‘Arcadia Revisited’ by Bret Harte

‘Arcadia Revisited’

by Bret HarteDSCF9120

“Ah, here’s the spot — the very tree
Where once I carved an L. and E.,
Symbolical of her and me
Bound in Love’s rosy fetters;
Since then five weary years are spent,
And yet I think we’re both content
That in Love’s Book we never went
Beyond our simple letters.

For, looking through the rustling leaves,
I see the humble cottage eaves
Where now my Em. no longer weaves
Her mystic maiden fancies,
But milks her cows — she called ’em kine
In the brave days when she was mine–
But now she’s dropped those phrases fine
She borrowed from romances.

But here’s the place — the very tree
Where once I fell on bended knee
And breathed my burning vows — while she
Stood by in pale pink muslin.
I kissed her hand — but why revamp
Old feelings now? — the grass is damp,
And what with this rheumatic cramp
To kneel now would be puzzling.

She walks no more ‘neath starlit skies,
She calls the evening mists that rise
Miasma, and the dew that lies
Is damp and cold and shocking.
She now wears boots. Five years ago
Her skirts she gathered up below;
‘T was not from dampness, but to show
Her slippers and white stocking.

Beneath this shade we used to read
“Maud Muller,” and we both agreed
The Judge was wrong — but why proceed?
She’s married to another!
She has not pined — that form is stout
That once this arm was clasped about,
She has two girls; they’re both, no doubt,
The image of their mother!

She said she loved not “wealth or state,”
But most adored the “wise and great,”
And gave a look to intimate
That this was my complexion;
“Her husband should be eyed like Mars,”
That’s he, there, letting down the bars,
In cowhide boots. No doubt her Pa’s,
But O, not her selection!

And yet, am I her young love’s dream:
The pensive lover that did seem
The rightful Prince who should redeem
The promise of her fancies?
And I that same dyspeptic youth
Who rang the chimes on “sooth” and “truth,”
Minus that cuspidate tooth
Whose presence kills romances?

O Love, behind yon leafy screen!
Why can’t all trees be evergreen?
Why can’t all girls be sweet sixteen,
All men but one-and-twenty?
Why are the scars that hearts must wear
Deeper than those yon tree may bear?
And why are lovers now so rare,
And married folk so plenty?”

Bret Harte was born on this day in 1836. You can read more of his work through Surrey Libraries.

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