The Old Brown Hand

The hand that pressed my fevered brow
Was withered, wasted, brown, and old;
Its work was almost over now,
As swollen veins and wrinkles told.
No longer brushing back my hair,
It gently rested on my wrist;
Its touch seemed sacred as a prayer
By the sweet breath of angels kissed.

I knew 'twas thin, and brown, and old,
With many a deep and honored seam,
Wearing one little band of gold,—
The only trace of youth's bright dream:
And yet o'er every mark of care,
In every wrinkle's mystic line,
I fancied jewels gleaming there
That wore a beauty all divine!

Another hand my fingers pressed—
'Twas like the lily dipped in snow;
Yet still it gave a wild unrest—
A weariness that none should know.
There pearls with costly diamonds gleamed,
And opals showed their changing glow,
As moonlight on the ice has beamed,
Or trembled on the stainless snow.

I caught again the old, brown hand,
And smoothed it fondly in my own,—
A woman's, though so old and tanned—
A woman's—brave and fearless grown.
Aye! it had labored long and well
To dry the tear, to soothe the pain;
Its own strong nerve to all would tell
That life has work which brings no shame.

We love the pretty hand that rests
In gentle fondness on our own,
With nails like rosy calyx pressed
Upon a pearly, stainless cone;
But sacred is the healthful palm
Which smooths the ills that round us band;
The many feel its sacred balm,
And holy seems the old brown hand!