Madge Morris Wagner.

Debris : selection from poems online

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Online LibraryMadge Morris WagnerDebris : selection from poems → online text (page 4 of 4)
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I cannot wear your flowers to-night

I do not want your love.

90 RAIN.


Drop ! drop ! drop !

With a ceaseless patter fall,
With a sobbing sound on the sodden ground,

And the gray clouds over all.
Dost weep of the parted summer,

O, spirit of the rain ?
For the vanished hours and the faded flowers

That never can come again ?

The farmer smiles at thy weeping,

Hushing the whispering leaves,
And dreams of days in the Autumn haze

And the gathered golden sheaves.
There s a voice of hope, a promise,

In the sound of thy refrain,
And as bright the hours and as fair the flowers

That will come to thee again.

And yet in our lives, though knowing

That we hold a scepter s sway,
How oft we turn with the thoughts that burn.

To weep on Autumn day.
Turn from the hopeful future

To weep in grief and pain,
For the vanished hours and the faded flowers

That never can come again.



They praise the baby s dimpled hands,

His brow so broad and fair,
They kiss the dainty rose-bud mouth,

Caress the sunny hair.
His lisping words, his tottling steps,

His smiles they praise and prize,
They love him for his cunning ways,

I love him for his eyes.

The wealth of golden tinted curls

Old Time will streak with snow ;
The rose-bud mouth so dainty curved

To sterner lines will grow.
The fleeting years will mark with change

Each feature now they prize,
Save only the sweet eyes I love

I love him for him eyes.

Those wondrous, wondrous soulful eyes,

How strange the spell they fling
Unconsciously around my heart ;

What memories they bring !
What buried hours come thronging back-

A distant, dearer clime
Another pair of love-lit eyes,

Another summer time.

9 2 ONLY.

Oh, baby, take your eyes away :

They burn into my heart !
I ll kiss you once, and say good-by,

And hide the tears that start ;
But through the years to come and go,

The changful scenes to rise,
I ll love the little baby boy

I love him for his eyes.


Only a sentence earnest spoke,
With never a thought to word it,

Fell like balm from the sea of calm,
On the aching heart that heard it.

Only a glance, a scornful smile,
A wavering purpose altered,

Goaded a hand the crime to do
At which before it faltered.

Only a kiss, a love caress,
Tender and trustful given,

Banished a cloud from brow of care,
Made home a woman s Heaven.

ONLY. 93

Only a secret, chance disclosed,

Whence secret should be never,
A doubt crept into the heart that loved

And its light went out forever.

Only a prayer, a wrong confessed,

By suppliant lowly kneeling,
Opened the gate where the angels wait,

Life s Eden field revealing.

Careful then scatter the little things,

They make life drear and lonely,
Or strew its way with flowers gay,

We live by trifles only.



A hearse all draped in mourning,
With white plumes overhead,

Bearing a little coffin
Somebody s baby s dead.

Upon the velvet cover

Some hand has placed a wreath,
White as the waxen features

Of the baby that lies beneath.

Out in the graveyard making

A rest for a shining head,
Somebody s heart is breaking,

Somebody s baby s dead.

Over a baby s coffin,

Heaping a mound of clay,
Somebody s hopes are buried

In that little grave to-day.

Somebody s home is dreary,

Sombody s sunshine fled,
Somebody s sad and weary,

Somebody s baby s dead.



I gathered you, sweet little rosebud,

With a dew crown encircling your head ;
Now, out of the window I toss you,

Shriveled, and scentless, and dead.
You had opened to wondrous perfection,

Had only my hand let you pass ;
Yet here you have perished for water

I forgot to put some in the glass.

Ah ! poor little withered, dead rosebud,

How many a weak human heart,
Too like you, has famishing perished,

When life had but only a start ?
Yes, many a heart, little rosebud,

Loving, and tender, and true,
For water has faded and withered,

And died in its beauty like you,
Not because there was dearth of life s fountain,

Nor the blessing to all might not pass,
But because the strong hand .which it clung to

Forgot to put some in its glass.



You are watching a ship, O, maiden fair,

With parted lips and wistful air,

The ship that out from the sheltered bay

With white sails spread moves slow away ;

And I know, my girl, the thoughts that burn

In your heart are of that ship s return.

Ah ! I know so well how your pulses beat.

With the great sea sobbing at your feet ;

And the yellow stars in southern skies

Are brighter not than your love-bright eyes.

I, too, have stood on the sea-wet sand

And tearful waved a farewell hand,

And watched with many a longing prayer.

My face, like yours, was young and fair,

And my eyes were bright as the diamond s glow ;

They ve lost their sparkle long ago.

