To Elizabeth Ward Perkins
Dear Bessie, would my tired rhyme Had force to rise from apathy, And shaking off its lethargy Ring word-tones like a Christmas chime.
But in my soul's high belfry, chill The bitter wind of doubt has blown, The summer swallows all have flown, The bells are frost-bound, mute and still.
Upon the crumbling boards the snow Has drifted deep, the clappers hang Prismed with icicles, their clang Unheard since ages long ago.
The rope I pull is stiff and cold, My straining ears detect no sound Except a sigh, as round and round The wind rocks through the timbers old.
Below, I know the church is bright With haloed tapers, warm with prayer; But here I only feel the air Of icy centuries of night.
Beneath my feet the snow is lit And gemmed with colours, red, and blue, Topaz, and green, where light falls through The saints that in the windows sit.
Here darkness seems a spectred thing, Voiceless and haunting, while the stars Mock with a light of long dead years The ache of present suffering.
Silent and winter-killed I stand, No carol hymns my debt to you; But take this frozen thought in lieu, And thaw its music in your hand.