The Briar Rose

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Youth, with an arrogant air,
Passes me by:
Age, on his tottering staff,
Stops with a sigh.

"Here is a flower, "he says,
"I knew when young:
It keeps its oldtime place
The woods among.

"Fresh and fragrant as when
I was a boy;
Still is it young as then,
And full of joy.

"Years have not changed it, no;
In leaf and bloom
It keeps the selfsame glow,
And the same perfume.

"Time, that has grayed my hair,
And bowed my form,
Retains it young and fair
And full of charm.

"The root from which it grows
Is firm and fit,
And every year bestows
New strength on it.

"Not so with me. The years
Have changed me much;
And care and pain and tears
Have left their touch.

"It keeps a sturdy stock,
And blooms the same,
Beside the selfsame rock
Where I carved my name.

"My name? I do not know
It is my own.
'T was carved so long ago,
'T is moss-o'ergrown."

(He stoops beside the flower.
He feels its need.
And for a thoughtful hour
He gives it heed.

(It beggars him, it seems,
In heart and mind,
Of memories and dreams
Of days once kind.)

"It gives and I must take
Thoughts sweet with pain;
And feel again the ache
Of the all-in-vain.

"If it could understand
All it implies
Of loss to me who planned
In life's emprise,

"It would not look so fair,
Nor flaunt its youth,
But strip its branches bare,
And die of ruth.

"Ah me! days come and go;
And I am old
This wild rose tells me so,
As none has told.

"Had it not played a part
In a love long past,
It would not break my heart
With loss at last."

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