Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
519. To a Magnolia Flower in the Garden of the Armenian Convent at Venice
By Silas Weir Mitchell
I SAW thy beauty in its high estate
  Of perfect empire, where at set of sun
In the cool twilight of thy lucent leaves
  The dewy freshness told that day was done.
Hast thou no gift beyond thine ivory cone’s        5
  Surpassing loveliness? Art thou not near—
More near than we—to nature’s silentness;
  Is it not voiceful to thy finer ear?
Thy folded secrecy doth like a charm
  Compel to thought. What spring-born yearning lies        10
Within the quiet of thy stainless breast
  That doth with languorous passion seem to rise?
The soul doth truant angels entertain
  Who with reluctant joy their thoughts confess:
Low-breathing, to these sister spirits give        15
  The virgin mysteries of thy heart to guess.
What whispers hast thou from yon child-like sea
  That sobs all night beside these garden walls?
Canst thou interpret what the lark hath sung
  When from the choir of heaven her music falls?        20
If for companionship of purity
  The equal pallor of the risen moon
Disturb thy dreams, dost know to read aright
  Her silver tracery on the dark lagoon?
The mischief-making fruitfulness of May        25
  Stirs all the garden folk with vague desires:
Doth there not reach thine apprehensive ear
  The faded longing of these dark-robed friars,
When, in the evening hour to memories given,
  Some gray-haired man amid the gathering gloom        30
For one delirious moment sees again
  The gleam of eyes and white-walled Erzeroum?
Hast thou not loved him for this human dream
  Or sighed with him who yester-evening sat
Upon the low sea-wall, and saw through tears        35
  His ruined home, and snow-clad Ararat?
If thou art dowered with some refinëd sense
  That shares the counsels of the nesting bird,
Canst hear the mighty laughter of the earth,
  And all that ear of man hath never heard,        40
If the abysmal stillness of the night
  Be eloquent for thee, if thou canst read
The glowing rubric of the morning song,
  Doth each new day no gentle warning breed?
Shall not the gossip of the maudlin bee,        45
  The fragrant history of the fallen rose,
Unto the prescience of instinctive love
  Some humbler prophecy of joy disclose?
Cold vestal of the leafy convent cell,
  The traitor days have thy calm trust betrayed;        50
The sea-wind boldly parts thy shining leaves
  To let the angel in. Be not afraid!
The gold-winged sun, divinely penetrant,
  The pure annunciation of the morn
Breathes o’er thy chastity, and to thy soul        55
  The tender thrill of motherhood is borne.
Set wide the glory of thy perfect bloom!
  Call every wind to share thy scented breaths!
No life is brief that doth perfection win.
  To-day is thine—to-morrow thou art death’s!        60


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