Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
The Sharing
By Agnes Lee
  [Martin works in the garden. Stephana comes from the cottage door. Upon a bench under the eaves are ranged three very small wooden cages of the kind used by bird-sellers for their stock in trade.]

  Stephana.  At last we have our quiet holiday.
Come, father, take your leisure.
I fetched the birds to blink beyond the way
And know a bit of pleasure.
  Martin.  Twelve sold within a week—and that is well.        5
  Stephana.  And these?
  Martin  [Aside.].  She never tires
Of birds and birds!  [Aloud.]  Whoever may foretell?
  Stephana.  Oh, oh, the silly buyers!
I, keeping back the loveliest three, and you,        10
Although you saw the hiding,
Making as if you never, never knew!
  Martin.  You elf, demurely gliding!  [They laugh merrily.]
  Stephana.  [Soberly.]  No more shall come to buy—and that’s my dream.
  Martin.  The sun is on the hedges.        15
  Stephana.  How all the little upward petals gleam!
  Martin.  Look—there, along the ledges,
Comes wandering a worn and meager man!
Look—from the road he’s turning!
  Stephana.  Perhaps a beggar from the caravan        20
That kept me from my churning.
We cannot heed so many passing here.
  Martin.  Now see him bend and falter
And shuffle in his gait…. Yet, coming near,
He seems to loom and alter….        25
He is even young.
  Stephana.  No, no, his hair is gray.
See, now the stile he’s over!
  Martin.  He has a word for us. He walks our way
Across the bed of clover….        30
Where do you come from, melancholy guest?
  The Stranger.  Out of the dark of sorrow.
They said it was the east, it was the west,
And there was no tomorrow.
  Stephana.  The birds are fluttering.        35
  The Stranger.                The birds?
  Stephana.                    Oh, look,
The yellow, bright canaries!
They light the dailiness of this dull nook,
They are my gentle fairies.        40
For father teaches at the village school,
And I’m forlorn and lonely,
Except for these, my heartlings beautiful.
All would be happy…. only …
When they begin to love me, off they go.        45
  The Stranger.  The price, the price, for ever.
  Martin.  For all, the price is all the hand may show.
We may be fools, or clever—
It is the earthly cry of everyone.
  The Stranger.  Poor birds! No songs embolden        50
Their little breasts. Their eyes forget the sun.
  Stephana.  But they are soft and golden.
  The Stranger.  The narrow cells!
  Stephana.  Yes, narrow are their homes.
But never knew they wider.        55
  The Stranger.  His houses He has made with azure domes,
The bountiful Provider.
  Stephana.  [Aside.]  Dread of my heart! The sign is on his brow!
Dread of my heart is calling!
He’ll buy my darlings! On the settle now        60
His silver hoard is falling!
  Martin.  [Whispering to Stephana.]  You’ll have a bit of satin home to try.
  The Stranger.  The birds are bonny, bonny.
Take you my all—give me what it will buy.
  Stephana.  Father! Forego the money!        65
  Martin.  Now leave me to my bargain, child!
  Stephana.                Ah me!
  Martin.  You’ll have a rosy fillet.
  Stephana.  Father!
  Martin.  Good stranger, they are yours, all three.        70
  The Stranger.  Mine! Nothing shall outwill it!
  Stephana.  But oh, whatever is your good of them?
  The Stranger.  Why, look you, Blossom-Lady—
Come, Yellow-throat, come, Puff and Speckle-Gem,
Come leave your dwellings shady!        75
      Hop, One,
      Forth of your door!
      Fearing no more,
      Wing to the sun!
      Hop, Two!        80
      Sidle not so.
      Hasten to know
      Summer is new.
      Three, up!
      Scatter the dim,        85
      Fly to the rim
      Of the sun’s cup!
      They are out and away
      Over hedge, over hay.
      Over hill, over stone        90
      They have flashed, they have flown.
      They have winged, they have won!
      There is gold in the sun!
  Martin.  Stop grieving, girl. Your tears are no amends.
  Stephana.  Gone, gone, my sweet companions!        95
  The Stranger.  Freedom is worth the price of tears. Now friends,
I’m off to heights and cañons.
  Stephana.  Ah, they will die out yonder, far and high,
The sport of wind and shadow!
  The Stranger.  And that is where God’s creatures ought to die.        100
  Martin.  Plague on his fine bravado!
And yet the birds were his—he paid the score.
Let the foolhardy ranger
Go follow them!
  Stephana.            Go! Go!—but not before        105
I have your why, dark stranger!
  The Stranger.  I was their fellow, in my cage apart,
Born of a world’s blaspheming.
I served my term, without a dream at heart,
Save this one song of dreaming:        110
        If ever you shall be, man,
        Where the leaves blow,
        Make, as you go,
        Fettered wings free, man!
My cage was opened, and I left the blight        115
The weary darkness leavens.
But, free at last, I could not face the light,
Till I could share the heavens.

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