‘YEARS pass’d away in grief–and I,
For her dear sake whose heart could feel no more,
The sweetness and the witchery of love,
Which round my spirit such deep charm had wove:
And the dim twilight, and the noonday sky,
The fountain’s music, the rich brilliancy
Of Nature in her summer–all became
To me a joyless world–an empty name–
And the heart’s beating, and the flush’d fond thought
Of human sympathy, no longer brought
The glow of joy to this o’er-wearied breast,
Where hope like some tired pilgrim sank to rest.
The forms of beauty which my pathway cross’d
Seem’d but dim visions of my loved and lost,
Floating before me to arouse in vain
Deep yearnings, for what might not come again,
Tears without aim or end, and lonely sighs,
To which earth’s echoes only gave replies.
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
And I departed–once again to be
Roaming the desert earth and trackless sea:
Amongst men; but not with them: still alone
Mid crowds, unnamed–unnoticed–and unknown.
I wander’d on–and the loud shout went forth
Of Liberty, from all the peopled world,
Like a dark watch-word breathing south and north
Where’er the green turf grew, or billow curl’d;
And when I heard it, something human stirr’d
Within my miserable breast, and lo!
With the wild struggling of a captive bird;
My strong soul burst its heavy chain of woe.
I rose and battled with the great and brave,
Dared the dark fight upon the stormy wave.–
From the swarth climes, where sunshine loves to rest,
To the green islands of the chilly west,
Where’er a voice was raised in Freedom’s name,
There sure and swift my eager footstep came.
And bright dreams fired my soul–How sweet will be
To me the hour of burning victory!
When the oppressor ceaseth to oppress,
And this sad name the tortured nations bless:
When tyranny beneath my sword shall bend,
And the freed earth shall turn and own me for her friend!
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
Where Rome’s proud eagle, which is now a name,
Spread forth its wings of glory to the sky;
And young warm hearts, that dreamt of deathless fame,
Woke from that dream to gaze around and die:
Where the pale crescent gleam’d athwart the cloud
Of men array’d to perish in their pride;
And the harsh note of war rang wild and loud
To urge the course of that impetuous tide:
Where Spain’s dark banner o’er the castle walls
Heavily floats upon the mournful breeze–
And firmly sad the measured footstep falls
Of him who dreams of home in scenes like these:
Where steep’d in bitter tears and guiltless blood,
The lily flag of France droops sadly down:
Where England’s lion o’er the heaving flood
Boastfully flutters in its proud renown:
Ev’n where her sister island dimly rears
(Though all the freshness from its hue be gone)
Her verdant standard from a land of tears,
While there are winds in heaven to waft it on:–
‘Neath these, and many more than these, my arm
Hath wielded desperately the avenging steel–
And half exulting in the awful charm
Which hung upon my life–forgot to feel!
‘I fought and conquer’d–and when all was done
How fared misfortune’s persecuted son?
The dim days pass’d away and left me lone;
The tyrant and the slave alike were gone.
The indignant eyes that flash’d their wrath afar–
The swords that glitter’d through the cloudy war–
The swelling courage of the manly breast–
The iron hand whose strength the weak oppress’d–
The shouting voices in the deadly fray–
The jest and song that made ev’n camps seem gay–
The sounds–the forms–the feelings which had made
Those scenes in which my feet so long had stray’d–
Where and what are they now? a bitter dream
Lit by a meteor-like delusive gleam.
Freedom! thou art indeed a dream! a bright
And beautiful–a vision of pure light,
Pour’d on our earth-clad spirits from above–
Where all are equals, and where all is love:
But yet no less a dream. Where is the land
Which for the ploughshare hath exchanged the brand,
And been at peace for ever? Is there not
A war with all things in our changeful lot?
A war with Heaven, a war with our own souls,
Where stormily the sea of passion rolls–
Wrecking each better feeling, which doth strain
For liberty–and wrings our hearts to pain?
The war of fallen spirits with their sin,
The terrible war which rageth deep within–
Lo! there the cause of all the strife below
Which makes God’s world a wilderness of woe.
