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Sweet Clover

  "... My letters back to me."


  I know they won the faint perfume,
    That to their faded pages clings,
    From gloves, and handkerchiefs, and things
  Kept in the soft and scented gloom

  Of some mysterious box--poor leaves
    Of summer, now as sere and dead
    As any leaves of summer shed
  From crimson boughs when autumn grieves!

  The ghost of fragrance! Yet I thrill
    All through with such delicious pain
    Of soul and sense, to breathe again
  The sweet that haunted memory still.

  And under these December skies,
    As bland as May's in other climes,
    I move, and muse my idle rhymes
  And subtly sentimentalize.

  I hear the music that was played,--
    The songs that silence knows by heart!--
    I see sweet burlesque feigning art,
  The careless grace that curved and swayed

  Through dances and through breezy walks;
    I feel once more the eyes that smiled,
    And that dear presence that beguiled
  The pauses of the foolish talks,

  When this poor phantom of perfume
    Was the Sweet Clover's living soul,
    And breathed from her as if it stole,
  Ah, heaven! from her heart in bloom!


  We have not many ways with pain:
    We weep weak tears, or else we laugh;
    I doubt, not less the cup we quaff,
  And tears and scorn alike are vain.

  But let me live my quiet life;
    I will not vex my calm with grief,
    I only know the pang was brief,
  And there an end of hope and strife.

  And thou? I put the letters by:
    In years the sweetness shall not pass;
    More than the perfect blossom was
  I count its lingering memory.

  Alas! with Time dear Love is dead,
    And not with Fate. And who can guess
    How weary of our happiness
  We might have been if we were wed?



William Dean Howells