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A poem by William Johnson Cory

All That Was Possible

Title:     All That Was Possible
Author: William Johnson Cory [More Titles by Cory]

Slope under slope the pastures dip
With ribboned waterfalls, and make
Scant room for just a village strip,
The setting of a sapphire lake.

And here, when summer draws the kine
To upland grasses patched with snow,
Our travellers rest not, only dine,
Then driven by Furies, onward go.

For pilgrims of the pointed stick,
With passport case for scallop shell,
Scramble for worshipped Alps too quick
To care for vales where mortals dwell.

Twice daily swarms the hostel's pier,
Twice daily is the table laid;
And, "Oh, that some would tarry here!"
Sighs Madeline, the serving-maid.

She shows them silly carven stuff;
Some sneer, but others smile and buy;
And these light smiles are quite enough
To make the wistful maiden sigh.

She scans the face, but not the mind;
She learns their taste in wines and toys,
But, seem they thoughtful and refined,
She fain would know their cares, their joys.

For man is not as horse and hound,
Who turn to meet their lord's caress,
Yet never miss the touch or sound,
When absence brings unconsciousness.

Not such the souls that can reflect;
Too mild they may be to repine;
But sometimes, winged with intellect,
They strain to pass the bounding line.

And to have learnt our pleasant tongue
In English mansions, gave a sense
Of something bitter-sweet, that stung
The pensive maiden of Brientz.

I will not say she wished for aught;
For, failing guests, she duly spun,
And saved for marriage; but one thought
Would still in alien channels run.

And when at last a lady came,
Not lovely, but with twofold grace,
For courtly France had tuned her name,
Whilst England reigned in hair and face;

And illness bound her many a day,
A willing captive, to the mere,
In peace, though home was far away,
For Madeline's talking brought it near.

Then delicate words unused before
Rose to her lips, as amber shines
Thrown by the wave upon the shore
From unimagined ocean-mines;

And then perceptions multiplied,
Foreshadowings of the heart came true,
And interlaced on every side
Old girlish fancies bloomed and grew;

And looks of higher meaning gleamed
Like azure sheen of mountain ice,
And common household service seemed
The wageless work of Paradise.

But autumn downward drove the kine,
And clothed the wheel with flaxen thread,
And sprinkled snow upon the pine,
And bowed the silent spinster's head.

Then Europe's tumult scared the spring,
And checked the Northern travel-drift:
Yet to Brientz did summer bring
An English letter and a gift;

And Madeline took them with a tear:
"How gracious to remember me!
Her words I'll keep from year to year,
Her face in heaven I hope to see."

[The end]
William Johnson Cory's poem: All That Was Possible