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DOROTHY IN THE GARRET, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: In the low-raftered garret, stooping
Last Line: And lifelong sorrow a breath on the pane.
Subject(s): Disappointment; Grief; Love; Spinsters; Sorrow; Sadness; Old Maids

In the low-rafted garret, stooping
Carefully over the creaking boards,
Old Maid Dorothy goes a-groping
Among its dusty and cobwebbed hoards;
Seeking some bundle of patches, hid
Far under the eaves, or bunch of sage,
Or satchel hung on its nail, amid
The heirlooms of a bygone age.
There is the ancient family chest,
There the ancestral cards and hatchel;
Dorothy, sighing, sinks down to rest,
Forgetful of patches, sage, and satchel.
Ghosts of faces peer from the gloom
Of the chimney, where with swifts and reel,
And the long-disused, dismantled loom,
Stands the old-fashioned spinning-wheel
She sees it back in the clean-swept kitchen,
A part of her girlhood's little world;
Her mother is there by the window, stitching;
Spindle buzzes, and reel is whirled
With many a click: on her little stool
She sits, a child, by the open door,
Watching, and dabbling her feet in the pool
Of sunshine spilled on the gilded floor
Her sisters are spinning all day long;
To her wakening sense the first sweet warning
Of daylight come is the cheerful song
To the hum of the wheel in the early morning.
Benjie, the gentle, red-cheeked boy,
On his way to school, peeps in at the gate;
In neat white pinafore, pleased and coy,
She reaches a hand to her bashful mate;
And under the elms, a prattling pair,
Together they go, through glimmer and gloom: --
It all comes back to her, dreaming there
In the low-raftered garret room;
The hum of the wheel, and the summer weather,
The heart's first trouble, and love's beginning,
Are all in her memory linked together;
And now it is she herself that is spinning.
With the bloom of youth on cheek and lip,
Turning the spokes with the flashing pin,
Twisting the thread from the spindle-tip,
Stretching it out and winding it in,
To and fro, with a blithesome tread,
Singing she goes, and her heart is full,
And many a long-drawn golden thread
Of fancy is spun with the shining wool.
Her father sits in his favorite place,
Puffing his pipe by the chimney-side;
Through curling clouds his kindly face
Glows upon her with love and pride.
Lulled by the wheel, in the old arm-chair
Her mother is musing, cat in lap,
With beautiful drooping head, and hair
Whitening under her snow-white cap.
One by one, to the grave, to the bridal,
They have followed her sisters from the door;
Now they are old, and she is their idol: --
It all comes back on her heart once more.
In the autumn dusk the harth gleams brightly,
The wheel is set by the shadowy wall,--
A hand at the latch, -- 't is lifted-lightly,
And in walks Benjie, manly and tall.
His chair is placed; the old man tips
The pitcher, and brings his choicest fruit;
Benjie basks in the blaze, and sips,
And tells his story, and joints his flute:
O, sweet the tunes, the talk, the laughter!
They fill the hour with a glowing tide;
But sweeter the still, deep moments after,
When she is alone by Benjie's side.
But once with angry words they part:
O, then the weary, weary days!
Ever with restless, wretched heart,
Plying her task, she turns to gaze
Far up the road; and early and late
She harks for a footstep at the door,
And starts at the gust that swings the gate,
And prays for Benjie, who comes no more.
Her fault? O Benjie, and could you steel
Your thoughts towards one who loved you so? --
Solace she seeks in the whirling wheel,
In duty and love that lighten woe;
Striving with labor, not in vain,
To drive away the dull day's dreariness, --
Blessing the toil that blunts the pain
Of a deeper grief in the body's weariness.
Proud and petted and spoiled was she:
A word, and all her life is changed!
His wavering love too easily
In the great, gay city grows estranged:
One year: she sits in the old church pew;
A rustle, a murmur, -- O Dorothy! hide
Your face and shut from your soul the view --
'T is Benjie leading a white-veiled bride!
Now father and mother have long been dead,
And the bride sleeps under a churchyard stone,
And a bent old man with a grizzled head
Walks up the long dim aisle alone.
Years blur to a mist; and Dorothy
Sits doubting betwixt the ghost she seems,
And the phantom of youth, more real than she,
That meets her there in that haunt of dreams.
Bright young Dorothy, idolized daughter,
Sought by many a youthful adorer,
Life, like a new-risen dawn on the water,
Shining an endless vista before her!
Old Maid Dorothy, wrinkled and gray,
Groping under the farm-house eaves, --
And life was a brief November day
That sets on a world of withered leaves!
Yet faithfulness in the humblest part
Is better at last than proud success,
And patience and love in a chastened heart
Are pearls more precious than happiness;
And in that morning when she shall wake
To the spring-time freshness of youth again,
All trouble will seem but a flying flake,
And lifelong sorrow a breath on the pane.

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