Myriad roses fade unheeded,
Yet no note of grief is needed;
When the ruder breezes tear them,
Sung or songless, we can spare them.
But the choicest petals are
Shrined in some deep Orient jar,
Rich without and sweet within,
Where we cast the rose-leaves in.
Life has jars of costlier price
Framed to hold our memories.
There we treasure baby smiles,
Boyish exploits, girlish wiles,
All that made our early days
Sweeter than these trodden ways
Where the Fates our fortunes spin:
Memory, toss the rose-leaves in!
What the jar holds, that shall stay;
Time steals all the rest away.
Cast in love’s first stolen word,
Bliss when uttered, bliss when heard;
Maiden’s looks of shy surprise;
Glances from a hero’s eyes;
Palms we risked our souls to win:
Memory, fling the rose-leaves in!
Now more sombre and more slow
Let the incantation grow!
Cast in shreds of rapture brief,
Subtle links ‘twixt hope and grief;
Vagrant fancy’s dangerous toys;
Covert dreams, narcotic joys
Flavored with the taste of sin:
Memory, pour the rose-leaves in!
Quit that borderland of pain!
Cast in thoughts of nobler vein,
Magic gifts of human breath,
Mysteries of birth and death.
What if all this web of change
But prepare for scenes more strange;
If to die be to begin?
Memory, heap the rose-leaves in!
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Afternoon Landscape: Poems and Translations, (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library), 12–14.