An Anonymous Volunteer
by Currer, Ellis, And Acton Bell
(Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte)
POEMS BY CURRER BELL
PILATE'S WIFE'S DREAM.
I've quench'd my lamp, I struck it in that start Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall— The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall; Over against my bed, there shone a gleam Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.
It sank, and I am wrapt in utter gloom; How far is night advanced, and when will day Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom, And fill this void with warm, creative ray? Would I could sleep again till, clear and red, Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!
I'd call my women, but to break their sleep, Because my own is broken, were unjust; They've wrought all day, and well-earn'd slumbers steep Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust; Let me my feverish watch with patience bear, Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.
Yet, oh, for light! one ray would tranquillize My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can; I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies: These trembling stars at dead of night look wan, Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.
All black—one great cloud, drawn from east to west, Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below; Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast On yonder stony mount a lurid glow. I see men station'd there, and gleaming spears; A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.
Dull, measured strokes of axe and hammer ring From street to street, not loud, but through the night Distinctly heard—and some strange spectral thing Is now uprear'd—and, fix'd against the light Of the pale lamps, defined upon that sky, It stands up like a column, straight and high.
I see it all—I know the dusky sign— A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine Pilate, to judge the victim, will appear— Pass sentence-yield Him up to crucify; And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.
Dreams, then, are true—for thus my vision ran; Surely some oracle has been with me, The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan, To warn an unjust judge of destiny: I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know, Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.
I do not weep for Pilate—who could prove Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway No prayer can soften, no appeal can move: Who tramples hearts as others trample clay, Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread, That might stir up reprisal in the dead.
Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds; Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour, In whose gaunt lines the abhorrent gazer reads A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power; A soul whom motives fierce, yet abject, urge— Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.
How can I love, or mourn, or pity him? I, who so long my fetter'd hands have wrung; I, who for grief have wept my eyesight dim; Because, while life for me was bright and young, He robb'd my youth—he quench'd my life's fair ray— He crush'd my mind, and did my freedom slay.
And at this hour-although I be his wife— He has no more of tenderness from me Than any other wretch of guilty life; Less, for I know his household privacy— I see him as he is—without a screen; And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien!
Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood— Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly? And have I not his red salute withstood? Ay, when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee In dark bereavement—in affliction sore, Mingling their very offerings with their gore.
Then came he—in his eyes a serpent-smile, Upon his lips some false, endearing word, And through the streets of Salem clang'd the while His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword— And I, to see a man cause men such woe, Trembled with ire—I did not fear to show.
And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought Jesus—whom they in mock'ry call their king— To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought; By this mean reptile, innocence to sting. Oh! could I but the purposed doom avert, And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt!
Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear, Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf; Could he this night's appalling vision hear, This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe, Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail, And make even terror to their malice quail.
Yet if I tell the dream—but let me pause. What dream? Erewhile the characters were clear, Graved on my brain—at once some unknown cause Has dimm'd and razed the thoughts, which now appear, Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;— Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.
I suffer'd many things—I heard foretold A dreadful doom for Pilate,—lingering woes, In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold Built up a solitude of trackless snows, There he and grisly wolves prowl'd side by side, There he lived famish'd—there, methought, he died;
But not of hunger, nor by malady; I saw the snow around him, stain'd with gore; I said I had no tears for such as he, And, lo! my cheek is wet—mine eyes run o'er; I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt, I weep the impious deed, the blood self-spilt.
More I recall not, yet the vision spread Into a world remote, an age to come— And still the illumined name of Jesus shed A light, a clearness, through the unfolding gloom— And still I saw that sign, which now I see, That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.
What is this Hebrew Christ?-to me unknown His lineage—doctrine—mission; yet how clear Is God-like goodness in his actions shown, How straight and stainless is his life's career! The ray of Deity that rests on him, In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.
The world advances; Greek or Roman rite Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay; The searching soul demands a purer light To guide it on its upward, onward way; Ashamed of sculptured gods, Religion turns To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.
Our faith is rotten, all our rites defiled, Our temples sullied, and, methinks, this man, With his new ordinance, so wise and mild, Is come, even as He says, the chaff to fan And sever from the wheat; but will his faith Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death?
* * * * * * *
I feel a firmer trust—a higher hope Rise in my soul—it dawns with dawning day; Lo! on the Temple's roof—on Moriah's slope Appears at length that clear and crimson ray Which I so wished for when shut in by night; Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless pour light!
Part, clouds and shadows! Glorious Sun appear! Part, mental gloom! Come insight from on high! Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear The longing soul doth still uncertain sigh. Oh! to behold the truth—that sun divine, How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine!
This day, Time travails with a mighty birth; This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth; Ere night descends I shall more surely know What guide to follow, in what path to go; I wait in hope—I wait in solemn fear, The oracle of God—the sole—true God—to hear.
Arranging long-locked drawers and shelves Of cabinets, shut up for years, What a strange task we've set ourselves! How still the lonely room appears! How strange this mass of ancient treasures, Mementos of past pains and pleasures; These volumes, clasped with costly stone, With print all faded, gilding gone;
These fans of leaves from Indian trees— These crimson shells, from Indian seas— These tiny portraits, set in rings— Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things; Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith, And worn till the receiver's death, Now stored with cameos, china, shells, In this old closet's dusty cells.
I scarcely think, for ten long years, A hand has touched these relics old; And, coating each, slow-formed, appears The growth of green and antique mould.
All in this house is mossing over; All is unused, and dim, and damp; Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover— Bereft for years of fire and lamp.
The sun, sometimes in summer, enters The casements, with reviving ray; But the long rains of many winters Moulder the very walls away.
And outside all is ivy, clinging To chimney, lattice, gable grey; Scarcely one little red rose springing Through the green moss can force its way.
Unscared, the daw and starling nestle, Where the tall turret rises high, And winds alone come near to rustle The thick leaves where their cradles lie,
I sometimes think, when late at even I climb the stair reluctantly, Some shape that should be well in heaven, Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.
I fear to see the very faces, Familiar thirty years ago, Even in the old accustomed places Which look so cold and gloomy now,
I've come, to close the window, hither, At twilight, when the sun was down, And Fear my very soul would wither, Lest something should be dimly shown,
Too much the buried form resembling, Of her who once was mistress here; Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling, Might take her aspect, once so dear.
Hers was this chamber; in her time It seemed to me a pleasant room, For then no cloud of grief or crime Had cursed it with a settled gloom;
I had not seen death's image laid In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed. Before she married, she was blest— Blest in her youth, blest in her worth; Her mind was calm, its sunny rest Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.
And when attired in rich array, Light, lustrous hair about her brow, She yonder sat, a kind of day Lit up what seems so gloomy now. These grim oak walls even then were grim; That old carved chair was then antique; But what around looked dusk and dim Served as a foil to her fresh cheek; Her neck and arms, of hue so fair, Eyes of unclouded, smiling light; Her soft, and curled, and floating hair, Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.
Reclined in yonder deep recess, Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie Watching the sun; she seemed to bless With happy glance the glorious sky. She loved such scenes, and as she gazed, Her face evinced her spirit's mood; Beauty or grandeur ever raised In her, a deep-felt gratitude. But of all lovely things, she loved A cloudless moon, on summer night, Full oft have I impatience proved To see how long her still delight Would find a theme in reverie, Out on the lawn, or where the trees Let in the lustre fitfully, As their boughs parted momently, To the soft, languid, summer breeze. Alas! that she should e'er have flung Those pure, though lonely joys away— Deceived by false and guileful tongue, She gave her hand, then suffered wrong; Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young, And died of grief by slow decay.
Open that casket-look how bright Those jewels flash upon the sight; The brilliants have not lost a ray Of lustre, since her wedding day. But see—upon that pearly chain— How dim lies Time's discolouring stain! I've seen that by her daughter worn: For, ere she died, a child was born;— A child that ne'er its mother knew, That lone, and almost friendless grew; For, ever, when its step drew nigh, Averted was the father's eye; And then, a life impure and wild Made him a stranger to his child: Absorbed in vice, he little cared On what she did, or how she fared. The love withheld she never sought, She grew uncherished—learnt untaught; To her the inward life of thought Full soon was open laid. I know not if her friendlessness Did sometimes on her spirit press, But plaint she never made. The book-shelves were her darling treasure, She rarely seemed the time to measure While she could read alone. And she too loved the twilight wood And often, in her mother's mood, Away to yonder hill would hie, Like her, to watch the setting sun, Or see the stars born, one by one, Out of the darkening sky. Nor would she leave that hill till night Trembled from pole to pole with light; Even then, upon her homeward way, Long—long her wandering steps delayed To quit the sombre forest shade, Through which her eerie pathway lay. You ask if she had beauty's grace? I know not—but a nobler face My eyes have seldom seen; A keen and fine intelligence, And, better still, the truest sense Were in her speaking mien. But bloom or lustre was there none, Only at moments, fitful shone An ardour in her eye, That kindled on her cheek a flush, Warm as a red sky's passing blush And quick with energy. Her speech, too, was not common speech, No wish to shine, or aim to teach, Was in her words displayed: She still began with quiet sense, But oft the force of eloquence Came to her lips in aid; Language and voice unconscious changed, And thoughts, in other words arranged, Her fervid soul transfused Into the hearts of those who heard, And transient strength and ardour stirred, In minds to strength unused, Yet in gay crowd or festal glare, Grave and retiring was her air; 'Twas seldom, save with me alone, That fire of feeling freely shone; She loved not awe's nor wonder's gaze, Nor even exaggerated praise, Nor even notice, if too keen The curious gazer searched her mien. Nature's own green expanse revealed The world, the pleasures, she could prize; On free hill-side, in sunny field, In quiet spots by woods concealed, Grew wild and fresh her chosen joys, Yet Nature's feelings deeply lay In that endowed and youthful frame; Shrined in her heart and hid from day, They burned unseen with silent flame. In youth's first search for mental light, She lived but to reflect and learn, But soon her mind's maturer might For stronger task did pant and yearn; And stronger task did fate assign, Task that a giant's strength might strain; To suffer long and ne'er repine, Be calm in frenzy, smile at pain.
Pale with the secret war of feeling, Sustained with courage, mute, yet high; The wounds at which she bled, revealing Only by altered cheek and eye;
She bore in silence—but when passion Surged in her soul with ceaseless foam, The storm at last brought desolation, And drove her exiled from her home.
