Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. I. Of Home: of Friendship
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume I. Of Home: of Friendship.  1904.
Poems of Home: V. The Home
By the Fireside
Lucy Larcom (1826–1893)
WHAT is it fades and flickers in the fire,
  Mutters and sighs, and yields reluctant breath,
As if in the red embers some desire,
  Some word prophetic burned, defying death?
Lords of the forest, stalwart oak and pine,        5
  Lie down for us in flames of martyrdom:
A human, household warmth, their death-fires shine;
  Yet fragrant with high memories they come,
Bringing the mountain-winds that in their boughs
  Sang of the torrent, and the plashy edge        10
Of storm-swept lakes; and echoes that arouse
  The eagles from a splintered eyrie ledge;
And breath of violets sweet about their roots;
  And earthy odors of the moss and fern;
And hum of rivulets; smell of ripening fruits;        15
  And green leaves that to gold and crimson turn.
What clear Septembers fade out in a spark!
  What rare Octobers drop with every coal!
Within these costly ashes, dumb and dark,
  Are hid spring’s budding hope, and summer’s soul.        20
Pictures far lovelier smoulder in the fire,
  Visions of friends who walk among these trees,
Whose presence, like the free air, could inspire
  A wingèd life and boundless sympathies;
Eyes with a glow like that in a brown beech,        25
  When sunset through its autumn beauty shines,
Or the blue gentian’s look of silent speech,
  To heaven appealing as earth’s light declines;
Voices and steps forever fled away
  From the familiar glens, the haunted hills,—        30
Most pitiful and strange it is to stay
  Without you in a world your lost love fills.
Do you forget us,—under Eden trees,
  Or in full sunshine on the hills of God,—
Who miss you from the shadow and the breeze,        35
  And tints and perfumes of the woodland sod?
Dear for your sake the fireside where we sit
  Watching these sad, bright pictures come and go;
That waning years are with your memory lit
  Is the one lonely comfort that we know.        40
Is it all memory? Lo, these forest-boughs
  Burst on the hearth into fresh leaf and bloom;
Waft a vague, far-off sweetness through the house,
  And give close walls the hillside’s breathing room.
A second life, more spiritual than the first,        45
  They find,—a life won only out of death.
O sainted souls, within you still is nursed
  For us a name not fed by mortal breath.
Unseen, ye bring to us, who love and wait,
  Wafts from the heavenly hills, immortal air;        50
No flood can quench your hearts’ warmth, or abate;
  Ye are our gladness, here and everywhere.

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