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Miss Billy’s Decision, CHAPTER VI

by Eleanor H. Porter

AT THE SIGN OF THE PINK
After a week of beautiful autumn weather,
Thursday dawned raw and cold.  By noon an
east wind had made the temperature still more
uncomfortable.

At two o’clock Aunt Hannah tapped at Billy’s
chamber door.  She showed a troubled face to
the girl who answered her knock.

“Billy, _would_ you mind very much if I asked
you to go alone to the Carletons’ and to meet
Mary Jane?” she inquired anxiously.

“Why, no–that is, of course I should _mind_,
dear, because I always like to have you go to
places with me.  But it isn’t necessary.  You
aren’t sick; are you?”

“N-no, not exactly; but I have been sneezing
all the morning, and taking camphor and sugar
to break it up–if it is a cold.  But it is so raw
and Novemberish out, that–”

“Why, of course you sha’n't go, you poor
dear!  Mercy! don’t get one of those dreadful
colds on to you before the wedding!  Have you felt
a draft?  Where’s another shawl?”  Billy turned
and cast searching eyes about the room–Billy
always kept shawls everywhere for Aunt Hannah’s
shoulders and feet.  Bertram had been known
to say, indeed, that a room, according to Aunt
Hannah, was not fully furnished unless it contained
from one to four shawls, assorted as to size
and warmth.  Shawls, certainly, did seem to be
a necessity with Aunt Hannah, as she usually
wore from one to three at the same time–which
again caused Bertram to declare that he always
counted Aunt Hannah’s shawls when he wished
to know what the thermometer was.

“No, I’m not cold, and I haven’t felt a draft,”
said Aunt Hannah now.  “I put on my thickest
gray shawl this morning with the little pink one
for down-stairs, and the blue one for breakfast;
so you see I’ve been very careful.  But I _have_
sneezed six times, so I think ‘twould be safer not
to go out in this east wind.  You were going to
stop for Mrs. Granger, anyway, weren’t you?
So you’ll have her with you for the tea.”

“Yes, dear, don’t worry.  I’ll take your cards
and explain to Mrs. Carleton and her daughters.”

“And, of course, as far as Mary Jane is
concerned, I don’t know her any more than you do;
so I couldn’t be any help there,” sighed Aunt
Hannah.

“Not a bit,” smiled Billy, cheerily.  “Don’t
give it another thought, my dear.  I sha’n't
have a bit of trouble.  All I’ll have to do is to
look for a girl alone with a pink.  Of course I’ll
have mine on, too, and she’ll be watching for me.
So just run along and take your nap, dear, and be
all rested and ready to welcome her when she
comes,” finished Billy, stooping to give the soft,
faintly pink cheek a warm kiss.

“Well, thank you, my dear; perhaps I will,”
sighed Aunt Hannah, drawing the gray shawl
about her as she turned away contentedly.

Mrs. Carleton’s tea that afternoon was, for
Billy, not an occasion of unalloyed joy.  It was the
first time she had appeared at a gathering of
any size since the announcement of her engagement;
and, as she dolefully told Bertram afterwards,
she had very much the feeling of the picture
hung on the wall.

“And they _did_ put up their lorgnettes and say,
`Is _that_ the one?’ ” she declared; “and I know
some of them finished with `Did you ever?’ too,”
she sighed.

But Billy did not stay long in Mrs. Carleton’s
softly-lighted, flower-perfumed rooms.  At ten
minutes past four she was saying good-by to a
group of friends who were vainly urging her to
remain longer.

“I can’t–I really can’t,” she declared.  “I’m
due at the South Station at half past four to
meet a Miss Arkwright, a young cousin of Aunt
Hannah’s, whom I’ve never seen before.  We’re
to meet at the sign of the pink,” she explained
smilingly, just touching the single flower she
wore.

Her hostess gave a sudden laugh.

“Let me see, my dear; if I remember rightly,
you’ve had experience before, meeting at this
sign of the pink.  At least, I have a very vivid
recollection of Mr. William Henshaw’s going once
to meet a _boy_ with a pink, who turned out to be
a girl.  Now, to even things up, your girl should
turn out to be a boy!”

Billy smiled and reddened.

“Perhaps–but I don’t think to-day will
strike the balance,” she retorted, backing toward
the door.  “This young lady’s name is `Mary
Jane’; and I’ll leave it to you to find anything
very masculine in that!”

It was a short drive from Mrs. Carleton’s
Commonwealth Avenue home to the South Station,
and Peggy made as quick work of it as the
narrow, congested cross streets would allow.
In ample time Billy found herself in the great
waiting-room, with John saying respectfully in
her ear:

“The man says the train comes in on Track
Fourteen, Miss, an’ it’s on time.”

At twenty-nine minutes past four Billy left
her seat and walked down the train-shed platform
to Track Number Fourteen.  She had pinned
the pink now to the outside of her long coat, and
it made an attractive dash of white against the
dark-blue velvet.  Billy was looking particularly
lovely to-day.  Framing her face was the big
dark-blue velvet picture hat with its becoming
white plumes.

During the brief minutes’ wait before the clanging
locomotive puffed into view far down the long
track, Billy’s thoughts involuntarily went back
to that other watcher beside a train gate not
quite five years before.

“Dear Uncle William!” she murmured
tenderly.  Then suddenly she laughed–so nearly
aloud that a man behind her gave her a covert
glance from curious eyes.  “My! but what a
jolt I must have been to Uncle William!” Billy
was thinking.

The next minute she drew nearer the gate and
regarded with absorbed attention the long line
of passengers already sweeping up the narrow
aisle between the cars.

Hurrying men came first, with long strides,
and eyes that looked straight ahead.  These
Billy let pass with a mere glance.  The next group
showed a sprinkling of women–women whose
trig hats and linen collars spelled promptness as
well as certainty of aim and accomplishment.
To these, also, Billy paid scant attention.  Couples
came next–the men anxious-eyed, and usually
walking two steps ahead of their companions;
the women plainly flustered and hurried, and
invariably buttoning gloves or gathering up trailing
ends of scarfs or boas.