And silent still, she straight assembled The wrecks of strength her soul retained; For though the wasted body trembled, The unconquered mind, to quail, disdained.
She crossed the sea—now lone she wanders By Seine's, or Rhine's, or Arno's flow; Fain would I know if distance renders Relief or comfort to her woe.
Fain would I know if, henceforth, ever, These eyes shall read in hers again, That light of love which faded never, Though dimmed so long with secret pain.
She will return, but cold and altered, Like all whose hopes too soon depart; Like all on whom have beat, unsheltered, The bitter blasts that blight the heart.
No more shall I behold her lying Calm on a pillow, smoothed by me; No more that spirit, worn with sighing, Will know the rest of infancy.
If still the paths of lore she follow, 'Twill be with tired and goaded will; She'll only toil, the aching hollow, The joyless blank of life to fill.
And oh! full oft, quite spent and weary, Her hand will pause, her head decline; That labour seems so hard and dreary, On which no ray of hope may shine.
Thus the pale blight of time and sorrow Will shade with grey her soft, dark hair; Then comes the day that knows no morrow, And death succeeds to long despair.
So speaks experience, sage and hoary; I see it plainly, know it well, Like one who, having read a story, Each incident therein can tell.
Touch not that ring; 'twas his, the sire Of that forsaken child; And nought his relics can inspire Save memories, sin-defiled.
I, who sat by his wife's death-bed, I, who his daughter loved, Could almost curse the guilty dead, For woes the guiltless proved.
And heaven did curse—they found him laid, When crime for wrath was rife, Cold—with the suicidal blade Clutched in his desperate gripe.
'Twas near that long deserted hut, Which in the wood decays, Death's axe, self-wielded, struck his root, And lopped his desperate days.
You know the spot, where three black trees, Lift up their branches fell, And moaning, ceaseless as the seas, Still seem, in every passing breeze, The deed of blood to tell.
They named him mad, and laid his bones Where holier ashes lie; Yet doubt not that his spirit groans In hell's eternity.
But, lo! night, closing o'er the earth, Infects our thoughts with gloom; Come, let us strive to rally mirth Where glows a clear and tranquil hearth In some more cheerful room.
THE WIFE'S WILL.
Sit still—a word—a breath may break (As light airs stir a sleeping lake) The glassy calm that soothes my woes— The sweet, the deep, the full repose. O leave me not! for ever be Thus, more than life itself to me!
Yes, close beside thee let me kneel— Give me thy hand, that I may feel The friend so true—so tried—so dear, My heart's own chosen—indeed is near; And check me not—this hour divine Belongs to me—is fully mine.
'Tis thy own hearth thou sitt'st beside, After long absence—wandering wide; 'Tis thy own wife reads in thine eyes A promise clear of stormless skies; For faith and true love light the rays Which shine responsive to her gaze.
Ay,—well that single tear may fall; Ten thousand might mine eyes recall, Which from their lids ran blinding fast, In hours of grief, yet scarcely past; Well mayst thou speak of love to me, For, oh! most truly—I love thee!
Yet smile—for we are happy now. Whence, then, that sadness on thy brow? What sayst thou?" We muse once again, Ere long, be severed by the main!" I knew not this—I deemed no more Thy step would err from Britain's shore.
"Duty commands!" 'Tis true—'tis just; Thy slightest word I wholly trust, Nor by request, nor faintest sigh, Would I to turn thy purpose try; But, William, hear my solemn vow— Hear and confirm!—with thee I go.
"Distance and suffering," didst thou say? "Danger by night, and toil by day?" Oh, idle words and vain are these; Hear me! I cross with thee the seas. Such risk as thou must meet and dare, I—thy true wife—will duly share.
Passive, at home, I will not pine; Thy toils, thy perils shall be mine; Grant this—and be hereafter paid By a warm heart's devoted aid: 'Tis granted—with that yielding kiss, Entered my soul unmingled bliss.
Thanks, William, thanks! thy love has joy, Pure, undefiled with base alloy; 'Tis not a passion, false and blind, Inspires, enchains, absorbs my mind; Worthy, I feel, art thou to be Loved with my perfect energy.
This evening now shall sweetly flow, Lit by our clear fire's happy glow; And parting's peace-embittering fear, Is warned our hearts to come not near; For fate admits my soul's decree, In bliss or bale—to go with thee!
But two miles more, and then we rest! Well, there is still an hour of day, And long the brightness of the West Will light us on our devious way; Sit then, awhile, here in this wood— So total is the solitude, We safely may delay.
These massive roots afford a seat, Which seems for weary travellers made. There rest. The air is soft and sweet In this sequestered forest glade, And there are scents of flowers around, The evening dew draws from the ground; How soothingly they spread!
Yes; I was tired, but not at heart; No—that beats full of sweet content, For now I have my natural part Of action with adventure blent; Cast forth on the wide world with thee, And all my once waste energy To weighty purpose bent.
Yet—sayst thou, spies around us roam, Our aims are termed conspiracy? Haply, no more our English home An anchorage for us may be? That there is risk our mutual blood May redden in some lonely wood The knife of treachery?
Sayst thou, that where we lodge each night, In each lone farm, or lonelier hall Of Norman Peer—ere morning light Suspicion must as duly fall, As day returns—such vigilance Presides and watches over France, Such rigour governs all?
I fear not, William; dost thou fear? So that the knife does not divide, It may be ever hovering near: I could not tremble at thy side, And strenuous love—like mine for thee— Is buckler strong 'gainst treachery, And turns its stab aside.
I am resolved that thou shalt learn To trust my strength as I trust thine; I am resolved our souls shall burn With equal, steady, mingling shine; Part of the field is conquered now, Our lives in the same channel flow, Along the self-same line;
And while no groaning storm is heard, Thou seem'st content it should be so, But soon as comes a warning word Of danger—straight thine anxious brow Bends over me a mournful shade, As doubting if my powers are made To ford the floods of woe.
Know, then it is my spirit swells, And drinks, with eager joy, the air Of freedom—where at last it dwells, Chartered, a common task to share With thee, and then it stirs alert, And pants to learn what menaced hurt Demands for thee its care.
Remember, I have crossed the deep, And stood with thee on deck, to gaze On waves that rose in threatening heap, While stagnant lay a heavy haze, Dimly confusing sea with sky, And baffling, even, the pilot's eye, Intent to thread the maze—
Of rocks, on Bretagne's dangerous coast, And find a way to steer our band To the one point obscure, which lost, Flung us, as victims, on the strand;— All, elsewhere, gleamed the Gallic sword, And not a wherry could be moored Along the guarded land.
I feared not then—I fear not now; The interest of each stirring scene Wakes a new sense, a welcome glow, In every nerve and bounding vein; Alike on turbid Channel sea, Or in still wood of Normandy, I feel as born again.
The rain descended that wild morn When, anchoring in the cove at last, Our band, all weary and forlorn Ashore, like wave-worn sailors, cast— Sought for a sheltering roof in vain, And scarce could scanty food obtain To break their morning fast.
Thou didst thy crust with me divide, Thou didst thy cloak around me fold; And, sitting silent by thy side, I ate the bread in peace untold: Given kindly from thy hand, 'twas sweet As costly fare or princely treat On royal plate of gold.
Sharp blew the sleet upon my face, And, rising wild, the gusty wind Drove on those thundering waves apace, Our crew so late had left behind; But, spite of frozen shower and storm, So close to thee, my heart beat warm, And tranquil slept my mind.
So now—nor foot-sore nor opprest With walking all this August day, I taste a heaven in this brief rest, This gipsy-halt beside the way. England's wild flowers are fair to view, Like balm is England's summer dew Like gold her sunset ray.
But the white violets, growing here, Are sweeter than I yet have seen, And ne'er did dew so pure and clear Distil on forest mosses green, As now, called forth by summer heat, Perfumes our cool and fresh retreat— These fragrant limes between.
That sunset! Look beneath the boughs, Over the copse—beyond the hills; How soft, yet deep and warm it glows, And heaven with rich suffusion fills; With hues where still the opal's tint, Its gleam of prisoned fire is blent, Where flame through azure thrills!
Depart we now—for fast will fade That solemn splendour of decline, And deep must be the after-shade As stars alone to-night will shine; No moon is destined—pale—to gaze On such a day's vast Phoenix blaze, A day in fires decayed!
There—hand-in-hand we tread again The mazes of this varying wood, And soon, amid a cultured plain, Girt in with fertile solitude, We shall our resting-place descry, Marked by one roof-tree, towering high Above a farmstead rude.
Refreshed, erelong, with rustic fare, We'll seek a couch of dreamless ease; Courage will guard thy heart from fear, And Love give mine divinest peace: To-morrow brings more dangerous toil, And through its conflict and turmoil We'll pass, as God shall please.
[The preceding composition refers, doubtless, to the scenes acted in France during the last year of the Consulate.]
She will not sleep, for fear of dreams, But, rising, quits her restless bed, And walks where some beclouded beams Of moonlight through the hall are shed.
Obedient to the goad of grief, Her steps, now fast, now lingering slow, In varying motion seek relief From the Eumenides of woe.
Wringing her hands, at intervals— But long as mute as phantom dim— She glides along the dusky walls, Under the black oak rafters grim.
The close air of the grated tower Stifles a heart that scarce can beat, And, though so late and lone the hour, Forth pass her wandering, faltering feet;
And on the pavement spread before The long front of the mansion grey, Her steps imprint the night-frost hoar, Which pale on grass and granite lay.
Not long she stayed where misty moon And shimmering stars could on her look, But through the garden archway soon Her strange and gloomy path she took.
Some firs, coeval with the tower, Their straight black boughs stretched o'er her head; Unseen, beneath this sable bower, Rustled her dress and rapid tread.
There was an alcove in that shade, Screening a rustic seat and stand; Weary she sat her down, and laid Her hot brow on her burning hand.
To solitude and to the night, Some words she now, in murmurs, said; And trickling through her fingers white, Some tears of misery she shed.
"God help me in my grievous need, God help me in my inward pain; Which cannot ask for pity's meed, Which has no licence to complain,
"Which must be borne; yet who can bear, Hours long, days long, a constant weight— The yoke of absolute despair, A suffering wholly desolate?
"Who can for ever crush the heart, Restrain its throbbing, curb its life? Dissemble truth with ceaseless art, With outward calm mask inward strife?"
She waited—as for some reply; The still and cloudy night gave none; Ere long, with deep-drawn, trembling sigh, Her heavy plaint again begun.
