How Ends The Day?

By Nora May French

We wandered where the violets bloom,
    beside the sunlit stream.
We saw, where on the crystal waves,
    the water lilies dream.
Their gold hearts wreathed in leaves of
    pearl, all silvered by the sun,
We heard the brook laugh as it swayed
    their bright heads one by one;
Yet no smile dawned upon your face, to
    chase the tears away.
"The waters cease, the lilies fade, in dark-
    ness ends the day."

We walked through paths where gleams
    of light like gold through green
    leaves came,    
Where darts down through the shadowy
    boughs the oriole’s flash of flame;
We listened where the voice of birds
    swells out in chorus strong;
How the rippling notes of gladness poured
    forth its glorious song!
But answering joy woke not in you, you
    saw but shadows gray.
"The sunshine fades and beauty flees, in
    sorrow ends the day."

We lingered where the pine trees lift
    their branches dark on high,
A song of deep content they sing beneath
    the sunny sky;
Their low continuous murmur falls upon
    the soul like balm.
And tears and sorrow have no place
    within their solemn calm.
But that dark shadow from your brow,
    no sound could drive away,
"Our life is short, and all things die, in
    weeping ends the day."

But soft from out the velvet grass, the
    dewdrops gleaming bright,
An Easter lily, white and gold, stands
    queenly in the light;
Its purity recalls sweet words of ever-
    lasting peace,
Of one who, dying long ago, bade all our
    sorrows cease:
A smile like sunshine lights your face, its
    sadness flees away.
"Though we must die, we live again, in
    glory ends the day."

"How Ends the Day?" signed "Nora French," appeared in the Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1894, when she was barely thirteen--probably her first published poem. It is an eerily precocious discussion about the meaning of death, which she resolved more easily here than she would later in life.
-- Pamela Herr