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THE PATH-FLOWER, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: A red-cap sang in bishop's wood
Last Line: I watched her vanishing.
Alternate Author Name(s): Burke, Fielding
Subject(s): Begging & Beggars; Forests; Gifts & Giving; Spring; Strangers; Woods

A red-cap sang in Bishop's wood,
A lark o'er Golder's lane,
As I the April pathway trod
Bound west for Willesden.

At foot each tiny blade grew big
And taller stood to hear,
And every leaf on every twig
Was like a little ear.

As I too paused, and both ways tried
To catch the rippling rain, --
So still, a hare kept at my side
His tussock of disdain, --

Behind me close I heard a step,
A soft pit-pat surprise,
And looking round my eyes fell deep
Into sweet other eyes;

The eyes like wells, where sun lies too,
So clear and trustful brown,
Without a bubble warning you
That here's a place to drown.

"How many miles?" Her broken shoes
Had told of more than one.
She answered like a dreaming Muse,
"I came from Islington."

"So long a tramp?" Two gentle nods,
Then seemed to lift a wing,
And words fell soft as willow-buds,
"I came to find the Spring."

A timid voice, yet not afraid
In ways so sweet to roam,
As it with honey bees had played
And could no more go home.

Her home! I saw the human lair,
I heard the huckster's bawl,
I stifled with the thickened air
Of bickering mart and stall.

Without a tuppence for a ride,
Her feet had set her free.
Her rags, that decency defied,
Seemed new with liberty.

But she was frail. Who would might note
The trail of hungering
That for an hour she had forgot
In wonder of the Spring.

So shriven by her joy she glowed
It seemed a sin to chat.
(A tea-shop snuggled off the road;
Why did I think of that?)

Oh, frail, so frail! I could have wept, --
But she was passing on,
And I but muddled, "You'll accept
A penny for a bun?"

Then up her little throat a spray
Of rose climbed for it must;
A wilding lost till safe it lay
Hid by her curls of rust;

And I saw modesties at fence
With pride that bore no name;
So old it was she knew not whence
It sudden woke and came;

But that which shone of all most clear
Was startled, sadder thought
That I should give her back the fear
Of life she had forgot.

And I blushed for the world we'd made,
Putting God's hand aside,
Till for the want of sun and shade
His little children died;

And blushed that I who every year
With Spring went up and down,
Must greet a soul that ached for her
With "penny for a bun!"

Struck as a thief in holy place
Whose sin upon him cries,
I watched the flowers leave her face,
The song go from her eyes.

Then she, sweet heart, she saw my rout,
And of her charity
A hand of grace put softly out
And took the coin from me.

A red-cap sang in Bishop's wood,
A lark o'er Golder's lane;
But I, alone, still glooming stood,
And April plucked in vain;

Till living words rang in my ears
And sudden music played:
Out of such sacred thirst as hers
The world shall be remade.

Afar she turned her head and smiled
As might have smiled the Spring,
And humble as a wondering child
I watched her vanishing.

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