Question and Answer [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867).]

Question and Answer.

You ask me, child, to think of you;
But how shall a care-worn man, —
Treading in haste thro’ the valley of life,
With all the speed that he can,
Who yet must stand to meet as foe
A strong and defiant world,
Find time to think of a maiden fair,
When his gauntlet is down-hurled?

Perchance I’ll find, in festive hours,
Pause from the struggle and strife
To quaff a sweet, if fleeting, draught
From the merriest stream of life:

When I see the beaming glances
That tell of joy below
Go gaily flashing thro’ the dances,
Then, then, shall I think of you?

Not then; no, think not then
Of one so sad and still;
Bright eyes could bring no thought,
Of me your soul to fill;
And, through the dances weaving,
All faces are too bright;
There’s none so dark from grieving
As mine looks up to-night.

It may be that I shall conquer,
And build a mighty name;
That my work shall win men’s wonder,
And crown me with their fame;
If so; in that proud moment
When praise is fresh and new,
Yet, even by envy, untarnished,
Then, then, shall I think of you?

Not then; no, think not then
Of one who knoweth well
The fruitlessness of fame,
That may the bosom swell
With a false and vain delight,
But cannot bliss bestow;
In fame’s hour of fleeting light
I ask no thought from you.

If noble visions visit me
And bring — in silent hours —
On my sober life a passing flush
Of such dreams’ bewitching powers;
When my heart is beating faster
With thoughts both rare and true,
And this fair earth seems growing fairer,
Then, then, shall I think of you?

Not then; no, think not then:
Dreams must too surely fade;
Far from your earnest life
I should, with dreams, be laid:
I’d shine not in your visions,
If your work-days were free
From the thought of my pale features:
No; think not then of me.

But if the solemn summons
Of grief your soul appal,
If friendship should fail you,
And love from you fall;
If gloom fetters your spirit,
Woe darkens your brow,
Oh, list for my voice then —
“Think, think of me NOW.”

If you kneel at the bedside
Of one stricken to death,
And watch for the passing
Of the soul-laden breath;
When you whisper of Heaven,
Of the bliss to be free,
Oh, mingle, in speaking,
One calm thought of me.

When Music’s sweet echoes
Are thrilling your soul,
Expelling earth’s troubles,
And claiming your whole
Mind’s strength to bear,
The power of its harmony;
In that rapture, I ask,
Give one stray thought to me.

When you kneel, and your heart
Brings its hopes and its fears,
Its new sins of the day,
And its struggles for years;
Brings its praise and petitions
To the God it adores:
Oh, grant me my prayer,
Think of me, then, in yours.

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 19-22

Editor’s notes:
list = (archaic) listen

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