To Elizabeth Ward Perkins

          Dear Bessie, would my tired rhyme
           Had force to rise from apathy,
           And shaking off its lethargy
          Ring word-tones like a Christmas chime.

          But in my soul's high belfry, chill
           The bitter wind of doubt has blown,
           The summer swallows all have flown,
          The bells are frost-bound, mute and still.

          Upon the crumbling boards the snow
           Has drifted deep, the clappers hang
           Prismed with icicles, their clang
          Unheard since ages long ago.

          The rope I pull is stiff and cold,
           My straining ears detect no sound
           Except a sigh, as round and round
          The wind rocks through the timbers old.

          Below, I know the church is bright
           With haloed tapers, warm with prayer;
           But here I only feel the air
          Of icy centuries of night.

          Beneath my feet the snow is lit
           And gemmed with colours, red, and blue,
           Topaz, and green, where light falls through
          The saints that in the windows sit.

          Here darkness seems a spectred thing,
           Voiceless and haunting, while the stars
           Mock with a light of long dead years
          The ache of present suffering.

          Silent and winter-killed I stand,
           No carol hymns my debt to you;
           But take this frozen thought in lieu,
          And thaw its music in your hand.

This poem is in the public domain.