I think that, next to your sweet eyes,
And pleasant books, and starry skies,
I love the world of flowers;
Less for their beauty of a day,
Than for the tender things they say,
And for a creed I've held alway,
That they are sentient powers.
It may be matter for a smile -
And I laugh secretly the while
I speak the fancy out -
But that they love, and that they woo,
And that they often marry too,
And do as noisier creatures do,
I've not the faintest doubt.
And so, I cannot deem it right
To take them from the glad sunlight,
As I have sometimes dared;
Though not without an anxious sigh
Lest this should break some gentle tie,
Some covenant of friendship, I
Had better far have spared.
And when, in wild or thoughtless hours,
My hand hath crushed the tiniest flowers,
I ne'er could shut from sight
The corpses of the tender things,
With other drear imaginings,
And little angel-flowers with wings
Would haunt me through the night.
Oh! say you, friend, the creed is fraught
With sad, and even with painful thought,
Nor could you bear to know
That such capacities belong
To creatures helpless against wrong,
At once too weak to fly the strong
Or front the feeblest foe?
So be it always, then, with you;
So be it - whether false or true -
I press my faith on none;
If other fancies please you more,
The flowers shall blossom as before,
Dear as the Sibyl-leaves of yore,
But senseless, every one.
Yet, though I give you no reply,
It were not hard to justify
My creed to partial ears;
But, conscious of the cruel part,
My rhymes would flow with faltering art,
I could not plead against your heart,
Nor reason with your tears.