Madge Morris Wagner.

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Words are all too weak to portray
The vision I saw from the tower that day.

I have stood on a mountain crag and seen
A world of grandeur beneath me spread,

The valleys that slept in their peaceful green.
And the hills that echoed an army's tread.


I have heard on the shore the thunderous shocks,
When the storm-dashed waves burst on the rocks ;
And my soul has trembled in silent prayer
To the God who holds the waters there,
But never again, till the day I die,
Will a vision so beautiful bless my eye
As that which below, and around me lay,
From the top of the tower in San Jose.


The pine trees nod to the oaks below.
The wild oats bow to the cliffs of snow ;
Noonday's shimmering, gauzy glow
On all the hills is lying —
And the manzanita berries grow
Red in its gorgeous dyeing.
The wood-dove answers the plaintive call
From the nest that is hid in the chemesal,
And the wanton humming bird" devours
His feast from the mouths of the milk- weed flowers.
Threads of cobweb, glistening gray,
Spun on the wheel of the summer day.
Glimmering go — and glimmering stay — ■
A place to dream one's life away.



Some lilies grew by a brook-side,

Tall and white, and cold,
And lifted up to the sunshine

Their great red hearts of gold.

And near to their bed grew mosses,
Rank vines, and flowers small,

And loathsome weeds, and thistles,
And the sunlight warmed them all.

Anon, the proud white lilies
Were gathered, one by one.

Each to crown a festal.
The rarest under the sun.

One lily stooped to the brooklet,
Her face she knew was fair.

And the face of the flowing water
Mirrored her image there.

A hand, upraised in envy.

Or carelessness, or jest.
Flung, from the turbid water,

Mud, on the lily breast.


And all the proud, white lilies

Turned their faces away,
And nobody plucked that lily,

And day, and night, and day

She wept for her ruined beauty :
And the dew-drops, and the rain,

Touched with her tears, in pity
Fell on the muddy stain.

Still stood she in her grieving.

Day, and night, and day ;
Nor tears, nor dew, nor rain-drops

Could fade the stain away.

Pining in desolation,

Shunned by each of her kind.
Sought she a bitter solace

In creatures of coarser mind.

But the breath of the nettle stung her,

And the thistle's rude embrace
Burned her sensitive nature.

And scarred the fair, stained face.

Lower drooped the lily,

And died at the feet of the weeds ;
And only the tender mosses

Ministered to her needs.


And still the tall white lilies
Stand as cold, and proud,

And still the weeds and thistles
Against the lilies crowd.

Alike the same warm sunbeams;

On the weed and flower fall,
Alike by the same soil nourished,

And the great God made them all.


There are trees that bend in the weight of a storm,
Then rise again to the bright blue sky ;

And under the weight of the crushing storm
There are trees that break, and fall, and die.

Our human hearts are alike to these ;

One heart, when the tempests sweep life's plain,
Will moan with the cry of the moaning seas,

Then smile in the sun, and forget its pain.

And for one, when a face that was all in all.

Is hid from its sight in the grave's deep gloom,

No more will the joyous sunshine fall,
Never again will the roses bloom.



Each was as fair as the other,
And both as my life were dear ; ■

And the voices that Hsped me mother,
Heaven's music in my ear.

One faded from life — and mother,
And died in the summer dawn ;

And I turned away from the other
And wept for the child that was gone.

Then I lay in a weird sleep-vision,
Before me an earth-dark scene.

And the land of the sweet Elysian,
And only a grave between.

One child soft called me mother

Out Irom the shining door,
And smiled and beckoned ; the other

Unconscious played on the floor.

One's path, to my inward seeing.
Was light with a wondrous day,

And led to the hights of being,
And an angel showed the way.

The other lay where Marah's

Hot sands with snares are strewn —

Through many a darksome forest,
And the way was roughly hewn.


A faith to my soul was given —
The weird sleep-vision o'er —

And I turned from the child in heaven
To the child that played on the floor.


Only a " something light as air,"

Which never words could tell,
Yet feel you that between your lives

A cloud has strangely fell ;
Though never a change in look or tone,

A change your heart is grieving ;
You sentient feel the friend you love

Has deemed you are deceiving.

A promise rashly given may bind

Your lips the truth to screen,
The nameless something gathers fast

As mist the hills between ;
You wrap you in your cloak of pride,

The words are never spoken
That might have thrown the portal wide,

And friendship's tie is broken.



