Noonday Rest

THE willows whisper very, very low
Unto the listening breeze;
Sometimes they lose a leaf which, flickering slow,
Faints on the sunburnt leas.

Beneath the whispering boughs and simmering skies,
On the hot ground at rest,
Still as a stone, a ragged woman lies,
Her baby at the breast.

Nibbling around her browse monotonous sheep,
Flies buzz about her head;
Her heavy eyes are shuttered by a sleep
As of the slumbering dead.

The happy birds that live to love and sing,
Flitting from bough to bough,
Peer softly at this ghastly human thing
With grizzled hair and brow.

O'er what strange ways may not these feet have trod
That match the cracking clay?
Man had no pity on her--no, nor God--
A nameless castaway!

But Mother Earth now hugs her to her breast,
Defiled or undefiled;
And willows rock the weary soul to rest,
As she, even she, her child.

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