Barter

A poem by Sophie M. Almon-Hensley

There is a long thin line of fading gold
In the far West, and the transfigured leaves
On some slight, topmost bough that sways and heaves
Hang limp and tremulous. Nor warm, nor cold
The pungent air, and, 'neath the yellow haze,
Show flushed and glad the wild, October ways.

There is a soft enchantment in the air,
A mystery the Summer knows not, nor
The sturdy, frost-crowned Winter. Nature wore
Her blandest smile to-day, as here and there
I wandered, elf-beset, through wood and field
And gleaned the glories of the autumn yield.

A bunch of purple aster, golden-rod
Darkened by the first frost, a drooping spray
Of scarlet barberry, and tall and gray
The silk-cored cotton with its bursting pod,
Some tarnished maple-boughs, and, like a flash
Of sudden flame, a branch of mountain ash.

She smiled, but it was not the welcoming smile
Of frank surrender. As a witching maid
In gorgeous garments cunningly arrayed
Might smile and draw them closer, hers the guile
To let men hope, pray, labor in love's stress
Ere they her hidden beauties may possess.

Deep in the heart of earth where the springs rise,
Down with the sweet linnæa and the moss,
In the brown thrush's throat, where the pines toss
In Winter's harrying storms her secret lies.
Ours the chill night-dews and the waiting pain
Ere we her fairy wealth may hope to gain.

'Tis so with knowledge. Eagerly we turn
Great Wisdom's page, and when our clear eyes grow
Dim in the dusk of years, and heads bend low
Weary at last, the truth we strove to learn
Is ours forever. But its joy of sight
Is dearly bought, methinks, with Youth's delight.

Fate, too, with chaffering voice and beckoning hand
Doles out our happiness; we snatch at wealth
And pay with anxious care and fading health.
We call for Love, and dream that we shall stand
On ground enchanted, but, though sweet the way,
The rocks are sharp, and grief comes with the Day.

Even in love, Dear Heart, there is exchange
Of gifts and griefs, and so I render thee
Vows for thy vows, and pay unfalteringly
What love demands, nor ever deem it strange.
And when the snow drifts fast, and north-winds sting
I make no murmur, but await the Spring.

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