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A March Violet by Emma Lazarus

 

Black boughs against a pale, clear sky,

Slight mists of cloud-wreaths floating by;

Soft sunlight, gray-blue smoky air,

Wet thawing snows on hillsides bare;

Loud streams, moist sodden earth; below

Quick seedlings stir, rich juices flow

Through frozen veins of rigid wood,

And the whole forest bursts in bud.

No longer stark the branches spread

An iron network overhead,

Albeit naked still of green;

Through this soft, lustrous vapor seen,

On budding boughs a warm flush glows,

With tints of purple and pale rose.

Breathing of spring, the delicate air

Lifts playfully the loosened hair

To kiss the cool brow. Let us rest

In this bright, sheltered nook, now blest

With broad noon sunshine over all,

Though here June's leafiest shadows fall.

Young grass sprouts here. Look up! the sky

Is veiled by woven greenery,

Fresh little folded leaves-the first,

And goldener than green, they burst

Their thick full buds and take the breeze.

Here, when November stripped the trees,

I came to wrestle with a grief:

Solace I sought not, nor relief.

I shed no tears, I craved no grace,

I fain would see Grief face to face,

Fathom her awful eyes at length,

Measure my strength against her strength.

I wondered why the Preacher saith,

"Like as the grass that withereth."

The late, close blades still waved around:

I clutched a handful from the ground.

"He mocks us cruelly," I said:

"The frail herb lives, and she is dead."

I lay dumb, sightless, deaf as she;

The long slow hours passed over me.

I saw Grief face to face; I know

The very form and traits of Woe.

I drained the galled dregs of the draught

She offered me: I could have laughed

In irony of sheer despair,

Although I could not weep. The air

Thickened with twilight shadows dim:

I rose and left. I knew each limb

 

Of these great trees, each gnarled, rough root

Piercing the clay, each cone of fruit

They bear in autumn.

What blooms here,

Filling the honeyed atmosphere

With faint, delicious fragrancies,

Freighted with blessed memories?

The earliest March violet,

Dear as the image of Regret,

And beautiful as Hope. Again

Past visions thrill and haunt my brain.

Through tears I see the nodding head,

The purple and the green dispread.

Here, where I nursed despair that morn,

The promise of fresh joy is born,

Arrayed in sober colors still,

But piercing the gray mould to fill

With vague sweet influence the air,

To lift the heart's dead weight of care,

Longings and golden dreams to bring

With joyous phantasies of spring.

EMMA LAZARUS.