Left Behind

Elizabeth_Akers_Allen
Elizabeth Chase Allen

It was the autumn of the year!
The strawberry-leaves were red and sere,
October’s airs were fresh and chill,
When, pausing on the windy hill,
The hill that overlooks the sea,
You talked confidingly to me,—
Me, whom your keen artistic sight
Has not yet learned to read aright,
Since I have veiled my heart from you,
And loved you better than you knew.

You told me of your toilsome past,
The tardy honors won at last,
The trials borne, the conquests gained,
The longed-for boon of Fame attained:
I knew that every victory
But lifted you away from me,—
That every step of high emprise
But left me lowlier in your eyes:
I watched the distance as it grew,
And loved you better than you knew.

You did not see the bitter trace
Of anguish sweep across my face;
You did not hear my proud heart beat
Heavy and slow beneath your feet:
You thought of triumphs still unwon,
Of glorious deeds as yet undone;
And I, the while you talked to me,
I watched the gulls float lonesomely
Till lost amid the hungry blue,
And loved you better than you knew.

You walk the sunny side of Fate;
The wise world smiles, and calls you great;
The golden fruitage of success
Drops at your feet in plenteousness;
And you have blessings manifold,—
Renown and power, and friends and gold.
They build a wall between us twain
Which may not be thrown down again.
Alas! for I, the long years through,
Have loved you better than you knew.

Your life’s proud aim, your art’s high truth,
Have kept the promise of your youth;
And while you won the crown which now
Breaks into bloom upon your brow,
My soul cried strongly out to you
Across the ocean’s yearning blue,
While, unremembered and afar,
I watched you, as I watch a star
Through darkness struggling into view,
And loved you better than you knew.

I used to dream, in all these years
Of patient faith and silent tears,
That Love’s strong hand would put aside
The barriers of place and pride,—
Would reach the pathless darkness through
And draw me softly up to you.
But that is past; if you should stray
Beside my grave some future day,
Perchance the violets o’er my dust
Will half betray their buried trust,
And say, their blue eyes full of dew,
“She loved you better than you knew.”

Elizabeth Chase Allen, 1832–1911

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