« PreviousContinue »
BY THE AUTHOR OF “TALES OF THE MOORS."
Circumstances of domestic tyranny and misfortune, having separated in infancy the daughter of Countess 0 — from her unhappy mother, the latter, on being conducted by the Empress, to the Asylum for noble orphans, recognised her child among two hundred other young women.
Is there on earth a name of magic power,
To make hearts vibrate, hearts that sternly turn
From sounds like it, that cannot stir the soul ?-
Is there a name, that lisped in infancy,
Dwells on the lip of youth, and even in age,
Through the deep time-worn caverns of the heart,
Where many a name beside has died away,
Still softly echoes ?- Mother! Thine alone!
There lived a Mother— lived with speechless smile,
To greet a babe, such as her silent prayers
Had imaged, when her full-heart soared beyond
Things of this world. She lived to see it draw
Existence from her bosóm, while her smile
Became the fountain where the expanding soul
Found a like nurture : lived, till save that eye,
Which dropped upon its cheek the earliest tear,
None else could laugh its childish griefs away ;-
Till, save that voice, that whispered first through pangs,
All unremembered, blessings on its head,
None could woo slumber to its lids, or scare
The tiny phantoms, murdering even the sleep
Of infancy. Ay, more-she lived to hear,
With strange delicious wonder, sounds-as though
They came from things inanimate,- the word
Which nature loves to teach, and loves to hear
Long ere another follows, and which still
The Mother's ear first catches. Nay, she loved
By parting's playful mockery to seduce
The fairy form to totter to her side,
And hide the panting trembler in her heart !-
When, as if heaven its murky arrows hurled
Through skies of cloudless blue,mas sudden glides
The whelming lawine, when the sunniest smiles
Of spring unbind it, -as the central fires
Heave the dread sea-quake when no tempests blow;
Thus, all unfeared, unthreatened, unbelieved,
Fell on that mother's heart the dire command,
To bid her child farewell !-- It could not be !-
’T was trial, sure— all else had been endured ;
’T was sport, perchance,- for he whose iron yoke
Entered her soul, had pastimes such as these ;
’T was murder - all beside had failed to kill ! -
It must not be! a few short months before
Malice had been unheeded, trial borne,
And death most welcome :—but a Mother's heart
Beat in her bosom now, and gave her strength
To live, to suffer,—any thing but part!
She woke one dreadful morn- and there was nought
To smile upon her, - nought to hide its locks
Of clustering amber in her widowed breast;
To breathe upon her cheek like spring's first sigh,
And with heaven's music soothe her waking ear!
The first dread pang was short,— for reason fled,
And anguish with it :- pitying fancy brought
Again her bosom's treasure, and in fond
Delusions lost, she clasped in thought her child !
There came an hour of retribution.- He,
Who Nature's holiest bands could sever thus,
Fell, his own treason's victim; wept by none !
None, save that babe, whose tears so oft had flowed
Beneath his frown that now they quicklier dried.
O'er this frail scion from a blasted stem,
Imperial justice softened :-Pity threw
The asylum open, where a sylph-like band
Of orphans grew beneath their sovereign's smile.
Years onward rolled. As if some mystic link :
Had bound their being, still as reason dawned
In brightening radiance o'er the daughter's path,
From the far mother's long benighted soul
The mists of error fled.—Her speech grew mild,
Her eye intelligent,- her smile no more
Made hearts that marked it, broken like her own!
Reason returned,— but with it, sense of woe,
And utter destitution.--Much she bore,
Ere, like a vine, whose stay by lightnings riven,
Has left it prostrate, — at her Sovereign's feet
She lay a suppliant. Royal Catherine raised
The mourner ; filled with god-like joy, that one
Who sought but bread to moisten with her tears,
’T was hers to gladden with that matchless boon,
Making all treasures poor- a long-lost child !
Oh, Instinct, thou art wond'rous! Dost thou lend
The dumb brute, language, and the mute bird, song ?-
Dost thou bring care to many a downy breast,
To chase it thence with all a parent's joy,-
And shall a mother's bosom e’er escape
Thy wizard sway?-Shall e’er her soul forget
The babe she nurtured? No, though years have rolled,
And seas and clouds between !-All these had gone
Deep o'er that widowed mother's wasted brow;
The memory of her child was as the thonghts
We bring from brighter worlds, that may not brave
Earth’s grosser element,— but melt in air,
Even as they came. The Empress watched, benign,
An hour propitious, and thus softly spoke :-
“ Countess ! methinks thy widowed state demands
Duteous attendance from some orphan maid :
Come with me,--and from out the blooming group
Of Russia's daughters, choose one for thine own!”
The hall was entered—and the orphans thronged
Round their Imperial mother ;-awe, surprise,
And gladness, mantling on each youthful cheek.
Ah! who could choose, where all alike seemed fair?
And yet the eye would rest on one meek girl,
Behind the younger, gayer group retired,
Whom maiden bashfulness had taught to stand
Somewhat apart ;—while modesty's deep glow
Lent youth's rich roses to a cheek oft pale.
Her eye was downcast, but such fringe as veiled
Its brightness, nature never wove in vain ;
No! nor such clustering ringlets, formed to play
Mid veins of azure, o'er a brow of snow.
“ Give me yon maiden,” cried the Mother's heart;
And yet she knew not why, for she had drank
Deep draughts of Lethe :- not a trace remained
Of all that she had borne, and mused, and wept,
Save cherub lineaments, vague, undefined
As golden tracery of a summer cloud ;-