Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton (22 March 1808 – 15 June 1877 / London)
'TWAS summer eve; the changeful beams still play'd
On the fir-bark and through the beechen shade;
Still with soft crimson glow'd each floating cloud;
Still the stream glitter'd where the willow bow'd;
Still the pale moon sate silent and alone,
Nor yet the stars had rallied round her throne;
Those diamond courtiers, who, while yet the West
Wears the red shield above his dying breast,
Dare not assume the loss they all desire,
Nor pay their homage to the fainter fire,
But wait in trembling till the Sun's fair light
Fading, shall leave them free to welcome Night!
So when some Chief, whose name through realms afar
Was still the watchword of succesful war,
Met by the fatal hour which waits for all,
Is, on the field he rallied, forced to fall,
The conquerors pause to watch his parting breath,
Awed by the terrors of that mighty death;
Nor dare the meed of victory to claim,
Nor lift the standard to a meaner name,
Till every spark of soul hath ebb'd away,
And leaves what was a hero, common clay.
Oh! Twilight! Spirit that dost render birth
To dim enchantments; melting Heaven with Earth,
Leaving on craggy hills and rumning streams
A softness like the atmosphere of dreams;
Thy hour to all is welcome! Faint and sweet
Thy light falls round the peasant's homeward feet,
Who, slow returning from his task of toil,
Sees the low sunset gild the cultured soil,
And, tho' such radliance round him brightly glows,
Marks the small spark his cottage window throws.
Still as his heart forestals his weary pace,
Fondly he dreams of each familiar face,
Recalls the treasures of his narrow life,
His rosy children, and his sunburnt wife,
To whom his coming is the chief event
Of simple days in cheerful labour spent.
The rich man's chariot hath gone whirling past,
And those poor cottagers have only cast
One careless glance on all that show of pride,
Then to their tasks turn'd quietly aside;
But him they wait for, him they welcome home,
Fond sentinels look forth to see him come;
The fagot sent for when the fire grew dim,
The frugal meal prepared, are all for him;
For him the watching of that sturdy boy,
For him those smiles of tenderness and joy,
For him,--who plods his sauntering way along,
Whistling the fragment of some village song!
Dear art thou to the lover, thou sweet light,
Fair fleeting sister of the mournful night!
As in impatient hope he stands apart,
Companion'd only by his beating heart,
And with an eager fancy oft beholds
The vision of a white robe's fluttering folds
Flit through the grove, and gain the open mead,
True to the hour by loving hearts agreed!
At length she comes. The evening's holy grace
Mellows the glory of her radiant face;
The curtain of that daylight faint and pale
Hangs round her like the shrouding of a veil;
As, turning with a bashful timid thought,
From the dear welcome she herself hath sought,
Her shadowy profile drawn against the sky
Cheats, while it charms, his fond adoring eye.
Oh! dear to him, to all, since first the flowers
Of happy Eden's consecrated bowers
Heard the low breeze along the branches play,
And God's voice bless the cool hour of the day.
For though that glorious Paradise be lost,
Though earth by blighting storms be roughly cross'd,
Though the long curse demands the tax of sin,
And the day's sorrows with the day begin,
That hour, once sacred to God's presence, still
Keeps itself calmer from the touch of ill,
The holiest hour of earth. Then toil doth cease--
Then from the yoke the oxen find release
Then man rests pausing from his many cares,
And the world teems with children's sunset prayers!
Then innocent things seek out their natural rest,
The babe sinks slumbering on its mother's breast;
The birds beneath their leafy covering creep,
Yea, even the flowers fold up their buds in sleep;
And angels, floating by, on radiant wings,
Hear the low sounds the breeze of evening brings,
Catch the sweet incense as it floats along,
The infant's prayer, the mother's cradle-song,
And bear the holy gifts to worlds afar,
As thigs too sacred for this fallen star.
At such an hour, on such a summer night,
Silent and calm in its transparent light,
A widow'd parent watch'd her slumbering child,
On whose young face the sixteenth summer smiled.
Fair was the face she watch'd! Nor less, because
Beauty's perfection seem'd to make a pause,
And wait, on that smooth brow, some further touch,
Some spell from Time,--the great magician,--such
As calls the closed bud out of hidden gloom,
And bids it wake to glory, light, and bloom.
Girlish as yet, but with the gentle grace
Of a young fawn in its low resting-place,
Her folded limbs were lying: from her hand
A group of wild-flowers,--Nature's brightest band,
Of all that laugh along the Summer fields,
Of all the sunny hedge-row freely yields,
Of all that in the wild-wood darkly hide,
Or on the thyme-bank wave in breezy pride,--
Show'd, that the weariness which closed in sleep
So tranquil, child-like, innocent, and deep,
Nor festal gaiety, nor toilsome hours,
Had brought; but, like a flower among the flowers,
She had been wandering 'neath the Summer sky,
Youth on her lip and gladness in her eye,
Twisting the wild rose from its native thorn,
And the blue scabious from the sunny corn;
Smiling and singing like a spirit fair
That walk'd the world, but had no dwelling there.
And still (as though their faintly-scented breath
Preserv'd a meek fidelity in death)
Each late imprison'd blossom fondly lingers
Within the touch of her unconscious fingers,
Though, languidly unclasp'd, that hand no more
Guards its possession of the rifled store.
So wearily she lay; so sweetly slept;
So by her side fond watch the mother kept;
And, as above her gentle child she bent,
So like they seem'd in form and lineament,
You might have deem'd her face its shadow gave
To the clear mirror of a fountain's wave;
Only in this they differ'd; that, while one
Was warm and radiant as the Summer sun,
The other's smile had more a moonlight play,
For many tears had wept its glow away;
Yet was she fair; of loveliness so true,
That time, which faded, never could subdue:
And though the sleeper, like a half-blown rose,
Show'd bright as angels in her soft repose,
Though bluer veins ran through each snowy lid,
Curtaining sweet eyes, by long dark lashes hid--
Eyes that as yet had never learnt to weep,
But woke up smiling, like a child's, from sleep;
Though fainter lines were pencill'd on the brow,
Which cast soft shadow on the orbs below;
Though deeper colour flush'd her youthful cheek,
In its smooth curve more joyous and less meek,
And fuller seem'd the small and crimson mouth,
With teeth like those that glitter in the South,--
She had but youth's superior brightness, such
As the skill'd painter gives with flattering touch
When he would picture every lingering grace
Which once shone brighter in some copied face;
And it was compliment, whene'er she smiled,
To say, 'Thou'rt like thy mother, my fair child!'
Sweet is the image of the brooding dove!--
Holy as Heaven a mother's tender love!
The love of many prayers and many tears,
Which changes not with dim declining years,--
The only love which on this teeming earth
Asks no return from Passion's wayward birth;
The only love that, with a touch divine,
Displaces from the heart's most secret shrine
The idol SELF. Oh! prized beneath thy due
When life's untried affections all are new,--
Love, from whose calmer hope and holier rest
(Like a fledged bird, impatient of the nest)
The human heart, rebellious, springs to seek
Delights more vehement, in ties more weak;
How strange to us appears, in after-life,
That term of mingled carelessness and strife,
When guardianship so gentle gall'd our pride,
When it was holiday to leave thy side,
When, with dull ignorance that would not learn,
We lost those hours that never can return--
Hours, whose most sweet communion Nature meant
Should be in confidence and kindness spent,
That we (hereafter mourning) might believe
In human faith, though all around deceive;
Might weigh against the sad and startling crowd
Of ills which wound the weak and chill the proud,
Of woes 'neath which (despite of stubborn will,
Philosophy's vain boast, and erring skill)
The strong heart downward like a willow bends,
Failure of love,--and treachery of friends,--
Our recollections of the undefiled,
The sainted tie, of parent and of child!