I stand alone on the beach to-day,

Watching the ships that sail away ;

But never a sail from over the sea

The flowing tide will bring to me,

My ships have come from sea.

The first was builded with childish hand,

It floated away a castle grand

A beautiful bubble with rainbow hues,


Lined with the crystal of morning dews ;
To break at my feet by the sunny sea,
A beautiful bubble came back to me
Came back from my ship at sea.

I fashioned another in gladsome way
And sent it forth on a Summer day.

I see it yet, a fairer craft,
Never at danger mocking laughed ;
Its shrouds were the sheen of happy hours,
Its helm a wreath of orange flowers ;
And I freighted it down with love and truth,
The golden hopes of my sunny youth.
Had it lived the storm but it could not be,
A stranded wreck on the surf-washed lea,

My ship came home from sea.

And then a smiling fairy bark,
A fragile, precious-freighted ark,
Out on life s ocean drear and dark.
And I prayed to God, as I never before,
To shield this bark from the tempest s roar,
To spare me this but it could not be,
A tiny coffin came back to me

Came back from my ship at sea.

With reckless hand I launched again,
A venture on the treacherous main,
Bound for ambition s dizzy court ;
Sailed from a hopeless, loveless port ;


With gloomy walls whose silence chilled,
With ghostly haunting memories filled,
With never a breath of the roses dead ;
Never a rest for a weary head,
Never a dream of a sweet to be,
Hopeless, loveless still, to me,

My ship came home from sea.

The last, and least, of all the ships

Fashioned with hands, and heart, and lips,

I pushed from shore with its decks untrod,

And the freight it bore was my faith in God.

I recked not whither its way, nor when,

Nor how, if ever, twould come again,

And this, alone, came back to me,

Rich-laden from the stormy sea.

And so, sweet maiden, while your dreams

Paint fairest all that fairest seems,

I stand with you and watch to-day

The ship that sails from the shore away :

But never a sail from over the sea

The flowing tide will bring to me

My ships have come from sea.

One of California s Truest


She Has Pictured Life and Death-Not Only

a tweet Poet, but a Tender-hearted,

Practical Woman.

Written for THE MOBXING

11 And some Orient dawn had found me
Kneeling at the house of fame."

Fame found Madge Morris Wagner in the
blazing Colorado Desert, her fingers on the
pulse of Nature at fever heat. Or, at least,
thither sent Lippincotts of Philadelphia to
find her the other day and persuade her to
speak through them to the world. And this
is what she said, like all who are truly great
teachers, making a text of the place and the


Indeed, I doubt if you will find anything
more terribly truthful and fearfully sub.
lime this side of Job than this one lone,
lorn cry from the desert. A photograph, even
were such a thing possible, could not be
more ghastly and ghastly exact. It is true
poetry, and therefore more really true than
the ordinary forms of truth. For truth
can only be told entirely by figures of
speech poetry. There are not words
enough in all the languages of this world to
tell even the simplest truth exactly, even if
there were time enough in the world. We
must depend upon figures of speech, as did
the seers of the Orient, for the exact truth.
But the figures must be true, stately, ma
jestic, impressive. This is poetry; and irue
poetry is in this sense not only the highest
form of truth, but it is the only real truth
that is uttered. When the world comes to
comprehend poetry it will have a great deal

more truth, less quibbling about words,

legal technicalities/legal lies.

Turn back and read this poem from Lip-

, pincoty s on the Colorado Desert again,
please. You can read it with profit and a
certain sort of solemn pleasure a dozen
times. There are lines here that are texts,

God must bare made thee in his anger and forgot*
Madge Morris Wagner has been all her
life with us out here on the great sea-
bank I believe; bore in Oregon I think. At
least I know her father was "a mighty hun
ter" in Oregon ; and her uncle, Bishop
Morris, was a Virginian. Maybe, she, too,
was a Vireinian. 1 neither know nor care.
We fill our books up with the dates and
place of birth, things that don t amount to

a peanut, and leaveUittle room for deeds or

, utterances.

What will we do i|hen we come to have

I 24,000 years of history and biography be-
hind us? Why, wefwill say as the Chinese
say, "This poet live! in a certain dynasty

Jand said so and so."* That is all.

