies after fighting, All the gallant little dreams were lying gaunt and dead!
My mother's kinder chubby—she's fat, th' fellers say— My mother's kinder chubby, but I like her that a-way! 'Cause she's awful sorter jolly, an' she makes th' bestest pies, An' she laughs when I'm a-jokin' 'till th' tears are in her eyes. An' she pats me on th' shoulder when I'm feelin' sad an' blue, An' whispers, "Little feller, yer mother's proud o' you!"
She don't wear silks 'at rustle, like Tommie's mother does, But I like her gingham better 'cause it's—well, just 'cause it's hers! An' she don't look young an' girl-like, an' her hands are sorter red, But, my, they're awful gentle when she tucks you inter bed.... She hasn't got a di'mond like th' lady crost th' street, But she's got two great big dimples, an' her smile is mighty sweet!
My mother's sorter chubby—but say, her step is light— She's never cross 'r tired—not even when it's night! An' her shoulders JUST as comfy when yer heart is feelin' sore, When you wish you was a baby—an' not a boy no more— Oh, her arms are cushion tender at th' twilight time o' day, Yes—my mother's sorter chubby—But I like her that a-way!
You told me, last night, In a strange and sudden burst of confidence; That a New England ancestor of yours, Had burned witches— And at last I knew....
Why your eyes are always so grim, And why your mouth is cut, In a straight line, And why you can never see beauty and mirth In the sweep of wind over a wheat field, Or in the sunlight on a baby's hair. At last I knew Why you can never see romance In the long gypsie trail, Or magic, In the still purple woods.
I knew why life, To you, Was something to be struggled with, Not a glorious adventure; And why death was the end of things, And not the beginning. And I knew at last, Why you could never understand, That tears may cover laughter, And that laughter may be a veil For tears.
You told me, last night, That an ancestor of yours, Had burned witches, And, oh, as I sat in the candlelight, Watching you, I couldn't help wishing, That somewhere behind you, in the shadows,
There was another ancestor— A gay cavalier ancestor— Who rode hard, And fought with his sword, And wore his hat, rakishly, On the back of his head, And knew—love.
I had not meant to love again—all that was lost to me, For I had felt love's fear and pain, as well as ecstasy; I closed my heart, and locked the door, and tossed away the key.
All through the winter-time I sat before my flaming fire, And listened to the sleigh-bells chime, and watched the flames leap higher, To grasp at shadows, sombre-hued, with fiendish, red desire.
And then mad April came again—I felt the breezes blowing, And I forgot the fear, the pain.... I only knew that, glowing, In shady nook and garden spot, pale hyacinths were growing.
And when across the perfumed lea (for nothing could defeat him! ) My vagrant love crept back to me... I did not mean to greet him; But April opened up my heart, and, oh, I ran to meet him!
THE DESERT PATH—SEVEN SONNETS
The camel tracks led whitely across the desert sand, And one came riding after with furtive mystery; Ah, one came swiftly riding, a dagger in his hand, And he was bent on plunder—a nomad thief was he! He did not heed the starshine that glimmered from on high, For laden beasts had traveled along the lonely way. He did not see the glory that swept the Eastern sky, For he had far to journey before the dawn of day.
He followed through the desert, and then at last he saw An inn upon the outskirts of some small village place; And there were camels resting before the stable door— He left his horse, crept nearer, with greed upon his face; And peering o'er the threshold, he saw that gold was piled, With precious stones and incense, before a little Child.
A thief he was by calling, who to the stable came, A thief whose youthful fingers had learned to steal their fill; A thief he was who valued his heritage of shame, YET STANDING BY THAT DOORWAY, HE DID NOT WANT TO KILL! A thief he was, but—watching,—he saw a Baby face, And, bending near, a Mother, whose joy was undefiled; And for one breathless moment across the stable space, The Baby's eyes gazed at him—AND THEN THE BABY SMILED!
A thief he was by calling, but there beside the door He saw a Holy Vision—he knelt and tried to pray— And something, thrilling, whispered of love forever- more— And then he rose, half weeping—and it was Christmas Day! A thief he was by calling, who felt the Father's plan, But back across the desert there silent rode a man!
The years are met as milestones upon a winding road, And some slip by like shadows, and some are fair with flowers; And some seem dreary, hopeless—a leaden chain of hours— And some are like a heart-throb, and some a heavy load, The thief, a thief no longer, a lonely figure strode Heart-weary down life's pathway, through tempest and through showers, But always prayed that somewhere among sweet- scented bowers, A Baby's smile might show him where happiness abode.
For he was often hungry—a thief, reformed, must eat— And there were folk who shunned him, and turned his plea away; And there were those who scourged him from out the market place— (They were the ones who told him to earn his bread and meat!) Yet ever he walked onward, and dreamed of some fair day When he would find the Christ-Child with love upon His face!
Where work lay for the asking it seemed that men MIGHT work, But prejudice was rampant in every shop and field; And, "What if you ARE trying, MY scythe you may not wield!" Men told the thief, who answered—"Indeed, I will not shirk!" And carpenters and builders turned from him with a smirk, And farmers hurried by him to house the harvest's yield. And so he took his dagger, all rusted, and his shield, And sought again the highway where thieves and jackals lurk.
And yet the spark of manhood still flamed within his heart, And still he saw the Baby, beyond the stable door; And oftentimes at even, as crimson daytime died, He knelt, a sorry figure, from all of life apart. And, "Oh, if I could see Him—and feel His love once more, "If I could see Him smiling, I would not steal!" he cried.
It was a glowing ruby that caused the thief to fall, But—he was very hungry, and lonely, too, and cold; And youth lay all behind him, a tattered funeral pall, For he was very tired, and he was growing old. It was a glowing ruby that lay upon the breast Of one who had not earned it, who wore it with a sneer; The thief was very weary, he only longed for rest; He was too wan for caring, he was too numb for fear!
