Love or Fame; and Other Poems, by Fannie Isabelle Sherrick
Part I. Girlhood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-10. Part II. The Storm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11-26. Part III. Fame . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27-45. Part IV. Broken Links . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46-56. Part V. Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57-71. Miscellaneous Poems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72. To Longfellow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72. Tower Grove . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74. A Shell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77. Two Pictures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79. The Queen-Rose-A Summer Idyl . . . . . . . . . . . . 81. Twin Lilies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83. Memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85. Moonlight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87. The Star of Youth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88. The Day is Dead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89. My Queen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90. The Song of the Brook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91. Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92. Sounds from the Convent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94. The Lake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96. Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98. A Memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99. The Baby's Tear. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100. Irene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102. Unrecorded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103. Beatrice Cenci . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107. Under the Stars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109. Catching the Sunbeams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110. The Soldier's Grave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112. Beyond the Sunset are the Hills of God . . . . . . . 114. Never . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115. The Mississippi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117. The Prince Imperial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119. On the Lake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121. Beyond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123. A Sonnet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124. Under the Sea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125. The Old year and the New . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126. Easter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128. May . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130. Summer Rain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131. September . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132. October . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133. Falling Leaves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135. Autumn Flowers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135. Remembrance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137. Winter Flowers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138. Snow Flakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140. Sunset on the Mississippi . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141. Not Dead but Sleeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143. A Sunbeam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145. The Phantom of Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148-152.
Love or Fame.
Part I. Girlhood
Girlhood, the dearest time of joy and love, The sunny spring of gladness and of peace, The time that joins its links with heaven above, And all that's pure below; a running ease Of careless thought beguiles the murmuring stream Of girlish life, and as some sweet, vague dream, The fleeting days go by; fair womanhood Comes oft to lure the girlish feet away, But by the brooklet still they love to stray, Nor long to seek the world's engulfing flood.
Hilda—a name that seems to stand alone— So strong, so clear it sharply echoing tone; And yet a name that holds a weirdlike grace, Withal like some strange, haunting, beauteous face;
A woman's name, by woman's truth made dear, That leans upon itself and knows no fear, And yet a name a shrinking girl might wear, With girlish ease, devoid of thought and care. And she is worthy of this name so true— This girl with thoughtful eyes of darkest hue, This maiden stepping o'er the golden line That separates the child from woman divine. Not yet she feels the longing, vague unrest That ever fills the woman's throbbing breast, But with a childlike questioning after truth, She lingers yet amid the dreams of youth.
And now upon the bounding ocean's shore She stands where creep the wavelets more and more, Until at last the rocky ledge they meet, And break in foam around her lingering feet. Her eyes glance downward in a careless way, As though she loved their soft caressing play, And fain would stand and muse forever there, Lulled by their murmuring sound.
Placid and fair The ocean lies before her dreamy eyes, Stretched forth in beauty 'neath the sunny skies, And through the clouds' far lifting, sheeny mist She sees the pale blue skies by sunlight kissed. Enraptured by the calm and holy scene, She stands a creature pure and glad; serene, Her eyes glance heavenward and a roseate shade Plays o'er her Hebe features—perfect made.
A child of nature, she has never known The arts and wiles which worldlier spirits own; She loves the ocean's ever changing play, When round her form is flung its dashing spray, And oft she laughs in wildest, merriest glee When folded close within its billows free.
She loves the wildwood's green and leafy maze, Within whose foliage hide the sun's bright rays; And like a child she hoards the bright-eyed flowers, Companions of so many happy hours. With loving heart she greets each form of earth, To which God's kindly hand has given birth. But better far than all, she loves to roam Far on the cliff's lone height, and there at eve To watch the dark ships as they wander home. Strange dreams in this calm hour her fancies weave, So quaint and odd, they seem but shadowy rays, Caught from the sunset's deep, mysterious haze.
Lo! now she stands like some pale statue fair, With eyes cast down and careless falling hair; She vaguely dreams of things that are to be, A woman's future, noble, fresh and free; And o'er her face youth's crimson colors flow, As with a beating heart she thinks she'll give Her life to one true heart, and with a glow Of pride she vows her future life to live So good and true that all her days shall seem But the fulfillment of his heart's proud dream.
Yet soon she trembles with some unknown thought, A vague and restless longing fills her breast, And with a passionate fear her mind is wrought. She cannot case away the strange unrest; With hands clasped close in attitude of prayer She stands, her pleading face so young and fair, Is turned unto the skies, but no, not here Will God speak all unto her listening ear; Too soon in dark, deep strife upon this shore Her soul will yield its peace forevermore.
And then she hurries home with flying feet, The faces of that humble home to meet; For there in peace her dear old parents dwell, That simple twain who love this maid so well They fain would keep her with them ever there, A thoughtless child, free from all grief and care. But ah! they cannot understand the heart, Which turns from all their loving ways apart, And dwells within a region of its own. Within that home she seems to stand alone, While all unseen the forces gather, day By day, that o'er her life shall hold their sway; And like a fragile flower before the storm, She bows her head and ends her slender form, For even like the flower she must stand And brave the tempest, for 'tis God's command.
And like to her how many a girl has stood Upon the unknown brink of womanhood And sought in vain from guiding hand and power; But unlike her in that dread trial hour, They've lost their faith, for Hilda's trusting mind, E'en though it stood alone, had so much strength, And faith that to life's problem she could find Solution strange and subtle; even though at length She might complain and grieve o'er all the wasted past. Oh! life is dark and full of unseen care, And better were it if all girls thus fair And young were truly understood at last. For every girl some time will feel the need Of loving hearts to strengthen and to lead, When first are opened to her wondering eyes The world's fair fields and seeming paradise. She only sees the beauty—hears the song, Knows not the hidden snares, nor dreams of wrong. 'Tis woman's happiest time, and yet 'tis true A sombre tinge may mar its brightest hue. For girlhood too will have its doubts and fears, Will lose the past and long for coming years, And sad indeed when youth is left alone To face the coming future all unknown. The eyes see not that should be strong and keen; While powerless, weak girlhood stands between The tides of life, and though its aims are high, How often will they fail!
Where dangers lie Poor Hilda stands and knows it not, the dream Of life to her is bright, youth's sunny gleam Shines over all in tender, softened light, And swiftly do the moments wing their flight. But yet so sensitive her shrinking soul, That o'er her life sometimes great shadows roll, Like angry clouds; upon a wild dark shore She stands, alone and weak, while more and more The unknown forces grow and cast their blight, Till all the past is lost in one dark night; Unto the woman's lot her life is cast, And like a dream the girlish days drift past.
Part II. The Storm.
One eve she stood upon a lonely lea And watched the deep'ning shadows grim That threw their forms athwart the restless sea, Making the radiance of the West grow dim. A glorious canopy appeared to rest O'er changing sky and distant rocky caves, While o'er some weary sea-bird's pure white breast, A bright glow spread when dipping in the waves, Her tired form found therein coolness; peace Supremely reigned, and under Silence's wings Vanished afar and near the waves' wide rings; Still grander grew the heavy golden skies, With gorgeous hues and airy snow-white fleece, And dreamier grew the maiden's watching eyes, As through and through her trembling soul and frame, The thrill of nature's beauty softly came; And while her eyes with love and rapture filled, Of all that weird and strangely splendid scene, All other thoughts within her soul were stilled, While o'er her head fair spirits seemed to lean.
Around her grew a stillness unto death, The waves their ever restless motion stayed; All living nature seemed to hold its breath, As if by some stupendous power o'erweighed; And right athwart the sunset's fading glow, A great black cloud, like some huge monstrous thing, Threw round and round the sun's last dipping ring The impress of its shadow drooping low; And lower, lower fell that mighty cloud, With menacing shape as in defiance proud, Until at last all sky and earth and sea Seemed filled with shadows from its darkening wings—- That dreadful spell cast over waves once free, Hushed into silence deep all living things.
And still the maiden's watching, eager eyes Were fixed unmoved on black'ning sea and skies; So motionless she stood with hands clasped close And heart-beats growing few and fainter all this time, That e'en it seemed as though the life-blood froze Within her veins, like streams in frigid clime! To-night she'd seen strange visions in the clouds, Of cities great and busy murmuring crowds, That called her on to some far different life, 'Mid active minds and noisy, changing strife. With beating heart she saw the clouds unfold, Within their depths there gleamed a crown of gold.
Too soon the scene had faded from the skies, While o'er the earth the threat'ning cloud had spread That rudely thrust itself before her eyes And filled her with an overpowering dread; Yet still she stood with proud, unbending form, Though all the world seemed near some awful doom. That dreary silence by foretold the storm That soon would rage within the night's dark gloom; A deathly hush o'er waiting land and sea, And then with one loud clap the storm cloud burst.
