Part 2 out of 3
The light thou sawest was reflected from
That sacred fire, which, in the end, shall purge
The spirit essence which pervades creation,
From the dull dust with which a wayward fate
Has clogged its being! Question me no more--
Remember what I said--I dare not tell
The secrets of Eternity. Look on
And learn whate'er thou canst.
There is one thing which I at last have learned,--
To feel that with the increase of our knowledge
Our sorrows must increase. I oft have heard,
But never before have felt the truth of this.
To know that were it not for this clay mask,
I even now might pierce the shadowy veil
That wraps in mystery the things I see,
And comprehend their secret principle,
Will make life doubly hard to bear, and tempt
Me much to shake it prematurely off,
And snatch wings for my spirit ere its time.
A total ignorance were better than
The flash which from its slumber wakes the mind,
And then, departing, leaves it to itself,
In the wide maze of error, darkly groping.
Wisdom is not the medicine to heal
A discontented mind. I now know more
Than when I left the earth, but feel that I
Have bought my knowledge with increase of sorrow.
Did I not tell thee that its path were steep,
And hard to climb, and thick beset with thorns,--
And that its tempting, longed-for fruit, tho' bought
With a great price, is full of bitterness?
If though art satisfied, let us retrace
Our way to earth again; wert thou to go
Yet farther on, thou might'st regret the more
Our coming hither.
What! is there aught still more remote than these
From the great centre of the universe,--
The fair domain of life and living things?
A kingdom tenanted with such dark shapes,
That angels shudder when they look on them!
Thou surely dost not wish to visit it.
Why not? There is within my mind a void
Whose vacant weight is harder to be borne
Than the keen stingings of more active pangs;
When it has traced the mystic chain of being
To its last link, it may perchance shake off
The misery of restless discontent,--
Its fulness then may sink it into rest.
I have no power to disobey thy word;
If thou wilt on, I must proceed with thee,
Even though in looking on I share the pangs
Of those who suffer.
Come, then, I too must see them, tho' it cost
Me years of pain to gaze but for a moment.
'Twere harder now to find Eve's' buried dust,
Than to declare who has inherited
The largest portion of her prying spirit.
Where Pain keepeth vigil
With Sorrow and Care,
And Horror sits watching
By dull-eyed Despair,--
Where the Spirit accurst
Maketh moan in its wo,
Thy wishes direct us,
And thither we go.
Scene I. Near the place of the damned. Enter Werner and Spirit.
What piercing, stunning sounds assail my ear!
Wild shrieks and wrathful curses, groans and prayers,
A chaos of all cries! making the space
Through which they penetrate to flutter like
The heart of a trapped hare,--are revelling round us.
Unlike the gloomy realm we just have quitted,
Silent and solemn, all is restless here,
All wears the ashy hue of agony.
Above us bends a black and starless vault,
Which ever echoes back the fearful voices
That rise from the abodes of wo beneath.
Around us grim-browed desolation broods,
While, far below, a sea of pale gray clouds,
Like to an ocean tempest beaten, boils.
Whither shall we direct our journey now?
Right down through yon abyss of boiling clouds,
If though hast courage to attempt the plunge,
Our pathless way must be. A moment more
And we shall stand where angels seldom stand,
And devils almost pity when they stand,--
Whose being, is of love, whose band is pow'r,
Whose breath is life, whose noblest attribute,--
The one most worthy of thyself~-is mercy!
Were these of thine immortal will conceived?
Has thy hand shaped them out the forms they wear?
Has thy breath made them quick with, breathing life?
And is thy mercy to their wailings deaf?
Poor creatures! I bad deemed that in my breast
Grief had congealed the hidden fount of tears,
But ye have drawn them from their frozen source
And I do weep for you!
What moves thee thus?
I thought thy heart so steeled in hardihood
Of universal hate, and pride, and scorn,
That even were the woes, which thou dost here
Behold endured by others, heaped on thee,
Thy haughty soul unmoved would feel them all;
Accounting its development of strength
To bear the worst decrees of ruthless fate,
Misdeem me not,
If I have wept involuntary tears
O'er pangs beyond my pow'r to mitigate,
Believe me, 'twas in pity, not in fear.
But tell me, Spirit! is all hope extinct
In those who here sojourn, or do they look
Yet forward to some blest millennial day,
Which shall redeem them from this horrid place.
Best ask your theologians that question.
Some say that there are places purgatorial,
Where Error pays the price of her transgressions
In sufferings that efface the effects of sin.
And other some declare that when the soul
And clay are parted, heaven seals the doom
Of both, beyond repeal. Let thy own mind
Sit arbiter 'twixt these, and choose the truth.
Mark what approaches us, and mark it well.
I cannot turn my gaze from it, and yet
It makes the warm blood curdle in my veins.
Than it, hell cannot hold a fouler form--
A thing of more unholy loathsomeness!
Its heavy eyes are dim and bleared with blood,
Its jaws, by strong convulsions fiercely worked,
Are clogged and clotted with mixed gore and foam!
A nauseous stench its filthy shape exhales,
And through its heaving bosom you may mark
The constant preying of a quenchless flame
That gnaws its heartstrings! while a harsh quick moan
Of mingled wrath, and madness, and despair,
Perpetually issues from its lips;--
And with unequal but unceasing steps,
It chases through the hot, sulphureous gloom,
A mocking phantom,--fair as it is foul!
With naked arms, white breast, and ebon locks,
And big black eyes that dart the humid flame
Which sets the heart ablaze; and red moist lips,
And checks as spotless as the falling flake
Ere it has touched the earth, and supple form
Wherein is knit each grace of womanhood
In its perfection! and with wanton looks
That speak the burning language of desire,
It seems to woo its loathsome follower,--
Yet ever from his foul embraces flies.
And on his brow his name is written, "Lust!"
Dismiss the spectre, for it blasts my sight,
And sears my brain with its dark hideousness!
'Tis gone; look up and see what next appears.
A frame which may be that of Hercules,
It hath such giant members! and its port
Is martial as e'er marked a Caesar's moving.
Its sandals are of brass, its massive brow
Is helmeted in steel, and in its hand
It bears a sword with which, in idle strokes,
It vainly beats the unresisting air,
As if in battle with some phantom foe;
And at each blow it deals, a strong fatality
Turns back its sword's keen point on its own breast,
Which deep it gashes,--then in mournful tone,
It mutters o'er and o'er again these words,--
"I fought for fame and won unending wo."
His agonies seem like himself, immortal.
Justice is blameless of his sufferings:
For many years his busy, plotting brain,
Made discord out of union, strife from peace,
And set the nations warring till the earth
Was crimson with the blood poured out for him!
He bears what he inflicted,--let him pass
And mark what follows him.
A goodly shape,
More fit to string and strike Apollo's lyre,
Than bear the shield or wield the sword of Mars!
A broken harp, suspended at his side,
A faded garland, wreathed about his brow,
Tell what he was, and still employ his care.
With thin white hand, that trembles at its task,
In vain he strives to bind the broken chords,
And to their primal melody attune them;--
In vain,--for to his efforts still replies
A boding strain of harsh, discordant sound.
And then, with hot tears coursing down his cheeks,
He lifts his faded wreath from his pale brow,
And gazing on its withered leaves, exclaims,--
"For earthly fame I sung the songs of earth,
Forgetful of all higher, holier themes,--
'Tis meet the meed I won should perish thus."
Is not the justice which confines him here
Akin to cruelty? for his sad heart
Seems, as his earthly strains were, full of softness.
Each thought, and word, and deed of mortal man,
Is but a moral seed, which, in due season,
Must bring forth fruit according to its kind.
The soil wherein those seeds are sown is Time,--
Death is the reaper of the ripened harvest,--
The fruits are garnered in Eternity,
To be, or good or bad, the spirit's food!
If then our thoughts, and words, and deeds have been
Of corrupt tendency, or evil nature,--
What marvel if we feed on bitterness?--
What shadow next appears?