It was a glowing ruby—he held it in his hand— His hand was thin and withered, it shook beneath the gem; He took the vivid ruby, the ransom of a land, And tied it firmly, tightly, within his garment's hem; And then he shuffled forward, but like a thorn within His soul he bore the torment of bitterness and sin!
They caught him when the morning had tinged the Eastern skies; The gem was found upon him, as red as guilty blood; He stood, his head sunk forward, with listless, shal- low eyes, And hopelessness submerged him like some unholy flood; A Thief he was by calling. The law? The law was great; What chance had he for pity? His fate was sealed and done; He was unclean, an outcast, a menace to the state; A thing to be avoided, a stain against the sun!
They led him to his hearing, the hall was still and light; A judge was seated higher, who passed him with a glance; And suddenly, forgetting his weariness and fright, The thief cried, leaping forward, "I did not have a chance!" The judgment hall was spacious, and coldly white and wide— And coldly came the sentence—"He shall be crucified!"
They nailed him, God's creation, upon a cross of shame; They nailed him up with laughter, they heeded not his tears; And people looking at him were moved to soulless jeers, And agony was on him—a searing, breathless flame! And then, as he hung sobbing, a sudden feeling came Of peace that, reaching toward him across the sound of sneers, Was like a burst of music that one more feels than hears— For, from somewhere beside him, a Voice had breathed his name.
Ah, he was weak with anguish, and yet he turned his head, And saw a cross beside him, and on the cross a Form; And he forgot the tumult, the horror and the storm— And someone, down below him, said, "Look, the thief is dead!" But, safe from fear and torture beyond their scornful cries, The thief had gazed at Heaven in Christ's triumphant eyes!
If I might go with my True Love, To some far, dream-swept land, I'd be content to sit all day Upon the silver sand, And watch the sea come creeping in, The sighing, singing sea— If I might go to some far land, And take True Love with me!
If I could go with my True Love, To some far, lonely place; The world might well be lost, and I Could look upon Love's face. And wealth would seem a little thing, While happiness might be— If I could go to some far land, And take True Love with me.
Ah, Love would smile, and ruffle up, The hair above my brow; And we would laugh at all that seems So very sober, now. And monkey-folk, and scarlet birds, Would peer from every tree, And try to understand the words My True Love said to me!
If I might go with my True Love, To some far, dream-swept land; I would not miss the world, for I Could always touch Love's hand, And feel the magic of his lips— Oh, by the singing sea, And Eden-place would bloom a-new For my True Love and me!
COMPREHENSION—A MOTHER'S SONG
I KNOW HOW MARY FELT, THERE IN THE HAY, MY LITTLE SON WAS BORN ON CHRISTMAS DAY!
I know, as she bent tenderly above Him, She did not think of majesty or power, For he was hers—and she was there to love Him! His hands, as pinkly tinted as a flower, Seemed all too small to carve His deathless story— What though a star gleamed glorious to guide Him? She snatched Him to her breast as if to hide Him From harm, and fear, and even—yes, from glory.
And when the wise men came to give their treasure, She smiled at them as proud as any queen; She scarcely saw the jewels in countless measure, The gold that gleamed; her gaze was far, serene, Upon the hills where shepherds watched, alone. She did not think of crosses or of dying, For He was just a drowsy baby, lying Wrapped in her love—A baby—all her own!
I KNOW HOW MARY FELT, THERE IN THE HAY, MY LITTLE SON WAS BORN ON CHRISTMAS DAY!
SINGING ON THE MARCH
God put a song into my heart one day, A little song as light as ocean form, A little song of love and hope and home, A little song to cheer me on my way.
And though I bowed beneath the load I bore, I found that, when I sang, the way was bright, And that my footsteps swifter grew, and light; And all my life seemed fairer than before.
God has a song that fits in every heart, And though that song may seem a tiny thing, It is your task—so forge ahead, and SING— And you will find that you have done your part!
He came to call last night— And we began to talk, as young folk will, Half carelessly, and half in awe, of God. It was the springtime, and the night was still And fragrant, all about us. And the sod Was fresh with tender grass, And overhead a crescent moon shone bright. And, "God," he said, "Has built the world on laws, "Like some great watch, and every breathing space "Is measured; and the system has no flaws, "And nothing moves from its appointed place. "God is the Master Scientist," he said, His voice was bold and had a ring of truth— But God seemed ponderous, and far away....
And then a gentle breeze danced overhead, And caused the timid, new-born leaves to sway, And we began to talk of love, and youth.
And then, I sent him home, and went upstairs, To my still room, and flung the windows wide; And as I knelt to say my evening prayers I saw the stars, far smiling, in the sky. And, all at once, I knew the reason why I worshipped God... knew why He had sent His son to save the world from sin and shame; And, suddenly, like some sweet, healing tide, The meaning of my life swept over me; And, through the dark, my groping soul could see The Christ Who loved us, and was crucified.
And, as I knelt and watched the star's faint shine, I felt God's hand, a moment, touching mine!
You took the lilt from my heart of hearts, And the breath of song from my soul; And the mind of me that had once been free And buoyantly young, and whole; Grew calm and still as a barren sea, Where never a star beam shone, A sea where never a ripple danced— That reflected your face along.
I walked in a daze down well-worn paths— Paths that your feet had trod; I thought your thoughts and I spoke your tongue, I knelt to your hostile God. And the dreams that had been a part of me, I tossed with a sigh away, And left to rust in the misty dust Of the land called Yesterday.
My hands lay folded in slim repose, Quite as you bade them rest; Folded, meek, o'er the leaden heart That tortured my gypsie breast. And I smiled with my lips—my eyes were numb— I smiled for I never knew, That the mind of me was a lifeless sea, Reflecting the face of you!
You took the lilt from my carefree life, And the song from my singing heart; But there came a day when the world grew gray, When I knew that we must part.... So I tore you out of your soul-bound shrine— And, oh, though it caused me pain, I raised my face to the sky and knew That my song would come again!
