Friday, April 21, 2017

IN A COLLEGE SETTLEMENT, a poem

THE sights and sounds of the wretched street
Oppressed me, and I said: "We cheat
     Our hearts with hope. Man sunken lies
In vice, and naught that's fair or sweet
     Finds further favor in his eyes.

"Vainly we strive, in sanguine mood,
To elevate a savage brood
     That, from the cradle, sordid, dull,
No longer has a wish for good,
     Or craving for the beautiful."

I said; but chiding my despair,
My wiser friend just pointed where,
     By some indifferent passer thrown
Upon a heap of ashes bare,
     The loose leaves of a rose were sown.

And I, 'twixt tenderness and doubt,
Beheld, while pity grew devout,
     A squalid and uneager child,
With careful fingers picking out
     The scentless petals, dust-defiled.

And straight I seemed to see a close,
With hawthorn hedged and brier-rose;
     And, bending down, I whispered, "Dear,
Come, let us fly, while no one knows,
     To the country—far away from here!"

Upon the little world-worn face
There dawned a look of wistful grace,
     Then came the question that for hours
Still followed me from place to place:
     "Real country, where you can catch flowers?"
"In a College Settlement" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Harper's Weekly (21 April 1894), Poems (1898) and Poems (1916) Volume II.

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