Charles Lamb

(10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834 / London)

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A Vision Of Repentance


I saw a famous fountain, in my dream,
Where shady path-ways to a valley led;
A weeping willow lay upon that stream,
And all around the fountain brink were spread
Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,
Forming a doubtful twilight-desolate and sad.


The place was such, that whoso enter'd in,
Disrobed was of every earthly thought,
And straight became as one that knew not sin,
Or to the world's first innocence was brought;
Enseem'd it now, he stood on holy ground,
In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.


A most strange calm stole o'er my soothed sprite;
Long time I stood, and longer had I staid,
When, lo! I saw, saw by the sweet moon-light,
Which came in silence o'er that silent shade,
Where, near the fountain, something like despair
Made, of that weeping willow, garlands for her hair.


And eke with painful fingers she inwove
Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn-
'The willow garland, that was for her love,
And these her bleeding temples would adorn.'
With sighs her heart nigh burst, salt tears fast fell,
As mournfully she bended o'er that sacred well.


To whom when I addrest myself to speak,
She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said;
The delicate red came mantling o'er her cheek,
And, gath'ring up her loose attire, she fled
To the dark covert of that woody shade,
And in her goings seem'd a timid gentle maid.


Revolving in my mind what this should mean,
And why that lovely lady plained so;
Perplex'd in thought at that mysterious scene,
And doubting if 'twere best to stay or go,
I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around,
When from the shades came slow a small and plaintive sound.


'Psyche am I, who love to dwell
In these brown shades, this woody dell,
Where never busy mortal came,
Till now, to pry upon my shame.


At thy feet what thou dost see
The waters of repentance be,
Which, night and day, I must augment
With tears, like a true penitent,


If haply so my day of grace
Be not yet past; and this lone place,
O'er-shadowy, dark, excludeth hence
All thoughts but grief and penitence.'


'Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid!
And wherefore in this barren shade
Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed?
Can thing so fair repentance need?'


'O! I have done a deed of shame,
And tainted is my virgin fame,
And stain'd the beauteous maiden white,
In which my bridal robes were dight.'


'And who the promised spouse, declare:
And what those bridal garments were.'


'Severe and saintly righteousness
Compos'd the clear white bridal dress;
Jesus, the son of Heaven's high king,
Bought with his blood the marriage ring.
A wretched sinful creature, I
Deem'd lightly of that sacred tie,
Gave to a treacherous world my heart,
And play'd the foolish wanton's part.


Soon to these murky shades I came,
To hide from the sun's light my shame.
And still I haunt this woody dell,
And bathe me in that healing well,
Whose waters clear have influence
From sin's foul stains the soul to cleanse;
And, night and day, I them augment,
With tears, like a true penitent,
Until, due expiation made,
And fit atonement fully paid,
The lord and bridegroom me present,
Where in sweet strains of high consent,
God's throne before, the Seraphim
Shall chaunt the extatic marriage hymn.'


'Now Christ restore thee soon'-I said,
And thenceforth all my dream was fled.

Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

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