"Barefooted came the beggar maid," So ran the minstrel's lay— "Barefooted came the beggar maid "Before the King Corpethua." But, oh, her face was like a light, Her hair was black as middle night, And whispers ran from left to right— "She is more beautiful than day!"
"In robe and crown the king stepped down," So ran the minstrel's lay— "In robe and crown the king stepped down, "To meet and greet her by the way." And so the beggar maid became, A Queen, but just a queen in name, For, with her gypsie eyes aflame, Her mirror heard her say—
I was a beggar maid, I used to lie Silent and unafraid, beneath the sky, And watch the stars—my little sisters, they, I used to wake at dawning time of day To plunge my body in some mountain stream— I was a beggar maid! Is this a dream, This golden crown I wear upon my head? This robe of royal purple and of red, This rope of pearls, this ring, these silken shoon?
Not long ago the silver crescent moon Was like a hand that beckoned me to stray, And cities seemed vast centuries away; And as my feet—swift feet, they were, and light— Carried me through the wonder of the night, I never thought of kings, or kingly power— My life was all one splendid, singing hour!
I love my king—He raised me from the dust, And looked at me with wonder, and with trust; My hair hung, tangled, to the waist of me, He brushed it from my eyes, that he might see Deep into them! He set me on his steed, He never knew my name, or asked my creed, He just believed in me—and told me so. I love my king, I love him well, but, oh— Once I wore poppies, red upon my brow, (A crown seems very heavy to me, now,) And once I wore, for all the world to see A gown of rags. (Now, velvets stifle me!) And once my hands (how soft they are!) were strong To toil for me. The days seem very long While I must sit in state above the land— I love my king... But does he understand? I was a beggar maid, I used to lie Silent and unafraid beneath the sky— And, now that I am queen, my being longs To hear, once more, the little slumber songs Of night birds nesting in some forest tree— I want to be myself, again, and free! I want to climb the crest of some great hill, And watch the sunset clouds, again, and thrill Before the color of them! I would stand Alone, once more, and see the wistful land Take on the tint of twilight. I would pray My gypsie prayer, again, at close of day!
I love my king—for he has given me Rare pearls, the treasure of a sighing sea, And rubies, red as sunset clouds a-glow And opals like the wistful winds that blow At twilight-time.
But I would wear, instead, Wild forest flowers, twined about my head— And I would dance, barefooted, on the sod, An innovation to my pagan God!
Am I a queen? What is this crown I wear? I tear it from my smoothly plaited hair— I lay my ring, my rope of pearls, aside; Am I a queen—am I a monarch's bride? The soul of me is still a gypsie thing— I pull them off, the glowing gems, the ring....
I love my king, I love him well—but, oh, GIVE ME MY RAGS, AGAIN, AND LET ME GO!
A WITHERED ROSE
A book of verse, And one withered rose Between two pages....
My love is as faded as the petals, But still faintly fragrant With sweet memories.
ASHES OF LOVE
Dust on the letters you sent me And I did not know that they had been forgotten.
Does it mean that I love again?
IT'S LOTS OF FUN—
It's lots of fun to play around, To dance and sing; And not be tied to anyone, Or anything!
It's lots of fun to live my life, Beneath the sky; To have no one who owns the right To question "Why"?
It's lots of fun to come and go, Through storm and strife, With no one by my side who hopes To mould my life.
(But sometimes at the twilight time, When night birds cry; I dream, perhaps, that something fair Has passed me by!)
And yet—it's good to play around, To laugh and sing; And not be tied to anyone, Or anything!
I wonder if you know, up there in heaven, That I have kept your roses, crumpled now. I wonder if you guess that still I treasure A faded ribbon that once touched your brow. I wonder if you dream, as dusk is falling, Of how I read that note you sent to me. I wonder if you think, up there in heaven, Of all the golden days that used to be.
I wonder if you smile up there in heaven, And pass by, lightly, in your robes of white; Or if you sometimes think of me a little. You seem so near, so very near tonight. I wonder if that last shy kiss I gave you Can make you lonely, just a bit, for me. I wonder if you long, up there in heaven, For all the golden plans that used to be.
Do they have valentines up there in heaven? A love like mine is surely strong to go The little way from earth to where you wait me, Although it be beyond the stars' faint glow. I want you dear; my tired heart is calling; My eyes are searching, though they may not see; I wonder if you're lonely, there in heaven, For all the golden dreams that used to be.
I started out in a cloak of pride, With talent, too, that I did not hide; I started out on Life's stony road, Ambition's weight was my only load, And the way seemed fair in the dawn's first glow, And I hurried—ran—FOR I DID NOT KNOW!
Love smiled from a garden by the way, And called to me, but I would not stray From the road that stretched like a ribbon white, Up endless hills to an endless night. Love smiled at me, but I pushed ahead, And love fell back in the garden—dead— But I did not care as I hastened by, And I did not pause for regret or sigh.... The road before was a path of hope, And every hill with its gentle slope Led up to heights I had dreamed and prayed To reach some day— Ah! I might have stayed With Love and Youth in the garden gay, That smiled at me from beside the way.
I plodded up, and the gentle hills Grew hard to climb, and the laughing rills Were torrents peopled with sodden forms; The sky grew black with the threat of storms, And rocks leaped out and they bruised my feet, And faint I grew in the fever heat. (But ever on led the path that lay As grey as dust in the waning day.) My back was bent, and my heart was sore, And the cloak of pride that I grandly wore Was rent and patched and not fair to see— Ambition, talent, seemed naught to me.... But I struggled on 'till I reached the top, FOR ONLY THEN DID I DARE TO STOP!
I stood on the summit gazing down, And the earth looked sordid and dull and brown, And neutral-tinted and neutral-souled; And all of life seemed a story told, And the only spot that was bright to see Was a patch of green that had bloomed for me Where a garden lived in a spring long fled, When Love stood smiling— BUT LOVE WAS DEAD!
