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The Home Book of Verse, Volume 1 by Burton Egbert Stevenson

Part 12 out of 12

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Nay, do not smile! mine eyelids fall
Over mine eyes and feel withal
The sudden tears within.

Is there a leaf, that greenly grows
Where summer meadows bloom,
But gathereth the winter snows,
And changeth to the hue of those,
If lasting till they come?

Is there a word, or jest, or game,
But time incrusteth round
With sad associate thoughts the same?
And so to me my very name
Assumes a mournful sound.

My brother gave that name to me
When we were children twain,
When names acquired baptismally
Were hard to utter, as to see
That life had any pain.

No shade was on us then, save one
Of chestnuts from the hill;
And through the word our laugh did run
As part thereof: the mirth being done,
He calls me by it still.

Nay, do not smile! I hear in it
What none of you can hear, -
The talk upon the willow seat,
The bird and wind that did repeat
Around, our human cheer.

I hear the birthday's noisy bliss
My sisters' woodland glee,
My father's praise I did not miss
When stooping down, he cared to kiss
The poet at his knee, -

And voices which, to name me, aye
Their tenderest tones were keeping, -
To some I nevermore can say
An answer till God wipes away
In heaven these drops of weeping.

My name to me a sadness wears:
No murmurs cross my mind -
Now God be thanked for these thick tears,
Which show, of those departed years,
Sweet memories left behind.

Now God be thanked for years enwrought
With love which softens yet:
Now God be thanked for every thought
Which is so tender it has caught
Earth's guerdon of regret.

Earth saddens, never shall remove
Affections purely given;
And e'en that mortal grief shall prove
The immortality of love,
And heighten it with Heaven.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning [1806-1861]

THREESCORE AND TEN

Who reach their threescore years and ten,
As I have mine, without a sigh,
Are either more or less than men -
Not such am I.

I am not of them; life to me
Has been a strange, bewildering dream,
Wherein I knew not things that be
From things that seem.

I thought, I hoped, I knew one thing,
And had one gift, when I was young -
The impulse and the power to sing,
And so I sung.

To have a place in the high choir
Of poets, and deserve the same -
What more could mortal man desire
Than poet's fame?

I sought it long, but never found;
The choir so full was and so strong
The jubilant voices there, they drowned
My simple song.

Men would not hear me then, and now
I care not, I accept my fate,
When white hairs thatch the furrowed brow
Crowns come too late!

The best of life went long ago
From me; it was not much at best;
Only the love that young hearts know,
The dear unrest.

Back on my past, through gathering tears,
Once more I cast my eyes, and see
Bright shapes that in my better years
Surrounded me!

They left me here, they left me there,
Went down dark pathways, one by one -
The wise, the great, the young, the fair;
But I went on.

And I go on! And bad or good,
The old allotted years of men
I have endured as best I could,
Threescore and ten!

Richard Henry Stoddard [1825-1903]

RAIN ON THE ROOF

When the humid shadows hover
Over all the starry spheres,
And the melancholy darkness
Gently weeps in rainy tears,
What a bliss to press the pillow
Of a cottage-chamber bed,
And to listen to the patter
Of the soft rain overhead!

Every tinkle on the shingles
Has an echo in the heart;
And a thousand dreamy fancies
Into busy being start,
And a thousand recollections
Weave their air-threads into woof,
As I listen to the patter
Of the rain upon the roof.

Now in memory comes my mother,
As she used, in years agone,
To regard the darling dreamers
Ere she left them till the dawn;
And I feel her fond look on me,
As I list to this refrain
Which is played upon the shingles
By the patter of the rain.

Then my little seraph sister,
With her wings and waving hair,
And her star-eyed cherub brother -
A serene angelic pair -
Glide around my wakeful pillow,
With their praise or mild reproof,
As I listen to the murmur
Of the soft rain on the roof.

And another comes, to thrill me
With her eyes' delicious blue;
And I mind not, musing on her,
That her heart was all untrue:
I remember but to love her
With a passion kin to pain,
And my heart's quick pulses vibrate
To the patter of the rain.

Art hath naught of tone or cadence
That can work with such a spell
In the soul's mysterious fountains,
Whence the tears of rapture well,
As that melody of nature,
That subdued, subduing strain
Which is played upon the shingles
By the patter of the rain.

Coates Kinney [1826-1904]

ALONE BY THE HEARTH

Here, in my snug little fire-lit chamber,
Sit I alone:
And, as I gaze in the coals, I remember
Days long agone.
Saddening it is when the night has descended,
Thus to sit here,
Pensively musing on episodes ended
Many a year.

Still in my visions a golden-haired glory
Flits to and fro;
She whom I loved - but 'tis just the old story:
Dead, long ago.
'Tis but a wraith of love; yet I linger
(Thus passion errs),
Foolishly kissing the ring on my finger -
Once it was hers.

Nothing has changed since her spirit departed,
Here, in this room
Save I, who, weary, and half broken-hearted,
Sit in the gloom.
Loud 'gainst the window the winter rain dashes,
Dreary and cold;
Over the floor the red fire-light flashes
Just as of old.

