AT THE OLD LADIES' HOME
by: Ruth Guthrie Harding
- HERE in
a row of chairs upon the porch
- I saw them, women alien from the world,
- Set in a niche to watch the world go by:
- A few, born saints . . . but some had outworn sin;
- Sisters at last, from having done with life.
- Here Joan of Arc, grown past her soldier-dream,
- And Mariamne, spared her Herod's wrath,
- Forgetting Herod, gossiped for an hour;
- While calm Francesca, once knowing Paolo's love,
- Sat knitting peaceful in the noonday sun,
- And Nicolette, with Aucassin long gone,
- Made painful writing with a wrinkled hand.
- "Ah, let me die," I prayed, "before the glow
- Shall leave my body, and before my tears
- Shall buy me patience; take me while I feel
- The lure-of-things that blesses with its hurt--
- Dear God, give me not age!" (For I would keep
- You in my heart of hearts . . . for whose sad eyes
- These lines are set, O Dearest . . . to the last.)
- Just then, among the many faces there,
- I glimpsed a face most delicate and pale
- And very lovely with that wistfulness
- In which the shadows of long sorrow lie;
- Meeting my look, she smiled, and, with that smile,
- Somehow the lilacs by the iron fence,
- The plumed grass brushing low across the path,
- Brought back to me an afternoon in May
- And a sweet garden where I sometimes played
- When I fared forth in gingham pinafore:
- I saw Another (dead so many years,
- Her name I could not in that hour recall):
- Old she had been as ashes in a jar
- She kept upon a high, old-fashioned chest
- In an old-fashioned room in her still house . . .
- Now I remembered with what passionate warmth
- A cheek had once been pressed against my cheek,
- What frail and trembling arms had lifted me
- To touch that silvery dust within the jar.
- Perhaps it is God's will I shall grow old
- And none may read beneath my quietness . . .
- Gardens in May, or any memory
- Of you! And yet for very shame to-night
- I change my prayer, and ask for strength to live.
MORE POEMS BY RUTH GUTHRIE HARDING
"At the Old Ladies' Home"
is reprinted from Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1916.
Ed. William Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Laurence J. Gomme,