Path Flower

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A red-cap sang in Bishop's wood,
         A lark o'er Golder's lane,
As I the April pathway trod
         Bound west for Willesden.

At foot each tiny blade grew big
         And taller stood to hear,
And every leaf on every twig
         Was like a little ear.

As I too paused, and both ways tried
         To catch the rippling rain, --
So still, a hare kept at my side
         His tussock of disdain, --

Behind me close I heard a step,
         A soft pit-pat surprise,
And looking round my eyes fell deep
         Into sweet other eyes;

The eyes like wells, where sun lies too,
         So clear and trustful brown,
Without a bubble warning you
         That here's a place to drown.

"How many miles?" Her broken shoes
         Had told of more than one.
She answered like a dreaming Muse,
         "I came from Islington."

"So long a tramp?" Two gentle nods,
         Then seemed to lift a wing,
And words fell soft as willow-buds,
         "I came to find the Spring."

A timid voice, yet not afraid
         In ways so sweet to roam,
As it with honey bees had played
         And could no more go home.

Her home! I saw the human lair,
         I heard the huckster's bawl,
I stifled with the thickened air
         Of bickering mart and stall.

Without a tuppence for a ride,
         Her feet had set her free.
Her rags, that decency defied,
         Seemed new with liberty.

But she was frail. Who would might note
         The trail of hungering
That for an hour she had forgot
         In wonder of the Spring.

So shriven by her joy she glowed
         It seemed a sin to chat.
(A tea-shop snuggled off the road;
         Why did I think of that?)

Oh, frail, so frail! I could have wept, --
         But she was passing on,
And I but muddled, "You'll accept
         A penny for a bun?"

Then up her little throat a spray
         Of rose climbed for it must;
A wilding lost till safe it lay
         Hid by her curls of rust;

And I saw modesties at fence
         With pride that bore no name;
So old it was she knew not whence
         It sudden woke and came;

But that which shone of all most clear
         Was startled, sadder thought
That I should give her back the fear
         Of life she had forgot.

And I blushed for the world we'd made,
         Putting God's hand aside,
Till for the want of sun and shade
         His little children died;

And blushed that I who every year
         With Spring went up and down,
Must greet a soul that ached for her
         With "penny for a bun!"

Struck as a thief in holy place
         Whose sin upon him cries,
I watched the flowers leave her face,
         The song go from her eyes.

Then she, sweet heart, she saw my rout,
         And of her charity
A hand of grace put softly out
         And took the coin from me.

A red-cap sang in Bishop's wood,
         A lark o'er Golder's lane;
But I, alone, still glooming stood,
         And April plucked in vain;

Till living words rang in my ears
         And sudden music played:
Out of such sacred thirst as hers
         The world shall be remade.

Afar she turned her head and smiled
         As might have smiled the Spring,
And humble as a wondering child
         I watched her vanishing.

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