An aged man,
Lean-framed and haggard-visaged, bowed beneath
The weight of years, or worldly cares that press
Still heavier than the iron hand of time.
His tottering form is fearful to behold!
If the fierce scourge which men on earth call famine,
Could incarnate itself, methinks 'twould choose
Just such a shape, so worn and grim and gaunt,
And wo-begone of aspect. Groping round
He gathers from the burning floor of hell
Some shining pebbles, which his fond conceit
Transmutes to gold, and these with constant care
He watches, counting and recounting them,
Till suddenly a whirlwind, sweeping by,
Bears with it all his fancied hoards away,
Leaving him to renew his bootless task,
Which ever he renews with this complaint,--
"Alas! how speedily may wealth take wing."
And on his front his name is written, "Avarice."
There yet is, in this shadowy land of shades,
One form which I would have thee look upon.
Behold it cometh! mark and scan it well.
Never before in all my wanderings
Through earth, or other regions, where abide
Things now no more of earth, have I beheld
Aught so profoundly mournful or so lone!
So dark a cloud o'erhangs his haggard brow,
That where he turns a dunner, murkier gloom
Prevails along hell's blasting atmosphere!
Surrounded by some goodly forms he moves,
Forms bright as his is dark, who each in turn
Woo his acceptance of the gifts they proffer.
Love stretches out his dimpled band, wherein
He holds his emblematic rose, and Hope,
Bright Hope, that might renew again the pulse
Of life within the frozen veins of Death!
Beckons him to the future,--and calm Faith
Kindles beneath his eye her beacon blaze;
Yet, with such anguish as hell only holds,
He turns him from all these, and will not take
Love's proffered rose, lest 'neath its blushing leaves
Should lurk the stinging thorn of sly deceit.
Hope's smile to him is disappointment's signal,--
And the bright beacon Faith so kindly lights
To guide us o'er the treacherous sea of life,
To him is but a cheat, a mockery,
An ignis fatuus, kindled to mislead.
And yet he seems as one who in his life
Had nursed bright dreams, and cherished lofty aims,--
Had dreamed of love, or wooed Ambition's smiles,
Or to the sway of empires had aspired,
Or, higher still, the sway of human hearts!
Why gazest thou on me and not on him?
To mark if in thine aspect I might not
Detect a consciousness that I thy own soul
Claimed brotherhood with his! Thou too hast scoffed
At human love, and hope, and faith, and truth,
Nursing within thy bosom pride, and scorn,
And rankling hate, I till these at length became
Fiends which thou could'st not master! Thou art warned,
Be wise and heed the warning. Let us now
Return unto thy far off, native orb,
O'er which the rosy smile of morn is breaking,
Waking its teeming millions to renew
Their daily rounds of toil and strife and crime.
Scene I. A peak of the Alps. Werner alone. Time, morning.
How gloriously beautiful is earth!
In these her quiet, unfrequented haunts,
To which, except the timid chamois' foot,
Or venturous hunter's, or the eagle's wing,
Naught from beneath ascends. As yet the sun
But darts his earliest rays of golden light
Upon the summits of the tallest peaks,
Which robed in clouds and capped with glittering ice,
Soar proudly up, and beam and blaze aloft,
As if they would claim kindred with the stars!
And they may claim such kindred, for there is
Within, around, and over them, the same
Supreme, eternal, all-creating spirit
Which glows and burns in every beaming orb
That circles in immeasurable space!
Far as the eye can trace the mountain's crest
On either hand, a gorgeous, varied mass
Of glowing, cloud-formed ranges are at rest,
Reflecting back in every hue and tint,
Purple and crimson, orange and bright gold,
The sunny smile with which Morn hails the world.
Beneath me all is quiet yet and calm,
For the dim shadow of the silent night
Still rests upon the valley, still the flock
Sleeps undisturbed within the guarded fold,
The lark yet slumbers in her lowly nest,
The dew hangs heavy upon leaf and blade,
The gray mist still o'erveils the unruffled lake,
And all is tranquil as an infant's sleep;
Tranquil around me, but not so within,
For in my breast a thousand restless thoughts
Conflict in wild, chaotical confusion.
Thoughts of long bygone years, and things that were
But are no more, and thoughts that sternly strive
To grapple with the mysteries I late
Have looked upon; for I, since yesternight,
Have traversed the wide sea of space that rolls
Between the shores of this and other worlds;
Have gazed upon and scanned those worlds, or shades
That wear the lineaments of such; have seen
The damned in their own place, and marked the deep,
Terrific retribution Error brings
To such as are her votaries in life.
And now I feel how baseless was my hope
That Peace, the solitary boon I crave,
Might spring from knowledge. Tis a fatal tree,
Which ever hath borne bitter fruit, since first
'Twas set in Paradise. But I must seek
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Who may afford me nurture and repose,
For I am weary, both in mind and frame.
Scene II. A chamber in the cottage of Manuel. Albert asleep.
Rebecca standing by his couch.
My boy! my beautiful, my dearest hope!
The garner where my trust of future joy
Is treasured. Heaven bless thee! May thy life,
If it seem good to Him who gave it, be
Blest to the fulness of a mother's prayer!
[She stoops to kiss him, and continues.
How well his sleep portrays a quiet mind,
The embodied image of a sunny day,
A day without a cloud, whose only voices
Arise from sighing airs, and whispering leaves,
And tell-tale brooks that of their banks beseech
A gift, a wreath of their sweet flowers, wherewith
To soothe the angry Geni of the deep!
And free, glad birds that flit from bough to bough,
And ring their songs of love in the clear air,
Till heaven is filled with gushing melody,
And the all-glowing horizon becomes
A thing of life, whose breath is sweetest music!
[Kisses him again, and continues.
His brow to me is as a spotless page,
Whereon is traced the story of my first
And only love, the bright and holy dream
That stole into my bosom, when beside
The crystal stream that threads a neighbouring vale,
I and his father watched our fathers' flocks,
And he would lay aside his shepherd's pipe,
And in low words, far sweeter than its music,
Talk of the sun and stars and gentle moon,
The earth and all its loveliness, the trees
And shrubs and flowers; how these were all pervaded
And quickened by the spirit of deep love;
Till, by the frequent blush that tinged my cheek,
The light that would break from my downcast eyes,
And the quick beat of my too happy heart,
Emboldened, he poured out his own pure passion,
On my enchanted ear! Since then my life
Has had no eras,--days, and months, and years,
Have all gone by uncounted, in the full,
Deep, fervent, soul-sufficing happiness,
Of all I prayed for, panted for, obtained!
But I must rouse him, it is time his flock
Should leave the fold, and--
[The boy starts and murmurs in his sleep.
Down by yonder stream,
Where the green willows cluster thickest, there
They dwell. 'Tis scarce so far as I could cast
A pebble from my sling. Seek it, and they
Will minister to thee what thou mayest need.
[He awakes, and recognising his mother, exclaims--
Ah, mother! I have dreamed so strange a dream,
So strange, and yet so palpable, that I
Believed it a reality. Methought
As closely followed by my bleating flock,
I climbed the rugged mountain side where spring
Our greenest pastures, singing as I went,
I met a lonely wanderer in my way,
Of brow so pale, and eye so darkly sad,
That my own heart, to sadness little used,
Grew heavy at the sight; and he seemed worn
And very weary, not so much with toil
As by some hidden, inward strife of soul,
Which even then seemed raging in his breast.
He stayed to question me where he might find
The cottage of some honest mountaineer,
Where he might crave the boons of rest and food,--
And mindful of the lesson taught by thee,
To give the hungry bread, the weary rest,
I pointed him to where our cottage stands,
Assuring him that thou and my sweet sister,--
Fair as aught earthly, and as pure as fair,--
Would entertain him as a welcome guest:
And so we parted.
Thou didst well to mind
The lesson I so often have repeated.
