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.
 
754. Evelyn
 
By Rossiter Johnson
 
 
    IF I could know
That here about the place where last you played,—
Within this room, and yonder in the shade
    Of branches low,—
Your spirit lingered, I would never go,        5
But evermore a hermit pace the round
Of sunny paths across this garden ground,
    And o’er the fleckered lawn
Whereon your baby chariot was drawn,
    And round these lonely walls,        10
    Where no sound ever falls
So pretty as your prattle or your crow,—
    If I could only know!
 
    If I could know
That to some distant clime or planet rare        15
    Sweet souls like thine repair,
Where love’s own fountains fail not as they flow,—
I ’d be a traveller, and would ever go,
Day after day, along the selfsame road,
Leaving behind this desolate abode,        20
My head upon my pillow only lay
To dream myself still farther on the way,
    Until at last I rest,
Clasping my little daughter to my breast,
Though half eternity were wasted so,—        25
    If I could only know!
 
    If I could know
That you a child with childlike ways remain,
I ’d never wish to be a man again,
    But only try to grow        30
As childlike, using all the idle toys
That you and I have played with, till their noise
Brought back the echoes of your merry laugh,
When paper windmill whirled upon its staff,
Or painted ball went rolling on the floor,        35
    Or puss peeped out behind the door,
    Or watch, held half in fear,
With its mysterious pulses thrilled your ear:
All manly occupation I ’d forego,
    If I could only know!        40
 
    If I could know
That henceforth, in some pure eternal sphere,
The little life that grew so swiftly here
    Would still expand and grow,
How should I strive against my wasting years,        45
With toil from sun to sun, and midnight tears,
To build my soul up to the height of yours,
    And catch the light that lures,
    The inspiration that impels,
    The strength that dwells,        50
Beyond the bounds of earthly cares and fears,
    Beyond this bitter woe,—
    If I could only know!
 
    Alas! what do I know?
I know your world scarce compassed yonder stone—        55
    As little seems my own!
I know you never knew unhappiness—
    Would I could mourn the less!
I know you never saw death’s darker side—
    The shore where we abide!        60
I know you never felt the nameless dread—
    Ah, but if mine were fled!
I know you never heard a lover’s vow—
    And I ’m your lover now!
I know no answer to my wail can come—        65
    Let me be dumb!
 

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