Behold! the elements again set free, As if with fearful spell they'd long been curst, Now vented all the power of stifled birth Upon the luckless unoffending earth. The waves around the cliff's low base sprang high And madly dashed their spray in furious rage; The maid, howe'er, looked down with scornful eye, As if she could their mighty power assuage. She gloried in that strange, terrific storm, The lightning's glare and hurried thunder peal Awakened in her slight and girlish form A hidden might that bade her trembling kneel Upon that lonely, wave-encircled height And pledge her life to fame, that she might win The glory of the world's enthroning light, Then give it back to God all freed from sin. Long, long she knelt, her soul in prayer thrown, Unheeding still the lightning's lurid glare; For what were raging storms and nature's moan To that mad strife within her bosom fair!
At last the lightnings ceased, the winds grew still; All powers recognized God's mightier will; Old ocean, like a child with passion spent, Lay gently sobbing in its rocky bed; Anon it sighed and to the dark waves lent, A sad, sweet song; the storm indeed was dead. Along the sable robes that veiled the sky, The red stars glowed, yet paled each tiny fire Before the yellow moon, who, throned on high, Hung on her crescent bow a golden lyre.
From Hilda, too, the stormy grief had fled, And with a strange, deep peace inspired, she rose From off the rocks and lifted up her head. The moon smiled on her upturned face, and close Beneath her feet the waves swept to and fro. A smile as that which lit the tide below, Then dawned upon her lips, for god her prayer Had heard; that harp of gold—these skies now fair, Seemed but the emblem that her soul's dark strife Should lead her soon unto a nobler life.
Beyond her, on the ledge, a dark form stood, Regarding her with wistful, wondering eyes; He seemed the type of all that's true and good In man; down from the starry, moonlit skies The radiance fell and crowned his youthful head, While on his brow a dim, vague majesty Seemed shadowed forth. Yet restless as the sea His eyes that Hilda's fair young face had read.
With beating heart he'd watched her kneeling there Upon the rocks; had listened to her prayer In silence wondering; so strange it seemed To see her there amid the storm, but still He stood and powerless; a gladdening thrill Ran through his veins to see that form alone, And o'er his noble, Godlike face there gleamed A pride to think this maid was all his own. He loved—and love our hearts can ne'er repress— In truth he gazed upon that face and form As though upon her head each wet and gleaming tress Were more than all the phantoms of the storm. He loved as even the sun must love the flowers That shyly glance to him 'neath leafy bowers, Or as the river with its strong deep tide Must love the willows nestling by its side.
She stood as one within a waking dream, Nor looked upon the earth, nor in the sky; But only far at sea whose amber gleam Was as the light that in fair gems doth lie. Entranced she stood—the mocking visions came— But see! she starts; upon the air her name Steals like a whisper of the wave's low song, Borne by the zephyrs of the night along. She turns—beside her on the rocks he stands With questioning eyes and eager, outstretched hands; She smiles, then starts back with a startled look, As some wild fawn within its sheltered nook.
"Fair Hilda, tell me why with reckless feet You braved the elements and dared to kneel Here in the angry storm—it was not meet That all this night's wild tempest you should feel."
She looked at him with almost haughty air, To think that to reprove her he should dare; Then fearlessly as some undaunted child She met his eyes that searched her own for truth, She who had scorned the tempest dark and wild, Feared not the chidings of his hasty youth. And undismayed she moved to where he stood, With blushing, beauteous charms of maidenhood, And there with rapt eyes looking up to him, She told him of those visions never dim; Of that wild spirit born amid the storm Whose restless strength had swayed her fragile form. Before his own she laid her very soul, That he might there its inmost thoughts unroll.
Her pleading voice grew stronger with each word, Until enthralled and hushed his spirit heard. Upright she stood in girlish, thrilling grace, The glancing moonlight falling o'er her face; It seemed as though some heavenly, unknown power Had come to her within that strange, short hour, To make the listener feel the truth divine That lingered in her words and true design.
Her rich young voice flowed on and on, In silvery cadence earnest, clear and strong, And still he stood with bowed head 'neath the skies Bound by the fascination of her eyes And winning voice—and manly thought he stood, He humbly bowed before that womanhood Which seemed with conscious might to grasp the power Of fame, the world's alluring, phantom flower. Amazed he stood, before her words struck dumb; And startled gazed—the maid he loved had come This night to teach him that her woman's soul Had dared to seek, than his, a higher goal.
At last each thought was told; with eager eyes That glowed with fire, as stars throughout the night, She waited as some birdling ere it flies, Awaits to poise itself for stronger flight.
But he, when that dear voice had ceased to flow, Awoke as if from some entrancing spell; He knew not what to say, but to and fro, He paced awhile with restless step; too well He knew her dauntless will, her fearless heart; He dared not say her dreams, her plans were naught, And yet to lose her—quickly came the thought— It roused him with a sudden mad'ning start.
"Oh! Hilda unto me these things do seem But burning traces of some ill-starred dream; I grieve that e'er thy soul should long to claim The thorny diadem of worldly fame. Life's mystery to thee is yet unknown; Why dost thou seek its misery to own? With all a woman's power thou this night Hast led me on by th' fascinating light Of thy dear eyes and voice, till almost blind To reason, I allowed my wandering mind To follow as a willing captive thine; I listened with a will not wholly mine. But now when freed from th' witchery of thy voice I see no wisdom in thy new made choice. Thou art a woman pure, whose noble heart Would fain do, in this world, its earnest part; But Hilda, with a girl's weak, erring hand, Thy hopes are builded on the treacherous sand. Give up this dream that in thy mind now lies And be again my Hilda, glad and wise."
"No, no" the dark eyes flash with sudden fire, "Of this bright dream I know I ne'er shall tire; The busy world has called me, I will go And take my station, be it high or low." "Dear Hilda," then his voice grew low and sweet, "I love thee; and my love has not been brief. When thou wert young I led thy wand'ring feet, And ever guarded thee from pain and grief. Through all my life thou wert its hope and pride, But now you turn from that true life aside, And long to wander as a willful child, In other paths, by luring dreams beguiled. Not so my love for thee; though e'en the sun Should disappear, his race of glory run, And stars like lost souls wand'ring through the sky, Should vanish as that sun; though worlds should die, And all the purple clouds should come at eve And for the earth a robe of mourning weave, While to the very skies the seas should roll In waves of grief to sweep the heavens' scroll, It could not change my smallest thought of thee; I count a man as naught if he's not free, Yet willingly for thy dear sake I'd live Where all the world my freedom could not give, If that I knew could save thee from one tear. Than werefore take from my thy presence dear? If thou would'st wear a crown, why leave this scene? But stay! I'll crown thee as my love—my queen."
She sadly drew away with troubled mien, O'er bending face a heightened color spread, "You cannot understand me yet," she said, "I'd rather be a WOMAN than a QUEEN." Then wistfully she looked out on the sea, "I have a gift that God has given me, I'd use it that the world should better grow; I long for fame because I then should know My power was felt and recognized—but stay, My words are vain, you sadly turn away."
"Choose, Hilda," then once more he proudly cried; Upon his face there gleamed a passionate pride; "Between this love that I now offer thee And that vain fame as faithless as the sea. I give thee deepest love that man can feel, Before thine own my heart in truth doth kneel. Beware how you do mock your early love, Lest it should die as some poor tortured dove; If once 'tis dead your woman's heart my grieve Itself to death; return it never will, And like the sun, a shadow it may leave Whose glory, dead and gone, will haunt you still."
Her eyes were filled with grief, her head bent low, Upon the shore the waves crept to and fro, Their moan was vaguely echoed in her breast That vainly struggled with its great unrest. Her heart was throbbing with the heavy pain His words had caused; on each fair cheek a stain Of crimson lay, as that which softly falls From setting sun on gleaming marble walls. It rose unto a glow, then died away In fitful gleams; on drooping eyelids lay A weight, yet 'neath those heavy veils of snow The dark eyes quivered with a restless glow.
She could not speak, mute as the rocks that stand In stony silence now and evermore, She stood, while stars looked down from heaven's shore And pitied her. Unto his proud command Her heart had not yet dared to make reply Lest in those words a deeper pain should lie.
Impatient grown, he paces to and fro Upon the rocks, then on the tide below, Looks down with troubled frowns and stifled sighs. As quick as light across the calm, clear skies, A meteor flashes down, a dazzling sight, Then dies, and all the heavens seem as before. "Look, Hilda, look! so dies this lamp of night That once was placed upon god's starry floor To give us light, while yet doth gleam each star That calmly moves within its own allotted space. Take warning, Hilda, fly not from thy place. Nor seek to wander from thy realm too far, Lest in a trackless waste thy soul shall stray, And as this meteor, flash and fade away, While all unmoved the world's calm eyes shall gaze, Nor give one tear unto thy shortened days."