It is our first of duties to give aid
To those who beg for succour at our hands;
For we ourselves, whatever we possess,
Are but the stewards of the bounteous Lord
Who giveth to his creatures all good gifts.
But it is time that thou shouldst seek the hills,
So take thy crook and pipe and hie away.
Scene III. The side of a mountain. Werner descending.
Enter a shepherd boy, followed by his flock, singing.
When the Morning starts up from her couch on the deep,
Where through the dim night hours, she pillows her sleep,
I start from my slumbers, and hie me away
Where the white torrent dashes its feathery spray,--
I quaff the fresh stream as it bursts from the hill,--
I pluck the fresh flowers that spring by the rill,--
I watch the gray clouds as they curl round the peak
That rises high over them, barren and bleak;
And I think how the worldling who courts fortune's smile,
In his heart, like that peak, may be lonely the while;
And then my own heart sings aloud in its joy,
That Heaven has made me a free shepherd boy!
When the horn of the hunter resounds from on high,
Where the tall giant ice-cliffs ire piled to the sky,
Where, shunning the verdure of valleys and dells,
The brave eagle builds, and the shy chamois dwells,--
I list to its gay tones, as by me they float,
And I echo them merrily back, note for note;
With the wild bird a song full as gladsome I sing,
I crown me with flowers, and sit a crowned king,--
My flock are my subjects, my dog my vizier,
And my sceptre--a mild one--the crook that I bear;
No wants to perplex me, no cares to annoy,
I live an unenvying, free shepherdhoy!
Werner (meets and addresses him).
Thou'rt merry, lad.
Ay, I have cause to be so.
It is the wanderer of my last night's dream,
The same pale brow, and darkly mournful eye,
And weary gait, and melancholy voice,--
If he seeks friendly guidance, food, or shelter,
He shall not want them long.
So thou hast cause
For merriment,--then thou perchance hast wealth,
Broad, fruitful lands, and tenements, and all
Which wealth confers.
Nay, I have none of these,
And yet have more than all which thou hast named.
I have a father, whose unsullied name
No tongue has ever spoken with reproach,
A mother, whose idea is with me
A holy thing, and a dear sister, who
Is fair as pure, and pure as is the snow
Upon the summit of the tallest peak
Of these my native mountains. I have health,
And strength, and food, and raiment, and employ,
And should I not then have a joyous heart?
Yea, verily thou shouldst.
And there is yet,
Among the blessings Heaven has given to me,
One which I have not named to thee; it is
An humble home, whose hospitable door
Was never closed against the wayfarer,--
If thou hast need of aught which it affords,
Seek it, my mother and my sister will
Delight to minister unto thy wants.
There where the wide-armed willows cluster thickest
Upon the green banks of yon crystal stream,
Our cottage stands. The path to it is short
And easily traversed,--so, now, farewell.
Stay yet a moment. That which thou hast proffered,
Is what I sought. Thou hast a noble heart,
One fit to fill the bosom of a king,--
I fain would give thee guerdon,--here is gold.
Keep it for those who covet it. If ever
Thou meet'st with one, bowed down by suffering,
Who calls on thee for pity and relief,
Then if thou heed'st his prayer for my sake,
I shall be well repaid. Again, farewell.
Scene IV. After a lapse of time. A rustic arbour near the
cottage of Manuel. Enter Rose and Werner.
Nay, let my silent blushes plead with thee
That thou wilt be as silent.
My ardent love, which will not be repressed,
Plead with thee for acceptance of my suit;
For I do love thee with such passionate love,
That life itself, if weighed against that love,
Were scarce a feather in the scale.
I'm but a simple shepherd's simple child,
Unused to courtly speeches, and they say
That in the world thy name and rank are high,
And that when such as thou do proffer love
And faith to lowly maidens, 'tis a jest,--
And that when they have won our honest love,
They cast it from them with unpitying hands,
As idly as they would a withered flower.
Nay, maiden, let me tell thee of the past,
Let me lay bare my heart beneath thy gaze,
And thou wilt pity if thou canst not love.
I loved in youth with love as fond and deep
As ever made the heart of man its slave,
But, ere my hopes could ripen to fruition,
Death came and made my worshipped one his prize;
And though my peace departed when she died,
Yet I was proud, and would not bond to sorrow,
But with calm brow and eye, and smiling lip,
I mingled with the giddy thoughtless world,
Seeking from out its varied realms to wring
Some recompense for that which I had lost.
Wealth, fame, and power, I sought for and obtained,
Yet found them only gilded mockeries.
The paths of hidden knowledge I essayed,
And trod their mazy windings till they led
My footsteps--whither I may not disclose,--
But all availed me nothing, still my heart
Ached with the dreary void lost love had made,
Ached ever till that void was filled by thee!
Since first fate led me to your kindly door,
Three times the moon with full-orbed light hath shone,
Thrice thirty times, with song of merry birds
And breath of fragrance, Morn has blest the earth
And all its dwellers with her radiant presence;
Thrice thirty times, with star-bound brow, dim Night
Hath kept her tearful watch above the earth;
And every time the full-orb'd moon hath shone,
And every time the merry Morn hath smiled,
And every time dim Night with star-bound brow
Above the earth hath kept her tearful watch,
My heart has added to its store of love,
Its pure, deep, fervent, passionate love for thee!
By all my hopes of heaven, my words are true.
Dost thou not pity now?
Ay, more! My heart,
And its full treasury of maiden love,
Never before surrendered to another,
I pledge to thee, as thine, for evermore!
An Aerial Chorus.
Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true.
She has bowed the haughty heart,
Won the stubborn will from guile,
With no aid of other art
Than the sweet spell of her smile!
Seek the dell and seek the bower,
Pluck the bud and pluck the flower,
Search for buds of sweetest breath,
Search for flowers of brightest hue;
Fit to weave the bridal wreath,
Of a maid so fair and true!
Note to the Misanthrope
"Then seek we, for the maiden's pillow,
Far beyond the Atlantic's billow,
Love's apple,--and when we have found it,
Draw the magic circles round it."
Considering the Mandrake, many fabulous notions were entertained
by the ancients; and they never attempted to extract it from the
earth, without the previous performance of such ceremonies as they
considered efficacious in preventing the numerous accidents, dangers,
and diseases, to which they believed the person exposed who was
daring enough to undertake its extraction. The usual manner of
obtaining it was this:--When found, three times a circle was drawn
around it with the point of a naked sword, and a dog was then
attached to it and beaten, until by his struggles it was disengaged
from the earth.
It was supposed to be useful in producing dreams, philters, charms
&c.; and also to possess the faculties of exciting love, and
The Emperor Adrian, in a letter to Calexines, writes that he is
drinking the juice of the Mandrake to render him amorous: hence
it was called Love-apple.
It grows in Italy, Spain, and the Levant.
A Beautiful Little Girl.
Fair as some sea-child, in her coral bower,
Decked with the rare, rich treasures of the deep;
Mild as the spirit of the dream whose power
Bears back the infant's soul to heaven, in sleep
Brightens the hues of summer's first-born flower
Pure as the tears repentant mourners weep
O'er deeds to which the siren, Sin, beguiled,--
Art thou, sweet, smiling, bright-eyed cherub child.
Thy presence is a spell of holiness,
From which unhallowed thoughts shrink blushing back,--
Thy smile is a warm light that shines to bless,
As beams the beacon o'er the wanderer's track,--
Thy voice is music, at whose sounds Distress
Unbinds her writhing victim from the rack
Of misery, and charmed by what she hears,
Forgets her woes, and smiles upon her tears.
And when I look upon thee, bearing now
The promise of such loveliness, I ask
If time will blight, that promise; if thy brow,
So sunny now, will learn to wear the mask
Of hollow smiles, or cold deceit, whilst thou
Art learning in thy soul the bitter task
Time teaches to all bosoms, when the glow
Of hope is o'er--but this I may not know.
