The Old House In The Wood

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Weeds and dead leaves, and leaves the Autumn stains
With hues of rust and rose whence moisture weeps;
Gnarl'd thorns, from which the knotted haw-fruit rains
On paths the gray moss heaps.

One golden flower, like a dreamy thought
In the sad mind of Age, makes bright the wood;
And near it, like a fancy Childhood-fraught,
The toadstool's jaunty hood.

Webs, in whose snares the nimble spiders crouch,
Waiting the prey that comes, moon-winged, with night:
Slugs and the snail which trails the mushroom's pouch,
That marks the wood with white.

An old gaunt house, round which the trees decay,
Its porches fallen and its windows gone,
Starts out at you as if to bar the way,
Or bid you hurry on.

A picket fence, grim as a skeleton arm,
Is flung around a weed-wild garden place;
The gate, o'er which the rose once hung its charm,
Gapes in an empty space.

Here nothing that was beauty's now remains:
Old death and sorrow have made all their own,
And life and love, who wrought here, for their pains
Have nothingness alone.

I stand before the shattered fence and gaze:
All, all is silent now where once was noise
Of household duties, gossip of kind days,
And little children's joys.

Then suddenly I see a shadow slip
From out the house: A ghost of bygone years;
One finger lifted to its pallid lip,
It passes me with tears.

It passes me 'mid whirling leaves and rain.
Between the trees I see it gleam and glide.
I know it for the dream which once in vain
My heart had made its guide.

Was it for this that I had come the blind
Old ways of life back to Love's house again?
The house of Memory, there again to find
The dream that proved in vain?

A will-o'-wisp; a faery fire; a spark,
That led me where I knew not; and at last
Would leave me, lost within the woodland dark,
'Mid shadows of the past.

Again I followed; and again it failed.
And night came on. And then once more it seemed
That all was lost; that nothing more availed
Wen, lo! a window gleamed,

And I was home. . . . Thank God for love! and light,
Set inthe window of the days that were!
And for the dream, though vain, that through the night
Leads back to home and her!

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