Dead Flowers

Those simple daisies which you view,
Last year, when summer winds did wave,
And clouds were white with sunshine, grew
Upon the Ettrick Shepherd's grave.

But not of him they speak, nor draw
My thoughts back to that early time
When, rapt in that one dream, he saw
The shadows lift from fairy clime.

Nor yet of Ettrick, as it goes
To join the Yarrow's haunting tone,
That each may murmur as it flows
A music something like his own.

Nor even of Saint Mary's Lake,
Amid those hills from which he drew
The legendary past, to wake
Its far-off melodies anew.

No; not of these I think, though each
Is rich in spells of magic song;
These daisies touch a chord to which
All sadder thoughts of death belong.

And so I turn, and for a space
Within the sacred Past I stand,
To feel the sunshine of a face,
The kindly pressure of a hand.

All just the same as when she gave
These dead flowers as a welcome thing;
Alas! and now upon her grave
The grass is thinking of the spring.

It seems but as a day since then—
How slow, yet swift, the years have sped—
And here, beside the streets of men,
She slumbers with the holy dead.

She should have lain among the hills,
In some old churchyard, where each sound
Is of the wind, the tinkling rills,
And cry of lonely things around;

Or where old ballads grew to life,
Far back within the shadowy years,
That sang of rugged Border strife,
Or passions born of love and tears.

For, loyal to their old-world chords,
She felt her heart in unison
With all their rich but simple words,
That took new music from her own.

True woman of the faithful heart,
And kindly as the summer air;
A nature such as could impart
Its genial presence everywhere.

In her the friend was friend indeed;
A larger sense of sympathy,
That overstepped the pales of creed,
Drew her to all in charity.

And now this death that waits for each,
An unseen shade by all, has come;
The Scottish music of her speech,
So sweet, is now for ever dumb.

So pass the leal ones of this earth,
To leave us with a holier claim;
To touch us with their spirit-birth,
And whisper they are still the same.

These simple flowers of withered hue,
Last year when summer winds did wave,
Were plucked by her because they grew
Upon the Ettrick Shepherd's grave.

This year, when summer pours her light,
And daisies are to beauty blown,
Some hands will pluck their blossoms white,
Because they grow upon her own.

by Alexander Anderson

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