Madge Morris Wagner.

Debris : selection from poems online

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f Ut- (HE


who, reading, may fancy
With a kindly thought for me
There ; s a grain of gold in its drif tings,
I dedicate this "Debris."


This waif is born of emergency, and timidly launched
on the rough sea of opinion. Critic, touch it gently ;
it assumes nothing has nothing to assume ; and your
scalpel can only pain its





Mystery of Carmel 9

Wasted Hours 81

Rocking the Baby 31

"I Doirt Care" 33

A Stained Lily 35

A Valentine ... 37

Which One ,. 38

life s Way ;)

Uncle Sam s Soliloquy . 41

Nay, Do Not Ask 44

A Picture 45

Hang Up Your Stocking 45

Opening the Gate for Papa 47

White Honeysuckle , 4!)

Estrangement 49

Bring Flowers 50

Qood-Bye , ,.. 51

In the Twilight 52

Home _. 55

Why? 57

Out in the Cold 58

To Jennie 61

Watching the Shadows 62

I Give Thee Back Thy Heart 63

Light Beyond .. 04

A Neglected " Woman s Right" 65

Would You Care? 67

A Thought of Heaven 68

Consolance 70

When the Roses Go ., .- 71

The Difference - ,<..,;... i. 72

Beware _ - 7:.

A Regret / ("J:.. . TA 74

" It is Life to Die " I. T.t. A;. .-..;.-. f! 1 75

O, Speak it Not ....A.S.SS.ft.Jl.rErJftSSf. RA.S.J 76

A Shattered Idol .X- ,. OL-:. ..:.., J .. 77

Poor Little Joe :..-.. .V. A ..-..>., 78

Fate ^:..^.r.^.^r.^r.: 80

The Ghosts in the Heart 82

Only a Tramp 8H

Put Flowers on My Grave 84

Old Aunt Lucy 85

Unspoken Words 87

O! Take Away Your Flowers 89

Rain !to

I love Him for His Eyes - I

Only .- 92

Somebody s Baby s Dead .. !)4

The Withered Rosebud !t. r -

My Ships Have Come From Sea 96


The Mission floor was with weeds o ergrown,
And crumbling and shaky its walls of stone ;
Its roof of tiles, in tiers and tiers,
Had stood the storms of a hundred years.
An olden, weird, medieval style
Clung to the mouldering, gloomy pile,
And the rythmic voice of the breaking waves
Sang a lonesome dirge in its land of graves.
Strangely awed, I felt th at day,
As I walked in the Mission old and gray
The Mission Carmel at Monterey.

An ancient owl went fluttering by,
Scared from his haunt. His mournful cry
Wakened the echoes, till roof and wall
Caught and re-echoed the dismal call
Again and again, till it seemed to me
Some Jesuit soul, in mockery
Stripped of rosary, gown, and cowl
Haunted the place, in this dreary owl.
Surely I shivered with fright that day,
Alone in the Mission old and gray
The Mission Carmel at Monterey.


Near the chapel vault was a dungeon grim,
And they say that many a chanted hymn
Has rung a knell on the moldy air
For luckless errant prisoned there,
As kneeling monk and pious nun
Sang orison at set of sun.
A single window, dark and small,
Showed opening in the heavy wall,
Nor other entrance seemed attained
That erst had human footstep gained.
I paused before the uncanny place
And peered me into its darksome space.
Had it of secret aught to tell,
That locked up darkness kept it well.
I turned, and lo ! by my side there stood
A being of strangest naturehood.
Startled, I glanced him o er and o er,
Wondering I noted him not before.
His form was stooped with the weight of years,
And on his cheek was a trace of tears ;
Over all his face a shade of pain
That deepened and vanished, and came again.
Fixed he his woeful eyes on me
Through my very soul they seemed to see.
And lightly he laid his hand on mine
His hand was cold as the vestal shrine.
" Tis haunted," he said, " haunted, and he
Who dares at night-noon go with me
To this cursed place, by phantoms trod,


Must fear not devil, man, nor God."

" Tell me the story," I cried, "tell me !"

And frightened was I at my bravery.

A curious smile his thin lips curved,

That well had my bravery unnerved.

And this is the story he told that day

To me in the Mission old and gray

The Mission Carmel at Monterey.

