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The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley

Part 2 out of 4

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PLAIN SERMONS

I saw a man--and envied him beside--
Because of this world's goods he had great store;
But even as I envied him, he died,
And left me envious of him no more.

I saw another man--and envied still--
Because he was content with frugal lot;
But as I envied him, the rich man's will
Bequeathed him all, and envy I forgot.

Yet still another man I saw, and he
I envied for a calm and tranquil mind
That nothing fretted in the least degree--
Until, alas! I found that he was blind.

What vanity is envy! for I find
I have been rich in dross of thought, and poor
In that I was a fool, and lastly blind
For never having seen myself before!

"TRADIN' JOE"

I'm one o' these cur'ous kind o' chaps
You think you know when you don't, perhaps!
I hain't no fool--ner I don't p'tend
To be so smart I could rickommend
Myself fer a CONGERSSMAN my friend!--
But I'm kind o' betwixt-and-between, you know,--
One o' these fellers 'at folks call "slow."
And I'll say jest here I'm kind o' queer
Regardin' things 'at I SEE and HEAR,--
Fer I'm THICK o' hearin' SOMETIMES, and
It's hard to git me to understand;
But other times it hain't, you bet!
Fer I don't sleep with both eyes shet!

I've swapped a power in stock, and so
The neighbers calls me "Tradin' Joe"--
And I'm goin' to tell you 'bout a trade,--
And one o' the best I ever made:

Folks has gone so fur's to say
'At I'm well fixed, in a WORLDLY way,
And BEIN' so, and a WIDOWER,
It's not su'prisin', as you'll infer,
I'm purty handy among the sect--
Widders especially, rickollect!
And I won't deny that along o' late
I've hankered a heap fer the married state--
But some way o' 'nother the longer we wait
The harder it is to discover a mate.

Marshall Thomas,--a friend o' mine,
Doin' some in the tradin' line,
But a'most too YOUNG to know it all--
On'y at PICNICS er some BALL!--
Says to me, in a banterin' way,
As 'we was a-loadin' stock one day,--
"You're a-huntin' a wife, and I want you to see
My girl's mother, at Kankakee!--
She hain't over forty--good-lookin' and spry,
And jest the woman to fill your eye!
And I'm a-goin' there Sund'y,--and now," says he,
"I want to take you along with ME;
And you marry HER, and," he says, "by 'shaw I
You'll hev me fer yer son-in-law!"
I studied a while, and says I, "Well, I'll
First have to see ef she suits my style;
And ef she does, you kin bet your life
Your mother-in-law will be my wife!"

Well, Sundy come; and I fixed up some--
Putt on a collar--I did, by gum!--
Got down my "plug," and my satin vest--
(You wouldn't know me to see me dressed!--
But any one knows ef you got the clothes
You kin go in the crowd wher' the best of 'em goes!)
And I greeced my boots, and combed my hair
Keerfully over the bald place there;
And Marshall Thomas and me that day
Eat our dinners with Widder Gray
And her girl Han'! * * *

Well, jest a glance
O' the widder's smilin' countenance,
A-cuttin' up chicken and big pot-pies,
Would make a man hungry in Paradise!
And passin' p'serves and jelly and cake
'At would make an ANGEL'S appetite ACHE!--
Pourin' out coffee as yaller as gold--
Twic't as much as the cup could hold--
La! it was rich!--And then she'd say,
"Take some o' THIS!' in her coaxin' way,
Tell ef I'd been a hoss I'd 'a' FOUNDERED, shore,
And jest dropped dead on her white-oak floor!

Well, the way I talked would 'a' done you good,
Ef you'd 'a' been there to 'a' understood;
Tel I noticed Hanner and Marshall, they
Was a-noticin' me in a cur'ous way;
So I says to myse'f, says I, "Now, Joe,
The best thing fer you is to jest go slow!"
And I simmered down, and let them do
The bulk o' the talkin' the evening through.

And Marshall was still in a talkative gait
When he left, that evening--tolable late.
"How do you like her?" he says to me;
Says I, "She suits, to a 'T-Y-TEE'!
And then I ast how matters stood
With him in the OPPOSITE neighberhood?
"Bully!" he says; "I ruther guess
I'll finally git her to say the 'yes.'
I named it to her to-night, and she
Kind o' smiled, and said 'SHE'D SEE'--
And that's a purty good sign!" says he:
"Yes" says I, "you're ahead o' ME!"
And then he laughed, and said, "GO IN!
And patted me on the shoulder ag'in.

Well, ever sense then I've been ridin' a good
Deal through the Kankakee neighberhood;
And I make it convenient sometimes to stop
And hitch a few minutes, and kind o' drop
In at the widder's, and talk o' the crop
And one thing o' 'nother. And week afore last
The notion struck me, as I drove past,
I'd stop at the place and state my case--
Might as well do it at first as last!

I felt first-rate; so I hitched at the gate,
And went up to the house; and, strange to relate,
MARSHALL THOMAS had dropped in, TOO.--
"Glad to see you, sir, how do you do?"
He says, says he! Well--it SOUNDED QUEER:

And when Han' told me to take a cheer,
Marshall got up and putt out o' the room--
And motioned his hand fer the WIDDER to come.
I didn't say nothin' fer quite a spell,
But thinks I to myse'f, "There's a dog in the well!"
And Han' SHE smiled so cur'ous at me--
Says I, "What's up?" And she says, says she,
"Marshall's been at me to marry ag'in,
And I told him 'no,' jest as you come in."
Well, somepin' o' 'nother in that girl's voice
Says to me, "Joseph, here's your choice!"
And another minute her guileless breast
Was lovin'ly throbbin' ag'in my vest!--
And then I kissed her, and heerd a smack
Come like a' echo a-flutterin' back,
And we looked around, and in full view
Marshall was kissin' the widder, too!
Well, we all of us laughed, in our glad su'prise,
Tel the tears come A-STREAMIN' out of our eyes!
And when Marsh said "'Twas the squarest trade
That ever me and him had made,"
We both shuck hands, 'y jucks! and swore
We'd stick together ferevermore.
And old Squire Chipman tuck us the trip:
And Marshall and me's in pardnership!

DOT LEEDLE BOY

Ot's a leedle Gristmas story
Dot I told der leedle folks--
Und I vant you stop dot laughin'
Und grackin' funny jokes!--
So help me Peter-Moses!
Ot's no time for monkey-shine,
Ober I vast told you somedings
Of dot leedle boy of mine!

Ot vas von cold Vinter vedder,
Ven der snow vas all about--
Dot you have to chop der hatchet
Eef you got der sauerkraut!
Und der cheekens on der hind leg
Vas standin' in der shine
Der sun shmile out dot morning
On dot leedle boy of mine.

He vas yoost a leedle baby
Not bigger as a doll
Dot time I got acquaintet--
Ach! you ought to heard 'im squall!--
I grackys! dot's der moosic
Ot make me feel so fine
Ven first I vas been marriet--
Oh, dot leedle boy of mine!

He look yoost like his fader!--
So, ven der vimmen said,
"Vot a purty leedle baby!"
Katrina shake der head. . . .
I dink she must 'a' notice
Dot der baby vas a-gryin',
Und she cover up der blankets
Of dot leedle boy of mine.

Vel, ven he vas got bigger,
Dot he grawl und bump his nose,
Und make der table over,
Und molasses on his glothes--
Dot make 'im all der sveeter,--
So I say to my Katrine,
"Better you vas quit a-shpankin'
Dot leedle boy of mine!"

