The Dead House

HERE once my step was quickened,
HERE beckoned the opening door,
And welcome thrilled from the threshold
To the foot it had felt before.

A glow came forth to meet me
From the flame that laughed in the grate,
And shadows a-dance on the ceiling
Danced blither with mine for a mate.

“ I claim you, old friend,” yawned the arm-chair,—
“ This corner, you know, is your seat.”
“ Rest your slippers on me,” beamed the fender,—
“ I brighten at touch of your feet.”

“ We know the practised finger,”
Said the books, “ that seems like brain”;
And the shy page rustled the secret
It had kept till I came again.

Sang the pillow, “ My down once quivered
On nightingales’ throats that flew
Through moonlit gardens of Hafiz
To gather quaint dreams for you.”

Ah. me, where the Past sowed heart’s-ease,
The Present plucks rue for us men !
I come back : that scar unhealing
Was not in the churchyard then.

But, I think, the house is unaltered;
I will go and beg to look
At the rooms that were once familiar
To my life as its bed to a brook.

Unaltered ! Alas for the sameness
That makes the change but more !
’Tis a dead man I see in the mirrors,
’Tis his tread that chills the floor!

To learn such a simple lesson
Need I go to Paris and Rome,—
That the many make a household,
But only one the home ?

’Twas just a womanly presence,
An influence unexprest,—
But a rose she had worn on my grave-sod
Were more than long life with the rest!

’Twas a smile, ’twas a garment’s rustle,
’Twas nothing that I can phrase,—
But the whole dumb dwelling grew conscious,
And put on her looks and ways.

Were it mine, I would close the shutters,
Like lids when the life is fled,
And the funeral fire should wind it,
This corpse of a home that is dead.

For it died that autumn morning
When she, its soul, was borne
To lie all dark on the hillside
That looks over woodland and corn.