Oh, dainty daughters of the dawn, most delicate of flowers,
How fitly do ye come to deck day's most delicious hours!
Evoked by morning's earliest breath, your fragile cups unfold
Before the light has cleft the sky, or edged the world with gold.
Before luxurious butterflies and moths are yet astir,
Before the careless has snapped the leaf-hung gossamer,
While spearèd dewdrops, yet unquaffed by thirsty insect-thieves,
Broider with rows of diamonds the edges of the leaves.
Ye drink from day's o'erflowing brim, nor ever dream of noon,
With bashful nod ye greet the sun, whose flattery scorches soon,
Your trumpets trembling to the touch of humming-bird and bee,
In tender trepidation sweet, and fair timidity.
No flower in all the garden hath so wide a choice of hue, -
The deepest purple dies are yours, the tenderest tints of blue;
While some are colourless as light, some flushed incarnadine,
And some are clouded crimson, like a goblet stained with wine.
Ye hold not in your calm, cool hearts the passion of the rose,
Ye do not own the haughty pride the regal lily knows;
But ah, what blossom has the charm, the purity of this,
Which shrinks before the tenderest love, and dies beneath a kiss?
In this wide garden of the world, where he is wise who knows
The bramble from the sweet-brier, the nettle from the rose,
Some lives there are which seem like these, as sensitive and fair,
As far from thought of sin or shame, as free from stain of care.
We find sometimes these splendid souls, when all our world is young.
Where life is crisp with freshness, with unshaken dew-drops hung.
They blossom in the cool, dim hours, ere sunshine dries the air,
But cease and vanish long before the noonday's heat and glare.
And if in manhood's dusty time, fatigued with toil and glow,
We crave the fresh young morning-heart which charmed us long ago,
We seek in vain the olden ways, the shadows moist and fair:
The heart-shaped leaves may linger, but the blossom is not there.
The fairest are most fragile still, the world of being through,
The finest spirits, faint before they lose life's morning dew.
The trials and the toils of time touch not their tender truth,
For, ere earth's stain can cloud them, they achieve immortal youth.