Ye dream, and dream, and dream from day to day,
And bleed, and fight, and struggle, and decay;
And with high-sounding mockeries beguile
Natures that sink, and sicken all the while.
Whither are the old kings and conquerors gone?
Where are the empires lost–the empires won?
Look–from the classic lands whose fallen pride
Is fain to summon strangers to their side–
Where with weak wail they call themselves oppress’d,
Who, if unchain’d, would still be slaves at best–
To far across the dim and lonely sea
Where the thrice-conquer’d styles herself ‘the free:’
How many generations now are past
Since the first war-cry rose, and when will be the last?
Yet is there freedom in a distant clime,
Where freedom dwelleth to the end of time;
And peace, and joy, and ignorance of fear,
And happiness–but oh! not here! not here!
Not in this world of darkness and of graves,
Where the strong govern, and the weak are slaves.
Thou, whose full heart would dream of liberty,
Go out beneath the solitary sky
In its blue depth of midnight–stand and gaze
While the stars pour on thee their gentle rays;
And image, if thou canst, unto thy soul
A little part of the most wondrous whole
Of all that lies beyond–there no dark strife
Destroys the creatures of the God of Life;
There no ambition to be made more great
Turns the pure love of brothers into hate.
Each hath his place assign’d him like the stars
Up in the silent sky, where nothing wars.
”Twas on a battle plain,–here in thine own
Sweet land of sunshine, that I paused to mark
The heaps of slaughter’d heroes now o’erthrown,
Whose helpless corpses lay all stripp’d and stark.
‘Twas in the time when Moorish blood first mix’d
With haughty Spain’s; and on her spotless name
The dint and brand of slavery affix’d;
And blood was spilt to reap eternal shame.
The useless struggle ended on that day,
And round about Grenada’s walls there lay
Many and many a brave young bosom, gored
By the rude spear or deeply thrusting sword.
And silence was upon that fatal field
Save when, to nature’s anguish forced to yield,
Some fallen soldier heaved a broken sigh
For his far home, and turn’d him round to die:
Or when the wailing voice of woman told
That her long weary search was not in vain,
And she had found the bosom, stiff and cold,
Where her soft clustering curls had often lain.
‘Twas one of these that burst upon my ear
While watching on that field: the wind-harp’s tone
Was not more mournful, nor more sweetly clear,
Than was the sound of that sad woman’s moan.
Through the dim moonlight I beheld a form–
Her dark brow clouded with grief’s passionate storm,
And on her breast an infant calmly slept
Which she would pause to gaze on; and again,
With bitterness renew’d, she loudly wept,
And call’d on its dead father–but in vain!
‘My early and my only love, why silent dost thou lie,
When heavy grief is in my heart, and tear-drops in mine eye;
I call thee, but thou answerest not, all lonely though I be:
Wilt thou not burst the bonds of sleep, and rise to comfort me?
‘ Oh! wake thee–wake thee from thy rest upon the tented field:
This faithful breast shall be at once thy pillow and thy shield;
If thou hast doubted of its truth and constancy before,
Oh! wake thee now, and it will strive to love thee even more.
‘If ever we have parted, and I wept thee not as now,
If ever I have seen thee come, and worn a cloudy brow,
If ever harsh and careless words have caused thee pain and woe,
Then sleep, in silence sleep, and I–will bow my head and go.
‘ But if, through all the vanish’d years whose shadowy joys are gone,
Through all the changing scenes of life, I thought of thee alone;
If I have mourn’d for thee when far, and worshipp’d thee when near,
Then wake thee up, my early love, this weary heart to cheer!
‘Awake! thy baby-boy is here, upon whose soft cheek lie
No tears of grief, save those which fall from his sad mother’s eye;
How, lingering, didst thou gaze on him when we were forced to part–
Rise up, for he is here again, and press him to thy heart!
