University of Virginia Library




Coming through the rye:
Thereof the rural poet whistles;
But who the flute will try
At scrambling through the thistles!
Nor less upon some roseate way
Emerge the prickly passage may.
But we who after ragged scrambles
Through fate's blessed thorns and brambles
Come unto our roses late—
Aright to manage the estate,
This indeed it well may task us
Quite inexperienced as we be
In aught but thickets that unmasque us
Of man's ennobling drapery.
Indigence is a plain estate:
Riches imply the complicate.
What peevish pestering wants surprise,
What bothering ambitions rise!
Then, too, Fate loans a lot luxurious
At such hard cent-per-cent usurious!
Mammon, never meek as Moses,
Gouty, mattressed on moss-roses,
A crumpled rose-leaf makes him furious.


Allow, as one's purveyor here
Of sweet content of Christian cheer,
“Vile Pelf” we overestimate.
Howbeit, a rose-farm nigh Damascus
Would Dives change at even rate
For Lazarus' snow-farm in Alaskus?
But that recalls me: I return.—
A friend, whose shadow has decreased,
For whom they reared a turbaned urn,
A corpulent grandee of the East,
Whose kind good will to me began
When I against his Rhamadan
Prepared a chowder for his feast,
Well dying, he remembered me:
A brave bequest, a farm in fee
Forever consecrate to roses,
And laved by streams that sacred are,
Pharpar and twin-born Abana,
Which last the pleasure-ground incloses,
At least winds half-way roundabout—
That garden to caress, no doubt.
But, ah, the stewardship it poses!
Every hour the bloom, the bliss
Upbraid me that I am remiss.
For still I dally,—I delay,—
Long do hesitate, and say,
“Of fifty thousand Damask Roses,—


(For my rose-farm no great matter),
Shall I make me heaps of posies,
Or some crystal drops of Attar?
To smell or sell or for a boon.
Quick you cull a rose and easy;
But Attar is not got so soon,
Demanding more than gesture breezy.
Yet this same Attar, I suppose,
Long time will last, outlive indeed
The rightful sceptre of the rose
And coronations of the weed.
Sauntering, plunged in this debate,
And somewhat leaning to elect
The thing most easy to effect,
I chanced upon a Persian late,
A sort of gentleman-rose-farmer
On knees beside his garden-gate
Telling his beads, just like a palmer.
Beads? coins, I meant. Each golden one
Upon a wire of silver run;
And every time a coin he told
His brow he raised and eyes he rolled
Devout in grateful orison.
Surely, methought, this pious man,
A florist, too, will solve my doubt.
Saluting him, I straight began:
“Decide, I pray, a dubious matter—”
And put the Roses and the Attar.


Whereat the roses near and far—
For all his garden was a lawn
Of roses thick as daisies are
In meads from smoky towns withdrawn—
They turned their heads like ladies, when
They hear themselves discussed by men.
But he, he swerved a wrinkled face,
Elderly, yet with ruddy trace—
Tinged doubly by warm flushings thrown
From sunset's roses and his own;
And, after scanning me and sounding,
“And you?—an older man than I?
Late come you with your sage propounding:
Allah! your time has long gone by.”—
“Alack, Sir, but so ruled the fate
I came unto my roses late.
What then? these gray hairs but disguise,
Since down in heart youth never dies—
O, sharpened by the long delay,
I'm eager for my roses quite;
But first would settle this prime matter—
Touching the Roses and the Attar:
I fear to err there; set me right.”
Meseemed his purs'd eyes grateful twinkled
Hearing of veteran youth unwrinkled,
Himself being old. But now the answer
Direct came, like a charging lancer:


“Attar? Go ask the Parsee yonder.
Lean as a rake with his distilling,
Cancel his debts, scarce worth a shilling!
How he exists I frequent wonder.
No neighbor loves him: sweet endeavor
Will get a nosegay from him never;
No, nor even your ducats will;
A very save-all for his still!
Of me, however, all speak well:
You see, my little coins I tell;
I give away, but more I sell,
In mossy pots, or bound in posies,
Always a market for my roses.
But attar, why, it comes so dear
Tis far from popular, that's clear.
I flourish, I; yon heavens they bless me,
My darlings cluster to caress me.”
At that fond sentence overheard,
Methought his rose-seraglio stirred.
But further he: “Yon Parsee lours
Headsman and Blue Beard of the flowers.
In virgin flush of efflorescence
When buds their bosoms just disclose,
To get a mummified quintessence
He scimeters the living rose!
I grant, against my different way,
Something, and specious, one might say.
Ay, pluck a rose in dew Auroral,
For buttonette to please the sight,—
The dawn's bloom and the bloom but floral,
Why, what a race with them in flight!


Quick, too, the redolence it stales.
And yet you have the brief delight,
And yet the next morn's bud avails;
And on in sequence.”
Came that close,
And, lo, in each flushed garden-bed,
What agitation! every rose
Bridling aloft the passionate head!
But what it was that angered here,—
Just why the high resentment shown,
Pray ask of her who'll hint it clear—
A Mormon's first-wife making moan.
But he, rose-farmer, long time versed
In roses husbanded by him,
Letting a glance upon them skim,
Followed his thread and more rehearsed;
And, waxing now a trifle warm:
“This evansecence is the charm!
And most it wins the spirits that be
Celestial, Sir. It comes to me
It was this fleeting charm in show
That lured the sons of God below,
Tired out with perpetuity
Of heaven's own seventh heaven aglow;
Not Eve's fair daughters, Sir; nay, nay,
Less fugitive in charm are they:


It was the rose.” As this he said
So flattering in imputation,—
Angelic sweethearts overhead,
Even seraphs paying them adoration,—
Each rose, as favoring the whim
Grave nodded,—as attesting him.
“But now, Sir, for your urgent matter.
Every way—for wise employment,
Repute and profit, health, enjoyment,
I am for roses—sink the Attar!”
And hereupon the downright man
To tell his rosary re-began.
And never a rose in all the garden
Blushed deeper there to hear their warden
So forcefully express his mind.
Methought they even seemed to laugh—
True ladies who, in temper kind,
Will pardon aught, though unrefined,
Sincerely vouched in their behalf.
Discreet, in second thought's immersion
I wended from this prosperous Persian
Who, verily, seemed in life rewarded
For sapient prudence not amiss,
Nor transcendental essence hoarded
In hope of quintessential bliss:
No, never with painstaking throes
Essays to crystallize the rose.


But here arrest the loom—the line.
Though damask be your precious stuff,
Spin it not out too superfine:
The flower of a subject is enough.
Rosy dawns the morning Syrian,
Youthful as in years of Noah:
Why then aging at three-score?
Do moths infest your mantle Tyrian?
Shake it out where the sun-beams pour!
Time, Amigo, does but masque us—
Boys in gray wigs, young at core.
Look, what damsels of Damascus,
Roses, lure the Pharpar's shore!
Sigh not—Age, dull tranquilizer,
And arid years that filed before,
For flowers unfit us. Nay, be wiser:
Wiser in relish, if sedate
Come gray-beards to their roses late.