Just as of old - but the embers are scattered,
Whose ruddy blaze
Flashed o'er the floor where the fairy feet pattered
In other days!
Then, her dear voice, like a silver chime ringing,
Melted away;
Often these walls have re-echoed her singing,
Now hushed for aye!

Why should love bring naught but sorrow, I wonder?
Everything dies!
Time and death, sooner or later, must sunder
Holiest ties.
Years have rolled by; I am wiser and older -
Wiser, but yet
Not till my heart and its feelings grow colder,
Can I forget.

So, in my snug little fire-lit chamber,
Sit I alone;
And, as I gaze in the coals, I remember
Days long agone!

George Arnold [1834-1865]

THE OLD MAN DREAMS

Oh for one hour of youthful joy!
Give back my twentieth spring!
I'd rather laugh, a bright-haired boy,
Than reign, a gray-beard king.

Off with the spoils of wrinkled age!
Away with Learning's crown!
Tear out life's Wisdom-written page,
And dash its trophies down!

One moment let my life-blood stream
From boyhood's fount of flame!
Give me one giddy, reeling dream
Of life all love and fame!

My listening angel heard the prayer,
And, calmly smiling, said,
"If I but touch thy silvered hair,
Thy hasty wish hath sped.

"But is there nothing in thy track
To bid thee fondly stay,
While the swift seasons hurry back
To find the wished-for day?"

"Ah, truest soul of womankind!
Without thee what were life?
One bliss I cannot leave behind:
I'll take - my - precious - wife!"

The angel took a sapphire pen
And wrote in rainbow dew,
The man would be a boy again,
And be a husband, too!

"And is there nothing yet unsaid,
Before the change appears?
Remember, all their gifts have fled
With those dissolving years."

"Why, yes;" for memory would recall
My fond paternal joys;
"I could not bear to leave them all -
I'll take - my - girl - and - boys."

The smiling angel dropped his pen, -
"Why, this will never do;
The man would be a boy again,
And be a father, too!"

And so I laughed, - my laughter woke
The household with its noise, -
And wrote my dream, when morning broke,
To please the gray-haired boys.

Oliver Wendell Holmes [1809-1894]

THE GARRET
After Beranger

With pensive eyes the little room I view,
Where, in my youth, I weathered it so long;
With a wild mistress, a stanch friend or two,
And a light heart still breaking into song:
Making a mock of life, and all its cares,
Rich in the glory of my rising sun,
Lightly I vaulted up four pair of stairs,
In the brave days when I was twenty-one.

Yes; 'tis a garret - let him know't who will -
There was my bed - full hard it was and small;
My table there - and I decipher still
Half a lame couplet charcoaled on the wall.
Ye joys, that Time hath swept with him away,
Come to mine eyes, ye dreams of love and fun;
For you I pawned my watch how many a day,
In the brave days when I was twenty-one.

And see my little Jessy, first of all;
She comes with pouting lips and sparkling eyes:
Behold, how roguishly she pins her shawl
Across the narrow casement, curtain-wise;
Now by the bed her petticoat glides down,
And when did woman look the worse in none?
I have heard since who paid for many a gown,
In the brave days when I was twenty-one.

One jolly evening, when my friends and I
Made happy music with our songs and cheers,
A shout of triumph mounted up thus high,
And distant cannon opened on our ears:
We rise, - we join in the triumphant strain, -
Napoleon conquers - Austerlitz is won -
Tyrants shall never tread us down again,
In the brave days when I was twenty-one.

Let us begone - the place is sad and strange -
How far, far off, these happy times appear;
All that I have to live I'd gladly change
For one such month as I have wasted here -
To draw long dreams of beauty, love, and power,
From founts of hope that never will outrun,
And drink all life's quintessence in an hour,
Give me the days when I was twenty-one!

William Makepeace Thackeray [1811-1863]

AULD LANG SYNE

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae rin about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered monie a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
And we'll tak a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

Robert Burns [1759-1796]

ROCK ME TO SLEEP

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again, just for to-night!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears, -
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain, -
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay, -
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I to-night for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures, -
Faithful, unselfish, and patient, like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber's soft calms o'er my heavy lids creep; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold.
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead to-night,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood's years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep; -
Rock me to sleep, mother, - rock me to sleep!

Elizabeth Akers [1832-1911]

THE BUCKET

How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view!
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,
And every loved spot which my infancy knew!
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell,
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well -
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

That moss-covered vessel I hailed as a treasure,
For often at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell;
Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well -
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.

How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it,
As poised on the curb it inclined to my lips!
Not a full blushing goblet would tempt me to leave it,
The brightest that beauty or revelry sips.
And now, far removed from the loved habitation,
The tear of regret will intrusively swell,
As fancy reverts to my father's plantation,
And sighs for the bucket that hangs in the well -
The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket that hangs in the well!

Samuel Woodworth [1785-1842]

THE GRAPE-VINE SWING

Lithe and long as the serpent train,
Springing and clinging from tree to tree,
Now darting upward, now down again,
With a twist and a twirl that are strange to see;
Never took serpent a deadlier hold,
Never the cougar a wilder spring,
Strangling the oak with the boa's fold,
Spanning the beach with the condor's wing.