No more he vas older
As about a dozen months
He speak der English language
Und der German--bote at vonce!
Und he dringk his glass of lager
Like a Londsman fon der Rhine--
Und I klingk my glass togeder
Mit dot leedle boy of mine!

I vish you could 'a' seen id--
Ven he glimb up on der chair
Und shmash der lookin'-glasses
Ven he try to comb his hair
Mit a hammer!--Und Katrina
Say, "Dot's an ugly sign!"
But I laugh und vink my fingers
At dot leedle boy of mine.

But vonce, dot Vinter morning,
He shlip out in der snow
Mitout no stockin's on 'im.--
He say he "vant to go
Und fly some mit der birdies!"
Und ve give 'im medi-cine
Ven he catch der "parrygoric"--
Dot leedle boy of mine!

Und so I set und nurse 'im,
Vile der Gristmas vas come roun',
Und I told 'im 'bout "Kriss Kringle,"
How he come der chimbly down:
Und I ask 'im eef he love 'im
Eef he bring 'im someding fine?
"Nicht besser as mein fader,"
Say dot leedle boy of mine.--

Und he put his arms aroun' me
Und hug so close und tight,
I hear der gclock a-tickin'
All der balance of der night! . . .
Someding make me feel so funny
Ven I say to my Katrine,
"Let us go und fill der stockin's
Of dot leedle boy of mine."

Vell.--Ve buyed a leedle horses
Dot you pull 'im mit a shtring,
Und a leedle fancy jay-bird--
Eef you vant to hear 'im sing
You took 'im by der topknot
Und yoost blow in behine--
Und dot make much spectakel
For dot leedle boy of mine!

Und gandies, nuts und raizens--
Und I buy a leedle drum
Dot I vant to hear 'im rattle
Ven der Gristmas morning come!
Und a leedle shmall tin rooster
Dot vould crow so loud und fine
Ven he sqveeze 'im in der morning,
Dot leedle boy of mine!

Und--vile ve vas a-fixin'--
Dot leedle boy vake out!
I t'ought he been a-dreamin'
"Kriss Kringle" vas about,--
For he say--"DOT'S HIM!--I SEE 'IM
MIT DER SHTARS DOT MAKE DER SHINE!"
Und he yoost keep on a-gryin'--
Dot leedle boy of mine,--
Und gottin' vorse und vorser--
Und tumble on der bed!
So--ven der doctor seen id,
He kindo' shake his head,
Und feel his pulse--und visper,
"Der boy is a-dyin'."
You dink I could BELIEVE id?--
DOT LEEDLE BOY OF MINE?

I told you, friends--dot's someding,
Der last time dot he speak
Und say, "GOOT-BY, KRISS KRINGLE!"
--Dot make me feel so veak
I yoost kneel down und drimble,
Und bur-sed out a-gryin',
"MEIN GOTT, MEIN GOTT IN HIMMEL!--
DOT LEEDLE BOY OF MINE!"
. . . . . . . . . .

Der sun don't shine DOT Gristmas!
. . . Eef dot leedle boy vould LIFF'D--
No deefer-en'! for HEAVEN vas
His leedle Gristmas gift!
Und der ROOSTER, und der GANDY,
Und me--und my Katrine--
Und der jay-bird--is awaiting
For dot leedle boy of mine.

I SMOKE MY PIPE

I can't extend to every friend
In need a helping hand--
No matter though I wish it so,
'Tis not as Fortune planned;
But haply may I fancy they
Are men of different stripe
Than others think who hint and wink,--
And so--I smoke my pipe!

A golden coal to crown the bowl--
My pipe and I alone,--
I sit and muse with idler views
Perchance than I should own:--
It might be worse to own the purse
Whose glutted bowels gripe
In little qualms of stinted alms;
And so I smoke my pipe.

And if inclined to moor my mind
And cast the anchor Hope,
A puff of breath will put to death
The morbid misanthrope
That lurks inside--as errors hide
In standing forms of type
To mar at birth some line of worth;
And so I smoke my pipe.

The subtle stings misfortune flings
Can give me little pain
When my narcotic spell has wrought
This quiet in my brain:
When I can waste the past in taste
So luscious and so ripe
That like an elf I hug myself;
And so I smoke my pipe.

And wrapped in shrouds of drifting clouds,
I watch the phantom's flight,
Till alien eyes from Paradise
Smile on me as I write:
And I forgive the wrongs that live,
As lightly as I wipe
Away the tear that rises here;
And so I smoke my pipe.

RED RIDING-HOOD

Sweet little myth of the nursery story--
Earliest love of mine infantile breast,
Be something tangible, bloom in thy glory
Into existence, as thou art addressed!
Hasten! appear to me, guileless and good--
Thou are so dear to me, Red Riding-Hood!

Azure-blue eyes, in a marvel of wonder,
Over the dawn of a blush breaking out;
Sensitive nose, with a little smile under
Trying to hide in a blossoming pout--
Couldn't be serious, try as you would,
Little mysterious Red Riding-Hood!

Hah! little girl, it is desolate, lonely,
Out in this gloomy old forest of Life!--
Here are not pansies and buttercups only--
Brambles and briers as keen as a knife;
And a Heart, ravenous, trails in the wood
For the meal have he must,--Red Riding-Hood!

IF I KNEW WHAT POETS KNOW

If I knew what poets know,
Would I write a rhyme
Of the buds that never blow
In the summer-time?
Would I sing of golden seeds
Springing up in ironweeds?
And of rain-drops turned to snow,
If I knew what poets know?

Did I know what poets do,
Would I sing a song
Sadder than the pigeon's coo
When the days are long?
Where I found a heart in pain,
I would make it glad again;
And the false should be the true,
Did I know what poets do.

If I knew what poets know,
I would find a theme
Sweeter than the placid flow
Of the fairest dream:
I would sing of love that lives
On the errors it forgives;
And the world would better grow
If I knew what poets know.

AN OLD SWEETHEART OF MINE

An old sweetheart of mine!--Is this her presence here with me,
Or but a vain creation of a lover's memory?
A fair, illusive vision that would vanish into air
Dared I even touch the silence with the whisper of a prayer?

Nay, let me then believe in all the blended false and true--
The semblance of the OLD love and the substance of the NEW,--
The THEN of changeless sunny days--the NOW of shower and shine--
But Love forever smiling--as that old sweetheart of mine.

This ever-restful sense of HOME, though shouts ring in the
hall.--
The easy chair--the old book-shelves and prints along the wall;
The rare HABANAS in their box, or gaunt church-warden-stem
That often wags, above the jar, derisively at them.

As one who cons at evening o'er an album, all alone,
And muses on the faces of the friends that he has known,
So I turn the leaves of Fancy, till, in shadowy design,
I find the smiling features of an old sweetheart of mine.

The lamplight seems to glimmer with a flicker of surprise,
As I turn it low--to rest me of the dazzle in my eyes,
And light my pipe in silence, save a sigh that seems to yoke
Its fate with my tobacco and to vanish with the smoke.

'Tis a FRAGRANT retrospection,--for the loving thoughts that
start
Into being are like perfume from the blossom of the heart;
And to dream the old dreams over is a luxury divine--
When my truant fancies wander with that old sweetheart of mine.

Though I hear beneath my study, like a fluttering of wings,
The voices of my children and the mother as she sings--
I feel no twinge of conscience to deny me any theme
When Care has cast her anchor in the harbor of a dream--

In fact, to speak in earnest, I believe it adds a charm
To spice the good a trifle with a little dust of harm,--
For I find an extra flavor in Memory's mellow wine
That makes me drink the deeper to that old sweetheart of mine.

