Like A Child

Playing there in the sun, chasing the butterflies,
Catching his golden toy, holding it fast till it dies,
Singing to match the birds, calling the robins at will,
Glancing here and there, never a moment still,—
Like a child.

Going to school at last, learning to read and write,
Puzzled over his slate, busy from morn till night,
Striving to win a prize, careless when it is won,
Finding his joy in the strife, not in the thing that's done.

Busy in eager trade, buying, and selling again,
Chasing a golden prize, glad of a transient gain,
Always beginning anew, never the long task done,
Just as it used to be with the butterfly in the sun.

Seeking a woman's heart, winning it for his own,
Then, too busy for love, letting it turn to stone:
Sure of his plighted troth, what more had a wife to ask?
Is he not doing for her each day his daily task?

A child, to pine and complain,—a child, to grow so pale,—
For want of some foolish words shall the faith of a woman fail?
Words! he said them once,—what need of any thing more?
Does one who has entered a room go back and wait at the door?

Baby Mary and Kate never can climb his knee:
Motherly arms are open,—but “Father's busy, you see.”
Too busy to stop to hear a babble of broken talk,
To mend the jumping-jack or make the new doll walk.

So busy that when Death comes he pleads for a little delay,
If not to finish his work, at least a word to say,—
A word to wife and child, a sentence to tell the truth,
That he loves them now, at the last, with the passionate heart of youth.

The kisses of Death are cold, and they turn his lips to stone:
Out of the warm, bright world the man goes all alone.
Do angels wait for him there, over the soundless sea?
He goes, as he came, all helpless, to a new world's mystery—
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