The Deserted House


To the sweet memory of Sidney Lanier



THE old house stands deserted, gray,
With sharpened gables high in air,
And deep-set lattices, all gay
With massive arch and framework rare;
And o'er it is a silence laid,
That feeling, one grows sore afraid.
The eaves are dark with heavy vines;
The steep roof wears a coat of moss;
The walls are touched with dim designs
Of shadows moving slow across;
The balconies are damp with weeds,
Lifting as close as streamside reeds.
The garden is a loved retreat
Of melancholy flowers, of lone
And wild-mouthed herbs, in companies sweet,
'Mid desolate green grasses thrown;
And in its gaps the hoar stone wall
Lets sprays of tangled ivy fall.
The pebbled paths drag, here and there,
Old lichened faces, overspun
With silver spider-threads --they wear
A silence sad to look upon:
It is so long since happy feet
Made them to thrill with pressure sweet.
'Mid drear but fragrant shrubs there stands
A saint of old made mute in stone,
With tender eyes and yearning hands,
And mouth formed in a sorrow lone;
'Tis thick with dust, as long ago
'Twas thick with fairest blooms that grow.
Swallows are whirring here and there;
And oft a little soft wind blows
A hundred odors down the air;
The bees hum 'round the red, last rose;
And ceaselessly the crickets shrill
Their tunes, and yet, it seems so still.
Or else, from out the distance steals,
Half heard, the tramp of horses, or
The bleak and harsh stir of slow wheels
Bound cityward; but more and more,
As these are hushed, or yet increase,
About the old house clings its peace.


Lizette Woodworth Reese






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