Nay, do not ask me, Sweet, if I have loved before,

Or if, mayhap, in other years to be,
A younger, fairer face than thine I know,

I'll love her more than thee.

What should it matter if I've loved before.
So that I love thee now, and love thee best ?

What matters it that I should love agam

If, first, the daisy-buds blow o'er thy breast ?

Love has the waywardness of strange caprice,
One can not chain it to a recreant heart,

Nor, when around the soul its tendrils twine,
Can will the clinging, silken bonds to part.

It is enough, I hold thee prisoned in my arms,
And drink the dewy fragrance of thy breath ;

And earth, and heaven, and hades are forgot,
And love holds carnival, and laughs at death.

Then do not ask me, Sweet, if I have loved before,
Or if some day my heart might turn from thee ;

In this brief hour, thou hast my soul of love.
And thou art Is, and Was and May be — all to me.



Hurrying out ro the gateway

Go two little pattering feet ;
Eagerly out through the palings

Peer two little eyes, bright and sweet.

A footstep as eager is answering
The sweet eyes that patiently wait,

And papa is kissing and blessing
The baby that opens the gate.

And every day all the long Summer,
At noontime and evening late,

The little one's watching for papa —
Waiting to open the gate.

And now the bright Summer is ended,
And Autumn's gay mantle unrolled ;

The maple leaves wooing the breezes
Are gorgeous in crimson and gold.

At noonday the face at the gateway
Is flushed with a feverish glow,

At night the bright head on the pillow
Is tossing in pain to and fro.


The father kneels down in his anguish,
And stifles the sobs with a groan ;

He knows that his idol is going —
Going out in the midnight alone.

He buries his face in the pillow,

Close, close to the fast failing breath ;

A little arm clasps his neck closely,
A voice growing husky in death

Says pleadingly, half in a whisper .-
" Please, darling papa, don't cry ;

I know Birdie 's going to Heaven —
I heard doctor say he will die.

** But I'll ask God for one of the windows
The pretty star-eyes look out through.
And when you come up with the angels
I'll sure be the first to see you.

** And maybe I'll find my dear mamma:
And you '11 come up, too, by-and-by,
And Birdie will watch for you, papa,
And open the gate of the sky."

The little hand falls from his shoulder
All nerveless, the blue eyes dilate,

A shuddering sigh, then the baby
Is waiting to open the Gate.



Bring flowers, bring flowers, thou Queen of the Spring,
Sweet flowers to garland the earth,

Exotics to bloom in the mansions of wealth,
Wild flowers for the lowly hearth.
Bring flowers for the brave and strong-hearted,
Bring flowers for the merry and glad,
Bring flowers for the weak and despairing.
Bring flowers for the weary and sad.

Bring flowers, bring flowers, thou Queen of the Spring,
Sweet flowers, the dark hours to cheer.

Bring flowers for the little ones, flowers for the aged.
Bring flowers for the bridal and bier.
In this beautiful, sun-lighted Springtime,
Bring flowers their fragrance to shed.
To brighten the homes of the living.
To garnish the graves of the dead.


Laugh, little Bright-eyes, hang up your stocking ;

Don't count the days any more :
Old Santa Glaus will soan be knocking.
Knocking at the door.


Through the key-hole slyly peeping,
Down the chimney careful creeping,
When the little folks are sleeping,
Comes he with his pack of presents.
Such a grin ! but then so pleasant,
You would never think to fear him ;
And you can not, tnust not hear him.
He's so particular, you know,
He'd just pick up his traps and go
If but one little eye should peep
That he thought was fast asleep.
Searching broomstick, nails and shelf.
Till he finds the httle stocking —
Softly lest you hear his knocking — •
Smiling, chuckling to himself.
He fills it from his Christmas store.
And out he slips to hunt for more.

Then laugh, little Bright-eyes, and hang up your
stocking ;

Don't count the days any more ;
Old Santa Claus will soon be knocking,
Knocking at che door.



I hear her rocking the baby —

Her room is just next to mine —
And I fancy I feel the dimpled arms

That round her neck entwine,
As she rocks, and rocks the baby,

In the room just next to mine.
I hear her rocking the baby

Each day when the twilight comes,
And I know there's a world of blessing and love

In the " baby bye " she hums.
I see the restless fingers

Playing with " mamma's rings,"
And the sweet little smiling, pouting mouth,

That to hers in kissing clings,
As she rocks and sings to the baby.

And dreams as she rocks and sings.