Back from her face the waves of crimson rolled, And left it pale as death; as flowers unfold Their dewy depths, to him her liquid eyes Were gently raised: "Within that symbol lies Perhaps a truth," she says, "I dare not say, Yet, Adrian, it cannot matter now, Determined is my heart; upon my brow A crown will rest that will not fade away. Oh! seek not in my sorely troubled breast To rouse again its strength of dark unrest; For better were my heart in torture wrung Than linger here and leave its song unsung."
With sad, sad eyes he looked into her face, Then turned aside with grand, unconscious grace, And bravely stifled every wayward sigh, Though in his voice his sorrow still did lie. "Then as the sea that looks up to some star, Reflecting its bright beauty from afar, Thus shall I ever look on thy dear face And from afar behold thy winning grace. And as the star's light in the deep blue sea Still mirrored in my life thy soul shall be. Even as the ocean hears the star's glad song Above its own sad, plaintive melody, So to my heart thy music shall belong And in my saddest hours will gladden me. I give thee to that mocking world so vain, Although it gives me much and weary pain, And may its ruthless hand be laid on thee With lighter touch than it has given me. Remember, if thy spirit should grow weak, To thee my aid will come if thou'lt but speak And tell me if within thy troubled breast A longing comes for loving care and rest. For even now I love thee none the less Because thou lov'st not me; each waving tress Upon thy brow is still as dear to me As sunlight to each flower and budding tree. One look into those eyes I love so well, And then, dear one—a sad, a last farewell."
With that he caught her small and trembling hand; With simple royal grace and gesture grand, He pressed it to his lips, then let it fall;— His dream of love had passed beyond recall.
That touch awakened all her woman's love, Her heart responded to his silent cry; As flowers love the strong, brave sun above, She loved this man nor ever questioned why. Before this night no doubts had come between To mar its trust or stir its depths serene. Oh! blessed is that love and faith indeed, Which knows no doubt but only feels its need; That unsought love which comes and fills the breast Because we cannot help—that is the best.
With soft caressing touch unto his own She pressed her hand, then backward swept the hair Whose shining wreath around her form was thrown; Her darkened eyes with pleading, troubled air Looked up into his own; she seemed a child Beside his strength, yet through his form a shiver Ran, and to his lips there came a painful quiver, That told too well the stormy passion wild This childlike girl had wakened this hour. Its might swept o'er his soul with fearful power— He dared not move—a silence strange and deep Fell o'er them both, as some half-waking sleep.
To lose her! ah! the fearful, madd'ning thought, Unto a wilder grief his soul it wrought; With desperate pride he wrestled with his pain Lest she should see it in his face again. But ah! what slender chain of love is this That can be broken with a last warm kiss!
With longing eyes she stood there by his side, Her looks fixed on the ocean's tireless tide, Then gazed down on the robes that swept her feet; His searching eyes she dared not, could not meet; And why? within her own the dark tears stood, True signs of weak and loving womanhood.
At last she put aside her love's young dream, And all the brighter did its glory seem Because it must be banished from her heart. They stood so near, and yet how far apart— A gulf had come between them, vast and wide, A gulf made by her longing, restless pride.
With low and trembling voice at last she said With sadly falling tears and bended head:
"Oh! Adrian, my faint heart fain would dwell Forever here beneath thy love's dear spell; But ah! beyond the height where breaks the day, There lives a charm that calls my soul away. Afar the mountains glow in pale, blue mist, By fleecy clouds and summer sunshine kissed. And see! beyond them all I long to be, Beyond this shore, beyond the trackless sea. Ah! this is why, dear Adrian, we must part, Although it rends my grieving, restless heart; Forgive me if to-night I've caused thee pain— If grief be thine, forgive me once again. Farewell! when from thy life my love is fled, Henceforth to thee let Hilda's name be dead."
And this was all—vague shadows crept around, The waves sung in his ears their moaning sound; He looked in vain for Hilda's dear, sweet face, Forevermore was lost her loving grace To him. In vain he called forth in despair; His words returned upon the empty air. Like some pale spirit she had stolen from him And left him there 'mid shadows dark and grim.
Part III. Fame.
Oh what is fame! a flower that dies at eve, A golden mist that subtle fancies weave, An unknown star that wise men never see, An idle dream of things that may not be. Farewell to peace when once the dreams of fame Shall stir the soul into a restless flame. There is no rest by day, no sleep by night; The eyes are blinded by the dazzling light. Ah! woe to him who first espies the star, It hath the power his life to make or mar.
Amid the sombre draperies of the sky, The faintly-gleaming stars half-hidden lie; Upon Night's bending head a hood of snow Seems weighing it unto the earth below; With gentle frowns she shakes her sable hair And sends the snow-flakes whirling through the air. And soon a soft, thick mantle, pure and white, Gives to the earth a new and holy light. While with a thousand lamps the city glows As if encircled with a diadem; Each lamp transformed into a sparkling gem, That o'er the earth its flickering splendor throws. Paris, that brilliant city, gleams to-night With glittering lights that hide her ghastly woes; In mockery she's robed in bridal white, Though in her heart a tide of crimson flows.
The city is aglow with wealth and pride; A gilded hall is thronged from side to side With fashion's train of beauteous dames, who smile And gaily, archly chat the happy while With gallant men who smile on them again. All seems forgotten—want and weary pain That fill the earth with all their drear distress; Yet many a heart beneath the silken dress Of its fair wearer hides its weariness 'Neath such bright smiles that none would ever guess What lies concealed; and handsome, manly eyes In which the hidden lovelight dreaming lies, Are telling o'er in silent language sweet, The love which lips and tongue would fain repeat. Rich jewels gleam and proud eyes quickly glance, And costly robes each womanly charm enhance, From tempting coral lips gay laughter flies, To be reflected o'er in arch, coquettish eyes.
But see! each tongue is hushed within that hall, From dainty hands gay fans unheeded fall; While eyes that one glad moment just before Were bent 'neath love's warm glances to the floor, Are looking now, forgetting lovers' sighs, To see the veiling curtain slowly rise: And breathless waits that glittering, changing throng, To hear once more their idol's rippling song.
A face divine, a crown of braided hair, Dark eyes that gleam with proud and passionate air, A robe of snowy satin sweeping wide, A brow that shadows forth a noble pride.
And she is here—the queen of song, Arline, With flashing eyes and proud triumphant mien. She smiles—she knows her potent power full well; With silvery song she breaks the golden spell Of silence—sings until the walls resound With echoing strains, and all the air around Grow tremulous with melody; high Beyond the very dome it seems to rise And reach with daring wings the listening skies. Within her breast a power that cannot die Seems lifting her beyond the earth; along On living waves of fire her glorious song Of songs seems borne. Triumphant in this hour, Her voice reveals a wild and stormy power Of weird, sad passion that awakes each soul Into a mad, sweet ecstasy of pain; Then low the waves of dying music roll And leave the air in silence once again.
Ah! conquering song, thou wert not born of earth, Celestial stars proclaim thy heavenly birth! And proud Arline, with wondrous, thrilling art, Has cast thy spell upon each answering heart. Oh, sing, Arline, and fear not for thy song! The music of the waves upon the shore, Is not so grand as that, nor e'en the roar Of countless oceans swiftly borne along. Oh! poets, rave not of your singing seas, Your rivers with their rippling melodies; The human voice alone can touch the heart, And draw it from its lower self apart. Then sing, Arline, uplift your starry eyes, Awake the very echoes of the skies, And rouse to nobler deeds this eager throng;— In all the world there's naught so sweet as song.
But hush—in low sad strains the music dies, Low at her feet a wealth of flowers lies; She smiles—the world's bright fame is clearly won, Along her veins the quickened fires now run; Her dark eyes flash—Oh! fame, thou art divine! Into her heart, like streams of blood-red wine, The world's sweet homage flows; a deepening strain Of crimson plays upon her face. Oh! fame, Fear not, for she is thine; within thy flame Her soul enraptured burns—and love's sad pain Is all forgotten in this brilliant hour That proves too well her strange and gifted power.
But see! still deeper grows the crimson glow Upon her face, for at her feet a crown Is thrown of royal roses; bending down She sees in star-gemmed flowers of purest snow The word "Arline" amid the diadem Of circling red; and in their midst a gem That sparkles with a strange intensive light. She smiles—a smile that rouses all the fire In one young heart; with quick and eager flight His eyes seek hers; unto her face still higher The warm blood flows beneath that ling'ring gaze. Her drooping eyes grow liquid with the rays Of light within their depths; the rippling hair, With burnished hues of brown and amber rare, Falls o'er the shaded brow; while sweeping low, The long, dark lashes hide the deepening glow In downcast eyes.
Oh! painter, do not tell Of silvery streams and shaded, flowery dell, Nor talk of clouds with faces to the sun, That hang low down where golden rivers run. But dare to paint with skillful, cunning art The secret workings of a woman's heart. Oh, catch the light that lingers in her eyes— The passing gleam that o'er the shadow flies; Then paint for me the secrets of her soul, That I may read as on some written scroll. If this you cannot do, then talk no more Of nature's wealth of deep and mystic lore— Of waving grass and azure skies; a face Is worth them all.
