Fannie Stearns Davis: The Ancient Beautiful Things

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff

The Ancient Beautiful Things

Fannie Stearns Davis

I am all alone in the room.
The evening stretches before me
Like a road all delicate gloom
Till it reaches the midnight's gate.
And I hear his step on the path,
And his questioning whistle, low
At the door as I hurry to meet him.
He will ask, "Are the doors all locked?
Is the fire made safe on the hearth?
And she — is she sound asleep?"
I shall say, "Yes, the doors are locked,
And the ashes are white as the frost:
Only a few red eyes
To stare at the empty room.
And she is all sound asleep,
Up there where the silence sings,
And the curtains stir in the cold."
He will ask, "And what did you do
While I have been gone so long?
So long! Four hours or five!"
I shall say, "There was nothing I did. —
I mended that sleeve of your coat.
And I made her a little white hood
Of the furry pieces I found
Up in the garret to-day.
She shall wear it to play in the snow,
Like a little white bear, — and shall laugh,
And tumble, and crystals of stars
Shall shine on her cheeks and hair.
— It was nothing I did. — I thought
You would never come home again!"
Then he will laugh out, low,
Being fond of my folly, perhaps;
And softly and hand in hand
We shall creep upstairs in the dusk
To look at her, lying asleep:
Our little gold bird in her nest:
The wonderful bird who flew in
At the window our Life flung wide.
(How should we have chosen her,
Had we seen them all in a row,
The unborn vague little souls,
All wings and tremulous hands?
How should we have chosen her,
Made like a star to shine,
Made like a bird to fly,
Out of a drop of our blood,
And earth, and fire, and God?)
Then we shall go to sleep,
Glad. —
O God, did you know
When you moulded men out of clay,
Urging them up and up
Through the endless circles of change,
Travail and turmoil and death,
Many would curse you down,
Many would live all gray
With their faces flat like a mask:
But there would be some, O God,
Crying to you each night,
"I am so glad! so glad!
I am so rich and gay!
How shall I thank you, God?"
Was that one thing you knew
When you smiled and found it was good:
The curious teeming earth
That grew like a child at your hand?
Ah, you might smile, for that! —
— I am all alone in the room.
The books and the pictures peer,
Dumb old friends, from the dark.
The wind goes high on the hills,
And my fire leaps out, being proud.
The terrier, down on the hearth,
Twitches and barks in his sleep,
Soft little foolish barks,
More like a dream than a dog …
I will mend the sleeve of that coat,
All ragged, — and make her the hood
Furry, and white, for the snow.
She shall tumble and laugh …
Oh, I think
Though a thousand rivers of grief
Flood over my head, — though a hill
Of horror lie on my breast, —
Something will sing, "Be glad!
You have had all your heart's desire:
The unknown things that you asked
When you lay awake in the nights,
Alone, and searching the dark
For the secret wonder of life.
You have had them (can you forget?):
The ancient beautiful things!" …
How long he is gone. And yet
It is only an hour or two… .
Oh, I am so happy. My eyes
Are troubled with tears.
Did you know,
O God, they would be like this,
Your ancient beautiful things?
Are there more? Are there more, — out there? —
O God, are there always more?
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