Home  »  An American Anthology, 1787–1900  »  519 To a Magnolia Flower in the Garden of the Armenian Convent at Venice

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). An American Anthology, 1787–1900. 1900.

By Silas WeirMitchell

519 To a Magnolia Flower in the Garden of the Armenian Convent at Venice

I SAW thy beauty in its high estate

Of perfect empire, where at set of sun

In the cool twilight of thy lucent leaves

The dewy freshness told that day was done.

Hast thou no gift beyond thine ivory cone’s

Surpassing loveliness? Art thou not near—

More near than we—to nature’s silentness;

Is it not voiceful to thy finer ear?

Thy folded secrecy doth like a charm

Compel to thought. What spring-born yearning lies

Within the quiet of thy stainless breast

That doth with languorous passion seem to rise?

The soul doth truant angels entertain

Who with reluctant joy their thoughts confess:

Low-breathing, to these sister spirits give

The virgin mysteries of thy heart to guess.

What whispers hast thou from yon child-like sea

That sobs all night beside these garden walls?

Canst thou interpret what the lark hath sung

When from the choir of heaven her music falls?

If for companionship of purity

The equal pallor of the risen moon

Disturb thy dreams, dost know to read aright

Her silver tracery on the dark lagoon?

The mischief-making fruitfulness of May

Stirs all the garden folk with vague desires:

Doth there not reach thine apprehensive ear

The faded longing of these dark-robed friars,

When, in the evening hour to memories given,

Some gray-haired man amid the gathering gloom

For one delirious moment sees again

The gleam of eyes and white-walled Erzeroum?

Hast thou not loved him for this human dream

Or sighed with him who yester-evening sat

Upon the low sea-wall, and saw through tears

His ruined home, and snow-clad Ararat?

If thou art dowered with some refinëd sense

That shares the counsels of the nesting bird,

Canst hear the mighty laughter of the earth,

And all that ear of man hath never heard,

If the abysmal stillness of the night

Be eloquent for thee, if thou canst read

The glowing rubric of the morning song,

Doth each new day no gentle warning breed?

Shall not the gossip of the maudlin bee,

The fragrant history of the fallen rose,

Unto the prescience of instinctive love

Some humbler prophecy of joy disclose?

Cold vestal of the leafy convent cell,

The traitor days have thy calm trust betrayed;

The sea-wind boldly parts thy shining leaves

To let the angel in. Be not afraid!

The gold-winged sun, divinely penetrant,

The pure annunciation of the morn

Breathes o’er thy chastity, and to thy soul

The tender thrill of motherhood is borne.

Set wide the glory of thy perfect bloom!

Call every wind to share thy scented breaths!

No life is brief that doth perfection win.

To-day is thine—to-morrow thou art death’s!