The crowd was thickening fast, now, and Billy’s
eyes were alert.  Children were appearing, and
young women walking alone.  One of these wore
a bunch of violets.  Billy gave her a second glance.
Then she saw a pink–but it was on the coat lapel
of a tall young fellow with a brown beard; so with
a slight frown she looked beyond down the line.

Old men came now, and old women; fleshy
women, and women with small children and babies.
Couples came, too–dawdling couples, plainly
newly married: the men were not two steps
ahead, and the women’s gloves were buttoned and
their furs in place.

Gradually the line thinned, and soon there were
left only an old man with a cane, and a young
woman with three children.  Yet nowhere had
Billy seen a girl wearing a white carnation, and
walking alone.

With a deeper frown on her face Billy turned
and looked about her.  She thought that somewhere
in the crowd she had missed Mary Jane,
and that she would find her now, standing near.
But there was no one standing near except the
good-looking young fellow with the little pointed
brown beard, who, as Billy noticed a second
time, was wearing a white carnation.

As she glanced toward him, their eyes met.
Then, to Billy’s unbounded amazement, the man
advanced with uplifted hat.

“I beg your pardon, but is not this–Miss
Neilson?”

Billy drew back with just a touch of hauteur.

“Y-yes,” she murmured.

“I thought so–yet I was expecting to see
you with Aunt Hannah.  I am M. J. Arkwright,
Miss Neilson.”

For a brief instant Billy stared dazedly.

“You don’t mean–Mary Jane?” she gasped.

“I’m afraid I do.”  His lips twitched.

“But I thought–we were expecting–”
She stopped helplessly.  For one more brief
instant she stared; then, suddenly, a swift
change came to her face.  Her eyes danced.

“Oh–oh!” she chuckled.  “How perfectly
funny!  You _have_ evened things up, after
all.  To think that Mary Jane should be a–”
She paused and flashed almost angrily suspicious
eyes into his face.  “But mine _was_ `Billy,’ ”
she cried.  “Your name isn’t really–Mary
Jane’?”

“I am often called that.”  His brown eyes
twinkled, but they did not swerve from their
direct gaze into her own.

“But–” Billy hesitated, and turned her
eyes away.  She saw then that many curious
glances were already being flung in her direction.
The color in her cheeks deepened.  With an odd
little gesture she seemed to toss something aside.
“Never mind,” she laughed a little hysterically.
“If you’ll pick up your bag, please, Mr.
Mary Jane, and come with me.  John and Peggy
are waiting.  Or–I forgot–you have a trunk,
of course?”

The man raised a protesting hand.

“Thank you; but, Miss Neilson, really–I
couldn’t think of trespassing on your hospitality
–now, you know.”

“But we–we invited you,” stammered Billy.

He shook his head.

“You invited _Miss_ Mary Jane.”

Billy bubbled into low laughter.

“I beg your pardon, but it _is_ funny,” she sighed.
“You see _I_ came once just the same way, and
now to have the tables turned like this!  What
will Aunt Hannah say–what will everybody
say?  Come, I want them to begin–to say it,”
she chuckled irrepressibly.

“Thank you, but I shall go to a hotel, of course.
Later, if you’ll be so good as to let me call, and
explain–!”

“But I’m afraid Aunt Hannah will think–”
Billy stopped abruptly.  Some distance away
she saw John coming toward them.  She turned
hurriedly to the man at her side.  Her eyes still
danced, but her voice was mockingly serious.
“Really, Mr. Mary Jane, I’m afraid you’ll have
to come to dinner; then you can settle the rest
with Aunt Hannah.  John is almost upon us–
and _I_ don’t want to make explanations.  Do you?”

“John,” she said airily to the somewhat dazed
chauffeur (who had been told he was to meet a
young woman), “take Mr. Arkwright’s bag,
please, and show him where Peggy is waiting.
It will be five minutes, perhaps, before I can come
–if you’ll kindly excuse me,” she added to
Arkwright, with a flashing glance from merry
eyes.  “I have some–telephoning to do.”

All the way to the telephone booth Billy was
trying to bring order out of the chaos of her mind;
but all the way, too, she was chuckling.

“To think that this thing should have happened
to _me!_” she said, almost aloud.  “And here I
am telephoning just like Uncle William–Bertram
said Uncle William _did_ telephone about _me!_”

In due course Billy had Aunt Hannah at the
other end of the wire.

“Aunt Hannah, listen.  I’d never have
believed it, but it’s happened.  Mary Jane is–a
man.”

Billy heard a dismayed gasp and a muttered
“Oh, my grief and conscience!” then a shaking
“Wha-at?”

“I say, Mary Jane is a man.”  Billy was
enjoying herself hugely.

“A _ma-an!_”

“Yes; a great big man with a brown beard.
He’s waiting now with John and I must go.”

“But, Billy, I don’t understand,” chattered
an agitated voice over the line.  “He–he called
himself `Mary Jane.’  He hasn’t any business
to be a big man with a brown beard!  What shall
we do?  We don’t want a big man with a brown
beard–here!”

Billy laughed roguishly.

“I don’t know.  _You_ asked him!  How he
will like that little blue room–Aunt Hannah!”
Billy’s voice turned suddenly tragic.  “For pity’s
sake take out those curling tongs and hairpins,
and the work-basket.  I’d _never_ hear the last of
it if he saw those, I know.  He’s just that kind!”

A half stifled groan came over the wire.

“Billy, he can’t stay here.”

Billy laughed again.

“No, no, dear; he won’t, I know.  He says
he’s going to a hotel.  But I had to bring him home
to dinner; there was no other way, under the
circumstances.  He won’t stay.  Don’t you worry.
But good-by.  I must go.  _Remember those curling
tongs!_” And the receiver clicked sharply against
the hook.

In the automobile some minutes later, Billy
and Mr. M. J. Arkwright were speeding toward
Corey Hill.  It was during a slight pause in the
conversation that Billy turned to her companion
with a demure:

“I telephoned Aunt Hannah, Mr. Arkwright.
I thought she ought to be–warned.”