TO A CERTAIN ROOM
Your room is still the dainty little place, That used to seem so much a part of you— The draperies of faded rose and blue Still hold a shadow of their former grace. The windows still are hung with frosty lace, And sometimes, when the moonlight glimmers through, I watch your mirror, half expecting to See once again, reflected there, your face!
And yet, the little room seems much too neat, It seems quite colorless, and very bare, Because the filmy things you used to wear Are laid away. Because the perfume sweet That clung about you has been swept aside.... Your room is there—but, oh, its soul has died!
I wonder if you ever dream of other days, Because, sometimes, at twilight when the sunset plays Half wistfully across the polished oaken floor, I see you smiling—standing in your place once more.
(Do you remember little things we used to say? They wouldn't mean so very much to us to-day.... Do you remember how I wore a gown of blue, Because it brought the haze of autumn clouds to you? Do you remember how I said you didn't care— And how you laughed at me and rumpled up my hair? Do you remember how the tears stood in my eyes At your good-by when darkness overhung the skies?)
I wonder if you ever dream of other days? Because, sometimes at twilight when the sunset plays Half wistfully across your empty cozy-chair, I turn and half expect to see you smiling there!
THIS IS TO YOU, DEAR, TO YOU, UNKNOWING; JUST AS THE SOUTH WIND WISTFULLY BLOWING TOUCHES SOME FLOWER—
SO IS MY SONG, DEAR, THROUGH EVERY HOUR, ALL THE DAY LONG, DEAR, TO YOU, UNKNOWING!
You came to me through the candlelight, When the world, outside, was grey.... You came to me through the candlelight When the day was done, and the misty night Crept through the land. And your eyes were bright, And they seemed to laugh and pray. You came to me through the candlelight, And you took my hands, and you held them tight, And you didn't speak, but, dear, I KNEW— And my heart and my soul were part of you.
You came to me through the candlelight, When the world, outside, was grey; And I looked in your eyes and, glowing there, I saw a hope and I read a prayer; And I knew, at last, that I didn't care, If life were a troubled, weary way, As long as I walked with you. You came to me, at the close of day, Through the candlelight—when the world was grey— And dreams of Heaven seemed strangely new.... And I told you, dear, to stay!
THERE ARE SUCH WEARY LITTLE LINES
There are such weary little lines about the mouth of you, Such tragic little mirthless lines—they mock at dreams come true, And twist your lips when you would smile, until all joy is dead, And I, who want to laugh with you, am fain to weep instead!
There are such dreary little lines about the mouth of you, They make me want to whisper that summer sky is blue, And that the rain is like a lance of silver through the air, And that the flowers in the lane are growing tall and fair!
There are such tired little lines about the mouth of you— As if you thought that life was cold and loving friends were few.... They are such lonely little lines I think that I, some day, Will creep close to you in the dusk, and kiss them quite away!
THREE SONGS OF AWAKENING
The flowers spring from the broken heart, Of the frozen winter sod— Rending their prison bars apart, They smile in the face of God!
The birds sweep up to the wind-blown plain, E'er ever the land knows spring; To sway on a budding branch again, To challenge the world, and sing!
And I with my tired eyes a-dance, And my weary heart a-flame; Have felt the call of the old romance, And thrilled to a whispered name!
I saw a sky as blue as eyes I know, I felt a breeze, as soft as kisses, blow; And, dear, I saw one golden sunbeam creep From Heaven, lighting all the world below, Like love that wakens, dewy-eyed, from sleep!
We who have wondered know the answer, now; For Spring stands, joyous, on the purple brow Of the far hill; and doubt is swept away, And all the mirth-mad world makes holiday!
We who have wandered long, and half afraid, Find answer in each dreaming woodland glade; HEARTS THAT HAVE BROKEN MAY BE BOUND TOGETHER, WHEN SPRING HAS TRIUMPHED OVER WINTER WEATHER!
IN A CANOE
Starlight, and the silver lake Clasp the skies— And two nearer, dearer stars, Your eyes!
Elfin voices seem to call Through the night, But your arms are warm, and they Hold me tight.
Pallidly the moon slides down, Hour by hour slips; Ah, the deathless magic of Your lips!
Dark the shadows as we creep Past the shore— Dear, that we might drift like this Evermore!
Now that the day is done I am ready to greet you, Smiling, the way that I know you would have me smile; I will open the door, and will run down the walk to meet you, As if I had missed you, dear, for a weary while! I will listen, breathless, the while you tell of your toiling, All day long in the dust and the city's heat; And, dear, you will never know that my blood is boiling— Back of the smile that is calm and tenderly sweet.
You will never know that the soul of me, dear, is flying, Out where the seagull dips in the ocean's foam; You will never know that something of me is dying, Every night as I smile and welcome you home. You will never know that my heart is soaring above you— You will be content with my mask of a smile— KNOWING I LOVE YOU!
I do not want to be worshipped, From a distance; Like some idol carved in wood, Or stone. I want to be loved As every real woman Wants to be loved!
And so.... Lay aside the book that you are reading from— What if Leander did swim the Hellespont? And what if burning Sappho Did sing? What do I care for Launcelot and Elaine, Or Tristram and Isolt, Or Aucassin and Nicholette?
Lay aside the book that you are reading from, And cross the room quickly, And take my cold hands between your two Warmer ones.... And here, in the vivid dusk, We will make our own love songs!
AFTER A DAY OF WAITING
All day long I waited—waited with soul aflame— And then through the still of evening, humming a tune, you came; Came with a jest on your smiling lips, and eyes that were all too gay; And the light died out of my waiting heart with the words that I could not say.
We laughed through the star-flecked twilight—what though my laugh was strained? You, who were there beside me, laughed with a mirth unfeigned! And at last when I bade you leave me you went, and you never knew That with soul aflame I had waited, all through the day, for you.
