Madge Morris Wagner.

Debris : selection from poems online

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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 hold-
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 .



TO JENNIE. 6l

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



TO JENNIE.

Farewell my darling, fare thee well,

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

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

This parting gives to me,
Nor how, as time drags weary on,

My soul will sigh for thee.

Each loved one that thou leavest here,

Some other love may wear,
Each heart will have some other heart

Its loneliness to share.
But I have nothing, darling, left

You re all the world to me
And only God and Heaven can know



OF THE
UNIVERSITY




62 WATCHING THE SHADOWS.



WATCHING THE SHADOWS.

Watching the shadows, the fire-light 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 play ;
Dreaming of shadows, dreaming of shadows,

Deep, darker shadows than they.
Heart-shading shadows, souWarkening 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 HEART. 63



GIVE THEE BACK THY HEART.

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.



64 LIGHT BEYOND.



LIGHT BEYOND.

Is your heart bowed down with sorrow ;

Does your lot the hardest seem ;
Think you of a brighter morrow,

Of a fairer future dream.

Have your prospects all been blighted ;

Has each promise proved a snare ;
Deepest wrongs are sometime righted,

Never yield you to despair.

Has the slanderer s tongue unsparing
Ruthless tarnished with its stain ;

Was your good name worth the wearing-
Go and win it back again.

Would you rest where sunshine lingers ;

You must toil the darkness through ;
Only work with willing fingers,

Only live you brave and true.

Never care or trouble borrow,
"Trouble s real if it seems"

Ever see a bright to-morrow,

Though you see it but in dreams.



A NEGLECTED " WOMAN S RIGHT." 65



A NEGLECTED " WOMAN S RIGHT."

I have listened to this cry of " Woman s Rights," this
clamoring for the ballot, for redress for woman s wrongs,
and I could but think, amid it all, that there is one
" woman s right " the right that could make the widest
redress for woman s wrongs which she holds in her own
hands and does not exercise. It is the right to defend,
to uplift and ennoble womankind ; to be as lenient to a
plea for mercy from a fallen woman as though that plea
had come from the lips of a fallen man ; to throw
around her also the broad mantle of charity, and if she
would try to reform, give her a chance. Far be it from
any honest woman to countenance the abandoned
wretch who plies an unholy calling in defiance of all
morality, for her very breath is contamination ; but why
should you greet with smiles and warmest handclasps
of friendship the man who pays his money for her
blackened soul ? When two human beings ruled by the
same mysterious nature, have yielded to temptations and
fallen, what is this monster of social distinction that
excuses the sin of one as a folly or indiscretion, while it
makes that of the other a crime, which a lifetime cannot
retrieve ? It is a strange justice that condones the fault
of one while it condemns the other even to death ; that
gives to one, when dead, funeral rite and Christian
burial and to the other the Morgue and a dishonored



66 A NEGLECTED " WOMAN S RIGHT."

grave, simply because one is a strong man and the other
a weak woman. And it is a stranger, sadder truth that
tis woman s influence which metes out this justice to
woman. Mother, if you must look with scorn and con
tempt upon the woman who through her love for some
man has gone down to destruction, do not smilingly ac
knowledge her paramour a worthy suitor for your own
unsullied daughter. Maiden, if you must sneeringly
raise your white hand and push back into the depths of
pollution the woman who seeks to reinstate herself in
the path of rectitude, do not permit the man who keeps
half a dozen mistresses to clasp his arm around your
waist and whirl you away to the soft measure of the
"Beautiful Blue Danube." If the ban of society for
bids that you say to a penitent sin-sick sister, " Go and
sin no more," if you must consign her to the life of in
famy which inevitably follows the deaf ear which you
turn upon her appeal, then do it ; but in God s name do
not turn around and throw open the doors of your homes
and welcome to the sanctity of your family altars the
man who enticed her to ruin. Ah, woman, by your
tireless efforts you may win the right to vote, your voice
may be heard in the Assembly Halls of the Nation; but
if you administer as one-sided a justice in political life
as you do in social life, the reform for which you pray
will never come !



