Page images

With that she stoops above his brow, and bids
Her busy hands forsake his tangled hair,
And tenderly lift up those coffer-lids,
That she may gaze upon the jewels there,
Like babes that pluck an early bud apart,
To know the dainty color of its heart.

Now, picture one, soft creeping to a bed,
Who slowly parts the fringe-hung canopies,
And then starts back to find the sleeper dead;
So she looks in on his uncovered eyes,
And seeing all within so drear and dark,
Her own bright soul dies in her like a spark.

Backward she falls, like a pale prophetess,
Under the swoon of holy divination :
And what had all surpassed her simple guess,
She now resolves in this dark revelation;
Death's very mystery,

-oblivious death; Long sleep, --- deep night, and an entrancéd breath,

Yet life, though wounded sore, not wholly slain,
Merely obscured, and not extinguished, lies;
Her breath, that stood at ebb, soon flows again,
Heaving her hollow breast with heavy sighs,
And light comes in and kindles up the gloom,
To light her spirit from its transient tomb.

Then like the sun, awakened at new dawn,
With pale bewildered face she peers about,
And spies blurred images obscurely drawn,
Uncertain shadows in a haze of doubt
But her true grief grows shapely by degrees,
A perished creature lying on her knees.


And now she knows how that old Murther preys,
Whose quarry on her lap lies newly slain :
How he roams all abroad and grimly slayes,
Like a lean tiger in Love's own domain ;
Parting fond mates, -- and oft in flowery lawns
Bereaves mild mothers of their milky fawns.

0, too dear knowledge! 0, pernicious carning!
Foul curse engraven upon beauty's page!
Even now the sorrow of that deadly learning
Ploughs up her brow, like an untimely age,
And on her cheek stamps verdict of death's truth
By canker blights upon the bud of youth !

For as unwholesome winds decay the leaf,
So her cheeks' rose is perished by her sighs,
And withers in the sickly breath of grief;
Whilst unacquainted rheum bedims her eyes,
Tears, virgin tears, the first that ever leapt
From those young lids, now plentifully wept.

Whence being shed, the liquid crystalline
Drops straightway down, refusing to partake
In gross admixture with the baser brine,
But shrinks and hardens into pearls opaque,
Hereafter to be worn on arms and ears;
So one maid's trophy is another's tears !

"O, foul Arch-Shadow, thou old cloud of Night,” (Thus in her frenzy she began to wail,) 66 Thou blank oblivion blotter out of light, Life's ruthless murderer, and dear Love's bale! Why hast thou left thy havoc incomplete, Leaving me here, and slaying the more sweet ?

66 Lo! what a lovely ruin thou liast made !
Alas! alas! thou hast no eyes to see,
And blindly slow'st him in misguided shade.
Would I had lent my doting sense to thee!
But now I turn to thee, a willing mark,
Thine arrows miss me in the aimless dark !

“O, doubly cruel ! twice misdoing spite,
But I will guide thee with my helping eyes,
Or walk the wide world through, devoid of sight,
Yet thou shalt know me by my many sighs.
Nay, then thou shouldst have spared my rose, false Deatii,
And known Love's flower by smelling his sweet breath ;

6. Or, when thy furious rage was round him dealing,
Love should have grown from touching of his skin;
But like cold marble thou art all unfeeling,
And hast no ruddy springs of warmth within,
And being but a shape of freezing bone,
Thy touching only turned my love to stone!

66 And here, alas ! he lies across my knees,
With cheeks still colder than the stilly wave,
The light beneath his eyelids seems to freeze
Here then, since Love is dead and lacks a grave,
O, come and dig it in my sad heart's core-
That wound will bring a balsam for its sore !

6. For art thou not a sleep where sense of ill
Lies stingless, like a sense benumbed with cold,
Healing all hurts only with sleep's good will ?
So shall I slumber, and perchance behold
My living love in dreams, ---- (), happy night,
That lets me company his banished spright!

“O, poppy death! sweet poisoner of sleep;
Where shall I seek for thee, oblivious drug,
That I may steep thee in my drink, and creep
Out of life's coil ? Look, Idol! how I hug
Thy dainty image in this strict embrace,
And kiss this clay-cold model of thy face!

“ Put out, put out these sun-consuming lamps !
I do but read my sorrows by their shine;
O, come and quench them with thy oozy damps,
And let my darkness intermix with thine ;
Since love is blinded, wherefore should I see?
Now love is death, --- death will be love to me!

Away, away, this vain complaining breath,
It does but stir the troubles that I weep;
Let it be hushed and quieted, sweet Death;
The wind must settle ere the wave can sleep, --
Since love is silent I would fain be mute;
0, Death, be gracious to my dying suit !"

Thus far she pleads, but pleading nought avails her,
For Death, her sullen burthen, deigns no heed;
Then with dumb craving arms, since darkness fails her,
She prays to heaven's fair light, as if her need
Inspired her there were gods to pity pain,
Or end it, but she lifts her arms in vain!

Poor gilded Grief! the subtle light by this
With mazy gold creeps through her watery mine,
And, diving downward through the green abyss,
Lights up her palace with an amber shine ;
There, falling on her arms, the crystal skin
Reveals the ruby tide that fares within.

Look how the fulsome beam would hang a glory
On her dark hair, but the dark hairs repel it ;
Look how the perjured glow suborns a story
On her pale lips, but lips refuse to tell it;
Grief will not swerve from grief, however told
On coral lips, or charactered in gold;

Or else, thou maid ! safe' anchored on Love's neck,,
Listing the hapless doomi of young Leander,
Thou wouldst not shed a tear for that old wreck,
Sitting secure where no wild surges wander;
Whereas the woe moves on with tragic pace,
And shows its sad reflection in thy face.

Thus having travelled on, and tracked the tale
Like the due course of an old bas-relief,
Where Tragedy pursues her progress pale,
Brood here a while upon that sea-maid's grief,
And take a deeper imprint from the frieze
Of that young Fate, with Death upon her knees.

Then whilst the melancholy Muse withal
Resumes her music in a sadder tone,
Meanwhile the sunbeam strikes upon the wall,
Conceive that lovely siren to live on,
Even as Hope whispered, the Promethean light
Would kindle up the dead Leander's spright.

* 'Tis light,” she says, " that feeds the glittering stars,
And those were stars set in his heavenly brow;
But this salt cloud, this cold sea vapor, mars
Their radiant breathing, and obscures them now;
Therefore I'll lay him in the clear blue air,
And see how these dull orbs will kindle there."

« PreviousContinue »