My path will not be near to thine through life,--
Kind ones will guard and fondly shelter thee;
Me bitterness awaits, and care and strife,
And all that sorrow has of agony;
My future, as my past was, will be rife
With heartaches, and the pangs that "pass not by;"
Each hour shall give thee some new pleasure; years,
Long years can bring me only toil 'and tears.
'Tis meet that it should be so,--I have made
A wreck of my own happiness, and cast
Across my heart, in youth, the dull, deep shade
That wrinkled age flings over all at last
But let it go,--I have too long delayed
The remedy, and what is past is past;--
And could I live those vanished moments o'er,
My heart would wander as it strayed before.
I know not how it is,--my heart is stern,
And little giv'n to thoughts of tenderness;
Yet looking on thy young brow it will yearn,
And in my bosom's innermost recess,
Thoughts that have slumbered long awake and burn
With a wild strength which nothing can repress!
Be still, worn heart, be still; does not the cold
And heavy clay--clod mingle with her mould?
Yes, 'tis that in thy soft check's tender bloom,
Thy black eyes' brightness, in each graceful move,
I trace the lineaments of one to whom
My soul was wedded in an early love,--
'Twas in my boyhood; but the insatiate tomb
Claimed her fair form, and for the realms above
Her spirit fled the earth; oh! how I wept
That mine should in its bondage still be kept.
I mind the hour I stood beside the clay
I had so loved in life--it still was fair,
Surpassing fair, in death; and as she lay
With the thick tresses of her long dark hair
Gathered above the brow whence feeling's ray
Had fled, because death's shadow darkened there,
Her more than earthly beauty made her seem
The incarnation of some pure bright dream.
I stood and gazed: the pale grave sheet was wound
About the form from which life's spark was fled,
For ever fled,--wet eyes were weeping round,
And voices full of sorrow mourned the dead;
I could not weep; a sadness more profound
Than that from which those heart-drops, tears, are shed,
Was in my soul,--for then the icy spell
Of desolation freezing o'er me fell.
And from that hour I have been alone,
Alone when crowds were round me. May thy fate
Be coloured with a brighter hue, and strown
With flowers where mine is thorns;--where mine is hate,
And strife, and bitter discord, may thine own
Be love, and hope, and peace--for these create
The sunshine of existence; may their light
Beam ever round thee, warm, and glad, and bright.
THE LOCK OF HAIR.
It is in sooth a lovely tress,
Still curled in many a ring,
As glossy as the plumes that dress
The raven's jetty wing.
And the broad and soul-illumined brow,
Above whose arch it grew,
Was like the stainless mountain snow,
In its purity of hue.
I mind the time 'twas given to me,
The night, the hour, the spot;
And the eye that pleaded silently,
"Forget the giver not."
Oh! myriads of stars, on high,
Were smiling sweetly fair,
But none was lovely as the eye
That shone beside me there!
Above our heads an ancient oak
Its strong, wide arms held out,
And from its roots a fountain broke,
With a tiny laughing shout;
And the fairy people of the wild
Were bending to their rest,
As trustingly as sleeps the child
Upon its mother's breast.
Soft, silvery cloudlets, pure and white,
Along the sky were hung,
As if the spirits of the night
Their mantles there had flung;
And then the night-breeze pensively
Sighed from its unseen throne,
And far o'er field, and flower, and tree,
A hallowed light came down.
But in our breasts was springing up
A something lovelier far,
Than field, or tree, or flow'ret's cup,
Or sun, or moon, or star!
We heeded not the fountain near,
Its song of gladness singing,
For in our hearts a fount more dear,
And pure, and sweet, was springing.
And she was one whom fortune's smile
Had gladdened from her birth,
Yet her high spirit knew no guile,
No blot nor stain of earth;
And I was but a friendless boy,
And yet her heart was mine;
I knew it, and the thought was joy,
A joy all, all divine!
From out a braided mass she took
This single lock of jet,
And gave it with that pleading look
Which, said, "Do not forget."
Forget! as soon the waves that roll
The ocean's caves above,
May tell their secrets, as the soul
Forget its earliest love.
It has been with me now for years,
Long years of care and strife,
And shall be with me till time wears
Away my web of life.
And when death's keen, resistless dart,
Shall bid its sorrows cease,
This tress shall rest upon my heart,
Its talisman of peace.
"'Twas little she thought that I stood breathless by her side
listening to the song she sang as she sat by the sea's edge,
pondering so deeply, upon me too perhaps, that the white foam
glimmered on her brow unheeded."
Onagh, The Pale Child of the Brehon King.
She stood beside the wide wild sea,
The winds howled hoarse and high,
And dark clouds, drifting drearily,
Swept o'er the starless sky.
Her breast was white as mountain snow,
Her locks hung loose and free,
The foam that glimmered on her brow,
Was scarce so pale as she.
She sang a mournful song of love,
Of trusting love betrayed;
Ah, why did he who won her, prove
So faithless to the maid?
"Why pines my heart so wearily,
Why heaves my aching breast,
And why is sleep so far from me,
When others are at rest?
"Thou, truant wanderer o'er the deep,
The cause of all my cares;
For thee at night I wake and weep,
When none may mark my tears.
"I seek the festive hall no more,
Its mirth no more I crave;
My heart is lonely as the shore,
And restless as the wave.
"My soul has struggled to forget
Its sleepless, fatal flame;
I know thy vows were false, and yet
My love is still the same.
"Still o'er the dream I nursed too well,
My bursting heart will yearn;
For ever with me must it dwell,--
Oh, wanderer, return!"
A white sail fluttered in the wind,
A light bark skimmed the sea,--
It came like hope across the mind,
As swift and silently.
The shell-strewn beach that edged the main,
A manly footstep pressed;
The wanderer had returned again,--
The maiden's heart was blessed!
"Come, sit thee by my side once more,
'Tis long since thus we' met;
And though our dream of love is o'er,
Its sweetness lingers yet.
Its transient day has long been past,
Its flame has ceased to burn,--
But Memory holds its spirit fast,
Safe in her sacred urn.
"I will not chide thy wanderings,
Nor ask why thou couldst flee
A heart whose deep affection's springs
Poured forth such love for thee!
We may not curb the restless mind,
Nor teach the wayward heart
To love against its will, nor bind
It with the chains of art.
"I would but tell thee how, in tears
And bitterness, my soul
Has yearned with dreams, through long, long, years,
Which it could not control.
And how the thought that clingeth to,
And twineth round the past,
For ever in my heart shall glow,
And be save one my last.
"They say thou hast another's love,--
Well, cherish it, but thou
Its lack of strength and depth wilt prove,
Should sorrow cloud thy brow.
Though she may own a statelier form,
A fairer cheek than mine,
Her heart cannot so well and warm,
Respond each throb of thine."
Her words were gentle, but their tone
Was sad as sorrow's sigh,--
A tear-drop trembled in his own
As he sought her downcast eye.
A chord was struck within his breast
That long untouched had lain,
Old memories started from their rest,--
The maid was loved again.
On! there are hours of sadness, when the soul,
Torn from its every stay, and crushed beneath
Its many griefs, and spurning faith's control,
Pants with an earnest longing for the death
Which would for ever close its dark career,
With the pale shroud and the remorseless bier;
When the harsh, sterile nothingness of life,
First breaks upon the hope-deluded breast,
And the heart sickens with the bootless strife
That wrings its chords, and longs to be at rest;
Ev'n if the blow that frees it from distress,
Should strike it into utter nothingness.
Ah, nothingness! The thought at times will come,
The mind will wrestle with the mystery
That clouds its being! from its clay-made home,
Its dwelling of a m6ment, it will flee
Into the far depths of the vast UNKNOWN,
In its vain searchings for th' eternal throne
Of that Omnipotence which gave it birth,
And, giving it a nature which might suit
A seraph, bound its destiny to earth!
And a few years, in which to eat the fruit
Of life's strange tree, so bitter at its core,
Then death, the quiet grave, sleep, and--what more?
