Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

The Riverside Press, Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.

[blocks in formation]

CHRISTMAS-EVE AND EASTER-DAY

FLORENCE, 1850.

CHRISTMAS-EVE.

I.

OUT of the little chapel I burst,
Into the fresh night-air again.
Five minutes full, I waited first
In the doorway, to escape the rain

That drove in gusts down the common's centre,
At the edge of which the chapel stands,
Before I plucked up heart to enter.
Heaven knows how many sorts of hands
Reached past me, groping for the latch
Of the inner door that hung on catch
More obstinate the more they fumbled,
Till, giving way at last with a scold
Of the crazy hinge, in squeezed or tumbled
One sheep more to the rest in fold,
And left me irresolute, standing sentry
In the sheepfold's lath-and-plaster entry,
Four feet long by two feet wide,
Partitioned off from the vast inside
I blocked up half of it at least.
No remedy; the rain kept driving.
They eyed me much as some wild beast,
That congregation, still arriving,
Some of them by the main road, white
A long way past me into the night,

Skirting the common, then diverging;

Not a few suddenly emerging

From the common's self through the paling-gaps,

They house in the gravel-pits perhaps,

Where the road stops short with its safeguard border

Of lamps, as tired of such disorder;

But the most turned in yet more abruptly

From a certain squalid knot of alleys,

Where the town's bad blood once slept corruptly,

Which now the little chapel rallies

[ocr errors]

And leads into day again, its priestliness
Lending itself to hide their beastliness
So cleverly (thanks in part to the mason),
And putting so cheery a whitewashed face on
Those neophytes too much in lack of it,
That, where you cross the common as I did,
And meet the party thus presided,

"Mount Zion" with Love-lane at the back of it,
They front you as little disconcerted

As, bound for the hills, her fate averted,

And her wicked people made to mind him,

Lot might have marched with Gomorrah behind him.

II.

Well, from the road, the lanes or the common,
In came the flock: the fat weary woman,
Panting and bewildered, down-clapping
Her umbrella with a mighty report,
Grounded it by me, wry and flapping,
A wreck of whalebones; then, with a snort,
Like a startled horse, at the interloper
(Who humbly knew himself improper,
But could not shrink up small enough)

Round to the door, and in, the gruff
Hinge's invariable scold

Making my very blood run cold.
Prompt in the wake of her, up-pattered
On broken clogs, the many-tattered

Little old-faced peaking sister-turned-mother

Of the sickly babe she tried to smother

Somehow up, with its spotted face,

From the cold, on her breast, the one warm place;

She too must stop, wring the poor ends dry

Of a draggled shawl, and add thereby

Her tribute to the door-mat, sopping

Already from my own clothes' dropping,

Which yet she seemed to grudge I should stand on;

Then, stooping down to take off her pattens,

She bore them defiantly, in each hand one,

Planted together before her breast
And its babe, as good as a lance in rest.
Close on her heels, the dingy satins
Of a female something, past me flitted,
With lips as much too white, as a streak
Lay far too red on each hollow cheek;

« AnteriorContinuar »