"Unloved—I love; unwept—I weep; Grief I restrain—hope I repress: Vain is this anguish—fixed and deep; Vainer, desires and dreams of bliss.
"My love awakes no love again, My tears collect, and fall unfelt; My sorrow touches none with pain, My humble hopes to nothing melt.
"For me the universe is dumb, Stone-deaf, and blank, and wholly blind; Life I must bound, existence sum In the strait limits of one mind;
"That mind my own. Oh! narrow cell; Dark—imageless—a living tomb! There must I sleep, there wake and dwell Content, with palsy, pain, and gloom."
Again she paused; a moan of pain, A stifled sob, alone was heard; Long silence followed—then again Her voice the stagnant midnight stirred.
"Must it be so? Is this my fate? Can I nor struggle, nor contend? And am I doomed for years to wait, Watching death's lingering axe descend?
"And when it falls, and when I die, What follows? Vacant nothingness? The blank of lost identity? Erasure both of pain and bliss?
"I've heard of heaven—I would believe; For if this earth indeed be all, Who longest lives may deepest grieve; Most blest, whom sorrows soonest call.
"Oh! leaving disappointment here, Will man find hope on yonder coast? Hope, which, on earth, shines never clear, And oft in clouds is wholly lost.
"Will he hope's source of light behold, Fruition's spring, where doubts expire, And drink, in waves of living gold, Contentment, full, for long desire?
"Will he find bliss, which here he dreamed? Rest, which was weariness on earth? Knowledge, which, if o'er life it beamed, Served but to prove it void of worth?
"Will he find love without lust's leaven, Love fearless, tearless, perfect, pure, To all with equal bounty given; In all, unfeigned, unfailing, sure?
"Will he, from penal sufferings free, Released from shroud and wormy clod, All calm and glorious, rise and see Creation's Sire—Existence' God?
"Then, glancing back on Time's brief woes, Will he behold them, fading, fly; Swept from Eternity's repose, Like sullying cloud from pure blue sky?
"If so, endure, my weary frame; And when thy anguish strikes too deep, And when all troubled burns life's flame, Think of the quiet, final sleep;
"Think of the glorious waking-hour, Which will not dawn on grief and tears, But on a ransomed spirit's power, Certain, and free from mortal fears.
"Seek now thy couch, and lie till morn, Then from thy chamber, calm, descend, With mind nor tossed, nor anguish-torn, But tranquil, fixed, to wait the end.
"And when thy opening eyes shall see Mementos, on the chamber wall, Of one who has forgotten thee, Shed not the tear of acrid gall.
"The tear which, welling from the heart, Burns where its drop corrosive falls, And makes each nerve, in torture, start, At feelings it too well recalls:
"When the sweet hope of being loved Threw Eden sunshine on life's way: When every sense and feeling proved Expectancy of brightest day.
"When the hand trembled to receive A thrilling clasp, which seemed so near, And the heart ventured to believe Another heart esteemed it dear.
"When words, half love, all tenderness, Were hourly heard, as hourly spoken, When the long, sunny days of bliss Only by moonlight nights were broken.
"Till, drop by drop, the cup of joy Filled full, with purple light was glowing, And Faith, which watched it, sparkling high Still never dreamt the overflowing.
"It fell not with a sudden crashing, It poured not out like open sluice; No, sparkling still, and redly flashing, Drained, drop by drop, the generous juice.
"I saw it sink, and strove to taste it, My eager lips approached the brim; The movement only seemed to waste it; It sank to dregs, all harsh and dim.
"These I have drunk, and they for ever Have poisoned life and love for me; A draught from Sodom's lake could never More fiery, salt, and bitter, be.
"Oh! Love was all a thin illusion Joy, but the desert's flying stream; And glancing back on long delusion, My memory grasps a hollow dream.
"Yet whence that wondrous change of feeling, I never knew, and cannot learn; Nor why my lover's eye, congealing, Grew cold and clouded, proud and stern.
"Nor wherefore, friendship's forms forgetting, He careless left, and cool withdrew; Nor spoke of grief, nor fond regretting, Nor ev'n one glance of comfort threw.
"And neither word nor token sending, Of kindness, since the parting day, His course, for distant regions bending, Went, self-contained and calm, away.
"Oh, bitter, blighting, keen sensation, Which will not weaken, cannot die, Hasten thy work of desolation, And let my tortured spirit fly!
"Vain as the passing gale, my crying; Though lightning-struck, I must live on; I know, at heart, there is no dying Of love, and ruined hope, alone.
"Still strong and young, and warm with vigour, Though scathed, I long shall greenly grow; And many a storm of wildest rigour Shall yet break o'er my shivered bough.
"Rebellious now to blank inertion, My unused strength demands a task; Travel, and toil, and full exertion, Are the last, only boon I ask.
"Whence, then, this vain and barren dreaming Of death, and dubious life to come? I see a nearer beacon gleaming Over dejection's sea of gloom.
"The very wildness of my sorrow Tells me I yet have innate force; My track of life has been too narrow, Effort shall trace a broader course.
"The world is not in yonder tower, Earth is not prisoned in that room, 'Mid whose dark panels, hour by hour, I've sat, the slave and prey of gloom.
"One feeling—turned to utter anguish, Is not my being's only aim; When, lorn and loveless, life will languish, But courage can revive the flame.
"He, when he left me, went a roving To sunny climes, beyond the sea; And I, the weight of woe removing, Am free and fetterless as he.
"New scenes, new language, skies less clouded, May once more wake the wish to live; Strange, foreign towns, astir, and crowded, New pictures to the mind may give.
"New forms and faces, passing ever, May hide the one I still retain, Defined, and fixed, and fading never, Stamped deep on vision, heart, and brain.
"And we might meet—time may have changed him; Chance may reveal the mystery, The secret influence which estranged him; Love may restore him yet to me.
"False thought—false hope—in scorn be banished! I am not loved—nor loved have been; Recall not, then, the dreams scarce vanished; Traitors! mislead me not again!
"To words like yours I bid defiance, 'Tis such my mental wreck have made; Of God alone, and self-reliance, I ask for solace—hope for aid.
"Morn comes—and ere meridian glory O'er these, my natal woods, shall smile, Both lonely wood and mansion hoary I'll leave behind, full many a mile."
I. THE GARDEN.
Above the city hung the moon, Right o'er a plot of ground Where flowers and orchard-trees were fenced With lofty walls around: 'Twas Gilbert's garden—there to-night Awhile he walked alone; And, tired with sedentary toil, Mused where the moonlight shone.
This garden, in a city-heart, Lay still as houseless wild, Though many-windowed mansion fronts Were round it; closely piled; But thick their walls, and those within Lived lives by noise unstirred; Like wafting of an angel's wing, Time's flight by them was heard.
Some soft piano-notes alone Were sweet as faintly given, Where ladies, doubtless, cheered the hearth With song that winter-even. The city's many-mingled sounds Rose like the hum of ocean; They rather lulled the heart than roused Its pulse to faster motion.
Gilbert has paced the single walk An hour, yet is not weary; And, though it be a winter night He feels nor cold nor dreary. The prime of life is in his veins, And sends his blood fast flowing, And Fancy's fervour warms the thoughts Now in his bosom glowing.
Those thoughts recur to early love, Or what he love would name, Though haply Gilbert's secret deeds Might other title claim. Such theme not oft his mind absorbs, He to the world clings fast, And too much for the present lives, To linger o'er the past.
But now the evening's deep repose Has glided to his soul; That moonlight falls on Memory, And shows her fading scroll. One name appears in every line The gentle rays shine o'er, And still he smiles and still repeats That one name—Elinor.
There is no sorrow in his smile, No kindness in his tone; The triumph of a selfish heart Speaks coldly there alone; He says: "She loved me more than life; And truly it was sweet To see so fair a woman kneel, In bondage, at my feet.
"There was a sort of quiet bliss To be so deeply loved, To gaze on trembling eagerness And sit myself unmoved. And when it pleased my pride to grant At last some rare caress, To feel the fever of that hand My fingers deigned to press.
"'Twas sweet to see her strive to hide What every glance revealed; Endowed, the while, with despot-might Her destiny to wield. I knew myself no perfect man, Nor, as she deemed, divine; I knew that I was glorious—but By her reflected shine;
"Her youth, her native energy, Her powers new-born and fresh, 'Twas these with Godhead sanctified My sensual frame of flesh. Yet, like a god did I descend At last, to meet her love; And, like a god, I then withdrew To my own heaven above.
"And never more could she invoke My presence to her sphere; No prayer, no plaint, no cry of hers Could win my awful ear. I knew her blinded constancy Would ne'er my deeds betray, And, calm in conscience, whole in heart. I went my tranquil way.
"Yet, sometimes, I still feel a wish, The fond and flattering pain Of passion's anguish to create In her young breast again. Bright was the lustre of her eyes, When they caught fire from mine; If I had power—this very hour, Again I'd light their shine.
"But where she is, or how she lives, I have no clue to know; I've heard she long my absence pined, And left her home in woe. But busied, then, in gathering gold, As I am busied now, I could not turn from such pursuit, To weep a broken vow.
"Nor could I give to fatal risk The fame I ever prized; Even now, I fear, that precious fame Is too much compromised." An inward trouble dims his eye, Some riddle he would solve; Some method to unloose a knot, His anxious thoughts revolve.
He, pensive, leans against a tree, A leafy evergreen, The boughs, the moonlight, intercept, And hide him like a screen He starts—the tree shakes with his tremor, Yet nothing near him pass'd; He hurries up the garden alley, In strangely sudden haste.
With shaking hand, he lifts the latchet, Steps o'er the threshold stone; The heavy door slips from his fingers— It shuts, and he is gone. What touched, transfixed, appalled, his soul?— A nervous thought, no more; 'Twill sink like stone in placid pool, And calm close smoothly o'er.
II. THE PARLOUR.
Warm is the parlour atmosphere, Serene the lamp's soft light; The vivid embers, red and clear, Proclaim a frosty night. Books, varied, on the table lie, Three children o'er them bend, And all, with curious, eager eye, The turning leaf attend.
Picture and tale alternately Their simple hearts delight, And interest deep, and tempered glee, Illume their aspects bright. The parents, from their fireside place, Behold that pleasant scene, And joy is on the mother's face, Pride in the father's mien.
