"The Burst Of Music Down An Unlistening Street"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Lizette Woodworth Reese's poem with its verse "I wonder at the idleness of tears" is reminiscent of the title of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Tears, Idle Tears." Miss Reese's concern is not only the brevity of life but also the frustration in trying to find real meaning to one's life in an unappreciative world. Life is a battle which is already over before the echo of the call to battle "dies within our ears." The meaning-lessness of life is described as "the burst of music down an unlistening street." The poet seeks to find her answers in another world and, though already aware of the silence of the grave, implores the dead to "make me see aright/ How each hath back what once he stayed to weep:/ Homer his sight, David his little lad!" The poem opens with the following lines:

When I consider Life and its few years–
A wisp of fog betwixt us and the sun;
A call to battle, and the battle done
Ere the last echo dies within our ears;
A rose choked in the grass; an hour of fears;
The gusts that past a darkening shore do beat;
The burst of music down an unlistening street,–
I wonder at the idleness of tears.