Forty Poem by Henry Cuyler Bunner


IN the heyday of my years, when I thought the world was young,
And believed that I was old—at the very gates of Life—
It seemed in every song the birds of heaven sung
That I heard the sweet injunction: “ Go and get to thee a wife!”

And within the breast of youth woke a secret sweet desire;
For Love spoke in that carol his first mysterious word,
That to-day through ashen years kindles memory into fire,
Though the birds are dead that sang it, and the heart is old that heard.

I have watched my youth’s blue heavens flush to angry, brooding red,
And again the crimson palsied in a dull unpregnant gloom;
I am older than some sorrows; I have watched by Pleasure dead;
I have seen Hope grow immortal at the threshold of the tomb.

Through the years by turns that gave me now curses, now caresses,
I have fought a fight with Fortune wherein Love hath had no part;
To-day, when peace hard-conquered riper years and weary blesses,
Will my fortieth summer pardon twenty winters to my heart?

When the spring-tide’s verdure darkens to the summer’s deeper glories,
And in the thickening foliage doth the year its life renew,
Will to me the forests whisper once more their wind-learnt stories?
Will the birds their message bring, me from out the heaven of blue?

Will the wakened world for me sing the old enchanted song—
Touch the underfiow of love that, through all the toil and strife,
Has only grown the stronger as the years passed lone and long?
Shall I learn the will of Heaven is to get for me a wife?

The boy’s heart yearns for freedom, he walks hand-in-hand with pleasure;
Made bright with wine and kisses he sees the face of Life;
He would make the world a pleasance for a love that knows not measure;
But the man seeks Heaven, and finds it in the bosom of his wife.

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