Friend, old friend in the Manse
by the fireside sitting,
Hour by hour while the grey ash drips from the log;
You with a book on your knee, your wife with her knitting,
Silent both, and between you, silent, the dog.
Silent here in the south
sit I; and, leaning,
One sits watching the fire, with chin upon hand;
Gazes deep in its heart—but ah! its meaning
Rather I read in the shadows and understand.
Dear, kind she is; and
daily dearer, kinder,
Love shuts the door on the lamp and our two selves:
Not my stirring awakened the flame that behind her
Lit up a face in the leathern dusk of the shelves.
Veterans are my books,
with tarnished gilding:
Yet there is one gives back to the winter grate
Gold of a sunset flooding a college building,
Gold of an hour I waited—as now I wait—
For a light step on
the stair, a girl’s low laughter,
Rustle of silk, shy knuckles tapping the oak,
Dinner and mirth upsetting my rooms and, after,
Music, waltz upon waltz, till the June day broke.
Where is her laughter
now? Old tarnished covers—
You that reflect her with fresh young face unchanged—
Tell that we met, that we parted, not as lovers;
Time, chance, brought us together, and these estranged.
Loyal were we to the mood of the moment granted,
Bruised not its bloom, but danced on the wave of its joy;
Passion—wisdom—fell back like a fence enchanted,
Ringing a floor for us both—whole Heaven for the boy!
Where is she now?
Regretted not, though departed,
Blessings attend and follow her all her days!
—Look to your hound: he dreams of the hares he started,
Whines, and awakes, and stretches his limbs to the blaze.
Far old friend in the
Manse, by the green ash peeling
Flake by flake from the heat in the Yule log’s core,
Look past the woman you love. On wall and ceiling
Climbs not a trellis of roses—and ghosts—of yore?
Thoughts, thoughts! Whistle them back like hounds
Mark how her needles pause at a sound upstairs.
Time for bed, and to leave the log’s heart burning!
Give ye good-night, but first thank God in your prayers!
Deep, Love, yea, very deep.
And in the dark exiled,
I have no sense of light but still to creep
And know the breast, but not the eyes. Thy child
Saw ne’er his mother near, nor if she smiled;
But only feels her weep.
Yet clouds and branches green
There be aloft, somewhere,
And winds, and angel birds that build between,
As I believe—and I will not despair;
For faith is evidence of things not seen.
Love! if I could be there!