THE VALLEY OF LIFE
by Richard Watson Gilder
When I was a child joyfully I ran, hand claspt in hand, now with my mother, now with my father, or with younger, blithe companions, now in sunlight, now in shadow and dread, through the strange new Valley of Life.
Sometimes on the high-road, then over the fields and meadows, or through the solemn forests; sometimes along the happy brook-side, listening to its music or the clamor of the falls, as the pleasant waters hurried or grew still, in the winding way down the Valley of Life.
And as we moved along, hand claspt in hand, sometimes the handclasp was broken, and I, a happy child, ran swiftly from the path to gather flower or fruit or get sight of a singing bird; or to lean down and pluck a pearly stone from under the lapping waves; or climbed a tree and swayed, shouting, on its waving boughs - then returning to the clasp of loving hands, and so passing on and on down the opening Valley of Life.
In the bright morning I walked wondering, wondering I walked through the still twilight and many-colored sunset; watching the great stars gather, and lost in the mystery of worlds beyond number, and spaces beyond thought, till, side by side, we lay down to sleep under the stars in the Valley of Life and of Dreams.
Then there came a time when the hands that held me, - the loving hands that guided my steps and drew me gently on, - turned cold, and slipt from my grasp; I waited, but they came not back, and slowly and alone I plodded on down the Valley of Life and of Death.
"Where went they?" I asked my heart and the whispering waters and the sighing trees. "Where went my loving and well-beloved guides? Did they climb the hills and tarry; did they, tired, lie down to sleep and forget me forever; leaving me to journey on without their dear care down the Long Valley of Life?"
I could not know, for I heard no answer except my own heart's beating. But other comrades came, - one dearer than all, - and as time went on I felt the little hands of my own children clasping mine while, once more happy and elate, with them I traveled down the miraculous Valley of Life.
But, as on we wander, hearing their bright voices, and seeing their joy upon the way, - their happy chasings here and there, their eager run to hold again our hands, - how soon, I think, shall I feel the slipping away of the clasping fingers while I fall asleep by the wayside, or climb the cloud-enveloped hills, and leave those I love to journey on down the lonely Valley of Life!
And I say: "Surely the day and the hour hasten; grief will be theirs for a season: then will they, as did I, with brave hearts journey on the appointed way."
Oya sings, "Peace In The Valley"