As Gilbert sees his blooming wife, Beholds his children fair, No thought has he of transient strife, Or past, though piercing fear. The voice of happy infancy Lisps sweetly in his ear, His wife, with pleased and peaceful eye, Sits, kindly smiling, near.
The fire glows on her silken dress, And shows its ample grace, And warmly tints each hazel tress, Curled soft around her face. The beauty that in youth he wooed, Is beauty still, unfaded; The brow of ever placid mood No churlish grief has shaded.
Prosperity, in Gilbert's home, Abides the guest of years; There Want or Discord never come, And seldom Toil or Tears. The carpets bear the peaceful print Of comfort's velvet tread, And golden gleams, from plenty sent, In every nook are shed.
The very silken spaniel seems Of quiet ease to tell, As near its mistress' feet it dreams, Sunk in a cushion's swell And smiles seem native to the eyes Of those sweet children, three; They have but looked on tranquil skies, And know not misery.
Alas! that Misery should come In such an hour as this; Why could she not so calm a home A little longer miss? But she is now within the door, Her steps advancing glide; Her sullen shade has crossed the floor, She stands at Gilbert's side.
She lays her hand upon his heart, It bounds with agony; His fireside chair shakes with the start That shook the garden tree. His wife towards the children looks, She does not mark his mien; The children, bending o'er their books, His terror have not seen.
In his own home, by his own hearth, He sits in solitude, And circled round with light and mirth, Cold horror chills his blood. His mind would hold with desperate clutch The scene that round him lies; No—changed, as by some wizard's touch, The present prospect flies.
A tumult vague—a viewless strife His futile struggles crush; 'Twixt him and his an unknown life And unknown feelings rush. He sees—but scarce can language paint The tissue fancy weaves; For words oft give but echo faint Of thoughts the mind conceives.
Noise, tumult strange, and darkness dim, Efface both light and quiet; No shape is in those shadows grim, No voice in that wild riot. Sustain'd and strong, a wondrous blast Above and round him blows; A greenish gloom, dense overcast, Each moment denser grows.
He nothing knows—nor clearly sees, Resistance checks his breath, The high, impetuous, ceaseless breeze Blows on him cold as death. And still the undulating gloom Mocks sight with formless motion: Was such sensation Jonah's doom, Gulphed in the depths of ocean?
Streaking the air, the nameless vision, Fast-driven, deep-sounding, flows; Oh! whence its source, and what its mission? How will its terrors close? Long-sweeping, rushing, vast and void, The universe it swallows; And still the dark, devouring tide A typhoon tempest follows.
More slow it rolls; its furious race Sinks to its solemn gliding; The stunning roar, the wind's wild chase, To stillness are subsiding. And, slowly borne along, a form The shapeless chaos varies; Poised in the eddy to the storm, Before the eye it tarries.
A woman drowned—sunk in the deep, On a long wave reclining; The circling waters' crystal sweep, Like glass, her shape enshrining. Her pale dead face, to Gilbert turned, Seems as in sleep reposing; A feeble light, now first discerned, The features well disclosing.
No effort from the haunted air The ghastly scene could banish, That hovering wave, arrested there, Rolled—throbbed—but did not vanish. If Gilbert upward turned his gaze, He saw the ocean-shadow; If he looked down, the endless seas Lay green as summer meadow.
And straight before, the pale corpse lay, Upborne by air or billow, So near, he could have touched the spray That churned around its pillow. The hollow anguish of the face Had moved a fiend to sorrow; Not death's fixed calm could rase the trace Of suffering's deep-worn furrow.
All moved; a strong returning blast, The mass of waters raising, Bore wave and passive carcase past, While Gilbert yet was gazing. Deep in her isle-conceiving womb, It seemed the ocean thundered, And soon, by realms of rushing gloom, Were seer and phantom sundered.
Then swept some timbers from a wreck. On following surges riding; Then sea-weed, in the turbid rack Uptorn, went slowly gliding. The horrid shade, by slow degrees, A beam of light defeated, And then the roar of raving seas, Fast, far, and faint, retreated.
And all was gone—gone like a mist, Corse, billows, tempest, wreck; Three children close to Gilbert prest And clung around his neck. Good night! good night! the prattlers said, And kissed their father's cheek; 'Twas now the hour their quiet bed And placid rest to seek.
The mother with her offspring goes To hear their evening prayer; She nought of Gilbert's vision knows, And nought of his despair. Yet, pitying God, abridge the time Of anguish, now his fate! Though, haply, great has been his crime: Thy mercy, too, is great.
Gilbert, at length, uplifts his head, Bent for some moments low, And there is neither grief nor dread Upon his subtle brow. For well can he his feelings task, And well his looks command; His features well his heart can mask, With smiles and smoothness bland.
Gilbert has reasoned with his mind— He says 'twas all a dream; He strives his inward sight to blind Against truth's inward beam. He pitied not that shadowy thing, When it was flesh and blood; Nor now can pity's balmy spring Refresh his arid mood.
"And if that dream has spoken truth," Thus musingly he says; "If Elinor be dead, in sooth, Such chance the shock repays: A net was woven round my feet, I scarce could further go; Ere shame had forced a fast retreat, Dishonour brought me low.
"Conceal her, then, deep, silent sea, Give her a secret grave! She sleeps in peace, and I am free, No longer terror's slave: And homage still, from all the world, Shall greet my spotless name, Since surges break and waves are curled Above its threatened shame."
III. THE WELCOME HOME.
Above the city hangs the moon, Some clouds are boding rain; Gilbert, erewhile on journey gone, To-night comes home again. Ten years have passed above his head, Each year has brought him gain; His prosperous life has smoothly sped, Without or tear or stain.
'Tis somewhat late—the city clocks Twelve deep vibrations toll, As Gilbert at the portal knocks, Which is his journey's goal. The street is still and desolate, The moon hid by a cloud; Gilbert, impatient, will not wait,— His second knock peals loud.
The clocks are hushed—there's not a light In any window nigh, And not a single planet bright Looks from the clouded sky; The air is raw, the rain descends, A bitter north-wind blows; His cloak the traveller scarce defends— Will not the door unclose?
He knocks the third time, and the last His summons now they hear, Within, a footstep, hurrying fast, Is heard approaching near. The bolt is drawn, the clanking chain Falls to the floor of stone; And Gilbert to his heart will strain His wife and children soon.
The hand that lifts the latchet, holds A candle to his sight, And Gilbert, on the step, beholds A woman, clad in white. Lo! water from her dripping dress Runs on the streaming floor; From every dark and clinging tress The drops incessant pour.
There's none but her to welcome him; She holds the candle high, And, motionless in form and limb, Stands cold and silent nigh; There's sand and sea-weed on her robe, Her hollow eyes are blind; No pulse in such a frame can throb, No life is there defined.
Gilbert turned ashy-white, but still His lips vouchsafed no cry; He spurred his strength and master-will To pass the figure by,— But, moving slow, it faced him straight, It would not flinch nor quail: Then first did Gilbert's strength abate, His stony firmness quail.
He sank upon his knees and prayed The shape stood rigid there; He called aloud for human aid, No human aid was near. An accent strange did thus repeat Heaven's stern but just decree: "The measure thou to her didst mete, To thee shall measured be!"
Gilbert sprang from his bended knees, By the pale spectre pushed, And, wild as one whom demons seize, Up the hall-staircase rushed; Entered his chamber—near the bed Sheathed steel and fire-arms hung— Impelled by maniac purpose dread He chose those stores among.
Across his throat a keen-edged knife With vigorous hand he drew; The wound was wide—his outraged life Rushed rash and redly through. And thus died, by a shameful death, A wise and worldly man, Who never drew but selfish breath Since first his life began.
Life, believe, is not a dream So dark as sages say; Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day. Sometimes there are clouds of gloom, But these are transient all; If the shower will make the roses bloom, O why lament its fall? Rapidly, merrily, Life's sunny hours flit by, Gratefully, cheerily Enjoy them as they fly! What though Death at times steps in, And calls our Best away? What though sorrow seems to win, O'er hope, a heavy sway? Yet Hope again elastic springs, Unconquered, though she fell; Still buoyant are her golden wings, Still strong to bear us well. Manfully, fearlessly, The day of trial bear, For gloriously, victoriously, Can courage quell despair!
What is she writing? Watch her now, How fast her fingers move! How eagerly her youthful brow Is bent in thought above! Her long curls, drooping, shade the light, She puts them quick aside, Nor knows that band of crystals bright, Her hasty touch untied. It slips adown her silken dress, Falls glittering at her feet; Unmarked it falls, for she no less Pursues her labour sweet.
The very loveliest hour that shines, Is in that deep blue sky; The golden sun of June declines, It has not caught her eye. The cheerful lawn, and unclosed gate, The white road, far away, In vain for her light footsteps wait, She comes not forth to-day. There is an open door of glass Close by that lady's chair, From thence, to slopes of messy grass, Descends a marble stair.
Tall plants of bright and spicy bloom Around the threshold grow; Their leaves and blossoms shade the room From that sun's deepening glow. Why does she not a moment glance Between the clustering flowers, And mark in heaven the radiant dance Of evening's rosy hours? O look again! Still fixed her eye, Unsmiling, earnest, still, And fast her pen and fingers fly, Urged by her eager will.
Her soul is in th'absorbing task; To whom, then, doth she write? Nay, watch her still more closely, ask Her own eyes' serious light; Where do they turn, as now her pen Hangs o'er th'unfinished line? Whence fell the tearful gleam that then Did in their dark spheres shine? The summer-parlour looks so dark, When from that sky you turn, And from th'expanse of that green park, You scarce may aught discern.
Yet, o'er the piles of porcelain rare, O'er flower-stand, couch, and vase, Sloped, as if leaning on the air, One picture meets the gaze. 'Tis there she turns; you may not see Distinct, what form defines The clouded mass of mystery Yon broad gold frame confines. But look again; inured to shade Your eyes now faintly trace A stalwart form, a massive head, A firm, determined face.
Black Spanish locks, a sunburnt cheek A brow high, broad, and white, Where every furrow seems to speak Of mind and moral might. Is that her god? I cannot tell; Her eye a moment met Th'impending picture, then it fell Darkened and dimmed and wet. A moment more, her task is done, And sealed the letter lies; And now, towards the setting sun She turns her tearful eyes.