" Each midnight, since have seventy years
Begun their cycle around the spheres,
Two faces have looked from that window there.
One is a woman s, young and fair,
With tender eyes and floating hair.
Love, and regret, and dumb despair,
Are told in each tint of the fair sweet face.
The other is crowned with a courtly grace,
Gazing, with all a- lover s pride,
On the beautiful woman by his side.
Anon ! a change flits o er his mien,
And baffled rage in his glance is seen.
Paler they grow as the hours go by,
With the pallor that comes with the summons to die.
Slowly fading, and shrinking away,
Clutched in the grasp of a gaunt decay,
Till the herald of morn on the sky is thrown;
Then a shriek, a curse, and a dying moan,
Comes from that death-black window there.
A mocking laugh rings out on the air,


From that darkful place, in the nascent dawn,

And the faces that looked from the window are gone.

Seventy years, when the Spanish flag

Floated above yon beetling crag,

And this dearthful mission place was rife

With the panoply of busy life ;

Hard by, where yon canyon, deep and wide,

Sweeps it adown the mountain side,

A cavalier dwelt with his beautiful bride.

Oft to the priestal shrive went she;

As often, stealthily, followed he.

The padre Sanson absolved and blessed

The penitent, and the sin-distressed,

Nor ever before won devotee

So wondrous a reverence as he.

A-night, when the winds played wild and high,

And the ocean rocked it to the sky,

An earthquake trembled the shore along,

Hushing on lip of praise its song,

And jarred to its center this Mission strong.

When the morning broke with a summer sun,

The earth was at rest, the storm was done.

Still the Mission tower d in its stately pride;

Still the cottage smiled by the canyon-side;

But never the priest was there to bless,

And the cottage roof was tenantless.

Vainly they sought for the padre, dead,

For the cottage dwellers ; amazed, they said

Twas a miracle; but since that day


There s a ghost in the Mission old and gray
The Mission Carmel of Monterey.

" A sequel there is to that tale," said he,
"Of the way and the truth I hold the key."
"Show me the way," I cried, "Show me
To the depth of this curious mystery ! "
He waved me to follow; my heart stood still
Under the ban of a mightier will
Than mine. A terror of icy chill
O er-shivered my being from hand to brain,
Freezing the blood in each pulsing vein,
As I followed this most mysterious guide
Through the solid floor at the chancel side,
Into a passage whose stifling breath
Reeked with the pestilence of death.
Down through a subterranean vault,
Over broken steps with never a halt,
Till we stood in the midst of a spacious room,
A charnel-house in its shroud of gloom.
Only a window, narrow and small,
Left in the build of the heavy wall,
Through which the flickering sunbeams died,
Showed passway to the world outside.
Slowly my eyes to the darkness grew,
And I saw in the gloom, or rather knew,
That my feet had touched two skeleton forms,
One closely clasped in the other s arms.
Recoiling, I shuddered and turned my face


From the fleshless mockery of embrace.

Again o er a heap of rubbish and rust,

I stumbled and caught in the moth and dust

What hardly a sense of my soul believes

A mold-stained package of parchment leaves !

A hideous bat flapped into my face !

O ercome with horror, I fled the place,

And stood again with my curious guide

On the solid floor, at the chancel s side.

But, lo ! in a moment the age-bowed seer

Was a darkly frowning cavalier,

Gazing no longer in woeful trance,

Vengeance blazed in his every glance.

Then a mocking laugh rang the Mission o er,

And I stood alone by the chapel door ;

And, save for the mold-stained parchment leaves,

I had thought it the vision that night-mare weaves.

Hardly a sense of my soul believes,

Yet I held in my hand the parchment leaves.

Careful I noted them, one by one,

Each was a letter in rhyming run,

Written over and over, in tenderest strain,

By fingers that never will write again.

I strung them together, a tale to tell,

And named it "The Mystery of Carmel."

And these are the letters I found that day,

In the mission ruin, old and gray

The Mission Carmel of Monterey :



Oh, holy father, list thee to my prayer !

I may not kneel to thee as others kneel,
And tell my heart-aches with the suppliant s air,

But fiercer burns the fire I must conceal.

My soul is groping in the mists of doubt,
The sunlight and the shadows all are gone,

Only a cold, gray cloud my life s about,
Nor ever vision of a fairer dawn.

A father ne er my brow in loving smoothed,
Nor taught my baby tongue to lisp his name ;

No mother s voice my childish sorrows soothed,
Nor sought my wild, imperious will to tame.

Yet ran my life, like some bright bubbling spring,
Too full of thoughtless happiness to care

If that the future might more gladness bring,
Or might its skies be clouded or be fair.

Afar upon the purple hills of Spain

Since waned the moons of half a year ago

I sported, reckless as the laughing main,

Nor dreamed in life a thought of grief to know.

