THE WHITEWASHED WALL
Why does she turn in that shy soft way
Whenever she stirs the fire,
And kiss to the chimney-corner wall,
As if entranced to admire
Its whitewashed bareness more than the sight
Of a rose in richest green?
I have known her long, but this raptured rite
I never before have seen.
- Well, once when her son cast his shadow there,
A friend took a pencil and drew him
Upon that flame-lit wall. And the lines
Had a lifelike semblance to him.
And there long stayed his familiar look;
But one day, ere she knew,
The whitener came to cleanse the nook,
And covered the face from view.
“Yes,” he said: “My brush
goes on with a rush,
And the draught is buried under;
When you have to whiten old cots and brighten,
What else can you do, I wonder?”
But she knows he’s there. And when she yearns
For him, deep in the labouring night,
She sees him as close at hand, and turns
To him under his sheet of white.
I sat. It all was past;
Hope never would hail again;
Fair days had ceased at a blast,
The world was a darkened den.
The beauty and dream were gone,
And the halo in which I had hied
So gaily gallantly on
Had suffered blot and died!
I went forth, heedless whither,
In a cloud too black for name:
- People frisked hither and thither;
The world was just the same.
The kiss had been given and taken,
And gathered to many past:
It never could reawaken;
But you heard none say: “It’s the last!”
The clock showed the hour and the minute,
But you did not turn and look:
You read no finis in it,
As at closing of a book.
But you read it all too rightly
When, at a time anon,
A figure lay stretched out whitely,
And you stood looking thereon.
The dark was thick. A boy he seemed at that
Who trotted by me with uncertain air;
“I’ll tell my tale,” he murmured, “for I fancy
A friend goes there? . . . "
Then thus he told. “I reached—’twas
for the first time —
A dwelling. Life was clogged in me with care;
I thought not I should meet an eyesome maiden,
But found one there.
“I entered on the precincts for the second time
’Twas an adventure fit and fresh and fair —
I slackened in my footsteps at the porchway,
And found her there.
“I rose and travelled thither for the third
The hope-hues growing gayer and yet gayer
As I hastened round the boscage of the outskirts,
And found her there.