O Childhood-days enchanted! O the magic of the Spring!--
With all green boughs to blossom white, and all bluebirds to
sing!
When all the air, to toss and quaff, made life a jubilee
And changed the children's song and laugh to shrieks of ecstasy.

With eyes half closed in clouds that ooze from lips that taste,
as well,
The peppermint and cinnamon, I hear the old School bell,
And from "Recess" romp in again from "Black-man's" broken line,
To smile, behind my "lesson," at that old sweetheart of mine.

A face of lily-beauty, with a form of airy grace,
Floats out of my tobacco as the Genii from the vase;
And I thrill beneath the glances of a pair of azure eyes
As glowing as the summer and as tender as the skies.

I can see the pink sunbonnet and the little checkered dress
She wore when first I kissed her and she answered the caress
With the written declaration that, "as surely as the vine
Grew 'round the stump," she loved me--that old sweetheart of
mine.

Again I made her presents, in a really helpless way,--
The big "Rhode Island Greening"--I was hungry, too, that day!--
But I follow her from Spelling, with her hand behind her--so--
And I slip the apple in it--and the Teacher doesn't know!

I give my TREASURES to her--all,--my pencil--blue-and-red;--
And, if little girls played marbles, MINE should all be HERS,
instead!
But SHE gave me her PHOTOGRAPH, and printed "Ever Thine"
Across the back--in blue-and-red--that old sweet-heart of mine!

And again I feel the pressure of her slender little hand,
As we used to talk together of the future we had planned,--
When I should be a poet, and with nothing else to do
But write the tender verses that she set the music to . . .

When we should live together in a cozy little cot
Hid in a nest of roses, with a fairy garden-spot,
Where the vines were ever fruited, and the weather ever fine,
And the birds were ever singing for that old sweetheart of mine.

When I should be her lover forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy that when either's lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven till the other's kiss had come.

But, ah! my dream is broken by a step upon the stair,
And the door is softly opened, and--my wife is standing there:
Yet with eagerness and rapture all my visions I resign,--
To greet the LIVING presence of that old sweetheart of mine.

SQUIRE HAWKINS'S STORY

I hain't no hand at tellin' tales,
Er spinnin' yarns, as the sailors say;
Someway o' 'nother, language fails
To slide fer me in the oily way
That LAWYERS has; and I wisht it would,
Fer I've got somepin' that I call good;
But bein' only a country squire,
I've learned to listen and admire,
Ruther preferrin' to be addressed
Than talk myse'f--but I'll do my best:--

Old Jeff Thompson--well, I'll say,
Was the clos'test man I ever saw!--
Rich as cream, but the porest pay,
And the meanest man to work fer--La!
I've knowed that man to work one "hand"--
Fer little er nothin', you understand--
From four o'clock in the morning light
Tel eight and nine o'clock at night,
And then find fault with his appetite!
He'd drive all over the neighberhood
To miss the place where a toll-gate stood,
And slip in town, by some old road
That no two men in the county knowed,
With a jag o' wood, and a sack o' wheat,
That wouldn't burn and you couldn't eat!
And the trades he'd make, 'll I jest de-clare,
Was enough to make a preacher swear!
And then he'd hitch, and hang about
Tel the lights in the toll-gate was blowed out,
And then the turnpike he'd turn in
And sneak his way back home ag'in!

Some folks hint, and I make no doubt,
That that's what wore his old wife out--
Toilin' away from day to day
And year to year, through heat and cold,
Uncomplainin'--the same old way
The martyrs died in the days of old;
And a-clingin', too, as the martyrs done,
To one fixed faith, and her ONLY one,--
Little Patience, the sweetest child
That ever wept unrickonciled,
Er felt the pain and the ache and sting
That only a mother's death can bring.

Patience Thompson!--I think that name
Must 'a' come from a power above,
Fer it seemed to fit her jest the same
As a GAITER would, er a fine kid glove!
And to see that girl, with all the care
Of the household on her--I de-clare
It was OUDACIOUS, the work she'd do,
And the thousand plans that she'd putt through;

And sing like a medder-lark all day long,
And drowned her cares in the joys o' song;
And LAUGH sometimes tel the farmer's "hand,"
Away fur off in the fields, would stand
A-listenin', with the plow half drawn,
Tel the coaxin' echoes called him on;
And the furries seemed, in his dreamy eyes,
Like foot-paths a-leadin' to Paradise,
As off through the hazy atmosphere
The call fer dinner reached his ear.

Now LOVE'S as cunnin'a little thing
As a hummin'-bird upon the wing,
And as liable to poke his nose
Jest where folks would least suppose,--
And more'n likely build his nest
Right in the heart you'd leave unguessed,
And live and thrive at your expense--
At least, that's MY experience.
And old Jeff Thompson often thought,
In his se'fish way, that the quiet John
Was a stiddy chap, as a farm-hand OUGHT
To always be,--fer the airliest dawn
Found John busy--and "EASY," too,
Whenever his wages would fall due!--
To sum him up with a final touch,
He EAT so little and WORKED so much,
That old Jeff laughed to hisse'f and said,
"He makes ME money and airns his bread!--

But John, fer all of his quietude,
Would sometimes drap a word er so
That none but PATIENCE understood,
And none but her was MEANT to know!--
Maybe at meal-times John would say,
As the sugar-bowl come down his way,
"Thanky, no; MY coffee's sweet
Enough fer ME!" with sich conceit,
SHE'D know at once, without no doubt,
HE meant because she poured it out;
And smile and blush, and all sich stuff,
And ast ef it was "STRONG enough?"
And git the answer, neat and trim,
"It COULDN'T be too 'strong' fer HIM!"

And so things went fer 'bout a year,
Tel John, at last, found pluck to go
And pour his tale in the old man's ear--
And ef it had been HOT LEAD, I know
It couldn't 'a' raised a louder fuss,
Ner 'a' riled the old man's temper wuss!
He jest LIT in, and cussed and swore,
And lunged and rared, and ripped and tore,
And told John jest to leave his door,
And not to darken it no more!
But Patience cried, with eyes all wet,
"Remember, John, and don't ferget,
WHATEVER comes, I love you yet!"
But the old man thought, in his se'fish way,
"I'll see her married rich some day;
And THAT," thinks he, "is money fer ME--
And my will's LAW, as it ought to be!"

So when, in the course of a month er so,
A WIDOWER, with a farm er two,
Comes to Jeff's, w'y, the folks, you know,
Had to TALK--as the folks'll do:
It was the talk of the neighberhood--
PATIENCE and JOHN, and THEIR affairs;--
And this old chap with a few gray hairs
Had "cut John out," it was understood.
And some folks reckoned "Patience, too,
Knowed what SHE was a-goin' to do--
It was LIKE her--la! indeed!--
All she loved was DOLLARS and CENTS--
Like old JEFF--and they saw no need
Fer JOHN to pine at HER negligence!"

But others said, in a KINDER way,
They missed the songs she used to sing--
They missed the smiles that used to play
Over her face, and the laughin' ring
Of her glad voice--that EVERYthing
Of her OLD se'f seemed dead and gone,
And this was the ghost that they gazed on!

