Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
556. Sonnets
 
By Mary Ashley Townsend
 
 
THE DEAD SINGER

A POET’S soul has sung its way to God;
Has loosed its luminous wings from earthly thongs,
And soared to join the imperishable throngs
Whose feet the immaculate valleys long have trod.
For him, the recompense; for us, the rod;        5
And we to whom regretfulness belongs
Crown our dead singer with his own sweet songs,
And roof his grave with love’s remembering sod.
But yesterday, a beacon on the height;
To-day, a splendor that has passed us by,—        10
So, one by one into the morning light,
Whilst yet late watchers gaze upon the sky
And wonder what the heavens prophesy,
The shining stars pass silently from sight!
 
VIRTUOSA

AS by the instrument she took her place,
        15
The expectant people, breathing sigh nor word,
Sat hushed, while o’er the waiting ivory stirred
Her supple hands with their suggestive grace.
With sweet notes they began to interlace,
And then with lofty strains their skill to gird,        20
Then loftier still, till all the echoes heard
Entrancing harmonies float into space.
She paused, and gaily trifled with the keys
Until they laughed in wild delirium,
Then, with rebuking fingers, from their glees        25
She led them one by one till all grew dumb,
And music seemed to sink upon its knees,
A slave her touch could quicken or benumb.
 
AT SET OF SUN

A SCENT of guava-blossoms and the smell
Of bruisëd grass beneath the tamarind-trees;        30
The hurried humming of belated bees
With pollen-laden thighs; far birds that tell
With faint, last notes of night’s approaching spell,
While smoke of supper-fires the low sun sees
Creep through the roofs of palm, and on the breeze        35
Floats forth the message of the evening bell.
Our footsteps pause, we look toward the west,
And from my heart throbs out one fervent prayer:
O love! O silence! ever to be thus,—
A silence full of love and love its best,        40
Till in our evening years we two shall share
Together, side by side, life’s Angelus!
 
DOWN THE BAYOU

THE CYPRESS swamp around me wraps its spell,
With hushing sounds in moss-hung branches there,
Like congregations rustling down to prayer,        45
While Solitude, like some unsounded bell,
Hangs full of secrets that it cannot tell,
And leafy litanies on the humid air
Intone themselves, and on the tree-trunks bare
The scarlet lichen writes her rubrics well.        50
The cypress-knees take on them marvellous shapes
Of pygmy nuns, gnomes, goblins, witches, fays,
The vigorous vine the withered gum-tree drapes,
Across the oozy ground the rabbit plays,
The moccasin to jungle depths escapes,        55
And through the gloom the wild deer shyly gaze.
 
RESERVE

THE SEA tells something, but it tells not all
That rests within its bosom broad and deep;
The psalming winds that o’er the ocean sweep
From compass point to compass point may call,        60
Nor half their music unto earth let fall;
In far, ethereal spheres night knows to keep
Fair stars whose rays to mortals never creep,
And day uncounted secrets holds in thrall.
He that is strong is stronger if he wear        65
Something of self beyond all human clasp,—
An inner self, behind unlifted folds
Of life, which men can touch not nor lay bare:
Thus great in what he gives the world to grasp,
Is greater still in that which he withholds.        70
 
HER HOROSCOPE

’T IS true, one half of woman’s life is hope
And one half resignation. Between there lies
Anguish of broken dreams,—doubt, dire surprise,
And then is born the strength with all to cope.
Unconsciously sublime, life’s shadowed slope        75
She braves; the knowledge in her patient eyes
Of all that love bestows and love denies,
As writ in every woman’s horoscope!
She lives, her heart-beats given to others’ needs,
Her hands, to lift for others on the way        80
The burdens which their weariness forsook.
She dies, an uncrowned doer of great deeds.
Remembered? Yes, as is for one brief day
The rose one leaves in some forgotten book.
 

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