In the warm yellow smile of the morning,
She stands at the lattice pane,
And watches the strong young binders
Stride down to the fields of grain;
And she counts the over and over
As they pass the cottage door:
Are they six? she counts them seven--
Are they seven? she counts one more.
When the sun swings high in the heavens,
And the reapers go shouting home,
She calls to the household, saying,
"Make haste! for the binders have come!
And Johnnie will want his dinner--
He was always a hungry child;"
And they answer, "Yes, it is waiting;"
Then tell you "Her brain is wild."
Again, in the hush of the evening,
When the work of the day is done,
And the binders go singing homeward
In the last red rays of the sun,
She will sit at the threshold waiting,
And her withered face lights with joy:
"Come, Johnnie," she says, as they pass her,
"Come into the house, my boy."
Five summers ago her Johnnie
Went out in the smile o' the morn,
Singing across the meadow,
Striding down through the corn:
He towered above the binders
Walking on either side,
And the mother's heart within her
Swelled with exultant pride.
For he was the light of the household;
His brown eyes were wells of truth,
And his face was the face of the morning,
Lit with its pure, fresh youth;
And his song rang out from the hill-tops
Like the mellow blast of a horn.
As he strode o'er the fresh shorn meadows,
And down through the rows of corn.
But hushed were the voices of singing,
Hushed by the presence of death,
As back to the cottage they bore him--
In the noontide's scorching breath.
For the heat of the sun had slain him,
Had smitten the heart in his breast,
And he who had towered above them
Lay lower than all the rest.
The grain grows ripe in the sunshine,
And the summers ebb and flow,
And the binders stride to their labor,
And sing as they come and go;
But never again from the hill-tops
Echoes the voice like a horn;
Never up from the meadows,
Never back from the corn.
Yet the poor, crazed brain of the mother
Fancies him always near;
She is blest in her strange delusion,
For she knoweth no pain, no fear:
And always she counts the binders
As they pass her cottage door;
Are they six, she counts them seven:
Are they seven, she counts one more.
Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.
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