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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Frances Anne Kemble 1809–93

The Black Wall-Flower

I FOUND a flower in a desolate plot,

Where no man wrought,—by a deserted cot,

Where no man dwelt; a strange, dark-color’d gem,

Black heavy buds on a pale leafless stem.

I pluck’d it, wondering, and with it hied

To my brave May, and showing it I cried:

“Look, what a dismal flower! did ever bloom,

Born of our earth and air, wear such a gloom?

It looks as it should grow out of a tomb:

Is it not mournful?” “No,” replied the child;

And, gazing on it thoughtfully, she smil’d.

She knows each word of that great book of God,

Spread out between the blue sky and the sod:

“There are no mournful flowers—they are all glad;

This is a solemn one, but not a sad.”

Lo! with the dawn the black buds open’d slowly.

Within each cup a color deep and holy,

As sacrificial blood, glow’d rich and red,

And through the velvet tissue mantling spread;

While in the midst of this dark crimson heat

A precious golden heart did throb and beat;

Through ruby leaves the morning light did shine,

Each mournful bud had grown a flow’r divine;

And bitter sweet to senses and to soul,

A breathing came from them, that fill’d the whole

Of the surrounding tranced and sunny air

With its strange fragrance, like a silent prayer.

Then cried I, “From the earth’s whole wreath I ’ll borrow

No flower but thee! thou exquisite type of sorrow!”