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Littell's Living Age/Volume 132/Issue 1708/The Singer's Prize


The tall house lowers grimly,
Deformed by smoke and rain;
And the bleared sunshine dimly
Blinks on the window-pane.

Though sore and numb her fingers,
And slowly fades the light,
The girl nor rests nor lingers,
But sews from morn till night.

Her bright young face is sunken,
And fails her gentle breath;
Her fair young form is shrunken,
To fit the robes of death.

And I think of the woodland shadows
That she has never seen;
Of the wonder of song in the meadows,
When all the world is green.

But now the close lips quiver,
The nimble hands are slow, —
The voice she dreams of ever
Rings in the room below.

The mad young poet is singing,
With only a crust to eat;
But a fountain of light is springing
Up from the narrow street.

And whether he sings in sorrow,
Or whether he sings in glee,
He hopes that the world to-morrow
Will list to his melody.

And I think though his heart were burning
With words no man e'er said,
The world would be turning and turning
If to-morrow he were dead.

Only, both late and early,
The girl, as maidens will,
Dreams when the voice comes clearly
Up to her window-sill.

A brave face has she found him,
A manner frank and gay,
And long ago has crowned him
With myrtle wreath or bay.

A good sword clanging loudly,
A plume on waving hair,
A cloak that drapes him proudly,
Such as the players wear.

So whether in glee or sadness
He sings, he has won the prize,
When he brings the light of gladness
To a dying maiden's eyes.

Blackwood's Magazine. J. R. S.