Elizabeth Stoddard



The House Of Youth

by Elizabeth Stoddard

The rough north winds have left their icy caves
To growl and grope for prey
Upon the murky sea
The lonely sea-gull skims the sullen waves
All the gray winter day.

The mottled sand-bird runneth up and down,
Amongst the creaking sedge,
Along the crusted beach;
The time-stained houses of the sea-walled town
Seem tottering on its edge.

An ancient dwelling, in this ancient place,
Stands in a garden drear,
A wreck with other wrecks;
The Past is there, but no one sees a face
Within, from year to year.

The wiry rose-trees scratch the window-pane;
The window rattles loud;
The wind beats at the door,
But never gets an answer back again,
The silence is so proud.

The last that lived there was an evil man;
A child the last that died,
Upon the mother's breast.
It seemed to die by some mysterious ban;
Its grave is by the side

Of an old tree, whose notched and scanty leaves
Repeat the tale of woe,
And quiver day and night,
Till the snow cometh, and a cold shroud weaves,
Whiter than that below.

This time of year a woman wanders there --
They say from distant lands:
She wears a foreign dress,
With jewels on her breast, and her fair hair
In braided coils and bands.

The ancient dwelling and the garden drear
At night know something more:
Without her foreign dress
Or blazing gems, this woman stealeth near
The threshold of the door.

The shadow strikes against the window-pane;
She thrusts the thorns away
Her eyes peer through the glass,
And down the glass her great tears drip, like rain,
In the gray winter day.

The moon shines down the dismal garden track,
And lights the little mound;
But when she ventures there,
The black and threatening branches wave her back,
And guard the ghostly ground.

What is the story of this buried Past?
Were all its doors flung wide,
For us to search its rooms,
And we to see the race, from first to last,
And how they lived and died: --

Still would it baffle and perplex the brain.
But show this bitter truth:
Man lives not in the past:
None but a woman ever comes again
Back to the House of Youth!


Copyright 1895
Houghton, Mifflin And Company, Boston And New York
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