THE IVORY CRADLE
The cradle I have made for thee
Is carved of orient ivory,
And curtained round with wavy silk
More white than hawthorn-bloom or milk.
A twig of box, a lilac spray,
Will drive the goblin-horde away;
And charm thy childlike heart to keep
Her happy dream and virgin sleep.
Within that pure and fragrant nest,
I’ll rock thy gentle soul to rest,
With tender songs we need not fear
To have a passing angel hear.
Ah, long and long I fain would hold
The snowy curtain’s guardian fold
Around thy crystal visions, born
In clearness of the early morn.
But look, the sun is glowing red
With triumph in his golden bed;
Aurora’s virgin whiteness dies
In crimson glory of the skies.
The rapid flame will burn its way
Through these white curtains, too, one day;
The ivory cradle will be left
Undone, and broken, and bereft.
Often I dream your big blue eyes,
Though loth their meaning to confess,
Regard me with a clear surprise
Of dawning tenderness.
Often I dream you gladly hear
The words I hardly dare to breathe,–
The words that falter in their fear
To tell what throbs beneath.
Often I dream your hand in mine
Falls like a flower at eventide,
And down the path we leave a line
Of footsteps side by side.
But ah, in all my dreams of bliss,
In passion’s hunger, fever’s drouth,
I never dare to dream of this:
My lips upon your mouth.
And so I dream your big blue eyes,
That look on me with tenderness,
Grow wide, and deep, and sad, and wise,
And dim with dear distress.
THE GARLAND OF SLEEP
A wreath of poppy flowers,
With leaves of lotus blended,
Is carved on Life’s facade of hours,
From night to night suspended.
Along the columned wall,
From birth’s low portal starting,
It flows, with even rise and fall,
To death’s dark door of parting.
How short each measured arc,
How brief the columns’ number!
The wreath begins and ends in dark,
And leads from sleep to slumber.
The marble garland seems,
With braided leaf and bloom,
To deck the palace of our dreams
As if it were a tomb.
Dear tranquil Habit, with her silent hands,
Doth heal our deepest wounds from day to day
With cooling, soothing oil, and firmly lay
Around the broken heart her gentle bands.
Her nursing is as calm as Nature’s care;
She doth not weep with us; yet none the less
Her quiet fingers weave forgetfulness,–
We fall asleep in peace when she is there.
Upon the mirror of the mind her breath
Is like a cloud, to hide the fading trace
Of that dear smile, of that remembered face,
Whose presence were the joy and pang of death.
And he who clings to sorrow overmuch,
Weeping for withered grief, has cause to bless,
More than all cries of pity and distress,–
Dear tranquil Habit, thy consoling touch!
THE OLD BRIDGE
On the old, old bridge, with its crumbling stones
All covered with lichens red and gray,
Two lovers were talking in sweet low tones:
And we were they!
As he leaned to breathe in her willing ear
The love that he vowed would never die,
He called her his darling, his dove most dear:
And he was I!
She covered her face from the pale moonlight
With her trembling hands, but her eyes looked through,
And listened and listened with long delight:
And she was you!
On the old, old bridge, where the lichens rust,
Two lovers are learning the same old lore;
He tells his love, and she looks her trust:
But we,–no more!