Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Love in Winter

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Holland

Love in Winter

By Robert Buchanan (1841–1901)

“O, LOVE is like the roses,

And every rose shall fall,

For sure as summer closes

They perish, one and all.

Then love, while leaves are on the tree,

And birds sing in the bowers:

When winter comes, too late ’t will be

To pluck the happy flowers.”

It is a maiden singing,

An ancient girl, in sooth;

The dizzy room is ringing

With her shrill song of youth;

The white keys sob as swift she tries

Each shrill and shrieking scale:

“O, love is like the roses!” cries

This muslined nightingale.

In a dark corner dozing,

I close my eyes and ears,

And call up, while reposing,

A glimpse from other years;

A genre-picture, quaint and Dutch,

I see from this dark seat,—

’T is full of human brightness, such

As makes remembrance sweet.

Flat leagues of endless meadows

(In Holland lies the scene),

Where many pollard-shadows

O’er nut-brown ditches lean;

Gray clouds above that never break,

Mists the pale sunbeams stripe,

With groups of steaming cattle, make

A landscape “after Cuyp.”

A windmill, and below it

A cottage near a road,

Where some meek pastoral poet

Might make a glad abode;

A cottage with a garden, where

Prim squares of pansies grow,

And, sitting on a garden-chair,

A dame with locks of snow,

In trim black, trussed and bodiced,

With petticoat of red,

And on her bosom modest

A kerchief white bespread.

Alas! the breast that heaves below

Is shrivelled now and thin,

Though vestal thoughts as white as snow

Still palpitate within.

Her hands are mittened nicely,

And folded on her knee;

Her lips, that meet precisely,

Are moving quietly.

She listens while the dreamy bells

O’er the dark flats intone,—

Now come, now gone, in dying swells

The Sabbath sounds are blown.

Her cheek a withered rose is,

Her eye a violet dim;

Half in her chair she dozes,

And hums a happy hymn.

But soft! what wonder makes her start

And lift her aged head,

While the faint flutterings of her heart

Just touch her cheek with red?

The latch clicks; through the gateway

An aged wight steps slow,

Then pauses, doffing straightway

His broad-brimmed gay chapeau!

Swallow-tailed coat of blue so grand,

With buttons bright beside,

He wears, and in his trembling hand

A nosegay, ribbon-tied.

His thin old legs trip lightly

In breeches of nankeen,

His wrinkled face looks brightly,

So rosy, fresh, and clean:

For old he is and wrinkled plain,

With locks of golden-gray,

And leaning on a tasselled cane

He hobbles on his way.

O skylark, singing over

The silent mill hard by,

To this so happy lover

Sing out with summer cry!

He hears thee, though his blood is cold,

She hears, though deaf and weak;

She stands to greet him, as of old,

A blush upon her cheek.

In springtime they were parted

By some sad wind of woe;

Forlorn and broken-hearted

Each faltered, long ago;

They parted: half a century

Each took the path of pain,—

He lived a bachelor, and she

Was never wooed again.

But when the summer ended,

When autumn, too, was dead,

When every vision splendid

Of youth and hope was fled,

Again these twain came face to face

As in the long ago;

They met within a sunless place

In the season of the snow.

“O, love is like the roses,

Love comes and love must flee!

Before the summer closes

Love’s rapture and love’s glee!”

O peace! for in the garden there

He bows in raiment gay,

Doffs hat, and with a courtly air

Presents his fond bouquet.

One day in every seven,

While church-bells softly ring,

The happy, silent heaven

Beholds the selfsame thing:

The gay old boy within the gate,

With ribbons at his knee!—

“When winter comes is love too late?”

O Cupid, look and see!

O, talk not of love’s rapture,

When youthful lovers kiss;

What mortal sight may capture

A scene so sweet as this?

Beside her now he sits and glows,

While prim she sits, and proud,

Then, spectacles upon his nose,

Reads the week’s news aloud!

Pure, with no touch of passion,

True, with no tinge of pain;

Thus, in sweet Sabbath fashion,

They live their loves again.

She sees in him a happy boy,—

Swift, agile, amorous-eyed;

He sees in her his own heart’s joy,—

Youth, hope, love, vivified!

Content there he sits smoking

His long Dutch pipe of wood;

Gossiping oft and joking,

As a gay lover should.

And oft, while there in company

They smile for love’s sweet sake,

Her snuff-box black she hands, and he

A grave deep pinch doth take!

There, gravely juvenescent,

In sober Sabbath joy,

Mingling the past and present,

They sit, a maid and boy!

“O, love is like the roses!”—No!

Thou foolish singer, cease!

Love finds his fireside mid the snow,

And smokes the pipe of peace!