She stands in sunny grace, A woman—the fairest picture e'er was wrought; A poem fresh from God's own living thought.
She turns again, for once more at her feet A few fair flowers fall—spell-bound she stands, Then stoops and clasps them all with eager hands; Blue violets, and roses wild and sweet, Forget-me-nots and daises, pure and white— Oh! dear wild flowers, how come you here this night To welcome her with shy and modest eyes, And dewy faces where the sunshine lies. Caressingly she bends and kisses them With warm, bright lips—the royal diadem Is thrown aside for these few welcome flowers, And all forgotten is the fame—the hours Of dazzling triumph; like an eager child She stands and clasps them in her hands; and wild And restless are her thoughts; oh! mocking fame, Where is thy victory now! thy burning flame! On memory's wings she's carried back to where These same wild flowers perfumed the sunny air. And once again in childhood's tireless feet, She wanders on the shore where dark waves beat And moan. She bends her head, her eyes are wet With tears. Weep not, Arline! your heart may fret Itself in vain, the world will never care. Reveal not to these heartless eyes the pain That clasps your heart, but raise your head again And let your grand, young voice ring on the air! See! 'neath your feet the crown of roses lies All crushed and torn; then lift your proud, dark eyes Unto this throng once more, and let them see Within those depths, a spirit strong and free.
The fragrant breath of flowers she loves so well Breathes on her face and wraps her in a spell; So often may a flower's fair perfume Bring back the sunny past—the present gloom.
Arline, Arline, the world is at your feet, Why droop your head, why grow so still and pale? Are flowers worth tears, does life no joys repeat? And fame is yours—is this the hour to fail? And see! those eyes have never left your face, Those eyes like pansies heavy with the dew; They seek your own, reflect your royal grace, Arline, and read your every thought; anew. They wonder at your silence—smile once more, Thou queenly one, and send that eager heart Into a rapturous dream. Upon the floor There lies his off'ring—turn your steps apart And crush it not, for he will grieve, Arline, To see it this.
At last her troubled eyes Are raised once more, and now a gentle queen She stands before them all—the shadow dies— A softened splendor like the night's weird grace Rests on her brow and faintly-glowing face. She lifts her head—she sees the eager crowd, Her blood begins to leap, her eyes grow proud, Yet still within their liquid depths there lies A childlike mournfulness, a dread of truth. Forever fled they are, the dreams of youth, All broken are the dear and olden ties, And yet what can it matter to her now She wears the crown of fame upon her brow. For those bright laurels that so soon can fade She's sold her love nor deemed the choice ill made. Once more upon the silent evening air Her rich voice ripples like a golden stream Let loose beneath the sun; a yearning prayer Within her low-voiced, echoing song doth seem To lie. The bounding blood now swiftly flows Along her veins, and on her face it glows With warm, bright fires. With trembling hands are pressed The flowers against her heart, a dark unrest Seems in her soul, yet in those glancing eyes A tender radiance, like faint sunlight lies. Oh, sing, Arline, and let the echoes die In deep'ning melody throughout the sky. Sing on, for hearts are growing pure again Beneath thy woman's spell; a power divine You wield to-night to soften and refine. Faint hearts are growing sad and full of pain, Proud eyes that have not wept for many years Are downward cast, and filled with unshed tears. What though thy heart is in that low, sad song, They know it not, their souls are borne along And strangely thrilled by its sweet melody; They cannot know what thoughts may dwell in thee. A song may wake the echoes of the soul And o'er each life the tides of memory roll.
The music dies—she fain would go—but no. They call her back, again her dark eyes glow With longing light; once more she stands and sings The plaintive words whose hidden sorrow rings Through every heart. These words her lips repeat; The crowd move not; they listen at her feet.
When nobler lips than mine shall sing Of faith and holy love; And angles round thee closer fling Their glory from above; Then think thou of my sad, long song, In realms far, far away; Though brighter memories round thee throng To gild each happy day.
When fond lips with their glad, dear thrill, Shall press thine own once more; And softly of their own free will Shall whisper love's sweet lore; Then think of one who loved thee well In happy days gone by; Though round thee glows a golden spell That carries thee on high.
Perhaps when each brave life is o'er And duties are well done; Our hearts shall meet as once of yore Beneath a brighter sun. And there, where life and love are well, We never more shall part; While will return the olden spell To bind us heart to heart.
A parting glance—a glimpse of dreamy eyes, A fair young face on which a shadow lies; And she is gone, the plaintive song is done. Arline has faded as the setting sun Fades from the skies, and left no parting trace, Save memories of her pale and haunting face.
'Tis twelve o'clock, the city lies asleep, And far above, within the azure deep, The jeweled stars keep watch. Down from the skies A dark veil falls o'er tired, earthly eyes; Sleep bids us take farewell of care and sin And seek a nobler, purer life within. Night watches like a black-robed, silent nun, When men would sleep, and kindly shades the sun Till morning comes. Upon the grim, dark walls The moon's pale light in softened splendor falls, And 'neath a mantle of redeeming light Hides each unsightly stain and time-worn blight; While unto eyes now old and dim with grief, Come visions of a childhood glad, though brief, When mother-love touched from their hearts all care And left the impress of her teachings there. As rifts in hanging clouds through which the rays Of silvery moonlight glance, so o'er each heart Steal flitting gleams of happy golden days, When in life's drama sorrow took no part.
Into a stately dwelling dark and old, A woman glides with troubled, weary air Her face is pale, her hands are white and cold, The silken hood falls from her loosened hair; She heeds it not, but listlessly stands, With thoughtful eyes and tightly folded hands. At last the maid with noiseless step draws near, Removes her wraps and in her listening ear Speaks these few words: "In passing through the crowd To-night, a man of face and manner proud, This missive gave to me. I looked around,—- For one brief moment his face upon me frowned, Then he was gone, and though I scanned the street, His form again my glances did not meet."
The lady takes the note with careless hands, Then turns to where the ling'ring maid still stands And bids her go. At last she is alone, With eyes indifferent, though thoughtful grown, She looks upon the note. "Oh woman's heart, Can you and earthly love ne'er dwell apart? Why is it though I would not love, love's pain Must ever follow me. Are hearts so weak That they must love though love is all in vain, And all unworthy is the prize they seek. Ah, many like to this do I receive, Couched in such words as do my proud heart grieve; And oft I wish that woman had no power, So fleet, it lingers but a tearful hour, To draw unto herself the love of man, Whose shallow depths too well her eyes may scan. Too oft his love with deep and fearful blight Steals from her woman's life its holiest light. My heart is not for love, though love is well, And oft it hath a dear and happy spell. Wrapped in the cherished mission of my art, Contentment dwells within my earnest heart. Within the rippling measures of my song The choicest treasures of the world belong. Why seek for more, the world and fame are mine, Then wherefore love, though love should be divine?"
At last she reads the note; upon her face A deep indifference lies,—a cold, calm grace; But suddenly her eyes light up, her hands Are trembling, with a nervous haste she stands And glances o'er the page. What can this be, Arline, that brings such new-found pain to thee? At first her eyes are filled with unshed tears, Brought back by memories of other years; Anon, her mind by wondering fear is wrought Awakened by some new unwelcome thought.
Ah! these the words that stir her heart and soul, And write new truths on life's unwritten scroll.
"Arline, from all the world thou fame hast won. A crown thou wear'st that fades not with the sun; Yet chide me not, if now unto thy ear I speak such words as thou may'st grieve to hear, For I shall give thee tidings from the shore Which knows thy face and welcome step no more.
"The two beloved ones left alone, each day, Grieved more and more until in peace at last The bounding line of life was safely past, And all their sorrow then was put away. They pined in vain for that dear birdling flown, Who, with swift wings had left them there alone. Yet oft in gentle tones they spoke of thee And longed they fair, young face once more to see. Unto our far-off shore there sometimes came Faint rumors of thy longed-for, new-found fame. This gave them joy indeed, yet more of pain. For thus they knew their hopes were all in vain. Allured unto the world was thy young heart;—- The gay, bright world in which they had no part.
"But, ere thy mother's eyes were closed in sleep, She gave to me a secret strange to keep; 'Twas this, that though they called thee daughter, child, No blood of theirs flowed in thy veins, thy race Was of a noble kind, to splendor born; An ancestry who wore a kingly grace, The traces of a lineage undefiled. Upon thy brow their dauntless pride is worn—- But stay, thy mother, child, though strangely fair, Was but a singer whose voice of wondrous power Thine own is like, a voice that filled the air With strange, sweet sounds, and oft, in many an hour, Enchantment threw o'er all the eager throng Who came to hear. Enthralled by her glad song One young heart pined; low at her feet he laid The glory of his life that she might wear His crown of love. His wife she soon was made; They lived awhile a happy, loving pair, Until thou show'dst thy tiny, smiling face, And then thy mother died that thou might'st live. He grieved as only strong, brave men can grieve For what is lost. Then wandered off a pace To seek new life in lands across the sea; He left thee here, thy life was wild and free. Long years ago came tidings of his death, Born sadly on the wind's taint whispering breath. He was a peer, the last of all his race, His Saxon strength was written on thy face. Yet in thy veins thy mother's Southern blood Is bounding with its warm, impetuous flood. Enough; my words are wandering; a will He left that may thy heart with gladness fill, Thy girlish right be recognized at last And left for thee his rich and vast estate. Into the world's deep tide thy life is cast, Yet thou art still the mistress of thy fate. If thou would'st wear thy birthright's name and power Speak but the word and claim thy rightful dower."
