Winter Roses by John Greenleaf Whittier
In reply to a flower gift from Mrs. Putnam’s school at Jamaica Plain.
My garden roses long ago
Have perished from the leaf-strewn walks;
Their pale, fair sisters smile no more
Upon the sweet-brier stalks.
Gone with the flower-time of my life,
Spring’s violets, summer’s blooming pride,
And Nature’s winter and my own
Stand, flowerless, side by side.
So might I yesterday have sung;
To-day, in bleak December’s noon,
Come sweetest fragrance, shapes, and hues,
The rosy wealth of June!
Bless the young bands that culled the gift,
And bless the hearts that prompted it;
If undeserved it comes, at least
It seems not all unfit.
Of old my Quaker ancestors
Had gifts of forty stripes save one;
To-day as many roses crown
The gray head of their son.
And with them, to my fancy’s eye,
The fresh-faced givers smiling come,
And nine and thirty happy girls
Make glad a lonely room.
They bring the atmosphere of youth;
The light and warmth of long ago
Are in my heart, and on my cheek
The airs of morning blow.
O buds of girlhood, yet unblown,
And fairer than the gift ye chose,
For you may years like leaves unfold
The heart of Sharon’s rose