Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
The Silent House
By Agnes Lee
 
  David.  [Re-reading a letter.]  HOW may a letter bring such darkness down—
With this: “She dallied with your love too long!”
And this: “It is the word of all the town:
“Corinna has no soul, for all her song!”
  Martha.  [Entering with flowers.]  O sir, I bring you flaming bergamot,        5
And early asters, for your window-sill.
And where I found them? Now you’ll guess it not.
I visited the garden on the hill,
And gathered till my arms could hold no more.
  David.  The garden of the little silent house!        10
  Martha.  The city lured her from her viny door.
But see, the flowers have stayed!
  David.                They seem to drowse
And dream of one they lost, a paler-blown.
How fares the house upon the hill?        15
  Martha.                The blinds
Are fast of late, and all are intergrown
With weedy havoc tossed by searching winds.
  David.  How somber suddenly the sky! A shower
Is in the air.        20
  Martha.  I’ll light the lamps.
  David.                Not yet.
Leave me the beauty of the twilit hour.
  Martha.  Hear the wind rising! How the moorings fret!
More than a shower is on its way through space.        25
I would not be aboard of yonder barque.
[She goes out.]
  David.  Corinna! Now may I recall her face.
It is my light to think by in the dark.
Yes, all my years of study, all the will
Tenacious to achieve, the tempered strife,        30
The victories attained through patient skill,
Lie at the door of one dear human life.
And yet … the letter …
                Often have I read
How love relumes the flowers and the trees.        35
True! For my world is newly garmented:
Rewards seem slight, and slighter penalties.
Daily companionship is more and more.
To make one little good more viable,
To lift one load, is worth the heart’s outpour.        40
And she—she has made all things wonderful.
And yet … the letter …
                O to break a spell
Wherein the stars are crumbling unto dust!
There never was a hope—I know it well,
And struggle on, and love because I must.        45
Never a hope? Shall ever any scheme,
Her silence, or alarm of written word,
Or voiced asseveration, shake my dream?
She loves me! By love’s anguish, I have heard!
We two from our soul-towers across a vale        50
Are calling each to each, alert, aware.
Shall one of us one day the other hail,
And no reply be borne upon the air?
Corinna, come to light my heart’s dim place!
O come to me, Belovèd and Besought,        55
O’er grief, o’er gladness,—even o’er death apace,—
For I could greet your phantom, so it brought
Love’s own reality!…
                A song of hers
Seems striving hither, a faint villanelle
Half smothered by the gale’s mad roisterers.        60
She used to sing it in the bracken dell.
Here is the rain against the window beating
In heavy drops that presage wilder storm.
The lake is lost within a lurid sheeting;
The house upon the hill has changed its form.        65
The melancholy pine-trees weep in rocking.
And what’s that clamor at the outer door?
Martha! O Martha! Somebody is knocking!  [Calling.]
  Martha.  [Re-entering.]  You hear the rills that down the gutters roar.
  David.  And are you deaf? The door—go open it!        70
This is no night to leave a man outside!
  Martha.  [Muttering and going toward the door.]  And is it I am growing deaf a bit,
And blind a bit, with other ill-betide!
Well, I can see to thread a needle still,
And I can hear the ticking of the clock,        75
And I can fetch a basket from the mill.
But hallow me if ever I heard knock!
  [She throws the door open. David starts up and rushes forward with outstretched arms.]
  David.  Corinna! You, Corinna! Drenched and cold!
At last, at last! But how in all the rain!
Martha!
[Martha stands motionless, unseeing.]
    Good Martha, you are growing old!
        80
Draw fast the shades—shut out the hurricane.
Here, take the dripping cloak from out the room;
Bring cordial from the purple damson pressed,
And light the lamps, the candles—fire the gloom.
Why stand you gaping? See you not the guest?        85
  Martha.  I opened wide the door unto the storm.
But never heard I step upon the sill.
All the black night let in no living form.
I see no guest. Look hard as e’er I will,
I see none here but you and my poor self.        90
  David.  The room that was my mother’s room prepare.
Spread out warm garments on the oaken shelf—
Her gown, the little shawl she used to wear.
  [Martha, wide-eyed, bewildered, lights the lamps and candles and goes out, raising her hands.]
  Corinna.  The moments I may tarry fade and press.
Something impelled me hither, some clear flame.        95
They said I had no soul! O David, yes,
They said I had no soul! And so I came.
I have been singing, singing, all the way,
O, singing ever since the darkness grew
And I grew chill and followed the small ray.        100
Lean close, and let my longing rest in you!
  David.  Dear balm of light, I never thought to win
From out the pallid hours for ever throbbing!
How did you know the sorrow I was in?
  Corinna.  A flock of leaves came sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.        105
  David.  O, now I hold you fast, my love, my own,
My festival upleaping from an ember!
But, timid child, how could you come alone
Across the pathless woods?
  Corinna.        Do you remember?—        110
Over the summer lake one starry, stilly,
Sweet night, when you and I were drifting, dear,
I frighted at the shadow of a lily!
It is all strange, but now I have no fear.
  David.  Your eyes are weary, drooping. Sleep, then, sleep.        115
  Corinna.  I must go over to the silent house.
  David.  The dwelling stands forsaken up the steep,
With never beast nor human to arouse!
  Corinna.  Soon will the windows gleam with many lamps.
Hark!—heavy wheels are toiling to the north.        120
  David.  I will go with you where the darkness ramps.
  Corinna.  Strong arms are in the storm to bear me forth.
  David.  Not in these garments dripping as the trees!
Not in these clinging shadows!
  Corinna.                Ah, good-night!        125
Dear love, dear love, I must go forth in these.
Tomorrow you shall see me all in white.
 
 
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