Oh! happy days! Oh years that glided by,
Scarce chronicled by one poor passing sigh!
When the dark storm sweeps past us, and the soul
Struggles with fainting strength to reach the goal;
When the false baits that lured us only cloy,
What would we give to grasp your vanish'd joy!
From the cold quicksands of Life's treacherous shore
The backward light our anxious eyes explore,
Measure the miles our wandering feet have come,
Sinking heart-weary, far away from home,
Recall the voice that whisper'd love and peace,
The smile that bid our early sorrows cease,
And long to bow our grieving heads, and weep
Low on the gentle breast that lull'd us first to sleep!
Ah! bless'd are they for whom 'mid all their pains
That faithful and unalter'd love remains;
Who, Life wreck'd round them,--hunted from their rest,--
And, by all else forsaken or distress'd,--
Claim, in one heart, their sanctuary and shrine--
As I, my Mother, claim'd my place in thine!
Oft, since that hour, in sadness I retrace
My childhood's vision of thy calm sweet face;
Oft see thy form, its mournful beauty shrouded
In thy black weeds, and coif of widow's woe;
Thy dark expressive eyes all dim and clouded
By that deep wretchedness the lonely know:
Stifling thy grief, to hear some weary task
Conn'd by unwilling lips, with listless air,
Hoarding thy means, lest future need might ask
More than the widow's pittance then could spare.
Hidden, forgotten by the great and gay,
Enduring sorrow, not by fits and starts,
But the long, self-denial, day by day,
Alone amidst thy brood of careless hearts!
Striving to guide, to teach, or to restrain
The young rebellious spirits crowding round,
Who saw not, kuew not, felt not for thy pain,
And could not comfort--yet had power to wound!
Ah! how my selfish heart, which since hath grown
Familiar with deep trials of its own,
With riper judgment looking to the past,
Regrets the careless days that flew so fast,
Stamps with remorse each wasted hour of time,
And darkens every folly into crime!
Warriors and statesmen have their meed of praise,
And what they do or suffer men record;
But the long sacrifice of woman's days
Passes without a thought--without a word;
And many a holy struggle for the sake
Of duties sttenily, faithfully fulfill'd,--
For which the anxious mind must watch and wake,
And the strong feelings of the heart be still'd--
Goes by unheeded as the summer wind,
And leaves no memory and no trace behind!
Yet, it may be, more lofty courage dwells
In one meek heart which braves an adverse fate,
Than his, whose ardent soul indignant swells
Warm'd by the fight, or cheer'd through high debate:
The Soldier dies surrounded;--could he live
Alone to suffer, and alone to strive?
Answer, ye graves, whose suicidal gloom
Shows deeper horror than a common tomb!
Who sleep within? The men who would evade
An unseen lot of which they felt afraid.
Embarrassment of means, which work'd annoy,--
A past remorse,--a future blank of joy,--
The sinful rashness of a blind despair,--
These were the strokes which sent your victims there.
In many a village churchyard's simple grave,
Where all unmark'd the cypress-branches wave;
In many a vault where Death could only claim
The brief inscription of a woman's name;
Of different ranks, and different degrees,
From daily labour to a life of ease,
(From the rich wife who through the weary day
Wept in her jewels, grief's unceasing prey,
To the poor soul who trudged o'er marsh and moor,
And with her baby begg'd from door to door,--)
Lie hearts, which, ere they found that last release,
Had lost all memory of the blessing 'Peace;'
Hearts, whose long struggle through unpitied years
None saw but Him who marks the mourner's tears;
The obscurely noble! who evaded not
The woe which He had will'd should be their lot,
But nerved themselves to bear!
Of such art thou,
My Mother! With thy calm and holy brow,
And high devoted heart, which suffer'd still
Unmurmuring, through each degree of ill.
And, because Fate hath will'd that mine should be
A Poet's soul (at least in my degree),--
And that my verse would faintly shadow forth
What I have seen of pure unselfish worth,--
Therefore I speak of Thee; that those who read
That trust in woman, which is still my creed,
Thy early-widow'd image may recall
And greet thy nature as the type of all!
Enough! With eyes of fond unwearied love
The Mother of my story watch'd above
Her sleeping child; and, as she views the grace
And blushing beauty of that girlish face,
Her thoughts roam back through change of time and tide,
Since first Heaven sent the blessing by her side.
In that sweet vision she again receives
The snow-white cradle, where that tiny head
Lay, like a small bud folded in its leaves,
Foster'd with dew by tears of fondness shed;
Each infantine event, each dangerous hour
Which pass'd with threatening o'er its fragile form,
Her hope, her anguish, as the tender flower
Bloom'd to the sun, or sicken'd in the storm,
In memory's magic mirror glide along,
And scarce she notes the different scene around,
And scarce her lips refrain the cradle-song
Which sooth'd that infant with its lulling sound!
But the dream changes; quiet years roll on;
That dawn of frail existence fleets away,
And she beholds beneath the summer sun
A blessed sight; a little child at play.
The soft light falls upon its golden hair,
And shows a brow intelligently mild;
No more a cipher in this world of care,
Love cheers and chides that happy conscious child.
No more unheeding of her watchful love,
Pride to excel, its docile spirit stirs;
Regret and hope its tiny bosom move,
And looks of fondness brightly answer hers;
O'er the green meadow, and the broomy hill,
In restless joy it bounds and darts along;
Or through the breath of evening, low and still,
Carols with mirthful voice its welcome song.
Again the vision changes; from her view
The CHILD'S dear love and antic mirth are gone;
But, in their stead, with cheek of rose-leaf hue,
And fair slight form, and low and silvery tone,
Rises the sweetest spirit Thought can call
From memory's distant worlds--the fairy GIRL;
Whose heart her childish pleasures still enthrall,
Whose unbound hair still floats in careless curl,
But in whose blue and meekly lifted eyes,
And in whose shy, though sweet and cordial smile,
And in whose changeful blushes, dimly rise
Shadows and lights that were not seen erewhile:
Shadows and lights that speak of woman's love,
Of all that makes or mars her fate below;
Mysterious prophecies, which Time must prove
More bright in glory, or more dark with woe!
And that soft vision also wanders by
Melting in fond and innocent smiles away,
Till the loved REAL meets the watchful eye
Of her who thus recall'd a former day;
The gentle daughter, for whose precious sake
Her widow'd heart had struggled with its pain.
And still through lonely grief refused to break,
Because that tie to Earth did yet remain.
Now, as she fondly gazed, a few meek tears
Stole down her cheek; for she that sliunber'd there,
The beautiful, the loved of many years.
A bride betroth'd must leave her fostering care;
Woo'd in another's home apart to dwell.--
Oh! might that other love but half as well!
As if the mournful wish had touch'd her heart,
The slumbering maiden woke, with sudden start;
Turn'd, with a dazzled and intense surprise,
On that fond face her bright, bewilder'd eyes;
Gazed round on each familiar object near,
As though she doubted yet if sense was clear;
Cover'd her brow and sigh'd, as though to wake
Had power some spell of happy thought to break;
Then murmur'd, in a low and earnest tone,
'Oh! is that blessed dream for ever gone?'
