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I PRAY thee by the soul of her that bore thee,
By thine own sister's spirit I implore thee,
Deal gently with the leaves that lie before thee !

For Iris had no mother to infold her,
Nor ever leaned upon a sister's shoulder,
Telling the twilight thoughts that Nature told her.

She had not learned the mystery of awaking
Those chorded keys that soothe a sorrow's aching,
Giving the dumb heart voice, that else were breaking.

Yet lived, wrought, suffered. Lo, the pictured token! Why should her fleeting day-dreams fade unspoken, Like daffodils that die with sheaths unbroken?

She knew not love, yet lived in maiden fancies, -
Walked simply clad, a queen of high romances,
And talked strange tongues with angels in her trances.


Twin-souled she seemed, a twofold nature wearing, -
Sometimes a flashing falcon in her daring,
Then a poor mateless dove that droops despairing.

Questioning all things: Why her Lord had sent her? What were these torturing gifts, and wherefore lent her? Scornful as spirit fallen, its own tormentor.

And then all tears and anguish: Queen of Heaven,
Sweet Saints, and Thou by mortal sorrows riven,
Save me! O, save me! Shall I die forgiven ?

And then — Ah, God! But nay, it little matters :
Look at the wasted seeds that autumn scatters,
The myriad germs that Nature shapes and shatters!

If she had — Well! She longed, and knew not

wherefore. Had the world nothing she might live to care for ? No second self to say her evening prayer for ?

She knew the marble shapes that set men dreaming, Yet with her shoulders bare and tresses streaming Showed not unlovely to her simple seeming.

Vain? Let it be so ! Nature was her teacher.
What if a lonely and unsistered creature
Loved her own barmless gift of pleasing feature,

Saying, unsaddened, — This shall soon be faded,
And double-hued the shining tresses braided,
And all the sunlight of the morning shaded ?

-- This her poor book is full of saddest follies, Of tearful smiles and laughing melancholies, With summer roses twined and wintry hollies.

In the strange crossing of uncertain chances, Somewhere, beneath some maiden's tear-dimmed glances May fall her little book of dreams and fancies.

Sweet sister! Iris, who shall never name thee,
Trembling for fear her open heart may shame thee,
Speaks from this vision-haunted page to claim thee.

Spare her, I pray thee! If the maid is sleeping,
Peace with her! she has had her hour of weeping.
No more! She leaves her memory in thy keeping.


Her hands are cold; her face is white;

No more her pulses come and go;
Her eyes are shut to life and light; —

Fold the white vesture, snow on snow,
And lay her where the violets blow.

But not beneath a graven stone,

To plead for tears with alien eyes;
A slender cross of wood alone

Shall say, that here a maiden lies
In peace beneath the peaceful skies.

And gray old trees of hugest limb

Shall wheel their circling shadows round
To make the scorching sunlight dim

That drinks the greenness from the ground,
And drop their dead leaves on her mound.

When o'er their boughs the squirrels run,

And through their leaves the robins call, And, ripening in the autumn sun,

The acorns and the chestnuts fall,
Doubt not that she will heed them all.

For her the morning choir shall sing

Its matins from the branches high,
And every minstrel-voice of Spring,

That trills beneath the April sky,
Shall greet her with its earliest cry.

When, turning round their dial-track,

Eastward the lengthening shadows pass, Her little mourners, clad in black,

The crickets, sliding through the grass,
Shall pipe for her an evening mass.

At last the rootlets of the trees

Shall find the prison where she lies,
And bear the buried dust they seize

In leaves and blossoms to the skies.
So may the soul that warmed it rise !

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