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At Odds by Howard Glyndon


The snow had lain upon the ground
From gray November into March,
And lingering April hardly saw
The tardy tassels of the larch,
When sudden, like sweet eyes apart,
Looked down the soft skies of the spring,
And, guided by alluring signs,
Came late birds on impatient wing.
And when I found a shy white flower—
The first love of the amorous sun,
That from the cold clasp of the earth
The passion of his looks had won—
I said unto my brooding heart,
Which I had humored in its way,
"Give sorrow to the winds that blow:
Let's out and have a holiday!"
My heart made answer unto me:
"Where are the faint white chestnut-blooms?
Where are the thickets of wild rose—
Dim paths that lead to odorous glooms?"
"They are not yet. But listen, Heart!
I hear a red-breast robin call:
I see a golden glint of light
Where lately-loosened waters fall."
I waited long, but no reply
Came from my strangely silent heart:
I left the open, sunlit mead,
And walked a little way apart,
Where gloomy pines their shadows cast,
And brown pine-needles made below
A sober covering for the place,
Where scarce another thing could grow.
And then I said unto my heart,
"Now, we are in the dark, I pray
What is it I must do for thee
That thou mayst make a holiday?
Was ever fresher blue above?
Was ever blither calm around?
The purple promise of the spring
Is writ in violets on the ground.
"Comes, blown across my face, the breath
Of apple-blossoms far away:
Hast thou no memories, my heart,
As sweet and beautiful as they?"
 And while I spoke I stood beside
A low mound fashioned like a grave,
And covered thick with last year's leaves,
Set in the forest's spacious nave.
And there I heard a little sound,
The flutter of a feeble wing,
And saw upon the grave-like mound
A bird that never more would sing.
I took it up, and first I laid
The quivering plumage to my cheek,
Then tenderly upon my breast,
And sorrowed, seeing it so weak.
Up spoke my sore reproachful heart:
"And now how happens it, I pray,
Thou dost not press the wounded bird
To sing and make a holiday?"
I made no answer then, but went
Into the dark wood's darkest deep,
And on my breast the bird lay dead,
And all around was still as sleep.
"There be that walk among the graves,"
At length, "repining heart," I said—
"Who carry slain loves in their breasts,
Yet smile like angels o'er their dead.
And thou! Why wilt thou shame me thus,
Saying, for ever, Nay and Nay?"
Then said my heart, "To conquer pain
Is not to make a holiday.
"And they who walk upon the heights,
Not hurtled by the passing storm,
Have carried long in lower lands
The grievous burdens that deform
The small of faith, the weak of heart,
The narrow-minded and untrue,
Who doubt if any heaven is left
When clouds are blown across its blue.
"And they are not of those who seek
To put unsolvèd things away,
Too early saying to their hearts,
'Come out, for it is holiday!'
And often 'tis the shallowest soul
That makes unseemly laughter ring,
That dares not bide amid its ghosts,
And, lest it weep, must try to sing.
"Wait till the tooth of pain is dulled;
Wait till the wound is overgrown:
Not in a day the moss hath made
So fair this once unsightly stone."
 Then was I silent, but less wroth,
Content my heart should have its way.
Believing that in God's fit time
We yet should keep our holiday.

Howard Glyndon.