Those tears flow over, wonder not, For by the inscription see In what a strange and distant spot Her heart of hearts must be! Three seas and many a league of land That letter must pass o'er, Ere read by him to whose loved hand 'Tis sent from England's shore. Remote colonial wilds detain Her husband, loved though stern; She, 'mid that smiling English scene, Weeps for his wished return.
Long ago I wished to leave "The house where I was born;" Long ago I used to grieve, My home seemed so forlorn. In other years, its silent rooms Were filled with haunting fears; Now, their very memory comes O'ercharged with tender tears.
Life and marriage I have known. Things once deemed so bright; Now, how utterly is flown Every ray of light! 'Mid the unknown sea, of life I no blest isle have found; At last, through all its wild wave's strife, My bark is homeward bound.
Farewell, dark and rolling deep! Farewell, foreign shore! Open, in unclouded sweep, Thou glorious realm before! Yet, though I had safely pass'd That weary, vexed main, One loved voice, through surge and blast Could call me back again.
Though the soul's bright morning rose O'er Paradise for me, William! even from Heaven's repose I'd turn, invoked by thee! Storm nor surge should e'er arrest My soul, exalting then: All my heaven was once thy breast, Would it were mine again!
"Sister, you've sat there all the day, Come to the hearth awhile; The wind so wildly sweeps away, The clouds so darkly pile. That open book has lain, unread, For hours upon your knee; You've never smiled nor turned your head; What can you, sister, see?"
"Come hither, Jane, look down the field; How dense a mist creeps on! The path, the hedge, are both concealed, Ev'n the white gate is gone No landscape through the fog I trace, No hill with pastures green; All featureless is Nature's face. All masked in clouds her mien.
"Scarce is the rustle of a leaf Heard in our garden now; The year grows old, its days wax brief, The tresses leave its brow. The rain drives fast before the wind, The sky is blank and grey; O Jane, what sadness fills the mind On such a dreary day!"
"You think too much, my sister dear; You sit too long alone; What though November days be drear? Full soon will they be gone. I've swept the hearth, and placed your chair. Come, Emma, sit by me; Our own fireside is never drear, Though late and wintry wane the year, Though rough the night may be."
"The peaceful glow of our fireside Imparts no peace to me: My thoughts would rather wander wide Than rest, dear Jane, with thee. I'm on a distant journey bound, And if, about my heart, Too closely kindred ties were bound, 'Twould break when forced to part.
"'Soon will November days be o'er:' Well have you spoken, Jane: My own forebodings tell me more— For me, I know by presage sure, They'll ne'er return again. Ere long, nor sun nor storm to me Will bring or joy or gloom; They reach not that Eternity Which soon will be my home."
Eight months are gone, the summer sun Sets in a glorious sky; A quiet field, all green and lone, Receives its rosy dye. Jane sits upon a shaded stile, Alone she sits there now; Her head rests on her hand the while, And thought o'ercasts her brow.
She's thinking of one winter's day, A few short months ago, Then Emma's bier was borne away O'er wastes of frozen snow. She's thinking how that drifted snow Dissolved in spring's first gleam, And how her sister's memory now Fades, even as fades a dream.
The snow will whiten earth again, But Emma comes no more; She left, 'mid winter's sleet and rain, This world for Heaven's far shore. On Beulah's hills she wanders now, On Eden's tranquil plain; To her shall Jane hereafter go, She ne'er shall come to Jane!
THE TEACHER'S MONOLOGUE.
The room is quiet, thoughts alone People its mute tranquillity; The yoke put off, the long task done,— I am, as it is bliss to be, Still and untroubled. Now, I see, For the first time, how soft the day O'er waveless water, stirless tree, Silent and sunny, wings its way. Now, as I watch that distant hill, So faint, so blue, so far removed, Sweet dreams of home my heart may fill, That home where I am known and loved: It lies beyond; yon azure brow Parts me from all Earth holds for me; And, morn and eve, my yearnings flow Thitherward tending, changelessly. My happiest hours, aye! all the time, I love to keep in memory, Lapsed among moors, ere life's first prime Decayed to dark anxiety.
Sometimes, I think a narrow heart Makes me thus mourn those far away, And keeps my love so far apart From friends and friendships of to-day; Sometimes, I think 'tis but a dream I treasure up so jealously, All the sweet thoughts I live on seem To vanish into vacancy: And then, this strange, coarse world around Seems all that's palpable and true; And every sight, and every sound, Combines my spirit to subdue To aching grief, so void and lone Is Life and Earth—so worse than vain, The hopes that, in my own heart sown, And cherished by such sun and rain As Joy and transient Sorrow shed, Have ripened to a harvest there: Alas! methinks I hear it said, "Thy golden sheaves are empty air."
All fades away; my very home I think will soon be desolate; I hear, at times, a warning come Of bitter partings at its gate; And, if I should return and see The hearth-fire quenched, the vacant chair; And hear it whispered mournfully, That farewells have been spoken there, What shall I do, and whither turn? Where look for peace? When cease to mourn?
'Tis not the air I wished to play, The strain I wished to sing; My wilful spirit slipped away And struck another string. I neither wanted smile nor tear, Bright joy nor bitter woe, But just a song that sweet and clear, Though haply sad, might flow.
A quiet song, to solace me When sleep refused to come; A strain to chase despondency, When sorrowful for home. In vain I try; I cannot sing; All feels so cold and dead; No wild distress, no gushing spring Of tears in anguish shed;
But all the impatient gloom of one Who waits a distant day, When, some great task of suffering done, Repose shall toil repay. For youth departs, and pleasure flies, And life consumes away, And youth's rejoicing ardour dies Beneath this drear delay;
And Patience, weary with her yoke, Is yielding to despair, And Health's elastic spring is broke Beneath the strain of care. Life will be gone ere I have lived; Where now is Life's first prime? I've worked and studied, longed and grieved, Through all that rosy time.
To toil, to think, to long, to grieve,— Is such my future fate? The morn was dreary, must the eve Be also desolate? Well, such a life at least makes Death A welcome, wished-for friend; Then, aid me, Reason, Patience, Faith, To suffer to the end!
Some have won a wild delight, By daring wilder sorrow; Could I gain thy love to-night, I'd hazard death to-morrow.
Could the battle-struggle earn One kind glance from thine eye, How this withering heart would burn, The heady fight to try!
Welcome nights of broken sleep, And days of carnage cold, Could I deem that thou wouldst weep To hear my perils told.
Tell me, if with wandering bands I roam full far away, Wilt thou to those distant lands In spirit ever stray?
Wild, long, a trumpet sounds afar; Bid me—bid me go Where Seik and Briton meet in war, On Indian Sutlej's flow.
Blood has dyed the Sutlej's waves With scarlet stain, I know; Indus' borders yawn with graves, Yet, command me go!
Though rank and high the holocaust Of nations steams to heaven, Glad I'd join the death-doomed host, Were but the mandate given.
Passion's strength should nerve my arm, Its ardour stir my life, Till human force to that dread charm Should yield and sink in wild alarm, Like trees to tempest-strife.
If, hot from war, I seek thy love, Darest thou turn aside? Darest thou then my fire reprove, By scorn, and maddening pride?
No—my will shall yet control Thy will, so high and free, And love shall tame that haughty soul— Yes—tenderest love for me.
I'll read my triumph in thine eyes, Behold, and prove the change; Then leave, perchance, my noble prize, Once more in arms to range.
I'd die when all the foam is up, The bright wine sparkling high; Nor wait till in the exhausted cup Life's dull dregs only lie.
Then Love thus crowned with sweet reward, Hope blest with fulness large, I'd mount the saddle, draw the sword, And perish in the charge!
Not in scorn do I reprove thee, Not in pride thy vows I waive, But, believe, I could not love thee, Wert thou prince, and I a slave. These, then, are thine oaths of passion? This, thy tenderness for me? Judged, even, by thine own confession, Thou art steeped in perfidy. Having vanquished, thou wouldst leave me! Thus I read thee long ago; Therefore, dared I not deceive thee, Even with friendship's gentle show. Therefore, with impassive coldness Have I ever met thy gaze; Though, full oft, with daring boldness, Thou thine eyes to mine didst raise. Why that smile? Thou now art deeming This my coldness all untrue,— But a mask of frozen seeming, Hiding secret fires from view. Touch my hand, thou self-deceiver; Nay-be calm, for I am so: Does it burn? Does my lip quiver? Has mine eye a troubled glow? Canst thou call a moment's colour To my forehead—to my cheek? Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor With one flattering, feverish streak? Am I marble? What! no woman Could so calm before thee stand? Nothing living, sentient, human, Could so coldly take thy hand? Yes—a sister might, a mother: My good-will is sisterly: Dream not, then, I strive to smother Fires that inly burn for thee. Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless, Fury cannot change my mind; I but deem the feeling rootless Which so whirls in passion's wind. Can I love? Oh, deeply—truly— Warmly—fondly—but not thee; And my love is answered duly, With an equal energy. Wouldst thou see thy rival? Hasten, Draw that curtain soft aside, Look where yon thick branches chasten Noon, with shades of eventide. In that glade, where foliage blending Forms a green arch overhead, Sits thy rival, thoughtful bending O'er a stand with papers spread— Motionless, his fingers plying That untired, unresting pen; Time and tide unnoticed flying, There he sits—the first of men! Man of conscience—man of reason; Stern, perchance, but ever just; Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason, Honour's shield, and virtue's trust! Worker, thinker, firm defender Of Heaven's truth—man's liberty; Soul of iron—proof to slander, Rock where founders tyranny. Fame he seeks not—but full surely She will seek him, in his home; This I know, and wait securely For the atoning hour to come. To that man my faith is given, Therefore, soldier, cease to sue; While God reigns in earth and heaven, I to him will still be true!
The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed;— The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed. And days may pass in gay confusion, And nights in rosy riot fly, While, lost in Fame's or Wealth's illusion, The memory of the Past may die.
But there are hours of lonely musing, Such as in evening silence come, When, soft as birds their pinions closing, The heart's best feelings gather home. Then in our souls there seems to languish A tender grief that is not woe; And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish Now cause but some mild tears to flow.
And feelings, once as strong as passions, Float softly back—a faded dream; Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations, The tale of others' sufferings seem. Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding, How longs it for that time to be, When, through the mist of years receding, Its woes but live in reverie!
And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer, On evening shade and loneliness; And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer, Feel no untold and strange distress— Only a deeper impulse given By lonely hour and darkened room, To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven Seeking a life and world to come.