And this is all, her head is bending low, From shaded eyes the tears unbidden flow. Across her face the darkening shadows fly That tell too well the thoughts that hidden lie.
"Oh, God! where is the joy that honor brings, Where is the spell a golden glory flings, When one short hour, like this, of passing pain, Can prove the brightest hopes of life are vain? I fondly dreamed that fame's short, fleeting power, Could satisfy my heart in every hour. Then wherefore is this pain, these sudden tears, That fell like rain upon the last few years, And wash their glory out? What joy is mine, When two dear hearts that loved me as their own, Have gone and left me, saddened and alone! Sweet mother, had I heard that voice of thine My life had not been thus. Can fame, though dear, Replace that loss or save me from one tear? And can it fill my heart through all the years—- Oh, God! be kind, my heart is full of fears."
A passionate misery o'er her fair face swept, It awakened all the fires that long had slept. She threw the missive down, and paced the floor With restless steps, then suddenly stood still. Unto her heart there came a dreadful thrill Of grief as she had never felt before; Her face grew pale as death, her lips were white, And then she cried, "Oh! Father, pity me, For I am grieved and full of doubt to-night. I sink as one into a dark and lonely sea Where ships are not, so desolate it seems. Oh! can it be my aim in life is wrong, Are hearts no better when they hear my song! My visions fair,—Oh! are they then but dreams, That do no good, but only lure my heart From woman's truer paths in life apart?
"Oh! Adrian, had'st thou then the better thought, And have I but a web of sorrow wrought? Do all our hopes but lead to care and pain, Has life no sunshine, only clouds and rain? Has woman no power to rouse to nobler deeds The heart of man, and fill his higher needs! Oh, God! in heaven, guide thy child to-night, Upon my longings shed thy holiest light. Oh! mother, with thy tender, loving eyes, Look down upon me from the starlit skies."
Upon her knees she sinks upon the floor As one upon a wild and stormy shore; Her face against the velvet cushion pressed With hands clasped tightly to her throbbing breast. Her robes of satin sweep the floor; her hair Unloosened, falls low down, a golden snare Of wondrous lights and shades; and pale and cold Her face gleams 'neath that veil of brown and gold.
Her breath comes quick, she battles with the storm That gathers in her breast and trembling form. She stills her heart—heeds not its painful throb, Drives back her longings, stifles every sob; And bravely through the watches of the night, She turns her soul to God for help and light. A prayer breathed low, a struggle long and wild, Then peace comes near, and like a weary child, Worn out with grief, Arline lays low her head. A silence falls, the night is almost fled, The lamp burns low, the moon with mystic grace Looks down upon her fair, uplifted face. She moves not, o'er her dusky, shaded eyes The lids lay closed, a moonlit splendor lies Upon her broad, white brow, and cheeks of snow Are pressed against the crimson velvet's glow On which her head is lain. Oh, ne'er was wrought A fairer form than thine, Arline, nor thought Was ever purer than thine own; though wild And free thy life has ever been, a child Indeed thou art in ways of sin and wrong. Within thy eyes and silvery sounding song, There ever lives a simple, heaven-born truth. An earnest motive and a girl's fair youth Are thine, and though thy heart is wrought with fears— Ah! sacred unto heaven those falling tears— For these are more to Him than many a prayer Said by unholy lips with humble air. God does not care so much for empty deeds, If pure the motive that such action feeds. Then rest, Arline; upon thy pale, young face There falls the peace of heaven, a lovely grace; Around thy head the moon's bright, silver rays Are not more stainless than thy youthful days.
Part IV. Broken Links
Low in the West, a banner floating wide Of God's own colors hangs in dreamy pride; A wealth of purple stains and gleams of gold, A crimson splendor o'er each waving fold; A heap of gold—a rim of amethyst, A hanging cloud by glancing sunbeams kissed. Afar upon the tinted, azure skies A tiny cloud of rosy color lies; A coral on a velvet robe of blue, A warm, bright wave upon the skies' pale hue. Oh! such the sunset sky of Italy, The land of dreams, of love and melody; The country of the passions and the heart, The mother of th' ideal and of art.
Oh, painter! still your heart's wild throb and cry, You cannot paint this sunset tough you try; The canvas cannot rival Nature's skies, Before her hand each human effort dies. Oh! you must dip your brush in waves of gold If you would paint for me that amber fold. Oh! poet, seize your pen—'tis all in vain, You cannot paint in words that crimson stain; Though all your soul in quivering rapture lies, Your pen brings not those clouds to other eyes. Though Art has power, still Nature is the queen, Her hand alone commands this glorious scene.
Back from the shore there stands a villa old And quaint, upon a sloping flower-wreathed hill, Along the side thee flows a singing rill; Beyond, the frowning rocks rise clear and bold. More like a palace is this lonely home, With marble terraces and princely lands; Rare paintings fill each high and finished room, And marble statues made by master hands. Without, a view of waves, and skies, and flowers; Within a dim, luxurious sense of hours, Of ease and wealth; a spot where one could dwell Forever 'neath some strange, enchanted spell.
Upon the steps a woman stands—alone, Her lovely face, a trifle paler grown Since last we looked upon its haunting grace. Yet still the same child mouth, the radiant eyes, The dauntless pride, that time cannot efface. Before her gazes the earth in beauty lies; Awhile she stands and gaze on the scene With dreamy, far-off looks and thoughtful mien. Then wends her way to where the flowers lie, She lingers here, she cannot pass them by, And as she bends to touch each smiling flower, Her hands seem gifted with a magic power That draws unto herself their clinging love, As human tendrils drawn to God above.
At last with ling'ring steps she takes her way To where great massive rocks like near the bay; Upon a rock which seems a resting place, Just formed by Nature for some tired queen, She half reclines, and upward lifts her face To drink in all the glory of the scene. Low on her cheeks the veiling lashes sweep That hid the languid fire within her eyes, Like shadows fall'n on flowers that softly sleep Beneath Night's falling dews and bending skies. Her dark brown hair, with gleams of flitting gold, Her queenly head encircles as a crown; A wealth of hair whose careless waves enfold The quivering sunlight, and its rays chain down.
But soon she starts, for even at her side There stands a youthful from with fearless pride; At first upon her face a deep surprise, And then a haughty look within her eyes, As turning round she views the handsome face So near her own with careless, easy grace. "Why come you here?" she says, "why follow me? Oh! from thy presence can I ne'er be free?"
"Arline!" he tosses back his sunny hair, Half kneels before her with a humble air; "Forgive me, for the fault indeed is mine To love too well, and for thy face to ever pine. But oh! Arline, without thee life is naught, An idle dream, with only longings fraught; And once, Arline, you listened to my prayer, Nor turned away with cold and haughty air."
She looks upon him with a face aglow: "Why bring back memories of the long ago? The past is dead, wake not its depths again, Lest such remembrance bring thee only pain. 'Tis true that once a careless, heedless child, Bewildered by the world, by fame beguiled, I have allowed my heart to hear thy prayer." "Yes, yes, Arline," he speaks with eager air, "I know full well your love was mine, and I Now claim the hand your heart cannot deny."
"Lorraine, how can you speak such words to me? My love was never thine, my heart is free; You know full well I was but kind, Lorraine, When from thy love I fled to save thee pain. When first I met the world a vision came So bright—of glorious power and wealth and fame; A part of that bright dream your worship seemed, That you could claim my heart I little dreamed. Yet soon I woke and with an earnest will I sought thy mind with deeper thoughts to fill. It mattered not, your heart's bright flame still burned;— What were your flowers, your jeweled love to me?— I loved thee not; each one I would have spurned, Had not my woman's heart been kind to thee. At last to fly from thee, the season o'er, I refuge sought upon this lonely shore; And though the riches of the world were thine, They could not win for thee one thought of mine."
His face grows darker with a fiery pride, His eyes flash forth the love he cannot hide; He rises to his feet, across his soul A passionate fury his will cannot control, Bursts forth:
"Arline, you know not what is love! To tell me this, for by the fates above, You shall be mine! See, yonder is my boat, Upon the waves with me you soon shall float. Hush! rouse me not or you shall see What angry might your scorn has wrought in me."