‘ In vain, in vain–I dream of thee and joyous life in vain;
Thou never more shalt rise in strength from off the bloody plain;
Thou never more shalt clasp thy boy, nor hold me to thy breast:
Thou hast left us lonely on the earth, and thou art gone to rest.
‘Awake thee, my forsaken boy!–awake, my babe, and weep;
Art thou less wretched that thy brow no trace of woe can keep?
Oh! would through life that thou mightst taste no cup but that of joy,
And I, as now, might weep for both–my boy!–my orphan boy!’
‘She paused and raised her dark wild eyes, where bright
In the blue heavens broke the dawning light–
But what to her was day or sunshine now,
All vainly beaming on that pallid brow?
She only felt that never more with him,
In the deep cloudless noon, or moonlight dim,
Her weary feet might wander–that his voice
Should never bid her beating heart rejoice–
That where there had been sunniness and bliss,
Silence and shadows and deep loneliness
Must be her portion–that all days to come
Would rise upon a widow’d heart and home.–
She only felt, while weeping on that spot,
That bright and waking world contain’d him not!
She rose as if to go–yet once again
Turn’d back in tears to gaze upon the slain;
And raised her voice of wail, whose tone might ne’er
Awake an echo in that slumbering ear:–
‘We shall meet no more on the sunny hill,
Where the lonely wild flower springs and dies;
We shall meet no more by the murmuring rill,
Where the blue cool waters idly rise.
The sunshine and flowers all bright remain
In their lonely beauty, as of yore;
But to me ’twill never be bright again–
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!
‘We shall meet no more in the lighted halls,
Amid happy faces and gay young hearts ;
I may listen in vain as each footstep falls,
I may watch in vain as each form departs!
There are laughing voices, but thy young tone
Its cheerful greeting hath ceased to pour;
Thy form from the dancing train is gone–
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!’
‘Such was the scene where first I saw and loved
Xarifa.–She was beautiful, but not
By that alone my wither’d heart was moved;
But that long days, unwept though unforgot,
Arose before me, freshly to oppress,
And wring my secret soul to bitterness.
Her sorrow was as mine, and every word
She utter’d in her agony did seem
As if a spirit voice I dimly heard
Speaking of Edith in a weary dream.
And so it was–our tearful hearts did cling
And twine together ev’n in sorrowing;
And we became as one–her orphan boy.
Lisp’d the word ‘Father’ as his dark eyes gazed,
With their expressive glance of timid joy,
Into my face, half pleased and half amazed.
And we did dwell together, calmly fond
With our own love, and not a wish beyond.
‘Well, we were happy; and I vainly thought
That happiness so calm might last–but no!
Suns rose, and set, and rose; years came and pass’d,
And brought with them my lot–the lot of woe.
And the boy grew in beauty and in strength,
Rousing my soul to love him more and more–
Till I gazed on that graceful form at length
With a proud worship–and while musing o’er
The happy future, half forgot that fate
Had doom’d me ever to be desolate–
That all I loved had but a life as frail
As the young flower that wooes the summer gale;
And that the hour must come, when they would flee
To that far land of peace where was no place for me!
And ev’n before that hour, upon my home
Dark shadows fell from weary day to day;
And where there had been sunniness, was gloom–
And that boy’s mother changed and pined away.
In her unquiet eye from year to year
Rose the expression of a restless fear,
And lines, which time had yet forborne to trace,
Were writ by care upon her fading face.
There would she sit, and steal a fearful glance,
Or fix those Moorish eyes as in a trance
Upon my form; and love dwelt still within
That pure fond heart which suffer’d for no sin.
And she would strive my sorrow to beguile,
And start, and wipe away her tears, and smile,
If, gazing in her waking dream, she caught
My eye, and read therein the master thought.
But never through those years did word or sign
Ask for the secret which was wholly mine.
She faded silently as doth the rose,
Which but in death reveals the secret smart,
And faintly smiling, to the last bestows
A balmy perfume from its withering heart.
How often, when I gazed on her, there came
The earnest wish that trembled through my frame,
To rise–to clasp her to my’swelling breast,
To faulter forth my tale, and be at rest!
