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A Rich Man’s Reverie
by [?]

The years go by, but they little seem
Like those within our dream;
The years that stood in such luring guise,
Beckoning us into Paradise,
To jailers turn as time goes by
Guarding that fair land, By-and-By,
Where we thought to blissfully rest,
The sound of whose forests’ balmy leaves
Swaying to dream winds strangely sweet,
We heard in our bed ‘neath the cottage eaves,
Whose towers we saw in the western skies
When with eager eyes and tremulous lip,
We watched the silent, silver ship
Of the crescent moon, sailing out and away
O’er the land we would reach some day, some day.

But years have flown, and our weary feet
Have never reached that Isle of the Blest;
But care we have felt, and an aching breast,
A lifelong struggle, grief, unrest,
That had no part in our boyish plans;
And yet I have gold, and houses, and lands,
And ladened vessels a white-winged fleet,
That fly at my bidding across the sea;
And hats are doffed by willing hands
As I tread the village street;
But wealth and fame are not to me
What I thought that they would be.

I turn from it all to wander back
With Memory down the dusty track
Of the years that lie between,
To the farm-house old and brown,
Shaded with poplars dusky green,
I pause at its gate, not a bearded man,
But a boy with earnest eyes.

I stand at the gate and look around
At the fresh, fair world that before me lies.
The misty mountain-top aglow
With love of the sun, and the pleasant ground
Asleep at its feet, with sunny dreams
Of milk-white flowers in its heart, and clear
The tall church-spire in the distance gleams
Pointing up to the tranquil sky’s
Blue roof that seems so near.

And up from the woods the morning breeze
Comes freighted with all the rich perfume
That from myriad spicy cups distils,
Loitering along o’er the locust-trees.
Scattering down the plum-trees’ bloom
In flakes of crimson snow–
Down on the gold of the daffodils
That border the path below.

And the silver thread of the rivulet
Tangled and knotted with fern and sedge.
And the mill-pond like a diamond set
In the streamlet’s emerald edge;
And over the stream on the gradual hill,
Its headstones glimmering palely white,
Is the graveyard quiet and still.
I wade through its grasses rank and deep,
Past slanting marbles mossy and dim,
Carven with lines from some old hymn,
To one where my mother used to lean
On Sunday noons and weep.
That tall white shape I looked upon
With a mysterious dread,
Linking unto the senseless stone
The image of the dead–
The father I never had seen;
I remember on dark nights of storm,
When our parlor was bright and warm,
I would turn away from its glowing light,
And look far out in the churchyard dim,
And with infinite pity think of him
Shut out alone in the dismal night.

And the ruined mill by the waterfall,
I see again its crumbling wall,
And I hear the water’s song.
It all comes back to me–
Its song comes back to me,
Floating out like a spirit’s call
The drowsy air along;
Blending forever with my name
Wonderful prophecies, dreamy talk,
Of future paths when I should walk
Crowned with manhood, and honor, and fame.

I shut my eyes and the rich perfume
Of the tropical lily fills the room
From its censer of frosted snow;
But it seems to float to me through the night
From those apple-blossoms red and white
That starred the orchard’s fragrant gloom;
Those old boughs hanging low,
Where my sister’s swing swayed to and fro
Through the scented aisles of the air;
While her merry voice and her laugh rung out
Like a bird’s, to answer my brother’s shout,
As he shook the boughs o’er her curly head,
Till the blossoms fell in a rosy rain
On her neck and her shining hair.
Oh, little Belle!
Oh, little sister, I loved so well;
It seems to me almost as if she died
In that lost time so gay and fair,
And was buried in childhood’s sunny plain;
And she who walks the street to-day,
Or in gilded carriage sweeps through the town
Staring her humbler sisters down,
With her jewels gleaming like lucent flame,
Proud of her grandeur and fine array,
Is only a stranger, who bears her name.