Autumn.

A poem by Marietta Holley

How the sumac banners bent, dripping as if with blood,
What a mournful presence brooded upon the slumbrous air;
A mocking-bird screamed noisily in the depth of the silent wood,
And in my heart was crying the raven of despair,
Thrilling my being through with its bitter, bitter cry -
"It were better to die, it were better to die."

For she, my love, my fate, she sat by my side
On a fallen oak, her cheek all flushed with a bashful shame,
Telling me what her innocent heart had hid -
"For was not I her brother, her dear brother, all but in name."
I listened to her low words, but turned my face away -
Away from her eyes' soft light, and the mocking light of the day.

"He was noble and proud," she said, "and had chosen her from all
The haughty ladies, and great; she didn't deserve her lot."
I knew her peer could never be found in palace or hall,
And my white face told my thought, but she saw it not.
She was crushing some scarlet leaves in her dainty fingers of snow,
Her maiden joy crowning her face with a radiant glow.

"She had wanted me to know," and then a smile and a blush;
Her smile was always just like a baby's smile, and the red
Came to her cheek at a word or a glance - then there fell a hush.
She was waiting some word from me, I knew, so I said,
"May Heaven bless you both" - words spoken full quietly,
And she, God bless her, never knew how much they cost to me.

How the sumac banners bent, dripping as if with blood,
What a mournful presence brooded upon the slumbrous air;
A mocking-bird screamed noisily in the depths of the silent wood,
And in my heart was crying the raven of despair,
Thrilling my being through with its desolate, desolate cry -
"It were better to die, it were better to die."

The white dawn follows the darkness; out of the years' decay
Shineth the golden fire that gildeth the autumn with light;
From another's sin and loss, cometh this good to me,
By another's fall am I raised to this blissful height.
"Let me be humble," said my heart, as from her sweet lips fell,
"Let a prayer for him arise, with the sound of our marriage bell."

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