If thou be in a lonely place, If one hour's calm be thine, As Evening bends her placid face O'er this sweet day's decline; If all the earth and all the heaven Now look serene to thee, As o'er them shuts the summer even, One moment—think of me!
Pause, in the lane, returning home; 'Tis dusk, it will be still: Pause near the elm, a sacred gloom Its breezeless boughs will fill. Look at that soft and golden light, High in the unclouded sky; Watch the last bird's belated flight, As it flits silent by.
Hark! for a sound upon the wind, A step, a voice, a sigh; If all be still, then yield thy mind, Unchecked, to memory. If thy love were like mine, how blest That twilight hour would seem, When, back from the regretted Past, Returned our early dream!
If thy love were like mine, how wild Thy longings, even to pain, For sunset soft, and moonlight mild, To bring that hour again! But oft, when in thine arms I lay, I've seen thy dark eyes shine, And deeply felt their changeful ray Spoke other love than mine.
My love is almost anguish now, It beats so strong and true; 'Twere rapture, could I deem that thou Such anguish ever knew. I have been but thy transient flower, Thou wert my god divine; Till checked by death's congealing power, This heart must throb for thine.
And well my dying hour were blest, If life's expiring breath Should pass, as thy lips gently prest My forehead cold in death; And sound my sleep would be, and sweet, Beneath the churchyard tree, If sometimes in thy heart should beat One pulse, still true to me.
There's no use in weeping, Though we are condemned to part: There's such a thing as keeping A remembrance in one's heart:
There's such a thing as dwelling On the thought ourselves have nursed, And with scorn and courage telling The world to do its worst.
We'll not let its follies grieve us, We'll just take them as they come; And then every day will leave us A merry laugh for home.
When we've left each friend and brother, When we're parted wide and far, We will think of one another, As even better than we are.
Every glorious sight above us, Every pleasant sight beneath, We'll connect with those that love us, Whom we truly love till death!
In the evening, when we're sitting By the fire, perchance alone, Then shall heart with warm heart meeting, Give responsive tone for tone.
We can burst the bonds which chain us, Which cold human hands have wrought, And where none shall dare restrain us We can meet again, in thought.
So there's no use in weeping, Bear a cheerful spirit still; Never doubt that Fate is keeping Future good for present ill!
This last denial of my faith, Thou, solemn Priest, hast heard; And, though upon my bed of death, I call not back a word. Point not to thy Madonna, Priest,— Thy sightless saint of stone; She cannot, from this burning breast, Wring one repentant moan.
Thou say'st, that when a sinless child, I duly bent the knee, And prayed to what in marble smiled Cold, lifeless, mute, on me. I did. But listen! Children spring Full soon to riper youth; And, for Love's vow and Wedlock's ring, I sold my early truth.
'Twas not a grey, bare head, like thine, Bent o'er me, when I said, "That land and God and Faith are mine, For which thy fathers bled." I see thee not, my eyes are dim; But well I hear thee say, "O daughter cease to think of him Who led thy soul astray.
"Between you lies both space and time; Let leagues and years prevail To turn thee from the path of crime, Back to the Church's pale." And, did I need that, thou shouldst tell What mighty barriers rise To part me from that dungeon-cell, Where my loved Walter lies?
And, did I need that thou shouldst taunt My dying hour at last, By bidding this worn spirit pant No more for what is past? Priest—MUST I cease to think of him? How hollow rings that word! Can time, can tears, can distance dim The memory of my lord?
I said before, I saw not thee, Because, an hour agone, Over my eyeballs, heavily, The lids fell down like stone. But still my spirit's inward sight Beholds his image beam As fixed, as clear, as burning bright, As some red planet's gleam.
Talk not of thy Last Sacrament, Tell not thy beads for me; Both rite and prayer are vainly spent, As dews upon the sea. Speak not one word of Heaven above, Rave not of Hell's alarms; Give me but back my Walter's love, Restore me to his arms!
Then will the bliss of Heaven be won; Then will Hell shrink away, As I have seen night's terrors shun The conquering steps of day. 'Tis my religion thus to love, My creed thus fixed to be; Not Death shall shake, nor Priestcraft break My rock-like constancy!
Now go; for at the door there waits Another stranger guest; He calls—I come—my pulse scarce beats, My heart fails in my breast. Again that voice—how far away, How dreary sounds that tone! And I, methinks, am gone astray In trackless wastes and lone.
I fain would rest a little while: Where can I find a stay, Till dawn upon the hills shall smile, And show some trodden way? "I come! I come!" in haste she said, "'Twas Walter's voice I heard!" Then up she sprang—but fell back, dead, His name her latest word.
We take from life one little share, And say that this shall be A space, redeemed from toil and care, From tears and sadness free.
And, haply, Death unstrings his bow, And Sorrow stands apart, And, for a little while, we know The sunshine of the heart.
Existence seems a summer eve, Warm, soft, and full of peace, Our free, unfettered feelings give The soul its full release.
A moment, then, it takes the power To call up thoughts that throw Around that charmed and hallowed hour, This life's divinest glow.
But Time, though viewlessly it flies, And slowly, will not stay; Alike, through clear and clouded skies, It cleaves its silent way.
Alike the bitter cup of grief, Alike the draught of bliss, Its progress leaves but moment brief For baffled lips to kiss
The sparkling draught is dried away, The hour of rest is gone, And urgent voices, round us, say, "Ho, lingerer, hasten on!"
And has the soul, then, only gained, From this brief time of ease, A moment's rest, when overstrained, One hurried glimpse of peace?
No; while the sun shone kindly o'er us, And flowers bloomed round our feet,— While many a bud of joy before us Unclosed its petals sweet,—
An unseen work within was plying; Like honey-seeking bee, From flower to flower, unwearied, flying, Laboured one faculty,—
Thoughtful for Winter's future sorrow, Its gloom and scarcity; Prescient to-day, of want to-morrow, Toiled quiet Memory.
'Tis she that from each transient pleasure Extracts a lasting good; 'Tis she that finds, in summer, treasure To serve for winter's food.
And when Youth's summer day is vanished, And Age brings Winter's stress, Her stores, with hoarded sweets replenished, Life's evening hours will bless.
Plough, vessel, plough the British main, Seek the free ocean's wider plain; Leave English scenes and English skies, Unbind, dissever English ties; Bear me to climes remote and strange, Where altered life, fast-following change, Hot action, never-ceasing toil, Shall stir, turn, dig, the spirit's soil; Fresh roots shall plant, fresh seed shall sow, Till a new garden there shall grow, Cleared of the weeds that fill it now,— Mere human love, mere selfish yearning, Which, cherished, would arrest me yet. I grasp the plough, there's no returning, Let me, then, struggle to forget.
But England's shores are yet in view, And England's skies of tender blue Are arched above her guardian sea. I cannot yet Remembrance flee; I must again, then, firmly face That task of anguish, to retrace. Wedded to home—I home forsake; Fearful of change—I changes make; Too fond of ease—I plunge in toil; Lover of calm—I seek turmoil: Nature and hostile Destiny Stir in my heart a conflict wild; And long and fierce the war will be Ere duty both has reconciled.
What other tie yet holds me fast To the divorced, abandoned past? Smouldering, on my heart's altar lies The fire of some great sacrifice, Not yet half quenched. The sacred steel But lately struck my carnal will, My life-long hope, first joy and last, What I loved well, and clung to fast; What I wished wildly to retain, What I renounced with soul-felt pain; What—when I saw it, axe-struck, perish— Left me no joy on earth to cherish; A man bereft—yet sternly now I do confirm that Jephtha vow: Shall I retract, or fear, or flee? Did Christ, when rose the fatal tree Before him, on Mount Calvary? 'Twas a long fight, hard fought, but won, And what I did was justly done.
Yet, Helen! from thy love I turned, When my heart most for thy heart burned; I dared thy tears, I dared thy scorn— Easier the death-pang had been borne. Helen, thou mightst not go with me, I could not—dared not stay for thee! I heard, afar, in bonds complain The savage from beyond the main; And that wild sound rose o'er the cry Wrung out by passion's agony; And even when, with the bitterest tear I ever shed, mine eyes were dim, Still, with the spirit's vision clear, I saw Hell's empire, vast and grim, Spread on each Indian river's shore, Each realm of Asia covering o'er. There, the weak, trampled by the strong, Live but to suffer—hopeless die; There pagan-priests, whose creed is Wrong, Extortion, Lust, and Cruelty, Crush our lost race—and brimming fill The bitter cup of human ill; And I—who have the healing creed, The faith benign of Mary's Son, Shall I behold my brother's need, And, selfishly, to aid him shun? I—who upon my mother's knees, In childhood, read Christ's written word, Received his legacy of peace, His holy rule of action heard; I—in whose heart the sacred sense Of Jesus' love was early felt; Of his pure, full benevolence, His pitying tenderness for guilt; His shepherd-care for wandering sheep, For all weak, sorrowing, trembling things, His mercy vast, his passion deep Of anguish for man's sufferings; I—schooled from childhood in such lore— Dared I draw back or hesitate, When called to heal the sickness sore Of those far off and desolate? Dark, in the realm and shades of Death, Nations, and tribes, and empires lie, But even to them the light of Faith Is breaking on their sombre sky: And be it mine to bid them raise Their drooped heads to the kindling scene, And know and hail the sunrise blaze Which heralds Christ the Nazarene. I know how Hell the veil will spread Over their brows and filmy eyes, And earthward crush the lifted head That would look up and seek the skies; I know what war the fiend will wage Against that soldier of the Cross, Who comes to dare his demon rage, And work his kingdom shame and loss. Yes, hard and terrible the toil Of him who steps on foreign soil, Resolved to plant the gospel vine, Where tyrants rule and slaves repine; Eager to lift Religion's light Where thickest shades of mental night Screen the false god and fiendish rite; Reckless that missionary blood, Shed in wild wilderness and wood, Has left, upon the unblest air, The man's deep moan—the martyr's prayer. I know my lot—I only ask Power to fulfil the glorious task; Willing the spirit, may the flesh Strength for the day receive afresh. May burning sun or deadly wind Prevail not o'er an earnest mind; May torments strange or direst death Nor trample truth, nor baffle faith. Though such blood-drops should fall from me As fell in old Gethsemane, Welcome the anguish, so it gave More strength to work—more skill to save. And, oh! if brief must be my time, If hostile hand or fatal clime Cut short my course—still o'er my grave, Lord, may thy harvest whitening wave. So I the culture may begin, Let others thrust the sickle in; If but the seed will faster grow, May my blood water what I sow!