“You are very kind.  What did she say?–if
I may ask.”

There was a brief moment of hesitation before
Billy answered.

“She said you called yourself `Mary Jane,’
and that you hadn’t any business to be a big man
with a brown beard.”

Arkwright laughed.

“I’m afraid I owe Aunt Hannah an apology,”
he said.  He hesitated, glanced admiringly at the
glowing, half-averted face near him, then went
on decisively.  He wore the air of a man who has
set the match to his bridges.  “I signed both
letters `M. J. Arkwright,’ but in the first one
I quoted a remark of a friend, and in that remark
I was addressed as `Mary Jane.’  I did not know
but Aunt Hannah knew of the nickname.”
(Arkwright was speaking a little slowly now, as if
weighing his words.)  “But when she answered,
I saw that she did not; for, from something she
said, I realized that she thought I was a real
Mary Jane.  For the joke of the thing I let it pass.
But–if she noticed my letter carefully, she saw
that I did not accept your kind invitation to give

`Mary Jane’ a home.”

“Yes, we noticed that,” nodded Billy, merrily.
“But we didn’t think you meant it.  You see
we pictured you as a shy young thing.  But,
really,” she went on with a low laugh, “you see
your coming as a masculine `Mary Jane’ was
particularly funny–for me; for, though perhaps
you didn’t know it, I came once to this very same
city, wearing a pink, and was expected to be Billy,
a boy.  And only to-day a lady warned me that
your coming might even things up.  But I didn’t
believe it would–a Mary Jane!”

Arkwright laughed.  Again he hesitated, and
seemed to be weighing his words.

“Yes, I heard about that coming of yours.
I might almost say–that’s why I–let the
mistake pass in Aunt Hannah’s letter,” he said.

Billy turned with reproachful eyes.

“Oh, how could–you?  But then–it was a
temptation!”  She laughed suddenly.  “What
sinful joy you must have had watching me hunt
for `Mary Jane.’ ”

“I didn’t,” acknowledged the other, with
unexpected candor.  “I felt–ashamed.  And when
I saw you were there alone without Aunt Hannah,
I came very near not speaking at all–until I
realized that that would be even worse, under the
circumstances.”

“Of course it would,” smiled Billy, brightly;
“so I don’t see but I shall have to forgive you,
after all.  And here we are at home, Mr. Mary
Jane.  By the way, what did you say that `M. J.’
did stand for?” she asked, as the car came to a
stop.

The man did not seem to hear; at least he did
not answer.  He was helping his hostess to alight.
A moment later a plainly agitated Aunt Hannah
–her gray shawl topped with a huge black one
–opened the door of the house.

Ulalume

by Edgar Allan Poe
  The skies they were ashen and sober;
    The leaves they were crisped and sere–
    The leaves they were withering and sere;
  It was night in the lonesome October
    Of my most immemorial year;
  It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
    In the misty mid region of Weir–
  It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
    In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

  Here once, through an alley Titanic.
    Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul–
    Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
  These were days when my heart was volcanic
    As the scoriac rivers that roll–
    As the lavas that restlessly roll
  Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
    In the ultimate climes of the pole–
  That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
    In the realms of the boreal pole.

  Our talk had been serious and sober,
    But our thoughts they were palsied and sere–
    Our memories were treacherous and sere–
  For we knew not the month was October,
  And we marked not the night of the year–
    (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
  We noted not the dim lake of Auber–
    (Though once we had journeyed down here)–
  Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
    Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

  And now as the night was senescent
    And star-dials pointed to morn–
    As the sun-dials hinted of morn–
  At the end of our path a liquescent
    And nebulous lustre was born,
  Out of which a miraculous crescent
    Arose with a duplicate horn–
  Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
    Distinct with its duplicate horn.

  And I said–”She is warmer than Dian:
    She rolls through an ether of sighs–
    She revels in a region of sighs:
  She has seen that the tears are not dry on
    These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
  And has come past the stars of the Lion
    To point us the path to the skies–
    To the Lethean peace of the skies–
  Come up, in despite of the Lion,
    To shine on us with her bright eyes–
  Come up through the lair of the Lion,
    With love in her luminous eyes.”

  But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
    Said–”Sadly this star I mistrust–
    Her pallor I strangely mistrust:–
  Oh, hasten!–oh, let us not linger!
    Oh, fly!–let us fly!–for we must.”
  In terror she spoke, letting sink her
    Wings till they trailed in the dust–
  In agony sobbed, letting sink her
    Plumes till they trailed in the dust–
    Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

  I replied–”This is nothing but dreaming:
    Let us on by this tremulous light!
    Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
  Its Sibyllic splendor is beaming
    With Hope and in Beauty to-night:–
    See!–it flickers up the sky through the night!
  Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
    And be sure it will lead us aright–
  We safely may trust to a gleaming
    That cannot but guide us aright,
    Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”

  Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
    And tempted her out of her gloom–
    And conquered her scruples and gloom;
  And we passed to the end of a vista,
    But were stopped by the door of a tomb–
    By the door of a legended tomb;
  And I said–”What is written, sweet sister,
    On the door of this legended tomb?”
    She replied–”Ulalume–Ulalume–
    ‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

  Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
    As the leaves that were crisped and sere–
    As the leaves that were withering and sere;
  And I cried–”It was surely October
    On _this_ very night of last year
    That I journeyed–I journeyed down here–
    That I brought a dread burden down here!
    On this night of all nights in the year,
    Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
  Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber–
    This misty mid region of Weir–
  Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,–
    This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

A Dark Month

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

I

A month without sight of the sun
Rising or reigning or setting
Through days without use of the day,
Who calls it the month of May?
The sense of the name is undone
And the sound of it fit for forgetting.