When others, whom the laws of Heaven had tied,
Wander’d through this world’s sunshine side by side;
Each beaming face bright as their brows above,
With perfect confidence and mutual love–
When I have seen some young heart’s feeling rise
And glisten forth from glad and loving eyes;
Or heard the murmur’d words fond lips have spoken
Of faith unchanged and firm, and vows unbroken–
How I have strain’d my clasp’d and quivering hands,
And stretch’d them to the heavens as if in prayer;
Yearning to bow to Nature’s strong commands,
And cloud another’s life with my despair!
But when I thought of Edith–of that hour
When suddenly, and like a storm-scathed flower
She sank and perish’d, whose dear brightness seem’d
More beautiful than aught my heart had dream’d–
I shrank within myself, and silently
Met the sad glances of her anxious eye.
‘Oh Sympathy!–how little do they know,
Who to a fellow heart confide their woe,
Who raise their tearful gaze to see again
Reflected back those drops of summer rain–
How weighs the lid which dares not show its tear,
But weeps in silence, agony, and fear;
And, dying for a glance, must yet disown
The sacred balm of hearts, and writhe alone!
To stifle grief till none but God can see,
Longing the while to say, ‘Come, weep with me:
Weep! for the flowers have faded from my path,
The rays of light have left my darken’d sky:
Weep! for thy tear is all the wanderer hath,
Whose lone despair would bid him groan–and die:’
Thus–thus to shrink from every outstretch’d hand,
To strive in secret, and alone to stand;
Or, when obliged to mingle with the crowd,
Curb the pain’d lip which quiveringly obeys–
Gapes wide with sudden laughter, vainly loud,
Or writhes a faint slow smile to meet their gaze–
This–this is hell! The soul which dares not show
The barbed sorrow which is rankling there,
Gives way at length beneath its weight of woe,
Withers unseen, and darkens to despair!
‘One eve at spring-tide’s close we took our way,
When eve’s last beams in soften’d glory fell,
Lighting her faded form with sadden’d ray,
And the sweet spot where we so loved to dwell.
Faintly and droopingly she sat her down
By the blue waters of the Guadalquivir;
With darkness on her brow, but yet no frown,
Like the deep shadow on that silent river.
She sat her down, I say, with face upturn’d
To the dim sky, which daylight was forsaking,
And in her eyes a light unearthly burn’d–
The light which spirits give whose chains are breaking!
And, as she gazed, her low and tremulous voice
In murmuring sweetness did address the earth,
With mournful rapture, which makes none rejoice;
And gladness, which to sorrow doth give birth.
‘The spring! I love the spring! for it hath flowers,
And gaily plumaged birds, and sapphire skies,
And sleeping sunshine, and soft cooling showers,
And shadowy woods where weary daylight dies.
And it hath dancing waters, where the sun,
With an enamour’d look at the light waves,
Doth lull himself to rest when day is done,
And sinks away behind their rocky caves.
‘I love the spring, for it hath many things
In earth and air that mind reel of old days;
Voices and laughter and light murmurings
Borne on the breeze that through the foliage plays;
And sounds that are not words, of human joy
From the deep bosom of the shelter’d wood;
Woods dimm’d by distance, where, half pleased, half coy,
The maiden chides her broken solitude.
‘The spring of youth!–how like to nature’s spring,
When its light pleasures all have pass’d away,
Are the dim memories which that word can bring,
Wringing the heart that feels its own decay!
The half forgotten charm of many a scene
Coming confusedly athwart the brain;
The wandering where our former steps have been
With forms that may not wander there again;–
‘Murmurings and voices where some single tone
Thrills for a moment, and forgets to sound;
Yearnings for all that now is past and gone,
And vain tears sinking in the mossy ground:–
Oh! this is all, and more than all, which stays
To mock us with the sunshine of past years;
And those spring shadows on our autumn days
Cast their dim gloom, and turn our smiles to tears!
