Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
I. Disappointment in Love
The Sun-Dial
Austin Dobson (1840–1921)
’T IS an old dial, dark with many a stain;
  In summer crowned with drifting orchard bloom,
Tricked in the autumn with the yellow rain,
  And white in winter like a marble tomb.
And round about its gray, time-eaten brow        5
  Lean letters speak,—a worn and shattered row:
I am a Shade; a Shadowe too art thou:
  I marke the Time: saye, Gossip, dost thou soe?
Here would the ring-doves linger, head to head;
  And here the snail a silver course would run,        10
Beating old Time; and here the peacock spread
  His gold-green glory, shutting out the sun.
The tardy shade moved forward to the noon;
  Betwixt the paths a dainty Beauty stept,
That swung a flower, and, smiling hummed a tune,—        15
  Before whose feet a barking spaniel leapt.
O’er her blue dress an endless blossom strayed;
  About her tendril-curls the sunlight shone;
And round her train the tiger-lilies swayed,
  Like courtiers bowing till the queen be gone.        20
She leaned upon the slab a little while,
  Then drew a jewelled pencil from her zone,
Scribbled a something with a frolic smile,
  Folded, inscribed, and niched it in the stone.
The shade slipped on, no swifter than the snail;        25
  There came a second lady to the place,
Dove-eyed, dove-robed, and something wan and pale,—
  An inner beauty shining from her face.
She, as if listless with a lonely love,
  Straying among the alleys with a book,—        30
Herrick or Herbert,—watched the circling dove,
  And spied the tiny letter in the nook.
Then, like to one who confirmation found
  Of some dread secret half-accounted true,—
Who knew what hearts and hands the letter bound,        35
  And argued loving commerce ’twixt the two,—
She bent her fair young forehead on the stone;
  The dark shade gloomed an instant on her head;
And ’twixt her taper fingers pearled and shone
  The single tear that tear-worn eyes will shed.        40
The shade slipped onward to the falling gloom;
  Then came a soldier gallant in her stead,
Swinging a beaver with a swaling plume,
  A ribboned love-lock rippling from his head.
Blue-eyed, frank-faced, with clear and open brow,        45
  Scar-seamed a little, as the women love;
So kindly fronted that you marvelled how
  The frequent sword-hilt had so frayed his glove;
Who switched at Psyche plunging in the sun;
  Uncrowned three lilies with a backward swinge;        50
And standing somewhat widely, like to one
  More used to “Boot and Saddle” than to cringe
As courtiers do, but gentleman withal,
  Took out the note;—held it as one who feared
The fragile thing he held would slip and fall;        55
  Read and re-read, pulling his tawny beard;
Kissed it, I think, and hid it in his breast;
  Laughed softly in a flattered, happy way,
Arranged the broidered baldrick on his crest,
  And sauntered past, singing a roundelay.
*        *        *        *        *
The shade crept forward through the dying glow;
  There came no more nor dame nor cavalier;
But for a little time the brass will show
  A small gray spot,—the record of a tear.

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