Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Life’s Answer

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

Life’s Answer

By Milicent Washburn Shinn (1858–1940)

“O HEART, my heart,” he said,

“How bitter is thine aching!

The happy winds are waking,

The linnets nest o’erhead;

And thou art like to breaking.

“Ah, friend of years,” he said,

“Heart’s dearest, unto thee

I bring my misery,

And thou shalt healing shed,

And set my spirit free.”

Unknowing, unafraid,

He dared the seas that roll

Blackly ’twixt soul and soul:

Lost, drowning, sore dismayed,

All baffled of his goal,

Back-driven to solitude,—

“Ah, woe is me!” he cried,

“To find no love so wide

That it may clasp my mood,

Or close as grief abide.

“This pain that stays and stings,

At love’s or friendship’s door

Shall knock in vain no more;

For I will give it wings

Far, far from me to soar.

“O wide-winged song,” he said,

“Divinest, unto thee

I bring my misery,

And thou shalt healing shed;

Set thou my spirit free.”

Fluttered the feeble song.

Unmeet its wings to bear

One narrow human care,—

Wings wont to soar so strong

Under a world’s despair.

“Ah, what is this?” he cried,

“Unto the wide world’s smart,

Answers the wide world’s heart;

Unheard the cries abide

Of each small soul apart.

“Ah, silence, thou,” he said,—

“Most merciful, to thee

I bring my misery.

Be there no healing shed;

Clasp but my pain and me.

Strong silence, like a sea,

Flow deep above my head.”