James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

An Empty Nest


I find an old deserted nest,
Half-hidden in the underbrush:
A withered leaf, in phantom jest,
Has nestled in it like a thrush
With weary, palpitating breast.

I muse as one in sad surprise
Who seeks his childhood's home once more,
And finds it in a strange disguise
Of vacant rooms and naked floor,
With sudden tear-drops in his eyes.

An empty nest! It used to bear
A happy burden, when the breeze
Of summer rocked it, and a pair
Of merry tattlers told the trees
What treasures they had hidden there.

But Fancy, flitting through the gleams
Of youth's sunshiny atmosphere,
Has fallen in the past, and seems,
Like this poor leaflet nestled here,--
A phantom guest of empty dreams.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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