Stops of Various Quills/Society

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





SOCIETY


ILOOKED 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