Tel finally it was noised about
There was a WEDDIN' soon to be
Down at Jeff's; and the "cat was out"
Shore enough!--'Ll the JEE-MUN-NEE!
It RILED me when John told me so,--
Fer _I_ WAS A FRIEND O' JOHN'S, you know;
And his trimblin' voice jest broke in two--
As a feller's voice'll sometimes do.--
And I says, says I, "Ef I know my biz--
And I think I know what JESTICE is,--
I've read SOME law--and I'd advise
A man like you to wipe his eyes
And square his jaws and start AGIN,
FER JESTICE IS A-GOIN' TO WIN!"
And it wasn't long tel his eyes had cleared
As blue as the skies, and the sun appeared
In the shape of a good old-fashioned smile
That I hadn't seen fer a long, long while.

So we talked on fer a' hour er more,
And sunned ourselves in the open door,--
Tel a hoss-and-buggy down the road
Come a-drivin' up, that I guess John KNOWED,--
Fer he winked and says, "I'll dessappear--
THEY'D smell a mice ef they saw ME here!"
And he thumbed his nose at the old gray mare,
And hid hisse'f in the house somewhere.

Well.--The rig drove up: and I raised my head
As old Jeff hollered to me and said
That "him and his old friend there had come
To see ef the squire was at home."
. . . I told 'em "I was; and I AIMED to be
At every chance of a weddin'-fee!"
And then I laughed--and they laughed, too,--
Fer that was the object they had in view.
"Would I be on hands at eight that night?"
They ast; and 's-I, "You're mighty right,
I'LL be on hand!" And then I BU'ST
Out a-laughin' my very wu'st,--
And so did they, as they wheeled away
And drove to'rds town in a cloud o' dust.
Then I shet the door, and me and John
Laughed and LAUGHED, and jest LAUGHED on,
Tel Mother drapped her specs, and BY
JEEWHILLIKERS! I thought she'd DIE!--
And she couldn't 'a' told, I'll bet my hat,
What on earth she was laughin' at!

But all o' the fun o' the tale hain't done!--
Fer a drizzlin' rain had jest begun,
And a-havin' 'bout four mile' to ride,
I jest concluded I'd better light
Out fer Jeff's and save my hide,--
Fer IT WAS A-GOIN' TO STORM, THAT NIGHT!
So we went down to the barn, and John
Saddled my beast, and I got on;
And he told me somepin' to not ferget,
And when I left, he was LAUGHIN' yet.

And, 'proachin' on to my journey's end,
The great big draps o' the rain come down,
And the thunder growled in a way to lend
An awful look to the lowerin' frown
The dull sky wore; and the lightnin' glanced
Tel my old mare jest MORE'N pranced,
And tossed her head, and bugged her eyes
To about four times their natchurl size,
As the big black lips of the clouds 'ud drap
Out some oath of a thunderclap,
And threaten on in an undertone
That chilled a feller clean to the bone!

But I struck shelter soon enough
To save myse'f. And the house was jammed
With the women-folks, and the weddin'stuff:--
A great, long table, fairly CRAMMED
With big pound-cakes--and chops and steaks--
And roasts and stews--and stumick-aches
Of every fashion, form, and size,
From twisters up to punkin-pies!
And candies, oranges, and figs,
And reezins,--all the "whilligigs"
And "jim-cracks" that the law allows
On sich occasions!--Bobs and bows
Of gigglin' girls, with corkscrew curls,
And fancy ribbons, reds and blues,
And "beau-ketchers" and "curliques"
To beat the world! And seven o'clock
Brought old Jeff;-and brought--THE GROOM,--
With a sideboard-collar on, and stock
That choked him so, he hadn't room
To SWALLER in, er even sneeze,
Er clear his th'oat with any case
Er comfort--and a good square cough
Would saw his Adam's apple off!

But as fer PATIENCE--MY! Oomh-OOMH!--
I never saw her look so sweet!--
Her face was cream and roses, too;
And then them eyes o' heavenly blue
Jest made an angel all complete!
And when she split 'em up in smiles
And splintered 'em around the room,
And danced acrost and met the groom,
And LAUGHED OUT LOUD--It kind o' spiles
My language when I come to that--
Fer, as she laid away his hat,
Thinks I, "THE PAPERS HID INSIDE
OF THAT SAID HAT MUST MAKE A BRIDE
A HAPPY ONE FER ALL HER LIFE,
Er else a WRECKED AND WRETCHED WIFE!"
And, someway, then, I thought of JOHN,--
Then looked towards PATIENCE. . . . She was GONE!--
The door stood open, and the rain
Was dashin' in; and sharp and plain
Above the storm we heerd a cry--
A ringin', laughin', loud "Good-by!"
That died away, as fleet and fast
A hoss's hoofs went splashin' past!
And that was all. 'Twas done that quick! . . .
You've heerd o' fellers "lookin' sick"?
I wisht you'd seen THE GROOM jest then--
I wisht you'd seen them two old men,
With starin' eyes that fairly GLARED
At one another, and the scared
And empty faces of the crowd,--
I wisht you could 'a' been allowed
To jest look on and see it all,--
And heerd the girls and women bawl
And wring their hands; and heerd old Jeff
A-cussin' as he swung hisse'f
Upon his hoss, who champed his bit
As though old Nick had holt of it:
And cheek by jowl the two old wrecks
Rode off as though they'd break their necks.

And as we all stood starin' out
Into the night, I felt the brush
Of some one's hand, and turned about,
And heerd a voice that whispered, "HUSH!--
THEY'RE WAITIN' IN THE KITCHEN, AND
YOU'RE WANTED. DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"
Well, ef my MEMORY serves me now,
I think I winked.--Well, anyhow,
I left the crowd a-gawkin' there,
And jest slipped off around to where
The back door opened, and went in,
And turned and shet the door ag'in,
And maybe LOCKED it--couldn't swear,--
A woman's arms around me makes
Me liable to make mistakes.--
I read a marriage license nex',
But as I didn't have my specs
I jest INFERRED it was all right,
And tied the knot so mortal-tight
That Patience and my old friend John
Was safe enough from that time on!

Well, now, I might go on and tell
How all the joke at last leaked out,
And how the youngsters raised the yell
And rode the happy groom about
Upon their shoulders; how the bride
Was kissed a hunderd times beside
The one _I_ give her,--tel she cried
And laughed untel she like to died!
I might go on and tell you all
About the supper--and the BALL.--
You'd ought to see me twist my heel
Through jest one old Furginny reel
Afore you die! er tromp the strings
Of some old fiddle tel she sings
Some old cowtillion, don't you know,
That putts the devil in yer toe!

We kep' the dancin' up tel FOUR
O'clock, I reckon--maybe more.--
We hardly heerd the thunders roar,
ER THOUGHT about the STORM that blowed--
AND THEM TWO FELLERS ON THE ROAD!
Tel all at onc't we heerd the door
Bu'st open, and a voice that SWORE,--
And old Jeff Thompson tuck the floor.
He shuck hisse'f and looked around
Like some old dog about half-drowned--
HIS HAT, I reckon, WEIGHED TEN POUND
To say the least, and I'll say, SHORE,
HIS OVERCOAT WEIGHED FIFTY more--
THE WETTEST MAN YOU EVER SAW,
TO HAVE SO DRY A SON-IN-LAW!

He sized it all; and Patience laid
Her hand in John's, and looked afraid,
And waited. And a stiller set
O' folks, I KNOW, you never met
In any court room, where with dread
They wait to hear a verdick read.

The old man turned his eyes on me:
"And have you married 'em?" says he.
I nodded "Yes." "Well, that'll do,"
He says, "and now we're th'ough with YOU,--
YOU jest clear out, and I decide
And promise to be satisfied!"
He hadn't nothin' more to say.
I saw, of course, how matters lay,
And left. But as I rode away
I heerd the roosters crow fer day.

