Madge Morris Wagner.

Debris : selection from poems online

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Lived but for selfish love of living,

Though idle hours went by thee never,
The hours are lost to thee forever.


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 can 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.

i DON T CARE." 33


" I don t care," we hear it oft

And oft, the words are seeming fair ;
But many a heartache lies beneath
A careless " I don t care !"

In every age, from every tongue,

The vain assertions fell ;
But oh, trust not the cheating words,

For never the truth they tell !
Hearts may grow sick with hope deferred,

Be crushed with black despair,
But lips, too proud to own defeat,

Will whisper, " I don t care !"

A thoughtless friend flings out in jest-
As jesters always do

A deadly shaft you wince beneath,
You know the story s true ;

But while the dart has pierced your heart,
And poisoned, rankles there,

You look amused, and answer with
A smiling, " I don t care !"

When Fortune s favors are withdrawn,

And friends like shadows fled,
When all your fondest dreams are gone,

34 "i DON T CARE."

Your dearest hopes are dead,
You curse the fickle goddess, then,

Who wrought you such despair,
Yet hide chagrin beneath a frown,

And mutter, " I don t care ! "

The veteran, battle-scarred, who fills

A nation s honored place,
Feels keener than his sabers point,

Unmerited disgrace.
With indignation all aflame

He meets some rival s stare ;
But for all answer gives the world

A freezing " I don t care ! "

A woman s heart is trifled with,

Her hopes are ground to dust,
Her proud soul humbled with neglect,

Betrayed her sacred trust,
Yet, while to desperation stung,

With death and ruin there,
She ll crush the tears and cheat you with

A laughing " I don t care ? "

" I don t care ! " tis but a breath,

The words are seeming fair,
But many a heartache lies beneath
A careless " I don t care ! "



Some lillies 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 lillies
Were gathered one by one,

Each to crown a festal
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 s breast.


And all the proud, white lillies
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 lillies

Stand as cold, and proud,
And still the weeds and thistles

Against the lillies crowd.

Alike the same warm sunbeams,

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

And the great God made them all.


I love thee for the soul that shines
Within thine eyes soft beaming,

From out whose depths the prisoned fires
Of intellect are gleaming.

I love thee for the mind that soars
Beyond earth s narrow keeping,

That measures suns, and stars, and worlds,
Through boundless limits sweeping.

I love thee for the voice whose power

Can in my heart awaken
To passioned life each slumbering chord

The ruder tones have shaken.





Thou ne er, perchance, mayst feel the chain
With which this love has bound thee,

Nor dream thee of the hand that flung
Its glittering links around thee.

And vainly mayst thou deem the task
Thy captive bonds to sever

Who madly dares to love thee now
Will love thee on forever.


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

And the voices that lisped 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 from the shining door,
And smiled and beckoned ; the other

Unconsciously 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.


Good-bye, sweetheart, he said, and clasped her hand,
And rained his kisses on her tear-wet face ;

Then broke away, and in a foreign land.

For her dear sake, sought gold, that he might place


Love s jewelled crown upon his queen s fair brow,
And pour his hard-won treasures at her feet ;

And swore, than Heaven, than life itself, his vow
To her he held more sacred and more sweet.

She waited as the woman only may

Whose eyes are blinded oft with unshed tears ;

Lines on her forehead grew, and threads of gray ;
The weary days crept into weary years.

" Oh stars, go down ! Oh sun, be shrouded now !

My love comes not ; he does not live," she said ;
And brushed the curls he d kissed back from her brow,

And put on mourning for her dead.

And still as oft the day came round that he
Had left his warm good-bye upon her lips,

As oft she sought the head-land by the sea,

And longing watched the far-off white-sailed ships.

To-day, the low sand-beach was over-strewn ;

Torn sail, and broken spar and human form,
Gulfed by the waves, and crushed, and then out-thrown

A ship went down in yester-night s wild storm.

She walked among the debris, and the dead,
As some sweet mercy-sister on her round,

Scanning each up-turned face with nameless dread,
For aught of life ; her tireless searching found


A babe a waif with tawny tangled locks,
And great blue eyes with wonder brimming o er ;

Of all the human freight wrecked on the rocks,
The only living thing that washed ashore.

A pearl-gemmed golden case upon its breast
She oped, then stared, her eyes a-sudden wild,

A name, a pictured face told all the rest ;
His name his face his child !


I m a century old and more to-day,
A ripe old age for a modern man,

Yet they who rocked my cradle, they say,
Predicted a thousand years my span ;

They christened me at the fount of prayer,

And gave me a star-gemmed robe to wear.

My first free breath was the battle-smoke,
And prayerful nurses did not abhor

The sounds that first my ear awoke
The clash and din and shout of war.

They pressed in my hand a crown of might

And pointed my way to the eagle s flight.



Cannon and sword were my playthings to bless,

(Dangerous toys for a babe to try,)
The stirring reveille my morn caress,

The wild tattoo was my lullaby;
And well, methinks, as the years have run,
Have I wrought the work my sires begun.

An infant prodigy I, and ere

Expired a tenth of my granted day,

I wrested from lion-grasp the spear
A nation s power I held in sway;

I broke the gyves from freedom s graves,

And steam and lightning I bound my slaves.

I flung my starred robe on the breeze,

From burning tropic to arctic cold.
On distant isles, in distant seas,

A foot-hold gained with sword and gold.
Atlantic s slope and Pacific s strand
I bound together with iron band.

But of late I ve premature grown old ;

There s something wrong with the clothes I wear;
There is something wrong with the helm I hold,

Else I hold it wrong, there s wrong somewhere.
Disease too has thrown me his poisoned dart;
His workman are " striking " right at my heart.

