All Quiet along the Potomac and other poems/Given, not Hired


WE hire the roof above our heads,
And walls to gird us round,
The garden-walk, the drooping vine,
The rose, and blossom-mound;
But, oh that streak of sunset sky
Between the budding trees,
The moonlight on the little porch,—
Whom shall we pay for these?

We have musicians too all day,
Whose flutes we did not bring;
An oriole trills all the while,
And saucy robins sing;
While in the bush of evergreen
A cat-bird, gray and shy,
A solo gives. Who pays the birds
For all these songs ? Not I.

Just when the twilight turns to dusk,
And reveries are sweet,
A piping voice, exceeding small,
Sounds by my idle feet,
And bids me listen to its tale
Of home and household fire—
Our cricket that we did not bring,
The song we did not hire.

The summer wind that lifts the leaves,
To whisper soft and low

How roses and syringas bloom,
How sweet acacias blow,
With memories of childish hours
In garden pathways sweet—
Who sends the south wind to my door,
With soft, unshodden feet?

Nay, these are gifts one cannot buy,
Nor pay in market gold;
One debt uncancelled evermore
When cycles shall have rolled.
So, lifting up a thankful heart
To God, who gives, I cry,
"Thou knowest, Lord, I cannot pay
For all these things; not I."