American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

For a Commonplace Book 3

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In June

With a Difference. — Hamlet.

Who saw the June come ? Wel-a-day!
My neighbor’s bushes, one and all,
And grew white after God’s old way,
Behind the garden wall.

Who saw the June come? Nay, not she,
My neighbor’s daughter, slim and shy,
Long since she left her father’s house,
Ere yet the rose was nigh.

Last year, last year, there in the sun
She stood and smiled. I did not know
Which was the whitest thing in June,
She, or that bush a-grow.

But now; ah, now; yea, now ’tis plain!
When folk be dead, how wise we be!
God’s boughs were black beside her snow;
Ah, now; yea, now I see!

My neighbor’s bushes blow, blow, blow,
And blow about his silent door!
Ye call that white? Nay, ’tis not so;
June has been here before.

Ye cannot mock me, blossoms sweet;
I know too well your looks of yore;
My neighbor knows (yet blow, blow, blow),
June has been here before.

— Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935)

Photo by Emily Spencer Hayden, 1915, from <a href=From Reese’s first, self-published book, A Branch of May, 1887; the poem was reprinted in A Handful of Lavender, 1893, her first from a commercial publisher. Both volumes are available in full through Google Books; the second is archived by Making of America. The photo is by Emily Spencer Hayden, 1915, and comes from Maryland in Focus, an exhibit mounted by the Digital Library of the Maryland Historical Society.

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Written by Ben Friedlander

June 8, 2009 at 9:54 am

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