Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
Dedication - Poem by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
ONCE more, my harp! once more, although I thought
Never to wake thy silent strings again,
A wandering dream thy gentle chords have wrought,
And my sad heart, which long hath dwelt in pain,
Soars, like a wild bird from a cypress bough,
Into the poet's Heaven, and leaves dull grief below!
And unto Thee--the beautiful and pure--
Whose lot is cast amid that busy world
Where only sluggish Dulness dwells secure,
And Fancy's generous wing is faintly furl'd;
To thee--whose friendship kept its equal truth
Through the most dreary hour of my embitter'd youth--
I dedicate the lay. Ah! never bard,
In days when Poverty was twin with song;
Nor wandering harper, lonely and ill-starr'd;
Cheer'd by some castle's chief, and harboured long;
Not Scott's 'Last Minstrel,' in his trembling lays,
Woke with a warmer heart the earnest meed of praise!
For easy are the alms the rich man spares
To sons of Genius, by misfortune bent,
But thou gav'st me, what woman seldom dares,
Belief--in spite of may a cold dissent--
When slandered and maligned, I stood apart,
From those whose bounded power, hath wrung, not crushed, my heart.
Then, then, when cowards lied away my name,
And scoff'd to see me feebly stem the tide;
When some were kind on whom I had no claim,
And some forsook on whom my love relied,
And some, who might have battled for my sake,
Stood off in doubt to see what turn 'the world' would take--
Thou gavest me that the poor do give the poor,
Kind words, and holy wishes, and true tears;
The loved, the near of kin, could do no more,
Who changed not with the gloom of varying years,
But clung the closer when I stood forlorn,
And blunted Slander's dart with their indignant scorn.
For they who credit crime are they who feel
Their own hearts weak to unresisted sin;
Mem'ry, not judgment, prompts the thoughts which steal
O'er minds like these, an easy faith to win;
And tales of broken truth are still believed
Most readily by those who have themselves deceived.
But, like a white swan down a troubled stream,
Whose ruffling pinion hath the power to fling
Aside the turbid drops which darkly gleam
And mar the freshness of her snowy wing,--
So Thou, with queenly grace and gentle pride,
Along the world's dark waves in purity dost glide;
Thy pale and pearly cheek was never made
To crimson with a faint false-hearted shame;
Thou didst not shrink,--of bitter tongues afraid,
Who hunt in packs the object of their blame;
To Thee the sad denial still held true,
For from thine own good thoughts thy heart its mercy drew.
And, though my faint and tributary rhymes
Add nothing to the glory of thy day,
Yet every Poet hopes that after-times
Shall set some value on his votive lay,--
And I would fain one gentle deed record
Among the many such with which thy life is stored.
So, when these lines, made in a mournful hour,
Are idly open'd to the Stranger's eye,
A dream of THEE, aroused by Fancy's power,
Shall be the first to wander floating by;
And they who never saw thy lovely face,
Shall pause,--to conjure up a vision of its grace!
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