Dear, you are like the summer dusk to me, The summer dusk when all the world seems still; When purple shadows creep along the hill, And birds are softly crooning in each tree. You are the gentle-cool-eyed mystery Of twilight hours. Sometime I think you will Melt from me out into the dark, until You turn to star-shine, silvering the sea.
Dear, even when your head is on my breast, You seem no nearer than a moonbeam thrown Across my heart. Your fingers have caressed My hair so lightly that I scarce have known Their pressure. You are like that time when rest Steals up so softly that one feels alone!
AT FIRST SIGHT
Seeing you once, how can I forget That our eyes have smiled and our hands have met? That our souls have known and our hearts have cried, Though our lips were dumb. Ah, the world is wide, And love there is for us both to know— But my eyes were dim as I watched you go!
You may wander far, you may come no more, But you hold the key to the inmost door Of my heart of hearts! For our hands have met, And our eyes have smiled, and I CAN'T FORGET!
I. THE COMING
I know that Love will come to me, some day, Though I have never loved, or looked on Love; I know that Love will wait beside the way And smile at me. The tender skies above Will be alight with all the joy of spring, And flowers will life their heads above the earth, And some far bird will stay its flight and sing, And fill the land with silver throated mirth.
I know that Love, at last, with smiling eyes, Will pause beside my half-swung cottage door, And I will lift my gaze, without surprise, To see his shadow dance across the floor. I know that Love will come to me, some day, When springtime blossoms, shyly, into May!
I know that you are not the one that I Should fall in love with, for your eyes are blind To all the things that make my world the kind I want to live in. Often, when I cry At some vague beauty that has caught my eye, You laugh! You cannot dream the dreams I find, In forest places where dim pathways wind Up to the Heaven-land so far and high.
I know that I should never learn to care, And yet, sometimes the blueness of your eyes Can make me half forget the smiling skies.... And, when I see the sunlight on your hair, I do not stop to reason, dear, for oh— My heart throbs faster, and I know—I know!
III. THE RAIN OUTSIDE
You close beside me, and outside, the rain, Which, stealing through the darkness of the night, Seems tapping out with fingers softly light, A world-old song upon my window pane— A song of happiness with a refrain That throbs in suffering. You hold me tight, Your eyes, that search my own, are warmly bright, Your lips touch mine again, and yet again!
Ah, what though years must pass, though you and I May live our lives, quite silently, apart? Whenever rain comes, when the day is through, And, tapping on my casement, seems to sigh, A dream will blossom, fragrant, in my heart, A dream of youth eternal, and of—you.
IV. I USED TO WRITE
I used to write so many songs of love— I wrote them carefully, I did not know That love was more than moonlight from above, And pretty words set in an even row, I held my pencil calmly in my hand, And sang of arms and lips and tender eyes; I wrote of love—who did not understand— And hoped that folk would think me very wise!
I used to write so many songs... To-day My hands are folded, and I cannot sing, I sit, instead, and watch the sunlight stray Across my desk. And I am wondering If God, who lights a million stars each night, Laughed at the groping words I tried to write!
I wonder if, dim centuries ago, We watched the moon together, on some night When stars hung very near, and softly bright? I wonder if my tired head drooped low Against your breast? And if you seemed to know (As you know now) the dreams that, like a light, Shone in my soul? For, dear, it seems so right— So very right that you should hold me so!
Here, in the moonlight, there is nothing new, The very arms that crush me to your heart, Seem almost like a memory, a part Of some vague yesterday that has come true— I feel tonight as if I, dear, might start A journey back, across the years, with you!
You left me when the weary weight of sorrow Lay, like a stone, upon my bursting heart; It seemed as if no shimmering tomorrow Could dry the tears that you had caused to start. You left me, never telling why you wandered— Without a word, without a last caress; Left me with but the love that I had squandered, The husks of love and a vast loneliness.
And yet if you came back with arms stretched toward me, Came back to-night, with carefree, smiling eyes, And said: "My journeying has somehow bored me, And love, though broken, never, never dies!" I would forget the wounded heart you gave me, I would forget the bruises on my soul. My old-time gods would rise again to save me, My dreams would grow supremely new and whole. What though youth lay, a tattered garment, o'er you? Warm words would leap upon my lips, long dumb; If you came back, with arms stretched out before you, AND TOLD ME, DEAR, THAT YOU WERE GLAD TO COME!
Sometimes a mist of sunlight across a stranger's hair, Sometimes the vague expression upon a stranger's face, Can make me feel your presence—can fill a lonely place With dreams of life half realized. Faint music through the air Can make me hear your foot-fall, again, upon the stair— Sometimes a dancer moving with quite unconscious grace, Can make my pulse beat faster; and for a breathless space Can make me turn, expecting to find you standing there!
You have not gone! The passing of every empty day Has only brought you nearer. Those things that were a part Of all we planned together are bits of you that stay, To bruise my soul as sharply as any flame-tipped dart. Ah, time may hold its healing—but years that pass away Cannot erase the writing you traced upon my heart!
Love of my life, the time has come for parting— For, dearest, I must leave you while we care! Leave you while tears of vain regret are starting, While I can look at you and find you fair. Could we endure a morn of bitter waking, Could we accept a love that would seem less? Dear, I must go the while my heart is breaking— Go while my world is filled with happiness.
Love of my soul, our dream has been so flaming, That, if we waited, it might smoulder down— Leaving dead ashes only, ashes shaming All that was vivid—ashes dimly brown. We will have memories as sweet as flowers, We who have left, untouched, Fate's cup of woe; Kiss me once more to bridge life's aching hours— Love of my heart—the time has come to go!
