Edmund Clarence Stedman
The conference meeting through at last,
We boys around the vestry waited
To see the girls come tripping past,
Like snow-birds willing to be mated.
Not braver he that leaps the wall
By level musket-flashes bitten,
Than I, who stepp'd before them all
Who long'd to see me get the mitten.
But no! she blush'd and took my arm:
We let the old folks have the highway,
And started tow'rd the Maple Farm
Along a kind of lover's by-way.
I can't remember what we said, ---
'Twas nothing worth a song or story;
Yet that rude path by which we sped
Seem'd all transform'd and in a glory.
The snow was crisp beneath our feet,
The moon was full, the fields were gleaming;
By hood and tippet shelter'd sweet,
Her face with youth and health was beaming.
The little hand outside her muff
( O sculptor ! if you could but mould it )
So lightly touch'd my jacket-cuff,
To keep it warm I had to hold it.
To have her there with me alone, ---
'Twas love and fear and triumph blended:
At last we reach'd the foot-worn stone
Where that delicious journey ended.
The old folks too were almost home:
Her dimpled hand the latches finger'd,
We heard the voices nearer come,
Yet on the doorstep still we linger'd.
She shook her ringlets from her hood,
And with a "Thank you, Ned ! " dissembled;
But yet I knew she understood
With what a daring wish I trembled.
A cloud pass'd kindly overhead,
The moon was slyly peeping through it,
Yet hid its face, as if it said ---
"Come, now or never do it ! do it
My lips till then had only known
The kiss of mother and of sister, ---
But somehow, full upon her own
Sweet rosy darling mouth --- I kiss'd her.
Perhaps 'twas boyish love: yet still,
O listless woman ! Weary lover !
To feel once more that fresh wild thrill
I'd give --- But who can live youth over?