Elizabeth Stoddard



We Must Wait

by Elizabeth Stoddard

The testimony of my loss and gain
Will I give utterance to, though none may hear.
When long ago, bereft of all I loved,
I sought in Nature recompense, implored
For pity, solace, or forgetfulness,
The dear, familiar seasons as they pass,
The seal of memory on every place,

I said, will give the sympathy I seek,
The restoration which they owe to me.

By day and night I prayed as futile prayers
As the wind's shriek in lonesome winter nights;
By the sea they fell as empty as the shells
Upon its sands, uncertain as its mists.
With them I tracked the shadows of the woods,
And sowed them in the fields among the seed;
Whoso reaped harvest, I could gather none.
I wandered in the thickets, giving tongue
Like a lost hound, dazed by their solitude,
The while birds called their mates, the lilies blazed,
And roses opened to the wandering airs.
They vanished with the leaves that voyaged the brook,
Which babbled of no story but its own.
How blind I was to Nature's liberty!
Grief stalked beside me, I was sore beset,
And could not hear the turning of Time's wheel.
Still were the skies serene, the earth most fair,
When with the doleful chant of dust to dust
Mingled the laughter of this sunlit sea;
And through my tears I saw the ripples dance,
And June's sweet breezes kiss the swaying elms.
As he who turns the key within his door
And gazes at his walls before he goes,
Then forward sets his steps -- so I set mine
To join a band whose purpose was to find
A world of action but my heart was cold,
My mind supine. Yet I remained with them,
And answered to the roll called Honor, Fame!
Where were my memories and my ardent prayers?
The years stood far behind, their columns graved
Deep with the adage which youth names No More.
Like one who enters some old storied hall,
And down its vista suddenly beholds
A banner waving out its old device
Of victory -- so suddenly I felt
My later life a void. I was recalled!
My prayers were answered, and behold me here;
Within the pale of all my loss and gain,
The dear, familiar seasons as they pass,
The seal of memory on every place,
Bestow the restoration which I sought.
At peace, I know, as those who suffer know,
There is no secret we can wrest at will
From Nature. Time must bring and share with her
The gift of resignation, cure for grief,
And cast upon our ways this ray of bope --
That I, the lost, and Nature may be one.


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