Whence came we? whither go we? All is still
And voiceless in the past! A veil is drawn
Across the future! by life's mystic rill
We sit and ponder, watching for the dawn
Of some yet unconceived, far-reaching thought,
By which our nature's secret shall be taught!
Why sorrow is our element--why sin
Is native in us--by what curse we bear
An ever aching, crushing void within
Our secret souls! and why the little share
Of happiness that mingles with our fate,
Is of such fleeting, transitory date 1
Our loves! our hopes! what are they? fruits which turn
To ashes on our lips! illusive lights
That cast a moment's brightness while they burn,
Then die, and leave a darkness which affrights
Our spirits with its thrice redoubled gloom,
Making the sky a pall--the earth a tomb!
And yet these are the all of life for which
'Tis worth the wearing of its chain to know,
Wealth, fame, and power are but toys! the rich,
The high and mighty, with the base and low,
Alike before the reaper Death must fall,--
So be it! in the grave is rest for all.
When the leaf is on the tree,
And the bird is in the bower,
And the butterfly and bee,
Bear its treasures from the flower;
When the fields put on the sheen,
That to young-eyed Spring belongs;
When the groves and forests green,
Echo with a thousand songs;
When wild Beauty wanders forth,
Giving, with no stinted care,
All her loveliness to earth,
All her sweetness to the air:
Then the heart, with gladness stirred,
Mindful of its griefs no more,
Mounts and carols, like a bird
When the pearly shower is o'er!
But the summer's sunny hours,
As we count them, pass away;
And its fairest fruits and flowers,
Are but food for stern decay.
Then with wailings, deep and loud,
Like the sea's in its unrest,
Winter spreads his icy shroud,
O'er the bare earth's frozen breast.
Thus the spirit's early gladness,
Sorrow chills or time removes;
And the soul, in tears and sadness,
Mourns its perished joys and loves.
Hope will lose its trusting boldness,
One by one its beams depart,
And Despair, with icy, coldness,
Winds its mantle round the heart.
AFTER WITNESSING A DEATH-SCENE.
Press close your lips,
And bow your heads to earth, for Death is here!
Mark ye not how across that eye so clear,
Steals his eclipse?
A moment more,
And the quick throbbings of her heart shall cease,
Her pain-wrung spirit will obtain release,
And all be o'er!
Hush! Seal ye up
Your gushing tears, for Mercy's hand hath shaken
Her earth-bonds off, and from her lip hath taken
Grief's bitter cup.
Ye know the dead
Are they who rest secure from care and strife,--
That they who walk the thorny way of life,
Have tears to shed.
Ye know her pray'r,
Was for the quiet of the tomb's deep rest,--
Love's sepulchre lay cold within her breast,
Could peace dwell there?
A tale soon told,
Is of her life the story; she had loved,
And he who won her heart to love, had proved
Heartless and cold.
Lay her to rest,
Where shines and falls the summer's sun and dew;
For these should shine and fall where lies so true
And fond a breast!
A full release
From every pang is given to the dead,--
So on the stone ye place above her head,
Write only "Peace."*
When Spring comes back,
With music on her lips,--joy in her eye,--
Her sunny banner streaming through the sky,--
Flow'rs in her track--
Then come ye here,
And musing from the busy world apart,
Drop on the turf that wraps her mouldering heart,
Sweet Pity's tear.
* The most touchingly beautiful epitaph I have ever read, was
written in that one word, "Peace." It seemed like the last sigh
of a departing spirit, over the clay which it was about to
abandon for ever.
LOVE AND FANCY.
"Whenever, amid bow'rs of myrtle,
Love, summer-tressed and vernal-eyed,
At morn or eve is seen to wander,
A dark-haired girl is at his side."
De La Hogue.
One morn, just as day in the far east was breaking,
Young Love, who all night had been roving about,
A charming siesta was quietly taking,
His strength, by his rambles, completely worn out.
Round his brow a wreath, woven of every flower
That springs from the hillside, or valley, was bound;
In his hand was a rose he had stol'n from some bower,
While his bow and his quiver lay near on the ground.
Wild Fancy just came from her kingdom of dreams,
The breath of the opening day to enjoy,
And to catch the warm kiss of its first golden beams
On her cheek, caught a glimpse of the slumbering boy!
With a light, noiseless step she drew near to the sleeper,
And gazed till her snowy-breast heaved a soft sigh;
Then she bade sleep's dull god bring a sounder and deeper
And heavier trance for Love's beautiful eye.
Then back to her shadowy kingdom she flow,
And called up the bright mystic forms she has there;
And filling an urn from a fountain of dew,
She bade them all straight to Love's couch-side repair.
They came, and stood round, as her hand, o'er his pillow,
From a chalice of pearl, poured its magical stream:
While his red rosy lips, that now sighed like a billow
At play with the breeze, told how sweet was his dream.
He dreamed that he sat on a shining throne, wrought
Of the purest of gold that the earth could supply,
While a trio of beautiful maids, who each brought
A gift for his shrine, in succession past by.
First Fame, with the step and the glance of a queen,
Came up, and before him bent down her proud knee,
And held up a garland, whereon played the sheen
Of the beams which insure immortality!
Next Wealth, the stern mistress of men, for whose smile
They toil like the galley slave,--brought in her hand
The fair gems of many an ocean isle,
And the diamonds of many a far off land.
And Beauty came too, with her blue, laughing eye,
Her fair flowing locks, and her soft rosy cheek,
And red lips, whose sweet smile told silently
The tale which they seemed ashamed to speak.
'Neath the shade of a palm branch a fourth one stood by,
With locks like in hue to the tresses of Night,
With a pale, pensive brow, and a dark dreamy eye,
Where the soul of sweet softness lay gleaming in light!
It was Fancy: Love gazed, and his eager eye shone
With a lustre of feeling, deep, fervent, and sweet;
And he thought it were better to give up his throne
For a place, on his knees, at the coy maiden's feet.
And from that bright hour, through calm and through storm,
Through the sunlight of summer, and winter's dark reign,
These twain have been bound by ties, tender and warm,
Which ne'er through all time shall be severed again.
And ever where Love weaves his fond witchery,
Will Fancy the aid of her brightness bestow,
And give the loved object, whatever it be,
A purer, a dearer, a heavenlier glow!
LINES WRITTEN IN A YOUNG LADY'S ALBUM
'Tis not in youth, when life is new, when but to live is sweet,
When Pleasure strews her starlike flow'rs beneath our careless feet,
When Hope, that has not been deferred, first waves its golden wings,
And crowds the distant future with a thousand lovely things;--
When if a transient grief o'ershades the spirit for a while,
The momentary tear that falls is followed by a smile;
Or if a pensive mood, at times, across the bosom steals,
It scarcely sighs, so gentle is the pensiveness it feels
It is not then the, restless soul will seek for one with whom
To share whatever lot it bears, its gladness or its gloom,--
Some trusting, tried, and gentle heart, some true and faithful breast,
Whereon its pinions it may fold, and claim a place of rest.
But oh! when comes the icy chill that freezes o'er the heart,
When, one by one, the joys we shared, the hopes we held, depart;
When friends, like autumn's withered leaves, have fallen by our side,
And life, so pleasant once, becomes a desert wild and wide;--
As for her olive branch the dove swept o'er the sullen wave,
That rolled above the olden world--its death-robe and its grave!--
So will the spirit search the earth for some kind, gentle one,
With it to share her destiny, and make it all her own!
TO A LADY.
Suggested By Hearing Her Voice During Services At Church.
At night, in visions, when my soul drew near
The shadowy confines of the spirit land,
Wild, wondrous notes of song have met my ear,
Wrung from their harps by many a seraph's hand;
And forms of light, too, more divinely fair
Than Mercy's messenger to hearts that mourn,
On wings that made sweet music in the air,
Have round me, in those hours of bliss, been borne,
And, filled with joy unutterable, I
Have deemed myself a born child of the sky.
