Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN A RAILWAY STATION, by MARY SINTON LEITCH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

IN A RAILWAY STATION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: How strangely memory serves us! Here tonight
Last Line: "will have gone twenty miles tonight for naught."
Subject(s): Memory; Pity; Railroad Stations; Women - Middle Aged

How strangely memory serves us! Here tonight
Before my hearth-fire, my own children's faces
Are seen as through the mists of vanished years,
While out of the dim past a face -- a form --
I saw but once is risen to confront me
And is to me the one reality.

Beside me on a station bench one night
A woman sat of forty years -- or less --
But pitifully-older in her dearth,
Aged by frustration. Life had passed her by
And, passing, breathed a blighting breath upon her,
So that a sere, dry leaf is more alive,
For that has felt the urgent sap of spring
Swift in its veins and has, in withering, burned
With bright and happy memories of fulfilment.

But she; -- there was no part of that spare frame
That love could curve and hand to. Not a garden
Whose soil had been enriched by chastity
Her body was, where virgin lilies bloomed
(For love foregone may work its miracle
Of fruitfulness as well as love fulfilled); --
But no; -- it was a place of barren dust
Where winter winds blew dreary, bleak and cold,
As on a house untenanted, unknown
To joy of laughter or to grief of tears.
A lonely thing is such virginity.

The train now drawing near us through the night
Would bring my lover to me, eager lips
Would soon be pressed upon my eager lips,
Strong arms would fold me close, beloved hands
Would set upon my brow love's sign and seal.

So, pitying her for very happiness,
I drew a little closer, yet -- I thought --
Within that withered bosom tender longings
And dreams can never nest; she is content
With being hopeless who has never hoped,
With being loveless who could never love: --
Thus I sought comfort for my pity of her.

A book lay open on her lap and, reading.
She seemed unmindful of my presence near her,
Remote from all the noise of hurrying feet
Arriving and departing, the white faces
Of weary children and their fretful crying,
Of all the lives that touched a moment here
And passed.

She read Le Gallienne's "Paolo"! --
"Paolo and Francesca," those great lovers!

"So did he yield him to her eager breast
"And half forgot but could not quite forget;
"No sweetest kiss could put that fear to rest," . . .
She read her thin lips moving, and her eyes
That held no mysteries of their own, were wet.
I spoke -- "You leave tonight?" She did not turn.

"He drew aside the arras where they clung
"In the dim light so lovely and so young" . . .
I touched her hand. She started and the glow
Died in her eyes, the wonder from her face.
"I have lost my train," she said; -- "Our hired man --
Our Jo -- and Sara Gamp, our old grey mare,
Will have gone twenty miles tonight for naught."

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