A Dream Orchard

IT lies in no “island-valley of Avilion,” this orchard of mine ; but there are in its near neighborhood “ bowery hollows,” and it is “crowned with summer seas.” Indeed, down its vistas, whether of blossom-snow or of leaf-green, glimpses may be had of blue water, of a shade to match the hypæthral blue of its roofless chambers.

For me, this orchard (though in the heart of New England) is the very home of enchantment. I do not know that I should be much startled, in truth, should there suddenly appear before my eyes a Chaucerian company diversely praising the “ flowre and the leafe ; ” or if from this witching spot I should myself be stolen away into fairyland, as was True Thomas the Rhymer! It is a dream orchard, with an ivory gate ; but for that I do not greatly care. Its apples (I have heard) are acrid and uncompromising, — of late years remaining unharvested. But as I never taste the fruit, my teeth are not set on edge. It is enough for me that, as I sit beneath the laden boughs, nearly every summer day, a fragrance as of ripened sweetbrier hips is wafted downward, and is the very incense of the place. Besides, I have had my harvest in flowers from the old orchard, and am there in paradise, during mid-May, year after year !

The trees themselves, being old and unpruned, are an assemblage of sufficiently grotesque figures, some of them so stooped in lichened age as to seem kneeling, and, caryatid-like, supporting giant corbels of rosy bloom. And at this season my orchard is a flower piece set to music, — a music which I might imagine to be a crooning memory of Amphion’s harp, but which is, in fact, the united hum of legion bees at work in the blossoms.

As I sit, idle in thought, or perhaps reading in the white - lighted, flowertapestried room I have chosen (out of a choice suite), the wren comes to his cavern door, — a knot-hole in an aged limb overhead, — and proceeds to sing me a snatch from the brook song that is his ; or else, from the tree, third in the westmost row of the orchard, comes the mellow-mourning note of the wood dove. I also am aware that those sojourners of a day, the warblers, bound for more northern nesting places, are weaving back and forth through the blossomed branches. But beyond all these known denizens or visitors, I sometimes imagine a presence which is more permanent than any other, and which is one with the destinies of my dream orchard. That presence may be


Vainly, vainly have I sought her,
Watching all the long bright daytime, —
She, the mossy Orchard’s daughter,
Waking only in the May time !
Sleeps she null to winter’s rigor,
Null to frost or sleet wind’s scourges;
Draws with buds a hidden vigor,
And with opening buds emerges.
When the blossoms crowd in wonder,
On the branches gnarled and hoary,
And the grass grows long thereunder,
Then she comes in baffling glory !
There be those that do attend her,
And they list to do her pleasure ;
She hath touched them with her splendor,
And hath given joy past measure :
One—the oriole, darting quickly,
(Voice of rapture clear Elysian!)
Glimpsed through flower glooms crowding
Flame-bright, wingèd, fleeting vision !
Elfland minstrels, too, are bidden,
And they share her nectared chalice, —
Forest swarm or hive bees, hidden
In her flower-wove hanging palace.
These attend and serve her ever, —
Vainly, vainly I have sought her ;
Though I watch, I see her never, —
She, the mossy Orchard’s daughter!