WOULD YOU CARE ? 67



WOULD YOU CARE?

All day on my pillow I wearily lay,

With a stabbing pain at my heart,
With throbbing temples, and a feverish thirst

Burning, my lips apart.
If I longed for a touch of your soft, strong hand,

For you one little minute there ;
For a smile, or a kiss, or a word to bless,

Would you blame me, love ? would you eare ?

When the long, long, lonesome day was done,

And you never for a moment came,
If I tried to shut you out of my heart,

Impatient at your name ;
If disappointment s bitter sting

Was harder than pain to bear,
If I turned away with a doubting frown,

Would you blame me, love ? would you care ?

Should I die to-night, and you saw me not

Again till my soul had fled
With its vain request, and my features wore

The white hue of the dead-
Would you place just once, in a last caress,

Your hand on my death-damp hair ?
Would you give me a thought, or a fond regret?

Would you kiss me, love ? would you care ?



68 A THOUGHT OF HEAVEN.



A THOUGHT OF HEAVEN.

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,

Nor 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.



A THOUGHT OF HEAVEN. 69

Our human nature could not be

Content with rest like this,
And even bliss would cloy, if we

Had nothing else but bliss.

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 ?




70 CONSOLANCE.



CONSOLANCE.

"Be brave?" why, yes, I will ; I ll never more despair;

Who could, with such sweet comforting as yours ?
How, like the voice that stilled the tempest air,

Your mild philosophy its reasoning pours.

Go you and build a temple to the skies, and make

Your soul an alter-offering on the pile ;
Then, from its lightning-riven ruin, take

Your crushed and bleeding self, and calmly smile.

When loud, and fierce, and wild, a storm sweeps o er
your rest,

Say that it soothes you brings you peace again ;
Laugh while the hot steel quivers in your breast,

And " make believe " you love the scorching pain.

See every earthly thing your life is woven round,
Fall, drop by drop, until your heart is seived !

Go mad, and writhe, and moan upon the ground,

And curse and die, and say that you have prayed and
lived !

Then come to me, as now, and I will take your hand,
And look upon your face and smile and say :

" All were not born to hold a magic wand ;

Cheer up, my friend, you must be brave alway. M



WHEN THE ROSES GO. 71



WHEN THE ROSES GO.

You tell me you love me ; you bid me believe
That never such lover could mean to deceive.
You tell me the tale which a million times
Has been told, and talked, and sung in rhymes ;
You rave o er my "eyes" and my "beautiful hair,"
And swear to be true, as they always swear ;
But the wrinkles will grow, and the roses go,
And lovers are rovers oft, you know,
When the roses go.

I have heard of a woman, sweet and fair,
With dewy lips and shining hair,
And you pledged to her, on your bended knee,
The self-same vow you make to me.
She was fairer far than I, I know ;
She was pure and true, and she loved you so ;
But the wrinkles will grow, and the roses go
How she learned that trouble comes, you know,
When the roses go.

You re a man in each outward sense, I trow,
With the stamp of a god on your peerless brow.
You hold my hand in your thrilling clasp,
And my heart grows weak in your subtle grasp,
Till I blush in the light of your tender eyes,



72 THE DIFFERENCE.

And dream of a far-off paradise
Almost forgetting that ever from there
Another was turned in her bleak despair.
But the wrinkles will grow, and the roses go
I will answer you, love, my love, you know,
When the roses go.



THE DIFFERENCE.

With odds all against him, struggling to gain
From fortune a name, with life to maintain,
Toiling in sunshine, toiling in rain,
Never waiting a blessing Heaven-sent,
Working and winning his way as he went
Whether he starved, or sumptuously fared,
Nobody knew and nobody cared.

With success-crowned effort that fate had defied,
That wrought out from fortune what favor denied,
Standing aloof from the world in his pride ;
The niche he has carved on fame s slippery wall
Friends are proclaiming with heraldry-call.
His Croesus-bright scepter has magical sway,
Yester s indifference solicits to-day.
His daring, his triumph, how daily he fares,
Every one knows, and anxiously cares.



BEWARE. 73



BEWARE!