And often, too, at sunset's magic hour,
When musing by some solitary stream,
While thought awoke in its resistless pow'r,
And restless Fancy wove her brightest dream:
Mysterious tongues, that were not of the earth,
Have whispered words which I may not repeat,--
But Thought or Fancy ne'er have given birth
To form and voice like thine,--so fair and sweet!
Nor have I found them when my spirit's flight
Had borne me to the far shores of delight.
Above the murmurs of an hundred lips,
They rose, those silvery tones of praise and pray'r,
Soft as the light breeze, when Aurora trips
The earth, and, lighting up the darkened air,
Carols her greetings to the waking flow'rs!
They fell upon my heart like summer rain
Upon the thirsting fields,--and earlier hours,
When I too breathed th' adoring pray'r and strain,
Came back once more; the present was beguiled
Of half its gloom, and my worn spirit smiled.
Pray, lady, that the sad, soul-searing blight,
Which comes upon us when we tread the ways
Of sin, may not be suffered to alight
On thy pure spirit in its youthful days;
Or like the fruitage of the Dead Sea shore,
Tho' outward bloom and freshness thou may'st be,
Stern bitterness and death will gnaw thy core,
And thou wilt be a heart-scathed thing like me,
Bearing the weight of many years, ere thou
Hast lost youth's rosy cheek and lineless brow.
On The Reception Of A Letter.
I would love to have thee near me,
But when I think how drear
Is each hope that used to cheer me,
I cease to wish thee here.
I know that thou, wouldst not shrink from
The storms that burst on me,
But the bitter chalice I drink from,
I will not pass to thee.
I would share the world with thee, were it
With all its pleasures mine,
But the sorrows which I inherit,
I never will make thine!
THE OLD MAN AND THE BOY.
"Glenara, Glenara, now read me my dream."
Father, I have dreamed a dream,
When the rosy morning hour
Poured its light on field and stream,
Kindling nature with its pow'r;--
O'er the meadow's dewy breast,
I had chased a butterfly,
Tempted by its gaudy vest,
Still my vain pursuit to ply,--
Till my limbs were weary grown,
With the distance I had strayed,
Then to rest I laid me down,
Where a beech tree cast its shade,
Soon a heaviness came o'er me,
And a deep sleep sealed my eyes;
And a vision past before me,
Full of changing phantasies.
First I stood beside a bower,
Green as summer bow'r could be;
Vine and fruit, and leaf and flower,
Mixed to weave its canopy.
And within reclined a form,
As embodied moonlight fair,
With a soft cheek, fresh and warm,
Deep blue eye and sunny hair.
By her side a goblet stood,
Such as bacchanalians brim;
High the rich grape's crimson blood,
Sparkled o'er its gilded rim.
As I gazed, she bowed her head,
With a gay and graceful move,
And in words of music said,
"Drink, and learn the lore of love!"
Next I stood beside a mountain,
Of majestic form and height;
Cliff and crag, and glen and fountain,
Mingled to make up its might.
On its lofty brow were growing
Flowers never chilled by gloom,
For the sky above them glowing,
Dyed them with a deathless bloom.
And I saw the crystal dome,
Wondrous in its majesty,
Where earth's great ones find a home,
When their spirits are set free.
By its portals, I espied
One who kept the courts within;
High he waved a wreath and cried,
"Come up hither,--strive and win!"
Then my vision changed again:
In a fairy-coloured shell,
O'er the wide sea's pathless plain,
I was speeding, fast and well.
Suddenly, beneath its prow,
Parted were the azure waves,
And I saw where, far below,
Yawn the vast deep's secret caves.
Where the Syren sings her song,
To old Ocean's sons and daughters;
And the mermaids dance along,
To the music of the waters.
Where the coral forest o'er,
Storm or tempest ne'er is driven
And the gems that strew its floor,
Sparkle like the stars in heaven.
Treasures, such as never eye
Of the earth has looked upon,
Gold and pearls of many a dye,
There in rich profusion shone.
And a voice came to my ear,
Saying, in a stern, cold tone,
Such as chills the heart with fear,
"Seize and make the prize thine own."
Then across a clouded wild,
Lone and drear and desolate,
Where no cheerful cottage smiled,
I pursued the steps of fate.
Ever bearing in my breast,
Thoughts almost to madness wrought;
Ever, ever seeking rest,
Never finding what I Sought--
Till I gave my wanderings o'er,
By a black and icy stream,--
Deep I plunged and knew no more:--
Father, read me now my dream.
The old man bowed his head,
And pressed his thin hand to his withered brow,
As if he struggled with some rising thought
Which should have kept its place in memory's urn
Till he had cast the shadow from his soul,
Which for a while had bound it in a spell
Born of the bygone years,--then thus he spoke:
Now listen, boy, and I will show to thee
The import of thy vision,--I will tell
Thee what its scenes and shapes of mystery
Foreshadow of the future,--for full well
I know the wizard lore, whose witchery
Binds e'en the time to come in its wild spell!
And from approaching years a knowledge wrings
Of what they bear upon their viewless wings.
Along life's weary way of pain and care,
From earliest infancy to eldest age,
Forms, viewless as the soft-breathed summer air,
Attend man's footsteps in his pilgrimage;
And if his destiny be dark or fair,
If Pleasure gilds, or Sorrow blots the page
Whereon is traced his history, still his ear
Will ever catch their warning voices near.
And they--those guardian ones, who, while thy sleep
Hung o'er thee like a curtain, came around
And fanned thee till thy slumber grew more deep,--
Flung o'er thy rest, so perfect and profound,
A dream whose mem'ry thou sbouldst ever keep
Bound to thy spirit, for altho' it wound,
Thy young heart now, perchance, in after years,
'Twill save thee much of toil, and many tears.
It was a dream of life: of boyhood's strong
And soul-consuming yearnings after love!
His eager search to find, amid the throng,
Some heart to give him thought for thought--to move
And mingle with his own, as twines the song
From Beauty's lyre and lips! to know and prove
The dearest joy to care-cursed mortals given,
The one with least of earth, and most of heaven
Of manhood's ceaseless strivings after fame,--
The veriest phantom of all phantasies--
For which he wields the sword, or lights the flame
Whose red glare mocks a nation's agonies,--
Or by his star-outwatching taper, plies
His pen or pencil, to gain--what? a name,
A passing sound--an echo--a mere breath,
Which he, vain fool, dreams mightier than death!
And of a later period, when the soul
Forsakes its high resolves and wild desires,
When stern Ambition can no more control,
And Love has shrouded o'er its smothered fires;
When Expectation ceases to console,
And Hope, the last kind comforter, expires;
And Avarice, monster of the gilded vest,
Creeps in and occupies the vacant breast.
And then the last sad scene: The sick heart, sore
And fainting from its wounds--the palsied limb--
The brow whose death-sweat peeps from every pore--
The eye with its long, weary watch grown dim--
The withered, wan cheek, that shall bloom no more--
The last dregs dripping slowly from the brim
Of life's drained cup,--behind all gloom, before
A deep, dark gulf--we plunge, and all is o'er!
ACLE AT THE GRAYE OF NERO.
It is a circumstance connected with the history of Nero, that
every spring and summer, for many years after his death, fresh
and beautiful flowers were nightly scattered upon his grave by
some unknown hand.
Tradition relates that it was done by a young maiden of Corinth,
named Acle, whom Nero had brought to Rome from her native city,
whither he had gone in the disguise of an artist, to contend in
the Nemean, Isthinian, and Floral games, celebrated there; and
whence he returned conqueror in the Palaestra, the chariot race,
and the song; bearing with him, like Jason of old, a second Medea,
divine in form and feature as the first, and who like her had left
father, friends, and country, to follow a stranger.