I hear her rocking the baby,

Slower and slower now,
And I know she is leaving her good-night kiss

On its eyes, and cheek, and brow.
From her rocking, rocking, rocking,

I wonder would she start.
Could she know, through the wall between us.

She is rocking on a heart.


While my empty arms are aching

For a form they may not press,
And my emptier heart is breaking

In its desolate loneliness,
I list to the rocking, rocking,

In the room just next to mine,
And breathe a prayer in silence,

At a mother's broken shrine,
For the woman who rocks the baby

In the room just next to mine.


White honeysuckle, " bond of love,"

Emblem born in Orient bowers,
Whence mythic Deities have wooed,

And told the soul's desire in flowers.
As sweet thy breath as Eden's balm,

As sweet and pure. Methinks that erst
Thy flower was of our earth a part.

Some angel hand the seed immersed
In fragrance of the lotus' heart.

And dropped it from the realm of calm.
And life of earth, and life above.

Thou bindest with thy " bond of love."



The little white chrysanthemum.

That blooms in wintry weather,
I love and guard and cherish more
Than all the flowers together.

Not for its fragrance, or its grace,

Or beauty's charm above it ;
But just because it touched her breast

I bless the flower, and love it.

Her white, white cheeks, her lips, her hair,
I kissed the day she wore it —

Her heart was still within her breast,
Her hands were folded o'er it.

The flowers will bloom again, again,

The stars will shine forever ;
But oh ! the lips that I kissed then

Will kiss me never, never.

And so I love and cherish more
Than all the flowers together,

The little white chrysanthemum
That blooms in wintrv weather.

liberty's bell. 73


" There 's a legend told of a far-off land " —
The land of a king — where the people planned
To build them a bell that never should ring
But to tell of the death, or the birth, of a king,
Or proclaim an event, with its swinging slow,
That could startle the nation to joy or woe.

It was not to be builded — this bell that they planned —
Of common ore dug from the breast of the land.
But of metal first moulded by skill of all arts —
Built of the treasures of fond human hearts.
And from all o'er the land like pilgrims they came.
Each to cast in a burden, a mite, in the flame
Of the furnace — his offering — to mingle and swell
In the curious mass of this wonderful bell.

And knights came in armor and flung in the shields

That had warded off blows on the Saracen fields,

And freemen brought chains from the prisons afar —

Bonds that had fettered the captives of war.

And sabers were cast in the molten flood

Stained with the crimson of heroes' blood.

Pledges of love, a bracelet, a ring,

A gem that had gleamed in the crown of a king,

The coins that had ransomed a maiden from death,

The words, hot with eloquence, caught from the breath

74 liberty's bell.

Of a sage, and a prayer from the lips of a slave
Were heard and recorded, and cast in the wave
To be melted and moulded together, and tell
The tale of their wrongs in the tones of the bell.

It was finished at last, and, by artisan hand,
On its ponderous beams hung high o'er the land.
The slow years passed by ; but no sound ever fell
On a listening ear from the tongue of the bell.
The brown spider wove her frail home on its walls,
And the dust settled deep in its cavernous halls.
Men laughed in derision, and scoffed at the pains
Of the builders ; and harder and harder the chains
Of a tyrannous might on the people were laid,
More insatiate, more servile, the tribute they paid.
There was something they found far more cruel than

And something far sweeter than life's fleeting breath.

But, hark ! in the midst of the turbulent throng.
The moans of the weak and the groans of the strong.
There's a cry of alarm. Some invisible power
Is moving the long-silent bell in the tower.
Forward, and backward, and forward it swung,
And Liberty ! Liberty ! Liberty ! rung
From its wide, brazen throat, over mountain and vale,
Till the seas caught the echo, and monarchs turned


Our forefathers heard it — that wild, thrilling tone,
Ringing out to the world, and they claimed it theit

And up from the valley, and down from the hill,
From the flame of the forge, from the field and the

They paid with their lives the price of its due.
And left it a legacy. Freemen, to you.
And ever when danger is menacing nigh.
The mighty bell swings m the belfry on high,
And men wake from their dreams, and gr asp in afifrigh
Their swords, when its warning sweeps out in the


It rang a wild pean o'er war's gory waves

"When the gyves were unloosed from our millions of

It started with horror, and trembled a knell
From ocean to ocean, when brave Lincoln fell.
And again its wild notes sent a thrill through the land
"When Garfield was struck by a traitorous hand.
And once in each year, as time onward rolls.
Slowly and muffled, and mournful it tolls
A dirge, while Columbia pauses to spread
A tribute of love on the graves of her dead.
While Washington's name is emblazoned in gold,
While the valor of Perry, or Sherman is told.
While patriots treasure the words of a Hayne,
The fiery drops from the pen of a Payne ;


While dear is the name of child, mother or wife,
Or sweet to a soul is the measure of life,
America's sons will to battle prepare
"When its tones of alarm ring aloud on the air ;
For Liberty's goddess holds in her white hand
The cord of the bell that swings over our land.