Beautiful maiden,

So daintily fair,
Thy rosy-hued lips,

Thy soft, flowing hair,
Symmetric perfection,

Sweet, winning face,
The charms that thou wearest

A palace might grace ;
And yet thy bright beauty

May wreek and despair.
Beautiful maiden,

Beware ! oh, beware !

There are flattering tongues

That twere death to believe,
And lovers who woo

But to win and deceive ;
For innocent feet

There is many a snare.
Beautiful maiden,

Beware ! oh, beware !



74 A REGRET.



A REGRET.

Close on my heart was resting

A sunny golden head,
As the dim gray of the twilight

Crept round with noiseless tread.

" Tell me a tory, mamma,"

The blue-eyed baby said,
" About some itty birdie

In za itty birdie bed.

" Bout fen oo was itty

An ze mens was wakin hay
An found free ittie birdies
Wiz za muzzer don away."

" Some other time, my darling ;

Mamma s tired now."
A shade of disappointment
Swept over baby s brow.

The dear blue eyes grew misty ;

O, lips that lived to blame,
That kissed and whispered " sometime "-

That " sometime " never came.



"IT IS LIFE TO DIE." 75

Again the dim, gray twilight

Creeps round with noiseless tread,

But on my heart is resting
No sunny golden head.

No sweet voice pleads with mamma

" Tell me a tory " now,
And only death can take away

The shadow on my brow.



"IT IS LIFE TO DIE."

" It is life to die," the muse has sung,

The prophet words have rung from pole to pole,
The trust, the hope to which have many clung,
An echo woke in many a weary soul.

" Ah ! welcome thrice if but that death would come

As sweeps the avalanche from Alpine hight,
As falls the flashing storm-sent lightning-bolt,
Resistless in its terror and its might.

But oh ! to die by slowest slow decay,

To clothe a dying heart in life s warm breath,

When every day repeats a long eternity,
And every hour is

OF THE





76 O, SPEAK IT NOT.

O, God ! why were we born to live a life,

From very thought of which our souls must shrink,

To sink down in the waves of human strife,
And ever only wait, and wait and think.

No wonder that so many hapless ones,

Too sensitive the specter to defy,
Arm, Hamlet-like, against a sea of woes,

And test the truth, that " it is life to die."



0, SPEAK IT NOT.

O, speak not hastily the word

Thine ear from idle tongues has heard.
If false the tale thou couldst recall,

How hard and cruel must it fall ?
If true, why, helping it along

Will never, never right the wrong.
O, speak it not, nor speak the word

That wounds, though but in jest tis heard
Keep back the thrust, the look askance,

The petty doubt, the sneering glance ;
Keep back the taunts and jeers,

Life has enough of breaking heajts,
Of pointed barbs and venomed darts

Enough of pain and tears.



A SHATTERED IDOL. 77



A SHATTERED IDOL.

blame me not for the cruel words
In a moment of madness said ;

The shadow that fell upon my life,
Is cold as the shrouded dead.

Deem not I am hard and heartless ;
My tears are as warm as thine ;

Twas clay that I crowned and worshiped,
And wept o er its crumbled shrine.

To me, my passionate, deathless soul,

Was less than his finger-tips ;
He turned away from the gold of my love

For the dross on a wanton s lips.
My faith in his truth is broken

Even truth itself is a lie.

1 have cursed him ! but I love him,

And I ll love him till I die.



7 8 POOR LITTLE JOE.



POOR LITTLE JOE.

A ring on the door bell,

Some one at the door,
Mute asking admittance

Where never before
A stranger in midnight,

In silence and stealth,
Sought access to gain

In a mansion of wealth.
Into the gaslight

A package is borne ;
Quickly from round it

The wrappings are torn.
What is it ? a baby !

What seek you to-night,
So rosy and smiling,

Nor in fear, nor in fright ?

Ah ! little intruder,

What is it you wear
So close to your breast ?

Sure but hand in despair
Could have written the message

Unconscious you bear,
And "loved" and "God blessed" you

While leaving you there.



