Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich. 1836–1907
187. Baby Bell

HAVE you not heard the poets tell
How came the dainty Baby Bell 
Into this world of ours? 
The gates of heaven were left ajar: 
With folded hands and dreamy eyes,         5
Wandering out of Paradise, 
She saw this planet, like a star, 
Hung in the glistening depths of even— 
Its bridges running to and fro, 
O'er which the white-winged Angels go,  10
Bearing the holy Dead to heaven. 
She touched a bridge of flowers—those feet, 
So light they did not bend the bells 
Of the celestial asphodels, 
They fell like dew upon the flowers:  15
Then all the air grew strangely sweet. 
And thus came dainty Baby Bell 
Into this world of ours. 

She came and brought delicious May;
The swallows built beneath the eaves;  20
Like sunlight, in and out the leaves 
The robins went, the livelong day; 
The lily swung its noiseless bell; 
And on the porch the slender vine 
Held out its cups of fairy wine.  25
Oh, earth was full of singing-birds 
And opening springtide flowers, 
When the dainty Baby Bell 
Came into this world of ours. 

O Baby, dainty Baby Bell,
How fair she grew from day to day! 
What woman-nature filled her eyes, 
What poetry within them lay— 
Those deep and tender twilight eyes, 
So full of meaning, pure and bright  35
As if she yet stood in the light 
Of those oped gates of Paradise. 
And so we loved her more and more: 
Ah, never in our hearts before 
Was love so lovely born.  40
We felt we had a link between 
This real world and that unseen— 
The land beyond the morn; 
And for the love of those dear eyes, 
For love of her whom God led forth,  45
(The mother's being ceased on earth 
When Baby came from Paradise,)— 
For love of Him who smote our lives, 
And woke the chords of joy and pain, 
We said, Dear Christ!—our hearts bowed down  50
Like violets after rain. 

And now the orchards, which were white
And pink with blossoms when she came, 
Were rich in autumn's mellow prime; 
The clustered apples burnt like flame,  55
The folded chestnut burst its shell, 
The grapes hung purpling, range on range: 
And time wrought just as rich a change 
In little Baby Bell. 
Her lissome form more perfect grew,  60
And in her features we could trace, 
In softened curves, her mother's face. 
Her angel-nature ripened too: 
We thought her lovely when she came, 
But she was holy, saintly now....  65
Around her pale angelic brow 
We saw a slender ring of flame. 

God's hand had taken away the seal
That held the portals of her speech; 
And oft she said a few strange words  70
Whose meaning lay beyond our reach. 
She never was a child to us, 
We never held her being's key; 
We could not teach her holy things 
Who was Christ's self in purity.  75

It came upon us by degrees,
We saw its shadow ere it fell— 
The knowledge that our God had sent 
His messenger for Baby Bell. 
We shuddered with unlanguaged pain,  80
And all our hopes were changed to fears, 
And all our thoughts ran into tears 
Like sunshine into rain. 
We cried aloud in our belief, 
"Oh, smite us gently, gently, God!  85
Teach us to bend and kiss the rod, 
And perfect grow through grief." 
Ah! how we loved her, God can tell; 
Her heart was folded deep in ours. 
Our hearts are broken, Baby Bell!  90

At last he came, the messenger,
The messenger from unseen lands: 
And what did dainty Baby Bell? 
She only crossed her little hands, 
She only looked more meek and fair!  95
We parted back her silken hair, 
We wove the roses round her brow— 
White buds, the summer's drifted snow— 
Wrapt her from head to foot in flowers.... 
And thus went dainty Baby Bell 100
Out of this world of ours. 

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