Strange is the power of dreams! Who hath not felt,
When in the morning light such visions melt,
How the veil'd soul, though struggling to be free,
Ruled by that deep, unfathom'd mystery,
Wakes, haunted by the thoughts of good or ill,
Whose shadowy influence pursues us still?
Sometimes remorse doth weigh our spirits down;
Some crime committed earns Heaven's angriest frown;
Some awful sin, in which the tempted heart
Hath scarce, perhaps, forborne its waking part,
Brings dreams of judgment; loud the thunders roll,
The heavens shrink blacken'd like a flaming scroll;
We faint, we die, beneath the avenging rod,
And vainly hide from our offended God.
For oh! though Fancy change our mortal lot,
And rule our slumbers, CONSCIENCE sleepeth not;
What strange sad dial, by its own true light,
Points to our thoughts, how dark soe'er the night,
Still by our pillow watchful guard it keeps,
And bids the sinner tremble while he sleeps.
Sometimes, with fearful dangers doom'd to cope,
'Reft of each wild and visionary hope,
Stabb'd with a thousand wounds, we struggle still,
The hand that tortures, powerless to kill.
Sometimes 'mid ocean storms, in fearful strife,
We stem the wave, and shrieking, gasp for life,
While crowding round us, faces rise and gleam,
Some known and loved, some, pictures of our dream;
High on the buoyant waters wildly toss'd--
Low in its foaming caverns darkly lost--
Those flitting forms the dangerous hour partake,
Cling to our aid, or suffer for our sake.
Conscious of present life, the slumbering soul
Still floats us onward, as the billows roll,
Till, snatch'd from death, we seem to touch the strand,
Rise on the shoreward wave, and dash to land!
Alone we come: the forms whose wild array
Gleam'd round us while we struggled, fade away,--
We know not, reck not, who the danger shared,
But, vaguely dreaming, feel that we are spared.
Sometimes a grief, of fond affection born,
Gnaws at our heart, and bids us weep till morn;
Some anguish, copied from our waking fears,
Wakes the eternal fount of human tears,
Sends us to watch some vision'd bed of death,
Hold the faint hand, and catch the parting breath,
Where those we prized the most, and loved the best,
Seem darkly sinking to the grave's long rest;
Lo! in our arms they fade, they faint, they die,
Before our eyes the funeral train sweeps by;
We hear the orphan's sob--the widow's wail--
O'er our dim senses woeful thoughts prevail,
Till, with a burst of grief, the spell we break,
And, weeping for th' imagined loss, awake.
Ah me! from dreams like these aroused at length,
How leaps the spirit to its former strength!
What memories crowd the newly conscious brain,
What gleams of rapture, and what starts of pain!
Till from the soul the heavy mists stand clear,
All wanes and fades that seem'd so darkly drear,
The sun's fair rays those shades of death destroy,
And passionate thankfuess and tears of joy
Swell at our hearts, as, gazing on his beam,
We start, and cry aloud, 'Thank Heaven, 'twas but a dream!'
But there are visions of a fairer kind,
Thoughts fondly cherish'd by the slumbering mind,
Which, when they vanish from the waking brain,
We close our eyes, and long to dream again.
Their dim voice calls to our forsaken side
Those who betray'd us, seeming true and tried;
Those whom the fast receding waves of time
Have floated from us; those who in the prime
And glory of our young life's eagle flight
Shone round like rays, encircling us with light,
And gave the bright similitude of truth
To fair illusions--vanish'd with our youth.
They bring again the tryst of early love,
(That passionate hope, all other hopes above!)
Bid the pale hair, long shrouded in the grave,
Round the young head in floating ringlets wave,
And fill the air with echoes. Gentle words,
Low laughter, and the sing of sweet birds,
Come round us then; and drooping of light boughs,
Whose shadow could not cool our burning brows,
And lilac-blossoms, scenting the warm air,
And long laburnums, fragile, bright, and fair;
And murmuring breezes through the green leaves straying,
And rippling waters in the sunshine playing,
All that around our slumbering sense can fling
The glory of some half-forgotten spring!
They bring again the fond approving gaze
Of old true friends, who mingled love with praise;
When Fame (that cold bright guiding-star below)
Took from affection's light a borrow'd glow,--
And, strong in all the might of earnest thought,
Through the long studious night untired we wrought,
That others might the morning hour beguile,
With the fond triumph of their wondering smile.
What though those dear approving smiles be gone,
What though we strive neglected and alone,
What though no voice now mourns our hope's alloy,
Nor in the hour of triumph gives us joy?
In dreams the days return when this was not,
When strong affection sooth'd our toilsome lot:
Cheer'd, loved, admonish'd, lauded, we aspire,
And the sick soul regains its former fire.
Beneath the influence of this fond spell,
Happy, contented, bless'd, we seem to dwell;
Sweet faces shine with love's own tender ray,
Which frown, or coldly turn from us, by day;
The lonely orphan hears a parent's voice;
Sad childless mothers once again rejoice;
The poor deserted seems a happy bride;
And the long parted wander side by side.
Ah, vain deceit! Awaking with a start,
Sick grow the beatings of the troubled heart;
Silence, like some dark mantle, drops around,
Quenching th' imagined voice's welcome sound;
Again the soul repeats its old farewells,
Again recalls sad hours and funeral knells;
Again, as daylight opens on their view,
The orplan shrieks, the mother mourns anew;
Till clear we feel, as fades the morning star,
How left, how lonely, how oppres'd we are!
And other dreams exist, more vague and bright
Than MEMORY ever brought to cheer the night;--
Most to the young and happy do they come,
To those who know no shelter but of home;
To those of whom the inspired writer spoke,
When from his lips the words prophetic broke,
Which (conscious of the strong and credulous spell
Experience only in the heart can quell)
Promised the nearer glimpse of perfect truth
Not to cold wisdom, but to fervent youth;
Each, in their measure, caught its fitful gleams,--
The young saw visions, and the old dream'd dreams.
The young! Oh! what should wandering fancy bring
In life's first spring-time but the thoughts of spring?
Worlds without winter, blooming amaranth bowers,
Garlands of brightness wreath'd from changeless flowers;
Where shapes like angels wander to and fro,
Unwing,'d, but glorious, in the noontide glow,
Which steeps the hills, the dales, the earth, the sea,
In one soft flood of golden majesty.
In this world,--so create,--no sighs nor tears,--
No sadness brought with lapse of varying years,
No cold betrayal of the trusting heart,--
No knitting up of love fore-doom'd to part,--
No pain, deformity, nor pale disease,--
No wars,--no tyranny,--no fears that freeze
The rapid current of the restless blood,--
Nor effort scorn'd,--nor act misunderstood,--
No dark remorse for ever-haunting sin,--
But all at peace without--at rest within;
And hopes which gild Thought's wildest waking hours,
Scatter'd around us carelessly as flowers.
Oh! Paradise, in vain dilist thou depart;
Thine image still is stamp'd on every heart!
Though mourning man in vain may seek to trace
The site of that which was his dwelling-place,
Though the four glittering rivers now divide
No realms of beauty with their rolling tide,
Each several life yet opens with the view
Of that unblighted world where Adam drew
The breath of being: in each several mind,
However cramp'd, and fetter'd, and confined,
The innate power of beauty folded lies,
And, like a bud beneath the summer skies,
Blooms out in youth through many a radiant day,
Though in life's winter frost it dies away.
