A Winter Walk
WE never had believed, I wis,
At primrose time when west winds stole
Like thoughts of youth across the soul,
In such an altered time as this,
When if one little flower did peep
Up through the brown and sullen grass,
We should just look on it, and pass
As if we saw it in our sleep.
Feeling as sure as that this ray
Which cottage children call the sun,
Colors the pale clouds one by one,--
Our touch would make it drop to clay.
We never could have looked, in prime
Of April, or when July trees
Shook full-leaved in the evening bree
Upon the face of this pale time,
Still, soft, familiar; shining bleak
On naked branches, sodden ground,
Yet shining--as if one had found
A smile upon a dead friend's cheek,
Or old friend, lost for years, had strange
In altered mien come sudden back,
Confronting us with our great lack--
Till loss seemed far less sad than change.
Yet though, alas! Hope did not see
This winter skeleton through full leaves,
Out of all bareness Faith perceives
Possible life in field and tree.
In bough and trunk the sap will move,
And the mould break o'er springing flowers;
Nature revives with all her powers,
But only nature;--never love.
So, listlessly with linkèd hands
Both Faith and Hope glide soft away;
While in long shadows, cool and gray,
The sun sets o'er the barren lands.