The Alpine Sheep

When on my ear your loss was knelled,
    And tender sympathy upburst, 
A little spring from memory welled,
    Which once had quenched my bitter thirst.

And I was fain to bear to you
    A portion of its mild relief, 
That it might be as healing dew,
    To steal some fever from your grief.

After our child’s untroubled breath
    Up to the Father took its way, 
And on our home the shade of Death
    Like a long twilight haunting lay,

And friends came round, with us to weep
    Her little spirit’s swift remove, 
The story of the Alpine sheep
    Was told to us by one we love.

They, in the valley’s sheltering care, 
    Soon crop the meadow’s tender prime,
And when the sod grows brown and bare, 
    The shepherd strives to make them climb

To airy shelves of pasture green, 
    That hang along the mountain’s side,
Where grass and flowers together lean, 
    And down through mist the sunbeams slide.

But naught can tempt the timid things 
    The steep and rugged paths to try,
Though sweet the shepherd calls and sings, 
    And seared below the pastures lie,

Till in his arms their lambs he takes,
    Along the dizzy verge to go; 
Then, heedless of the rifts and breaks,
    They follow on, o’er rock and snow.

And in those pastures, lifted fair, 
    More dewy-soft than lowland mead,
The shepherd drops his tender care, 
    And sheep and lambs together feed.

This parable, by Nature breathed, 
    Blew on me as the south-wind free
O’er frozen brooks, that flow unsheathed 
    From icy thraldom to the sea.

A blissful vision, through the night, 
    Would all my happy senses sway,
Of the good Shepherd on the height, 
    Or climbing up the starry way,

Holding our little lamb asleep,— 
    While, like the murmur of the sea,
Sounded that voice along the deep,
    Saying, “Arise and follow me!”

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.