Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Poems.
I. Time
By Mary M. Singleton (“Violet Fane”) (1843–1905)
 
I.
    OF Time what may a poet sing,
    Who sees his seasons come and go,
    With heart that falters and eyes askance?
    Who reads with sad prophetic glance
  The pitiful tale of the dead rose-garden        5
All folded away in the buds of the spring,
    And dreams, awake, of the summer glow,
  Whilst snow-flakes fall, and whilst hoar-frosts harden,
  Yet hopes for nothing from change or chance,—
  How may a poet sing, and know?        10
 
II.
Let him rise and tune to a mingled measure,
  Blood and roses alike bloom red—
Pleasure in pain, and pain in pleasure—
  Bitter the hunger, and bitter the bread
Time will tarnish a tawdry treasure,        15
  Turn gold to silver, and silver to lead;
Rise up and tune to a mingled measure:
  Of Time, our master, what may be said?
 
III.
Boy and girl, we have played together,
  Hearts in slumber, and heads in air—        20
Maiden trim with the floating feather,
  Sailor-lad, with a future clear,
Snatching a kiss as he climbed the stair—
(‘Kiss me,’ he said, on the twilight stair,
    Half for pastime, and half in sorrow)—        25
    Sailor-lad, that would sail to-morrow
  Out to the uttermost hemisphere.
A few hot tears, and a lock of hair,
And a widowed heart in the summer weather,
  A widowed heart for the half of a year,        30
And the satisfied sense of a secret care,
  Whilst squirrels were sporting and thrushes sung,
And the old folks whispered and gossiped together,
  Each one snug in an easy-chair,
  And murmured low, ‘Beware, beware!        35
    Not a word of this, lest the child should hear;’
  Heart of my heart! it was good to be young!
 
IV.
Good ships have foundered the whole world over,
  For the sea is a grave, and some hearts are sore
For stately ship and for sailor-lover        40
  That never again come back to the shore.
But the maid is a bride, and the bride a mother
  (Bud, and blossom, and blown-out flower),
And the new-born lives, one after another,
  Are a-dance, like motes, in the sunlit hour;        45
But the two arm-chairs stand there as witness,
  Though the babes and the sucklings clamber and crow:
‘’Tis the nature of all things in their fitness—
  They were both of them old, it was time they should go.’
 
V.
But we—we are young, we have time to linger
        50
  By pleasant pathways from Yule to June,
So never heed Time, with his warning finger
  And shifting glass; for it is but noon!
  So pipe and sing to a blithesome tune,
Though it be as the song of the wandering singer,        55
  Who loiters awhile, but who does not stay;
  Or the fatal vow of the faithless lover,
Who loves, and kisses, and rides away;
Or the notes of the nightingale trilling in May,
  Or the chirp of the grasshopper hid in the clover,        60
That wists not when they will mow the hay,
  Nor knows when the nightingale’s singing is over.
 
VI.
Yet were it well that these should know?
  A sorry world if all were wise—
    If all life’s finger-posts were plain,        65
  And all the blind could find their eyes
    To see that Wisdom’s self is vain!
Nay, let the hour unchallenged go,
    For wisdom cometh unaware,
      When, coy at first, as violet hidden,        70
      Or guest, unto the feast unbidden,
    Death’s messenger, the silver hair,
        Glistens alike in brown and gold.
Alas, old friend, are the sands so low?
Alas, my love, it is even so!…        75
        And can it be that we too are old?
 
VII.
Yea, sit we down in the old folks’ chair,
  And watch we the little ones crow and clamber;
We have woven yew-garlands for sunny hair,
  And put out the lights in the bridal chamber;        80
    And hand in hand, and with dimming eyes
      Wait we, and watch in the dusk together,
      O love, my love of the summer weather,
Heart of my heart, who wert once so fair!
      No more of toiling, no more of spinning,        85
    No more heart-beatings, no more surprise;
      For the end is foreseen from the first beginning,
    The castle is fall’n ere its turrets rise—
    Ah, love, my love, it is sad to be wise!
 
VIII.
But Time, our master, stands winged and hoary,
        90
  And seeming to smile as he whets his blade;
Whilst Love is whisp’ring the same old story,
  And Hope seems shrinking and half afraid;
  For of these the measure of youth is made,
And the measure of pleasure, the measure of glory        95
    Which is meted out to a human lot;
And so on to the end (and the end draws nearer),
When our souls may be freer, our senses clearer
    (’Tis an old world creed which is nigh forgot),
When the eyes of the sleepers may waken in wonder,        100
And the hearts may be joined that were riven asunder,
    And Time and Love shall be merged—in what?
 
 
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