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Margaret Widdemer

Once I Met Happiness

ONCE when all the Spring was wild,
All the leaves dew-pearled,
Once I met Happiness,
Singing down the world.

She had laughter on her lips,
Flowers in her hair–
Once I met Happiness–
Oh, she was fair!

There was yellow sun, I know,
Scent o' pine that day,
Once she kissed me on the lips,
Laughed and went her way.

What if all the lights are dim,
All the flowers furled?
Once I met Happiness,
Singing down the world!

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Next Year

Up and down the street I know,
Now that there are Grief and War,
All day long the people go
As they went before;
But when now the lads go by–
Careless look and careless glance–
My heart wonders– 'Which shall lie
Still next year in France?'
When the girls go fluttering–
Flushing cheek and tossing head–
My heart asks– 'Next year shall bring
Which a lover dead?'
Lord, let peace be kind and fleet–
Put an end to Grief and War;
Let them walk the little street
Careless as before!

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One Worse Thing

LAST Spring I walked these ways, and a sharp grief walked with me,
For you had broken my heart with a light kiss, carelessly,
And I was young and was new to grief, and could think of no worse thing
Than to walk abroad with a hurting heart and be hopeless in the Spring.

But I am older now, and have lived with grief awhile,
And there's one worse thing than a hurting heart that you have to hide and smile,
For I who know what a hurt heart is, and the thing that grief can be,
I– I have broken a heart with a light kiss, carelessly!

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Poem from a Picture

(Children at play on a French Battlefield)
'When I was a child,'
You shall tell one day,
Children, on these blackened fields
Gallantly at play,
'All the quiet sky
Burst in death aflame;
One day, I was young,
Then . . . The Horror came.'
'When I was a child . . .'
Wind-tossed leaves of war,
Is there childhood still for you,
Wise in horror-lore,
Who have heard your sisters' screams
Shattering your play,
Seen your mothers past their dead
Led to shame away?
Ragged, helpless, maimed,
Hungry, left alone
Where the smoking roof-beams lie

[...] Read more

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The Factories

I have shut my little sister in from life and light
(For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair),
I have made her restless feet still until the night,
Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air;
I who ranged the meadow lands, free from sun to sun,
Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly,
I have bound my sister till her playing-time is done -
Oh, my little sister, was it I? - was it I?
I have robbed my sister of her day of maidenhood
(For a robe, for a feather, for a trinket's restless spark),
Shut from Love till dusk shall fall, how shall she know good,
How shall she pass scatheless through the sinlit dark?
I who could be innocent, I who could be gay,
I who could have love and mirth before the light went by,
I have put my sister in her mating-time away -
Sister, my young sister, - was it I? - was it I?
I have robbed my sister of the lips against her breast
(For a coin, for the weaving of my children's lace and lawn),
Feet that pace beside the loom, hands that cannot rest,
How can she know motherhood, whose strength is gone?

[...] Read more

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When I Was A Young Girl

(A Song of Old Ballads)

WHEN I was a young girl, all in a green arbor,
When I was a young girl in Springtimes gone by
All the long days I went singing and smiling,
Down by the roses the sweet days beguiling,
Love in the arbor and love in the sky . . .
When I was a young girl, a young girl, a young girl,
When I was a young girl, how happy was I!

Oh, the long days I must sit at my sampler,
Oh, the slow way that the still time would go!
I longed to be running across the bright heather,
'Off with the silk gown and on with the leather,
Following the raggle-taggle gypsies, oh!'
When I was a young girl, a young girl, a young girl,
When I was a young girl, a long time ago!

When I was a young girl in days that were golden,
When I was a young girl, and life had no smart,

[...] Read more

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