Fly Leaves eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 55 pages of information about Fly Leaves.

Hast thou ne’er seen rough pointsmen spy
   Some simple English phrase—­“With care”
Or “This side uppermost”—­and cry
Like children?  No?  No more have I.
Yet deem not him whose eyes are dry
      A bear.

But ah! what treasure hides beneath
   That lid so much the worse for wear? 
A ring perhaps—­a rosy wreath —
A photograph by Vernon Heath —
Some matron’s temporary teeth
      Or hair!

Perhaps some seaman, in Peru
   Or Ind, hath stow’d herein a rare
Cargo of birds’ eggs for his Sue;
With many a vow that he’ll be true,
And many a hint that she is too,
      Too fair.

Perhaps—­but wherefore vainly pry
   Into the page that’s folded there? 
I shall be better by and by: 
The porters, as I sit and sigh,
Pass and repass—­I wonder why
      They stare!


I watch’d her as she stoop’d to pluck
   A wildflower in her hair to twine;
And wish’d that it had been my luck
      To call her mine.

Anon I heard her rate with mad
   Mad words her babe within its cot;
And felt particularly glad
      That it had not.

I knew (such subtle brains have men)
   That she was uttering what she shouldn’t;
And thought that I would chide, and then
      I thought I wouldn’t: 

Who could have gazed upon that face,
   Those pouting coral lips, and chided? 
A Rhadamanthus, in my place,
      Had done as I did: 

For ire wherewith our bosoms glow
   Is chain’d there oft by Beauty’s spell;
And, more than that, I did not know
      The widow well.

So the harsh phrase pass’d unreproved. 
   Still mute—­(O brothers, was it sin?) —
I drank, unutterably moved,
      Her beauty in: 

And to myself I murmur’d low,
   As on her upturn’d face and dress
The moonlight fell, “Would she say No,
      By chance, or Yes?”

She stood so calm, so like a ghost
   Betwixt me and that magic moon,
That I already was almost
      A finish’d coon.

But when she caught adroitly up
   And soothed with smiles her little daughter;
And gave it, if I’m right, a sup
      Of barley-water;

And, crooning still the strange sweet lore
   Which only mothers’ tongues can utter,
Snow’d with deft hand the sugar o’er
      Its bread and butter;

And kiss’d it clingingly—­(Ah, why
   Don’t women do these things in private?) —
I felt that if I lost her, I
      Should not survive it: 

And from my mouth the words nigh flew —
   The past, the future, I forgat ’em: 
“Oh! if you’d kiss me as you do
      That thankless atom!”

But this thought came ere yet I spake,
   And froze the sentence on my lips: 
“They err, who marry wives that make
      Those little slips.”

Project Gutenberg
Fly Leaves from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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