A December Night

ALL day the sky has been one heavy cloud,
All day the drops have plashed against the panes,
The brimming eaves-spouts gurgled full and loud;
And now the night has come, and still it rains.
The frosts and rifling winds, those treacherous thieves,
Have stripped the shivering branches stark and bare;
Beneath, the walks are thick with trodden leaves,
Which fill with woodsy odors all the air.
Yon street-lamp glows, a disk of luminous fog,
Lighting a little space of mud and rain,
Where hurrying wayfarer or homeless dog
Starts sudden into sight, and fades again.
Its faint gleam struggles with the dark, and shows
A lonesome door-yard, with its leafless vine,
And Monday’s luckless washing, — rows on rows
Of dripping garments hanging on the line.
Along the roadside gutters rush the streams
Like turbid rivers in a sudden flood;
And at the crossings drivers urge their teams
To splash the wroth pedestrian with mud.
From far across the harbor, low and faint,
A fog-horn’s friendly bellow greets the ear;
Or some slow, cautious steamer’s hoarse complaint,
Warning its kindred not to come too near.
Small knots of draggled pilgrims stand and wait
Upon the muddy curb, and peering far
Up street and down, in vain, find fault with fate,
And sharply blame the dilatory car;
Their grouped umbrellas, by the hazy light
Obscure and dim, show through the vapors dense
Like clumps of toad-stools, born of rain and night,
Huddled beside some roadside pasture fence.
One ray redeems the dreariness and blight,—
The window-light which streams across the square:
The light of home, — the blessed, saving light
Which keeps the world from darkness and despair.
Ah, happy they who in its warmth abide!
Peace sits among them, with her fair wings furled:
What care they for this wretched world outside, —
This darksome, dismal, drear December world?
Elizabeth Akers Allen.