Rose Leaves When The Rose Is Dead

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

See how the rose leaves fall
The rose leaves fall and fade:
And by the wall, in dusk funereal,
How leaf on leaf is laid,
Withered and soiled and frayed.

How red the rose leaves fall
And in the ancient trees,
That stretch their twisted arms about the hall,
Burdened with mysteries,
How sadly sighs the breeze.

How soft the rose leaves fall
The rose leaves drift and lie:
And over them dull slugs and beetles crawl,
And, palely glimmering by,
The glow-worm trails its eye.

How thick the rose leaves fall
And strew the garden way,
For snails to slime and spotted toads to sprawl,
And, plodding past each day,
Coarse feet to tread in clay.

How fast they fall and fall
Where Beauty, carved in stone,
With broken hands veils her dead eyes; and, tall,
White in the moonlight lone,
Looms like a marble moan.

How slow they drift and fall
And strew the fountained pool,
That, in the nymph-carved basin by the wall,
Reflects in darkness cool.
Ruin made beautiful.

How red the rose leaves fall
Fall and like blood remain
Upon the dial's disc, whose pedestal,
Black-mossed and dark with stain,
Crumbles in sun and rain.

How wan they seem to fall
Around one where she stands
Dim in their midst, beyond the years' recall,
Reaching pale, passionate hands
Into the past's vague lands.

How still they fall and fall
Around them where they meet
As oft of old: she in her gem-pinned shawl
Of white; and he, complete
In black from head to feet.

How faint the rose leaves fall
Around them where, it seems,
He holds her clasped parting from her and all
His heart's young hopes and dreams
There in the moon's thin beams.

Around them rose leaves fall
And in the stress and urge
Of winds that strew them lightly over all,
With deep, autumnal surge,
There seems to rise a dirge:

"See how the rose leaves fall
Upon thy dead, O soul!
The rose leaves of the love that once in thrall
Held thee beyond control,
Making thy heart's world whole.

"God help them still to fall
Around thee, bowed above
The face within thy heart, beneath the pall!
The perished face thereof,
The beautiful face of Love."

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