What! have I ever trembling stood, And feared to give to God that blood? What! has the coward love of life Made me shrink from the righteous strife? Have human passions, human fears Severed me from those Pioneers Whose task is to march first, and trace Paths for the progress of our race? It has been so; but grant me, Lord, Now to stand steadfast by Thy word! Protected by salvation's helm, Shielded by faith, with truth begirt, To smile when trials seek to whelm And stand mid testing fires unhurt! Hurling hell's strongest bulwarks down, Even when the last pang thrills my breast, When death bestows the martyr's crown, And calls me into Jesus' rest. Then for my ultimate reward— Then for the world-rejoicing word— The voice from Father—Spirit—Son: "Servant of God, well hast thou done!"
POEMS BY ELLIS BELL
FAITH AND DESPONDENCY.
"The winter wind is loud and wild, Come close to me, my darling child; Forsake thy books, and mateless play; And, while the night is gathering gray, We'll talk its pensive hours away;—
"Ierne, round our sheltered hall November's gusts unheeded call; Not one faint breath can enter here Enough to wave my daughter's hair, And I am glad to watch the blaze Glance from her eyes, with mimic rays; To feel her cheek, so softly pressed, In happy quiet on my breast,
"But, yet, even this tranquillity Brings bitter, restless thoughts to me; And, in the red fire's cheerful glow, I think of deep glens, blocked with snow; I dream of moor, and misty hill, Where evening closes dark and chill; For, lone, among the mountains cold, Lie those that I have loved of old. And my heart aches, in hopeless pain, Exhausted with repinings vain, That I shall greet them ne'er again!"
"Father, in early infancy, When you were far beyond the sea, Such thoughts were tyrants over me! I often sat, for hours together, Through the long nights of angry weather, Raised on my pillow, to descry The dim moon struggling in the sky; Or, with strained ear, to catch the shock, Of rock with wave, and wave with rock; So would I fearful vigil keep, And, all for listening, never sleep. But this world's life has much to dread, Not so, my Father, with the dead.
"Oh! not for them, should we despair, The grave is drear, but they are not there; Their dust is mingled with the sod, Their happy souls are gone to God! You told me this, and yet you sigh, And murmur that your friends must die. Ah! my dear father, tell me why? For, if your former words were true, How useless would such sorrow be; As wise, to mourn the seed which grew Unnoticed on its parent tree, Because it fell in fertile earth, And sprang up to a glorious birth— Struck deep its root, and lifted high Its green boughs in the breezy sky.
"But, I'll not fear, I will not weep For those whose bodies rest in sleep,— I know there is a blessed shore, Opening its ports for me and mine; And, gazing Time's wide waters o'er, I weary for that land divine, Where we were born, where you and I Shall meet our dearest, when we die; From suffering and corruption free, Restored into the Deity."
"Well hast thou spoken, sweet, trustful child! And wiser than thy sire; And worldly tempests, raging wild, Shall strengthen thy desire— Thy fervent hope, through storm and foam, Through wind and ocean's roar, To reach, at last, the eternal home, The steadfast, changeless shore!"
Ah! why, because the dazzling sun Restored our Earth to joy, Have you departed, every one, And left a desert sky?
All through the night, your glorious eyes Were gazing down in mine, And, with a full heart's thankful sighs, I blessed that watch divine.
I was at peace, and drank your beams As they were life to me; And revelled in my changeful dreams, Like petrel on the sea.
Thought followed thought, star followed star, Through boundless regions, on; While one sweet influence, near and far, Thrilled through, and proved us one!
Why did the morning dawn to break So great, so pure, a spell; And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek, Where your cool radiance fell?
Blood-red, he rose, and, arrow-straight, His fierce beams struck my brow; The soul of nature sprang, elate, But mine sank sad and low!
My lids closed down, yet through their veil I saw him, blazing, still, And steep in gold the misty dale, And flash upon the hill.
I turned me to the pillow, then, To call back night, and see Your worlds of solemn light, again, Throb with my heart, and me!
It would not do—the pillow glowed, And glowed both roof and floor; And birds sang loudly in the wood, And fresh winds shook the door;
The curtains waved, the wakened flies Were murmuring round my room, Imprisoned there, till I should rise, And give them leave to roam.
Oh, stars, and dreams, and gentle night; Oh, night and stars, return! And hide me from the hostile light That does not warm, but burn;
That drains the blood of suffering men; Drinks tears, instead of dew; Let me sleep through his blinding reign, And only wake with you!
Enough of thought, philosopher! Too long hast thou been dreaming Unlightened, in this chamber drear, While summer's sun is beaming! Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain Concludes thy musings once again?
"Oh, for the time when I shall sleep Without identity. And never care how rain may steep, Or snow may cover me! No promised heaven, these wild desires Could all, or half fulfil; No threatened hell, with quenchless fires, Subdue this quenchless will!"
"So said I, and still say the same; Still, to my death, will say— Three gods, within this little frame, Are warring night; and day; Heaven could not hold them all, and yet They all are held in me; And must be mine till I forget My present entity! Oh, for the time, when in my breast Their struggles will be o'er! Oh, for the day, when I shall rest, And never suffer more!"
"I saw a spirit, standing, man, Where thou dost stand—an hour ago, And round his feet three rivers ran, Of equal depth, and equal flow— A golden stream—and one like blood; And one like sapphire seemed to be; But, where they joined their triple flood It tumbled in an inky sea The spirit sent his dazzling gaze Down through that ocean's gloomy night; Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze, The glad deep sparkled wide and bright— White as the sun, far, far more fair Than its divided sources were!"
"And even for that spirit, seer, I've watched and sought my life-time long; Sought him in heaven, hell, earth, and air, An endless search, and always wrong. Had I but seen his glorious eye ONCE light the clouds that wilder me; I ne'er had raised this coward cry To cease to think, and cease to be;
I ne'er had called oblivion blest, Nor stretching eager hands to death, Implored to change for senseless rest This sentient soul, this living breath— Oh, let me die—that power and will Their cruel strife may close; And conquered good, and conquering ill Be lost in one repose!"
Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee, Far, far, removed, cold in the dreary grave! Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover Over the mountains, on that northern shore, Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover Thy noble heart for ever, ever more?
Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers, From those brown hills, have melted into spring: Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers After such years of change and suffering!
Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee, While the world's tide is bearing me along; Other desires and other hopes beset me, Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!
No later light has lightened up my heaven, No second morn has ever shone for me; All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given, All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.
But, when the days of golden dreams had perished, And even Despair was powerless to destroy; Then did I learn how existence could be cherished, Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion— Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine; Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten Down to that tomb already more than mine.
And, even yet, I dare not let it languish, Dare not indulge in memory's rapturous pain; Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish, How could I seek the empty world again?
"O day! he cannot die When thou so fair art shining! O Sun, in such a glorious sky, So tranquilly declining;
He cannot leave thee now, While fresh west winds are blowing, And all around his youthful brow Thy cheerful light is glowing!
Edward, awake, awake— The golden evening gleams Warm and bright on Arden's lake— Arouse thee from thy dreams!
Beside thee, on my knee, My dearest friend, I pray That thou, to cross the eternal sea, Wouldst yet one hour delay:
I hear its billows roar— I see them foaming high; But no glimpse of a further shore Has blest my straining eye.
Believe not what they urge Of Eden isles beyond; Turn back, from that tempestuous surge, To thy own native land.
It is not death, but pain That struggles in thy breast— Nay, rally, Edward, rouse again; I cannot let thee rest!"
One long look, that sore reproved me For the woe I could not bear— One mute look of suffering moved me To repent my useless prayer:
And, with sudden check, the heaving Of distraction passed away; Not a sign of further grieving Stirred my soul that awful day.
Paled, at length, the sweet sun setting; Sunk to peace the twilight breeze: Summer dews fell softly, wetting Glen, and glade, and silent trees.
Then his eyes began to weary, Weighed beneath a mortal sleep; And their orbs grew strangely dreary, Clouded, even as they would weep.
But they wept not, but they changed not, Never moved, and never closed; Troubled still, and still they ranged not— Wandered not, nor yet reposed!
So I knew that he was dying— Stooped, and raised his languid head; Felt no breath, and heard no sighing, So I knew that he was dead.
The linnet in the rocky dells, The moor-lark in the air, The bee among the heather bells That hide my lady fair:
The wild deer browse above her breast; The wild birds raise their brood; And they, her smiles of love caressed, Have left her solitude!
I ween, that when the grave's dark wall Did first her form retain, They thought their hearts could ne'er recall The light of joy again.
They thought the tide of grief would flow Unchecked through future years; But where is all their anguish now, And where are all their tears?
Well, let them fight for honour's breath, Or pleasure's shade pursue— The dweller in the land of death Is changed and careless too.
And, if their eyes should watch and weep Till sorrow's source were dry, She would not, in her tranquil sleep, Return a single sigh!
Blow, west-wind, by the lonely mound, And murmur, summer-streams— There is no need of other sound To soothe my lady's dreams.
How beautiful the earth is still, To thee—how full of happiness? How little fraught with real ill, Or unreal phantoms of distress! How spring can bring thee glory, yet, And summer win thee to forget December's sullen time! Why dost thou hold the treasure fast, Of youth's delight, when youth is past, And thou art near thy prime?
When those who were thy own compeers, Equals in fortune and in years, Have seen their morning melt in tears, To clouded, smileless day; Blest, had they died untried and young, Before their hearts went wandering wrong,— Poor slaves, subdued by passions strong, A weak and helpless prey!
'Because, I hoped while they enjoyed, And by fulfilment, hope destroyed; As children hope, with trustful breast, I waited bliss—and cherished rest. A thoughtful spirit taught me soon, That we must long till life be done; That every phase of earthly joy Must always fade, and always cloy:
'This I foresaw—and would not chase The fleeting treacheries; But, with firm foot and tranquil face, Held backward from that tempting race, Gazed o'er the sands the waves efface, To the enduring seas— There cast my anchor of desire Deep in unknown eternity; Nor ever let my spirit tire, With looking for WHAT IS TO BE!