WHEN I AM OLD—
When I am old and drenched in worlds of sadness, And wear a lacy cap upon my head; When, looking past the future's singing gladness, I linger, wistful, in the years long dead. When I am old, and young folk all about me, Speak softly of religion, WHEN THEY SPEAK, When parties are a grand success without me; And when my laugh is fluttering and weak—
Will I then be content to raise my glances, Serenely to the cloud-entangled sky? And will I be content to watch at dances, Without a heartbreak, as the hours pass by? Or when I see young lovers' fingers twine, WILL I REMEMBER, DEAR, YOUR LIPS ON MINE?
We hurried, once, down the purple road, When a storm hung low in the sky; And we gained the door of Love's abode As the silver rain flashed by. Our steps rang out as we crossed the sill, And the place was dimly bright, And even our hearts seemed strangely still, While our searching hands clasped tight.
We waited there while the wind moaned past And the thunder crashed in the air; And the door of Love's abode blew fast, But we didn't know—or care! For we heard a song in the driving rain, And the sky seemed warmly gray; And the tempest rang with a mad refrain, And the world seemed years away. . . . . . . . . .
We have wandered far from the road of dreams, We have crept from the house of love; And the scorching sun of the noonday gleams From the pitiless sky above. But once, ah, once—in that dusky place, When the lightning flashed through the air, I saw its flame on your upturned face, And its glow on your vivid hair.
We have strayed away—we have strayed away— For the world is all too wide.... But once I came through the stormy day, And you walked, proud, at my side. AND, OH, FOR THE FEEL OF THE RAIN AGAIN, AND, OH, FOR THE PURPLE ROAD, AND, OH, FOR THE JOY AND THE PAIN AGAIN, THAT WE KNEW IN LOVE'S ABODE!
TO DREAM ALONE....
How long the days may seem, how long each night, (And yet, how short the evenings used to be!) How strange it is that I can never see, Warm pictures in the hearth that glows so bright. We used to watch the laughing firelight, And build dream castles in it—Ah, but we Built castles everywhere! And now the sea Is swept between us. You have gone to fight.
And I—I wait and try to dream alone, And try to smile, to dance and laugh and sing; And, somehow, cannot think of anything, But just the thrilling roughness of your tone, The light that lights your eyes, your lips that cling, And love—the flame of love that we have known!
NOW I MAY SING OF SADNESS....
Knowing, dear, that my whole heart lies at rest Deep in the heart of you, I may sing a song Telling the tale of bitterness and wrong.... Knowing, dear, that my head lay on your breast Only last night, I may sing of dreams that died, And hopes that never were born, and faith betrayed, Of weary feet that have left the road and strayed Out of the narrow way, to pastures wide.
Dear, when my songs were gay, I did not know Whether you cared. And so I had to sing Gladly, to mask grim fear—I had to bring Sunlight to point the path that I must go! Now that the clouds are silver sweet above, I may sing songs of sadness. I am blessed Knowing, dear, that my whole heart lies at rest, Knowing, dear, that I have your love—your love!
KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE WALKED HER MUDDY ROADS WEARILY, AFTER BITTER TIMES OF FIGHTING; KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE CARRIED HEAVY LOADS OVER HER HILLS—WHILE I, AT HOME, WAS LIGHTING DIM YELLOW CANDLES ON THE MANTEL SHELF.... KNOWING YOU SUFFERED AGONY AND LOSS, UNDER THE VERY SHADOW OF A CROSS— FRANCE HOLDS A BIT OF YOU—AND OF MYSELF!
WHEN WAR CAME
War came, one day, and drew us close together, Although it swept us many miles apart; The love that lay as lightly as a feather, Now rests, a precious weight, upon my heart. And all the dreams I dreamed for just the dreaming, Have taken on a meaning that is new; And somehow all the lonely world is seeming, To cry aloud my aching need of you!
Because you were so much a part of living, Like sunshine and the freshness of the air, The priceless gift of faith that you were giving Seemed small to me. Scarce knowing you were there I took your heart-strings in my careless fingers, And played a song as light as summer dew, And yet, today, its wistful echo lingers And fills an empty world with thoughts of you.
I did not think that I would ever miss you, I did not dream the time would come to be When I would long to touch your hand, to kiss you— To hear your voice say tender words to me. I did not know that I would wonder whether My head would rest, once more, against your heart.... War came, my dear, and drew us close together, Although it swept us many miles apart!
WHEN YOU WENT BY
I stood in the rain and watched you pass, I stood in the blinding rain.... And I thought of a fragrant summer night, When the room was glowing with candlelight, And a shower beat on the window glass With a wonderful, low refrain. I thought of your arms that held me tight, And your eyes that were near and warmly bright; I thought of—all, as I watched you pass, And my soul was wrung with pain.
"Tramp, tramp, tramp!" rang your column's tread. "Tramp, tramp, tramp!" through the street. (Ah, dear, it was summer once, and there Were flower scents on the misty air— Honeysuckle and mignonette, poignantly, sadly sweet!) "Tramp, tramp, tramp!" rang your column's tread, And my eyes were dim as I bowed my head; And my heart seemed broken and old and dead, Under your marching feet.
I stood in the rain and watched you pass— There in the autumn rain.... And I thought, my dear, of the night when you Had kissed me first. (Ah, your eyes were blue, And very tender, and Heaven-true, There in the candlelight!) I thought of a misty summer night, When a shower fell on the vivid grass (There, through the rain, I watched you pass!) I thought of a mystic summer night That never may come again.
"TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP!" RANG YOUR COLUMN'S TREAD, "TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP!" IN THE STREET; AND I TRIED TO SMILE—WITH A LIFTED HEAD— BUT MY HEART LAY, CRUSHED, AT YOUR FEET!
To an American Aviator
He went to battle in the mist-hung sky, Like some gold-hearted bird with pinions strong; He went with courage, with a snatch of song, In all his splendid youth! And God on high Looked down with love to watch him dip and fly, Then lifted him to where the brave belong. He went to right a bleeding nation's wrong, And proved that he was not afraid to die!