So I shall proceed to say what this
strange, strong woman of the desert has said
from out her heart of hearts. For she is
o woman, a very human, tender woman.
And you will concede before you have done
reading the liUle bits of her sweet soul
which I am permitted to give you
that it is great impertinence in
me to say much wden she is
singing. And I want you to know dis
tinctly that these next lines of hers are as
exactfy true in all respects as her lines on
the Colorado Desert. Her only little baby
had gone away from her, out from the one
narrow room and away to beyond the dark-

I ness; but in the next narrow room, a
stronger woman nursed and rocked and
cradled her stronger child, and kept rock
ing on her heart. And so there and then,
out of the awful agony and desolation, she
saner. a she sans onlv the other dav from

the desert:

r her rocking the baby
Her room is just next to mine-
Art i.l 1 fancy i feel the dimpled arm*

Mind lier neck entwine,
As she rocks, and rot.cs the baby.
In the room ju-a next to mine.

r her rocking the baby
Each day when the twilight comes,
And I know there s a world of blessing and


In the "baby bye" she hums.
1 can see Hie restless fingers
Flaying with -mamma s rings."
And the sweet little smiling, pouting mouth,
Thai to hers in kiss ng clings,
As she rocks and sings to the baby,
And dreams as she rocks and slugs.

I hear her rocking the baby,

Mower and s ower now,

Aud I know she Is leaving her good-night kiss

On Its eyes, and cheeks ana brow.

I-rom her rocking, rocking, rocking,

I wonder would she utart,

Ci iild she know, through the wall between us,

She was rocking on my heart.

While my empty arms are aching

For .1 form they may not press

Aud my emptier he:irt is breaking

lu its desolate loneliness.

I lint to the rocking, rocking.
In the room just next to mine,
And breathe a grayer in silence
At a mother s broken shrine,
For the woman who rooks the baby
In the room just next to mine.

Now and then the winds blow a leaf of
hers from the desert or from San Diego,
where she edits her Golden Era Magazine,
away beyond the seas to Europe; but her
own country has been very careless about
her, save to pick up her thoughts and air
them in the poet s corner of the classics as
time surges by. And she has been and is
quite as careless of the world; brave, bon-
nie, beautiful little Madge Morris.

"It s a beast of a name," said Sir , as

he leaned on an elbow and dipped tho stub
end of a celery stick in the salt, "ies, I
know Madge Morris is a silly sort of name.
But if her name happens to be Morris and
her uncle a Bishop \\ho baptized her as
Madge in memory of his mother and her
grandmother, and

"God bless me, sir, it s a pood name, a
brave, good name, and I honor her for
having made it worthy of inquiry in Eu

I think little more need be said here.
Turn back and read about the rocking of
the baby. And if there are not tears in
your eyes and tenderness in your heart, if
you are not better indeed for the reading of
it in all respect*, why all that I might say
in these pages till the going down of the
sun would neither profit you nor please you.

Id-re are the two extremes of song the
solitude, nakedness, desolation, mystery
and awful death and dearth of the bound
less desert; and the crooning cradle song,
the baby, whose utmost bound and limit of
life is its mother s encircling arms. She
has pictured life and death. You can hear

the mother rocking, rocking; you can see
the dead men lying in the sands in her song
of the Colorado Desert as you rarely see
shapes in any song

Some lengthwise sun-dried shapes with feet and

And right here I am tempted to take
enough of your time to say that the coyote
is photographed In a single line more cor
rectly than he has yet been described in

I concede that it is not melodious to say,
"he howls and howls and howls and
howls"; but then the coyote is not travel
ing on his notes. He is not melodious; he
simply howl.". Then lie howls more; then
more and more. That is all. God made
him. Madge Morris did not make him. She
merely took his photograph ; and for the
first time it ever was really taken.

In conclusion let me assure you that Mrs.
Wagner has not written of the desert froui
a car window. On the contrary she knows
and she loves the desert as a sailor knows
and loves the ocean. Her tent is there
season after season and the mercury above
par. For she and her enterprising husband,
Harr Wanner, believe in Arizona as I be
lieve in her. And you\rnay know that more
than a dozen years agq I named the Colorado
River "The New Nile," in either the North
American Review or .the Independent, and
pointed out that this rast valley of dust and
desert sand would [and could produce
enough to more than feed the whole United

Xo, Madge Morris Wnguerisnosentiment-
alist. Such idlers who profess poetry give
us not gold, but brass not broad, bui a
stone. She is a quiet, hard worker, a prac
tical woman, endowed with that one best
things of all things to have in a family,

You all remember her firm hand and fair
face here with us in San Francisco when
we were establishing Arbor day. She was

editing the famous Golden Era then, as she
is still, when she can get n cowboy to carry
copy out from the. Colors

She is still planting tree?, she and her
husband, Harr Wagner. And they are
paniing ideas, too, persistently, for "thrv,
liko all thinkers, are teachers, and a
ho holds only the ofti, - , -emlnnt of

Schools for San Diego County !:e has in a
very few years, bv tho Ir.Mp of "a tew faith
ful colaborers, lifted that end of t ru
in letters as a soldier lifts his banner of
victory in the sun. The future of such
people is not behind them.



Due two weeks after date.
cm. SBP20 M

8<H7, 12


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