‘She paused–and on the river bent her glance,
As if she loved to see the waters dance,
And dash their silver sparkles on the shore
In mockery of Ocean’s giant roar.
And a half smile lit up that pallid brow,
As, casting flowers upon the silent stream,
She watch’d the frail sweet blossoms glide and go
Like human pleasures in a blissful dream.
And then, with playful force she gently flung
Small shining pebbles from the river’s brink,
And o’er the eddying waters sadly hung,
Pleased, and yet sorrowful, to see them sink.
‘And thus,’ she said, ‘doth human love forget
Its idols–some sweet blessings float away,
Follow’d by one long look of vain regret,
As they are slowly hastening to decay;
And some, with sullen plunge, do mock our sight,
And suddenly go down into the tomb,
Startling the beating heart, whose fond delight
Chills into tears at that unlook’d-for doom.
And there remains no trace of them, save such
As the soft ripple leaves upon the wave;
Or a forgotten flower, whose dewy touch
Reminds us some are withering in the grave!
When all is over, and she is but dust
Whose heart so long hath held thy form enshrined;
When I go hence, as soon I feel I must,
Oh! let my memory, Isbal, haunt thy mind.
Not for myself–oh! not for me be given
Vain thoughts of vain regret; though that were sweet;
But for the sake of that all-blissful Heaven,
Where, if thou willest it, we yet may meet.
When in thy daily musing thou dost bring
Those scenes to mind, in which I had a share;
When in thy nightly watch thy heart doth wring
With thought of me–oh! murmur forth a prayer!
A prayer for me–for thee–for all who live
Together, yet asunder in one home–
Who their soul’s gloomy secret dare not give,
Lest it should blacken all their years to come.
Yes, Isbal, yes; to thee I owe the shade
That prematurely darkens on my brow;
And never had my lips a murmur made–
But–but that–see! the vision haunts me now!’
She pointed on the river’s surface, where
Our forms were pictured seated side by side;
I gazed on them, and her’s was very fair;
And mine–was as thou seest it now, my bride.
But her’s, though fair, was fading–wan and pale
The brow whose marble met the parting day.
Time o’er her form had thrown his misty veil,
And all her ebon curls were streak’d with grey:
But mine was youthful–yes! such youth as glows
In the young tree by lightning scathed and blasted–
That, joyless, waves its black and leafless boughs,
On which spring showers and summer warmth are wasted.
The lines upon my brow were those of age;
The hollow cheek might speak of time or woe;
But all the rest was as in life’s first stage–
The tangled curls without one touch of snow.
Oh! wherefore do I thus describe old times?
Am I not here–the same accursed thing,
Stamp’d with the brand of darkness for my crimes–
Never to die–but ever withering?
‘Yes-yes–it is of her that I would tell.
She turn’d, as from my lips a murmur fell,
Half curse, half groan–and with a gentle look
Of angel love and pity thus she spoke:–
‘Isbal, forgive me, if a bitter thought
This first, last time hath to thy heart been brought
By her who loved thee, ev’n in doubt and dread,
Better than ought, save him–the early dead!
Forgive me! for I would not pass from earth
With one dark thought, which may have had its birth
Unknown to thee; nor leave thee till I’ve said–
(Chide not these tears, which weakness makes me shed)–
Till I have said–and truth is on my tongue–
How fervently my heart to thine hath clung:
How I have shrunk, yet sought thy dear caress;
How I have feared–but never loved thee less:
How I have smiled for thee,–with thee, unbid,
While quivering tears rose ‘neath the swelling lid–
And still kept silence when I would have spoken
For fear that seal’d-up fountain should be broken.
How I have–Isbal–Isbal–when I’m gone,
And thou hast nothing left to smile upon;
Remember–’tis a weak, a foolish prayer–
But do remember how I tried to bear
That worst of human pangs, a breaking heart,
And never let thee know how deep the smart!
Remember, that I never sought to know
The secret source of thy mysterious woe;
Nor ask’d why ‘midst all changing things–unmoved
Thou–thou–(I tremble–heed it not, beloved!)–
Unmoved thou hast remained–Oh, Isbal, pray;
For dark the fear that clouds my parting day.
