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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

Leaves at my Window

By John James Piatt (1835–1917)

I WATCH the leaves that flutter in the wind,

Bathing my eyes with coolness and my heart

Filling with springs of grateful sense anew,

Before my window—in the sun and rain,

And now the wind is gone and now the rain,

And all a motionless moment breathe, and now

Playful the wind comes back—again the shower,

Again the sunshine! Like a golden swarm

Of butterflies the leaves are fluttering,

The leaves are dancing, singing—all alive

(For Fancy gives her breath to every leaf)

For the blithe moment. Beautiful to me,

Of all inanimate things most beautiful,

And dear as flowers their kindred, are the leaves

In all their summer life; and, when a child,

I loved to lie through sunny afternoons

With half-shut eyes (familiar eyes with things

Long unfamiliar, knowing Fairyland

And all the unhidden mysteries of the Earth)

Using my kinship in those earlier days

With Nature and the humbler people, dear

To her green life, in every shade and sun.

The leaves had myriad voices, and their joy

One with the birds’ that sang among them seemed;

And, oftentimes, I lay in breezy shade

Till, creeping with the loving stealth he takes

In healthy temperaments, the blessèd Sleep

(Thrice-blessèd and thrice-blessing now, because

Of sleepless things that will not give us rest)

Came with his weird processions—dreams that wore

All happy masks—blithe fairies numberless,

Forever passing, never more to pass,

The Spirits of the Leaves. Awaking then,

Behold the sun was swimming in my face

Through mists of his creations, swarming gold,

And all the leaves in sultry languor lay

Above me, for I wakened when they dropped

Asleep, unmoving. Now, when Time has ceased

His holiday, and I am prisoned close

In his harsh service, mastered by his Hours,

The leaves have not forgotten me: behold,

They play with me like children who, awake,

Find one most dear asleep and waken him

To their own gladness from his sultry dream;

But nothing sweeter do they give to me

Than thoughts of one who, far away, perchance

Watches like me the leaves and thinks of me

While o’er her window, sunnily the shower

Touches all boughs to music, and the rose

Beneath swings lovingly toward the pane,

And she, whom Nature gave the freshest sense

For all her delicate life, rejoices in

The joy of birds that use the sun to sing

With breasts o’erfull of music. “Little Birds,”

She sings, “Sing to my little Bird below!”

And with her child-like fancy, half-belief,

She hears them sing and makes-believe they obey,

And the child, wakening, listens motionless.