On winter nights beside the nursery fire
          We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals
          Builded its pictures.  There before our eyes
          We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone
          Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung
          With pendent stalactites like frozen vines;
          And all along the walls at intervals,
          Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,
          And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves
          Divided where there peered a laughing face.
          The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,
          A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.
          High pointed windows pierced the southern wall
          Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires
          To stain the tessellated marble floor
          With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue;
          And in the shade beyond the further door,
          Its sober squares of black and white were hid
          Beneath a restless, shuffling, wide-eyed mob
          Of lackeys and retainers come to view
          The Christening.
          A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng
          About the entrance parted as the guests
          Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts.
          Our eager fancies noted all they brought,
          The glorious, unattainable delights!
          But always there was one unbidden guest
          Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.

          The fire falls asunder, all is changed,
          I am no more a child, and what I see
          Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life.
          The gifts are there, the many pleasant things:
          Health, wealth, long-settled friendships, with a name
          Which honors all who bear it, and the power
          Of making words obedient.  This is much;
          But overshadowing all is still the curse,
          That never shall I be fulfilled by love!
          Along the parching highroad of the world
          No other soul shall bear mine company.
          Always shall I be teased with semblances,
          With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile
          Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy
          Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering
          Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds.
          So I behold my visions on the ground
          No longer radiant, an ignoble heap
          Of broken, dusty glass.  And so, unlit,
          Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps
          Force me forever through the passing days.

This poem is in the public domain.