And though the word be vain–the time be pass’d,
Remember–I have loved thee to the last!’
She ceased, and strove my hand in hers to keep:
She wept not then–she was too weak to weep–
But with a faint fond gaze, half awe, half love,
Like an embodied prayer,–she look’d above.
And I–I would have told her then–that tale
The dream of which had turn’d her soft cheek pale,
And sent her to her grave–but she refused.
‘Isbal, thy confidence is not abused:
If thou art sinful, let me know it not;
If thou hast sorrow’d, let it be forgot:
The past is nothing now, and I would die
Without one thought which may not soar on high.’
And she did droop and die, and pass away,
Leaving her memory, and that youthful son
Who sorrow’d for a while and then was gay,
And spoke in smiles of that lamented one.
Happy! for him the present bore no sting,
The past no agonies:–the future rose,
Bright as the colours of an angel’s wing
Too far from earth to darken with its woes.
And he was form’d to love the haunts of men,
And to be fervently beloved again;
Firm, but yet gentle–fearless, but not bold–
Gay with the young, and tender to the old;
Scorning the heart where dark distrust was shown,
Because no treachery ever stain’d his own;
Ardent in love, but yet no-ways inclined
To sue wherever beauty sate enshrined:–
Such was my orphan care, and I became
Proud of Abdallah’s father’s blessed name.
Glad were the youths in whom fond friends could spy
Abdallah’s graceful mien and daring eye:
Fondly the aged hail’d their favourite boy
With faultering words of mingled praise and joy:
Nor less the fair and fairy ones adored
The eloquent of tongue, and swift of sword.
And, from the many beautiful, he chose
One that might share in peace his evening’s close;
There might be others fairer–but she was
So young–so meek–so feminine–applause,
And pride, and admiration, and the wild
Half worship which we pay earth’s erring child–
All the tumultuous brain and bosom’s stir
Sank into tenderness a sight of her.
You could not gaze on her, nor wish to shield
That shrinking form and gentle head from harm.
No borrow’d art could light or lustre yield,
But every bright addition spoil’d a charm.
‘Their bridal day–their bridal day–it is
A day to be remember’d, deep within
The gloomy caves where dwells the foe of bliss,
And sends his fiends to tempt man on to sin.
The hall was bright with many-colour’d lamps;
The air was peopled with soft happy sounds;
And, careless of the dewy midnight damps,
Young feet were twinkling in the moonlit grounds:
The purple wine was mantling in the cup,
And flashing its rich hue upon their brows,
Who bent with eager lips to quaff it up,
And add their laughter to the loud carouse:
The merry jest–the superstitious tale–
The random question, and the tart reply,
Rang on in murmurings confused–till pale
The moonlight waned, and left the dawning sky.
The light dance ceased–by lips as sweet as thine
The word of fond farewell was slowly said;
Many departed–many sank supine,
With folded arms beneath each heavy head.
But still, with every lingering tardy guest
The brimming wine-cup circled as before:
And still went round the oft-repeated jest,
Which with impatient glance the bridegroom bore.
There was a traveller, who chanced to be
Invited with this joyous company;
And he was telling of the wondrous sights–
The popular sports–the strange and wild delights
Which in far countries he had heard and seen;
And once in Italy, where he had been,
How in great ruin’d Rome he heard a strange
Wild horrible tale of one who, for a crime
Too deadly to relate, might never change,
But live undying to the end of time:
One who had wander’d sadly up and down
Through every sunny land and peopled town,
With Cain’s dark sign deep branded on his brow–
A haggard thing of guilt, and want, and woe!–
Breathings that seem’d like sobs, so loud they came
And chokingly from out my trembling frame,
Fill’d up the awful pause which came at length,
As if to give his words more horrid strength.
