Blithe was the youth that summer day.
As he smote at the ribs of earth,
And he plied his pick with a merry click,
And he whistled anon in mirth;
And the constant thought of his dear one's face
Seemed to illumine that ghostly place.
The gaunt earth envied the lover's joy,
And she moved, and closed on his head:
With no one nigh, and with never a cry,
The beautiful boy lay dead;
And the treasure he sought for his sweetheart fair
Crumbled, and clung to his glorious hair.
Fifty years is a mighty space
In the human toil for bread;
But to Love and to Death 'tis merely a breath,
A dream that is quickly sped,—
Fifty years, and the fair lad lay
Just as he fell that summer day.
At last came others in quest of gold,
And hewed in that mountain place;
And deep in the ground one time they found
The boy with the smiling face:
All uncorrupt by the pitiless air,
He lay, with his crown of golden hair.
They bore him up to the sun again,
And laid him beside the brook,
And the folk came down from the busy town
To wonder and prate and look;
And so, to a world that knew him not,
The boy came back to the old-time spot.
Old Barbara hobbled among the rest,—
Wrinkled and bowed was she,—
And she gave a cry, as she fared anigh,
"At last he is come to me!"
And she kneeled by the side of the dead boy there,
And she kissed his lips, and she stroked his hair.
"Thine eyes are sealed, O dearest one!
And better it is 'tis so,
Else thou mightst see how harsh with me
Dealt Life thou couldst not know:
Kindlier Death has kept thee fair;
The sorrow of Life hath been my share."
Barbara bowed her aged face,
And fell on the breast of her dead;
And the golden hair of her dear one there
Caressed her snow-white head.
Oh, Life is sweet, with its touch of pain;
But sweeter the Death that joined those twain.