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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