I watched to-day a butterfly,
With gorgeous wings of golden sheen,
Flit lightly 'neath a sapphire sky
Amid the springtime's tender green;-

A creature so divinely fair,
So frail, so wraithlike to the sight,
I feared to see it melt in air,
As clouds dissolve in morning light.

With sudden swoop, a brutal boy
Caught in his cap its fans of gold,
And forced them down with savage joy
Upon the path's defiling mould;

Then cautiously, the ground well scanned,
He clutched his darkened, helpless prey,
And, pinched within his grimy hand,
Withdrew it to the light of day.

Alas! its fragile bloom was gone,
Its gracile frame was sorely hurt,
Its silken pinions drooped forlorn,
Disfigured by the dust and dirt;

Its life, a moment since so gay,
So joyous in its dainty flight,
Was slowly ebbing now away,-
Its too-brief day eclipsed by night.

Meantime, the vandal, face aflame,
Surveyed it dying in his grasp,
Yet knew no grief nor sense of shame
In watching for its final gasp.

At last its sails of gold and brown,
Of texture fine and colors rare,
Came, death-struck, slowly fluttering down,
No more to cleave the sunlit air;

One happy, harmless being less,
To bid us dream the world is sweet!
Gone like a gleam of happiness,
A glimpse of rapture … incomplete!

Yet who shall say this creature fair
In God's sight had a smaller worth
Than that dull lout who watched it there,
And in its death found cause for mirth?

For what, in truth, are we who claim
An endless life beyond the grave,
But insects of a larger frame,
Whose souls may be too small to save?

Since far-off times, when Cave Men fought
Like famished brutes for bloody food,
And through unnumbered centuries sought
To rear their naked, whelp-like brood,

How many million men have died,
From pole to pole through every clime,-
An awful, never-ending tide
Swept deathward on the shores of Time!

Like insects swarming in the sun,
They flutter, struggle, mate, and die,
And, with their life-work scarce begun,
Are struck down like the butterfly;

A million more, a million less,
What matters it? The Earth rolls on,
Unmindful of mankind's distress,
Or if the race be here, or gone.

Thus rolled our globe ere man appeared,
And thus will roll, with wrinkled crust,
Deserted, lifeless, old, and seared,
When man shall have returned to dust.

And IT at last shall also die!
Hence, measured by the eternal scale,
It ranks but as the butterfly,-
A world, ephemeral, fair and frail.

Man, insect, earth, or distant star,-
They differ only in degree;
Their transient lives, or near or far,
Are moments in eternity!

Yet somehow to my spirit clings
The faith that man survives the sod,
For this poor insect's broken wings
Have raised my thoughts from earth to God.