earlyamericanwomenpoets



Unwedded


Behold her there in the evening sun,
That kindles the Indian Summer trees
To a separate burning bush, one by one
Wherein the Glory Divine she sees!

Mate and nestling she never had:
Kith and kindred have passed away;
Yet the sunset is not more gently glad,
That follows her shadow, and fain would stay.

For out of her life goes a breath of bliss,
And a sunlike charm from her cheerful eye,
That the cloud and the loitering breeze would miss;
A balm that refreshes the passer-by.

"Did she choose it, this single life?"
Gossip, she saith not, and who can tell?
But many a mother, and many a wife,
Draws a lot more lonely, we all know well.

Doubtless she had her romantic dream,
Like other maidens, in May-time sweet,
That flushes the air with a lingering gleam,
And goldens the grass beneath her feet: —

A dream unmoulded to visible form,
That keeps the world rosy with mists of youth,
And holds her in loyalty close and warm,
To her fine ideal of manly truth.

"But was she happy, a woman, alone?"
Gossip, alone in this crowded earth,
With a voice to quiet its hourly moan,
And a smile to heighten its rarer mirth?

There are ends more worthy than happiness:
Who seeks it, digging joy's grave, we know.
The blessed are they who but live to bless;
She found out that mystery, long ago.

To her motherly, sheltering atmosphere,
The children hasten from icy homes:
The outcast is welcome to share her cheer;
And the saint with a fervent benison comes.

For the heart of woman is large as man's;
God gave her his orphaned world to hold,
And whispered through her His deeper plans
To save it alive from the outer cold.

And here is a woman who understood
Herself, her work, and God's will with her,
To gather and scatter His sheaves of good,
And was meekly thankful, though men demur.

Would she have walked more nobly, think,
With a man beside her, to point the way,
Hand joining hand in the marriage-link?
Possibly, Yes: it is likelier, Nay.

For all men have not wisdom and might:
Love's eyes are tender, and blur the map;
And a wife will follow by faith, not sight,
In the chosen footprint, at any hap.

In the comfort of home who is gladder than she?
Yet, stirred by no murmur of "might have been,"
Her heart as a carolling bird soars free,
With the song of each nest she has glanced within.

Having the whole, she covets no part:
Hers is the bliss of all blessed things.
The tears that unto her eyelids start,
Are those which a generous pity brings;

Or the sympathy of heroic faith
With a holy purpose, achieved or lost.
To stifle the truth is to stop her breath,
For she rates a lie at its deadly cost.

Her friends are good women and faithful men,
Who seek for the True, and uphold the Right;
And who shall proclaim her the weaker, when
Her very presence puts sin to flight?

"And dreads she never the coming years?"
Gossip, what are years to her?
All winds are fair, and the harbor nears,
And every breeze a delight will stir.

Transfigured under the sunset trees,
That wreathe her with shadowy gold and red,
She looks away to the purple seas,
Whereon her shallop will soon be sped.

She reads the hereafter by the here:
A beautiful Now, and a better To Be:
In life is all sweetness, in death no fear. —
You waste your pity on such as she.


"This is a haunted world"


This is a haunted world. It hath no breeze
But is the echo of some voice beloved:
Its pines have human tones; its billows wear
The color and the sparkle of dear eyes.
Its flowers are sweet with touch of tender hands
That once clasped ours. All things are beautiful
Because of something lovelier than themselves,
Which breathes within them, and will never die. —
Haunted, — but not with any spectral gloom;
Earth is suffused, inhabited by heavens.

These blossoms, gathered in familiar paths,
With dear companions now passed out of sight,
Shall not be laid upon their graves. They live,
Since love is deathless. Pleasure now nor pride
Is theirs in mortal wise, but hallowing thoughts
Will meet the offering, of so little worth,
Wanting the benison death has made divine.

And visible friends link hands with those unseen,
Veiled in immortal light; their love is one.
And, for love's sake, they will accept these waifs,
Laid at their feet with a heart's gratitude,
And sadness that it has no worthier gift.


Sonnets


I. Drought

There is a trouble may befall the soul,
Beside which grief will seem a happiness.
The stream whose murmur evermore to bless
Your desert with bewildering music stole —
That o'er your waste of being did unroll
A weft of green, for beauty and for shade,
And in the wilderness a garden made —
Withdraws, drop after drop, its priceless dole;
And the sweet grasses that the wind sang through,
And all the star-eyed blossoms, droop and die,
Till your bare life lies open to the sky, —
The wide, calm weariness of rainless blue, —
Without a voice to babble its distress;
A barren, uncomplaining silentness.

II. Springs in the Desert

And there is joy no music can express,
When in the empty channels of the heart
New springs of love from unknown sources start;
When all the desert-land of selfishness
That, parched and shrivelling in its own distress,
Sent not a drop to cheer the neighboring waste,
Breaks into song, and with o'erflowing haste
Pours rill to rill, a suffering soil to bless.
O silent, burning hearts! of lonely things
Your lot is far the mournfullest, the worst.
But when your sands with cooling waters burst,
Each thought in welcome of that wonder sings,
Spring up, O well! from God the fountain flows
That makes the desert blossom as the rose.


Prudence


What is this round world to Prudence,
With her round, black, restless eyes,
But a world for knitting stockings,
Sweeping floors, and baking pies?

'T is a world that women work in,
Sewing long seams, stitch by stitch:
Barns for hay, and chests for linen; —
'T is a world where men grow rich.

Ten years old is little Prudence;
Ten years older still she seems,
With her busy eyes and fingers,
With her grown-up thoughts and schemes.

Sunset is the time for candles;
Cows are milked at fall of dew;
Beans will grow, and melons ripen,
When the summer skies are blue.

Is there more than work in living?
Yes; a child must go to school,
And to meeting every Sunday;
Not a heathen be, or fool.

Something more has haunted Prudence
In the song of bird and bee,
In the low wind's dreamy whisper
Through the light-leaved poplar-tree.

Something lingers, bends above her,
Leaning at the mossy well;
Some sweet murmur from the meadows;
On the air some gentle spell.

But she will not stop to listen: —
Maybe there are witches yet!
So she runs away from beauty;
Tries its presence to forget.

'T is the way her mother taught her;
Prudence is not much to blame.
Work is good for child or woman;
Childhood's jailer, — 't is a shame!

Gravely at the romping children
Their gray heads the gossips shake;
Saying, with a smile for Prudence,
"What a good wife she will make!"




Sources

Larcom, Lucy. At the Beautiful Gate: And Other Songs of Faith. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., 1892.
— — —. Childhood Songs. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1899.
— — —. An Idyl of Work.2nd edition. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1876.
— — —. Landscape in American Poetry. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1879.

— — —. Poems. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1869.
— — —. The Poetical Works of Lucy Larcom: Household Edition. 5th edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1884.
— — —. A New England Girlhood, Outlined from Memory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1889.

— — —, ed. Roadside Poems for Summer Travellers. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1876.
— — —. Similitudes from the Ocean and the Prairie. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1854.
— — —. The Unseen Friend. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1892.
— — —. Wild Roses of Cape Ann, and Other Poems. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1881.