Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
554. In a Garret
 
By Elizabeth Akers Allen (“Florence Percy”)
 
 
THIS realm is sacred to the silent past;
  Within its drowsy shades are treasures rare
Of dust and dreams; the years are long since last
  A stranger’s footfall pressed the creaking stair.
 
This room no housewife’s tidy hand disturbs;        5
  And here, like some strange presence, ever clings
A homesick smell of dry forgotten herbs,—
  A musty odor as of mouldering things.
 
Here stores of withered roots and leaves repose,
  For fancied virtues prized in days of yore,        10
Gathered with thoughtful care, mayhap by those
  Whose earthly ills are healed forever more.
 
Here shy Arachne winds her endless thread,
  And weaves her silken tapestry unseen,
Veiling the rough-hewn timbers overhead,        15
  And looping gossamer festoons between.
 
Along the low joists of the sloping roof,
  Moth-eaten garments hang, a gloomy row,
Like tall fantastic ghosts, which stand aloof,
  Holding grim converse with the long ago.        20
 
Here lie remembrancers of childish joys,—
  Old fairy-volumes, conned and conned again,
A cradle, and a heap of battered toys,
  Once loved by babes who now are bearded men.
 
Here, in the summer, at a broken pane,        25
  The yellow wasps come in, and buzz and build
Among the rafters; wind and snow and rain
  All enter, as the seasons are fulfilled.
 
This mildewed chest, behind the chimney, holds
  Old letters, stained and nibbled; faintly show        30
The faded phrases on the tattered folds
  Once kissed, perhaps, or tear-wet—who may know?
 
I turn a page like one who plans a crime,
  And lo! love’s prophecies and sweet regrets,
A tress of chestnut hair, a love-lorn rhyme,        35
  And fragrant dust that once was violets.
 
I wonder if the small sleek mouse, that shaped
  His winter nest between these time-stained beams,
Was happier that his bed was lined and draped
  With the bright warp and woof of youthful dreams?        40
 
Here where the gray incessant spiders spin,
  Shrouding from view the sunny world outside,
A golden bumblebee has blundered in
  And lost the way to liberty, and died.
 
So the lost present drops into the past;        45
  So the warm living heart, that loves the light,
Faints in the unresponsive darkness vast
  Which hides time’s buried mysteries from sight.
 
Why rob these shadows of their sacred trust?
  Let the thick cobwebs hide the day once more;        50
Leave the dead years to silence and to dust,
  And close again the long unopened door.
 

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