From such a vision, bright with all the fame
Her youth, her innocence, her hope, could frame,
The maiden woke: and, when her shadowy gaze
Had lost the dazzled look of wild amaze
Turn'd on her mother when she first awoke,
Thus to her questioning glanee she answering spoke:--
'Methought, oh! gentle Mother, by thy side
I dwelt no more as now, but through a wide
And sweet world wander'd; nor even then alone;
For ever in that dream's soft light stood one,--
I know not who,--yet most familiar seem'd
The fond companionship of which I dream'd!
A Brother's love, is but a name to me;
A Father's, brighten'd not my infancy;
To me, in childhood's years, no stranger's face
Took, from long habit, friendship's holy grace;
My life hath still been lone, and needed not,
Heaven knows, more perfect love than was my lot
In thy dear heart: how dream'd I then, sweet Mother,
Of any love but thine, who knew no other?
'We seem'd, this shadow and myself, to be
Together by the blue and boundless sea:
No settled home was present to my thought--
No other form my clouded fancy brought;
This one Familiar Presence still beguiled
My every thought, and look'd on me and smiled.
Fair stretch'd in beauty lay the glittering strand,
With low green copses sloping from the land;
And tangled underwood, and sunny fern,
And flowers whose humble names none cared to learn,
Smail starry wild flowers, white and gold and blue,
With leaves turn'd crimson by th' autumnal hue,
Bask'd in the fervour of the noontide glow,
Whose hot rays pierced the thirsty roots below.
The floating nautilus rose clear and pale,
As though a spirit trimm'd its fairy sail,
White and transparent; and beyond it gleam'd
Such light as never yet on Ocean beam'd:
And pink-lipp'd shells, and many-colour'd weeds,
And long brown bulbous things likc jasper beads,
And glistening pearls in beauty faint and fair,
And all things strange, and wonderful, and rare,
Whose true existence travellers make known,
Seem'd scatter'd there, and easily my own.
And then we wove our ciphers in the sands,
All fondly intertwined by loving hands;
And laugh'd to see the rustling snow-white spray
Creep o'er the names, and wash their trace away.
And the storm came not, though the white foam curl'd
In lines of brightness far along the coast;
Though many a ship, with swelling sails unfurl'd,
From the mid-sea to sheltering haven cross'd;
Though the wild billows heaved, and rose, and broke,
One o'er the other with a restless sound,
And the deep spirit of the wind awoke,
Ruffling in wrath each glassy verdant mound;
While onward roll'd that army of huge waves,
Until the foremost, with exulting roar,
Rose, proudly crested, o'er his brother slaves,
And dash'd triumphant on the groaning shore!
For then the Moon rose up, Night's mournful Queen,
'Walking with white feet o'er the troubled Sea,'
And all grew still again, as she had been
Heaven's messenger to bring Tranquillity;
Till, pale and tender, on the glistening main
She sank and smiled like one who loves in vain.
And still we linger'd by that shadowy strand,
Happy, yet full of thought, hand link'd in hand;
The hush'd waves rippling softly at our feet,
The night-breeze freshening o'er the Summer's heat;
With our hearts beating, and our gazing eyes
Fix'd on the star-light of those deep blue skies,
Blessing 'the year, the hour, the place, the time;'
While sounded, faint and far, some turret's midnight chime.
'It pass'd, that vision of the Ocean's might!
I know not how, for in my slumbering mind
There was no movement, all was shifting light,
Through which we floated with the wandering wind;
And, still together, in a different scene,
We look'd on England's woodland, fresh and green.
'No perfume of the cultured rose was there,
Wooing the senses with its garden smell,--
Nor snow-white lily,--call'd so proudly fir,
Though by the poor man's cot she loves to dwell,
Nor finds his little garden scant of room
To bid her stately buds in beauty bloom;--
Nor jasmin, with her pale stars shining through
The myrtle darkness of her leaf's green hue,--
Nor heliotrope, whose grey and heavy wreath
Mimics the orchard blossoms' fruity breath,--
Nor clustering dahlia, with its scentless flowers
Cheating the heart through autumn's faded hours,--
Nor bright chrysanthimum, whose train'd array
Still makes the rich man's winter path look gay,
And bows its hardy head when wild winds blow,
To free its petals from the fallen snow;--
Nor yet carnation;'--
(Thou, beloved of all
The plants that thrive at Art or Nature's call,
By one who greets thee with a weary sigh
As the dear friend of happy days gone by;
By one who names thee last, but loves thee first,
Of all the flowers a garden ever nursed;
The mute remembrancer and gentle token
Of links which heavy hands have roughly broken,
Welcomed through many a Summer with the same
Unalter'd gladness as when first ye came,
And welcomed still, though--as in later years
We often welcome pleasant things--with tears!)
I wander! In the Dream these had no place,--
Nor Sorrow:--all was Nature's freshest grace.
'There, wild geranium, with its woolly stem
And aromatic breath, perfumed the glade;
And fairy speedwell, like some sapphire gem,
Lighted with purple sparks the hedge-row's shade;
And woodbine, with her tinted calyxes,
And dog-rose, glistening with the dews of morn,
And tangled wreaths of tufted clematis,
Whose blossoms pale the careless eye may scorn,
(As green and light her fairy mantles fiLll
To hide the rough hedge or the crumbling wall,)
But in whose breast the laden wild-bees dive
For the best riches of their teeming hive:
'There, sprang the sunny cricket; there, was spread
The fragile silver of the spider's thread,
Stretching from blade to blade of emerald grass,
Unbroken, till some human footstep pass;
There, by the rippling stream that murmur'd on,
Now seen, now hidden--half in light, half Sun--
The darting dragon-fly, with sudden gleam,
Shot, as it went, a gold and purple beam;
And the fish leap'd within the deeper pool,
And the green trees stretch'd out their branches cool,
Where many a bird hush'd in her peopled nest
The unfledged darlings of her feather'd breast,
Listening her mate's clear song, in that sweet grove
Where all around breathed happiness and love!
'And while we talk'd the summer hours flew fast,
As hours may fly, with those whose love is young;
Who fear no future, and who know no past,
Dating existence from the hope that sprung
Up in their hearts with such a sudden light,
That all beyond shows dark and blank as night.
'Until methought we trod a wide flat heath,
Where yew and cypress darkly seem'd to wave
O'er countless tombs, so beautiful, that death
Seem'd here to make a garden of the grave!
All that is holy, tender, full of grace,
Was sculptured on the monuments around,
And many a line the musing eye could trace,
Which spoke unto the heart without a sound.
There lay the warrior and the son of song,
And there--in silence till the judgment-day--
The orator, whose all-persuading tongue
Had moved the nations with resistless sway:
There slept pale men whom science taught to climb
Restlessly upward all their labouring youth;
Who left, half conquer'd, secrets which in time
Burst on mankind in ripe and glorious truth.
He that had gazed upon the steadfast stars,
And could foretel the dark eclipse's birth,
And when red comets in their blazing cars
Should sweep above the awed and troubled earth:--
He that had sped brave vessels o'er the seas,
Which swiftly bring the wanderer to his home,
Uncanvass'd ships, which move without a breeze,
Their bright wheels dashing through the ocean foam:--
All, who in this life's bounded brief career
Had shone amongst, or served their fellow-men,
And left a name embalm'd in glory here,
Lay calmly buried on that magic plain.
And he who wander'd with me in my dream,
Told me their histories as we onward went,
Till the grave shone with such a hallow'd beam,
Such pleasure with their memory seem'd blent,
That, when we look'd to heaven, our upward eyes
With no funereal sadness mock'd the skies!
