At Twilight

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Was it so long? It seems so brief a while
        Since this still hour between the day and dark
Was ligntened by a little fellow’s smile;
        Since we were wont to mark
The sunset’s crimson dim to gold, to gray,
        Content to know that, though he loved to roam
Care-free among the comrades of his play,
        Twilight would lead him home.

A year ago! The well-remembered hail
        Of happy-hearted children on the green
We hear to-night, and see the sunset pale,
        The distant hills between:
But when the busy feet shall homeward turn,
        When little wearied heads shall seek for rest,
Where shall you find the weight for which you yearn,
        Ah, tender mother-breast?

Dear lips, that in the twilight hushed and dim
        Lulled him with murmured fantasies of song;
Dear slender arms, that safely sheltered him,
        The empty years are long!
The night’s caressing wind moves babbling on,
        And all the whispered gossip of the firs
Is busy with his name who now is gone—
        My little lad and hers!

But if we so, with eager eyes and glad,
        Looked forward to his coming in the gloom;
If so our hearts leaped out to meet the lad
        Whose smile lit all the room,—
Shall there not be a Presence waiting thus
        To still the bitter craving of the quest?
Shall there not be a welcome, too, for us
        When we go home to rest?

Yes, God be thanked for this: the ashen-gowned
        Sweet presence of the twilight, and, afar,
The strong, enduring hills, in beauty crowned
        With one white, steadfast star!
A year ago? What, love, to us are years?
        The selfsame twilight, cool, and calm, and dim,
That led him home to us, despite our fears,
        Shall lead us home to him!

New York, 1898.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.