Henry Timrod

Lines to R. L.

That which we are and shall be is made up
Of what we have been. On the autumn leaf
The crimson stains bear witness of its spring;
And, on its perfect nodes, the ocean shell
Notches the slow, strange changes of its growth.
Ourselves are our own records; if we looked
Rightly into that blotted crimson page
Within our bosoms, then there were no need
To chronicle our stories; for the heart
Hath, like the earth, its strata, and contains
Its past within its present.  Well for us,
And our most cherished secrets, that within
The round of being few there are who read
Beneath the surface.  Else our very forms,
The merest gesture of our hands, might tell
Much we would hide forever.  Know you not
Those eyes, in whose dark heaven I have gazed
More curiously than on my favorite stars,
Are deeper for such griefs as they have seen,
And brighter for the fancies they have shrined,
And sweeter for the loves which they have talked?
Oh! that I had the power to read their smiles,
Or sound the depth of all their glorious gloom.
So should I learn your history from its birth,
Through all its glad and grave experiences,
Better than if—(your journal in my hand,
Written as only women write, with all
A woman's shades and shapes of feeling, traced
As with the fine touch of a needle's point)—
I followed you from that bright hour when first
I saw you in the garden 'mid the flowers,
To that wherein a letter from your hand
Made me all rich with the dear name of friend.

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