'Then, change of scene, and time, and place once more;
And by a Gothic window, richly bright,
Whose stain'd armorial hoarings on the floor
Flung the quaint tracery of their colour'd light,
We sate together: his most noble head
Bent o'er the storied tome of other days,
And still he commented on all we read,
And taught me what to love, and what to praise.
Then Spenser made the summer-day seem brief,
Or Milton sounded with a loftier song,
Then Cowper charm'd, with lays of gentle grief,
Or rough old Dryden roll'd the hour along.
Or, in his varied beauty dearer still,
Sweet Shakspeare changed the world around at will;
And we forgot the sunshine of that room
To sit with Jacquez in the forest gloom;
To look abroad with Juliet's anxious eye
For her boy-lover 'neath the moonlight sky;
Stand with Macbeth upon the haunted heath,
Or weep for gentle Desdemona's death;
Watch, on bright Cydnus' wave, the glittering sheen
And silken sails of Egypt's wanton Queen;
Or roam with Ariel through that island strange
Where spirits, and not men, were wont to range,
Still struggling on through brake, and bush, and hollow,
Hearing that sweet voice calling--'Follow! follow!'
'Nor were there wanting lays of other lands,
For these were all familiar in his hands:
And Dante's dream of horror work'd its spell,--
And Petrarch's sadness on our bosoms fell,--
And prison'd Tasso's--he, the coldly-loved,
The madly-loving! he, so deeply proved
By many a year of darkness, like the grave,
For her who dared not plead, or would not save,
For her who thought the poet's suit brought shame,
Whose passion hath immortalized her name!
And Egmont, with his noble heart betray'd,--
And Carlos, haunted by a murder'd shade,--
And Faust's strange legend, sweet and wondrous wild,
Stole many a tear:--Creation's loveliest child!
Guileless, ensnared, and tempted Margaret,
Who could peruse thy fate with eyes unwet?
'Then, through the lands we read of, far away,
The vision led me all a summer's day:
And we look'd round on southern Italy,
Where her dark head the graceful cypress rears
In arrowy straightness and soft majesty,
And the sun's face a mellower glory wears;
Bringing, where'er his warm light richly shines,
Sweet odours from the gum-distilling pines;
And casting o'er white palaces a glow,
Like morning's hue on mountain-peaks of snow.
'Those palaces! how fair their columns rose!
Their courts, cool fountains, and wide porticos!
And ballustraded roofs, whose very form
Told what an unknown stranger was the storm!
In one of these we dwelt: its painted walls
A master's hand had been employ'd to trace;
Its long cool range of shadowy marble halls
Was fill'd with statues of most living grace;
While on its ceilings roll'd the fiery car
Of the bright day-god, chasing night afar,--
Or Jove's young favourite, toward Olympus' height
Soar'd with the Eagle's dark majestic flight,--
Or fair Apollo's harp seem'd freshly strung,
All heaven group'd round him, listening while he sung.
'So, in the garden's plann'd and planted bound
All wore the aspect of enchanted ground;
Thick orange-groves, close arching over head,
Shelter'd the paths our footsteps loved to tread;
Or ilex-trees shut out, with shadow sweet,
Th' oppressive splendour of the noontide heat.
Through the bright vista, at each varying turn,
Gleam'd the white statue, or the graceful urn;
And, paved with many a curved and twisted line
Of fair Mosaic's strange and quaint design,
Terrace on terrace rose, with steep so slight,
That scarce the pausing eye inquired the height,
Till stretch'd beneath in far perspective lay
The glittering city and the deep blue bay!
Then as we turn'd again to groves and bowers,
(Rich with the perfume of a thousand flowers,)
The sultry day was cheated of its force
By the sweet winding of some streamlet's course:
From sculptured arch, and ornamented walls,
Rippled a thousand tiny waterfalls,
While here and there an open basin gave
Rest to the eye and freshness to the wave;
Here, high above the imprison'd waters, stood
Some imaged Naïad, guardian of the flood;
There, in a cool and grotto-like repose,
The sea-born goddess from her shell arose;
Or river-god his fertile urn display'd,
Gushing at distance through the lone arcade,--
Or Triton, lifting his wild conch on high,
Spouted the silver tribute to the sky,--
Or, lovelier still, (because to Nature true,
Even in the thought creative genius drew,)
Some statue-nymph, her bath of beauty o'er,
Stood gently bending by the rocky shore,
And, like Bologna's sweet and graceful dream,
From her moist hair wrung out the living stream.
'Bright was the spot! and still we linger'd on
Unwearied, till the summer-day was done;
Till He, who, when the morning dew was wet,
In glory rose--in equal glory set.
Fair sank his light, unclouded to the last,
And o'er that land its glow of beauty cast;
And the sweet breath of evening air went forth
To cool the bosom of the fainting earth;
To bid the pale-leaved olives lightly wave
Upon their seaward slope (whose waters lave
With listless gentleness the golden strand,
And scarcely leave, and scarce return to land);
Or with its wings of freshness, wandering round,
Visit the heights with many a villa crown'd,
Where the still pine and cypress, side by side,
Look from their distant hills on Ocean's tide.
'The cypress and the pine! Ah, still I see
These thy green children, lovely Italy!
Nature's dear favourites, allow'd to wear
Their summer hue throughout the circling year!
And oft, when wandering out at even-time
To watch the sunsets of a colder clime,
As the dim landscape fades and grows more faint,
Fancy's sweet power a different scene shall paint;
Enrich with deeper tints the colours given
To the pale beauty of our English heaven,--
Bid purple mountains rise among the clouds,
Or deem their mass some marble palace shrouds,--
Trace on the red horizon's level line,
In outlines dark, the high majestic pine,--
And hear, amid the groups of English trees,
His sister cypress murmuring to the breeze!
'Never again shall evening, sweet and still,
Gleam upon river, mountain, rock, or hill,--
Never again shall fresh and budding spring,
Or brighter summer, hue of beauty bring,
In this, the clime where 'tis my lot to dwell,
But shall recall, as by a magic spell,
Thy scenes, dear land of poetry and song!
Bid thy fair statues on my memory throng;
Thy glorious pictures gleam upon my sight
Like fleeting shadows o'er the summer light;
And send my haunted heart to dwell once more,
Glad and entranced by thy delightful shore--
Thy shore, where rolls that blue and tideless sea,
Bright as thyself, thou radiant Italy!
'And there (where Beauty's spirit sure had birth,
Though she hath wander'd since upon the earth,
And scatter'd, as she pass'd, some sparks of thought,
Such as of old her sons of genius wrought,
To show what strength the immortal soul can wield
E'en here, in this its dark and narrow field,
And fill us with a fond inquiring thirst
To see that land which claim'd her triumphs first)
Music was brought--with soft impressive power--
To fill with varying joy the varying hour.
We welcomed it; for welcome still to all
It comes, in cottage, court, or lordly hall;
And in the long bright summer evenings, oft
We sate and listened to some measure soft
From many instruments; or, faint and lone,
(Touch'd by his gentle hand, or by my own,)
The little lute its chorded notes would send
Tender and clear; and with our voices blend
Cadence so true, that, when the breeze swept by,
One mingled echo floated on its sigh!
'And still as day by day we saw depart,
I was the living idol of his heart:
How to make joy a portion of the air
That breathed around me, seem'd his only care.
For me the harp was strung, the page was turn'd;
For me the morning rose, the sunset burn'd;
For me the Spring put on her verdant suit;
For me the Summer flower, the Autumn fruit;
The very world seem'd mine, so mighty strove
For my contentment, that enduring love.
