from Lyrics of the Street

Street Yarn

Roses caged in windows, heighten
Your faint blooms today;
Silks and sheeny satins, brighten;
He has passed this way!

Could ye keep his fleeting presence
Gone beyond recall,
But a little of his essence,
I would have you all.

Arabesque so quaint and shady,
That mightst catch his eye
To adorn a stately lady
Ere her hour went by,

Canst assure me that his glancing
Rested on they fold?
Did that set your purples dancing?
Wake the sleepy gold?

Ye neglected apple-venders
Mouldering in the street,
Did he curse between your tenders,
Spurning with his feet?

Then must I an alms deliver
For his graceless pride;
Could I buy his sins forever,
I’d not be denied.

Paying patiently his ransom
Never conscience-pricked;
Cheating Justice of her handsome
Heartless derelict.

Did he view thee, ancient steeple,
With thy weird clock-face,
Frowning down on sinful people
Passing out of grace?

Nay, respond not to my question
With thy prate of time:
Things to which my soul must hasten
Lie beyond thy chime.

With no circumstance to screen us,
We must meet again:
I shall bid God judge between us,
Answering Amen.

Source: She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997)
More Poems by Julia Ward Howe