WHO knocks at the door so late, so late—"The Return" by Florence Earle Coates. Published in Mine and Thine (1904), Poems (1916) Volume I and as "Who Knocks?" in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (September 1902).
Who knocks so late at the door?
Is it one who comes as a stranger comes,
Or one who has knocked before?
Is it one who stays with intent to bless,
Or one who stands to implore?
My days have been as the years, she said,
And my heart, my heart is sore;
Love looked in my face for a moment's space
One happy spring of yore—
Looked in my face with a wistful grace;
And left me to grieve evermore!
Through all the days the door stood wide,
For hope had breathed a vow
That love should ne'er be kept outside.
The years were long and hope hath died;
The door at last is barred and fast—
Why comes this knocking now?
Yet woe the waiting heart, she said,
And the heart it waiteth for!
And woe the truth and wasted youth
That nothing shall restore!
The faith that's fled, the hope that's dead,
The dreams that come no more.
Who knocks at the gate—so late, so late?
Thou foolish heart, be still!
What is 't to thee if love or hate
Knocks in the midnight chill?
Art thou, poor heart, compassionate?
Is love so hard to kill?
Ah me! the night is cold, she said;
Would I might all forget;
But memory lives when hope is dead,
And pity heals regret;
As light still lingers overhead
When sun and moon are set.
Original footnote to poem:
"[George] Romney, the painter, married at nineteen and had two children in 1762. He visited them only once, in 1767. When old, nearly mad, and quite utterly desolate, he found his way back to his wife in 1799, and she, after the neglect of nearly forty years, received him with forgiveness and kindness, affectionately nursing him till his death; an act, as has been said, which, even from an artistic point of view, is worth all his pictures."