To-day I pine here in a chain whose gall
Is bitterer than drop of woimwood brought

From that salt sea where nothing lives, and all
The recompense my willfulness has brought.



^^C^L I F O R N I A-^^


Oh, holy father, list thee to my prayer !

And though I may not kneel as others kneel,
And tell my heart-aches with a suppliant air,

I crave thy grace a sickened soul to heal.

Here, close beside this sacred font of gold,
My humble prayer, oh, father, I will lay,
With all its weight of misery untold;

And wait impatient that which thou wilt say.


When to the font, this morn, my lips I pressed,
A fairy s gift my fingers trembled o er ;

A sweeter prayer ne er smile of angel blessed,
Nor gemmed a tiar that the priesthood wore.

The secret of thy grief I may not know,
Since that thy lips refuse the tale to tell :

Methinks, dear child, it was the sound of woe
That woke an echo in my heart s deep well.

The wail of a spirit that a-yearning gropes
In darkness for the sunlight that is fled ;

A broken idol in secret wept, and hopes

Crushed hopes that are to thee as are the dead.

A tender memory ling ring yet of when

Each bounding pulse beat faster with its joy ;

A something that allured, and won, and then
With waking fled, and years may not destroy


The impress which it left upon thy brain.

But seek thee, child, grief s ravaging to stay ? j
Thy tears might fall as falls the show ring rain,

They could not wash the heart s deep scars away.

Repine thee not ; shroud not thy faith in gloom ;

Shrink not to meet a disappointment s frown ;
Away beyond the narrow bordered tomb,

Who here have borne the cross may wear the crown.



Whisper to him, fairies, whisper

Whisper softly in* his ear
That some one is waiting, waiting,

Listening his step to hear.

Fairies, if he knew his presence

Would a demon s spell allay,
Would he heed your timid whisperings ?

Would he will he come to-day ?



Fairies whisper, ever whisper,

In the silence of the night,
And he catches the soft murmurs

Floating in the starry light.


And they tell him ; yes, they tell him,
All in accents sweet and clear,

Of the beautiful Hereafter
That is ever drawing near.

There are loved Ones waiting, waiting,

For his footfall on the shore ;
. They will welcome his appearing
They will greet him o er and o er.


Oh, would the fairies to her whisper
The truths which they to him impart,

Teach her a beautiful hereafter,
A Heaven to bless a tired heart.

Yet thinks she that the dear ones waiting
Would envy not the boon she craves
To rear fair friendship s sacred altar

Where love and hope sleep in their graves.

She knows not that a loving welcome

Will wait her in a realm of light,
Nought of a future meeting whispers,

No faith illumes her soul s dark night.

But oh ! she knows, has by experience,
The saddest of all lessons learned ;

Knows that she gathered dead-sea apples,
Which in her hands to ashes turned.


She knows into a trammelled torrent,
Is changed her life s free flowing tide;

Knows that her hand no oar is holding,
With which her drifting bark to guide.

She knows, yes, knows that, like the mirage,
Which for the thirsty traveler gleamed,

The sweet ideal she fondly cherished
Was never there ; it only seemed.

If what she knows is to her proven

A false, deluding, fleeting show,
Can she, generous spirit, can she

Trust blindly what she does not know ?

But if for this he shuts against her

The heart that s shining in his eyes,
She ll bring the gift that for the Peri

Unbarred the gate of paradise.



If she ll let him be her teacher

In the mysteries of life,
In the spirit s grand unfoldment

Far beyond this world of strife,

A sacred altar he. will build her,

And dedicate to friendship true,
And this shall be their bond of union,

More constant than all others knew.




Kind teacher, henceforth be it mine
To kneel at friendship s sacred shrine,
And hope s bright budding flowers entwine

Into a garland for thy brow.
And thou shalt wait not for the hours
That gem creation s radiant towers,
To woo thee to elysian bowers,

But wear it now.

Too long a dreamer have I been,
Too long life s dark side only seen ;
And if thou canst, while thus I kneel,
The mystery of life reveal,

Then gladly will I learn of thee.
For as on flowers the dewdrops fall,
As sunbeams break the storm-cloud s pall,
As pardon comes to lives which blame
Has crushed beneath its weight, so came

Thy sympathy to me.



Life is love, and only love,
Love that had its source above.
It wreathes with flowers the chastening rod,
And diamond decks the throne of God.




If " life is love, and only love,"

Then never have I lived before ;
But for love s sake I ll sit me down

And careful con the lesson o er.

I fain would win the shining goal,

So far away, so seeming fair,
But could not reach its hights alone ;

Then, teacher, take me, take me there.



