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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?


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