poet Isabella Fyvie Mayo

Isabella Fyvie Mayo

Shadows Of The Past

I'm sitting in a shady room,
A dainty scent pervades its gloom,
The perfume from a withered flower
Gathered—who knows in what sweet hour?
Or pressed by what fair lips which must
Have mingled long ere this with dust?
The relic of a grandsire's love
Stored with a letter and a glove!

And all about the room are spread
The handiworks of ladies dead:
A great aunt's miracles in lace,
A Dian coming from the chase
Worked by great-grandmothers of mine
While great-grandfathers sipped their wine;
And here's a valentine so torn
I think it was received in scorn.

And from the wall the pictured face
Of one, the glory of our race,
Looks down at me with earnest gaze,
As if he wondered at the ways
By which the old world rumbles on,
Though all he counted best is gone,
And that old fealty is dead
For which he bravely fought and bled.

And in yon ancient chest there hide
Charters of farms and acres wide,
Traces of what we once possessed.
Well, perchance poverty is best,
And we can still afford to keep
(Since harmless pride is always cheap)
Our boast that those lost lands were due
For packs of wolves our forbears slew.

And have they left no more behind,
These soldiers brave, those ladies kind?
Of beings vanished like a dream
How little do such relics seem!
And what of those who strayed and fell,
Records of sad defeat to swell?
Or those who only loved and prayed,
'Mid homely duties on them laid?

There seems a whisper in the air,
'We're there, and here, and everywhere!
Why need you wish that you had more
Of these poor shadows which you store,
When all the life in which you move
Is outgrowth of our life and love?
The very thoughts you call your own,
But flowers from seeds which we have sown!

'And none have left a stronger trace
Than some who lived in silent grace;
The maid who faded in her bloom
Brightened the pathway to the tomb,
With hopes from soul to soul which flow
Like streams whose sources none may know,
And he who perished at his post
Inspired the leader of a host!

'The dead are nearer than some say
(Stars shine on through the sunshine day!),
Nor must we chain the Present fast
About the ankles of the Past,
For both are living, and most move
In step to God's great march of Love.
We need not fear that any soul
Can leave but rose leaves in a bowl!'

Poem Submitted: Friday, October 19, 2012

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