A COUNTRY PATHWAY

I come upon it suddenly, alone--
A little pathway winding in the weeds
That fringe the roadside; and with dreams my own,
I wander as it leads.

Full wistfully along the slender way,
Through summer tan of freckled shade and shine,
I take the path that leads me as it may--
Its every choice is mine.

A chipmunk, or a sudden-whirring quail,
Is startled by my step as on I fare--
A garter-snake across the dusty trail
Glances and--is not there.

Above the arching jimson-weeds flare twos
And twos of sallow-yellow butterflies,
Like blooms of lorn primroses blowing loose
When autumn winds arise.

The trail dips--dwindles--broadens then, and lifts
Itself astride a cross-road dubiously,
And, from the fennel marge beyond it, drifts
Still onward, beckoning me.

And though it needs must lure me mile on mile
Out of the public highway, still I go,
My thoughts, far in advance in Indian file,
Allure me even so.

Why, I am as a long-lost boy that went
At dusk to bring the cattle to the bars,
And was not found again, though Heaven lent
His mother all the stars

With which to seek him through that awful night
O years of nights as vain!--Stars never rise
But well might miss their glitter in the light
Of tears in mother-eyes!

So--on, with quickened breaths, I follow still--
My avant-courier must be obeyed!
Thus am I led, and thus the path, at will,
Invites me to invade

A meadow's precincts, where my daring guide
Clambers the steps of an old-fashioned stile,
And stumbles down again, the other side,
To gambol there a while.

In pranks of hide-and-seek, as on ahead
I see it running, while the clover-stalks
Shake rosy fists at me, as though they said--
"You dog our country walks

"And mutilate us with your walking-stick!--
We will not suffer tamely what you do,
And warn you at your peril,--for we'll sick
Our bumblebees on you!"

But I smile back, in airy nonchalance,--
The more determined on my wayward quest,
As some bright memory a moment dawns
A morning in my breast--

Sending a thrill that hurries me along
In faulty similes of childish skips,
Enthused with lithe contortions of a song
Performing on my lips.

In wild meanderings o'er pasture wealth--
Erratic wanderings through dead'ning lands,
Where sly old brambles, plucking me by stealth,
Put berries in my hands:

Or the path climbs a boulder--wades a slough--
Or, rollicking through buttercups and flags,
Goes gaily dancing o'er a deep bayou
On old tree-trunks and snags:

Or, at the creek, leads o'er a limpid pool
Upon a bridge the stream itself has made,
With some Spring-freshet for the mighty tool
That its foundation laid.

I pause a moment here to bend and muse,
With dreamy eyes, on my reflection, where
A boat-backed bug drifts on a helpless cruise,
Or wildly oars the air,

As, dimly seen, the pirate of the brook--
The pike, whose jaunty hulk denotes his speed--
Swings pivoting about, with wary look
Of low and cunning greed.

Till, filled with other thought, I turn again
To where the pathway enters in a realm
Of lordly woodland, under sovereign reign
Of towering oak and elm.

A puritanic quiet here reviles
The almost whispered warble from the hedge,
And takes a locust's rasping voice and files
The silence to an edge.

In such a solitude my somber way
Strays like a misanthrope within a gloom
Of his own shadows--till the perfect day
Bursts into sudden bloom,

And crowns a long, declining stretch of space,
Where King Corn's armies lie with flags unfurled,
And where the valley's dint in Nature's face
Dimples a smiling world.

And lo! through mists that may not be dispelled,
I see an old farm homestead, as in dreams,
Where, like a gem in costly setting held,
The old log cabin gleams.

. . . . . . .

O darling Pathway! lead me bravely on
Adown your valley-way, and run before
Among the roses crowding up the lawn
And thronging at the door,--

And carry up the echo there that shall
Arouse the drowsy dog, that he may bay
The household out to greet the prodigal
That wanders home to-day.

THE OLD GUITAR

Neglected now is the old guitar
And moldering into decay;
Fretted with many a rift and scar
That the dull dust hides away,
While the spider spins a silver star
In its silent lips to-day.

The keys hold only nerveless strings--
The sinews of brave old airs
Are pulseless now; and the scarf that clings
So closely here declares
A sad regret in its ravelings
And the faded hue it wears.

But the old guitar, with a lenient grace,
Has cherished a smile for me;
And its features hint of a fairer face
That comes with a memory
Of a flower-and-perfume-haunted place
And a moonlit balcony.

Music sweeter than words confess,
Or the minstrel's powers invent,
Thrilled here once at the light caress
Of the fairy hands that lent
This excuse for the kiss I press
On the dear old instrument.

The rose of pearl with the jeweled stem
Still blooms; and the tiny sets
In the circle all are here; the gem
In the keys, and the silver frets;
But the dainty fingers that danced o'er them--
Alas for the heart's regrets!--

Alas for the loosened strings to-day,
And the wounds of rift and scar
On a worn old heart, with its roundelay
Enthralled with a stronger bar
That Fate weaves on, through a dull decay
Like that of the old guitar!

"FRIDAY AFTERNOON"

TO WILLIAM MORRIS PIERSON

[1868-1870]

Of the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
The old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--.
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened "Exercises"
On "Friday Afternoon."

We seem to hear the clicking
Of the pencil and the pen,
And the solemn, ceaseless ticking
Of the timepiece ticking then;
And we note the watchful master,
As he waves the warning rod,
With our own heart beating faster
Than the boy's who threw the wad.

Some little hand uplifted,
And the creaking of a shoe:--
A problem left unsifted
For the teacher's hand to do:
The murmured hum of learning--
And the flutter of a book;
The smell of something burning,
And the school's inquiring look.

The bashful boy in blushes;
And the girl, with glancing eyes,
Who hides her smiles, and hushes
The laugh about to rise,--
Then, with a quick invention,
Assumes a serious face,
To meet the words, "Attention!
Every scholar in his place!"

The opening song, page 20.--
Ah! dear old "Golden Wreath,"
You willed your sweets in plenty;
And some who look beneath
The leaves of Time will linger,
And loving tears will start,
As Fancy trails her finger
O'er the index of the heart.

"Good News from Home"--We hear it
Welling tremulous, yet clear
And holy as the spirit
Of the song we used to hear--
"Good news for me" (A throbbing
And an aching melody)--
"Has come across the"--(sobbing,
Yea, and salty) "dark blue sea!"

Or the paean "Scotland's burning!"
With its mighty surge and swell
Of chorus, still returning
To its universal yell--
Till we're almost glad to drop to
Something sad and full of pain--
And "Skip verse three," and stop, too,
Ere our hearts are broke again.

Then "the big girls'" compositions,
With their doubt, and hope, and glow
Of heart and face,--conditions
Of "the big boys"--even so,--
When themes of "Spring," and "Summer"
And of "Fall," and "Winter-time"
Droop our heads and hold us dumber
Than the sleigh-bell's fancied chime.

Elocutionary science--
(Still in changeless infancy!)--
With its "Cataline's Defiance,"
And "The Banner of the Free":
Or, lured from Grandma's attic,
A ramshackle "rocker" there,
Adds a skreek of the dramatic
To the poet's "Old Arm-Chair."

Or the "Speech of Logan" shifts us
From the pathos, to the fire;
And Tell (with Gessler) lifts us
Many noble notches higher.--
Till a youngster, far from sunny,
With sad eyes of watery blue,
Winds up with something "funny,"
Like "Cock-a-doodle-do!"

