The Heremite Toad

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A human skull in a church-yard lay;
  For the church was a wreck, and the tombstones old
  On the graves of their dead were rotting away
  To the like of their long-watched mould.

  And an heremite toad in this desolate seat
  Had made him an hermitage long agone,
  Where the ivy frail with its delicate feet
  Could creep o'er his cell of bone.

  And the ground was dark, and the springing dawn,
  When it struck from the tottering stones of each grave
  A glimmering silver, the dawn drops wan
  This skull and its ivy would lave.

  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

  The night her crescent had thinly hung
  From a single star o'er the shattered wall,
  And its feeble light on the stone was flung
  Where I sat to hear him call.

  And I heard this heremite toad as he sate
  In the gloom of his ghastly hermitage,
  To himself and the gloom all hollowly prate,
  Like a misanthropic sage:

  "O, beauty is well and is wealth to all,
  But wealth without beauty _makes_ fair;
  And beauty with wealth brings wooers tall
  Whom she snares in her golden hair.

  "Tho' beauty be well and be wealth to all,
  And wealth without beauty draw men,
  Beauty must come to the vaulted wall,
  And what is wealth to her then?...

  "This skeleton face was beautiful erst;
  These sockets could mammonites sway;
  So she barter'd her beauty for gold accurs'd--
  But both have vanished away.

  "But beauty is well when the mind it reveals
  More beautiful is than the head;
  For beauty and wealth the tomb congeals,
  But the mind grows lovelier dead."

  And he blinked at the moon from his grinning cell,
  And the darnels and burdocks around
  Bowed down in the night, and I murmured "Well!"
  For I deemed his judgment sound.

© Madison Julius Cawein