Tabb’s Poetry XI

This selection commemorates Father Tabb’s birthday, March 22nd.


I know not but in every leaf
   That sprang to life along with me,
Were written all the joy and grief
   Thenceforth my fate to be.

The wind that whispered to the earth,
   The bird that sang its earliest lay,
The flower that blossomed at my birth—
   My kinsmen all were they.

Aye, but for fellowship with these
   I had not been—nay, might not be;
Nor they but vagrant melodies
   Till harmonized to me. 

In the Mountains of Virginia

Nurtured upon my mother’s knee,
   From this her mountain-breast apart,
Here nearer heaven I seem to be,
   And closer to her heart.

The Playmates

   Who are thy playmates, boy?
    “My favorite is Joy,
Who brings with him his sister, Peace, to stay
      The livelong day.
   I love them both; but he
      Is most to me.”

   And where thy playmates now,
   O man of sober brow?
“Alas! dear Joy, the merriest, is dead.
      But I have wed
   Peace; and our babe, a boy,
      New-born, is Joy.”

The Test

   The dead there are, who live;
      The living, who are dead:
   The poor, who still can give;
      The rich, who lack for bread;
To Love it is and Love alone
That Life or Luxury is known. 

To the Summer Wind

Art thou the selfsame wind that blew
   When I was but a boy?
Thy voice is like the voice I knew,
   And yet the thrill of joy
Has softened to a sadder tone—
Perchance the echo of mine own.

Beside a sea of memories
   In solitude I dwell:
Upon the shore forsaken lies
   Alas! no murmuring shell!
Are all the voices lost to me
Still wandering the world with thee? 

The Cowslip

It brings my mother back to me,
Thy frail, familiar form to see,
   Which was her homely joy;
And strange, that one so weak as thou,
Should lift the veil that sunders now
   The mother and the boy. 


All men the painter Youth engage;
And some, the famous sculptor, Age.

John B. Tabb



For a recitation, click the play button:



“Fraternity”: Lyrics, p. 8; Poetry, p. 242. February 1893. A lay is a song.

“In the Mountains of Virginia”: Later Lyrics, p. 44; Poetry, p. 356. 1902.

“The Playmates”: Poems, p. 103; Poetry, p. 145. 1894.

“The Test”: Later Poems, p. 89; Poetry, p. 143. May 1904.

“To the Summer Wind”: Poems, p. 43; Poetry, p. 49. November 1892. Perchance means perhaps, maybe, possibly.

“The Cowslip”: Lyrics, p. iii; Poetry, p. 20. 1897. This is the dedicatory poem of Lyrics, “To the Memory of My Mother”. The Cowslip is a species of flowering plant, Caltha palustris, a kind of buttercup; it is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, and is known by many other names, including Marsh Marigold and Kingcup.

“Decorators”: Lyrics, p. 132; Poetry, p. 372. 1902.

A convert to the Catholic faith, Rev. John Banister Tabb (1845-1909) was a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, and Professor of English at St. Charles’ College, Ellicott City, Maryland. Poems selected, arranged, and annotated by E.L. Core.
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