We shall not feel if the sun rise,
We shall not care when it sets:
If a nightingale make night’s air
As noontide, why should we care?
Till a light of delight that is done rise,
Extinguishing grey regrets;

Till a child’s face lighten again
On the twilight of older faces;
Till a child’s voice fall as the dew
On furrows with heat parched through
And all but hopeless of grain,
Refreshing the desolate places–

Fall clear on the ears of us hearkening
And hungering for food of the sound
And thirsting for joy of his voice:
Till the hearts in us hear and rejoice,
And the thoughts of them doubting and darkening
Rejoice with a glad thing found.

When the heart of our gladness is gone,
What comfort is left with us after?
When the light of our eyes is away,
What glory remains upon May,
What blessing of song is thereon
If we drink not the light of his laughter?

No small sweet face with the daytime
To welcome, warmer than noon!
No sweet small voice as a bird’s
To bring us the day’s first words!
Mid May for us here is not Maytime:
No summer begins with June.

A whole dead month in the dark,
A dawn in the mists that o’ercome her
Stifled and smothered and sad–
Swift speed to it, barren and bad!
And return to us, voice of the lark,
And remain with us, sunlight of summer.

II

Alas, what right has the dawn to glimmer,
What right has the wind to do aught but moan?
All the day should be dimmer
Because we are left alone.

Yestermorn like a sunbeam present
Hither and thither a light step smiled,
And made each place for us pleasant
With the sense or the sight of a child.

But the leaves persist as before, and after
Our parting the dull day still bears flowers;
And songs less bright than his laughter
Deride us from birds in the bowers.

Birds, and blossoms, and sunlight only,
As though such folly sufficed for spring!
As though the house were not lonely
For want of the child its king!

III

Asleep and afar to-night my darling
Lies, and heeds not the night,
If winds be stirring or storms be snarling;
For his sleep is its own sweet light.

I sit where he sat beside me quaffing
The wine of story and song
Poured forth of immortal cups, and laughing
When mirth in the draught grew strong.

I broke the gold of the words, to melt it
For hands but seven years old,
And they caught the tale as a bird, and felt it
More bright than visible gold.

And he drank down deep, with his eyes broad beaming,
Here in this room where I am,
The golden vintage of Shakespeare, gleaming
In the silver vessels of Lamb.

Here by my hearth where he was I listen
For the shade of the sound of a word,
Athirst for the birdlike eyes to glisten,
For the tongue to chirp like a bird.

At the blast of battle, how broad they brightened,
Like fire in the spheres of stars,
And clung to the pictured page, and lightened
As keen as the heart of Mars!

At the touch of laughter, how swift it twittered
The shrillest music on earth;
How the lithe limbs laughed and the whole child glittered
With radiant riot of mirth!

Our Shakespeare now, as a man dumb-stricken,
Stands silent there on the shelf:
And my thoughts, that had song in the heart of them, sicken,
And relish not Shakespeare’s self.

And my mood grows moodier than Hamlet’s even,
And man delights not me,
But only the face that morn and even
My heart leapt only to see.

That my heart made merry within me seeing,
And sang as his laugh kept time:
But song finds now no pleasure in being,
And love no reason in rhyme.

IV

Mild May-blossom and proud sweet bay-flower,
What, for shame, would you have with us here?
It is not the month of the May-flower
This, but the fall of the year.

Flowers open only their lips in derision,
Leaves are as fingers that point in scorn
The shows we see are a vision;
Spring is not verily born.

Yet boughs turn supple and buds grow sappy,
As though the sun were indeed the sun:
And all our woods are happy
With all their birds save one.

But spring is over, but summer is over,
But autumn is over, and winter stands
With his feet sunk deep in the clover
And cowslips cold in his hands.

His hoar grim head has a hawthorn bonnet,
His gnarled gaunt hand has a gay green staff
With new-blown rose-blossom on it:
But his laugh is a dead man’s laugh.

The laugh of spring that the heart seeks after,
The hand that the whole world yearns to kiss,
It rings not here in his laughter,
The sign of it is not this.

There is not strength in it left to splinter
Tall oaks, nor frost in his breath to sting:
Yet it is but a breath as of winter,
And it is not the hand of spring.

V

Thirty-one pale maidens, clad
All in mourning dresses,
Pass, with lips and eyes more sad
That it seems they should be glad,
Heads discrowned of crowns they had,
Grey for golden tresses.

Grey their girdles too for green,
And their veils dishevelled:
None would say, to see their mien,
That the least of these had been
Born no baser than a queen,
Reared where flower-fays revelled.

Dreams that strive to seem awake,
Ghosts that walk by daytime,
Weary winds the way they take,
Since, for one child’s absent sake,
May knows well, whate’er things make
Sport, it is not Maytime.

VI

A hand at the door taps light
As the hand of my heart’s delight:
It is but a full-grown hand,
Yet the stroke of it seems to start
Hope like a bird in my heart,
Too feeble to soar or to stand.

To start light hope from her cover
Is to raise but a kite for a plover
If her wings be not fledged to soar.
Desire, but in dreams, cannot ope
The door that was shut upon hope
When love went out at the door.

Well were it if vision could keep
The lids of desire as in sleep
Fast locked, and over his eyes
A dream with the dark soft key
In her hand might hover, and be
Their keeper till morning rise;

The morning that brings after many
Days fled with no light upon any
The small face back which is gone;
When the loved little hands once more
Shall struggle and strain at the door
They beat their summons upon.

VII

If a soul for but seven days were cast out of heaven and its mirth,
They would seem to her fears like as seventy years upon earth.

Even and morrow should seem to her sorrow as long
As the passage of numberless ages in slumberless song.

Dawn, roused by the lark, would be surely as dark in her sight
As her measureless measure of shadowless pleasure was bright.

Noon, gilt but with glory of gold, would be hoary and grey
In her eyes that had gazed on the depths, unamazed with the day.

Night hardly would seem to make darker her dream never done,
When it could but withhold what a man may behold of the sun.

For dreams would perplex, were the days that should vex her but seven,
The sight of her vision, made dark with division from heaven.

Till the light on my lonely way lighten that only now gleams,
I too am divided from heaven and derided of dreams.

VIII

A twilight fire-fly may suggest
How flames the fire that feeds the sun:
“A crooked figure may attest
In little space a million.”

