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Collected Poems

The Flowers

page 199

The Flowers

Where are dappled fields to show,
fields where crimson poppies blow?
Where are lilies undefiled,
purple violets growing wild?

Francis the ragged saint
(the man of birds and flowers),
Francis, the barefoot saint,
came with a sorrowful plaint:

"Consider the little lilies
that toil not, neither spin.
Oh, see how bare are the valleys!
They have been gathered in,

"gathered from vale and pasture
and garlanded for death.
O God! that the earth's spring vesture
be bound for a funeral wreath!

"See, on the coffin yonder
that lies in that drab black hearse,
they have heaped all the valleys' plunder.
A curse on those bones, a curse!

"And see, where the violets gathered
from banks of green and blue,
flowers that the old earth mothered,
are bound with the lilies too.

"Mourners and mutes are riven
with grief for the vulgar dead,
but the saints all weep in Heaven:
for the flowers their tears are shed.

"O God! that the flowers be tortured
to pageant men to the dust—
flowers that the old earth nurtured
all twisted, tied and trussed!

page 200

"But see! …they have laid his body
hard by yon field of corn,
and the poppies are gathered ready,
their lips all wreathed in scorn.

"God! like the stings of nettles,
like scorpions bound for whips,
are the smiles on the myriad petals
of those cruel crimson lips!"