Then a dialogue--selected
For its realistic worth:--
The Cruel Boy detected
With a turtle turned to earth
Back downward; and, in pleading,
The Good Boy--strangely gay
At such a sad proceeding--
Says, "Turn him over, pray!"

So the exercises taper
Through gradations of delight
To the reading of "The Paper,"
Which is entertaining--quite!
For it goes ahead and mentions
"If a certain Mr. O.
Has serious intentions
That he ought to tell her so."

It also "Asks permission
To intimate to 'John'
The dubious condition
Of the ground he's standing on";
And, dropping the suggestion
To "mind what he's about,"
It stuns him with the question:
"Does his mother know he's out?"

And among the contributions
To this "Academic Press"
Are "Versified Effusions"
By--"Our lady editress"--
Which fact is proudly stated
By the CHIEF of the concern,--
"Though the verse communicated
Bears the pen-name 'Fanny Fern.' "

. . . . . .
When all has been recited,
And the teacher's bell is heard,
And visitors, invited,
Have dropped a kindly word,
A hush of holy feeling
Falls down upon us there,
As though the day were kneeling,
With the twilight for the prayer.

. . . . . .
Midst the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
Thus the old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened "Exercises,"
On "Friday Afternoon."

"JOHNSON'S BOY"

The world is turned ag'in' me,
And people says, "They guess
That nothin' else is in me
But pure maliciousness!"
I git the blame for doin'
What other chaps destroy,
And I'm a-goin' to ruin
Because I'm "Johnson's boy."

THAT ain't my name--I'd ruther
They'd call me IKE or PAT--
But they've forgot the other--
And so have _I_, for that!
I reckon it's as handy,
When Nibsy breaks his toy,
Or some one steals his candy,
To say 'twas "JOHNSON'S BOY!"

You can't git any water
At the pump, and find the spout
So durn chuck-full o' mortar
That you have to bore it out;
You tackle any scholar
In Wisdom's wise employ,
And I'll bet you half a dollar
He'll say it's "Johnson's boy!"

Folks don't know how I suffer
In my uncomplainin' way--
They think I'm gittin' tougher
And tougher every day.
Last Sunday night, when Flinder
Was a-shoutin' out for joy,
And some one shook the winder,
He prayed for "Johnson's boy."

I'm tired of bein' follered
By farmers every day,
And then o' bein' collared
For coaxin' hounds away;
Hounds always plays me double--
It's a trick they all enjoy--
To git me into trouble,
Because I'm "Johnson's boy."

But if I git to Heaven,
I hope the Lord'll see
SOME boy has been perfect,
And lay it on to me;
I'll swell the song sonorous,
And clap my wings for joy,
And sail off on the chorus--
"Hurrah for 'Johnson's boy!'"

HER BEAUTIFUL HANDS

Your hands--they are strangely fair!
O Fair--for the jewels that sparkle there,--
Fair--for the witchery of the spell
That ivory keys alone can tell;
But when their delicate touches rest
Here in my own do I love them best,
As I clasp with eager, acquisitive spans
My glorious treasure of beautiful hands!

Marvelous--wonderful--beautiful hands!
They can coax roses to bloom in the strands
Of your brown tresses; and ribbons will twine,
Under mysterious touches of thine,
Into such knots as entangle the soul
And fetter the heart under such a control
As only the strength of my love understands--
My passionate love for your beautiful hands.

As I remember the first fair touch
Of those beautiful hands that I love so much,
I seem to thrill as I then was thrilled,
Kissing the glove that I found unfilled--
When I met your gaze, and the queenly bow,
As you said to me, laughingly, "Keep it now!" . . .
And dazed and alone in a dream I stand,
Kissing this ghost of your beautiful hand.

When first I loved, in the long ago,
And held your hand as I told you so--
Pressed and caressed it and gave it a kiss
And said "I could die for a hand like this!"
Little I dreamed love's fullness yet
Had to ripen when eyes were wet
And prayers were vain in their wild demands
For one warm touch of your beautiful hands.

. . . . . . . . .
Beautiful Hands!--O Beautiful Hands!
Could you reach out of the alien lands
Where you are lingering, and give me, to-night,
Only a touch--were it ever so light--
My heart were soothed, and my weary brain
Would lull itself into rest again;
For there is no solace the world commands
Like the caress of your beautiful hands.

NATURAL PERVERSITIES

I am not prone to moralize
In scientific doubt
On certain facts that Nature tries
To puzzle us about,--
For I am no philosopher
Of wise elucidation,
But speak of things as they occur,
From simple observation.

I notice LITTLE things--to wit:--
I never missed a train
Because I didn't RUN for it;
I never knew it rain
That my umbrella wasn't lent,--
Or, when in my possession,
The sun but wore, to all intent,
A jocular expression.

I never knew a creditor
To dun me for a debt
But I was "cramped" or "bu'sted"; or
I never knew one yet,
When I had plenty in my purse,
To make the least invasion,--
As I, accordingly perverse,
Have courted no occasion.

Nor do I claim to comprehend
What Nature has in view
In giving us the very friend
To trust we oughtn't to.--
But so it is: The trusty gun
Disastrously exploded
Is always sure to be the one
We didn't think was loaded.

Our moaning is another's mirth,--
And what is worse by half,
We say the funniest thing on earth
And never raise a laugh:
'Mid friends that love us over well,
And sparkling jests and liquor,
Our hearts somehow are liable
To melt in tears the quicker.

We reach the wrong when most we seek
The right; in like effect,
We stay the strong and not the weak--
Do most when we neglect.--
Neglected genius--truth be said--
As wild and quick as tinder,
The more you seek to help ahead
The more you seem to hinder.

I've known the least the greatest, too--
And, on the selfsame plan,
The biggest fool I ever knew
Was quite a little man:
We find we ought, and then we won't--
We prove a thing, then doubt it,--
Know EVERYTHING but when we don't
Know ANYTHING about it.

THE SILENT VICTORS

MAY 30, 1878,

Dying for victory, cheer on cheer
Thundered on his eager ear.
--CHARLES L. HOLSTEIN.

I

Deep, tender, firm and true, the Nation's heart
Throbs for her gallant heroes passed away,
Who in grim Battle's drama played their part,
And slumber here to-day.--

Warm hearts that beat their lives out at the shrine
Of Freedom, while our country held its breath
As brave battalions wheeled themselves in line
And marched upon their death:

When Freedom's Flag, its natal wounds scarce healed,
Was torn from peaceful winds and flung again
To shudder in the storm of battle-field--
The elements of men,--

When every star that glittered was a mark
For Treason's ball, and every rippling bar
Of red and white was sullied with the dark
And purple stain of war:

When angry guns, like famished beasts of prey,
Were howling o'er their gory feast of lives,
And sending dismal echoes far away
To mothers, maids, and wives:--

The mother, kneeling in the empty night,
With pleading hands uplifted for the son
Who, even as she prayed, had fought the fight--
The victory had won:

The wife, with trembling hand that wrote to say
The babe was waiting for the sire's caress--
The letter meeting that upon the way,--
The babe was fatherless:

The maiden, with her lips, in fancy, pressed
Against the brow once dewy with her breath,
Now lying numb, unknown, and uncaressed
Save by the dews of death.

II

What meed of tribute can the poet pay
The Soldier, but to trail the ivy-vine
Of idle rhyme above his grave to-day
In epitaph design?--

Or wreathe with laurel-words the icy brows
That ache no longer with a dream of fame,
But, pillowed lowly in the narrow house,
Renowned beyond the name.

