Dead You Speak?

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

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I saw the prettiest picture
Through a garden fence to-day,
Where the lilies look like angels
Just let out to play,
And the roses laugh to see them
All the sweet June day.

Through a hole behind the woodbine,
Just large enough to see
(By begging the lilies' pardon)
Without his seeing me,
My neighbor's boy, and Pharaoh,
The finest dog you'll see,

If you search from Maine to Georgia,
For a dog of kingly air,
And the tolerant, high-bred patience
The great St. Bernards wear,
And the sense of lofty courtesy
In breathing common air.

I called the child's name,--"Franko!"
Hands up to shield my eyes
From the jealous roses,--"Franko!"
A burst of bright surprise
Transfixed the little fellow
With wide, bewildered eyes.

"Franko!" Ah, the mystery!
Up and down, around,
Looks Franko, searching gravely
Sky and trees and ground,
Wise wrinkles on the eyebrows!
Studying the sound.

"O Franko!" Puzzled Franko!
The lilies will not tell;
The roses shake with laughter,
But keep the secret well;
The woodbine nods importantly.
"Who spoke?" cried Franko. "Tell!"

The trees do not speak English;
The calm great sky is dumb;
The yard and street are silent;
The old board-fence is mum;
Pharaoh lifts his head, but, ah!
Pharaoh too is dumb.

Grave wrinkles on his eyebrows,
Hand upon his knee,
Head bared for close reflection,
Lighted curls blown free,--
The child's soul to the brute's soul
Goes out earnestly.

From the child's eyes to the brute's eyes,
And earnestly and slow,
The child's young voice falls on my ear
"Did you speak, Pharaoh?"
The bright thought growing on him,--
"Did you speak, Pharaoh?"

I can but think if Franko
Would teach us all his way
Of listening and trusting,--
The wise, wise Franko way!--
The world would learn some summer
To hear what dumb things say.

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