Waiting A Winter's Tale

by Mrs. Sallie M. B. Piatt


SOME sweet things go just to make room for


The blue field-blossom hurries from the dew,

(My little maiden, hush your noisy brothers!)

And see, the wild-rose reddens where it grew!

The green leaf fades that you may see the yellow;

We have the honey when we miss the bee;

Who wants the apples, scarlet-stained and mellow,

Must give the buds upon his orchard-tree;

Then, for those finely painted birds that follow

The sun about and scent their songs with flowers,

We have, when frosts are sharp and rains beat hollow,

These pretty, gray crumb-gathering pets of ours;

The butterflies (you could not catch) were brighter

Than anything that we have left in air;

But these still-flying shapes of snow are whiter,

I fancy, than the very lilies were.

Then, is the glimmer of fire-flies, cold and eerie,

Far in the dusk, so pleasant after all

As is this home-lamp playing warm and cheery,

Among your shadow-pictures on the wall?

But I forget. There ought to be a story,

A lovely story! Who shall tell it, then?

The boys want war—plumes, helmets, shields and


They'd like a grand review of Homer's men.

Their jealous sisters say it's tiresome hearing

(A girl is not as patient as a boy,)

Of that old beauty—yes, the much-recurring,

About-three-thousand-years-old, Helen of Troy.


They'd rather hear some love-tale murmured faintly

Through music of the sleigh-bells: something


Such as their young grandmothers, shy and saintly,

Heard under stars of winter—told anew!

The little children, one and all, are crying

For just a few more fairies—but, you know

They go to sleep when golden-rod is dying,

And do not wake till there is no more snow.

They sleep who kept your Jersey cow from straying,

My boy, while you were deep in books and


Who tended flowers, my girl, while you were playing

Some double game, or wearing out your glass.

They sleep—but what sweet things they have been


By golden moons, to give you a surprise—

Beat slower, little hearts with wonder aching,

Keep in the dark yet, all you eager eyes!

The fairies sleep. But their high lord and master

Keeps wide-awake, and watches every hearth;

Great waters freeze that he may travel faster—

He puts a girdle round about the earth!

Just now in the dim North, as he remembers

His birthday back through centuries, he appears

A trifle sad, and looks into the embers—

Then shakes down from his cheek a shower of


He thinks of little hands that reached out lightly

To catch his beard and pull it with a will,

Now round their buried rosebuds folded whitely,

Forever and forever, oh, how still!

"Ah, where are all the children? How I miss


So many worlds-full are gone since I came!

I long to take them to my heart and kiss them,

And hear those still small voices laugh my name.

"Some over whom no violet yet is growing;

Some under broken marble, ages old;

Some lie full fathom five where seas are flowing;

Some, among cliffs and chasms, died a-cold;

"Some through the long Wars of the Roses faded;

Some did walk barefoot to the Holy Land;

Some show young faces with the bride's-veil


Some touch me with the nun's all-gracious hand;

"Some in the purple with crown-jewels burning,

Some in the peasant's hodden-gray go by,

Some in forlornest prisons darkly yearning

For earth and grass, the dove's wing and the


"One sails to wake a world that has been lying

Hid in its leaves, far in the lonesome West,

In an enchanted sleep, with strange winds sighing

Among the strange flowers in her dreaming breast.

And One—I held Him first—the immortal Stranger!

I smell, to-night, the frankincense and myrrh;

I see the star-led wise men and the manger;

And his own Mother—I remember her!

"But—where's my cloak? Is this a time for sorrow?

... And where's the story, do you ask of me?

To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow!

And shall you have it then? Why—we shall see!