They tell of a boatman, cold and pale.

Who waits on the shores of a fathomless river

With a noiseless oar and a white-winged sail,
And he wafts the soul to the dim Forever.

O, who is the boatman, pallid and slow,

And where does the white-winged vessel go 1

We have named him Death, who with ruthless grasp
Each tie of our hearts will snap and sever ;

But whence is the source of his icy clasp.
And where is the distant, dim Forever ?

When the pulse is stilled and the eyes are dim,

Where goeth the soul that, goes out with him?


Suggested by reading ''Lights and Shades in San Francisco."


Out from a narrow, crowded street,
Sick'ning resort of shame and crime,

Wearing upon her brow a curse.
Out in the darkness, lost to sight.
Out in the dreary Winter night,

Fleeing a fate than Nessus worse.
On through the gathering and dew
'Till the fog-wrapped city is hid from view ;

'Till the rugged cliffs with the waters meet,
And the mingled voices from every clime

And the hurrying tramp of reckless feet
Are drowned in the breaker's sobbing rhyme.
But farther out than this ocean beach,
Farther than Charity's hands will reach,
Farther than Pity dares to come,
Is she who rushes, with white lips dumb,
To repeat the tale that too oft is told —
Out in the cold.

From the loathsome dens whose scenes appal,
Whose tainted breath is the Simoon's blast ;

Away on the dizzying, surf-washed rock,
Pausing a moment upon the brink —
Pausing a moment perchance to think ;


Sliding the bolt on Memory's lock,
And back in its dusky, haunted hall,
Living again the vanished past —
Living her happy childhood o'er;

Chasing the butterflies over the flowers,
Petted and loved, a child again,

Dreaming away the golden hours ;
Living again another scene.
Flattered and toasted " beauty's queen ; "
Taking again, with a merry laugh.
From gallant hands a sparkling draught.
O, angels, tell her 'tis a draught of woe !
That ruin lies in its amber glow.
Over the rest let oblivion fall.
Cover it up with a funeral pall ;
Turn away with a shudder and groan,
Let her live it over alone.

Few are the months, as they count, since then ;
Short and joyous they else had been
That to anguished heart and maddened brain
Are long decades of woe and pain.
Over, again, on the wings of thought.
Treading the path which her ruin wrought ;
Over, again, each step she went,
From the sunny home to the swift descent,
Where sin lies hid 'neath a gilded pile,
Down to the haunts of the low and vile.
One more step and it all is done.


Only a shriek the midnight breaks —
Only a splash in the waves below,

A wider ripple the water makes.
The rock is bare by the ocean side —
A death-white face with the ebbing tide
Is floating away from the headland bold —
Out in the cold.

A lifeless form, in the wintry dawn,

Left on the sand by a rising swell ;
A story of weakness, shame, and wrong

Mutely the frozen features tell.
Noiseless fall on it, tears of dew,

Over it softly the breezes blow ;
Wavelets kissing the tangled hair,

Murmur a requiem sad and low.
Out to the barren, bleak hillside

Rough hands bear it with scorn and jest.
Cradled once in a mother's arms —

Once by a mother's fond lips pressed —
Under the clods of a new-made grave ;

A rough-hewn board at the foot and head,
Where never a flower of love shall wave ;

Left with a city's nameless dead —
Left with her fate unwept, untold-
Out in the cold.



Watching the shadows, the fire-hght shadows,

That gather and play on the wall ;
Dark, flitting shadows, fanciful shadows,

That gather and rise and fall.
Reading- the fire-shadows' language of shadows,

Pages of darkness and light — •
Watching, watching,

Watching the shadows to-night.

Watching the shadows, the fire-light shadows.

That over the wall fitful pla^j
Dreaming of shadows, dreaming of shadows.

Deep, darker shadows than they.
Heart-shading shadows, soul-darkening shadows.

Flitting in memory's light —
Dreaming, dreaming.

