Mona's Mother

IN the porch that brier-vines smother,
At her wheel, sits Mona's mother.
O, the day is dying bright !
Roseate shadows, silver dimming,
Ruby lights through amber swimming,
Bring the still and starry night.
Sudden she is 'ware of shadows
Going out across the meadows
From the slowly sinking sun,—
Going through the misty spaces
That the rippling ruby laces, —
Shadows, like the violets tangled,
Like the soft light, softly mingled,
Till the two seem just as one !
Every tell-tale wind doth waft her
Little breaths of maiden laughter.
O, divinely dies the day !
And the swallow, on the rafter,
In her nest of sticks and clay,—
On the rafter, up above her,
With her patience doth reprove her,
Twittering soft the time away;
Never stopping, never stopping,
With her wings so warmly dropping
Round her nest of sticks and clay.
“ Take, my bird, O take some other
Eve than this to twitter gay !”
Sayeth, prayeth Mona’s mother,
To the slender-throated swallow
On her nest of sticks and clay;
For her sad eyes needs must follow
Down the misty, mint-sweet hollow,
Where the ruby colors play
With the gold, and with the gray.
“Yet, my little Lady-feather,
You do well to sit and sing,”
Crieth, sigheth Mona’s mother.
“If you would, you could no other.
Can the leaf fail with the spring ?
Can the tendril stay from twining
When the sap begins to run ?
Or the dew-drop keep from shining
With her body full o’ the sun ?
Nor can you, from gladness, either ;
Therefore, you do well to sing.
Up and o’er the downy lining
Of your bird-bed I can see
Two round little heads together,
Pushed out softly through your wing.
But alas ! my bird, for me ! ”
In the porch with roses burning
All across, she sitteth lonely.
O, her soul is dark with dread !
Round and round her slow wheel turning,
Lady brow down-dropped serenely,
Lady hand uplifted queenly,
Pausing in the spinning only
To rejoin the broken thread,—
Pausing only for the winding,
With the carded silken binding
Of the flax, the distaff-head.
All along the branches creeping,
To their leafy beds of sleeping
Go the blue-birds and the brown ;
Blackbird stoppetb now his clamor,
And the little yellowhammer
Droppeth head in winglet down.
Now the rocks rise bleak and barren
Through the twilight, gray and still;
In the marsh-land now the heron
Clappeth close his horny bill.
Death-watch now begins his drumming
And the fire-fly, going, coming,
Weaveth zigzag lines of light,—
Lines of zigzag, golden-threaded,
Up the marshy valley, shaded
O’er and o’er with vapors white.
Now the lily, open-hearted,
Of her dragon-fly deserted,
Swinging on the wind so low,
Gives herself, with trust audacious,
To the wild warm wave that washes
Through her fingers, soft and slow.
O the eyes of Mona’s mother!
Dim they grow with tears unshed;
For no longer may they follow
Down the misty mint-sweet hollow,
Down along the yellow mosses
That the brook with silver crosses.
Ah ! the day is dead, is dead ;
And the cold and curdling shadows,
Stretching from the long, low meadows,
Darker, deeper, nearer spread,
Till she cannot see the twining
Of the briers, nor see the lining
Round the porch of roses red,—
Till she cannot see the hollow,
Nor the little steel-winged swallow,
On her clay-built nest o’erhead.
Mona’s mother falleth mourning:
O, ’t is hard, so hard, to see
Prattling child to woman turning,
As to grander company !
Little heart she lulled with hushes
Beating, burning up with blushes,
All with meditative dreaming
On the dear delicious gleaming
Of the bridal veil and ring ;
Finding in the sweet ovations
Of its new, untried relations
Better joys than she can bring.
In her hand her wheel she keepeth,
And her heart within her leapeth,
With a burdened, bashful yearning,
For the babe’s weight on her knee,
For the loving lisp of glee,
Sweet as larks’ throats in the morning,
Sweet as hum of honey-bee.
O my child ! ” cries Mona’s mother,
“ Will you, can you take another
Name ere mine upon your lips ?
Can you, only for the asking,
Give to other hands the clasping
Of your rosy finger-tips ? ”
Fear on fear her sad soul borrows,—
O the dews are falling fair!
But no fair thing now can move her ;
Vainly walks the moon above her,
Turning out her golden furrows
On the cloudy fields of air.
Sudden she is ’ware of shadows,
Coming in across the meadows,
And of murmurs, low as love, —
Murmurs mingled like the meeting
Of the winds, or like the beating
Of the wings of dove with dove.
In her hand the slow wheel stoppeth,
Silken flax from distaff droppeth,
And a cruel, killing pain
Striketh up from heart to brain;
And she knoweth by that token
That the spinning all is vain,
That the troth-plight has been spoken,
And the thread of life thus broken
Never can be joined again.