But this faint-figured verse, that dresses
With flowers the bones of one bare month,
Of all it would say scarce expresses
In crooked ways a millionth.

A fire-fly tenders to the father
Of fires a tribute something worth:
My verse, a shard-borne beetle rather,
Drones over scarce-illumined earth.

Some inches round me though it brighten
With light of music-making thought,
The dark indeed it may not lighten,
The silence moves not, hearing nought.

Only my heart is eased with hearing,
Only mine eyes are soothed with seeing,
A face brought nigh, a footfall nearing,
Till hopes take form and dreams have being.

IX

As a poor man hungering stands with insatiate eyes and hands
Void of bread
Right in sight of men that feast while his famine with no least
Crumb is fed,

Here across the garden-wall can I hear strange children call,
Watch them play,
From the windowed seat above, whence the goodlier child I love
Is away.

Here the sights we saw together moved his fancy like a feather
To and fro,
Now to wonder, and thereafter to the sunny storm of laughter
Loud and low–

Sights engraven on storied pages where man’s tale of seven
swift ages
All was told–
Seen of eyes yet bright from heaven–for the lips that laughed
were seven
Sweet years old.

X

Why should May remember
March, if March forget
The days that began with December
The nights that a frost could fret?

All their griefs are done with
Now the bright months bless
Fit souls to rejoice in the sun with,
Fit heads for the wind’s caress;

Souls of children quickening
With the whole world’s mirth,
Heads closelier than field-flowers thickening
That crowd and illuminate earth,

Now that May’s call musters
Files of baby bands
To marshal in joyfuller clusters
Than the flowers that encumber their hands.

Yet morose November
Found them no less gay,
With nought to forget or remember
Less bright than a branch of may.

All the seasons moving
Move their minds alike
Applauding, acclaiming, approving
All hours of the year that strike.

So my heart may fret not,
Wondering if my friend
Remember me not or forget not
Or ever the month find end.

Not that love sows lighter
Seed in children sown,
But that life being lit in them brighter
Moves fleeter than even our own.

May nor yet September
Binds their hearts, that yet
Remember, forget, and remember,
Forget, and recall, and forget.

XI

As light on a lake’s face moving
Between a cloud and a cloud
Till night reclaim it, reproving
The heart that exults too loud,

The heart that watching rejoices
When soft it swims into sight
Applauded of all the voices
And stars of the windy night,

So brief and unsure, but sweeter
Than ever a moondawn smiled,
Moves, measured of no tune’s metre,
The song in the soul of a child;

The song that the sweet soul singing
Half listens, and hardly hears,
Though sweeter than joy-bells ringing
And brighter than joy’s own tears;

The song that remembrance of pleasure
Begins, and forgetfulness ends
With a soft swift change in the measure
That rings in remembrance of friends

As the moon on the lake’s face flashes,
So haply may gleam at whiles
A dream through the dear deep lashes
Whereunder a child’s eye smiles,

And the least of us all that love him
May take for a moment part
With angels around and above him,
And I find place in his heart.

XII

Child, were you kinless and lonely–
Dear, were you kin to me–
My love were compassionate only
Or such as it needs would be.

But eyes of father and mother
Like sunlight shed on you shine:
What need you have heed of another
Such new strange love as is mine?

It is not meet if unruly
Hands take of the children’s bread
And cast it to dogs; but truly
The dogs after all would be fed.

On crumbs from the children’s table
That crumble, dropped from above,
My heart feeds, fed with unstable
Loose waifs of a child’s light love.

Though love in your heart were brittle
As glass that breaks with a touch,
You haply would lend him a little
Who surely would give you much.

XIII

Here is a rough
Rude sketch of my friend,
Faint-coloured enough
And unworthily penned.

Fearlessly fair
And triumphant he stands,
And holds unaware
Friends’ hearts in his hands;

Stalwart and straight
As an oak that should bring
Forth gallant and great
Fresh roses in spring.

On the paths of his pleasure
All graces that wait
What metre shall measure
What rhyme shall relate

Each action, each motion,
Each feature, each limb,
Demands a devotion
In honour of him:

Head that the hand
Of a god might have blest,
Laid lustrous and bland
On the curve of its crest:

Mouth sweeter than cherries,
Keen eyes as of Mars,
Browner than berries
And brighter than stars.

Nor colour nor wordy
Weak song can declare
The stature how sturdy,
How stalwart his air.

As a king in his bright
Presence-chamber may be,
So seems he in height–
Twice higher than your knee.

As a warrior sedate
With reserve of his power,
So seems he in state–
As tall as a flower:

As a rose overtowering
The ranks of the rest
That beneath it lie cowering,
Less bright than their best.

And his hands are as sunny
As ruddy ripe corn
Or the browner-hued honey
From heather-bells borne.

When summer sits proudest,
Fulfilled with its mirth,
And rapture is loudest
In air and on earth,

The suns of all hours
That have ripened the roots
Bring forth not such flowers
And beget not such fruits.

And well though I know it,
As fain would I write,
Child, never a poet
Could praise you aright.

I bless you? the blessing
Were less than a jest
Too poor for expressing;
I come to be blest,

With humble and dutiful
Heart, from above:
Bless me, O my beautiful
Innocent love!

This rhyme in your praise
With a smile was begun;
But the goal of his ways
Is uncovered to none,

Nor pervious till after
The limit impend;
It is not in laughter
These rhymes of you end.

XIV

Spring, and fall, and summer, and winter,
Which may Earth love least of them all,
Whose arms embrace as their signs imprint her,
Summer, or winter, or spring, or fall?

The clear-eyed spring with the wood-birds mating,
The rose-red summer with eyes aglow,
The yellow fall with serene eyes waiting,
The wild-eyed winter with hair all snow?

Spring’s eyes are soft, but if frosts benumb her
As winter’s own will her shrewd breath sting:
Storms may rend the raiment of summer,
And fall grow bitter as harsh-lipped spring.

