A Flower in a Letter


M Y lonely chamber next the sea

Is full of many flowers set free

By summer's earliest duty:

Dear friends upon the garden-walk

Might stop amid their fondest talk

To pull the least in beauty.


A thousand flowers, each seeming one

That learnt by gazing on the sun

To counterfeit his shining;

Within whose leaves the holy dew

That falls from heaven has won anew

A glory, in declining.


Red roses, used to praises long,

Contented with the poet's song,

The nightingale's being over;

And lilies white, prepared to touch

The whitest thought, nor soil it much,

Of dreamer turned to lover.


Deep violets, you liken to

The kindest eyes that look on you,

Without a thought disloyal;

And cactuses a queen might don

If weary of a golden crown,

And still appear as royal.


Pansies for ladies all, — I wis

That none who wear such brooches miss

A jewel in the mirror;

And tulips, children love to stretch

Their fingers down, to feel in each

Its beauty's secret nearer.


Love's language may be talked with these;

To work out choicest sentences,

No blossoms can be meeter;

And, such being used in Eastern bowers,

Young maids may wonder if the flowers

Or meanings be the sweeter.


And such being strewn before a bride,

Her little foot may turn aside,

Their longer bloom decreeing,

Unless some voice's whispered sound

Should make her gaze upon the ground

Too earnestly for seeing.


And such being scattered on a grave,

Whoever mourneth there may have

A type which seemeth worthy

Of that fair body hid below,

Which bloomed on earth a time ago,

Then perished as the earthy.


And such being wreathed for worldly feast,

Across the brimming cup some guest

Their rainbow colors viewing

May feel them, with a silent start,

The covenant, his childish heart

With nature made, renewing.


No flowers our gardened England hath

To match with these, in bloom and breath,

Which from the world are hiding

In sunny Devon moist with rills, —

A nunnery of cloistered hills,

The elements presiding.


By Loddon's stream the flowers are fair

That meet one gifted lady's care

With prodigal rewarding:

(For Beauty is too used to run

To Mitford's bower — to want the sun

To light her through the garden).


But here, all summers are comprised,

The nightly frosts shrink exorcised

Before the priestly moonshine;

And every wind with stoled feet

In wandering down the alleys sweet

Steps lightly on the sunshine.


And (having promised Harpocrate

Among the nodding roses that

No harm shall touch his daughters)

Gives quite away the rushing sound

He dares not use upon such ground

To ever-trickling waters.


Yet, sun and wind! what can ye do

But make the leaves more brightly show

In posies newly gathered?

I look away from all your best

To one poor flower unlike the rest,

A little flower half-withered.


I do not think it ever was

A pretty flower, — to make the grass

Look greener where it reddened;

And now it seems ashamed to be

Alone, in all this company,

Of aspect shrunk and saddened.


A chamber-window was the spot

It grew in, from a garden-pot,

Among the city shadows:

If any, tending it, might seem

To smile, 't was only in a dream

Of nature in the meadows.


How coldly on its head did fall

The sunshine, from the city wall

In pale refraction driven!

How sadly plashed upon its leaves

The raindrops, losing in the eaves

The first sweet news of heaven!


And those who planted, gathered it

In gamesome or in loving fit,

And sent it as a token

Of what their city pleasures be, —

For one, in Devon by the sea

And garden blooms, to look on.


But SHE for whom the jest was meant,

With a grave passion innocent

Receiving what was given, —

Oh, if her face she turned then,

Let none say 't was to gaze again

Upon the flowers of Devon!


Because, whatever virtue dwells

In genial skies, warm oracles

For gardens brightly springing, —

The flower which grew beneath your eyes,

Beloved friends, to mine supplies

A beauty worthier singing!

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