'I see him still, dear mother! Still I hear
That voice so deeply soft, so strangely clear;
Still in the air wild wandering echoes float,
And bring my dream's sweet music note for note!
Oh! shall those sounds no more my fancy bless,
Which fill my heart, and on my memory press?
Shall I no more those sunset clouds behold,
Floating like bright transparent thrones of gold?
The skies, the seas, the hills of glorious blue;
The glades and groves, with glories shining through;
The bands of red and purple, richly seen
Athwart the sky of pale, faint, gem-like green;
When the breeze slept, the earth lay hush'd and still,
When the low sun sank slanting from the hill,
And slow and amber-tinged the moon uprose,
To watch his farewell hour in glory close?
Is all that radiance past--gone by for ever--
And must there in its stead for ever be
The grey, sad sky, the cold and clouded river,
And dismal dwellings by the wintry sea?
E'er half a summer, altering day by day,
In fickle brightness, here, hath pass'd away!
And was that form (whose love might still sustain)
Nought but a vapour of the dreaming brain?--
Would I had slept for ever!'
Sad she sigh'd;
To whom the mournful mother thus replied:--
'Upbraid not Heaven, whose wisdom thus would rule
A world whose changes are the soul's best school:
All dream like thee, and 'tis for Mercy's sake
That those who dream the wildest, soonest wake;
All deem Perfection's system would be found
In giving earthly sense no stint or bound;
All look for happiness beneath the sun,
And each expects what God hath given to none.
'In what an idle luxury of joy
Would thy spoil'd heart its useless hours employ!
In what a selfish loneliness of light
Wouldst thou exist, read we thy dream aright!
How hath thy sleeping spirit broke the chain
Which knits thy human lot to other's pain,
And made this world of peopled millions seem
For thee and for the lover of thy dream!
'Think not my heart with cold indifference heard
The various feelings which in thine have stirr'd,
Or that its sad and weary currents know
Faint sympathy, except for human woe:
Well have the dormant echoes of my breast
Answer'd the joys thy gentle voice express'd;
Conjured a vision of the stately mate
With whom the flattering vision link'd thy fate;
And follow'd thee through grove and woodland wild,
Where so much natural beauty round thee smiled.
'What man so worldly-wise, or chill'd by age,
Who, bending o'er the faint descriptive page,
Recals not such a scene in some falr nook--
(Whereon his eyes, perchance, no more shall look
Some hawthorn copse, some gnarl'd majestic tree,
The favourite play-place of his infancy?
Who has not felt for Cowper's sweet lament,
When twelve years' course their cruel change had sent;
When his fell'd poplars gave no further shade,
And low on earth the blackbird's nest was laid;
When in a desert sunshine, bare and blank,
Lay the green field and river's mossy bank;
And melody of bird or branch no more
Rose with the breeze that swept along the shore?
'Few are the hearts, (nor theirs of kindliest frame,)
On whom fair Nature holds not such a claim;
And oft, in after-life, some simple thing--
A bank of primroses in early Spring--
The tender scent which hidden violets yield--
The sight of cowslips in a meadow-field--
Or young laburnum's pendant yellow chain--
May bring the favourite play-place back again!
Our youthful mates are gone; some dead, some changed,
With whom that pleasant spot was gladly ranged;
Ourselves, perhaps, more alter'd e'en than they--
But there still blooms the blossom-showering May;
There still along the hedge-row's verdant line
The linnet sings, the thorny brambles twine;
Still in the copse a troop of merry elves
Shout--the gay image of our former selves;
And still, with sparkling eyes and eager hands,
Some rosy urchin high on tiptoe stands,
And plucks the ripest berries from the bough--
Which tempts a different generation now!
'What though no real beauty haunt that spot,
By graver minds beheld and noticed not?
Can we forget that once to our young eyes
It wore the aspect of a Paradise?
No; still around its hallow'd precinct lives
The fond mysterious charm that memory gives;
The man recals the feelings of the boy,
And clothes the meanest flower with freshness and with joy.
'Nor think by older hearts forgotten quite
Love's whisper'd words; youth's sweet and strange delight!
They live--though after-memories fade away;
They live--to cheer life's slow declining day;
Haunting the widow by her lonely hearth,
As, meekly smiling at her childrcn's mirth,
She spreads her fair thin hands towards the fire,
To seek the warmth their slacken'd veins require:
Or gladdening her to whom Heaven's mercy spares
Her old companion with his silver hairs;
And while he dozes--changed, and dull, and weak--
And his hush'd grandchild signs, but dares not speak,--
Bidding her watch, with many a tender smile,
The wither'd form which slumbers all the while.
'Yes! sweet the voice of those we loved! the tone
Which cheers our memory as we sit alone,
And will not leave us; the o'er-mastering force,
Whose under-current's strange and hidden course
Bids some chance word, by colder hearts forgot,
Return--and still return--yet weary not
The ear which wooes its sameness! How, when Death
Hath stopp'd with ruthless hand some precious breath,
The memory of the voice he hath destroy'd
Lives in our souls, as in an aching void!
How, through the varying fate of after-years,
When stifled sorrow weeps but casual tears,
If some stray tone seem like the voice we knew,
The heart leaps up with answer faint and true!
Greeting again that sweet, long-vanish'd sound,
As, in earth's nooks of ever-haunted ground,
Strange accident, or man's capricious will,
Wakes the lone echoes, and they answer still!
'Oh! what a shallow fable cheats the age,
When the lost lover, on the motley stage,
Wrapp'd from his mistress in some quaint disguise,
Deceives her ear, because he cheats her eyes!
Rather, if all could fade which charm'd us first,--
If, by some magic stroke, some plague-spot cursed,
All outward semblance left the form beloved
A wreck unrecognised, and half disproved,
At the dear sound of that familiar voice
Her waken'd heart should tremble and rejoice,
Leap to its faith at once,--and spurn the doubt
Which, on such showing, barr'd his welcome out!
'And if even words are sweet, what, what is song,
When lips we love, the melody prolong?
How thrills the soul, and vibrates to that lay,
Swells with the glorious sound, or dies away!
How, to the cadence of the simplest words
That ever hung upon the wild harp's chords,
The breathless heart lies listening; as it felt
All life within it on that music dwelt,
And hush'd the beating pulse's rapid power
By its own will, for that enchanted hour!
'Ay! then to those who love the science well,
Music becomes a passion and a spell!
Music, the tender child of rudest times,
The gentle native of all lands and climes;
Who hymns alike man's cradle and his grave,
Lulls the low cot, or peals along the nave;
Cheers the poor peasant, who his native hills
With wild Tyrolean echoes sweetly fills;
Inspires the Indian's low monotonous chant,
Weaves skilful melodies for Luxury's haunt;
And still, through all these changes, lives the same,
Spirit without a home, without a name,
Coming, where all is discord, strife, and sin,
To prove some innate harmony within
Our listening souls; and lull the heaving breast
With the dim vision of an unknown rest!
'But, dearest child, though many a joy be given
By the pure bounty of all-pitying Heaven,--
Though sweet emotions in our hearts have birth,
As flowers are spangled on the lap of earth,--
Though, with the flag of Hope and Triumph hung
High o'er our heads, we start when life is young,
And onward cheer'd, by sense, and sight, and sound,
Like a launch'd bark, we enter with a bound;
Yet must the dark cloud lour, the tempest fall,
And the same chance of shipwreck waits for all.