And every eye turn’d wonderingly and wild
Upon my face, while shudderingly I smiled,
And said, ‘It is a fearful tale indeed;
But one that scare needs daunt ye, since ye are
From the dark fiend whom Heaven such fate decreed,
And Rome’s imperial ruins, distant far.’
More had I said, nor heeded their reply,
But that Abdallah met my glance, and rose;–
And on his face I fix’d my wandering eye,
Which glared, and glared, and glared, and would not close.
And o’er his eager brow there shot a gleam,
As if but now remembering some dark dream.
And his lips parted–but he did not speak;
And his hand rose, but languidly and weak
Sank down again; while still we gazing stood
Into each other’s eyes, as if for food.
I tried to laugh, but hollow in my throat
The gurgling murmur died; and once again
That young arm rose, and on the table smote,
And the slow words came audibly and plain:
While on all sides they fled and left us there,
Guilt, fear, and anguish, battling with despair.
‘Arise, accursed! and go forth in peace!
No hand shall harm thee, and no tongue insult;
But ‘neath this roof thy unblest voice must cease;
And thy dark sin must meet its dark result.’
I trembled, but obey’d not; from his face
My eyes withdrew, and sank upon the ground
While standing rooted, helpless, in my place,
I utter’d some half inarticulate sound–
Terms that I scarce remember–all, save one,
Utter’d with agony–it was, ‘My son.’
And well I can recall the look, ev’n now,
Of scorn angelic on his lip and brow;
The cold defiance of his alter’d eye;
The tone that bade me wander forth and die:
Like the bright cherub to his home in hell
Dooming the first who sinn’d–the first who fell.
‘Thy son! I thank kind heaven, whate’er my lot,
That word is false; my father thou art not!
My father!–back unto thy place of crime,
Dark fiend, who slew my mother ere her time!
Darest thou remind me by the awful sound,
How a mock link to thee that angel bound?
Well can I now explain her gentle look
Of mingled terror, anguish, and rebuke,
As ‘neath thy blasting look, from day to day,
Sick of the joyless world, she pined away.
Breathe not the words, she loved thee: true, she loved:
In that her virtue, not thine own, is proved.
She loved, because the purity within
Her gentle heart was ignorance of sin.
Praise be to Heaven, she died! I little thought
Such words should to my secret soul be taught;
But I would howl them to the assembled world:
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee hurl’d
From out the haunts of men with fear and hate,
Like a wan leper from the city’s gate!
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee stand
With shrinking quivering form, and nerveless hand–
The cowardice of guilt within thy heart,
And shaking thee–all devil as thou art!
Go!–The poor leper, scarr’d, and pale, and wan,
And driven groaning from his fellow man;
Trailing his loathsome languid limbs afar,
And gazing back where all his loved ones are–
The loved, who love him not: oh! he is free
From ill or sadness, when compared with thee.
Though all forsake him as he helpless lies,
And, straining his dim eyes, doth wonder where
Are those who should watch o’er him as he dies,
Cool his hot mouth, and soften his despair:
Though in the dust with agony he rolls–
His is the body’s plague, and thine, and thine–the soul’s!’
‘Bitter the truth, and bitterly I spoke,
When from my lip the first deep murmur broke;
And then to that young heart I made appeal–
That heart which seem’d for all but me to feel:
Till like a torrent my pent words found way,
And thus I raved:–
”Happy the cottager! for he hath sons
And blue-eyed daughters made for love and mirth;
And many a child whose chasing footstep runs
Around the precincts of his humble hearth.
Borne on the breeze their light-toned laughter comes,
Making glad music in the parents’ ear;
And their bright faces light their humble homes,
Brows all unshaded yet by guilt or fear!
And if at length one rosy head bows low,
And prayers are vain from death’s dark power to save,
The lessen’d circle meet in mingled woe
To weep together o’er that gentle grave:
And, gazing through their misty tears, they see
(Like the blue opening through the stormy cloud)
Faces where grief was never meant to be,
And eyes whose joy doth mock the sable shroud.
The one link sever’d from that broken chain
Is lost, and they must cling to what is left;
Back to their many loves they turn again,
And half forget of what they were bereft.
