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by James Whitcomb Riley.
Where are they-- the Afterwhiles-- Luring us the lengthening miles Of our lives? Where is the dawn With the dew across the lawn Stroked with eager feet the far Way the hills and valleys are?
Were the sun that smites the frown Of the eastward-gazer down?
Where the rifted wreaths of mist O'er us, tinged with amethyst, Round the mountain's steep defiles?
Where are the afterwhiles?
Afterwhile-- and we will go Thither, yon, and too and fro-- From the stifling city streets To the country's cool retreats-- From the riot to the rest Were hearts beat the placidest: Afterwhile, and we will fall Under breezy trees, and loll In the shade, with thirsty sight Drinking deep the blue delight Of the skies that will beguile Us as children-- afterwhile.
Afterwhile-- and one intends To be gentler to his friends--, To walk with them, in the hush Of still evenings, o'er the plush Of home-leading fields, and stand Long at parting, hand in hand: One, in time, will joy to take New resolves for some one's sake, And wear then the look that lies Clear and pure in other eyes-- We will soothe and reconcile His own conscience-- afterwhile.
Afterwhile-- we have in view A far scene to journey to--, Where the old home is, and where The old mother waits us there, Peering, as the time grows late, Down the old path to the gate--.
How we'll click the latch that locks In the pinks and hollyhocks, And leap up the path once more Where she waits us at the door--!
How we'll greet the dear old smile, And the warm tears-- afterwhile!
Ah, the endless afterwhiles--!
Leagues on leagues, and miles on miles, In distance far withdrawn, Stretching on, and on, and on, Till the fancy is footsore And faints in the dust before The last milestone's granite face, Hacked with: Here Beginneth Space.
O far glimmering worlds and wings, Mystic smiles and beckonings, Lead us through the shadowy aisles Out into the afterwhiles.
Herr Weiser--! Three-score-years-and-ten--, A hale white rose of his country-men, Transplanted here in the Hoosier loam, And blossomy as his German home-- As blossomy and as pure and sweet As the cool green glen of his calm retreat, Far withdrawn from the noisy town Where trade goes clamoring up and down, Whose fret and fever, and stress and strife, May not trouble his tranquil life!
Breath of rest, what a balmy gust--!
Quite of the city's heat and dust, Jostling down by the winding road, Through the orchard ways of his quaint abode--.
Tether the horse, as we onward fare Under the pear-trees trailing there, And thumping the wood bridge at night With lumps of ripeness and lush delight, Till the stream, as it maunders on till dawn, Is powdered and pelted and smiled upon.
Herr Weiser, with his wholesome face, And the gentle blue of his eyes, and grace Of unassuming honesty, Be there to welcome you and me!
And what though the toil of the farm be stopped And the tireless plans of the place be dropped, While the prayerful master's knees are set In beds of pansy and mignonette And lily and aster and columbine, Offered in love, as yours and mine--?
What, but a blessing of kindly thought, Sweet as the breath of forget-me-not--!
What, but a spirit of lustrous love White as the aster he bends above--!
What, but an odorous memory Of the dear old man, made known to me In days demanding a help like his--, As sweet as the life of the lily is-- As sweet as the soul of a babe, bloom-wise Born of a lily in paradise.
_The Beautiful City_
The Beautiful City! Forever Its rapturous praises resound; We fain would behold it-- but never A glimpse of its dory is found: We slacken our lips at the tender White breasts of our mothers to hear Of its marvellous beauty and splendor--; We see-- but the gleam of a tear!
Yet never the story may tire us-- First graven in symbols of stone-- Rewritten on scrolls of papyrus And parchment, and scattered and blown By the winds of the tongues of all nations, Like a litter of leaves wildly whirled Down the rack of a hundred translations, From the earliest lisp of the world.
We compass the earth and the ocean, From the Orient's uttermost light, To where the last ripple in motion Lips hem of the skirt of the night--, But the Beautiful City evades us-- No spire of it glints in the sun-- No glad-bannered battlement shades us When all our Journey is done.
Where lies it? We question and listen; We lean from the mountain, or mast, And see but dull earth, or the glisten Of seas inconceivably vast: The dust of the one blurs our vision, The glare of the other our brain, Nor city nor island Elysian In all of the land or the main!
We kneel in dim fanes where the thunders Of organs tumultuous roll, And the longing heart listens and wonders, And the eyes look aloft from the soul: But the chanson grows fainter and fainter, Swoons wholly away and is dead; AND our eyes only reach where the painter Has dabbled a saint overhead.
