Stops of Various Quills/Society

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Society by William Dean Howells
illustrations by Howard Pyle

Howells, Stops of Various Quills, 1895 059 large a.jpg





SOCIETY


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 curtseyed 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.



Howells, Stops of Various Quills, 1895 061 large a.jpg


II

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 revellers above them thronged and prest.



Howells, Stops of Various Quills, 1895 061 large b.jpg