He rode along one splendid noon,
When all the hills were lit with Spring,
And through the bushland throbbed a croon
Of every living, hopeful thing.
Between his teeth a rose he bore
As white as milk, and passing there
He tossed it with a laugh. I wore
It as it fell among my hair.
No day a-drip with golden rain,
No heat with drench of wattle scent
Can touch the heart of me again
But with that young, sweet wonder blent.
We wed upon a gusty day,
When baffled fury whipped the sea;
And now I love the swift, wet play
Of wind and rain besetting me.
I took white roses in my hand,
A white rose on my forehead shone,
For we had come to understand
White roses bloomed for us alone.
When scarce a year had gone he sped
To fight the wars. With eyes grown grim
He kissed my lips, and whispering said:
“The world we must keep sweet for him!”
He wrote of war, the soldier’s life.
“’Tis hard, my dearest, but be brave.
I did not make my love my wife
To be the mother of a slave!”
My babe was born a boy. He had
His father’s eyes, his smile, his hair,
And, oh, my soul was brimming glad,
It seemed his father’s self was there!
But now came one who bade me still
In holy Heaven put my trust.
They’d laid my love beneath the hill,
And sealed his eyes with timeless dust.
Against my breast the babe I drew,
With strength from him to stay my fears.
I fought my fight the long days through;
He laughed and dabbled in my tears.
From my poor heart, at which it fed
With tiger teeth, I thrust despair,
And faced a world with shadow spread
And only echoes in the air.
The winter waned. One eve I went,
Led by a kindly hand to see
In moving scenes the churches rent,
The tumbled hill, the blasted lee.
Of soldiers resting by the road,
Who smoked and drowsed, a muddy rout,
One sprang alert, and forward strode,
With eager eyes to seek us out.
His fingers held a rose. He threw
The flower, and waved his cap. In me
A frenzy of assurance grew,
For, O dear God, ’twas he! ’twas he!
I called aloud. Aloft my child
I held, and nearer yet he came;
And when he understood and smiled,
My baby lisped his father’s name.
They say I fell like something dead,
But when I woke to morning’s glow
My boy sat by me on the bed,
And in his hand a rose of snow!