Thy teacher, then, will take thee there,

And ever watch with tender care,
To guard thy way to loftiest aim,

And his reward thy love shall claim.



O, inconsistent teacher,

He d knowledge give away ;
Fill head and heart, from tome of art,

Then take me for his pay.

He d kindly lead me to the realm

Where joyous freedom reigns,
He d teach my soul love s sweet control,

Then claim it for his pains.




Ah ! Reyenita, do not charge

To selfishness thy teacher s plea,
He seeks thine every wish to bless,

His deepest fault is loving thee.
" Heaven s kingdom," said the Nazerene,
" Is in the heart ;" sweet fairy queen,
Thou rulest alone this realm of mine,
Canst say I have no place in thine ?



They boast of Ormuz milk-white pearls,

The ruby s magic art,
And proudly wear the crystal drop

That fires the diamond s heart.
And these may admiration claim,

And countless wealth may sway,
But rarer gem was given to me,

One golden summer day.

Its wondrous tints, a brilliant glow,

Emit in darkest gloom,
A sweeter fragrance round it clings,

Than breath of eastern bloom.

Were all earth s costly jewels thrown

In one great glittering heap,
They could not buy for ev n a day

The gem I d selfish keep.


Yet twas not won from pearly depths,

Nor gleaned from diamond mine,
Nor^all the chemist s subtlety

Its substance could define.

It ne er was set in band of gold

Some dainty hand to grace,
Ne er shone in diadem to deck

A brow of kingly race. .

For me alone, a wizard spell

Lies prisoned in its beams,
Hours of enchanted ecstacy

And days of Eden dreams.

Wouldst know the precious gift with which

For worlds I would not part ?
The priceless jewel is thy love,

Its setting is my heart.



O, in the hush of midnight s hour,

When darkness sleeps on land and sea,

How oft in dreams, sweet fragile flower,
Thou st come to bless and comfort me.

O, in the hush of midnight s hour,

How oft from taunting dreams I start,
To find thee but a fancy flower

Thou cherished idol of my heart.




I ve a beautiful home, where I live in my dreams,

So joyous and happy an Eden it seems ;

All beautiful things in nature and art

Are blending to rapture the mind and the heart ;

No discords to jar, no dissensions arise,

Tis calm as Italia s ever blue skies,

When kissed by the bright rosy blush of the morn ;

And a voice of the spheres on the breezes is borne,

Soft as the murmur of sea-tinted shells,

Sweet as the chiming of far away bells ;

And grief cannot enter, nor trouble nor care,

And the proud peerless prince of my soul, he is there.

In my beautiful home from the cold world apart,
He holds me so close to his fast beating heart ;
More enchanting his voice than the syren-wrapt song,
O er the wind-dimpled ocean soft floating along,
As he whispers his love in love s low passioned tone,
Such home, and such lover, no other has known.



O, let us leave this world behind
Its gains, its loss, its praise, its blame-
Not seeking fame, nor fearing shame,
Some far secluded land we ll find,
And build thy dream-home, you and I,
And let this foolish world go by.


A paradise of love and bliss !
Delicious draughts in Eden bowers,
Of peace, and rest, and quiet hours,
We ll drink, for what we ve missed in this.
The shafts of malice we ll defy,
And let this foolish world go by.



Life of my life, my soul s best part,
I could not live without thee now ;
And yet, this love must break my heart,
Or break a sacred vow.

Which shall it be ? an answer oft
From puzzling doubts I ve sought to wake ;
Must joy, or misery, hence be mine,
Must heart or promise break ?

Alone, Heaven s highest court would prove
A desolated land to me ;
Earth s barest, barren desert wild,

A paradise with thee.



Thou hast beamed on my pathway, a vision of light,

To guide and to bless from afar ;
To illume with thy smile the dead chill of the night,

My star, my bright, beautiful star.



The sun pales before thee, the moon is a blot
On the sky where thine own splendors are ;

And dark is the day where thy presence is not,
My star, my bright, beautiful star.



O love, do not call me a star !
Tis too cold and bright, and too far
Away from your arms ; I would be,
The life drops that flow in your veins,
The pulses that throb in your heart.
My bosom should be the warm sea
Of forgetfulness, tinged with the stains
Of the sunset, when day-dreams depart ;
You should drink at its fountain of kisses,
Drink mad of its fathomless deep ;

Submerged in an ocean of blisses,
I d be something to kiss and to keep.
Loving, and tender, and true,
I d be nearer, oh ! nearer to you
Than the glittering meteors are ;
Then, love, do not call me a star.



