Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SHADOWS, by ISABEL R. BOYER

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SHADOWS, by            
First Line: Last night, the shadows dark'ning in my room
Last Line: "of peace on earth good will to every man."
Subject(s): Shadows

Last night, the shadows dark'ning in my room,
I sat before an open fire and mused.
(Such thoughts go swirling through one's head
As twilight flies!
Why is it that a shadow brings regret?
Is it that we are minded of a once bright life,
Cast over by the gloom of grave mistakes,
Or, does a shadow, falling on the wall,
Suggest an end of that which glows and lives?)
And, musing there, old memories, long thought dead,
Revived themselves, and building, link by link,
Became as living things within the room,
To bless or taunt me at their swaying wills.
And, moving down the vista of the years,
I seemed to see again an aged face,
Framed in by glistening strands of snowy hair—
A mother's face, that I had all too long,
Left buried with the dreams of yesteryear.
I turned my eyes to where the firelight threw
Its radiance on the tiles about the hearth,
And saw a smile of love light up that face,
And I remembered, then, a kindly thing
That I had done—a word in sweetness spoken,
In deep appreciation of that love.
A time when I was happy in success
And did not spare the kindness that I felt
Because of that.
The log gleamed red and satisfaction grew.
In recollection of that treasured hour
I closed my eyes to carefully imprint
Those features in the gallery of my mind,
And oped them on a charred and fallen log
That left it dark where, but a moment since,
A light had glowed, reflecting cheery rays
To warm the cold recesses of my heart.
From out the shades it marked upon the floor,
There rose a vision of the same sweet face;
But missing was the smile, and in its stead,
A sadness slowly settled and the eyes
Seemed dimmed as by a haze of hidden tears.
My mind stole back to days when failure came
To brand me for its victim—sad estate
Brought into being through rebellious pride,
Nor marked by influence other than my own,
But fructifying that which took away
Due recognition of true sympathy,
And leaving that which selfishly begot
The sadness that the shadows emphasized.
("Oh, Ghosts of Light," I cried, "Stay yet awhile
That I may expiate in soul-lashed grief
The hideous truths your shades of darkness bring
From out the corners of a thoughtless past.")
But cowardice is dormantly alive
Within the human breast and bids the creature flee
From that which makes for solemn retrospection
Which brings contrition. We would fain seek out
The brightness and the glamour of the light.
I knelt to stir the remnants of the hearth-log
To glow again with happier reminiscence,
But ere my hand had turned the dimming embers,
There rose a figure I had known of yore,
And knowing, had contemned as crude and gross.
A day when I had shunned that callow presence
Seemed but as yesterday, the while I pondered,
And all too well recurred that sense remorseful,
When later I had hurried down the street,
And there beheld the figure I had slighted,
Bent low in kindness o'er a wounded dog,
The coarse hand binding up with meagre fragments
Of a worn cravat, the torn and bleeding paw.

So once the soul was probed with sore emotion,
There rushed before my eyes, in bold relief,
Such mocking incidents from days departed,
As seared themselves like brands upon the heart.
A loved one speeding home as day was waning,
With buoyant step and greeting gay and eager,
Had met with bitter, unresponsive mood—
(The day had brought such lack of approbation
For efforts made in fields apart from duty,
As to produce an acrid sentiment,
That walled about with mien, unkind, repellent,
The love that should have warmly welcomed love.)
I rose to stand with head bowed low in sorrow,
And eyes that saw but dimly as they gazed
Into the fire that snapped and grew relucent—
A teasing spectre, poignantly converse.
I tried, with sweeter mem'ry, to oppugn the picture,
But spite of self, there visioned o'er and o'er,
The changing look that crept about that visage
As slowly turned the figure from the room,
But not before a parcel tied most gaily,
And placed upon my chair, had caught my eye,
To bear a quick reminder—and how pungent—
That once again had Father Time encircled
The clock of years and brought my birthday round.

"Oh, firelight, shadows, crackling glowing embers,
What things you seem to know, what pictures paint!
Far out beyond my call is there a fireside,
And do they know, who cluster thereabout,
Such saddening memories that are mine tonight?
Oh, may they find among their shades and shadows,
One gleam of warmth that grew to being here,
Within my heart, and leapt to meet its kindred,
And mingling there with glows from out their hearth-stone,
Conveys a note love-laden and repentant.
And may it nurture there a beam of pardon,
That I may know at last that wondrous message,
Of Peace on Earth Good Will to every Man."

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