Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Spain, &c.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV.  1876–79.
Introductory to Holland
Love in Winter
Robert Buchanan (1841–1901)
“O, LOVE is like the roses,
  And every rose shall fall,
For sure as summer closes
  They perish, one and all.
Then love, while leaves are on the tree,        5
  And birds sing in the bowers:
When winter comes, too late ’t will be
  To pluck the happy flowers.”
It is a maiden singing,
  An ancient girl, in sooth;        10
The dizzy room is ringing
  With her shrill song of youth;
The white keys sob as swift she tries
  Each shrill and shrieking scale:
“O, love is like the roses!” cries        15
  This muslined nightingale.
In a dark corner dozing,
  I close my eyes and ears,
And call up, while reposing,
  A glimpse from other years;        20
A genre-picture, quaint and Dutch,
  I see from this dark seat,—
’T is full of human brightness, such
  As makes remembrance sweet.
Flat leagues of endless meadows
  (In Holland lies the scene),
Where many pollard-shadows
  O’er nut-brown ditches lean;
Gray clouds above that never break,
  Mists the pale sunbeams stripe,        30
With groups of steaming cattle, make
  A landscape “after Cuyp.”
A windmill, and below it
  A cottage near a road,
Where some meek pastoral poet        35
  Might make a glad abode;
A cottage with a garden, where
  Prim squares of pansies grow,
And, sitting on a garden-chair,
  A dame with locks of snow,        40
In trim black, trussed and bodiced,
  With petticoat of red,
And on her bosom modest
  A kerchief white bespread.
Alas! the breast that heaves below        45
  Is shrivelled now and thin,
Though vestal thoughts as white as snow
  Still palpitate within.
Her hands are mittened nicely,
  And folded on her knee;        50
Her lips, that meet precisely,
  Are moving quietly.
She listens while the dreamy bells
  O’er the dark flats intone,—
Now come, now gone, in dying swells        55
  The Sabbath sounds are blown.
Her cheek a withered rose is,
  Her eye a violet dim;
Half in her chair she dozes,
  And hums a happy hymn.        60
But soft! what wonder makes her start
  And lift her aged head,
While the faint flutterings of her heart
  Just touch her cheek with red?
The latch clicks; through the gateway        65
  An aged wight steps slow,
Then pauses, doffing straightway
  His broad-brimmed gay chapeau!
Swallow-tailed coat of blue so grand,
  With buttons bright beside,        70
He wears, and in his trembling hand
  A nosegay, ribbon-tied.
His thin old legs trip lightly
  In breeches of nankeen,
His wrinkled face looks brightly,        75
  So rosy, fresh, and clean:
For old he is and wrinkled plain,
  With locks of golden-gray,
And leaning on a tasselled cane
  He hobbles on his way.        80
O skylark, singing over
  The silent mill hard by,
To this so happy lover
  Sing out with summer cry!
He hears thee, though his blood is cold,        85
  She hears, though deaf and weak;
She stands to greet him, as of old,
  A blush upon her cheek.
In springtime they were parted
  By some sad wind of woe;        90
Forlorn and broken-hearted
  Each faltered, long ago;
They parted: half a century
  Each took the path of pain,—
He lived a bachelor, and she        95
  Was never wooed again.
But when the summer ended,
  When autumn, too, was dead,
When every vision splendid
  Of youth and hope was fled,        100
Again these twain came face to face
  As in the long ago;
They met within a sunless place
  In the season of the snow.
“O, love is like the roses,        105
  Love comes and love must flee!
Before the summer closes
  Love’s rapture and love’s glee!”
O peace! for in the garden there
  He bows in raiment gay,        110
Doffs hat, and with a courtly air
  Presents his fond bouquet.
One day in every seven,
  While church-bells softly ring,
The happy, silent heaven        115
  Beholds the selfsame thing:
The gay old boy within the gate,
  With ribbons at his knee!—
“When winter comes is love too late?”
  O Cupid, look and see!        120
O, talk not of love’s rapture,
  When youthful lovers kiss;
What mortal sight may capture
  A scene so sweet as this?
Beside her now he sits and glows,        125
  While prim she sits, and proud,
Then, spectacles upon his nose,
  Reads the week’s news aloud!
Pure, with no touch of passion,
  True, with no tinge of pain;        130
Thus, in sweet Sabbath fashion,
  They live their loves again.
She sees in him a happy boy,—
  Swift, agile, amorous-eyed;
He sees in her his own heart’s joy,—        135
  Youth, hope, love, vivified!
Content there he sits smoking
  His long Dutch pipe of wood;
Gossiping oft and joking,
  As a gay lover should.        140
And oft, while there in company
  They smile for love’s sweet sake,
Her snuff-box black she hands, and he
  A grave deep pinch doth take!
There, gravely juvenescent,        145
  In sober Sabbath joy,
Mingling the past and present,
  They sit, a maid and boy!
“O, love is like the roses!”—No!
  Thou foolish singer, cease!        150
Love finds his fireside mid the snow,
  And smokes the pipe of peace!

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