A strange vibration from the cottage window|
My vagrant steps delayed,
And half abstracted, like an ancient Hindoo,
I paused beneath the shade.
What is, I said, this unremitted humming,
Louder than bees in spring?
As unto prayer the murmurous answer coming,
Shed from Sandalphon’s wing.
Is this the sound of unimpeded labour,
That now usurpeth play?
Our harsher substitute for pipe and tabor,
Ghittern and virelay?
Or, is it yearning for a higher vision,
By spiritual hearing heard?
Nearer I drew, to listen with precision,
Detecting not a word.
Then, peering through the pane, as men of sin do,
Myself the while unseen,
I marked a maiden seated by the window,
Sewing with a machine.
Her gentle foot propelled the tireless treadle,
Her gentle hand the seam:
My fancy said, it were a bliss to peddle
Those shirts, as in a dream!
Her lovely fingers lent to yoke and collar
Some imperceptible taste;
The rural swain, who buys it for a dollar,
By beauty is embraced.
O fairer aspect of the common mission!
Only the Poet sees
The true significance, the high position
Of such small things as these.
Not now doth Toil, a brutal Boanerges,
Deform the maiden’s hand;
Her implement its soft sonata merges
In songs of sea and land.
And thus the hum of the unspooling cotton,
Blent with her rhythmic tread,
Shall still be heard, when virelays are forgotten,
And troubadours are dead.