"Lorraine!" she meets his gaze with fearless eyes, Though on each cheek a burning crimson lies. She folds her arms and stands before him there A womanly woman, pure, and good, and fair. She says no word, but who can tell the power An earnest woman wields in such an hour?
He turns away—a silence falls—the night Is coming on, the sun has taken flight, Upon the skies a veiling shadow lies. She moves not—from her face the color dies And leaves it pale and calm.
Unto her side He comes again: "Forgive my hasty pride, Arline, for me thou are too purely good, And far above me is thy womanhood."
For answer she extends her jeweled hand, He takes it with a loving awe, as though It were a sacred thing, and thus they stand. At last he speaks: "Arline, before I go The secrets of thy life I'll tell to thee, That you may see 'tis not unknown to me. You say you ne'er have loved—'tis false, before You sought for fame, upon a wild, dark shore, You lived and loved"—to Arline's questioning eyes There came a startled look—a vague surprise— "The one you loved, Arline, no more loves you, Although, perchance, you dream that he is true."
Why grow so pale, Arline, why stand so still? Have you no woman's pride? no woman's will? Why should you care? the world is yours and fame, And worldly hearts will love you all the same. It matters not, you parted long ago, To meet no more. Why bend your head so low! Lorraine is watching you with searching eyes, Before his gaze your poor heart quivering lies; He still speaks on, his words are sure, though slow, They find the truth he long has sought to know.
Back from her face she sweeps the heavy hair, And looks up with a proud, unconquered air; Ah! few have wills like hers to do or die, To hide each wound, to still each longing cry. "Lorraine, the secrets of my life are mine, You have no right to solve its mystery; Why seek to penetrate my heat's design? How sensitive a human heart can be, You do not seem to know nor even care; You tell me that you love, yet love is rare And generous, its truth you ne'er can know, If thus within the dust you trail it low."
The night has come, the clouds are hanging low, Their splendor gone, the wind begins to blow, It shifts the clouds across the gloomy sky, Now lashed to foam the troubled waters lie. The sails are hurrying home, the sea bird flies Around and round with frightened, screaming cries. From rock to rock across the frowning hill, And deep within the vale, a muttering sound Of far-off thunder rolls along the ground, A herald of the storm, then all is still.
And yet they heed it not, "Arline! Arline!" He cries with flashing eyes, "my peerless queen, I cannot give you up, you must be mine; You thrill my heart, your beauty divine. What matters it though you have loved before, You cannot love him now, that dream is o'er. Look up, Arline, within your starry eyes There lies for me the only paradise; I care not for the heaven or earth below— If you are mine, what care I more to know? A woman's love can make man what it will, For love and thee my heart is throbbing still. Oh! quick, Arline, for see on yonder height The lightning circles round with flashing light, It grows so dark—I scarce can see your face, Give me your hand, I'll lead you to the place Where waits my boat; before the storm comes on We'll reach the farther coast, for I am strong And young."
His face is close to hers—she starts And with a shudder shuts her frightened eyes; A silence as of death—the storm-cloud parts; A sheet of lightning flashes o'er the skies, It blinds his eyes, then all is dark again. Where is Arline? She is not there, in vain His search—how fierce the storm, how black the night! Another lurid flash—what fearful sight Is this? Arline upon the ground, her head Against the rocks, as pallid as the dead. And look! on one fair temple lies a stain Of blood, and on her dusky veil of hair, The crimson moisture too—what cruel pain The rocks have caused; and yet how pale and fair She lies, unconscious of the rain and storm. "Oh, God! what fearful sight is this to see!" Half frantic he attempts to lift her form Into his arms—but no, it shall not be, For suddenly a hand is laid on his With iron grasp; upon the stormy air A voice rings out, "To touch her do not dare, Or you shall pay the penalty of this; If she is dead 'tis by your hand alone— One pitying thought your dark soul does not own. Begone, or here beneath this angry sky, Upon these rocks one of us two must die. Ah! think you not, you fair-faced, proud Lorraine, I know you not; and well I know the pain You gave Arline; her lovely grace is far Above you as the highest, holiest star That decks God's throne; then go and leave her here, For sacred as the dead she is to me." 'Tis Adrian—he drops upon one knee And looks upon her face with dread and fear, Then tenderly he wipes away the red, Dark stains, and with a strong, yet tender grace, Uplifts her to his arms.
Her marble face Lies close unto his own—he bends his head And is he any less the man because one tear Falls on that wayward face so proud and dear? What thoughts are his! they parted long ago To meet again, but how? Ah! who can know What bitterness he feels—that slender form Within his arms. Beneath the fierce wild storm He hurries to her stately home, and there Her followers wait with hushed and frightened air.
Oh! can it be that she is dead, Arline— The idol of his heart, the world's proud queen? No, no; it must not be, her white lids move, She wakes once more to life and song and love. The pale lips quiver with a sudden pain, The lashes half unveil the eyes again.
He gives her up, and leaves her to their care— When she awakes she must not find him there. Oh! brave, warm heart, your love indeed is true, You give your all though naught is given you. True love is like the watching stars of night, They shine for aye though eyes see not their light. And Adrian, fear not, God hears your cry, In His strong hand your fears and sorrows lie.
Part V. Love
And what is life?—a pleasure and a pain, A vision of the sun—a day of rain. And what is love?—a dream, a chain of gold That turns to iron bands when love is cold. What matters they?—the visions of our youth, Through years of sorrow we must pass to truth. A woman's life is full of longing days, Her heart is not content to live on praise; She must have more; a woman measures life By length of love, a man by deeds and strife.
Arline! once more we greet thy sunny face. Once more behold thy noble, earnest grace; But ah, how changed! the hopes of youth are dead; Life's dark unrest has bowed thy proud young head, And fame the mocking vision of thy youth, Has led thee from the paths of peace and truth.
With longing eyes Arline is standing now, Her arms are folded with a weary air; The same deep pride is written on her brow, As once was there of old; her gold-brown hair Is gathered back in careless waves of light That hide a scar—the memory of one night. Her eyes look down, her dark robes sweep the floor— She starts, for some one passes through the door; She glances up—recoils with haughty pride, Which all her self-possession cannot hide; Then with a look of pity on her face She meets Lorraine with kind, forgiving grace.
"Arline, I would that I had died indeed Before I gave thee pain, my heart has need Of thy forgiveness, else I cannot live, I crave the boon that only thou canst give."
"Lorraine, the highest graces of a woman's heart Are purity and truth, no cunning art Can e'er replace these gifts; 'gainst sin and wrong They are her surest safe-guards, and her guide In life. With these she conquers man's dark pride And wins the tributes that to Heaven belong. To womanhood belongs forgiveness too, And therefore is my pardon given you."
With humbled pride he bowed his proud young head, Then looking in her face he gently said: "'Tis nobly given; if women were all like thee, Arline, how many truer men would be Within this world; for man will ever go Where woman leads. And on this earth below The grandest masterpiece of Nature's art Must ever be a woman's sinless heart. For thee, Arline, the passion of my life is dead; The feverish dream is o'er, and in its stead, There comes a reverence for all thy kind, And thou, the noblest ideal of my mind. And now I could not offer thee my love, For like some pure and upward-soaring dove, I see thee fly beyond my own weak soul, To reach a nobler and far higher goal. Yet, fair Arline, oh, with thy lovely grace, Uplift my soul unto the realm of thine; And with thy tender eyes and pitying face, Oh lead to worthier deeds this heart of mine!"
"Lorraine, each one must know the price of sin, Each erring heart must know what lies within; If we would live aright we must be true Unto ourselves; I cannot govern you; For ah! we may not read another's mind, God puts there thoughts that we may never find.
"We should not judge, for hearts indeed are weak, And vain and selfish, are the ends we seek; But each temptation, if we do not fall, Will tend to make us stronger, all in all. Think not thy way is right nor full of power, For every heart must have its wayward hour; And though men grieve thee with their outward sin, Remember nobler thoughts may dwell within.