Even the worse than savage barbarity of this sanguinary tyrant,
had not cut him off from all human affection; and those flowers
were doubtless the tribute of that young girl's holy and enduring
Whose name is on yon lettered stone? whose ashes rest beneath?
That thus you come with flowers to deck the mournful home of death;
And thou--why darkens so thy brow with grief's untimely gloom?
Thou art fitter for a bride than for a watcher by the tomb!
"It is the name of one whose deeds made men grow pale with fear,
And Nero's, stranger, is the dust that lies sepulchred here;
That name may be a word of harsh and boding sound to thee,
But oh! it has a more than mortal melody for me!
"And I,--my heart has grown to age in girlhood's fleeting years,
And has one only task--to bathe its buried love in tears;
The all of life that yet remains to me is but its breath;
Then tell me, is it meet that I should seek the bridal wreath?"
But maiden, he of whom yon speak was of a savage mood,
That took its joy alone in scenes, of carnage, tears and blood;
His dark, wild spirit bore the stain of crime's most loathsome hue,
And love is for the high of soul--the gentle and the true.
"The voice that taught an abject world to tremble at its words,
To me was mild and musical, and mellow as a bird's--
A bird's--that couched among the green, broad branches of the date,
Tells, in its silvery songs, its gushing gladness to its mate.
"I saw him first beside the sea; near to ray father's home,
When like an ocean deity he bounded from the foam;
Ev'n then a glory seemed to breathe around him as he trod,
And my haughty soul was bowed, as in the presence of a God.
I knew not, till my heart was his, the darkness of his own,
Nor dreamed that he who knelt to me was master of a throne!
And when the fearful knowledge came, its coming was in vain,--
I had forsaken all for him, and would do so again."
Is love the offspring of the will? or is it, like a flower,
So frail that it may fade and be forgotten in an hour?
No, no! it springs unbidden where the heart's deep fountains play,
And cherished by their hallowed dew, it cannot pass away!
THE VENETIAN GIRL'S EVENING SONG.
Unmoor the skiff,--unmoor the skiff,--
The night wind's sigh is on the air,
And o'er the highest Alpine cliff,
The pale moon rises, broad and clear.
The murmuring waves are tranquil now,
And on their breast each twinkling star
With which Night gems her dusky brow,
Flings its mild radiance from afar.
Put off upon the deep blue sea,
And leave the banquet and the ball;
For solitude, when shared with thee,
Is dearer than the carnival.
And in my heart are thoughts of love,
Such thoughts as lips should only breathe,
When the bright stars keep watch above,
And the calm waters sleep beneath!
The tale I have for thee, perchance,
May to thine eye anew impart
The long-lost gladness of its glance,
And soothe the sorrows of thy heart;
Come, I will sing for thee again,
The songs which once our mothers sung,
Ere tyranny its galling chain
On them, and those they loved, had hung.
Thou'rt sad; thou say'st that in the halls
Which echoed once our father's tread,
The stranger's idle footstep falls,
With sound that might awake the dead!
The mighty dead! whose dust around
An atmosphere of reverence sheds;
If aught of earthly voice or sound,
Might reach them in their marble beds.
That she to whom the deep gave birth,--
Fair Venice! to whose queenly stores
The wealth and beauty of the earth
Were wafted from an hundred shores!
Now on her wave-girt site, forlorn,
Sits shrouded in affliction's night,--
The object of the tyrant's scorn,
Sad monument of fallen might.
Well, tho' in her deserted halls
The fire on Freedom's shrine is dead,
Tho' o'er her darkened, crumbling walls,
Stern Desolation's pall is spread;
Is not the second better part,
To that which rends the despot's chain,
To wear it with a dauntless heart,
To feel yet shrink not from its pain?
Then let the creeping ivy twine
Its wreaths about each ruined arch,
Till Time shall crush them in the brine,
Beneath its all-triumphant march!
Then let the swelling waters close
Above the sea-child's sinking frame,
And hide for ever from her foes,
Each trace and vestige of her shame.
Shall we at last less calmly sleep,
When in the narrow death-house pent,
Because the bosom of the deep
Shall be our only monument?
No! by the waste of waters bid,
Our tombs as well shall keep their trust,
As tho' a marble pyramid
Were piled above our mangled dust!
Written in the National Gallery, at the city of Washington, on
looking at a Mummy, supposed to have belonged to a race extinct
before the occupation of the Western Continent by the people in
whose possession the Europeans found it.
Sole and mysterious relic of a race
That long has ceased to be, whose very name,
Time, ever bearing on with steady pace,
Has swept away from earth, leaving thy frame,
Darkened by thirty centuries, to claim,
Among the records of the things that were,
Its place,--Tradition has forgot thee--Fame,
If ever fame was thine, has ceased to bear
Her record of thee,--say, what dost thou here?
Three thousand years ago a mother's arms
Were wrapped about that dark and ghastly form,
And all the loveliness of childhood's charms
Glowed on that cheek, with life then flushed and warm;
Say, what preserved thee from the hungry worm
That haunts with gnawing tooth the gloomy bed
Spread for the lifeless? Tell what could disarm
Decay of half its power, and while it fed
On empires--races--make it spare the dead!
How strange to contemplate the wondrous story,
When those deep sunken eyes first saw the light,
Lost Babylon was in her midday glory,--
Upon her pride and power had fall'n no blight;
And Tyre, the ancient mariner's delight,
Whose merchantmen were princes, and whose name
Was theme of praise to all, has left her site
To utter barren nakedness and shame,--
Yet thou, amid all change, art still the same.
And she who, by the "yellow Tiber's" side,
Sits wrapped in her dark veil of widowhood,
With scarce a glimmer of her ancient pride,
To cheer the gloom of that deep solitude
Which o'er the seat of vanquished pow'r doth brood,
Since thou wast born has seen her glories rise,
Burn, and expire! quenched by the streams of blood
Which her slaves drew from her own veins, the price
Of usurpation, proud Ambition's sacrifice!
And darker in her fate, and sadder still,
The sacred city of the minstrel king,
That proudly sat on Zion's holy hill,
The wonder of the world! Destruction's wing
Hath from her swept each fair and goodly thing;
Her palaces and temples! where are they?
Her walls and marble tow'rs lie mouldering,
Her glory to the spoiler's hand a prey,--
And yet time spares a portion of thy clay!
And thou art here amid a stranger race,
To whom these shores four centuries ago,
Tho' now proud Freedom's boasted dwelling-place,
Were all unknown; the wide streams that now flow
Where Cultivation's hand has steered her plough,
Had then but seen the forest huntsman guide
His light canoe across the waves which now
Reflect the snowy sails that waft in pride
The stately ship along their rippling tide.
Thou art the silent messenger of ages,
Sent back to tread with Time his constant way,
To shame the wisdom of conceited sages,
Whose lore is but a thing of yesterday;
What would their best, their brightest visions weigh
Beside the fearful truths thou couldst reveal?
The secrets of eternity now lay
Unveiled before thee, and for we or weal,
Thy doom is fixed beyond ev'n heaven's repeal.
I will not ask thee of the mysteries
That lie beyond Death's shadowy vale; but thou
Mayst tell us of the fate the Destinies
Wove for thine earthly sojourn. Was thy brow
Graced with the poet's, hero's garland? How
Dealt Fortune with thee? Did she curse or bless
Thee with her frown or smile? Speak! thou art now
Among the living,--they around thee press.
Still silent? Then thy lot we can but guess.
Perhaps thou wast a monarch, and hast worn
The sceptre of some real El Dorado!
Perhaps a warrior, and those arms have borne
The foremost shield, and dealt the deadliest blow
That drew the life-blood of a warring foe!
Perhaps thou wor'st the courtier's gilded thrall,--
Some glittering court's gay, proud papilio!
Perchance a clown, the jester of some hall,
The slave of one man, and the fool of all!
Oh life! and pride! and honour! come and see
To what a depth your visions tumble down!
Behold your wearer,--who shall say if he
Were monarch, warrior, parasite, or clown!