One sign for summer and winter guides me,
One for spring, and the like for fall:
Whichever from sight of my friend divides me,
That is the worst ill season of all.

XV

Worse than winter is spring
If I come not to sight of my king:
But then what a spring will it be
When my king takes homage of me!

I send his grace from afar
Homage, as though to a star;
As a shepherd whose flock takes flight
May worship a star by night.

As a flock that a wolf is upon
My songs take flight and are gone:
No heart is in any to sing
Aught but the praise of my king.

Fain would I once and again
Sing deeds and passions of men:
But ever a child’s head gleams
Between my work and my dreams.

Between my hand and my eyes
The lines of a small face rise,
And the lines I trace and retrace
Are none but those of the face.

XVI

Till the tale of all this flock of days alike
All be done,
Weary days of waiting till the month’s hand strike
Thirty-one,
Till the clock’s hand of the month break off, and end
With the clock,
Till the last and whitest sheep at last be penned
Of the flock,
I their shepherd keep the count of night and day
With my song,
Though my song be, like this month which once was May,
All too long.

XVII

The incarnate sun, a tall strong youth,
On old Greek eyes in sculpture smiled:
But trulier had it given the truth
To shape him like a child.

No face full-grown of all our dearest
So lightens all our darkness, none
Most loved of all our hearts hold nearest
To far outshines the sun,

As when with sly shy smiles that feign
Doubt if the hour be clear, the time
Fit to break off my work again
Or sport of prose or rhyme,

My friend peers in on me with merry
Wise face, and though the sky stay dim
The very light of day, the very
Sun’s self comes in with him.

XVIII

Out of sight,
Out of mind!
Could the light
Prove unkind?

Can the sun
Quite forget
What was done
Ere he set?

Does the moon
When she wanes
Leave no tune
That remains

In the void
Shell of night
Overcloyed
With her light?

Must the shore
At low tide
Feel no more
Hope or pride,

No intense
Joy to be,
In the sense
Of the sea–

In the pulses
Of her shocks
It repulses,
When its rocks

Thrill and ring
As with glee?
Has my king
Cast off me,

Whom no bird
Flying south
Brings one word
From his mouth?

Not the ghost
Of a word.
Riding post
Have I heard,

Since the day
When my king
Took away
With him spring,

And the cup
Of each flower
Shrivelled up
That same hour,

With no light
Left behind.
Out of sight,
Out of mind!

XIX

Because I adore you
And fall
On the knees of my spirit before you–
After all,

You need not insult,
My king,
With neglect, though your spirit exult
In the spring,

Even me, though not worth,
God knows,
One word of you sent me in mirth,
Or one rose

Out of all in your garden
That grow
Where the frost and the wind never harden
Flakes of snow,

Nor ever is rain
At all,
But the roses rejoice to remain
Fair and tall–

The roses of love,
More sweet
Than blossoms that rain from above
Round our feet,

When under high bowers
We pass,
Where the west wind freckles with flowers
All the grass.

But a child’s thoughts bear
More bright
Sweet visions by day, and more fair
Dreams by night,

Than summer’s whole treasure
Can be:
What am I that his thought should take pleasure,
Then, in me?

I am only my love’s
True lover,
With a nestful of songs, like doves
Under cover,

That I bring in my cap
Fresh caught,
To be laid on my small king’s lap–
Worth just nought.

Yet it haply may hap
That he,
When the mirth in his veins is as sap
In a tree,

Will remember me too
Some day
Ere the transit be thoroughly through
Of this May–

Or perchance, if such grace
May be,
Some night when I dream of his face.
Dream of me.

Or if this be too high
A hope
For me to prefigure in my
Horoscope,

He may dream of the place
Where we
Basked once in the light of his face,
Who now see

Nought brighter, not one
Thing bright,
Than the stars and the moon and the sun,
Day nor night.

XX

Day by darkling day,
Overpassing, bears away
Somewhat of the burden of this weary May.

Night by numbered night,
Waning, brings more near in sight
Hope that grows to vision of my heart’s delight.

Nearer seems to burn
In the dawn’s rekindling urn
Flame of fragrant incense, hailing his return.

Louder seems each bird
In the brightening branches heard
Still to speak some ever more delightful word.

All the mists that swim
Round the dawns that grow less dim
Still wax brighter and more bright with hope of him.

All the suns that rise
Bring that day more near our eyes
When the sight of him shall clear our clouded skies.

All the winds that roam
Fruitful fields or fruitless foam
Blow the bright hour near that brings his bright face home.

XXI

I hear of two far hence
In a garden met,
And the fragrance blown from thence
Fades not yet.

The one is seven years old,
And my friend is he:
But the years of the other have told
Eighty-three.

To hear these twain converse
Or to see them greet
Were sweeter than softest verse
May be sweet.

The hoar old gardener there
With an eye more mild
Perchance than his mild white hair
Meets the child.

I had rather hear the words
That the twain exchange
Than the songs of all the birds
There that range,

Call, chirp, and twitter there
Through the garden-beds
Where the sun alike sees fair
Those two heads,

And which may holier be
Held in heaven of those
Or more worth heart’s thanks to see
No man knows.

XXII

Of such is the kingdom of heaven,
No glory that ever was shed
From the crowning star of the seven
That crown the north world’s head,

No word that ever was spoken
Of human or godlike tongue,
Gave ever such godlike token
Since human harps were strung.

No sign that ever was given
To faithful or faithless eyes
Showed ever beyond clouds riven
So clear a Paradise.

Earth’s creeds may be seventy times seven
And blood have defiled each creed:
If of such be the kingdom of heaven,
It must be heaven indeed.

XXIII

The wind on the downs is bright
As though from the sea:
And morning and night
Take comfort again with me.

He is nearer to-day,
Each night to each morning saith,
Whose return shall revive dead May
With the balm of his breath.

The sunset says to the moon,
He is nearer to-night
Whose coming in June
Is looked for more than the light.

Bird answers to bird,
Hour passes the sign on to hour,
And for joy of the bright news heard
Flower murmurs to flower.