Happy are they who leave the harbouring land
Not for a summer voyage, hand in hand,
Pleasure's light slaves; but with an earnest eye
Exploring all the future of their sky;
That so, when Life's career at length is past,
To the right haven they may steer at last,
And safe from hidden rock, or open gale,
Lay by the oar, and furl the slacken'd sail,--
To anchor deeply on that tranquil shore
Where vexing storms can never reach them more!
'Wouldst thou be singled out by partial Heaven
The ONE to whom a cloudless lot is given?
Look round the world, and see what fate is there,
Which justice can pronounce exempt from care:
Though bright they bloom to empty outward show,
There lurks in each some canker-worm of woe;
Still by some thorn the onward step is cross'd,
Nor least repining those who're envied most:
The poor have struggling, toil, and wounded pride,
Which seeks, and seeks in vain, its rags to hide;
The rich, cold jealousies, intrigues, and strife,
And heart-sick discontent which poisons life;
The loved are parted by the hand of Death,
The hated live to curse each other's breath:
The wealthy noble mourns the want of heirs;
While, each the object of incessant prayers,
Gay, hardy sons, around the widow's board,
With careless smiles devour her scanty hoard;
And hear no sorrow in her stifled sigh,
And see no terror in her anxious eye,--
While she in fancy antedates the time
When, scatter'd far and wide in many a clime,
These heirs to nothing but their Father's name
Must earn their bread, and struggle hard for fame;
To sultry India sends her fair-hair'd boy--
Sees the dead desk another's youth employ--
And parts with one to sail the uncertain main,
Never perhaps on earth to meet again!
'Nor ev'n does Love, whose fresh and radiant beam
Gave added brightness to thy wandering dream,
Preserve from bitter touch of ills unknown,
But rather brings strange sorrows of its own.
Various the ways in which our souls are tried;
Love often fails where most our faith relied;
Some wayward heart may win, without a thought,
That which thine own by sacrifice had bought;
May carelessly aside the treasure cast,
And yet be madly worshipp'd to the last;
Whilst thou, forsaken, grieving, left to pine,
Vainly may'st claim his plighted faith as thine;
Vainly his idol's charms with thine compare,
And know thyself as young, as bright, as fair;
Vainly in jealous pangs consume thy day,
And waste the sleepless night in tears away;
Vainly with forced indulgence strive to smile
In the cold world, heart-broken all the while,
Or from its glittering and unquiet crowd,
Thy brain on fire, thy spirit crush'd and bow'd,
Creep home unnoticed, there to weep alone,
Mock'd by a claim which gives thee not thine own,
Which leaves thee bound through all thy blighted youth
To him whose perjured soul hath broke its truth;
While the just world, beholding thee bereft,
Scorns--not his sin--but thee, for being left!
'Ah! never to the Sensualist appeal,
Nor deem his frozen bosom aught can feel.
Affection, root of all fond memories,
Which bids what once hath charm'd for ever please
He knows not: all thy beauty could inspire
Was but a sentiment of low desire:
If from thy check the roses hue be gone,
How should love stay which loved for that alone?
Or, if thy youthful face be still as bright
As when it first entranced his eager sight,
Thou art the same; there is thy fault, thy crime,
Which fades the charms yet spared by rapid Time.
Talk to him of the happy days gone by,
Conceal'd aversion chills his shrinking eye:
While in thine agony thou still dost rave,
Impatient wishes doom thee to the grave;
And if his cold and selfish thought had power
T' accelerate the fatal final hour,
The silent murder were already done,
And thy white tomb would glitter in the sun.
What wouldst thou hold by? What is it to him
That for his sake thy weeping eyes are dim?
His pall'd and wearied senses rove apart,
And for his heart--thou never hadst his heart.
'True, there is better love, whose balance just
Mingles Soul's instinct with our grosser dust,
And leaves affection, strengthening day by day,
Firm to assault, impervious to decay.
To such, a star of hope thy love shall be
Whose stedfast light he still desires to see;
And age shall vainly mar thy beauty's grace,
Or wantons plot to steal into thy place,
Or wild Temptation, from her hidden bowers,
Fling o'er his path her bright but poisonous flowers,--
Dearer to him than all who thus beguile,
Thy faded face, and thy familiar smile;
Thy glance, which still hath welcomed him for years
Now bright with gladness, and now dim with tears!
And if (for we are weak) division come
On wings of discord to that happy home,
Soon is the painful hour of anger past,
Too sharp, too strange an agony to last;
And, like some river's bright abundant tide
Which art or accident hath forced aside,
The well-springs of affection, gushing o'er,
Back to their natural channels flow once more.
'Ah! sad it is when one thus link'd departs!
When Death, that mighty severer of true hearts,
Sweeps through the halls so lately loud in mirth,
And leaves pale Sorrow weeping by the hearth!
Bitter it is to wander there alone,
To fill the vacant place, the empty chair,
With a dear vision of the loved one gone,
And start to see it vaguely melt in air!
Bitter to find all joy that once hath been
Double its value when 'tis pass'd away,--
To feel the blow which Time should make less keen
Increase its burden each successive day,--
To need good counsel, and to miss the voice,
The ever trusted, and the ever true,
Whose tones were wont to cheer our faltering choice,
And show what holy Virtue bade us do,--
To bear deep wrong, and bow the widow'd head
In helpless anguish, no one to defend;
Or worse,--in lieu of him, the kindly dead,
Claim faint assistance from some lukewarm friend,--
Yet scarce perceive the extent of all our loss
Till the fresh tomb be green with gathering moss--
Till many a morn have met our sadden'd eyes
With none to say 'Good morrow;'--many an eve
Sent its red glory through the tranquil skies,
Each bringing with it deeper cause to grieve!
'This is a destiny which may be thine--
The common grief: God will'd it should be mine:
Short was the course our happy love had run,
And hard it was to say 'Thy will be done!'
'Yet those whom man, not God, hath parted, know
A heavier pang, a more enduring woe;
No softening memory mingles with their tears,
Still the wound rankles on through dreary years,
Still the heart feels, in bitterest hours of blame,
It dares not curse the long-familiar name;
Still, vainly free, through many a cheerless day,
From weaker ties turns helplessly away,
Sick for the smiles that bless'd its home of yore,
The natural joys of life that come no more;
And, all bewildered by the abyss, whose gloom
Dark and impassable as is the tomb,
Lies stretch'd between the future and the past,--
Sinks into deep and cold despair at last.
'Heaven give thee poverty, disease, or death,
Each varied ill that waits on human breath,
Rather than bid thee linger out thy life
In the long toil of such unnatural strife.
To wander through the world unreconciled,
Heart weary as a spirit-broken child,
And think it were an hour of bliss like heaven
If thou could'st die--forgiving and forgiven,--
Or with a feverish hope, of anguish born,
(Nerving thy mind to feel indigant scorn
Of all the cruel foes who 'twixt ye stand,
Holding thy heartstrngs with a reckless hand,)
Steal to his presence, now unseen so long,
And claim his mercy who hath dealt the wrong!
Into the aching depths of thy poor heart
Dive, as it were, even to the roots of pain,
And wrench up thoughts that tear thy soul apart,
And burn like fire through thy bewilder'd brain.
