Broideries and ancient stuffs that some queen
Wore; nor gems that warriors' hilts encrusted;
Nor fresh from heroes' brows the laurels green;
Nor bright sheaves by bards of eld entrusted
To earth's great granaries--I bring not these.
Only thin, scattered blades from harvests gleaned
Erewhile I plucked, may happen thee to please.
So poor indeed, those others had demeaned
Themselves to cull; or from their strong, firm hands
Down dropped about their feet with careless laugh,
Too broken for home gathering, these strands,
Or else more useless than the idle chaff.
But I have garnered them. Yet, lest they seem
Unworthy, and so shame Love's offering,
Amid the loose-bound sheaf stray flowers gleam.
And fairer seeming make the gift I bring,
Lilies blood-red, that lit the waving field,
And now are knotted through the golden grain.
Thou wilt not scorn the tribute I now yield,
Nor even deem the foolish flowers vain.
So take it, and if still too slight, too small
It seem, think 'tis a bloom that grew anear,
In other Springtime, the old garden wall.
(That pale blue flower you will remember, dear.
The heedless world, unseeing, passed it by,
And left it to the bee and you.) Then say,
"Because the hands that tended it are nigh
No more, and little feet are gone away
That round it trampled down the beaded grass,
Sweeter to me it is than musky spray
Of Southland; and dearer than days that pass
In other summer-tides." This simple song
Read so, dear heart; Nay, rather white-souled one,
Think 'tis an olden echo, wandered long
From a low bed where 'neath the westering sun
You sang. And if your lone heart ever said
"Lo, she is gone, and cannot more be mine,"
Say now, "She is not changed--she is not wed,--
She never left her cradle bed. Still shine
The pillows with the print of her wee head."
So, mother-heart, this song, where through still rings
The strain you sang above my baby bed,
I bring. An idle gift mayhap, that clings
About old days forgotten long, and dead.
This loitering tale, Valeria, take.
Perchance 'tis sad, and hath not any mirth,
Yet love thou it, for the weak singer's sake,
And hold it dear, though yet is little worth,
This tale of Elder-world: of earth's first prime,
Of years that in their grave so long have lain,
To-day's dull ear, through poets' tuneful rhyme
No echo hears, nor mocking friar's strain.
_July_ 17, 1884.