Juliet's Nurse

In old-world nursery vacant now of children,
With posied walls, familiar, fair, demure,
And facing southward o'er romantic streets,
Sits yet and gossips winter's dusk away
One gloomy, vast, glossy, and wise, and sly:
And at her side a cherried country cousin.
Her tongue claps ever like a ram's sweet bell;
There's not a name but calls a tale to mind—
Some marrowy patty of farce or melodram;
There's not a soldier but hath babes in view;
There's not on earth what minds not of the midwife:
“O, widowhood that left me still espoused!”
Beauty she sighs o'er, and she sighs o'er gold;
Gold will buy all things, even a sweet husband,
Else only Heaven is left and—farewell youth!
Yet, strangely, in that money-haunted head,
The sad, gemmed crucifix and incense blue
Is childhood come again. Her memory
Is like an ant-hill which a twig disturbs,
But twig stilled never. And to see her face,
Broad with sleek homely beams; her babied hands,
Ever like 'lighting doves, and her small eyes—
Blue wells a-twinkle, arch and lewd and pious—
To darken all sudden into Stygian gloom,
And paint disaster with uplifted whites,
Is life's epitome. She prates and prates—
A waterbrook of words o'er twelve small pebbles.
And when she dies—some grey, long, summer evening,
When the bird shouts of childhood through the dusk,
'Neath night's faint tapers—then her body shall
Lie stiff with silks of sixty thrifty years.
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