Poems (Coates 1916)/Volume II/In a College Settlement
IN A COLLEGE SETTLEMENT
THE sights and sounds of the wretched street
Oppressed me, and I said: "We cheat
Our hearts with hope. Man sunken lies
In vice, and naught that's fair or sweet
Finds further favor in his eyes.
"Vainly we strive, in sanguine mood,
To elevate a savage brood
That, from the cradle, sordid, dull,
No longer has a wish for good,
Or craving for the beautiful."
I said; but chiding my despair,
My wiser friend just pointed where,
By some indifferent passer thrown
Upon a heap of ashes bare,
The loose leaves of a rose were sown.
And I, 'twixt tenderness and doubt,
Beheld, while pity grew devout,
A squalid and uneager child,
With careful fingers picking out
The scentless petals, dust-defiled.
And straight I seemed to see a close,
With hawthorn hedged and brier-rose;
And bending down, I whispered, "Dear,
Come let us fly, while no one knows,
To the country—far away from here!"
Upon the little world-worn face
There dawned a look of wistful grace,
Then came the question that for hours
Still followed me from place to place:
"Real country, where you can catch flowers?"