Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  An Old Man’s Idyl

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Old Man’s Idyl

By Richard Realf (1832–1878)

[Born in Framfield, near Lewes, Sussex, England. Died at Oakland, Cal., 1878. The Atlantic Monthly. 1866.]

BY the waters of Life we sat together,

Hand in hand in the golden days

Of the beautiful early summer weather,

When skies were purple and breath was praise,

When the heart kept tune to the carol of birds,

And the birds kept tune to the songs which ran

Through shimmer of flowers on grassy swards,

And trees with voices Æolian.

By the rivers of Life we walked together,

I and my darling, unafraid;

And lighter than any linnet’s feather

The burdens of Being on us weighed.

And Love’s sweet miracles o’er us threw

Mantles of joy outlasting Time,

And up from the rosy morrows grew

A sound that seemed like a marriage chime.

In the gardens of Life we strayed together;

And the luscious apples were ripe and red,

And the languid lilac and honeyed heather

Swooned with the fragrance which they shed.

And under the trees the angels walked,

And up in the air a sense of wings

Awed us tenderly while we talked

Softly in sacred communings.

In the meadows of Life we strayed together,

Watching the waving harvests grow;

And under the benison of the Father

Our hearts, like the lambs, skipped to and fro.

And the cowslips, hearing our low replies,

Broidered fairer the emerald banks,

And glad tears shone in the daisies’ eyes,

And the timid violet glistened thanks.

Who was with us, and what was round us,

Neither myself nor my darling guessed;

Only we knew that something crowned us

Out from the heavens with crowns of rest;

Only we knew that something bright

Lingered lovingly where we stood,

Clothed with the incandescent light

Of something higher than humanhood.

O the riches Love doth inherit!

Ah, the alchemy which doth change

Dross of body and dregs of spirit

Into sanctities rare and strange!

My flesh is feeble and dry and old,

My darling’s beautiful hair is gray;

But our elixir and precious gold

Laugh at the footsteps of decay.

Harms of the world have come unto us,

Cups of sorrow we yet shall drain;

But we have a secret which doth show us

Wonderful rainbows in the rain.

And we hear the tread of the years move by,

And the sun is setting behind the hills;

But my darling does not fear to die,

And I am happy in what God wills.

So we sit by our household fires together,

Dreaming the dreams of long ago:

Then it was balmy summer weather,

And now the valleys are laid in snow.

Icicles hang from the slippery eaves;

The wind blows cold,—’tis growing late;

Well, well! we have garnered all our sheaves,

I and my darling, and we wait.