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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Pine Bluffs, Ark.

The Old Wharf

By Lilian Rozell Messenger (1843–1921)

SAD, broken, and scarred, with a careworn look,

It is never a place that a fay might haunt,

This brown old wharf, where the murky waves

Forever in idle monotone chant

A story which seems but nothing sometimes,

Save a babble of foolish and quaint old rhymes;

Like the broken fragments of winds that fell

With sweet spring, swept to her flowery dell,

Or yet to their deep-toned caves,

Whose soft blue gloom hath defied the sun,

But the love-warm rays of the moonlight won.

Sad, broken, and scarred, with its careworn look,—

And no one thinks it can ever be more

Than the brown old wharf by the idle waves,

With hurrying cloudlets passing o’er;

But I often think if these could speak,

How its mummied secrets would crumbling break,

And tell of the thousand steps that passed

(In a day near by, in a far-off day,

Which may never return, or may be the last),

And whisper of farewells again,

That divided true hearts and severed true hands,

When over the South and its sweet summer-lands

Hung the fiery Cross of Pain.

On the grim, gory mount of war it gleamed,

And woman, the weeper, was mourning there,

One farewell cleaving brave hearts and brave hands,

And fate seemed bound in the bands of prayer,—

But only seemed; and the same waves tell,

By the old wharf brown, whatever befell,

When their barks drew near, and others sailed out,

Far off in the far-away!

Eyes there are, yet gazing through time’s dim gray,

That is flecked with the gold of that dawning day.

Four times and three, at the old wharf brown,

With a cloven heart have I said good by,

And my secret left, and dreamed it the last,

While the slow, sad waves passed on with a sigh.

But once they bore off a form enshrined

In death’s dim dusk; and once they chimed

To a marriage-bell, on a blue June day;

That, too, passed out in the far-away.

And I sometimes fear that a welcome more

Will never come back from the brown old shore,

Though an army with banners of joy stood there,

Where the phantoms of hundred farewells are.