Alice Cary

April 26, 1820 - 1871


The Picture-Book

by Alice Cary

The black walnut-logs in the chimney
Made ruddy the house with their light.
And the pool in the hollow was covered
With ice like a lid, -- it was night;

And Roslyn and I were together, --
I know now the pleased look he wore,
And the shapes of the shadows that checkered
The hard yellow planks of the floor;

And how, when the wind stirred the candle,
Affrighted they ran from its gleams,
And crept up the wall to the ceiling
Of cedar, and hid by the beams.

There were books on the mantel-shelf, dusty,
And shut, and I see in my mind,
The pink-colored primer of pictures
We stood on our tiptoes to find.

We opened the leaves where a camel
Was seen on a sand-covered track,
A-snuffing for water, and bearing
A great bag of gold on his back;

And talked of the free flowing rivers
A tithe of his burden would buy,
And said, when the lips of the sunshine
Had sucked his last water-skin dry;

With thick breath and mouth gaping open,
And red eyes a-strain in his head,
His bones would push out as if buzzards
Had picked him before he was dead!

Then turned the leaf over, and finding
A palace that banners made gay,
Forgot the bright splendor of roses
That shone through our windows in May;

And sighed for the great beds of princes,
While pillows for him and for me
Lay soft among ripples of ruffles
As sweet and as white as could be.

And sighed for their valleys, forgetting
How warmly the morning sun kissed
Our hills, as they shrugged their green shoulders
Above the white sheets of the mist.

Their carpets of dyed wool were softer,
We said, than the planks of our floor,
Forgetting the flowers that in summer
Spread out their gold mats at our door.

The storm spit its wrath in the chimney,
And blew the cold ashes aside,
And only one poor little fagot
Hung out its red tongue as it died,

When Roslyn and I through the darkness
Crept off to our shivering beds,
A thousand vague fancies and wishes
Still wildly astir in our heads:

Not guessing that we, too, were straying
In thought on a sand-covered track,
Like the camel a-dying for water,
And bearing the gold on his back.


Ballads, Lyrics, And Hymns
Copyright 1874
New York: Hurd And Houghton