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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Broken Music

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

  • “A note
  • All out of tune in this world’s instrument.”

  • I KNOW not in what fashion she was made,

    Nor what her voice was, when she used to speak,

    Nor if the silken lashes threw a shade

    On wan or rosy cheek.

    I picture her with sorrowful vague eyes,

    Illumed with such strange gleams of inner light

    As linger in the drift of London skies

    Ere twilight turns to night.

    I know not; I conjecture. ’Twas a girl

    That with her own most gentle desperate hand

    From out God’s mystic setting plucked life’s pearl—

    ’Tis hard to understand.

    So precious life is! Even to the old

    The hours are as a miser’s coins, and she—

    Within her hands lay youth’s unminted gold

    And all felicity.

    The winged impetuous spirit, the white flame

    That was her soul once, whither has it flown?

    Above her brow gray lichens blot her name

    Upon the carven stone.

    This is her Book of Verses—wren-like notes,

    Shy franknesses, blind gropings, haunting fears;

    At times across the chords abruptly floats

    A mist of passionate tears.

    A fragile lyre too tensely keyed and strung,

    A broken music, weirdly incomplete:

    Here a proud mind, self-baffled and self-stung,

    Lies coiled in dark defeat.