Thou st made for me an atmosphere of life ;
The very air is brighter from thine eyes,


They are so soft and beautiful, and rife
With all we can imagine of the skies.

woman, where is thy resistless power ;
I swore the livery of Heaven to grace,

Yet stand, to-day, a sacrilegious tower,
Perjured by the witchery of thy face.


Then, love, I ll give thee back thy perjured vow ;

1 would not hold thee with one pleading breath ;
It may be best to leave the pathway now,

That can but lead to death.
I ll crush the agonies that burning swell,

And say farewell.



" Farewell ? " No, not farewell, I 11 worship ever

Thy form divine.
No death s despair, no voice of doom shall sever

My heart from thine.

Thou st crowned me with thy love and bade me wear it,

I kiss the shrine.
I will not give thee up, nay, here I swear it,

That thou art mine.


A desecrated holiness is o er me,

I ve held the Thyrsus cup ;
I ve dared the thunderbolts of Heaven for thee,

I will not give thee up.


World, farewell !

And thou pale taper light, by whose fast-dying flame I
Tvrite these words the last my hand shall pen fare
well ! What is t to die ? To be shut in a dungeon s
walls and starved to death ? She knows, and soon will
I. She sought to learn of me, and I to teach to her,
the mystery of life. Ha, ha ! Who claimed her by the
church s law has given us both to learn the mystery of
death. What was t I loved ? The eyes that thrilled
me through and through with their magnetic subtlety ?
They re there, set on my face ; but where s their lifened
light ? What was t I loved ? The mouth whose coral
redness I have buried in my own ? Tis there, shrunk
gainst two rows of dead pale pearls, and cold and color.
less as lip of statue carved in marble. Was it the form
whose perfect outline stamped it with divinity ? It s
there, but reft of all its winsome roundness, and stiffen
ing in the chill of death. It makes me cold to look upon
its rigidness. But just this hour the breath went out ;
was t that I loved ? Twas this I clasped and kissed.
What is it that we Ve christened love, that glamours men
to madness, and stains with falsehood virgin purity ? It
made this grewsome charnel vault a part of Heaven


the graves there of those murdered knaves made rests of
roses for our heads ; it made him spring the bolt and
lock us in. Where is the creed s foundation? I ve
shrived a thousand souls I cannot now absolve my
own. To quench this awful thirst, I cut an artery in my
arm and sucked its blood. The thirstness did not cease.
They lied. Twas not the vultures at Prometheus
heart, twas hunger at his vitals gnawed. The salt drops
that I swallowed from that vein have set my brain on
fire. What s that ? The ground s a-tremble neath my
feet as touched with life. Earth, rend your breast and
let me in ! For anything but this dire darkness, made
alive with vengeful eye-balls his eyes ! They glare with
hate at me. I heard him laugh but now. For anything
but this most loving corpse whose head caressing rests
it on my feet. Ah, no, I did not mean it thus ; I would
not get away alone. I loved that corpse. It was the
sweetest bit of human frailty that to man e er brought a
blessing or a curse. I turned from Bias holy grail to
taste its nectar. Hell, throw a-wide your sulphur-blaz
oned gates, I 11 grasp it in my arms and make the
plunge ! Hist ! what was that ? I heard him laugh
again. Laugh, fiend, you cannot hurt me more. Ah !
Reyenita, mine in. life you were, in death you shall be
mine. When this clogged blood has stopped the wheels
of life, I ll put my arms around your neck, I ll lay my
face against your frozen one, and thus I ll die. When
this foul place has crumbled to the sunlight, some relic-
hunting lunatic will stumble o er our bones, and pitiless


will weave a tale for eyes more pitiless to read. Back,
Stygian ghoul ! Death s on me now. I feel his rattle in
my throat ! My limbs are blocks of ice ! My heart has
tuned it with the muffled dead-march drum ! A jar of
crashing worlds is in my ears ! A drowsy faintness creeps

The seal is broken, the mystery fell ;
You have read the letters, what do they tell ?
Do they tell you the story they told that day
To me, in the Mission old and gray

The Mission Carmel at Monterey ?



If that thy hand with heart-will sought,
To work with Christ-love underlying,
But ere thou hadst accomplished aught
Time passed thee by while vainly trying,
The wasted hour, the vain endeavor,
Will wait thee in the far forever.

If thou hast toiled from dawn till eve,

But felt no thrill of joy in giving,

No heart made glad, no want relieved,

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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerDebris : selection from poems → online text (page 1 of 4)