So we, who stare across the lonely hours, Must only think of that great gift he gave; Must think of other lives that his will save; And know that, when the tender, healing showers Have fallen in a stranger-land, the flowers Will bloom, like prayers, upon a hero's grave!
A PEASANT GIRL SINGS
Somewhere, Out There, he is—just a boy, that's all— (Laughter sparkled in his eyes—he was always singing!) Just a boy who answered when he heard his country's call; (Somewhere, Out There, he is—how my thoughts go winging—) Ready to do or dare, (Like sunlight was his hair,) Just a boy, a laughing boy, Somewhere, Out There.
Idle my wheel, to-day, hushed is it's spinning— (Ah, but his eyes were blue—blue as the sea—) Somewhere, Out There, he is... Losing—or winning! (Boy with the carefree heart, come back to me!) Blood red the cannon's flare, (God, can you hear my prayer?) Keep him, my boy, from harm— Somewhere, Out There.
THEY LAY TOGETHER IN THE SUN AND WAITED FOR THE END; SIDE BY SIDE, TOGETHER, BEARDED FOE AND FRIEND; JEAN FROM THE PLEASANT FIELDS OF SINGING, SOUTHERN FRANCE, JEAN FROM THE POPPY FIELDS SIGHING WITH ROMANCE; FRITZ FROM A FATHERLAND HE BLINDLY LOVED AND SERVED, FRITZ WHOSE SOFT-NOSED BULLETS HAD NEVER FLINCHED NOR SWERVED; AND PETER, WHOSE TIRED EYES WERE WIDE AND DEEP AND BROWN, PETER FROM DELANCEY STREET, IN NEW YORK TOWN.
They didn't speak, these three, They didn't know each other's tongue; And, then, When men Whose songs are nearly sung Are lying side by side, Their breathing not so... free, The gulf is rather wide.
In the sun they lay there; And Fritz's hair Was very bright. He was a foe To kill on sight— And yet the light Upon his hair was so, So very fair....
Jean found himself remembering HER hair; Of palest gold it was, a magic snare To net men's soul in! She had bade him go, Sobbing, "Je t'aime"—which means, "I love you so!" Her hair—her hands—her lips, Red as a sunset cloud when daytime slips Into the night. No, redder! Like a flower That blooms upon the earth for just an hour; A poppy flower, fragile, soft.... HER LIPS Red as the heart-blood of a man, that drips Into eternity.... Jean sighed, And died.
PERHAPS HER LIPS WERE VERY NEAR—WHO KNOWS? WHEN EYES MUST CLOSE AGAINST THE SUN, AND LIFE, WHO CARES? ONE ONLY DARES TO WONDER!
Fritz lay still. He felt the strength, the faith, the stubborn will, Drop from him like worn garments, till he lay Half-frightened in the burning light of day. He had killed many, yes.... From under His tunic, gropingly, he drew a cross; He wondered would it make, for her, the loss A little less? Ah, to press His bearded lips once more upon her cheek, To hear her speak....
Yes, he had killed, and killed— And he had thrilled To do it.... But just to sit Beside her, in the shade, THAT had been paradise! Her soft arms laid About his throat.... THEY STRANGLED HIM— His eyes grew dim.... He choked—once... twice....
Peter from Delancey Street, laughed with white- lipped pluck. "Dyin' side o' HIM!" he coughed. "Ain't it rotten luck! "Poor guy, they got him, though—got him same as me...." Peter, from Delancey Street, stopped talking suddenly.
He saw— A candy store, On the busy, smelly corner of a crowded city slum; He heard the hum Of traffic in the street, The sound of feet Upon the pavement; and he saw, Behind the counter there, THE GIRL. She wore Her hair Plastered tight to her little shell-like ears. He felt her tears Upon his face The night he told her that he'd left his place, His steady paying job, to go and fight.
"Good night!" He'd said to her. "Somebody's gotta go! Yerself, you know, We gotta STIR T'lick them fellers Over There!" Her slicked-back hair Had roughened up against his khaki sleeve, And she had cried: "Dear, MUST you leave?" And he had dried Her eyes, and smudged the powder on her nose....
"Here goes!" Said Peter of Delancey Street. He saw A candy store— A city slum, a girl with plastered hair, Who waited there....
THEY LAY TOGETHER IN THE SUN—BRAVELY TO THE END, SIDE BY SIDE, TOGETHER, BEARDED FOE AND FRIEND. JEAN FROM THE POPPY FIELDS, SIGHING WITH ROMANCE, JEAN FROM THE LAUGHTER-LILTING FIELDS OF SOUTHERN FRANCE; FRITZ FROM A FATHERLAND HE BLINDLY LOVED AND SERVED, FRITZ, WHOSE FAITH, ALTHOUGH BETRAYED, HAD NEVER FLINCHED OR SWERVED; AND PETER, WHOSE TIRED EYES WERE QUESTIONING AND BROWN, PETER, FROM DELANCEY STREET, IN NEW YORK TOWN.
He wasn't, well, a fancy kind o' dog— Not Jim! But, oh, I sorter couldn't seem ter help A-lovin' him. He always seemed ter understand. He'd rub his nose against my hand If I was feelin' blue or sad. Or if my thoughts was pretty bad; An' how he'd bark an' frisk an' play When I was gay!
A soldier's dog don't have much time ter whine Like little pets a-howlin' at th' moon. A soldier's dog is bound ter learn, right soon, That war is war, an' what a steady line Of men in khaki means. (What, dogs don't know? You bet they do! Jim-dog, he had ter go Along th' trenches oftentimes at night; He seemed ter sense it when there was a fight A-brewin'. Oh, I guess he knew, all right!) I was a soldier, an' Jim-dog was MINE.
Ah, what's the use? There never was another dog like him. Why, on th' march I'd pause an' call—"Hey, Jim!" An' he'd be there, his head tipped on one side, A-lookin' up at me with love an' pride, His tail a-waggin', an' his ears raised high....
