Alice Cary

(1820-1871 / USA)

Agatha To Harold

Come there ever memories, Harold,
Like a half remembered song
From the time of gladness vanished
Down the distance, oh, so long!
Come they to me - not in sadness,
For they strike into my soul,
As the sharp axe of the woodsman
Strikes the dead and sapless bole.

Just across the orchard hill-top,
Through the branches gray and bare,
We can see the village church-yard -
I shall not be lonesome there.
When the cold wet leaves are falling
On the turfless mound below,
You will sometimes think about me,
You will love me then, I know.
In the window of my chamber
Is a plant with pale blooms crowned -
If the sun shines warm to-morrow,
In that quiet church-yard ground
I will set it; and at noontimes,
When the school-girls thither wend,
They will see it o'er me blossom
And believe I had a friend.
Knowest thou the time, oh Harold,
When at many a green mound's head
Read we o'er the simple records
Love had written of the dead.
While the west was faintly burning,
Where the cloudy day was set,
Like a blushing press of kisses -
Ah, thou never canst forget!

'Thou art young' thou saidst, 'thy future
All in sunlight seems to shine -
Art content to crown thy maytime
Out of autumn love like mine?
Couldst thou see my locks a fading
With no sorrow and no fears? -
For thou knowest I stand in shadows
Deep to almost twice thy years.'
In that time my life-blood mounted
From my bosom to my brow,
And I answered simply, truly -
(I was younger then than now) -
'Were it strange if that a daisy
Sheltered from the tempest stroke,
Bloomed contented in the shadow
Of the overarching oak?'

When the sun had like a herdsman
Clipt the misty waves of morn,
By the breezes driven seaward
Like a flock of lambs new-shorn;
Thou hadst left me, and oh, Harold,
Half in gladness, half in tears,
I was gazing down the future
O'er the lapses of the years;
To what time the clouds about me -
All my night of sorrow done -
Should blow out their crimson linings
O'er the rising of love's sun;
And I said in exultation,
'Not the bright ones in the sky,
Then shall know a sweeter pleasure
Than, my Harold, thou and I.'

Thrice the scattered seed had sprouted
As the spring thaw reappeared,
And the winter frosts had grizzled
Thrice the autumn's yellow beard;
When that lovely day of promise
Darkened with a dread eclipse,
And my heart's long clasped joyance
Died in moans upon my lips.
Silent, saw I other maidens
To a thousand pleasures wed -
'Save me from the past, good angel!' -
This was all the prayer I said.
Sometimes they would smile upon me
As their gay troops passed me by,
Saying softly to each other,
'How is she content to die?'

Oh, they little guess the barren
Wastes on which my visions go,
And the conflicts fierce but silent
That at last have made me so.
Shall the bright-winged bird be netted
Singing in the open fields,
And not struggle with the fowler:
Long and vainly ere it yields -
Or the heart to death surrender
Mortal hoping without strife?
But the struggle now is ended -
Give me, God, a better life!

Submitted: Friday, April 11, 2014

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