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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Society
By William Dean Howells (1837–1920)
 
From ‘Stops of Various Quills’

I LOOKED, and saw a splendid pageantry
  Of beautiful women and of lordly men,
  Taking their pleasure in a flowery plain,
Where poppies and the red anemone,
And many another leaf of cramoisy,        5
  Flickered about their feet, and gave their stain
  To heels of iron or satin, and the grain
Of silken garments floating far and free,
As in the dance they wove themselves, or strayed
  By twos together, or lightly smiled and bowed,        10
Or curtsied to each other, or else played
At games of mirth and pastime, unafraid
  In their delight; and all so high and proud
  They seemed scarce of the earth whereon they trod.
 
I looked again, and saw that flowery space        15
  Stirring, as if alive, beneath the tread
  That rested now upon an old man’s head,
And now upon a baby’s gasping face,
Or mother’s bosom, or the rounded grace
  Of a girl’s throat; and what had seemed the red        20
  Of flowers was blood, in gouts and gushes shed
From hearts that broke under that frolic pace.
And now and then from out the dreadful floor
  An arm or brow was lifted from the rest,
As if to strike in madness, or implore        25
  For mercy; and anon some suffering breast
Heaved from the mass and sank; and as before
  The revelers above them thronged and prest.
 
 
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