The ways that were glad of his feet
In the woods that he knew
Grow softer to meet
The sense of his footfall anew.

He is near now as day,
Says hope to the new-born light:
He is near now as June is to May,
Says love to the night.

XXIV

Good things I keep to console me
For lack of the best of all,
A child to command and control me,
Bid come and remain at his call.

Sun, wind, and woodland and highland,
Give all that ever they gave:
But my world is a cultureless island,
My spirit a masterless slave.

And friends are about me, and better
At summons of no man stand:
But I pine for the touch of a fetter,
The curb of a strong king’s hand.

Each hour of the day in her season
Is mine to be served as I will:
And for no more exquisite reason
Are all served idly and ill.

By slavery my sense is corrupted,
My soul not fit to be free:
I would fain be controlled, interrupted,
Compelled as a thrall may be.

For fault of spur and of bridle
I tire of my stall to death:
My sail flaps joyless and idle
For want of a small child’s breath.

XXV

Whiter and whiter
The dark lines grow,
And broader opens and brighter
The sense of the text below.

Nightfall and morrow
Bring nigher the boy
Whom wanting we want not sorrow,
Whom having we want no joy.

Clearer and clearer
The sweet sense grows
Of the word which hath summer for hearer,
The word on the lips of the rose.

Duskily dwindles
Each deathlike day,
Till June rearising rekindles
The depth of the darkness of May.

XXVI

“In his bright radiance and collateral light
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.”

Stars in heaven are many,
Suns in heaven but one:
Nor for man may any
Star supplant the sun.

Many a child as joyous
As our far-off king
Meets as though to annoy us
In the paths of spring.

Sure as spring gives warning,
All things dance in tune:
Sun on Easter morning,
Cloud and windy moon,

Stars between the tossing
Boughs of tuneful trees,
Sails of ships recrossing
Leagues of dancing seas;

Best, in all this playtime,
Best of all in tune,
Girls more glad than Maytime,
Boys more bright than June;

Mixed with all those dances,
Far through field and street
Sing their silent glances,
Ring their radiant feet.

Flowers wherewith May crowned us
Fall ere June be crowned:
Children blossom round us
All the whole year round.

Is the garland worthless
For one rose the less,
And the feast made mirthless?
Love, at least, says yes.

Strange it were, with many
Stars enkindling air,
Should but one find any
Welcome: strange it were,

Had one star alone won
Praise for light from far:
Nay, love needs his own one
Bright particular star.

Hope and recollection
Only lead him right
In its bright reflection
And collateral light.

Find as yet we may not
Comfort in its sphere:
Yet these days will weigh not
When it warms us here;

When full-orbed it rises,
Now divined afar:
None in all the skies is
Half so good a star;

None that seers importune
Till a sign be won:
Star of our good fortune,
Rise and reign, our sun!

XXVII

I pass by the small room now forlorn
Where once each night as I passed I knew
A child’s bright sleep from even to morn
Made sweet the whole night through.

As a soundless shell, as a songless nest,
Seems now the room that was radiant then
And fragrant with his happier rest
Than that of slumbering men.

The day therein is less than the day,
The night is indeed night now therein:
Heavier the dark seems there to weigh,
And slower the dawns begin.

As a nest fulfilled with birds, as a shell
Fulfilled with breath of a god’s own hymn,
Again shall be this bare blank cell,
Made sweet again with him.

XXVIII

Spring darkens before us,
A flame going down,
With chant from the chorus
Of days without crown–
Cloud, rain, and sonorous
Soft wind on the down.

She is wearier not of us
Than we of the dream
That spring was to love us
And joy was to gleam
Through the shadows above us
That shift as they stream.

Half dark and half hoary,
Float far on the loud
Mild wind, as a glory
Half pale and half proud
From the twilight of story,
Her tresses of cloud;

Like phantoms that glimmer
Of glories of old
With ever yet dimmer
Pale circlets of gold
As darkness grows grimmer
And memory more cold.

Like hope growing clearer
With wane of the moon,
Shines toward us the nearer
Gold frontlet of June,
And a face with it dearer
Than midsummer noon.

XXIX

You send me your love in a letter,
I send you my love in a song:
Ah child, your gift is the better,
Mine does you but wrong.

No fame, were the best less brittle,
No praise, were it wide as earth,
Is worth so much as a little
Child’s love may be worth.

We see the children above us
As they might angels above:
Come back to us, child, if you love us,
And bring us your love.

XXX

No time for books or for letters:
What time should there be?
No room for tasks and their fetters:
Full room to be free.

The wind and the sun and the Maytime
Had never a guest
More worthy the most that his playtime
Could give of its best.

If rain should come on, peradventure,
(But sunshine forbid!)
Vain hope in us haply might venture
To dream as it did.

But never may come, of all comers
Least welcome, the rain,
To mix with his servant the summer’s
Rose-garlanded train!

He would write, but his hours are as busy
As bees in the sun,
And the jubilant whirl of their dizzy
Dance never is done.

The message is more than a letter,
Let love understand,
And the thought of his joys even better
Than sight of his hand.

XXXI

Wind, high-souled, full-hearted
South-west wind of the spring!
Ere April and earth had parted,
Skies, bright with thy forward wing,
Grew dark in an hour with the shadow behind it, that bade not a
bird dare sing.

Wind whose feet are sunny,
Wind whose wings are cloud,
With lips more sweet than honey
Still, speak they low or loud,
Rejoice now again in the strength of thine heart: let the depth of
thy soul wax proud.

We hear thee singing or sighing,
Just not given to sight,
All but visibly flying
Between the clouds and the light,
And the light in our hearts is enkindled, the shadow therein of the
clouds put to flight.

From the gift of thine hands we gather
The core of the flowers therein,
Keen glad heart of heather,
Hot sweet heart of whin,
Twin breaths in thy godlike breath close blended of wild spring’s
wildest of kin.

All but visibly beating
We feel thy wings in the far
Clear waste, and the plumes of them fleeting,
Soft as swan’s plumes are,
And strong as a wild swan’s pinions, and swift as the flash of the
flight of a star.

