Leaves on the Tide


WHO that sees a flowing tide
Can resist the wish to throw,
On its subtle influence,
Leaf or like, to see it go?
I cannot: the stream goes by,
And I drop upon it here,
From the rose of life, a leaf,
Light and warm, or brown and sere.
If you see the warm and light
Floating down and down to you,
You will know the heart is near,
Whence the bud so lately grew.
If you see the brown alone,
Here or not though I may be,
You will know that sun and rain
Somewhere have been sweet to me.
So upon the creeping tide
Now and then a leaf I throw;
If a heart shall greet it, well;
If it sink, — the roses grow.


An apple-tree, dead long ago
To further hope of pink and snow, —
Lone sorrow of the wayside there
An empty nest its only care, —
Spring, in a rapture after rain,
Kissed partly into bloom again.
So have we known a melody
Come in a dream from buried days;
So have we seen a life grow sweet
With blossom after barren Mays.
It seems there is not anything
Beyond the chance of blossoming,
Nor any day too dead to be
A better day in memory,
Nor any life — the barrenest —
But hath some dear, old, empty nest.


A little while the roses bloom,
A little while the soft winds blow,
A little while the baby laughed,
A little while,—from bud to snow.
But after all the rose was sweet,
And after all the winds have blown,
And after all the baby blessed,
And after all it is our own.
If in our thought the rose remains,
And winds are sweet in memory,
Why should not then the baby gone
Forever be a babe to me?


From my door the river winds
In and out among the creeks,
Looking, and whate’er it finds,
Never finding what it seeks.
For anon it turns again
Toward the sea that drinks it in,
Where the dory fishermen
Daily bread would daily win.
Day by day and year by year,
Come and go the sea and wind:
I am like the river here,
Seeking what I never find.


Only a bit of the highway sunning itself on the hill,
By it the beautiful river singing a song in the mill.
Only a bit of the highway I see as I sit by the door,
And the valley is pleasant behind it and the valley is pleasant before.
People come out of the valley and into the valley they go,
A shadow doth ferry the river, under a piloting crow.
’Tis but a moment I see them,—only a glimpse I obtain;
What do I know of their losses? what do they know of my gain?
I know they are bearing their burdens as I know that I do mine,
And I know they have their gladness, no happier, heart, than thine.
For never a highway windeth over the earth, but there
Feet of the happy are on it, — feet that are followed by care.
The shadow that ferried the river hath fallen asleep on the sea,
And the river, unheard by the miller, is singing a song in me.
Only a glimpse of the highway I get as I sit by the door,
But it hints of the journey behind me and the journey, remaining, before.


Two children were making the most of the day,
In the sand their castles building,
While out in the harbor the sunset gold
Was every vessel gilding.
But the sea came over the castles dear
And the charm of the sunset faded;
Oh! after a labor is lost may we
Go happily home as they did.
For we build and build in a different way,
Till our heads are wise and hoary;
But after it all the sun goes down,
And the sea — ’t is a common story.
Hiram Rich.