The dewy tear-drops of the night may fall,
And tender morning with her shining hand
May brush them from the grasses green and tall
That undulate the land.--

Yet song of Peace nor din of toil and thrift,
Nor chanted honors, with the flowers we heap,
Can yield us hope the Hero's head to lift
Out of its dreamless sleep:

The dear old Flag, whose faintest flutter flies
A stirring echo through each patriot breast,
Can never coax to life the folded eyes
That saw its wrongs redressed--

That watched it waver when the fight was hot,
And blazed with newer courage to its aid,
Regardless of the shower of shell and shot
Through which the charge was made;--

And when, at last, they saw it plume its wings,
Like some proud bird in stormy element,
And soar untrammeled on its wanderings,
They closed in death, content.

III

O Mother, you who miss the smiling face
Of that dear boy who vanished from your sight,
And left you weeping o'er the vacant place
He used to fill at night,--

Who left you dazed, bewildered, on a day
That echoed wild huzzas, and roar of guns
That drowned the farewell words you tried to say
To incoherent ones;--

Be glad and proud you had the life to give--
Be comforted through all the years to come,--
Your country has a longer life to live,
Your son a better home.

O Widow, weeping o'er the orphaned child,
Who only lifts his questioning eyes to send
A keener pang to grief unreconciled,--
Teach him to comprehend

He had a father brave enough to stand
Before the fire of Treason's blazing gun,
That, dying, he might will the rich old land
Of Freedom to his son.

And, Maiden, living on through lonely years
In fealty to love's enduring ties,--
With strong faith gleaming through the tender tears
That gather in your eyes,

Look up! and own, in gratefulness of prayer,
Submission to the will of Heaven's High Host:--
I see your Angel-soldier pacing there,
Expectant at his post.--

I see the rank and file of armies vast,
That muster under one supreme control;
I hear the trumpet sound the signal-blast--
The calling of the roll--

The grand divisions falling into line
And forming, under voice of One alone
Who gives command, and joins with tongue divine
The hymn that shakes the Throne.

IV

And thus, in tribute to the forms that rest
In their last camping-ground, we strew the bloom
And fragrance of the flowers they loved the best,
In silence o'er the tomb.

With reverent hands we twine the Hero's wreath
And clasp it tenderly on stake or stone
That stands the sentinel for each beneath
Whose glory is our own.

While in the violet that greets the sun,
We see the azure eye of some lost boy;
And in the rose the ruddy cheek of one
We kissed in childish joy,--

Recalling, haply, when he marched away,
He laughed his loudest though his eyes were wet.--
The kiss he gave his mother's brow that day
Is there and burning yet:

And through the storm of grief around her tossed,
One ray of saddest comfort she may see,--
Four hundred thousand sons like hers were lost
To weeping Liberty.

. . . . . . . .
But draw aside the drapery of gloom,
And let the sunshine chase the clouds away
And gild with brighter glory every tomb
We decorate to-day:

And in the holy silence reigning round,
While prayers of perfume bless the atmosphere,
Where loyal souls of love and faith are found,
Thank God that Peace is here!

And let each angry impulse that may start,
Be smothered out of every loyal breast;
And, rocked within the cradle of the heart,
Let every sorrow rest.


SCRAPS

There's a habit I have nurtured,
From the sentimental time
When my life was like a story,
And my heart a happy rhyme,--
Of clipping from the paper,
Or magazine, perhaps,
The idle songs of dreamers,
Which I treasure as my scraps.

They hide among my letters,
And they find a cozy nest
In the bosom of my wrapper,
And the pockets of my vest;
They clamber in my fingers
Till my dreams of wealth relapse
In fairer dreams than Fortune's
Though I find them only scraps.

Sometimes I find, in tatters
Like a beggar, form as fair
As ever gave to Heaven
The treasure of a prayer;
And words all dim and faded,
And obliterate in part,
Grow into fadeless meanings
That are printed on the heart.

Sometimes a childish jingle
Flings an echo, sweet and clear,
And thrills me as I listen
To the laughs I used to hear;
And I catch the gleam of faces,
And the glimmer of glad eyes
That peep at me expectant
O'er the walls of Paradise.

O syllables of measure!
Though you wheel yourselves in line,
And await the further order
Of this eager voice of mine;
You are powerless to follow
O'er the field my fancy maps,
So I lead you back to silence
Feeling you are only scraps.


AUGUST

A day of torpor in the sullen heat
Of Summer's passion: In the sluggish stream
The panting cattle lave their lazy feet,
With drowsy eyes, and dream.

Long since the winds have died, and in the sky
There lives no cloud to hint of Nature's grief;
The sun glares ever like an evil eye,
And withers flower and leaf.

Upon the gleaming harvest-field remote
The thresher lies deserted, like some old
Dismantled galleon that hangs afloat
Upon a sea of gold.

The yearning cry of some bewildered bird
Above an empty nest, and truant boys
Along the river's shady margin heard--
A harmony of noise--

A melody of wrangling voices blent
With liquid laughter, and with rippling calls
Of piping lips and thrilling echoes sent
To mimic waterfalls.

And through the hazy veil the atmosphere
Has draped about the gleaming face of Day,
The sifted glances of the sun appear
In splinterings of spray.

The dusty highway, like a cloud of dawn,
Trails o'er the hillside, and the passer-by,
A tired ghost in misty shroud, toils on
His journey to the sky.

And down across the valley's drooping sweep,
Withdrawn to farthest limit of the glade,
The forest stands in silence, drinking deep
Its purple wine of shade.

The gossamer floats up on phantom wing;
The sailor-vision voyages the skies
And carries into chaos everything
That freights the weary eyes:

Till, throbbing on and on, the pulse of heat
Increases--reaches--passes fever's height,
And Day sinks into slumber, cool and sweet,
Within the arms of Night.

DEAD IN SIGHT OF FAME

DIED--Early morning of September 5, 1876, and
in the gleaming dawn of "name and fame,"
Hamilton J. Dunbar.

Dead! Dead! Dead!
We thought him ours alone;
And were so proud to see him tread
The rounds of fame, and lift his head
Where sunlight ever shone;
But now our aching eyes are dim,
And look through tears in vain for him.

Name! Name! Name!
It was his diadem;
Nor ever tarnish-taint of shame
Could dim its luster--like a flame
Reflected in a gem,
He wears it blazing on his brow
Within the courts of Heaven now.

Tears! Tears! Tears!
Like dews upon the leaf
That bursts at last--from out the years
The blossom of a trust appears
That blooms above the grief;
And mother, brother, wife and child
Will see it and be reconciled.


IN THE DARK

O In the depths of midnight
What fancies haunt the brain!
When even the sigh of the sleeper
Sounds like a sob of pain.

A sense of awe and of wonder
I may never well define,--
For the thoughts that come in the shadows
Never come in the shine.

The old clock down in the parlor
Like a sleepless mourner grieves,
And the seconds drip in the silence
As the rain drips from the eaves.

And I think of the hands that signal
The hours there in the gloom,
And wonder what angel watchers
Wait in the darkened room.

And I think of the smiling faces
That used to watch and wait,
Till the click of the clock was answered
By the click of the opening gate.--

They are not there now in the evening--
Morning or noon--not there;
Yet I know that they keep their vigil,
And wait for me Somewhere.

THE IRON HORSE

No song is mine of Arab steed--
My courser is of nobler blood,
And cleaner limb and fleeter speed,
And greater strength and hardihood
Than ever cantered wild and free
Across the plains of Araby.

