Verse > Anthologies > Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed. > The Book of New York Verse
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Hamilton Fish Armstrong, ed.  The Book of New York Verse.  1917.
 
Lilacs in the City
By Brian Hooker
 
AMID the rush and fever of the street,
  The snarl and clash of countless quarrelling bells,
And the sick, heavy heat,
  The hissing footsteps, and the hateful smells,
I found you, speaking quietly        5
Of sunlit hill-horizons and clean earth;
  While the pale multitude that may not dare
To pause and live a moment, lest they die,
  Swarmed onward with hot eyes, and left you there—
An armful of God’s glory, nothing worth.        10
 
You are more beautiful than I can know.
  Even one loving you might gaze an hour
Nor learn the perfect glow
  Of line and tint in one small, purple flower.
There are no two of you the same,        15
And every one is wonderful and new—
  Poor baby blossoms that have died unblown,
And you that droop yourselves as if for shame,
  You too are perfect. I had hardly known
The grace of your glad sisters but for you.        20
 
You myriad of little litanies!
  Not as our bitter piety, subdued
To cold creed that denies
  Or lying law that severs glad and good;
But like a child’s eyes after sleep        25
Uplifted; like a girl’s first wordless prayer
  Close-held by him who loves her—no distress,
No storm of supplication, but a deep,
  Dear heartache of such utter happiness
As only utter purity can bear.        30
 
For you are all the robin feels at dawn;
  The meaning of great dimness, and calm moons
On high fields far withdrawn,
  Where the haze glimmers and the wild bee croons.
You are the soul of a June night:—        35
Intimate joy of moon-swept vale and glade,
  Warm fragrance breathing upward from the ground,
And eager winds tremulous with sharp delight
  Till all the tense-tuned gloom thrills like a sound—
Mystery of sweet passion unafraid.        40
 
O sweet, sweet, sweet! You are the proof of all
  That over-truth our dreams have memory of
That day cannot recall:
  Work without weariness, and tearless love,
And taintless laughter. While we run        45
To measure dust, and sounding names are hurled
  Into the nothingness of days unborn,
You hold your little hearts up to the sun,
  Quietly beautiful amid our scorn—
God’s answer to the wisdom of this world.        50
 
 
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