William Edmondstoune Aytoun
The Buried Flower
In the silence of my chamber,
When the night is still and deep,
And the drowsy heave of ocean
Mutters in its charmed sleep,
Oft I hear the angel-voices
That have thrilled me long ago,-
Voices of my lost companions,
Lying deep beneath the snow.
O, the garden I remember,
In the gay and sunny spring,
When our laughter made the thickets
And the arching alleys ring!
O the merry burst of gladness!
O the soft and tender tone!
O the whisper never uttered
Save to one fond ear alone!
O the light of life that sparkled
In those bright and bounteous eyes!
O the blush of happy beauty,
Tell-tale of the heart's surprise:
O the radiant light that girdled
Field and forest, land and sea,
When we all were young together,
And the earth was new to me:
Where are now the flowers we tended?
Withered, broken, branch and stem;
Where are now the hopes we cherished?
Scattered to the winds with them.
For ye, too, were flowers, ye dear ones!
Nursed in hope and reared in love,
Looking fondly ever upward
To the clear blue heaven above:
Smiling on the sun that cheered us,
Rising lightly from the rain,
Never folding up your freshness
Save to give it forth again:
Never shaken, save by accents
From a tongue that was not free,
As the modest blossom trembles
At the wooing of the bee.
O! 'tis sad to lie and reckon
All the days of faded youth,
All the vows that we believed in,
All the words we spoke in truth.
Severed-were it severed only
By an idle thought of strife,
Such as time might knit together;
Not the broken chord of life!
O my heart! that once so truly
Kept another's time and tune,
Heart, that kindled in the spring-tide,
Look around thee in the noon.
Where are they who gave the impulse
To thy earliest thought and flow?
Look around the ruined garden-
All are withered, dropped, or low!
Seek the birth-place of the lily,
Dearer to the boyish dream
Than the golden cups of Eden,
Floating on its slumbrous stream;
Never more shalt thou behold her-
She, the noblest, fairest, best:
She that rose in fullest beauty,
Like a queen, above the rest.
Only still I keep her image
As a thought that cannot die;
He who raised the shade of Helen
Had no greater power than I.
O! I fling my spirit backward,
And I pass o'er years of pain;
All I loved is rising round me,
All the lost returns again.
Blow, for ever blow, ye breezes,
Warmly as ye did before!
Bloom again, ye happy gardens,
With the radiant tints of yore!
Warble out in spray and thicket,
All ye choristers unseen;
Let the leafy woodland echo
With an anthem to its queen!
Lo! she cometh in her beauty,
Stately with a Juno grace,
Raven locks, Madonna-braided
O'er her sweet and blushing face:
Eyes of deepest violet, beaming
With the love that knows not shame-
Lips, that thrill my inmost being
With the utterance of a name.
And I bend the knee before her,
As a captive ought to bow,-
Pray thee, listen to my pleading,
Sovereign of my soul art thou!
O my dear and gentle lady,
Let me show thee all my pain,
Ere the words that late were prisoned
Sink into my heart again.
Love, they say, is very fearful
Ere its curtain be withdrawn,
Trembling at the thought of error
As the shadows scare the fawn.
Love hath bound me to thee, lady,
Since the well-remembered day
When I first beheld thee coming
In the light of lustrous May.
Not a word I dared to utter-
More than he who, long ago,
Saw the heavenly shapes descending
Over Ida's slopes of snow:
When a low and solemn music
Floated through the listening grove,
And the throstle's song was silenced,
And the doling of the dove:
When immortal beauty opened
All its grace to mortal sight,
And the awe of worship blended
With the throbbing of delight.
As the shepherd stood before them
Trembling in the Phrygian dell,
Even so my soul and being
Owned the magic of the spell;
And I watched thee ever fondly,
Watched thee, dearest! from afar,
With the mute and humble homage
Of the Indian to a star.
Thou wert still the Lady Flora
In her morning garb of bloom;
Where thou wert was light and glory,
Where thou wert not, dearth and gloom.
So for many a day I followed
For a long and weary while,
Ere my heart rose up to bless thee
For the yielding of a smile,-
Ere thy words were few and broken
As they answered back to mine,
Ere my lips had power to thank thee
For the gift vouchsafed by thine.
Then a mighty gush of passion
Through my inmost being ran;
Then my older life was ended,
And a dearer course began.
Dearer!-O, I cannot tell thee
What a load was swept away,
What a world of doubt and darkness
Faded in the dawning day!
All my error, all my weakness,
All my vain delusions fled:
Hope again revived, and gladness
Waved its wings above my head.
Like the wanderer of the desert,
When, across the dreary sand,
Breathes the perfume from the thickets
Bordering on the promised land;
When afar he sees the palm-trees
Cresting o'er the lonely well,
When he hears the pleasant tinkle
Of the distant camel's bell:
So a fresh and glad emotion
Rose within my swelling breast,
And I hurried swiftly onwards
To the haven of my rest.
Thou wert there with word and welcome,
With thy smile so purely sweet;
And I laid my heart before thee,
Laid it, darling, at thy feet!-
O ye words that sound so hollow
As I now recall your tone!
What are ye but empty echoes
Of a passion crushed and gone?
Wherefore should I seek to kindle
Light, when all around is gloom?
Wherefore should I raise a phantom
O'er the dark and silent tomb?
Early wert thou taken, Mary!
In thy fair and glorious prime,
Ere the bees had ceased to murmur
Through the umbrage of the lime.
Buds were blowing, waters flowing,
Birds were singing on the tree,
Every thing was bright and glowing,
When the angels came for thee.
Death had laid aside his terror,
And he found thee calm and mild,
Lying in thy robes of whiteness,
Like a pure and stainless child.
Hardly had the mountain violet
Spread its blossoms on the sod,
Ere they laid the turf above thee,
And thy spirit rose to God.
Early wert thou taken, Mary!
And I know 'tis vain to weep-
Tears of mine can never wake thee
From thy sad and silent sleep.
O away! my thoughts are earthward!
Not asleep, my love, art thou!
Dwelling in the land of glory
With the saints and angels now.
Brighter, fairer far than living,
With no trace of woe or pain,
Robed in everlasting beauty,
Shall I see thee once again,
By the light that never fadeth,
Underneath eternal skies,
When the dawn of resurrection
Breaks o'er deathless Paradise.
William Edmondstoune Aytoun's Other Poems
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