"And now I thank you for your refeverent love, And yet I feel you place me far above My own right sphere. I am a woman weak, As all proud women are, and soon, too soon, I feel the world another queen will seek To wear its crown of fame, and then my noon Of life will pass as others pass away, Unto the shadows of the dying day, And like the foam upon the waves' bright crest, My life will glide unheeded to its rest; Like other hearts forgotten and unknown, My own will wear itself away alone. And yet"—and here the dark eyes flashed again— "The world shall never know its hidden pain, For late, too late, I feel the world is cold, It wounds the brow that wears its crown of gold. Ah! many in the gay and passing crowd Have thought me cold and even deemed me proud, When, had they known the truth of that cold pride, They'd known 'twas but my better thoughts to hide, When 'mid the bitterness of worldly strife, I felt for what I'd given my longing life— To wear upon my head a senseless crown, On which in scorn my own true self looked down. Oh, Fame! I chose thee with a girl's weak hand, And now on life's dark shores alone I stand; Too late I see the sad mistake I made When at a worldly shrine my life I laid. I thought to purify the world by song, But ah! the world's too full of heedless wrong For one weak hand to lead it back to truth; It mocked to scorn my innocence and youth; To nobler work had I my life but lent, My restless heart e'en now might be content, Oh, woman's life was never made for fame, Her soul is burnt to ashes in its flame." "You wrong yourself!" he cries at last, "untrue Your words, for worldly hearts look up to you And bless your song,—I know, for I am one Of these, and know the good that you have done. 'Tis true, Arline, an earnest womanhood Can always do unto the world some good. One heart in truth has felt your better power, And that is mine, in this last happy hour; and have you nobler made even one weak heart, You've done within this world a worthy part. And many hearts, Arline, have heard your song And turned away ashamed from sin and wrong. No man, however dark his heart, could gaze Upon a face like yours, where all is pure, And not regret, oh! bitterly, his days Of sin. If every woman would allure By graces true as thine, there would be less Of sorrow and of pain, and man would bless The day that God gave woman to him."
Her eyes Are turned to him with eager, glad surprise; "I thank you for these words," she says, "for true I feel they are, and in my heart anew I welcome hope. And we are friends again, The past indeed is dead."
A look of pain Came in his eyes, yet with a new-born pride He turned away, that look from her to hide. "To-night I go, Arline, we meet no more, Yet in my heart thy image will be there, To soothe each wayward hour, to lighten care; Thy simple teachings have unlocked the door Of life's best thoughts to me, and if I grow to better manhood, you have made me so."
Upon her bending head and gentle face A sunbeam fell and lit with mystic grace Her dark, uplifted eyes, then quickly fled To mingle with the sunset's dying red.
A sunny face—a noble womanhood, A heart's wild passion dead, a new-born pride; One moment looking on her face he stood, Then turned and went forever from her side.
The twilight comes, the first-born child of night, A warning monitor of time's quick flight; A dear, enchanted hour, when all are near We love on earth, and yet an hour of fear When shadows of the past around us fall And joy and hope have fled beyond recall.
Within the twilight of the present day, And shadows of the years now past away, Arline is standing with a sad, sad air, Her heart cries out with longing pride and pain, "Oh, God! what mystery is this of care And endless doubts; will faith ne'er come again?" Oh, striving heart, no mind the problem yet Has solved of life—'tis happier to forget; When once the mind is roused to questioning thought With endless misery it may be wrought; The happiest minds are those that question not— To live in faith is mankind's fairest lot.
And darker grow the shadows of the night, She looks upon the sea, the distant height; Upon the waves the ships go gliding by, The lonesome clouds throughout the sky Are wandering with brooding wings, and grim And shadowy the far-off mountains seem; Oh! Fame, where is thy joy? oh! love's bright dream, Where is thy spell? life, like the night, is dim And sorrowful.
Low droops her young head fair, Her whispered words steal on the silent air: "Oh, what is life, my soul, when love has fled?— And every one that I have loved is dead, Save one, and he—oh, must I say it now,— He loves me not, I dare not claim his vow. Adrian, too late I prize thee—what is fame When 'tis not shared with thee! No other name Can touch me like thine own; but now, indeed, Where is the love that answers to my need? I had a dream amid the storm that night, A vision strange—'mid flashes of the light Methought I saw your face, your well-known form; You held me close and safe from rain and storm, Within the shelter of your arms I lay And breathed no, lest the dream should pass away; Oh, Adrian, it seemed as though a tear Fell from your eyes upon my face, and dear That mark of pitying love was unto me. My hair seemed wet with blood—with dreadful pain My temples throbbed, yet there with love and thee I felt it not, nor heeded I the rain. Too soon, howe'er, the vision passed away, And I was left alone.
"Oh! waves at play, Mock not my hollow heart with songs of eve, For olden days I evermore must grieve, My own sad song forever must be still, Of empty fame my life has had its fill. Oh! heart be still, keep back your hungry cry, Our griefs we all can conquer if we try; Oh! soul shrink back into thy smallest space, For thee the heedless world will give no place. Oh! what is life when only shadows fall! Oh! what is love, when love is past recall! My laurel wreath unto the winds I fling, For worldly praise I never more will sing. Oh! tears, what do you here—keep back, I say, Each human life must know a sunless day."
Unto her breast her hands are tightly pressed, She bravely struggles with the old unrest; Yet lower droops her form, the lashes sweep Across her cheeks. Dark memories seem to creep Upon her heavy heart and weigh it down. As shadows fall at night o'er vale and town; And still and white as some pale form of death She stands, with folded hands and faint drawn breath.
But suddenly through the silence of the room The one word "Hilda" pierces through the gloom; A whispered word, yet see! it makes her start, And sends the life-blood throbbing to her heart. she turns—her face is stained with crimson o'er, It dies and leaves her paler than before. Oh, life is dark, and hearts are weak and wild! With one faint cry she sees his longing eyes, His outstretched arms, and as a tired child, Unto that last, safe refuge quickly flies.
Then presently her head droops low again, She draws away—there comes a bitter pain. "Oh, Adrian, my life has all been wrong; I am not worthy now your love to claim, My erring heart is selfish, and to blame, To sorrow and to grief it should belong. I left thee with a willful, proud design, And cared not that a hopeless life was thine. To give unto thy care, what have I now? A worn and wasted life—a broken vow."
"No, no! look up, Arline, bend not your head; You wrong yourself—your life is good and true, And pure the motive that your actions fed; Life's highest meed of praise belongs to you; Few hearts possess your true and earnest thought, Else would the world with nobler deeds be fraught. No man could look into your earnest eyes, And claim that truth in woman never lies, Nor could he gaze upon that lovely face, And scorn again a woman's pleading grace. I wonder not the world has worshipped thee, For well thy beauty's spell is known to me. A strain of music can awake the soul, A kindly grace may touch the hardest heart. Then weep no more, Arline—you've reached the goal— The world is better for your sweet-voiced art. And, Hilda, had thy power not been good, My love these years could never have withstood."
Her face is turned to his with eager gaze She drinks in all his words with ecstasy. "Oh, Adrian, far dearer than the praise Of all the world those words come now to me; Yet tell me, Adrian, is woman's life Naught but a shadowy dream—a pain—a strife?"
A grave, sweet smile stole o'er his face, his eyes Met hers with earnest look, yet half surprise: "God knows the longings of each human heart, And each assigns some noble, worthy part, And they who seek will find; the battle's won When thought is true, and duty is well done. From world to world the deeds of man may fly, Yet in each heart a woman's grace may lie. Few men may comprehend her longing need— She lives in thought, he lives in strife and deed. His boasted deeds may live but for a day Her purity and truth will live for aye. The man who claims a woman's hand and heart, Knows not what boon he craves, what precious thing; She gives her all—he only gives a part— She gives her freedom up and crowns him king. 'Tis true she murmurs not,—when love is there No duty is too great, she feels no care; 'Tis only when that love is cold and dead She feels the galling chains—the hand of lead. And therefore do I say to you, Arline, Of love, and not of fame, she should be queen. 'Tis love that wakes a man to woman's grace; He first finds heaven when looking in her face, He sees the trusting soul, the wealth untold Of noble thoughts that God has written there. Love binds his heart to hers with chains of gold, And makes him comprehend the beauty rare Of womanhood; 'tis this unlocks the door And shows him truths he ne'er has known before. Grieve not, Arline; your song has done some good, An emblem of the true your life has stood. Your aims were high; your art was truly grand, Hearts nobler grew, Arline, at your command. Then do not weep,—Oh, save those precious tears! The light of heaven shines on the past few years. And see! the shadows all have fled—the night Is clear, the stars shine out, the moon's pale light Is falling on your face; look up and know The fading of the shadows 'neath the glow Of night, is but the emblem of the rays Of happiness that now shall gild your days."
He takes her hand in his—and love's sweet thrill Runs through her veins, vague dreams her sense fill. Her face grows childlike in its faith again, He heart yields up its wealth of doubt and pain, Her soft, dark eyes reveal their depths of fire. "For fame my heart has never more desire, Were all our planets moons, night could not know The glory of the day, nor evening show The splendor of the sun—his light is best. So, were each heart to worship at my shrine, All filled with love, it could not equal thine, For thine is more to me than all the rest. Then, like the purple pansies, bending low, That yield unto the sun their royal glow, Unto the sun-god of my life and years I'll yield my love, and know no idle fears. The meteor has flashed across the skies, Yet in its place a star of beauty lies; Adrift into the azure seas above That star shall sail on wings of hope and love, While fame, the meteor that mocks the sight, Shall die upon the earth—a faded light. And now, for thee alone, my heart shall sing, Far from my sight my crown of fame I'll fling, And in its stead, the diadem I'll wear Of love and womanhood—earth's crown most fair."
