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.
Path Flower
Olive Tilford Dargan
A RED-CAP sang in Bishop’s wood,
  A lark o’er Golder’s lane,
As I the April pathway trod
  Bound west for Willesden.
At foot each tiny blade grew big        5
  And taller stood to hear,
And every leaf on every twig
  Was like a little ear.
As I too paused, and both ways tried
  To catch the rippling rain,—        10
So still, a hare kept at my side
  His tussock of disdain,—
Behind me close I heard a step,
  A soft pit-pat surprise,
And looking round my eyes fell deep        15
  Into sweet other eyes;
The eyes like wells, where sun lies too,
  So clear and trustful brown,
Without a bubble warning you
  That here’s a place to drown.        20
“How many miles?” Her broken shoes
  Had told of more than one.
She answered like a dreaming Muse,
  “I came from Islington.”
“So long a tramp?” Two gentle nods,        25
  Then seemed to lift a wing,
And words fell soft as willow-buds,
  “I came to find the Spring.”
A timid voice, yet not afraid
  In ways so sweet to roam,        30
As it with honey bees had played
  And could no more go home.
Her home! I saw the human lair,
  I heard the huckster’s bawl,
I stifled with the thickened air        35
  Of bickering mart and stall.
Without a tuppence for a ride,
  Her feet had set her free.
Her rags, that decency defied,
  Seemed new with liberty.        40
But she was frail. Who would might note
  The trail of hungering
That for an hour she had forgot
  In wonder of the Spring.
So shriven by her joy she glowed        45
  It seemed a sin to chat.
(A tea-shop snuggled off the road;
  Why did I think of that?)
Oh, frail, so frail! I could have wept,—
  But she was passing on,        50
And I but muddled, “You’ll accept
  A penny for a bun?”
Then up her little throat a spray
  Of rose climbed for it must;
A wilding lost till safe it lay        55
  Hid by her curls of rust;
And I saw modesties at fence
  With pride that bore no name;
So old it was she knew not whence
  It sudden woke and came;        60
But that which shone of all most clear
  Was startled, sadder thought
That I should give her back the fear
  Of life she had forgot.
And I blushed for the world we’d made,        65
  Putting God’s hand aside,
Till for the want of sun and shade
  His little children died;
And blushed that I who every year
  With Spring went up and down,        70
Must greet a soul that ached for her
  With “penny for a bun!”
Struck as a thief in holy place
  Whose sin upon him cries,
I watched the flowers leave her face,        75
  The song go from her eyes.
Then she, sweet heart, she saw my rout,
  And of her charity
A hand of grace put softly out
  And took the coin from me.        80
A red-cap sang in Bishop’s wood,
  A lark o’er Golder’s lane;
But I, alone, still glooming stood,
  And April plucked in vain;
Till living words rang in my ears        85
  And sudden music played:
Out of such sacred thirst as hers
  The world shall be remade.
Afar she turned her head and smiled
  As might have smiled the Spring,        90
And humble as a wondering child
  I watched her vanishing.


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