Go search the level desert land
From Sana on to Samarcand--
Wherever Persian prince has been,
Or Dervish, Sheik, or Bedouin,
And I defy you there to point
Me out a steed the half so fine--
From tip of ear to pastern-joint--
As this old iron horse of mine.

You do not know what beauty is--
You do not know what gentleness
His answer is to my caress!--
Why, look upon this gait of his,--
A touch upon his iron rein--
He moves with such a stately grace
The sunlight on his burnished mane
Is barely shaken in its place;
And at a touch he changes pace,
And, gliding backward, stops again.

And talk of mettle--Ah! my friend,
Such passion smolders in his breast
That when awakened it will send
A thrill of rapture wilder than
E'er palpitated heart of man
When flaming at its mightiest.
And there's a fierceness in his ire--
A maddened majesty that leaps
Along his veins in blood of fire,
Until the path his vision sweeps
Spins out behind him like a thread
Unraveled from the reel of time,
As, wheeling on his course sublime,
The earth revolves beneath his tread.

Then stretch away, my gallant steed!
Thy mission is a noble one:
Thou bear'st the father to the son,
And sweet relief to bitter need;
Thou bear'st the stranger to his friends;
Thou bear'st the pilgrim to the shrine,
And back again the prayer he sends
That God will prosper me and mine,--
The star that on thy forehead gleams
Has blossomed in our brightest dreams.

Then speed thee on thy glorious race!
The mother waits thy ringing pace;
The father leans an anxious ear
The thunder of thy hooves to hear;
The lover listens, far away,
To catch thy keen exultant neigh;
And, where thy breathings roll and rise,
The husband strains his eager eyes,
And laugh of wife and baby-glee
Ring out to greet and welcome thee.
Then stretch away! and when at last
The master's hand shall gently check
Thy mighty speed, and hold thee fast,
The world will pat thee on the neck.

DEAD LEAVES

DAWN

As though a gipsy maiden with dim look,
Sat crooning by the roadside of the year,
So, Autumn, in thy strangeness, thou art here
To read dark fortunes for us from the book
Of fate; thou flingest in the crinkled brook
The trembling maple's gold, and frosty-clear
Thy mocking laughter thrills the atmosphere,
And drifting on its current calls the rook
To other lands. As one who wades, alone,
Deep in the dusk, and hears the minor talk
Of distant melody, and finds the tone,
In some wierd way compelling him to stalk
The paths of childhood over,--so I moan,
And like a troubled sleeper, groping, walk.

DUSK

The frightened herds of clouds across the sky
Trample the sunshine down, and chase the day
Into the dusky forest-lands of gray
And somber twilight. Far, and faint, and high
The wild goose trails his harrow, with a cry
Sad as the wail of some poor castaway
Who sees a vessel drifting far astray
Of his last hope, and lays him down to die.
The children, riotous from school, grow bold
And quarrel with the wind, whose angry gust
Plucks off the summer hat, and flaps the fold
Of many a crimson cloak, and twirls the dust
In spiral shapes grotesque, and dims the gold
Of gleaming tresses with the blur of rust.

NIGHT

Funereal Darkness, drear and desolate,
Muffles the world. The moaning of the wind
Is piteous with sobs of saddest kind;
And laughter is a phantom at the gate
Of memory. The long-neglected grate
Within sprouts into flame and lights the mind
With hopes and wishes long ago refined
To ashes,--long departed friends await
Our words of welcome: and our lips are dumb
And powerless to greet the ones that press
Old kisses there. The baby beats its drum,
And fancy marches to the dear caress
Of mother-arms, and all the gleeful hum
Of home intrudes upon our loneliness.

OVER THE EYES OF GLADNESS

"The voice of One hath spoken,
And the bended reed is bruised--
The golden bowl is broken,
And the silver cord is loosed."

Over the eyes of gladness
The lids of sorrow fall,
And the light of mirth is darkened
Under the funeral pall.

The hearts that throbbed with rapture
In dreams of the future years,
Are wakened from their slumbers,
And their visions drowned in tears.

. . . . . . .
Two buds on the bough in the morning--
Twin buds in the smiling sun,
But the frost of death has fallen
And blighted the bloom of one.

One leaf of life still folded
Has fallen from the stem,
Leaving the symbol teaching
There still are two of them,--

For though--through Time's gradations,
The LIVING bud may burst,--
The WITHERED one is gathered,
And blooms in Heaven first.

ONLY A DREAM

Only a dream!
Her head is bent
Over the keys of the instrument,
While her trembling fingers go astray
In the foolish tune she tries to play.
He smiles in his heart, though his deep, sad eyes
Never change to a glad surprise
As he finds the answer he seeks confessed
In glowing features, and heaving breast.

Only a dream!
Though the fete is grand,
And a hundred hearts at her command,
She takes no part, for her soul is sick
Of the Coquette's art and the Serpent's trick,--
She someway feels she would like to fling
Her sins away as a robe, and spring
Up like a lily pure and white,
And bloom alone for HIM to-night.

Only a dream
That the fancy weaves.
The lids unfold like the rose's leaves,
And the upraised eyes are moist and mild
As the prayerful eyes of a drowsy child.
Does she remember the spell they once
Wrought in the past a few short months?
Haply not--yet her lover's eyes
Never change to the glad surprise.

Only a dream!
He winds her form
Close in the coil of his curving arm,
And whirls her away in a gust of sound
As wild and sweet as the poets found
In the paradise where the silken tent
Of the Persian blooms in the Orient,--
While ever the chords of the music seem
Whispering sadly,--"Only a dream!"

OUR LITTLE GIRL

Her heart knew naught of sorrow,
Nor the vaguest taint of sin--
'Twas an ever-blooming blossom
Of the purity within:
And her hands knew only touches
Of the mother's gentle care,
And the kisses and caresses
Through the interludes of prayer.

Her baby-feet had journeyed
Such a little distance here,
They could have found no briers
In the path to interfere;
The little cross she carried
Could not weary her, we know,
For it lay as lightly on her
As a shadow on the snow.

And yet the way before us--
O how empty now and drear!--
How ev'n the dews of roses
Seem as dripping tears for her!
And the song-birds all seem crying,
As the winds cry and the rain,
All sobbingly,--"We want--we want
Our little girl again!"

THE FUNNY LITTLE FELLOW

'Twas a Funny Little Fellow
Of the very purest type,
For he had a heart as mellow
As an apple over ripe;
And the brightest little twinkle
When a funny thing occurred,
And the lightest little tinkle
Of a laugh you ever heard!

His smile was like the glitter
Of the sun in tropic lands,
And his talk a sweeter twitter
Than the swallow understands;
Hear him sing--and tell a story--
Snap a joke--ignite a pun,--
'Twas a capture--rapture--glory,
An explosion--all in one!

Though he hadn't any money--
That condiment which tends
To make a fellow "honey"
For the palate of his friends;--
Sweet simples he compounded--
Sovereign antidotes for sin
Or taint,--a faith unbounded
That his friends were genuine.

He wasn't honored, maybe--
For his songs of praise were slim,--
Yet I never knew a baby
That wouldn't crow for him;
I never knew a mother
But urged a kindly claim
Upon him as a brother,
At the mention of his name.

The sick have ceased their sighing,
And have even found the grace
Of a smile when they were dying
As they looked upon his face;
And I've seen his eyes of laughter
Melt in tears that only ran
As though, swift-dancing after,
Came the Funny Little Man.

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