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

Catherine C. Liddell b. 1848

The Poet in the City

THE POET stood in the sombre town,

And spake to his heart, and said,

“O weary prison, devised by man!

O seasonless place, and dead!”

His heart was sad, for afar he heard

The sound of the Spring’s light tread.

He thought he saw in the pearly east

The pale March sun arise,

The happy housewife beneath the thatch,

With hand above her eyes,

Look out to the cawing rooks, that built

So near to the quiet skies.

Out of the smoke, and noise, and sin

The heart of the Poet cried:

“O God! but to be Thy laborer there,

On the gentle hill’s green side,

To leave the struggle of want and wealth,

And the battle of lust and pride!”

He bent his ear, and he heard afar

The growing of tender things,

And his heart broke forth with the travailing earth,

And shook with the tremulous wings

Of sweet brown birds, that had never known

The dirge of the city’s sins.

And later,—when all the earth was green

As the Garden of the Lord,

Primroses opening their innocent face,

Cowslips scattered abroad,

Bluebells mimicking summer skies,

And the song of the thrush outpoured,—

The changeless days were so sad to him,

That the Poet’s heart beat strong,

And he struggled as some poor caged lark,

And he cried: “How long, how long?

I have missed a spring I can never see,

And the singing of birds is gone!”

But when the time of the roses came,

And the nightingale hushed her lay,

The Poet, still in the dusty town,

Went quietly on his way—

A poorer poet by just one Spring,

And a richer man by one suffering.