POOR LITTLE JOE. 79

Let s see what the story

Tis telling for you ;
How brief and pathetic ;

But can it be true ?
A mother heart brokenly

Praying in grief
From hand of a stranger

Her baby s relief.
" He s helpless and homeless,

But stainless as snow ;
O, take him and keep him

My poor little Joe. "

That s all there is of it,

If false or if true ;
Yet long enough seems it,

And sad enough, too.
No love-welcome greeted

The sweet baby face,
In the life that gave his life

There was not a place.
No place for the baby,

There s none for him here,
No heart that may give him

A smile or a tear.
Off to the refuge,

For such, he must go,
He s only a foundling

Poor little Joe.



80 FATE.



Deserted, forsaken,

Thrust out in the strife,

Adrift on the pitiless
Ocean of life.

What will become of him,
Who may decide

If good or if evil
His life shall betide.

No tender caresses
F,ver to know,

Nor guidance, nor blessing-
Poor little Joe.



FATE.

Ruth was a laughing-eyed prattler,
Thoughtless, and happy, and free ;

She planted a seed in the garden,
And said : " It will grow to a tree
A beautiful blossoming tree."

The birds and the squirrels played round it,
As careless and merry was she,

But no tree ever grew from her planting
No beautiful blossoming tree.



FATE. 8 1

Ruth was a winsome-faced maiden,

Happy, and hopeful, and free ;
She planted a seed in the garden,

And smilingly waited to see
A beautiful blossoming tree.

She covered the ground up with flowers,

The butterfly came, and the bee,
But no tree ever grew from her planting

No beautiful blossoming tree.

Ruth was a pale saddened woman,
Thoughtful, with tremblings and fears,

She planted a seed in the garden,

And watered the place with her tears

And watched it with tremblings and fears.

The winds and the rains beat upon it,
The lightnings flashed o er it in glee ;

But she sleeps neath the tree of her planting
A beautiful blossoming tree.




I

82 THE GHOSTS IN THE HEART.



THE GHOSTS IX THE HEART.

They came in the hush of the midnight,
In the glare of the noonday start

Out from the graves \ve made them
The graves we made in the heart.

There is love with its fickle fancies ;

Its grave was so wide and deep,
And we heaped the mound with oblivion,

But the soul of love could not sleep.

And hate ! ah, we buried it deeper

Than all the rest of the train ;
But one word through memory flashing,

And its ghost comes back again.

There are phantoms of sunshiny hours
That fled when the summer time fled,

And specters that mock while they haunt us,
Long buried, but never dead.

And ever and ever an hour

Will come that the heart-wraiths control,
Till down from Eternity s tower

A banshee shall ring for the soul.



ONLY A TRAMP. 83



ONLY A TRAMP.

Only a tramp by the roadside dead,

Only a tramp who cares ?
His feet are bare, his dull eyes stare,

And the wind plays freaks with his unkempt hair.
The sun rose up and the sun went down,

But nobody missed him from the town
Where he begged for bread till the day was dead.

He s only a tramp who cares ?
Only a tramp, a nuisance gone.

One more tramp less who cares ?

Ghastly and gray, in the lane all day,
A soiled, dead heap of human clay.

Would the wasted crumbs in the rich man s hall,
Where the gas-lights gleam and the curtains fall,

Have given him a longer lease of breath
Have saved the wretch from starving to death ?

He s only a tramp who cares ?

Only a tramp ! was he ever more
Than a beggar tramp ? Who cares ?

Was the hard-lined face ever dimpled and sweet ?
Has a mother kissed those rough brown feet,

And thought their tramping a sweeter strain
Than ever will waken her ear again ?



84 PUT FLOWERS ON MY GRAVE.

Does somebody kneel way over the sea,

Praying " Father, bring back my boy to me ? "

Does somebody watch and weep and pray

For the tramp who lies dead in the lane to-day >
He s only a tramp who cares ?



PUT FLOWERS OX MY GRAVE.

When dead, no imposing funeral rite,

Nor line of praise I crave ;
But drop your tears upon my face

Put flowers on my grave.

Close not in narrow wall the place
In which my heart finds rest,

Nor mark with tow ring monument
The sod above my breast.