I wonder why my Jim-dog had ter die? He was a friend ter folks; he didn't bite; He never snapped at no one in th' night; He didn't hate a soul; an' he was GAME! An' yet... a spark o' light, a dartin' flame Across th' dark, a sneaky bit o' lead, An' he was... dead!
They say there ain't no heaven-land for him, 'Cause dogs is dogs, an' haven't any right; But let me tell yer this; without my Jim Th' very shinin' streets would seem less bright! An' somehow I'm a-thinkin' that if he Could come at that last stirrin' bugle call Up to th' gates o' gold aside of me, Where God stands smilin' welcome to us all, An' I said, "Father, here's my dog... here's Jim," They'd find some corner, touched with love, fer him!
Somehow I never thought that you would go, Not even when red war swept through the land— I somehow thought, because I loved you so, That you would stay. I did not understand That something stronger than my love could come, To draw you, half-reluctant, from my heart; I never thought the call of fife and drum Would rend our cloak of happiness apart!
And yet, you went... And I—I did not weep— I smiled, instead, and brushed the tears aside. And yet, when night-time comes, I cannot sleep But silent lie, while longing fights with pride— YOU ARE MY MAN, THE FOE YOU FIGHT MY FOE, AND YET—I NEVER THOUGHT THAT YOU WOULD GO!
II. I WONDER
I wonder if you dream, across the night, When watchfires cut the vivid dark in twain, Of long dim rooms, and yellow candlelight, And gardens drenched in vaguely perfumed rain? I wonder if you think, when shot and shell And molten fire are singing songs of hate, Of that last throbbing moment of farewell When, in your arms, I promised you to wait!
I wonder, should grim death reach out his hand, And speak, above the strife, of peace and rest; If you, alone in that dark stranger land, Would feel again my head upon your breast? And if, as light and love and living slips, Your prayer would be my kiss upon your lips....
III. SOME DAY
Some day when on exultant feet you come Back through the streets that echo at your tread— My soul will thrill to hear the throbbing drum, And yet, perhaps, I'll sit with drooping head, Not caring, quite, to meet your steady gaze, Not daring, quite, to look into your eyes; Afraid because a weary stretch of days, Each one a million years, between us lies.
My heart—my heart is ever yours to hold, And yet, while I have waited here for you, You have seen faith betrayed, and brave youth sold, You have seen meadows drenched in bloody dew— It may have changed you, and your eyes may be A little harder when they look at me!
Sometimes I dream that you are back with me, And that with hands together clasped we go Like little children, young and glad and free, A-down a magic road we used to know. Sometimes I dream your eyes upon my face, And feel your fingers softly touch my hair.... And when I wake from dreaming all the place, Seems lonelier because you are not there.
What is a dream? Not very much, they say, An idle vision made in castled Spain— Well, maybe they are right.... And yet, today, When all the warring world was swept with pain, The suffering and sorrow ceased to be, Because I dreamed that you were back with me!
Now, when I stand in some great crowded place, I see the souls of other women stare Out of their eyes—And I can glimpse the care And worry that has banished light and grace From every life. Upon each woman-face I see the mark of tears, the hint of prayer That, one short year ago, had not been there— I see what time will never quite erase!
Before you left, I did not notice eyes— Because I knew that I might touch your hand, I did not dream the dread that swept our land... Ah, dear, the months have made me very wise! Now, one with everything, I understand, And heart meets heart and I can sympathize.
VI. THE WAKING
Now war is over and a world set free, And youth returns, triumphant, to our land— And dear-heart, you'll be coming back to me, With eager lips, and tender outstretched hand! You will be coming as you came of old, At evening time, with laughter lilting gay; Glad of the little things that life may hold— And I will meet you in the self same way....
Yes, in the shadows by my oaken door, I will be waiting as I used to wait— And I will feel that you are come, before I hear the clicking of the garden gate. And, in the darkness there, my pulse will leap, Reviving dreams that long have lain asleep!
"I wonder what they're doin' home tonight?" Jim said— We sat there, in the yellow firelight, There, in a house in France— Some of us, maybe thinkin' of romance— Some of us missin' buddies who was dead— And some just dreamin' Sorter hardly seemin' Ter make th' dream come clear.
An' then—Jim spoke— "I wonder what they're doin' home ternight?" Says Jim— An' some of us felt, well—as if we'd like Ter smother him! An' some of us tried hard-like not ter choke, Th' smoke Was pretty thick an' black! A-thinkin' back, Across th' ocean I could sort of see A little house that means just all ter me And, though nobody said a word I knew Their thoughts was goin' on th' self-same track— Thoughts do Out here, in France.
Home—HOME—No wonder that we all was still— For one of us was thinkin' of a hill, With pine trees on it black against th' moon— And one of us was dreaming of a town, All drab an' brown— An' one of us was lookin'—far an' high Ter some one who had gone back home too soon To that real home that is beyond the sky.
Nobody of us spoke fer quite a while— We didn't smile— We just sat still an' wondered when there'd be An order for ter send us home— Back 'crost the sea. Th' war was won— An' we was DONE! We wanted faces that we loved an' knew, An' voices too—
We sat an' watched th' dancin' fire fling Its shadders on th' floor— Bright shapes, an' dim. An' then Jim coughed as if his throat was sore, An'—"Say—let's sing!" Says Jim.
FROM THE DECK OF A TRANSPORT
(A Returning Soldier Speaks)
I am coming back with a singing soul through the surge of the splendid sea, Coming back to the land called home, and the love that used to be— I am coming back through a flash of spray, through a conquered tempest's hum, I am coming back, I am coming back.... But, God, do I want to come?
I have heard the shriek of the great shells speak to the dawn of a flaming day; And a growling gun when the fight was won, and the twilight flickered gray, I have seen men die with their chins raised high, and a curse that was half a prayer— I have fought alone when a comrade's groan was tense on the blinding air.