Oh gay young husbandmen would you be sure of a crop
Upspringing rankly, an abundant and bountiful yield?
Go forth in the morning, and sow on your life’s broad field
This pleasantly odorous seed, then smooth the ground on top,
Or leave it rough, with the utmost undeceit,
Never you fear, it will thriftily thrive and grow,
Loading the harvest plain beneath your feet,
With the ripened sheaves of shame, remorse, and woe.
You have but to sow the seed, no care will it want,
For he who soweth tares while the husbandman sleeps
Taketh unwearied pains, a vigilant guard he keeps
Tirelessly watching, and tending each evil plant.
These are his pleasure gardens, leased to him through time
Where he walketh to and fro, chanting a demon song;
Tending with ghastly fingers, the scarlet buds of wrong,
And drinking greedily in the sweet perfume of crime.
And of all the seeds, the one that thriftiest thrives
Is the color of ruby wine, when it flashes high—
Who would think the tiny seed so fair to the eye
Could cast such a deadly shade over countless lives,
And branch out into murder in one springing shoot;
Thrifty branches of sin, bristling with thorns of woe
Shadowing graves where broken hearts lie low,
And minds that were God-like lowered beneath the brute.
How the sumac banners bent, dripping as if with blood,
What a mournful presence brooded upon the slumbrous air;
A mocking-bird screamed noisily in the depth of the silent wood,
And in my heart was crying the raven of despair,
Thrilling my being through with its bitter, bitter cry—
“It were better to die, it were better to die.”
For she, my love, my fate, she sat by my side
On a fallen oak, her cheek all flushed with a bashful shame,
Telling me what her innocent heart had hid—
“For was not I her brother, her dear brother, all but in name.”
I listened to her low words, but turned my face away—
Away from her eyes’ soft light, and the mocking light of the day.
“He was noble and proud,” she said, “and
had chosen her from all
The haughty ladies, and great; she didn’t deserve her lot.”
I knew her peer could never be found in palace or hall,
And my white face told my thought, but she saw it not.
She was crushing some scarlet leaves in her dainty fingers of snow,
Her maiden joy crowning her face with a radiant glow.
“She had wanted me to know,” and then
a smile and a blush;
Her smile was always just like a baby’s smile, and the red
Came to her cheek at a word or a glance—then there fell a hush.
She was waiting some word from me, I knew, so I said,
“May Heaven bless you both”—words spoken full quietly,
And she, God bless her, never knew how much they cost to me.