Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Richard Henry Wilde

My Life is Like the Summer Rose

My life is like the summer rose
    That opens to the morning sky,
But, ere the shades of evening close,
    Is scattered on the ground to die.
But on that rose's humble bed
The sweetest dews of night are shed,
As if Heaven wept such waste to see—
But none shall weep a tear for me.

My life is like the autumn leaf
    That trembles in the moon's pale ray;
Its hold is frail—its state is brief—
    Restless and soon to pass away.
Yet ere that leaf shall fall and fade,
The parent tree shall mourn its shade,
The winds bewail the leafless tree—
But none shall breathe a sigh for me.

My life is like the print of feet
    Left upon Tampa's desert strand;
Soon as the rising tide shall beat,
    The tracks will vanish from the sand.
Yet, as if grieving to efface
All vestige of the human race,
On that lone shore loud moans the sea—
But none shall e'er lament for me.

The Poet's Lament

As evening's dews to sun-parched summer flowers,
    So to young burning breasts has verse been given,
To soothe and cool the flush of feverish hours,
    Even with the tears exhaled from earth to heaven.

But when life's ebbing pulse wanes faint and slow,
    And coming winter clouds the short'ning day,
No dews the night, no tears the eyes bestow,
    No words the soul to mourn its own decay.

But frosts instead, the waste of years deform,
    And on our head falls fast untimely snow,
Or worse—we prove volcanic passions' storm,
    Whose earthquake calmness mocks the fires below.

These have no voice—yet might their ruins speak
    The past and present eloquently well—
But, fiendlike, on themselves their rage they wreak,
    Although they dare not wake the silent spell.

For such, alas! all Poetry is past,
    Not even in History their thoughts survive,
Like crowded cities into lava cast
    Oblivion-doomed, embalmed, while still alive.

Above the stifled heart a nation's grave,
    Years, centuries, millenniums even might pass,
And o'er their barren dust no laurels wave—
    Forth from their ashes springs no blade of grass.

Ores in the darkest caverns of the earth,
    Pearls in the sea's unfathomed depths may shine—
Gems in the mountain's living rock have birth—
    But never Poetry in souls like mine.

To the Mocking-Bird

Winged mimic of the woods! thou motley fool!
    Who shall they gay buffoonery describe?
Thine ever-ready notes of ridicule
    Pursue they fellows still with jest and gibe.
    Wit, sophist, songster, Yorick of they tribe,
Thou sportive satirist of Nature's school;
    To thee the palm of scoffing we ascribe,
Arch-mocker and mad Abbot of Misrule!
For such thou art by day—but all night long
    Thou pour'st a soft, sweet, pensive, solemn strain,
As if thou didst in this they moonlight song
    Like to the melancholy Jacques complain,
Musing on falsehood, folly, vice, and wrong,
    And sighing for thy motley coat again.

[Thomas M'Caleb (ed.), The Louisiana Book: Selections from the Literature of the State 491-93 (New Orleans: R.F. Straughan, Publisher, 1894)]