And ye, who talk of glory and renown,
And call them bright and deathless! and who break
Each dearer tie to grasp fame's gilded crown,
Come, hear instruction from this shadow speak,
And learn how valueless the prize ye seek!
See where ambition's loftiest flight doth tend,
Behold the doom perhaps of blood-bought fame,
And know that all which earth can give must end,
In dust and ashes, and an empty name!
Ye passions! which defy our pow'r to tame
Or curb your headlong tides, behold your home!
Love! see the breast where thou didst light thy flame!
Immortal spirit! see thy shattered dome!
When shall its hour of renovation come?
Shall life possess, and beauty deck again
That withered form, and foul and dusky cheek?
Will Death resign his dull and frozen reign,
And the immortal soul return to seek
Her long-deserted dwelling, and to break
The bondage which has held in icy chains
All that was mortal of thee? will she make
Her home in thee, and shall these poor remains
Share with her heaven's pleasures or hell's pains?
Wonder of wonders! who could look on thee
And afterward survey with curious eye
The mouldering shrines where dupes have bent the knee,
Where superstition, by hypocrisy
Nurtured and fed with tales of mystery,
Has oft with timid footstep trembling trod,--
All these are worse than nothing; come and see
Where once a deathless soul held its abode,--
The wrecked and ruined palace of a God!
Farewell! Not idly has this hour been spent.
Thy silent teachings I may not forget,--
More deeply, strangely, truly eloquent,
Than all the babbled words which ever yet
Have fall'n from living lips,--they shall be set
With the bright gems which Wisdom loves to keep;
And when my spirit against fate would fret,
My eyes shall turn to thee and cease to weep,
Till I too sleep death's deep and dreamless sleep!
Come near me with thy lips, and, breathe o'er mine
Their breath, for I consume with love's desire,--
Thine ivory arms about me clasp and twine,
And beam upon mine eye thine eye's soft fire;
Clasp me yet closer, till my heart feels thine
Thrill, as the chords of Memnon's mystic lyre
Thrilled at the sun's uprising! thou who art
The lone, the worshipped idol of my heart!
There! balmier than the south wind, when it brings
The scent of aromatic shrub and tree,
And tropic flower on ifs glowing wings,
Thine odorous breath is wafted over me;
How to thy dewy lips mine own lip clings,
And my whole being is absorbed in thee;
And in my breast thine eyes have lit a fire
That never, never, never shall expire!
Eternal--is it not eternal--this
Our passionate love? what pow'r shall part us twain?
Not even Death! Life could bestow no bliss
Like death with thee, and I would rend its chain
If thou shouldst perish, for my heaven is
To gaze upon thee! I could bear all pain
Unsighing, so not parted from thy side,
My beautiful! my spirit's chosen bride!
They try to woo me from thy fond embrace,
To lure me from the light of those dear eyes;
They tell me that in fortune's arduous chase,
I have such fleetness as would win the prize;--
But all the pomps of circumstance and place,
A glance, a word, a smile of thine outvies!
Leave Fortune to her parasites! mine be
The blessed lot to dwell with love and thee.
To lead thee on through life, and to enlarge
Thy soul with added knowledge, day by day,
To guard thee, as an angel guards his charge,
From every ill that lurks along the way!
To smooth that rugged way, and strew its marge
With the bright flowrs that never can decay,--
This were a lot too glorious, too divine,
And yet Hope whispers that it shall be mine.
Now listen, love,--this plan shall rule my life
And thine:--In some remote and sunny dell,
Far from the crowded city's silly strife,
My hands shall rear the home where we will dwell;
Shall till the soil, with fertile fruitage rife,
And teach the golden ear to shoot and swell;
And my sole wished for recompense shall be
My ever growing, deep'ning love for thee.
Thy task shall be to train the trailing vine,
To watch, and cherish in its growth, the flow'r
Whose breath and cheek are sweet and fair as thine;
To bless and brighten the domestic bow'r
Where we will build to Love a hallowed shrine,
And bow us, in his worship, every hour;
Till, chastened by thy smile, my heart has grown
As pure, and soft, and sinless as thine own.
Oh, hasten, love! to realize the dream,--
Come from the world,--the crowd is not for thee;
Forsake it then, ere the contagious steam
Of its foul breath has soiled thy purity;--
Come, for my heart would burst could I but deem
That such as they are, thou couldst ever be!
Come, for my soul adores thee with a love
As burning as the seraphs feel above.
These lines are inscribed to the memory of John Q. Carlin, killed
at Buena Vista.
Warrior of the youthful brow,
Eager heart and eagle eye!
Pants thy soul for battle now?
Burns thy glance with victory?
Dost thou dream of conflicts done,
Perils past and trophies won?
And a nation's grateful praise
Given to thine after days?
Bloodless is thy cheek, and cold
As the clay upon it prest;
And in many a slimy fold,
Winds the grave-worm round thy breast.
Thou wilt join the fight no more,--
Glory's dream with thee is o'er,--
And alike are now to thee
Greatness and obscurity.
But an ever sunny sky,
O'er thy place of rest is bending;
And above thy grave, and nigh,
Flowers ever bright are blending.
O'er thy dreamless, calm repose,
Balmily the south wind blows,--
With the green turf on thy breast,
Rest thee, youthful warrior, rest!
When the alarum first was sounded,
Marshalling in arms the brave,
Forth thy fearless spirit bounded,
To obtain thee--what? A grave!
Fame had whispered in thine ear,
Words the high-souled love to hear,--
But the ruthless hand of death
From thee snatched the hero's wreath.
Often will the grief-shade start
O'er thy sister's mood of joy,
Vainly will thy mother's heart
Yearn to greet her absent boy;
Never sister's lip shall press
On thine own its fond caress,--
Never more a mother's eye
Flash in pride when thou art by!
Where the orange, bending lowly
With its golden fruit, is swaying;
And the Indian maiden, slowly
By her native stream is straying;
O'er thy dreamless, calm repose,
Balmily the South wind blows,--
With the green turf on thy breast,
Rest thee, youthful warrior, rest!
A LEGEND OF THE HARTZ.
Many ages ago, near the high Hartz, there dwelt
A rude race of blood-loving giants, who felt
No joy but the fierce one which Carnage bestows,
When her foul lips are clogged with the blood of her foes.
And fiercer and bolder than all of the rest
Was Bohdo,(1) their chieftain;--'twas strange that a breast,
Which nothing like kindness or pity might move,
Should glow with the warmth and the rapture of love.
Yet he loved, and the pale mountain-monarch's fair child
Was the maid of his heart; but tho' burning and wild
Was the love that he bore her, it won no return,
And the flame that consumed him was answered with scorn.
Now the lady is gone with her steed to the plain,--
Save the falcon and hound there is none in her train;
She needs none to guide, or to guard her from harm
There's no fear in her heart, there is strength in her arm.
From her white wrist unhooded her falcon she threw,
Her bow like Diana, the huntress, she drew;
And fleet as the fetterless bird swept the sky,
So on her proud steed swept the fair lady by.
See how her eye sparkles, and how her cheek glows,
As onward so fearless and proudly she goes,
With her locks streaming back like a banner of gold,
Were she not, say, a bride meet for Nimrod(2) of old?
And he saw her--the chief, from his tower afar--
As she glanced o'er the earth like some wandering star;
And he swore she should come in that tower to dwell,
Or his soul be a prize to the spirits of hell.
His war-horse he mounted, and, swift as the shoot
Of the night-gathered meteor, he sped in pursuit,--
Breathing out, as he went, mad with love and with hate,
Bitter curse upon curse against heaven and fate.
Urging on his fleet courser with spur and with rein,
He swept o'er the earth as the storm sweeps the plain,--
And the fair lady knew, by the gleam of his shield,
It was Bohdo, the scourge of the red battle field!
Then spurred she her steed over valley and hill,
Over rock, marsh and moor, over river and rill,