Verse > Anthologies > Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. > The Second Book of Modern Verse
Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948).  The Second Book of Modern Verse.  1922.
Songs of an Empty House
Marguerite Wilkinson

BEFORE I die I may be great,
  The chanting guest of kings,
A queen in wonderlands of song
  Where every blossom sings.
I may put on a golden gown        5
  And walk in sunny light,
Carrying in my hair the day,
  And in my eyes the night.
It may be men will honor me—
  The wistful ones and wise,        10
Who know the ruth of victory,
  The joy of sacrifice.
I may be rich, I may be gay,
  But all the crowns grow old—
The laurel withers and the bay        15
  And dully rusts the gold.
Before I die I may break bread
  With many queens and kings—
Oh, take the golden gown away,
  For there are other things—        20
And I shall miss the love of babes
  With flesh of rose and pearl,
The dewy eyes, the budded lips—
  A boy, a little girl.

My father got me strong and straight and slim,
        And I give thanks to him;
My mother bore me glad and sound and sweet,—
        I kiss her feet.
But now, with me, their generation fails,
        And nevermore avails        30
To cast through me the ancient mould again,
        Such women and men.
I have no son, whose life of flesh and fire
        Sprang from my splendid sire,
No daughter for whose soul my mother’s flesh        35
        Wrought raiment fresh.
Life’s venerable rhythms like a flood
        Beat in my brain and blood,
Crying from all the generations past,
        “Is this the last?”        40
And I make answer to my haughty dead,
        Who made me, heart and head,
“Even the sunbeams falter, flicker and bend—
        I am the end.”


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