To The Fossil Flower

Dark fossil flower! I see thy leaves unrolled,
With all thy lines of beauty freshly marked,
As when the eye of Morn beamed on thee first,
And thou first turn'dst to meet its welcome smile.
And sometimes in the coals' bright rain-bow hues,
I dream I see the colors of thy prime,
And for a moment robe thy form again
In splendor not its own. Flower of the past!
Now as I look on thee, life's echoing tread
Falls noiseless on my ear; the present dies;
And o'er my soul the thoughts of distant time,
In silent waves, like billows from the sea,
Come roling on and on, with ceaseless flow,
Innumerable. Thou may'st have sprung unsown
Into thy noon of life, when first earth heard
Its Maker's sovereign voice; and laughing flowers
Waved o'er the meadows, hung on mountain crags,
And nodded in the breeze on every hill.
Thou may'st have bloomed unseen, save by the stars
That sang together o'er thy rosy birth,
And came at eve to watch thy folded rest.
None may have sought thee on thy flagrant home,
Save light-voiced winds that round thy dwelling played,
Or seemed to sigh, as oft their winged haste
Compelled their feet to roam. Thou may'st have lived
Beneath the light of later days, when man
With feet free-roving as the homeless wind,
Sealed the thick-mantled height, coursed plains unshorn,
Breaking the solitude of nature's haunt
With voice that seemed to blend, in one sweet strain,
The mingled music of the elements.
And when against his infant frame they rose,
Uncurbed, unawed by his yet feeble hand,
And when the muttering storm, and shouting wave,
And rattling thunder, mated, round him raged,
And seemed at times like dæmon foes to gird,
Thou may'st have won with gentle look his heart,
And stirred the first warm prayer of gratitude,
And been his first, his simplest altar-gift.
For thee, dark flower! the kindling sun can bring
No more the colors that it gave, nor morn,
With kindly kiss, restore thy breathing sweets:
Yet may the mind's mysterious touch recall
The bloom and fragrance of thy early prime:
For HE who to the lowly lily gave
A glory richer than to proudest king,
He painted not those darkly-shining leaves,
With blushes like the dawn, in vain; nor gave
To thee its sweetly-scented breath, to waste
Upon the barren air. E'en though thou stood
Alone in nature's forest-home untrod,
The first-love of the stars and sighing winds,
The mineral holds with faithful trust thy form,
To wake in human hearts sweet thoughts of love,
Now the dark past hangs round thy memory.