The Last Letter
by Frank Dempster Sherman
Long years within its sepulchre
Of faintly scented cedar
Has lain this letter dear to her
Who was its constant reader:
The postmark on the envelope
Sufficed the date to give her,
And told the birth of patient hope
That managed to outlive her.
How often to this treasure-box,
Tears in her eyes' soft fringes,
She came with key and turned the locks,
And on its brazen hinges
Swung back the quaintly figured lid,
And raised a sandal cover,
Disclosing, under trinkets hid,
This message from her lover.
Then lifting it as 't were a child,
Her hand awhile caressed it
Ere to the lips that sadly smiled
Time and again she pressed it:
Then drew the small inclosure out
And smoothed the wrinkled paper,
Lest any line should leave a doubt
Or any word escape her.
Still held the olden charm its place
Amid the tender phrases;
Time seemed unwilling to efface
The love-pervaded praises:
And though a thousand lovers might
Have matched them all for passion,
A poet were inspired to write
In their unstudied fashion.
From "Darling" slowly, word by word,
She read the tear-stained treasure:
The mists by which her eyes were blurred
Grew out of pain and pleasure;
But when she reached that cherished name,
And saw the last leave-taking,
The mist a storm of grief became, --
Her very heart was breaking!
I put it back, -- this old-time note,
Which seems like sorrow's leaven,
For she who read, and he who wrote,
Please God, are now in heaven.
If lovers of to-day could win
Such love as won this letter,
The world about us would begin
To gladden and grow better.
Source:Lyrics For A Lute
Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin, and Company