White Hood and Blue Cap: A Christmas Bough with Two Branches
A narrow strip of sunburnt land
Far out in an open sea,
A mile and a half of rock and sand,
With a single stunted tree;
Ocean to eastward, ocean to west,
Northward and southward, the great unrest
A burning sun and a dying man—
And the waves wash lazily by,
For what care the waves for one life's span,
Who have seen their millions die?
Yet their splash and murmur and musical moan
Soothe the passing soul with sweet monotone—
'Neath the cloudless azure sky.
On the bark of the sun-scorched tree is scored
A record bitter and brief—
“A ship gone down with all on board,
Save one who is past relief;”
And the glazing eyes of the dying man,
Grown weary of all the broad blue span,
Find joy in a falling leaf.
And his lips form into a ghostly smile,
As it touches his helpless hand,
And he looks on it tenderly the while
His thoughts fly far to the laud
Where a waiting woman treasures a leaf,
Plucked from his breast in the moment brief,
Of a last good-bye on the sand.
Forgotten now is the torturing thirst
That maddened him three long days,
Forgotten the stretch of sea accurst,
And the sun's relentless blaze.
For the soul, released from the pain-rack'd frame,
Soars gladly forth as the one dear name
Goes up through the heat-wrought haze.
“Miriam!” and the harsh cracked voice
Says never another word;
And the rising tide with the dead feet toys
Unheeded and unheard;
And the mighty pitiless broad expanse
Is undisturbed in its calm hot trance
By even a passing bird.
* * * * *
An open casement's deep recess
High over a busy street,
page 143 And a woman worn with the weariness
Of listening for the beat
Of a well-known step in the hurrying rush,
The mighty and daily hurry and crush
Of a myriad thronging feet.
A white wan face, and a loving heart
Grown sick with its hope deferred;
Pale hands that nervously clasp and part,
And the eyes of a prisoned bird,—
Dark, passionate, yearning eyes that gaze
Out over the land till in tearful haze
All vision is drowned and blurred.
“The promised time is past, O love,
And my soul is afaint for thine;
I hunger and thirst for thee, my love,
Who sendest nor word nor sign;
And the silver cord is stretch'd to its length,
For longer waiting I have no strength,
O love that I still call mine!
“Lo! here is the leaflet worn to dust
By the throbbing heat of my breast—
Of my aching heart that surely must,
In fullness of time find rest;
Yet not till it leans upon thine, I know,
And forgets this season of waiting and woe,
In the gladness of love-joy blest.
“O love! my love! wherever thou art,
Whether on land or sea,
Be not thou deaf to this cry of my heart,
If thou ever hadst heart for me;
See, I stretch out my hands and I listen, dear,
Call only my name—I shall surely hear —
And my soul will go forth to thee!”
The tread of a thousand feet and more
Goes on in the street the same,
But above the rush and above the roar
Is borne on the breeze a name:
“Miriam!” crieth the far-off voice,
And her ears grow deaf to all earthly noise,
And her dark eyes light with flame;
And her pale lips part in a swift glad smile,
And the leaf-dust falls in the street
As she stretches her arms out foudly while
She rises her love to greet;
Then the eyes wax dim and the hands grow cold,
And sorrow is past like a tale that is told,
For her soul and her love's soul meet.