As the flight of a planet enkindled
Seems thy far soft flight
Now May’s reign has dwindled
And the crescent of June takes light
And the presence of summer is here, and the hope of a welcomer
presence in sight.

Wind, sweet-souled, great-hearted
Southwest wind on the wold!
From us is a glory departed
That now shall return as of old,
Borne back on thy wings as an eagle’s expanding, and crowned with
the sundawn’s gold.

There is not a flower but rejoices,
There is not a leaf but has heard:
All the fields find voices,
All the woods are stirred:
There is not a nest but is brighter because of the coming of one
bright bird.

Out of dawn and morning,
Noon and afternoon,
The sun to the world gives warning
Of news that brightens the moon;
And the stars all night exult with us, hearing of joy that shall
come with June.

by Emily Dickinson

Belshazzar had a letter, –
He never had but one;
Belshazzar’s correspondent
Concluded and begun
In that immortal copy
The conscience of us all
Can read without its glasses
On revelation’s wall.

Dreams

by Edgar Allan Poe
  Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
  My spirit not awakening, till the beam
  Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
  Yes! though that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
  ‘Twere better than the cold reality
  Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
  And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
  A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.
  But should it be–that dream eternally
  Continuing–as dreams have been to me
  In my young boyhood–should it thus be given,
  ‘Twere folly still to hope for higher Heaven.
  For I have revelled when the sun was bright
  I’ the summer sky, in dreams of living light
  And loveliness,–have left my very heart
  Inclines of my imaginary apart [1]
  From mine own home, with beings that have been
  Of mine own thought–what more could I have seen?
  ‘Twas once–and only once–and the wild hour
  From my remembrance shall not pass–some power
  Or spell had bound me–’twas the chilly wind
  Came o’er me in the night, and left behind
  Its image on my spirit–or the moon
  Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon
  Too coldly–or the stars–howe’er it was
  That dream was that that night-wind–let it pass.
  _I have been_ happy, though in a dream.
  I have been happy–and I love the theme:
  Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life
  As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
  Of semblance with reality which brings
  To the delirious eye, more lovely things
  Of Paradise and Love–and all my own!–
  Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

by Emily Dickinson

Whether my bark went down at sea,
Whether she met with gales,
Whether to isles enchanted
She bent her docile sails;

By what mystic mooring
She is held to-day, –
This is the errand of the eye
Out upon the bay.

To Rhea

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thee, dear friend, a brother soothes,
Not with flatteries, but truths,
Which tarnish not, but purify
To light which dims the morning’s eye.
I have come from the spring-woods,
From the fragrant solitudes;–
Listen what the poplar-tree
And murmuring waters counselled me.

If with love thy heart has burned;
If thy love is unreturned;
Hide thy grief within thy breast,
Though it tear thee unexpressed;
For when love has once departed
From the eyes of the false-hearted,
And one by one has torn off quite
The bandages of purple light;
Though thou wert the loveliest
Form the soul had ever dressed,
Thou shalt seem, in each reply,
A vixen to his altered eye;
Thy softest pleadings seem too bold,
Thy praying lute will seem to scold;
Though thou kept the straightest road,
Yet thou errest far and broad.

But thou shalt do as do the gods
In their cloudless periods;
For of this lore be thou sure,–
Though thou forget, the gods, secure,
Forget never their command,
But make the statute of this land.
As they lead, so follow all,
Ever have done, ever shall.
Warning to the blind and deaf,
‘T is written on the iron leaf,
_Who drinks of Cupid’s nectar cup_
_Loveth downward, and not up;_
He who loves, of gods or men,
Shall not by the same be loved again;
His sweetheart’s idolatry
Falls, in turn, a new degree.
When a god is once beguiled
By beauty of a mortal child
And by her radiant youth delighted,
He is not fooled, but warily knoweth
His love shall never be requited.
And thus the wise Immortal doeth,–
‘T is his study and delight
To bless that creature day and night;
From all evils to defend her;
In her lap to pour all splendor;
To ransack earth for riches rare,
And fetch her stars to deck her hair:
He mixes music with her thoughts,
And saddens her with heavenly doubts:
All grace, all good his great heart knows,
Profuse in love, the king bestows,
Saying, ‘Hearken! Earth, Sea, Air!
This monument of my despair
Build I to the All-Good, All-Fair.
Not for a private good,
But I, from my beatitude,
Albeit scorned as none was scorned,
Adorn her as was none adorned.
I make this maiden an ensample
To Nature, through her kingdoms ample,
Whereby to model newer races,
Statelier forms and fairer faces;
To carry man to new degrees
Of power and of comeliness.
These presents be the hostages
Which I pawn for my release.
See to thyself, O Universe!
Thou art better, and not worse.’–
And the god, having given all,
Is freed forever from his thrall.

To Helen

by Edgar Allan Poe
  Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicean barks of yore,
  That gently, o’er a perfumed sea,
    The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

  On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
  Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece,
  To the grandeur that was Rome.

  Lo! in yon brilliant window niche,
    How statue-like I see thee stand,
    The agate lamp within thy hand!
  Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!

Fare Well

by Walter de la Mare

When I lie where shades of darkness
Shall no more assail mine eyes,
Nor the rain make lamentation
When the wind sighs;
How will fare the world whose wonder
Was the very proof of me?
Memory fades, must the remembered
Perishing be?

Oh, when this my dust surrenders
Hand, foot, lip, to dust again,
May these loved and loving faces
Please other men!
May the rustling harvest hedgerow
Still the Traveller’s Joy entwine,
And as happy children gather
Posies once mine.

Look thy last on all things lovely,
Every hour. Let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
Till to delight
Thou have paid thy utmost blessing;
Since that all things thou wouldst praise
Beauty took from those who loved them
In other days.

Rouge Et Noir

by Emily Dickinson

Soul, wilt thou toss again?
By just such a hazard
Hundreds have lost, indeed,
But tens have won an all.

Angels’ breathless ballot
Lingers to record thee;
Imps in eager caucus
Raffle for my soul.

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