Just a little baby, lying in my arms,—
Would that I could keep you, with your baby charms;
Helpless, clinging fingers, downy, golden hair,
Where the sunshine lingers, caught from otherwhere;
Blue eyes asking questions, lips that cannot speak,
Roly-poly shoulders, dimple in your cheek;
Dainty little blossom in a world of woe,
Thus I fain would keep you, for I love you so.
Roguish little damsel, scarcely six years old,—
Feet that never weary, hair of deeper gold;
Restless, busy fingers all the time at play,
Tongue that never ceases talking all the day;
Blue eyes learning wonders of the world about,
Here you come to tell them,— what an eager shout!—
Winsome little damsel, all the neighbors know;
Thus I long to keep you, for I love you so.
Sober little schoolgirl, with your strap of books,
And such grave importance in your puzzled looks;
Solving weary problems, poring over sums,
Yet with tooth for sponge-cake and for sugar-plums;
Reading books of romance in your bed at night,
Waking up to study with the morning light;
Anxious as to ribbons, deft to tie a bow,
Full of contradictions, — I would keep you so.
Sweet and thoughtful maiden, sitting by my side,
All the world’s before you, and the world is wide;
Hearts are there for winning, hearts are there to break,
Has your own, shy maiden, just begun to wake?
Is that rose of dawning glowing on your cheek
Telling us in blushes what you will not speak?
Shy and tender maiden, I would fain forego
All the golden future, just to keep you so.
Ah! the listening angels saw that she was fair,
Ripe for rare unfolding in the upper air;
Now the rose of dawning turns to lily white,
And the close-shut eyelids veil the eyes from sight;
All the past I summon as I kiss her brow,—
Babe, and child, and maiden, all are with me now.
Though my heart is breaking, yet God’s love I know,—
Safe among the angels, I would keep her so.
~Louise Chandler Moulton~
They have not fought in vain, our dead
Who sleep amid the poppies red:
Their plea, attested with their blood,
By all the world is understood.
They fought for peace, as now do we;
Their conflict was for liberty,
For freedom from the blight of war—
And is that still worth fighting for?
We strive no longer men in arms;
We fight not, stirred by war’s alarms:
We vow to seal our broken past
With fellowship and friendship fast.
By those who faced the battling years
Let earth forget her warlike fears,
That Freedom, idol of our sires,
May pledge to all her sacred fires.
~Thomas Curtis Clark~
Beyond the last horizon’s rim
Beyond adventure’s farthest quest,
Somewhere they rise, serene and dim,
The happy, happy Hills of Rest.
Upon their sunlit slopes uplift
The castles we have built in Spain-
While fair amid the summer drift
Our faded gardens flower again.
Sweet hours we did not live go by
To soothing note, on scented wing;
In golden-lettered volumes lie
The songs we tried in vain to sing.
They are all there, the days of dream
That build the inner lives of men;
The silent, sacred years we deem
The might be and the might have been.
Some evening when the sky is gold
I’ll follow day into the west;
Nor pause, nor heed, till I behold
The happy, happy Hills of Rest.
~Albert Bigelow Paine~
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori: It is sweet and right to die for your country
Two travelling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion’s guestroom. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, “Things aren’t always what they seem.”
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night’s rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field. The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel how could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him, she accused. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die.
“Things aren’t always what they seem,” the older angel replied. “When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn’t find it.”
“Then last night as we slept in the farmer’s bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things aren’t always what they seem.”
Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.
The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!
~Edgar Allan Poe~
Twas when the earth in summer glory lay,
We bore thee to thy grave; a sudden cloud
Had shed its shower and passed, and every spray
And tender herb with pearly moisture bowed.
How laughed the fields, and how, before our door,
Danced the bright waters!–from his perch on high
The hang-bird sang his ditty o’er and o’er,
And the song-sparrow from the shrubberies nigh.
Yet was the home where thou wert lying dead
Mournfully still, save when, at times, was heard,
From room to room, some softly-moving tread,
Or murmur of some softly-uttered word.
Feared they to break thy slumber? As we threw
A look on that bright bay and glorious shore,
Our hearts were wrung with anguish, for we knew
Those sleeping eyes would look on them no more.
Autumn is here; we cull his lingering flowers
And bring them to the spot where thou art laid;
The late-born offspring of his balmier hours,
Spared by the frost, upon thy grave to fade.
The sweet calm sunshine of October, now
Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mould
The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough
Drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.
And gorgeous as the morn, a tall array
Of woodland shelters the smooth fields around;
And guarded by its headlands, far away
Sail-spotted, blue and lake-like, sleeps the sound.
I gaze in sadness; it delights me not
To look on beauty which thou canst not see;
And, wert thou by my side, the dreariest spot
Were, oh, how far more beautiful to me!
In what fair region dost thou now abide?
Hath God, in the transparent deeps of space,
Through which the planets in their journey glide,
Prepared, for souls like thine, a dwelling-place?
Fields of unwithering bloom, to mortal eye
Invisible, though mortal eye were near,
Musical groves, and bright streams murmuring by,
Heard only by the spiritual ear?
Nay, let us deem that thou dost not withdraw
From the dear places where thy lot was cast,
And where thy heart, in love’s most holy law,
Was schooled by all the memories of the past.
Here on this earth, where once, among mankind,
Walked God’s beloved Son, thine eyes may see
Beauty to which our dimmer sense is blind
And glory that may make it heaven to thee.
May we not think that near us thou dost stand
With loving ministrations, for we know
Thy heart was never happy when thy hand
Was forced its tasks of mercy to forego!
Mayst thou not prompt, with every coming day,
The generous aim and act, and gently win
Our restless, wandering thoughts to turn away
From every treacherous path that ends in sin!
~William Cullen Bryant~
From As You Like It…
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
The sentiments in this poem hold true for every conflict from then to the present day. It’s a sad reflection…
“I hold no cause worth my son’s life,” one said—
And the two women with her as she spoke
Joined glances in a hush that neither broke,
So present was the memory of their dead.
And through their meeting eyes their souls drew near,
Linked by their sons, men who had held life dear
But laid it down for something dearer still.
One had wrought out with patient iron will
The riddle of a pestilence, and won,
Fighting on stricken, till his work was done
For children of tomorrow. Far away
In shell-torn soil of France the other lay,
And in the letter that his mother read
Over and over, kneeling as to pray—
“I’m thanking God with all my heart today,
Whatever comes” (that was the day he died)
“I’ve done my bit to clear the road ahead.”
In those two mothers, common pain of loss
Blossomed in starry flowers of holy pride,
What thoughts were hers who silent stood beside
Her son the dreamer’s cross?
~ Amelia Josephine Burr~