SHE is dead ; her house is dying:
Round its long-deserted door,
From the hillside and the moor,
Swell the autumn breezes, sighing.
Closer to its windows press
Pine-tree boughs in mute caress;
Wind-sown seeds in silence come,
Root, and grow, and bud, and bloom ;
Year by year, kind Nature’s grace
Wraps and shields her dwelling-place.
She who loved all things that grew,
Talked with every bird that flew,
Brought each creature to her feet
With persuasive accents sweet;
Now her voice is hushed and gone,
Yet the birds and bees keep on.
Oh, the joy, the love, the glee,
Sheltered once by that roof-tree!
Song and dance and serenade,
Joyous jest by maskers played ;
Passionate whispers on the stairs,
Hopes unspoken, voiceless prayers ;
Greetings that repressed love’s theme,
Partings that renewed its dream ;
All the blisses, all the woes,
Youth’s brief hour of springtime knows ;
All have died into the past.
Perish too the house at last!
Vagrant children come and go
’Neath the windows, murmuring low;
Peering with impatient eye
For a ghostly mystery.
Some a fabled secret tell,
Others touch the soundless bell,
Then with hurrying step retreat
From the echo of their feet.
Or perchance there wander near
Guests who once held revel here :
Some live o’er again the days
Of their love’s first stolen gaze;
Or some sad soul, looking in,
Calls back hours of blight or sin,
Glad if her mute life may share
In the sheltering silence there.
Oh ! what cheeks might blanch with fears,
Had walls tongues, as they have ears!
Silent house with close-locked doors,
Ghosts and memories haunt thy floors!
Not a web of circumstance
Woven here into romance
E’er can perish ; many a thread
Must survive when thou art dead.
Children’s children shall not know
How their doom of joy or woe
Was determined ere their birth,
’Neath this roof that droops to earth,
By some love-tie here create,
Or hereditary hate,
Or some glance whose bliss or strife
Was the climax of a life,
Though its last dumb witness falls
With the crumbling of these walls.
T. W. Higginson.