To Elizabeth Ward Perkins
Dear Bessie, would my tired rhyme
Had force to rise from apathy,
And shaking off its lethargy
Ring word-tones like a Christmas chime.
But in my soul's high belfry, chill
The bitter wind of doubt has blown,
The summer swallows all have flown,
The bells are frost-bound, mute and still.
Upon the crumbling boards the snow
Has drifted deep, the clappers hang
Prismed with icicles, their clang
Unheard since ages long ago.
The rope I pull is stiff and cold,
My straining ears detect no sound
Except a sigh, as round and round
The wind rocks through the timbers old.
Below, I know the church is bright
With haloed tapers, warm with prayer;
But here I only feel the air
Of icy centuries of night.
Beneath my feet the snow is lit
And gemmed with colours, red, and blue,
Topaz, and green, where light falls through
The saints that in the windows sit.
Here darkness seems a spectred thing,
Voiceless and haunting, while the stars
Mock with a light of long dead years
The ache of present suffering.
Silent and winter-killed I stand,
No carol hymns my debt to you;
But take this frozen thought in lieu,
And thaw its music in your hand.