For Wilma (Aged Five Years)

A poem by R. C. Lehmann

Like winds that with the setting of the sun
Draw to a quiet murmuring and cease,
So is her little struggle fought and done;
And the brief fever and the pain
In a last sigh fade out and so release
The lately-breathing dust they may not hurt again.

Now all that Wilma was is made as naught:
Stilled is the laughter that was erst our pleasure;
The pretty air, the childish grace untaught,
The innocent wiles,
And all the sunny smiles,
The cheek that flushed to greet some tiny treasure;
The mouth demure, the tilted chin held high,
The gleeful flashes of her glancing eye;
Her shy bold look of wildness unconfined,
And the gay impulse of her baby mind
That none could tame,
That sent her spinning round,
A spirit of living flame
Dancing in airy rapture o'er the ground -
All these with that faint sigh are made to be
Man's breath upon a glass, a mortal memory.

Then from the silent room where late she played,
Setting a steady course toward the light,
Swifter than thistledown the little shade,
Reft from the nooks that she had made her own
And from the love that sheltered, fared alone
Forth through the gloomy spaces of the night,
Until at last she lit before the gate
Where all the suppliant shades must stand and wait.

Grim Cerberus, the foiler of the dead,
Keeping his everlasting vigil there
In deep-mouthed wrath
Athwart the rocky path,
Did at her coming raise his triple head
And lift his bristling hair;
But when he saw our tender little maid
Forlorn, but unafraid,
He blinked his flaming eyes and ceased to frown,
And, fawning on her, smoothed his shaggy crest,
Composed his savage limbs and settled down
With ears laid back and all his care at rest;
And so with kindly aspect beckoned in
The little playmate of his earthly kin.

For often she had tugged old Rollo's mane,
And often Lufra felt the loving check
Of childish arms about her glossy neck -
Lufra and Rollo, who with anxious faces
Now cast about the haunts and hiding-places
To find their friend, but ever cast in vain.

So now, set free from all that can oppress,
And in her own white innocence arrayed,
Made one for ever with all happiness,
Alert she wanders through the starry glade;
Or, where the blissful Shades intone their praise,
She from the lily-covered bowers
Heaping her arms with flowers
Soars and is borne along
The amaranthine the delightful ways,
Gushes the pretty notes and careless trills
Of her unstudied song,
And with her music all the joyous valley fills.

Yet, oh ye Powers whose rule is set above
These fair abodes that ring the firmament,
Spirits of Peace and Happiness and Love,
And thou, too, mild-eyed Spirit of Content,
Ye will not chide if sometimes in her play
The child should start and droop her shining head,
Turning in meek surmise
Her wistful eyes
Back tow'rd the dimness of our mortal day
And the loved home from which her soul was sped.
Soon shall our little Wilma learn to be
Amid the immortal blest
An unrepining guest,
Who now, dear heart, is young for your eternity.

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