In a brown gloom the moats gleam;
Slender the sweet wife stands;
Her lips are red; her eyes dream;
Kisses are warm on her hands.
The child moans; the hours slip
Bitterly over her head:
In a gray dusk, the tears drip;
Mother is up there—dead.
The hermit hears the strange bright
Murmur of life at play;
In the waste day and waste night
Times to rebel and to pray.
The laborer toils in gray wise,
Godlike and patient and calm;
The beggar moans; his bleared eyes
Measure the dust in his palm.
The wise man, marks the flow and ebb
Hidden and held aloof:
In his deep mind is laid the web,
Shuttles are driving the woof.
If any man, with sleepless care oppressed,
On many a night had risen, and addressed
His hand to make him out of joy and moan
An image of sweet sleep in carven stone,
Light touch by touch, in weary moments planned,
He would have wrought her with a patient hand,
Not like her brother death, with massive limb
And dreamless brow, unstartled, changeless, dim,
But very fair, though fitful and afraid,
More sweet and slight than any mortal maid.
Her hair he would have carved a mantle smooth
Down to her tender feet to wrap and soothe
All fevers in, yet barbed here and there
With many a hidden sting of restless care;
Her brow most quiet, thick with opiate rest,
Yet watchfully lined, as if some hovering guest
Of noiseless doubt were there; so too her eyes
His light hand would have carved in cunning wise
Broad with all languor of the drowsy South,
Most beautiful, but held askance; her mouth
More soft and round than any rose half-spread,
Yet ever twisted with some nervous dread.
He would have made her with one marble foot,
Frail as a snow-white feather, forward put,
Bearing sweet medicine for all distress,
Smooth languor and unstrung forgetfulness;
The other held a little back for dread;
One slender moonpale hand held forth to shed
Soft slumber dripping from its pearly tip
Into wide eyes; the other on her lip.
So in the watches of his sleepless care
The cunning artist would have wrought her fair;
Shy goddess, at keen seeking most afraid
Yet often coming, when we last have prayed.
When saw I yesterday walking apart
In a leafy place where the cattle wait?
Something to keep for a charm in my heart—
A little sweet girl in a garden gate.
Laughing she lay in the gold sun’s might,
And held for a target to shelter her,
In her little soft fingers, round and white,
The gold-rimmed face of a sunflower.
Laughing she lay on the stone that stands
For a rough-hewn step in that sunny place,
And her yellow hair hung down to her hands,
Shadowing over her dimpled face.
Her eyes like the blue of the sky, made dim
With the might of the sun that looked at her,
Shone laughing over the serried rim,
Golden set, of the sunflower.