Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Ballads and Other Poems
Maidenhood
 
          When writing to his father of the appearance of his new volume of poems, Mr. Longfellow said: “I think the last two pieces the best,—perhaps as good as anything I have written.” These pieces were the following and Excelsior.

MAIDEN! with the meek, brown eyes,
In whose orbs a shadow lies
Like the dusk in evening skies!
 
Thou whose locks outshine the sun,
Golden tresses, wreathed in one,        5
As the braided streamlets run!
 
Standing, with reluctant feet,
Where the brook and river meet,
Womanhood and childhood fleet!
 
Gazing, with a timid glance,        10
On the brooklet’s swift advance,
On the river’s broad expanse!
 
Deep and still, that gliding stream
Beautiful to thee must seem,
As the river of a dream.        15
 
Then why pause with indecision,
When bright angels in thy vision
Beckon thee to fields Elysian?
 
Seest thou shadows sailing by,
As the dove, with startled eye,        20
Sees the falcon’s shadow fly?
 
Hearest thou voices on the shore,
That our ears perceive no more,
Deafened by the cataract’s roar?
 
Oh, thou child of many prayers!        25
Life hath quicksands,—Life hath snares!
Care and age come unawares!
 
Like the swell of some sweet tune,
Morning rises into noon,
May glides onward into June.        30
 
Childhood is the bough, where slumbered
Birds and blossoms many-numbered;—
Age, that bough with snows encumbered.
 
Gather, then, each flower that grows,
When the young heart overflows,        35
To embalm that tent of snows.
 
Bear a lily in thy hand;
Gates of brass cannot withstand
One touch of that magic wand.
 
Bear through sorrow, wrong, and ruth,        40
In thy heart the dew of youth,
On thy lips the smile of truth.
 
Oh, that dew, like balm, shall steal
Into wounds that cannot heal,
Even as sleep our eyes doth seal;        45
 
And that smile, like sunshine, dart
Into many a sunless heart,
For a smile of God thou art.
 
 
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