My head is so strangely vision thrilled
With plans to evade the demon s stay,


But all the plots that my brain have filled
Only have served to augment his sway,
And on my feet, at the sunset s door,
Is spreading a troublesome grievous sore.

I m growing ill I can plainly see,

And many prescribe my pain to ease,

But somehow each medicine proves to be
"A remedy worse than the disease."

Though strong as ever, should once my strength

Give way, I must fall a fearful length.

My doctors say they know the cause,

And they ve gone to work with eager zest,

Probed and expounded with weighty straws,
And leeches applied to my troubled breast ;

I fee them well, as attests my purse,

Bm, day after day I m growing worse.

Though they have not yet touched the cause they

And are wrangling over its direful flood,
They promise to build me better than new,

And stop the drain on my famished blood ;
But lest they re careful while building the dam
They ll scoop out a grave for "Uncle Sam."



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 again

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.



A little maid, with sweet brown eyes,
Upraised to mine in sad surprise;
I held two tiny hands in mine,

I kissed the little maid farewell.
Her cheeks to deeper crimson flushed,

The sweet, shy glances downward fell ;
From rosy lips came ah ! so low
" I love you, do not go ! "

I see it through the lapse of years
This picture, ofttimes blurred with tears.
No tiny hands in mine are held,

No sweet brown eyes my pulses wake-
Only in memory a voice

E er bids me stay for love s sweet sake.


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

Don t count the days any more ;
Old Santa Claus will soon 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, must 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 little 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 the door.




Hurrying out to 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 paitently 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.



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."


Only a l< 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 has bound

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.


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.



Good-bye ! Good-bye !
Once pledged we fondly o er and o er
That nought should cloud our love s bright sky ;
Once thought we that we could not stay
Apart and live. But oh ! for us
Fate willed it not to linger thus.
To-day earth s wintry poles apart
Are further not than we in heart,
Nor colder than our sunless way.
Passion and pride can do no more,
And you and I can only say

Good-bye ! Good-bye !

Good-bye ! Good-bye !
So sad it seems the sound of tears,
So sad it seems life s parting sigh,
And yet, alas ! it can but be.
Deserted, ghostly wrecks of dreams
Once freighted with Hope s golden gleams,
Wrecks drifting on a sullen sea,
To mock the memory-haunted years,
Are all now left to you and me.

Good-bye ! Good-bye !



In the twilight gray and shadowy,
Deepening o er the sunset s glow,

Softly through the mystic dimness
Flitting shadows come and go.

As my thoughts in listless wandering
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 care.

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,
Quietly o er 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, as 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 again ?

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.



" How many times and oft" has the sweet, sweet word
been sung in song and told in story. And he sang
sweetest of home, who had never a home on earth. If
one to whom home was only a poet s dream, could por
tray its charms by only imagination, until a million hearts
thrilled with responsive echo, how deeper, how more in
tense must be his longings and recollections who treas
ures, deep down in his heart the sweet delights and pure
associations that he has known, but never may know
again. We do not appreciate our blessings until they
have passed. We do not try to gather the sunbeams
until the clouds have obscured them.

How many and many a youth, brave-hearted and true,
answers with eager haste the war call of his native land
all heedless of the home he is leaving, and the loving
arms that sheltered him there. But when his soldier s
blood is crimsoning the sands beneath a foreign sky, the
thoughts that go with his ebbing life are of home all of

Who rushes from his home out into the world, blind
devotee of fortune s phantom goddess, to realize a
phantom indeed, sits down in his despondency and his
despair, to dream of "dear old home."

56 HOME.

Yes, too, and the wretch so seemingly depraved that
nothing beautiful or pure of soul is left who flings from
him his life in mad suicide, goes out into that trackless
eternity with home upon the lips of death. Then if the
patter of baby s feet, the glad ring of children s voices
echo within the walls of your home, if father and mother,
and brothers and sisters brighten it with the sunshine of
love, enjoy it while you may, make it your heaven, and
be not in over-haste to break the ties that bind you there.

You may never weep, perchance, over a home made
desolate by death ; and yet, time so surely as time is
will make it but only a memory. And all too late each
heart will learn that it did not prize enough the blessed
ness of home.

WHY? 57


Why is it we grasp at the shadow
That flits from us swift as thought,

While the real that maketh the shadow
Stands in our way unsought ?

And why do we wonder, and wonder,
What s beyond the hill-tops of thought ?

Why is it the things that we sigh for
Are the things that we never can reach ?

Why, only the sternest experience
A lession of patience can teach ?

And why hold we so careless and lightly
The treasures that are in our reach ?

Why is it we wait for the future,

Or dwell on the scenes of the past,
Rather than live in the present

Hastening from us so fast ?
Why is it the prizes we toil for,

So tempting in fancy s mould cast,
Prove, when to our lips we have pressed them,

Only dead-sea apples at last ?
And why are the crowns, and the crosses,

So wondrous inequally classed ?



Ask it, ye, over and over,

Let the winds waft your question on high,
Till memory wanes with the ages,

Till the stars in eternity die.
And out from the bloom and the sunshine,

From the rainbow o erarching the sky,
From the night and the gloom and the tempest,

Echo will answer you, " Why ? "

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 mist 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 breakers 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 loathesome dens whose scenes appal,
Whose tainted breath s the Simoom s blast ;

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

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

Chasing the butterflies over the flowers,
Petted and loved, a girl 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.

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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerDebris : selection from poems → online text (page 2 of 4)