Out on the terrace, where the moonlight falls In silver radiance o'er the time-stained walls, A man and woman stand—he, strong and fair, She, lovelier than the flowers that scent the air. Her eyes are velvety and soft and brown, Her hair—a shimmering splendor falls low down, Her dark robes sweep the marble floor; one hand Is clasped in his; in silence now they stand, No need of words when silence speaketh more Than all the wealth of speech, or written lore.
Her eyes are turned to his; no more they grieve; Oh, who can tell the spell that love doth weave? The music of the stars, a faint, sweet strain, Floats down—an echo of their heart's refrain. Two lives that glow as bright as heaven's own— Two stars, that in the night have closer grown, God sets the music in each soul; no hand But that of LOVE the music can command.
The song of life is done—the tale is told, God grant the chain may count some links of gold. A woman's life—a man's true love—a song— What dreams of life may not to these belong! The weaving of a story, old yet new, Life's strange, sad mingling of the false and true. A woman's heart is like a harp of gold, It yields no music to the touch most bold, But to the hand that o'er the chords may sweep And gently wake the music from its sleep. An idle dream a woman's life may be, Yet do not dreams belong to thee and me? To every life some visions must belong; Are we to blame that they are sometimes wrong? True women make true men,—'tis always so; Yet careless touch may soil the purest snow, The shadows of the night may hide the sky, Yet still beyond them all the stars still lie.
The crown of stars is broken in parts, Its jewels brighter than the day, Have one by one been stolen away To shine in other homes and hearts. —[Hanging of the Crane.]
Each poem is a star that shines Within your crown of light; Each jeweled thought—a fadeless gem That dims the stars of night.
A flower here and there, so sweet, Its fragrance fills the earth, Is woven in among the gems Of proud, immortal birth.
Each wee Forget-me-not hath eyes As blue as yonder skies, To tell the world each song of thine Is one that never dies.
The purple pansies stained with gold, The roses royal red, In softened splendor shadow forth The truths thy life hath said.
Oh would the earth were filled with flowers To crown thee poet-king! And all the world unto thy feet Its wealth of love could fling.
And would I were one lowly flower That fell beneath thy feet; That even in dying I might win One verse of music sweet.
The poet-heart doth hold the power To thrill the hearts of men; And though the chain is broken quite It joins the links again.
No hand like thine can sweep the chords, No heart like thine can sing; The poet-world is full of song And thou alone art king!
Oh would my eyes could see thy face On which the glory shines! And would my soul could trace the thought That lies between the lines!
But though my eyes may never see, My heart will worship still; And at the fountain of thy song My soul will drink its fill.
Thy crown of stars will never break, Its circle is complete; And yet each heart some gem will keep To make its life more sweet.
The following autograph letter was received from the poet:
Dear Miss Sherrick:—I am much pleased and touched by the graceful and beautiful tribute you have paid me in your poem. I beg you to accept my best thanks for these kind words, and for the friendly expressions of your letter, which I have left too long unanswered. Pardon the delay and believe me with great regard,
Henry W. Longfellow.
Oh tell me not of the lands so old Where the Orient treasures its hills of gold, And the rivers lie in the sun's bright rays Forever singing the old world's praise. Nor proudly boast of the gardens grand That spring to earth at a king's command; There are treasures here in the far great West That rival the hills on the Orient's crest.
Far from the sight of the dusty town Like a perfect gem in a golden crown, Lies a beautiful garden vast and fair, Where the wild birds sing in the evening air, And the dews fall down in a silent shower On the fragrant head of each beaming flower; While far and near o'er the land sun-kissed, Hangs the roseate veil of the sunset mist.
Under the shade of the western wall There's a glimmer of roses fair and tall, And the crimson heart of each royal flower Gleams purely forth from its leafy bower. There are things in this world too sweet to last, But we catch their grace ere the bloom is past, And the roses that die in the early morn In the garden of memory anew are born.
The dear little pansies, quaint and fair, Uplift their heads in the silent air; And the gleam of the purple tinged with gold Is as fair as the roses' velvety fold. There are tropical plants from the Southern seas Where the flowers sleep in the perfumed breeze; And the scent of the orange groves fill the air With a mystical incense rich and rare.
Like waxen buds in a leafy screen Magnolia blooms float in a sea of green; And their fragrance falls on the dewy air Like the breath of the tropics richly rare. And up from the South in the voiceless night Steals the scent of the blossoms pure and white, And one by one as the winds sweep by They shrink away, from that touch, to die.
There are trees and flowers from every clime Defying the scope of the poet's rhyme; There are beautiful lawns where the feet could rest, Unwilling to wander, forever blest; There are peaceful nooks where the soul might dwell Forever lost in a fadeless spell; But the tomb of the man who is great and wise Is the loveliest spot in this paradise.
And just to the south is a park so fair That the children of God love to wander there; And the emerald green of its winding ways Is flecked with the gold of the sun's last rays. There are statues, too, of the good and great, Who point on forever to Truth's wide gate, And the bronze and the green and the sun's red gold Are mingled at eve in a glory untold.
Immortal the name of the man shall be Who hath given these treasures so fair to see, And the grace of the flowers he loves so well The truth of his goodness forever shall tell. But fairer than all are the deeds of love That shine in God's temple of grace above; And Fame on her beautiful shadowless height Has woven his name in a glory of light.
Oh, take this shell, this pretty thing With tinted waves of pearly red; Hold close your ear and hear it sing, Then tell me what its voice hath said. A song of surges deep and strong, A song of summer sweet and long, A sound of storm and wind and rain, A sound of joy—a glad refrain.
O plaything of the idle sea, Whence come these changing tints of thine? Have sunset clouds looked down on thee And stained thee with their hues divine? Oh, tell the secrets thou must know Of clouds above and waves below; Oh, whisper of the bending sky And ocean caves where jewels lie.
O beauteous sea-shell, tinged with red, What dost thou know; what canst thou tell? Unto what mysteries are thou wed, Thou fragile thing, thou pearly shell? A whisper of the sounding sea; A sweep of surges strong and free; A tale of life—a tale of death; A warm, bright sin—an icy breath.
Ah, more than this, thou lovely shell, Thy years have gathered from the deep! And, more than this, thy voice can tell Of things learned in that ocean sleep. A grave within the lonely sea; A spot where love can never be; A place where tears may never fall; A lonely grave—and that is all.
A beautiful form and a beautiful face, A winsome bride and a woman's grace, So fair and sweet it were heaven indeed For man to follow where she would lead.
A web of lace and a jeweled hand, And life is changed by a golden band; A dream of love and a wealth of gold— The old new story once more is told.
A wealth of flowers and a robe of snow, A beauteous woman with cheeks aglow; A train of satin that sweeps the floor— And life is altered forevermore.
A beautiful scene on this Christmas eve, Where all could linger and none could grieve, A dazzling vision of wealth and pride, A royal feast and a happy bride.
But turn your steps to the lonely street, Where fierce winds mutter and wild storms beat; And come with me to the haunts of woe Where life is a burden and hopes are low.
Look on this woman, so thin and white; You close your eyes—'tis a dreadful sight; But shudder not—she is cold and dead— And died, oh men! for a CRUST OF BREAD.
So young and hopeless, oh! God above, With none to comfort and none to love; A tortured soul and a hungry cry That rang unheard through the stormy sky.
While, oh! so near in the gloomy night Lay rescue and love and warmth and light; And oh! so near to the longing eyes, There gleamed the bright depths of a paradise.
Oh! look on this picture, thou fair young bride, For one poor morsel of bread she died; One glittering gem from your breast or hair, Could have saved this woman who lieth there.
One costly spray of your flowers bright Could have bought the food that she craved this night; One drop of love from your boundless store Her soul could have saved forevermore.
Oh, sadd'ning picture, this Christmas eve,— For thy sad story the angels grieve; To think in this city of wealth and might A woman perished for BREAD, this night.
The Queen-Rose—A Summer Idyl.
The sunlight fell with a golden gleam On the waves of the rippling rill; The pansies nodded their purple heads; But the proud queen-rose stood still. She loved the light and she loved the sun, And the peaceful night when the day was done, But the faithless sun in his careless way Had broken her heart on that summer's day.
She had bathed her soul in his warm sweet, rays, She had given her life to him; And her crimson heart—it was his alone— Of love it was full to the brim. But a fairer bud in the garden of love Had conquered the heart of the king above; And the proud queen-rose on that summer's day Had given a love that was thrown away.
The pansies laughed in the summer breeze, For they were so happy and free; And the lilies swayed in the waving grass, Like sails on an emerald sea. But the sun glanced down with a mocking light, And the heart of the rose stood still at the sight, For never again with its love for him Would her crimson heart be filled to the brim.
"Ah me!" she sighed, as she drooped her head, "How vain is my haughty will; I sought to mate with the sun above, But lo! I am mortal still. I envy the pansy that nods at my feet, For though she is lowly, her life is sweet; And I envy the lily, for she is glad, And knows not the longings that make me sad."