Pine, Rose and Fleur de Lis

by Susie Frances Harrison


 

THE POET"S SUNDAY


 

“You will not go to church?” she said,
       And a soft psalm of sad dissent
       Might in her mien so reverent
                     Be easily read.

He broke a branch of lilac-bloom

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       That twisted greenly in and out;
       He shook its honey all about
                     The morning-room.

“I do not see why I should leave
       So sweet a Sunday thing as this,

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       Wet with the dawn’s last dewy kiss,
                     Love, a reprieve!”

“I may not grant you one,” she sighed,
       “I think that you might come; I know
       That if you knew he wished it so—

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                     The one who died—

“I do know, Dear, and yet alone,
       I fear me, you must go to-day;
       For if I went, I could not stay;
                     The monotone

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Of this clear blue intensely fair,
       Would draw me forth from hymn and chant,
       To seek and seal fresh covenant
                     With sky and air;

Those dew-washed grasses keenly green,

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       Like freshly-sharpened scimetars,
       That give such tiny fragrant scars,
                     Would intervene,

When paler emerald darted down,
       With amethyst and ruby rays,

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       That sooner pall than yonder jay’s
                     Blue coat and brown.

The morning grandeur of this wind!
       Hark! how it blows, and sweeps, and swings
       Across the world on nobler wings

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                     Than those of tinned

And gilded glories—boxed-up Hope,
       And Charity on cold white planes,
       And Faith—nay, wait, it but remains
                     To say, for Pope,

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Parson, Revivalist, or Priest,
       (They’re very much the same, I find,
       And much like other human-kind,)
                     I’ll have at least

As good a thinker as you know,

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       The dear old drone, whom you admire—
       Child, can it be you never tire,
                     And wish to go

Elsewhere? Yet that were foolish too!
       I hold, the small and servile sects

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       Are vainly in themselves perplext,
                     Teach nothing new.

O in this hurried world to-day
       Some things must go! Men are not now
       What once they were; the lifted brow,

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                     The serious way,

The rapture and the reverie
       Of prayer and faith and penitence,
       Suppression Spartan of the sense,
                     I nowhere see!

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I know two witcheries in Life.
       Now one is Love, (mind, only two,)
       This love is love, my love, of you;
                     The other, rife

With all its vast Potential grand,

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       And benefit to all the race,
       Is love of Nature. Ah! you place
                     A startled hand

Upon my arm! Well then, no more.
       I talk, you know, but all I say

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       I hardly mean; it is my way
                     Headlong to pour

Hellenic jargon in your ear,
       Because you never take offence
       But grant a loving audience—

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                     What is it, Dear?”

For in her cheek the colour dies,
       And on her lip a tremble sues,
       And something like a tear bedews
                     Her lovely eyes.

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The Poet laughed, and tossed his hair,
       And flung the lilac-branch away.
       “You cannot wear that flower to-day;
                     Your pallid air

This morning, Dear, requires a bright

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       And warmer tone. Ah! where’s the rose,
       The crimson one, that monthly blows,
                     And seeks the light

In your own window?” Up he leaps,
       And down again before she knows,

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       And fastens quick the glowing rose
                     Beneath the deeps

Of rounded chin and rounder throat,
       Upon the soft gray of her gown.
       The Poet’s wife in gray or brown

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                     Long robes that float

Throughout his house is always drest.
       So soothes she with grave gown and glance
       His soul’s too gay inheritance,
                     She gives him rest.

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And now the bells have ceased. A calm
       Has smitten all the little town,
       And in the church the folk kneel down,
                     They wear the Palm;

They sing the hymns their fathers knew,

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       They hear the story told again
       Of sinless Christ and sinful men;
                     Some think it true,

And some have never thought at all,
       But all would fain believe the tale,

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       If only once from ‘neath the vail
                     Some light would fall.

              *        *        *        *

The bells have ceased. The Poet lies—
       Dreaming, musing, upon the grass,
       But through his brain no fancies pass,
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                     No mysteries

Of saint and satyr, gnome and fay,
       Of king, of jester in disguise;
       Of knight and squire in brilliant dyes
                     Upon their way.

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Have the bells ceased? He thought to write
       Perhaps to rhyme, at least to read
       The modern master-minds, whose creed
                     He takes for light.

The bells have ceased, he knows full well;

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       But though he surely cannot care,
       He seems to hear them everywhere,
                     While with the swell,

And rise and fall, there comes at times
       A strain of far-off singing clear,

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       And strangely, sadly, dimly dear,
                     Above the chimes.

              *        *        *        *

What was his motive when he rose,
       Obedient to the inner peal,
       Could he himself at will reveal,
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                     In truth disclose?

What e’er it be it carries him,
       With curious, not unwilling, feet
       Along the walk and down the street
                     Grass-grown and trim.

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The open porch is ivied o’er.        *        *        *
       O do we know a stranger thing
       Than village folk that stand and sing,
                     And thus adore

The God they cannot understand,

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       For What is it they deify,
       And Whom is it they crucify
                     Throughout the land?

Yet do we know a better thing
       Than kneeling folk that for an hour

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       Forget their trouble and the power
                     Of sin’s strong King?

The Poet looked, and something crept
       A certain softness, in his face,
       And for a happy moment’s space,

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                     He gently wept.

There in her corner sits the wife.
       Ah! but her thoughts are hard to keep
       On Shepherd true and wandering sheep,
                     And Bread of Life!

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Her sorrow she can scarcely hide,
       —That dreaming figure on the grass—
       Nay, what is this has come to pass?
                     He’s at her side!

“It is the best thing that we know”

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       He breathes as softly in her ear
       As when he told the tale of fear
                     In love “and so

I come to sit with you—’tis right?
       The lilacs lost their lovely bloom

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       And all the world was bathed in gloom,
                     Yet here ’tis bright.”

She cannot speak nor look at him,
       But reaches forth a little hand;
       He takes it, he will understand,

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                     Her eyes are dim.

              *        *        *        *       

“O little wife,” the Poet said,
       While round his neck her arms he placed,
       With his own arms about her waist,
                     And on her head
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Soft kisses rained; (they were at home,
       And both were happier it seemed,
       Than either one had ever dreamed,)
                     “Why did I come

And find you in the well-known pew?

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       I hardly know, but since I came—
       Contrite, Dear, with a touch of shame—
                     I swear to you,

I’ll never let you go again
       All lonely as you went to-day;

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       And if, sweet child, I cannot pray
                     As you are fain

To have me pray, like him who died,
       Your father, earnest in his work
       Of saving souls, I’ll never shirk

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                     In a false pride

The service I can love so well.
       If in this hurried world of ours
       Some things must go; if waning powers
                     Seem to rebel

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Because there is too much to learn,
       Too much to do, too much to know.
       And so the crowded days o’erflow,
                     And round we turn

On turning earth with never a rest—

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       At least we’ll try to keep a sense
       For holy things and reverence—
                     Sweet gift and blest

For the dear faith our fathers knew,
       For things of virtue, things of praise,

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Of good report and pleasant ways,
                     The Good, the True.”

 


 

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