The Beautiful City! O mortal, Fare hopefully on in thy quest, Pass down through the green grassy portal That leads to the Valley of Rest; There first passed the One who, in pity Of all thy great yearning, awaits To point out The Beautiful City, And loosen the trump at the gates.
Such a dear little street it is, nestled away From the noise of the city and heat of the day, In cool shady coverts of whispering trees, With their leaves lifted up to shake hands with the breeze Which in all its wide wanderings never may meet With a resting-place fairer than Lockerbie street!
There is such a relief, from the clangor and din Of the heart of the town, to go loitering in Through the dim, narrow walks, with the sheltering shade Of the trees waving over the long promenade, And littering lightly the ways of our feet With the gold of the sunshine of Lockerbie street.
And the nights that come down the dark pathways of dusk, With the stars in their tresses, and odors of musk In their moon-woven raiments, bespangled with dews, And looped up with lilies for lovers to use In the songs that they sing to the tinkle and beat Of their sweet serenadings through Lockerbie street.
O my Lockerbie street! You are fair to be seen-- Be it noon of the day, or the rare and serene Afternoon of the night-- you are one to my heart, And I love you above all the phrases of art, For no language could frame and no lips could repeat My rhyme-haunted raptures of Lockerbie street.
_Das Krist Kindel_
I had fed the fire and stirred it, till the sparkles in delight Snapped their saucy little fingers at the chill December night; And in dressing-gown and slippers, I had tilted back "my throne--"
The old split-bottomed rocker-- and was musing all alone.
I could hear the hungry Winter prowling round the outer door, And the tread of muffled footsteps on the white piazza floor; But the sounds came to me only as the murmur of a stream That mingled with the current of a lazy-flowing dream.
Like a fragrant incense rising, curled the smoke of my cigar, With the lamplight gleaming through it like a mist-enfolded star--; And as I gazed, the vapor like a curtain rolled away, With a sound of bells that tinkled, and the clatter of a sleigh.
And in a vision, painted like a picture in the air, I saw the elfish figure, of a man with frosty hair-- A quaint old man that chuckled with a laugh as he appeared, And with ruddy cheeks like embers in the ashes of his beard.
He poised himself grotesquely, in an attitude of mirth, On a damask-covered hassock that was sitting on the hearth; And at a magic signal of his stubbly little thumb, I saw the fireplace changing to a bright proscenium.
And looking there, I marvelled as I saw a mimic stage Alive with little actors of a very tender age; And some so very tiny that they tottered as they walked, And lisped and purled and gurgled like the brooklets, when they talked.
And their faces were like lilies, and their eyes like purest dew, And their tresses like the shadows that the shine is woven through; And they each had little burdens, and a little tale to tell Of fairy lore, and giants, and delights delectable.
And they mixed and intermingled, weaving melody with joy, Till the magic circle clustered round a blooming baby-boy; And they threw aside their treasures in an ecstasy of glee, And bent, with dazzled faces and with parted lips, to see.
'Twas a wondrous little fellow, with a dainty double-chin And chubby-cheeks, and dimples for the smiles to blossom in; And he looked as ripe and rosy, on his bed of straw and reeds, As a mellow little pippin that had tumbled in the weeds.
And I saw the happy mother, and a group surrounding her That knelt with costly presents of frankincense and myrrh; And I thrilled with awe and wonder, as a murmur on the air Came drifting o'er the hearing in a melody of prayer--:
By the splendor in the heavens, and the hush upon the sea, And the majesty of silence reigning over Galilee, We feel Thy kingly presence, and we humbly bow the knee And lift our hearts and voices in gratefulness to Thee.
Thy messenger has spoken, and our doubts have fled and gone As the dark and spectral shadows of the night before the dawn; And in kindly shelter of the light around us drawn, We would nestle down forever in the breast we lean upon.
You have given us a shepherd-- You have given us a guide, And the light of Heaven grew dimmer when You sent him from Your side--, But he comes to lead Thy children where the gates will open wide To welcome his returning when his works are glorified.
By the splendor in the heavens, and the hush upon the sea, And the majesty of silence reigning over Galilee--, We feel Thy kingly presence, and we humbly bow the knee And lift our hearts and voices in gratefulness to Thee.
Then the vision, slowly failing, with the words of the refrain, Fell swooning in the moonlight through the frosty window-pane; And I heard the clock proclaiming, like an eager sentinel Who brings the world good tidings--, "It is Christmas-- all is well!"