Nor carve on gleaming, marble slab
A burning thought, or deed,

Or word of love, or praise, or blame,
For stranger eyes to read.

But deep, deep in your heart of hearts,
A tender mem ry save ;

Upon my dead face drop your tears-
Put flowers on my grave.



OLD AUNT LUCY. 85



OLD AUNT LUCY.

Why into that darkened chamber
Walk you with such noiseless tread ?

No slumbering one will awaken
The sheeted form is dead.

Why gaze on the rigid features,
So white in death s embrace,

With such look of awe and pity ?
Tis only the same old face.

Why touch you now so tender

The hands that silent lay?
They re only the sunburned fingers

That toiled for you night and day.

Why now, with tear-dimmed vision,

So softly do you press
Upon the wrinkled forehead

Your lips in sad caress ?

How much of care had lighted
That lingering, loving kiss,

Had you in life but gave it
You never thought of this.



86 OLD AUNT LUCY.

No loving hand e er brightened
Her life with tender care,

No mother s baby-kisses
Were ever hers to share.

Only for others caring,

The long, long years have fled ;
Now, only, they say, the neighbors
" Poor old Aunt Lucy s dead. "

And they whisper a girl s ambition,
A name in the world to make ;

Way back in her vanished youth-time,
Gave up for a duty s sake.

But whatever had been the story
Of love, or grief, or woe,

It died with the heart, and no one
Will ever care or know.

The hands were hard and toil-stained,
And sallow the cheeks and chin,

But whiter not the snow-wreath
Than the soul that dwelt within.

And methinks a crown resplendent
Just over the waveless sea

With gems of self-denial,
Awaits for such as she.



UNSPOKEN WORDS. 87



UNSPOKEN WORDS.

Unspoken words may thrill the heart,

Their meaning be more deeply felt
Than all the glowing oratory

Poured at the shrine where reason knelt.
The fairest pictures art conceives,

The noblest sentiments of mind,
The loveliest, purest gems of thought

Are those which never are defined.

The hand that paints the rainbow dyes

Ne er leaves a trace its skill to show
The art that gilds the sunset skies

And tints the flower, we may not know.
Nor may we know the wizard power

Which o er our being wields control,
Nor how, when silence seals the lips,

Heart speaks to heart and soul to soul.

We do not know from whence the life

Imbued in crystal drop of rain,
Nor why, when torn and trampled on,

The rose s fragrance will remain.
Nor know we why the tender tone

Will linger when love s dream is fled,
Nor why the smile we loved will live,

Although the face it wreathed be dead.




UNSPOKEN WORDS.

Some strangely fascinating spell

Steals o er the heart in ethic s hour ;
We know not what, nor how, nor why,

Still must we own we feel its power
A power that wakens slumbering dreams,

Intangible emotion swells,
That penetrates the soul s deep fount,

And greets the tide that from it wells.

It is not charm of form or face,

Nor is it long contact of years
That wins this mutual soul response,

This spirit sympathy endears.
A theory by time engraved

From life, one mad impulse may sweep-
A glance may into being start

Vain hopes that nevermore may sleep.

The quiet touch when hands are clasped

Would seemingly no sense impart,
Yet may it wake a deathless theme

And send it quivering to the heart.
And thus may kindred spirits feel,

Though tone of voice be never heard,
The sweet, impassioned eloquence,

The magic of unspoken words.



O ! TAKE AWAY YOUR FLOWERS. 89



0! TAKE AWAY YOUR FLOWERS.

! take your pale camelias back ;
Their soft leaves, waxen white

And odorless, too ill accord
With my dark mood to-night.

1 do not want your hot-house flowers,
They re like the love you give

A something tame and passionless
That breathes but does not live.

You take my hand as though you feared

Your clasp were over-bold,
Your kiss falls light at flake of snow,

And just as calm and cold.

I d rather have your hatred
Than this lifeless loving claim,

If your heart beat one throb faster
At mention of my name.

Leave me, and bind those soulless leaves

A calmer brow above ;


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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerDebris : selection from poems → online text (page 3 of 4)