Yet no foe that we fear to seek, -
The boy leaps wild to thy rude embrace;
Thy bulging arms bear as soft a cheek
As ever on lover's breast found place;
On thy waving train is a playful hold
Thou shalt never to lighter grasp persuade;
While a maiden sits in thy drooping fold,
And swings and sings in the noonday shade!

O giant strange of our Southern woods!
I dream of thee still in the well-known spot,
Though our vessel strains o'er the ocean floods,
And the Northern forest beholds thee not;
I think of thee still with a sweet regret,
As the cordage yields to my playful grasp, -
Dost thou spring and cling in our woodlands yet?
Does the maiden still swing in thy giant clasp?

William Gilmore Simms [1806-1870]

THE OLD SWIMMIN'-HOLE

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;
But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,
And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the happy days of yore,
When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,
Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,
It made me love myself as I leaped to caress
My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.
But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll
From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the long, lazy days
When the hum-drum of school made so many run-a-ways,
How pleasant was the journey down the old dusty lane,
Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane
You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
They was lots o' fun on hand at the old swimmin'-hole.
But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll
Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

Thare the bulrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;
And it mottled the worter with amber and gold
Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;
And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by
Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,
Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle
As it cut acrost some orchurd to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be -
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.

James Whitcomb Riley [1849-1916]

FORTY YEARS AGO

I've wandered to the village, Tom, I've sat beneath the tree,
Upon the schoolhouse playground, that sheltered you and me;
But none were there to greet me, Tom; and few were left to know,
Who played with us upon that green some forty years ago.

The grass is just as green, Tom; barefooted boys at play
Were sporting, just as we did then, with spirits just as gay.
But the "master" sleeps upon the hill, which, coated o'er with snow,
Afforded us a sliding-place some forty years ago.

The old schoolhouse is altered some; the benches are replaced
By new ones, very like the same our jackknives once defaced;
But the same old bricks are in the wall, the bell swings to and fro;
Its music's just the same, dear Tom, 'twas forty years ago.

The boys were playing some old game, beneath that same old tree;
I have forgot the name just now - you've played the same with me,
On that same spot; 'twas played with knives, by throwing so and so;
The loser had a task to do, there, forty years ago.

The river's running just as still; the willows on its side
Are larger than they were, Tom; the stream appears less wide;
But the grape-vine swing is ruined now, where once we played the beau,
And swung our sweethearts - pretty girls - just forty years ago.

The spring that bubbled 'neath the hill, close by the spreading beech,
Is very low - 'twas then so high that we could scarcely reach;
And, kneeling down to get a drink, dear Tom, I started so,
To see how sadly I am changed since forty years ago.

Near by that spring, upon an elm, you know I cut your name,
Your sweetheart's just beneath it, Tom, and you did mine the same;
Some heartless wretch has peeled the bark, 'twas dying sure but slow,
Just as she died, whose name you cut, some forty years ago.

My lids have long been dry, Tom, but tears came to my eyes;
I thought of her I loved so well, those early broken ties;
I visited the old churchyard, and took some flowers to strow
Upon the graves of those we loved some forty years ago.

Some are in the churchyard laid, some sleep beneath the sea,
And none are left of our old class, excepting you and me;
But when our time shall come, Tom, and we are called to go,
I hope we'll meet with those we loved some forty years ago.

Unknown
[Sometimes called "Twenty Years Ago."
Claimed for A. J. Gault (1818-1903) by his family]

BEN BOLT

Don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt, -
Sweet Alice whose hair was so Brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?
In the old churchyard in the valley, Ben Bolt,
In a corner obscure and alone,
They have fitted a slab of the granite so gray,
And Alice lies under the stone.

Under the hickory tree, Ben Bolt,
Which stood at the foot of the hill,
Together we've lain in the noonday shade,
And listened to Appleton's mill.
The mill-wheel has fallen to pieces, Ben Bolt,
The rafters have tumbled in,
And a quiet which crawls round the walls as you gaze
Has followed the olden din.

Do you mind of the cabin of logs, Ben Bolt.
At the edge of the pathless wood,
And the button-ball tree with its motley limbs,
Which nigh by the doorstep stood?
The cabin to ruin has gone, Ben Bolt,
The tree you would seek for in vain;
And where once the lords of the forest waved
Are grass and the golden grain.

And don't you remember the school, Ben Bolt,
With the master so cruel and grim,
And the shaded nook in the running brook
Where the children went to swim?
Grass grows on the master's grave, Ben Bolt,
The spring of the brook is dry,
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then
There are only you and I.

There is change in the things I loved, Ben Bolt,
They have changed from the old to the new;
But I feel in the deeps of my spirit the truth,
There never was change in you.
Twelvemonths twenty have passed, Ben Bolt,
Since first we were friends - yet I hail
Your presence a blessing, your friendship a truth,
Ben Bolt of the salt-sea gale.

Thomas Dunn English [1819-1902]

"BREAK, BREAK, BREAK"

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on,
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

Alfred Tennyson [1809-1892]

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