"It is hope's spell that glorifies, Like youth, to my maturer eyes, All Nature's million mysteries, The fearful and the fair— Hope soothes me in the griefs I know; She lulls my pain for others' woe, And makes me strong to undergo What I am born to bear.
Glad comforter! will I not brave, Unawed, the darkness of the grave? Nay, smile to hear Death's billows rave— Sustained, my guide, by thee? The more unjust seems present fate, The more my spirit swells elate, Strong, in thy strength, to anticipate Rewarding destiny!
In the dungeon-crypts idly did I stray, Reckless of the lives wasting there away; "Draw the ponderous bars! open, Warder stern!" He dared not say me nay—the hinges harshly turn.
"Our guests are darkly lodged," I whisper'd, gazing through The vault, whose grated eye showed heaven more gray than blue; (This was when glad Spring laughed in awaking pride;) "Ay, darkly lodged enough!" returned my sullen guide.
Then, God forgive my youth; forgive my careless tongue; I scoffed, as the chill chains on the damp flagstones rung: "Confined in triple walls, art thou so much to fear, That we must bind thee down and clench thy fetters here?"
The captive raised her face; it was as soft and mild As sculptured marble saint, or slumbering unwean'd child; It was so soft and mild, it was so sweet and fair, Pain could not trace a line, nor grief a shadow there!
The captive raised her hand and pressed it to her brow; "I have been struck," she said, "and I am suffering now; Yet these are little worth, your bolts and irons strong; And, were they forged in steel, they could not hold me long."
Hoarse laughed the jailor grim: "Shall I be won to hear; Dost think, fond, dreaming wretch, that I shall grant thy prayer? Or, better still, wilt melt my master's heart with groans? Ah! sooner might the sun thaw down these granite stones.
"My master's voice is low, his aspect bland and kind, But hard as hardest flint the soul that lurks behind; And I am rough and rude, yet not more rough to see Than is the hidden ghost that has its home in me."
About her lips there played a smile of almost scorn, "My friend," she gently said, "you have not heard me mourn; When you my kindred's lives, MY lost life, can restore, Then may I weep and sue,—but never, friend, before!
"Still, let my tyrants know, I am not doomed to wear Year after year in gloom, and desolate despair; A messenger of Hope comes every night to me, And offers for short life, eternal liberty.
"He comes with western winds, with evening's wandering airs, With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars. Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire, And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire.
"Desire for nothing known in my maturer years, When Joy grew mad with awe, at counting future tears. When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm, I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunder-storm.
"But, first, a hush of peace—a soundless calm descends; The struggle of distress, and fierce impatience ends; Mute music soothes my breast—unuttered harmony, That I could never dream, till Earth was lost to me.
"Then dawns the Invisible; the Unseen its truth reveals; My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels: Its wings are almost free—its home, its harbour found, Measuring the gulph, it stoops and dares the final bound,
"Oh I dreadful is the check—intense the agony— When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see; When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again; The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.
"Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less; The more that anguish racks, the earlier it will bless; And robed in fires of hell, or bright with heavenly shine, If it but herald death, the vision is divine!"
She ceased to speak, and we, unanswering, turned to go— We had no further power to work the captive woe: Her cheek, her gleaming eye, declared that man had given A sentence, unapproved, and overruled by Heaven.
Hope Was but a timid friend; She sat without the grated den, Watching how my fate would tend, Even as selfish-hearted men.
She was cruel in her fear; Through the bars one dreary day, I looked out to see her there, And she turned her face away!
Like a false guard, false watch keeping, Still, in strife, she whispered peace; She would sing while I was weeping; If I listened, she would cease.
False she was, and unrelenting; When my last joys strewed the ground, Even Sorrow saw, repenting, Those sad relics scattered round;
Hope, whose whisper would have given Balm to all my frenzied pain, Stretched her wings, and soared to heaven, Went, and ne'er returned again!
A DAY DREAM.
On a sunny brae alone I lay One summer afternoon; It was the marriage-time of May, With her young lover, June.
From her mother's heart seemed loath to part That queen of bridal charms, But her father smiled on the fairest child He ever held in his arms.
The trees did wave their plumy crests, The glad birds carolled clear; And I, of all the wedding guests, Was only sullen there!
There was not one, but wished to shun My aspect void of cheer; The very gray rocks, looking on, Asked, "What do you here?"
And I could utter no reply; In sooth, I did not know Why I had brought a clouded eye To greet the general glow.
So, resting on a heathy bank, I took my heart to me; And we together sadly sank Into a reverie.
We thought, "When winter comes again, Where will these bright things be? All vanished, like a vision vain, An unreal mockery!
"The birds that now so blithely sing, Through deserts, frozen dry, Poor spectres of the perished spring, In famished troops will fly.
"And why should we be glad at all? The leaf is hardly green, Before a token of its fall Is on the surface seen!"
Now, whether it were really so, I never could be sure; But as in fit of peevish woe, I stretched me on the moor,
A thousand thousand gleaming fires Seemed kindling in the air; A thousand thousand silvery lyres Resounded far and near:
Methought, the very breath I breathed Was full of sparks divine, And all my heather-couch was wreathed By that celestial shine!
And, while the wide earth echoing rung To that strange minstrelsy The little glittering spirits sung, Or seemed to sing, to me:
"O mortal! mortal! let them die; Let time and tears destroy, That we may overflow the sky With universal joy!
"Let grief distract the sufferer's breast, And night obscure his way; They hasten him to endless rest, And everlasting day.
"To thee the world is like a tomb, A desert's naked shore; To us, in unimagined bloom, It brightens more and more!
"And, could we lift the veil, and give One brief glimpse to thine eye, Thou wouldst rejoice for those that live, BECAUSE they live to die."
The music ceased; the noonday dream, Like dream of night, withdrew; But Fancy, still, will sometimes deem Her fond creation true.
When weary with the long day's care, And earthly change from pain to pain, And lost, and ready to despair, Thy kind voice calls me back again: Oh, my true friend! I am not lone, While then canst speak with such a tone!
So hopeless is the world without; The world within I doubly prize; Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt, And cold suspicion never rise; Where thou, and I, and Liberty, Have undisputed sovereignty.
What matters it, that all around Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie, If but within our bosom's bound We hold a bright, untroubled sky, Warm with ten thousand mingled rays Of suns that know no winter days?
Reason, indeed, may oft complain For Nature's sad reality, And tell the suffering heart how vain Its cherished dreams must always be; And Truth may rudely trample down The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:
But thou art ever there, to bring The hovering vision back, and breathe New glories o'er the blighted spring, And call a lovelier Life from Death. And whisper, with a voice divine, Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss, Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour, With never-failing thankfulness, I welcome thee, Benignant Power; Sure solacer of human cares, And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!
HOW CLEAR SHE SHINES.
How clear she shines! How quietly I lie beneath her guardian light; While heaven and earth are whispering me, "To morrow, wake, but dream to-night." Yes, Fancy, come, my Fairy love! These throbbing temples softly kiss; And bend my lonely couch above, And bring me rest, and bring me bliss.
The world is going; dark world, adieu! Grim world, conceal thee till the day; The heart thou canst not all subdue Must still resist, if thou delay!
Thy love I will not, will not share; Thy hatred only wakes a smile; Thy griefs may wound—thy wrongs may tear, But, oh, thy lies shall ne'er beguile! While gazing on the stars that glow Above me, in that stormless sea, I long to hope that all the woe Creation knows, is held in thee!
And this shall be my dream to-night; I'll think the heaven of glorious spheres Is rolling on its course of light In endless bliss, through endless years; I'll think, there's not one world above, Far as these straining eyes can see, Where Wisdom ever laughed at Love, Or Virtue crouched to Infamy;
Where, writhing 'neath the strokes of Fate, The mangled wretch was forced to smile; To match his patience 'gainst her hate, His heart rebellious all the while. Where Pleasure still will lead to wrong, And helpless Reason warn in vain; And Truth is weak, and Treachery strong; And Joy the surest path to Pain; And Peace, the lethargy of Grief; And Hope, a phantom of the soul; And life, a labour, void and brief; And Death, the despot of the whole!
There should be no despair for you While nightly stars are burning; While evening pours its silent dew, And sunshine gilds the morning. There should be no despair—though tears May flow down like a river: Are not the best beloved of years Around your heart for ever?
They weep, you weep, it must be so; Winds sigh as you are sighing, And winter sheds its grief in snow Where Autumn's leaves are lying: Yet, these revive, and from their fate Your fate cannot be parted: Then, journey on, if not elate, Still, NEVER broken-hearted!
PLEAD FOR ME.
Oh, thy bright eyes must answer now, When Reason, with a scornful brow, Is mocking at my overthrow! Oh, thy sweet tongue must plead for me And tell why I have chosen thee!
Stern Reason is to judgment come, Arrayed in all her forms of gloom: Wilt thou, my advocate, be dumb? No, radiant angel, speak and say, Why I did cast the world away.
Why I have persevered to shun The common paths that others run; And on a strange road journeyed on, Heedless, alike of wealth and power— Of glory's wreath and pleasure's flower.
These, once, indeed, seemed Beings Divine; And they, perchance, heard vows of mine, And saw my offerings on their shrine; But careless gifts are seldom prized, And MINE were worthily despised.
So, with a ready heart, I swore To seek their altar-stone no more; And gave my spirit to adore Thee, ever-present, phantom thing— My slave, my comrade, and my king.
A slave, because I rule thee still; Incline thee to my changeful will, And make thy influence good or ill: A comrade, for by day and night Thou art my intimate delight,—
My darling pain that wounds and sears, And wrings a blessing out from tears By deadening me to earthly cares; And yet, a king, though Prudence well Have taught thy subject to rebel
And am I wrong to worship where Faith cannot doubt, nor hope despair, Since my own soul can grant my prayer? Speak, God of visions, plead for me, And tell why I have chosen thee!
"The evening passes fast away. 'Tis almost time to rest; What thoughts has left the vanished day, What feelings in thy breast?
"The vanished day? It leaves a sense Of labour hardly done; Of little gained with vast expense— A sense of grief alone?
"Time stands before the door of Death, Upbraiding bitterly And Conscience, with exhaustless breath, Pours black reproach on me:
"And though I've said that Conscience lies And Time should Fate condemn; Still, sad Repentance clouds my eyes, And makes me yield to them!
"Then art thou glad to seek repose? Art glad to leave the sea, And anchor all thy weary woes In calm Eternity?