But I–I had but thee! I had but thee!
And thou wert precious to my weary heart:
For thee I bow’d the head and bent the knee–
For thee I toil’d till the strong vein would start.
And thou didst pay me then with many a smile,
And broken words by joy-touch’d lips breathed forth;
And many a little playful infant wile–
Dear to my soul–to others little worth.
The lip that now hath quiver’d forth its curse,
The shuddering hand that bade my form obey–
The trembling limbs that shrink as if from worse
Than death could threaten to his human prey–
All–all have clung to me, with each fond sign:
The tottering feeble step hath sought my aid:
And oft have gently nestled, close to mine,
The clustering curls of that indignant head!
I am but human, though the tale be true
Which curses me with life, while life may last;
And the long future which doth mock my view,
But makes me cling more closely to the past.
Leave me not!–leave me not!–whate’er I be,
Thou surely shouldst not judge me, nor forsake;
If not by ties of nature bound to thee,
Sure there are other ties man may not break.
Leave me not!–leave me not! I am not changed,
Though thou but now hast heard my tale of sin:
I still can love thee, boy, as when we ranged,
Hand link’d in hand, those pleasant bowers within:
I know that other men will gaze and scoff
As the lone desolate one doth journey on;
I know that human things will cast me off–
But thou!–forsake me not–my son!–my son!’
‘He shook–the deep sob labour’d in his breast–
Then sprang to me with a convulsive cry;
And, as my head sank on that place of rest,
Mingled with mine hot tears of agony.
And she, his fairy bride–she did not shrink,
But clung to me, as if she wish’d to prove,
When sorrow’s cup is brimming to the brink,
How weak is woman’s fear to woman’s love!
Oh! nought of self is in their gentle hearts.
The things we tempt–and trample when they fall,
Danger and death–the dread that sin imparts,
Sadden, but shake not–they will love through all.
And we return’d, we three, unto our home–
The home that had been ours in peace so long,
And sunshine seem’d upon our hearts to come,
As that young bride pour’d forth her evening song.
‘The morning dawn’d, and glad I wander’d out
Where the young flowers hung clustering about:
And a rich wreath I wove for her who slept,
Where nature’s pearly drops still freshly wept.
That dark blue morning brighten’d into day–
But none came forth–oh! where, my heart, were they?
I sought them in the little shady grove,
Where their young lips first learn’d to breathe of love;
I sought them by the fountain’s playful stream,
Where they were wont of happiness to dream;
I call’d them out to breathe the open day–
But none came forth–oh! where, my heart, were they?
That heart beat thick–I enter’d where the couch
Bedeck’d with flowers had woo’d their fond approach;
I gazed around–no sign of life was there;
My voice unanswer’d died upon the air;
The yet unfaded flowers were blooming gay–
But none came forth–oh! where, my heart, were they?
Where were they?–ay, where were they? once again
I sought them, though I felt the search was vain–
Through every well-known path and sunny spot
I sought those truants–but I found them not;
And when at length the weary day was done,
I sat me down, and knew I was alone.
Oh! had a sob, a sound, but broke my sleep–
Had I but been allow’d to rise and weep–
Convulsively to strain them, ere they went,
To my chill’d breast; to give my anguish vent;
Methought I could have borne it; but to rise
And glad me in the fresh and waking skies–
To greet the sun with joyfulness,–to wait,
Expecting them, and yet be desolate;
To twine those flowers, and see them fade away,
Frail as the hopes that sicken’d with the day;
To groan and listen, and to groan again,
While Echo only answer’d to my pain;
To start from feverish dreams, and breathe unheard
Loud words of welcome to that vision’d pair;
To listen in my sleep some singing bird,
And wake and find it was not Zara there;
To stretch my eager arms those forms to bind,
And with redoubled bitterness to find
The shadowy vision gone I loved to trace,
And darkness where had beam’d each youthful face:–
This was my lot–and this I learnt to bear,
And cursed the human links which bound me still to care.