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


By William Dean Howells (1837–1920)

From ‘Stops of Various Quills’

I LOOKED, and saw a splendid pageantry

Of beautiful women and of lordly men,

Taking their pleasure in a flowery plain,

Where poppies and the red anemone,

And many another leaf of cramoisy,

Flickered about their feet, and gave their stain

To heels of iron or satin, and the grain

Of silken garments floating far and free,

As in the dance they wove themselves, or strayed

By twos together, or lightly smiled and bowed,

Or curtsied to each other, or else played

At games of mirth and pastime, unafraid

In their delight; and all so high and proud

They seemed scarce of the earth whereon they trod.

I looked again, and saw that flowery space

Stirring, as if alive, beneath the tread

That rested now upon an old man’s head,

And now upon a baby’s gasping face,

Or mother’s bosom, or the rounded grace

Of a girl’s throat; and what had seemed the red

Of flowers was blood, in gouts and gushes shed

From hearts that broke under that frolic pace.

And now and then from out the dreadful floor

An arm or brow was lifted from the rest,

As if to strike in madness, or implore

For mercy; and anon some suffering breast

Heaved from the mass and sank; and as before

The revelers above them thronged and prest.