Watching the shadows to-night.

Watching the shadows, the fire-light shadows.

Merrily dancing about,
Wondering if heart-shadows vanish like shadows,

When life's fitful flame has gone out ;
Wondering if shadows are deep; darker shadows,

^ons of ages of blight ;

Wondering, wondering,

Watching the shadows to-night.



I give thee back thy fickle heart,

Thy faithless vows I've spurned,
I bury deep the blighted hopes

That in my bosom burned.

Yet who had thought a brow so fair,

From guile so seeming free,
A voice so sweet, so winning rare,

So treacherous could be ?

Who would have dreamed a form that seemed

Proud Honor's templed shrine.
Could hold within an urn of sin

A soul so false as thine?

Nor strange 'twould be, if ne'er again.

Till age had wasted youth.
That heart betrayed by such as thou

Could trust in human truth.

But go ! and though thy wiles no more

"Will move my heart to strife.
Canst glad thy vain soul with the thought

That thou hast wrecked a life.



In the twilight gray and shadowy.

Deepening o'er the sunset's glow,
Through the still, mysterious dimness

Flitting shadows come and go.

As my thoughts in listless wandermg
With these phantom shadows fly,

Meseems they wear the forms of faces.
Faces loved in days gone by.

One by one I recognize them

As they silent gather near ;
Some are loving, childish faces,

Knowing naught of grief or fear. -

Some are blooming, youthful faces.

Victory confident to win,
Some are from the contest shrinking,

Wearied with the strife and din.

Some are aged, wrinkled faces.
Time life's sands has nearly run ;

Not a leaflet spared of Springtime,
Not a furrow left undone.


Other faces, sweet, sad faces,

Wafted o'er the Lethean sea,
Radiant smile in twilight shadows,

But they came not back to me.

In the twilight, dreamy twilight,

When the sultry day is gone,
Softly over vale and hillside,

Tenderly as blush of dawn.

Come the timid evening breezes,
Sighing through the Summer leaves,

Transient as thought's pencil-paintings,
Sweet as weft that fancy weaves.

And as shadows in the twilight

Shapeful forms of faces wear.
So these dainty, light-winged zephyrs

To my hearing, voices are.

Voices whose sad intonations

Seemingly, as flit they past.
Bring to memory hopes long shattered,

Blissful dreams too bright to last.

Voices, merry, laughing voices,

Fondly loved in other years,
Mournfully are whispering to me

That their mirth was drowned in tears.


Telling of a fairer fortune
Far away 'neath tropic skies,

Telling of a broken circle,

Scattered friends and severed ties.

Other kindly, loving voices,

Winning in the long ago,
Tell me now, and then they told me,

"Thou canst live for weal or woe."

Are these weird and mystic voices
But creations of the brain ?

Only in illusive fancy

Must I hear their tones agam ?

Would some magic power lend me
Aid to stay the witching tone,

Art to paint the beauteous picture
Ere its impress swift has flown.

While I dreamed the day has faded,
Stars are shining overhead,

Evening winds have ceased to whisper,
Twilight's shadows all have fled.

Thus, too oft, our life-work seemeth,
And we, when disowned its sway.

Find we are pursuing phantoms,
Shadows in the twilight gray.



Friend of my heart, you say to me

That your belief is this —
That heaven is but a vision rare

Of pure, ethereal bliss.

And life there but a dream enhanced,

Where never sound alarms ;
Where flowers ne'er fade and skies ne'er cloud,

And voiceless music charms —

And save, as see we in our dreams

The dear ones gone before,
The friends that here we knew and loved,

We'll know and love no more.

An endless and unbroken rest,

N or change, nor night nor day.
Where aimless, as in sleep, we'll dream

Eternity away.

Sweet friend of mine, that Heaven of thine

Methinks is overblest;
We could not work on earth enough

To need so long a rest.

Great Nature's hand, its every plan,

Has laid in wise design.
But what design, or use, is in

This theory of thine ?


If, when our earth-career is done,
All conscious life must cease,

And we drift on, and on, and on,
In endless, dreamy peace —

If Heaven is but a mystic spell,
Whose glowing visions thrall.

Why should we have a life beyond ?
Why have a Heaven at all ?


Farewell, my darling, fare thee well.

Life hence has only dearth ;
With thee it were too sweet a dream —

Too much of Heaven, for earth.
Thou dost not know the depth of pain

This parting gives to me.

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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerPoems → online text (page 3 of 5)