An Old Man's Dreams

By Eliza M. Sherman

It was the twilight hour;
Behind the western hill the sun had sunk,
Leaving the evening sky aglow with crimson light.
The air is filled with fragrance and with sound;
High in the tops of shadowy vine-wreathed trees,
Grave parent-birds were twittering good-night songs,
To still their restless brood.
Across the way
A noisy little brook made pleasant
Music on the summer air,
And farther on, the sweet, faint sound
Of Whippoorwill Falls rose on the air, and fell
Like some sweet chant at vespers.
The air is heavy
With the scent of mignonette and rose,
And from the beds of flowers the tall
White lilies point like angel fingers upward,
Casting on the air an incense sweet,
That brings to mind the old, old story
Of the alabaster box that loving Mary
Broke upon the Master’s feet.

Upon his vine-wreathed porch
An old white-headed man sits dreaming
Happy, happy dreams of days that are no more;
And listening to the quaint old song
With which his daughter lulled her child to rest:

“Abide with me,” she says;
“Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens,—
Lord, with me abide.”

And as he listens to the sounds that fill the
Summer air, sweet, dreamy thoughts
Of his “lost youth” come crowding thickly up;
And, for a while, he seems a boy again.
With feet all bare
He wades the rippling brook, and with a boyish shout
Gathers the violets blue, and nodding ferns,
That wave a welcome from the other side.
With those he wreathes
The sunny head of little Nell, a neighbor’s child,
Companion of his sorrows and his joys.
Sweet, dainty Nell, whose baby life
Seemed early linked with his,
And whom he loved with all a boy’s devotion.

Long years have flown.
No longer boy and girl, but man and woman grown,
They stand again beside the brook, that murmurs
Ever in its course, nor stays for time nor man,
And tell the old, old story,
And promise to be true till life for them shall end.

Again the years roll on,
And they are old. The frost of age
Has touched the once-brown hair,
And left it white as are the chaliced lilies.
Children, whose rosy lips once claimed
A father’s blessing and a mother’s love,
Have grown to man’s estate, save two
Whom God called early home to wait
For them in heaven.

And then the old man thinks
How on a night like this, when faint
And sweet as half-remembered dreams
Old Whippoorwill Falls did murmur soft
Its evening psalms, when fragrant lilies
Pointed up the way her Christ had gone,
God called the wife and mother home,
And bade him wait.
Oh! why is it so hard for
Man to wait? to sit with folded hands,
Apart, amid the busy throng,
And hear the buzz and hum of toil around;
To see men reap and bind the golden sheaves
Of earthly fruits, while he looks idly on,
And knows he may not join,
But only wait till God has said, “Enough!”
And calls him home!
And thus the old man dreams,
And then awakes; awakes to hear
The sweet old song just dying
On the pulsing evening air:
“When other helpers fail,
And comforts flee,
Lord of the helpless,
Oh, abide with me!”

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