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THE READING BOY.
Sunk in the cushion of a high arm-chair,
A volume resting where his knees are crost, With one hand slowly fumbling through his hair,
There sits the boy in magic pages lost.
At times he lifts a grave, though youthful face,
Revealing depths of eyes of liquid brown; He seems a traveler from some far-off place
Who flees us as his flitting glance turns down.
O, dreamy boy, with fair May-morning brow,
What realms of wonders lure your restless feet? In what far kingdom are you treading now?
What distant ocean bears your wandering fleet?
You sail with Sindbad through enchanted seas,
Your pockets stuffed with diamonds from his caves; You and Aladdin gather gems from trees;
You give your orders to a thousand slaves.
With Crusoe you have rifled rich old wrecks,
You tame his parrot and you herd his goats; With Captain Kidd you rake the foeman's decks,
And smiling, cut freebooting rivals' throats.
THE READING BOY.
Columbus-like, you find another world,
You help Magellan sail the globe around;
From Dutch Guiana unto Puget Sound.
You sit with Alexander on his throne,
Yet conquer other worlds beyond his wake; With Cæsar you have bridged the Rhine and Rhone,
Yet worn the crown which Cæsar dared not take.
And yet, my sturdy boy, you soon shall see
Youth's peerless poem dwindle into prose; And soon your nimble feet, so wild and free,
Shall bleed from thorns of each caressing rose.
Boy-Cæsar, in the Future's sullen shade,
Some envious Casca plans his traitorous part; Some lean and hungry Cassius whets his blade,
Some much-loved Brutus waits to stab your heart.
Yet I salute you, ere your dreams go wrong;
To you, young master, see my head bowed down; O, prince of romance, story, and of song,
O, lord of gladness, glory and renown!
SAN GABRIEL MISSION.
A long, low building, reared of brick and stone,
An iron railing running up its side;
And epitaphs which tall geraniums hide.
A plumy pepper-tree hangs billowy boughs
To shade the portal of the ancient church; On crumbled walls the droning hornets drowse,
And now and then some pigeon finds a perch.
Two swarms of bees have found a quiet home
In hollowed niches of the Mission's side;
As years have flourished, pined away and died.
Here in the chapel hang the old-time saints,
Brought centuries past from convent-cells of Spain; Stern-browed and formal, in their vivid paints
They hold their own as empires wax and wane.
This quaint baptismal font of copper here,
Old monks beat into shape for pious need; Here fired with zeal, yet half in doubt and fear,
Three thousand red men chose the white man's creed.
SAN GABRIEL MISSION.
Around the rectory door frail roses twine,
In pink and yellow clusters faintly sweet; Lantanas glow like red and golden wine,
In brilliant sprays that hang from head to feet.
Flame not, lantana, with too bold a red,
Flush not, young rose, in vanity or pride; Remember how your loving Master bled,
Remember how your loving Master died!
Without these walls one hears the mighty world
Rage like an awful ocean in alarm; Here in this haven every sail is furled,
And every sailor safe from every harm.
Without these walls let revolutions roll,
Let epochs march, let progress never cease; Here seek the balm that soothes the weary soul,
That gives the broken-hearted wanderer peace!
Stretched helpless on the burning sands I lie,
While scorching suns beat on me as they pass. Day after day I watch the glaring sky,
A fiery furnace reared like burnished brass.
Spread like a tawny lion's shaggy hide,
The yellow plains reach hillocks red and brown; See here the bones where dogs and men have died,
While imp-faced rocks in hideous hate looked down!
No living thing will come to share my grief,
Save when at night the famished coyotes howl, Or, coiled at twilight by some withered sheaf,
The rattler hisses at the screeching owl.
Ah, if I only once could hear the birds
Trill songs of joy in woodlands fresh and cool! Ah, if I only once could see the herds
Wade, lowing, knee-deep in some dark-green pool!
Ah, if I only once could feel the tide
Come thundering with its giant foaming waves; Through all my burning veins cool streams should glide,
And raise the corpses from my world of graves!