BLACK boughs against a pale, clear sky,
Slight mists of cloud-wreaths floating by;
Soft sunlight, gray-blue smoky air,
Wet thawing snows on hillsides bare;
Loud streams, moist sodden earth; below
Quick seedlings stir, rich juices flow
Through frozen veins of rigid wood,
And the whole forest bursts in bud.
No longer stark the branches spread
An iron network overhead,
Albeit naked still of green;
Through this soft, lustrous vapor seen,
On budding boughs a warm flush glows,
With tints of purple and pale rose.
Breathing of spring, the delicate air
Lifts playfully the loosened hair
To kiss the cool brow. Let us rest
In this bright, sheltered nook, now blest
With broad noon sunshine over all,
Though here June’s leafiest shadows fall.
Young grass sprouts here. Look up! the sky
Is veiled by woven greenery,
Fresh little folded leaves—the first,
And goldener than green, they burst
Their thick full buds and take the breeze.
Here, when November stripped the trees,
I came to wrestle with a grief:
Solace I sought not, nor relief.
I shed no tears, I craved no grace,
I fain would see Grief face to face,
Fathom her awful eyes at length,
Measure my strength against her strength.
I wondered why the Preacher saith,
“Like as the grass that withereth.”
The late, close blades still waved around:
I clutched a handful from the ground.
“He mocks us cruelly,” I said:
“The frail herb lives, and she is dead.”
I lay dumb, sightless, deaf as she;
The long slow hours passed over me.
I saw Grief face to face; I know
The very form and traits of Woe.
I drained the galled dregs of the draught
She offered me: I could have laughed
In irony of sheer despair,
Although I could not weep. The air
Thickened with twilight shadows dim:
I rose and left. I knew each limb
Of these great trees, each gnarled, rough root
Piercing the clay, each cone of fruit
They bear in autumn.
What blooms here,
Filling the honeyed atmosphere
With faint, delicious fragrancies,
Freighted with blessed memories?
The earliest March violet,
Dear as the image of Regret,
And beautiful as Hope. Again
Past visions thrill and haunt my brain.
Through tears I see the nodding head,
The purple and the green dispread.
Here, where I nursed despair that morn,
The promise of fresh joy is born,
Arrayed in sober colors still,
But piercing the gray mould to fill
With vague sweet influence the air,
To lift the heart’s dead weight of care,
Longings and golden dreams to bring
With joyous phantasies of spring.