Clothe them in passionate words of wild appeal
To teach thy fellow-creature how to feel,--
Pray, weep, exhaust thyself in maddening tears,--
Recal the hopes, the influences of years,--
Kneel, dash thyself upon the senseless ground,
Writhe as the worm writhes with dividing wound,--
Invoke the heaven that knows thy sorrow's truth,
By all the softening memories of youth--
By every hope that cheer'd thine earlier day--
By every tear that washes wrath away--
By every old remembrance long gone by--
By every pang that makes thee yearn to die;
And learn at length how deep and stern a blow
Near hands can strike, and yet no pity show!
'Oh! weak to suffer, savage to inflict,
Is man's commingling nature; hear him now
Some transient trial of his life depict,
Hear him in holy rites a suppliant bow;
See him shrink back from sickness and from pain,
And in his sorrow to his God complain;
'Remit my trespass, spare my sin,' he cries,
'All-merciful, Almighty, and All-wise;
Quench this affliction's bitter whelming tide,
Draw out thy barbed arrow from my side:'--
--And rises from that mockery of prayer
To hale some brother-debtor to despair!
'May this be spared thee! Yet be sure, my child,
(Howe'er that dream thy fancy hath beguiled,)
Some sorrow lurks to cloud thy future fate;
Thy share of tears,--come early or come late,--
Must still be shed; and 'twere as vain a thing
To ask of Nature one perpetual spring
As to evade those sad autumnal hours,
Or deem thy path of life should bloom, all flowers.'
She ceased: and that fair maiden heard the truth
With the fond passionate despair of youth,
Which, new to suffering, gives its sorrow vent
In outward signs and bursts of wild lament:--
'If this be so, then, mother, let me die
Ere yet the glow hath faded from my sky!
Let me die young; before the holy trust
In human kindness crumbles into dust;
Before I suffer what I have not earn'd,
Or see by treachery my truth return'd;
Before the love I live for, fades away;
Before the hopes I cherish'd most, decay;
Before the withering touch of fearful change
Makes some failliar face look cold and strange,
Or some dear heart close knitted to my own,
By perishing, hath left me more alone!
Though death be bitter, I can brave its pain
Better than all which threats if I remain:
While my soul, freed from ev'ry chance of ill,
Soars to that God whose high mysterious will
Sent me, foredoom'd to grief, with wandering feet,
To grope my way through all this fair deceit!'
Her parent heard the words with grieved amaze,
And thus return'd, with calm reproving gaze:--
'Blaspheme not Heaven with rash impatient speech,
Nor deem, at thine own hour, its rest to reach,
Unhappy child! The full appointed time
Is His to choose; and when the sullen chime,
And deep-toned striking of the funeral bell,
Thy fate to earthly ears shall sadly tell,
Oh! may the death thou talk'st of as a boon,
Find thee prepared,--nor come even then too soon!
'True, ere thou meet'st that long and dreamless sleep,
Thy heart must ache--thy weary eyes must weep:
It is our human lot! The fairest child
That e'er on loving mother brightly smiled,--
Most watch'd, most tended--ere his eyelids close
Hath had his little share of infant woes,
And dies familiar with the sense of grief,
Though for all else his life hath been too brief!
But shall we therefore, murmuring against God,
Question the justice of his chastening rod,
And look to earthly joys as though they were
The prize immortal souls were given to share?
'Oh! were such joys and this vain world alone
The term of human hope--where, where would be
The victims of some tyranny unknown,
Who sank, still conscious that the mind was free?
They that have lain in dungeons years on years,
No voice to cheer their darkness,--they whose pain
Of horrid torture wrung forth blood with tears,
Murder'd, perhaps, for some rapacious gain,--
They who have stood, bound to the martyr's stake,
While the sharp flames ate through the blistering skin,--
They that have bled for some high cause's sake,--
They that have perish'd for another's sin,
And from the scaffold to that God appeal'd
To whom the naked heart is all reveal'd,
Against the shortening of life's narrow span
By the blind rage and false decree of man?
And where obscurer sufferers--they who slept
And left no name on history's random page,--
But in God's book of reckoning, sternly kept,
Live on from year to year, from age to age?
The poor--the labouring poor! whose weary lives,
Through many a freezing night and hungry day,
Are a reproach to him who only strives
In luxury to waste his hours away,--
The patient poor! whose insufficient means
Make sickness dreadful, yet by whose low bed
Oft in meek prayer some fellow-sufferer leans,
And trusts in Heaven while destitute of bread;
The workhouse orphan, left without a friend;
Or weak forsaken child of want and sin,
Whose helpless life begins, as it must end,
By men disputing who shall take it in;
Who clothe, who aid that spark to linger here,
Which for mysterious purpose God hath given
To struggle through a day of toil and fear,
And meet him--with the proudest--up in heaven!
These were, and are not:--shall we therefore deem
That they have vanish'd like a sleeper's dream?
Or that one half creation is to know
Luxurious joy, and others only woe,
And so go down into the common tomb,
With none to question their unequal doom?
Shall we give credit to a thought so fond?
Ah! no--the world beyond--the world beyond!
There, shall the desolate heart regain its own!
There, the oppress'd shall stand before God's throne!
There, when the tangled web is all explain'd,
Wrong suffer'd, pain inflicted, grief disdain'd,
Man's proud mistaken judgments and false scorn
Shall melt like mists before uprising morn,
And holy truth stand forth serenely bright,
In the rich flood of God's eternal light!
'Then shall the Lazarus of the earth have rest--
The rich man judgment--and the grieving breast
Deep peace for ever. Therefore look thou not
So much to what on earth shall be thy lot,
As to thy fate hereafter,--to that day
When like a scroll this world shall pass away,
And what thou here hast done, or here enjoy'd,
Import but to thy soul:--all else destroy'd!
'And have thou faith in human nature still;
Though evil thoughts abound, and acts of ill;
Though innocence in sorrow shrouded be,
And tyranny's strong step walk bold and free!
For many a kindly generous deed is done
Which leaves no record underneath the sun--
Self-abnegating love and humble worth,
Which yet shall consecrate our sinful earth!
He that deals blame, and yet forgets to praise,
Who sets brief storms against long summer-days,
Hath a sick judgment. Shall the usual joy
Be all forgot, and nought our minds employ,
Through the long course of ever-varying years,
But temporary pain and casual tears?
And shall we all condemn, and all distrust,
Because some men are false and some unjust?
Forbid it Heaven! far better 'twere to be
Dupe of the fond impossibility
Of light and radiance which thy vision gave
Than thus to live Suspicion's bitter slave.
Give credit to thy mortal brother's heart
For all the good that in thine own hath part,
And, cheerfully as honest prudence may,
Trust to his proffer'd hand's protecting stay:
For God, who made this teeming earth so full,
And made the proud dependant on the dull--
The strong upon the weak--thereby would show
One common bond should link us all below.
'And visit not with a severer scorn
Faults, whose deep root was with our nature born,
From which--though others woo'd thee just as vain--
Thou, differently tempted, didst abstain:
Nor dwell on points of creed--assuming right
To judge how holy in his Maker's sight
Is he who at a different altar bends;
For hence have ris'n the bitterest feuds of friends,
The wildest wars of nations; age on age
Hath desecrated thus dark History's page;
And still (though not, perhaps, with fire and sword)
Reckless we raise 'The banner of the Lord!'
Mock Heaven's calm mercy by the plea we make,
That all is done for gentle Jesus' sake,--
Disturb the consciences of weaker men,--
Employ the scholar's art, the bigot's pen,--
And rouse the wrathful and the spirit-proud
To language bitter, vehement, and loud,
Whose unconvincing fury wounds the ear,
And seeking, with some sharp and haughty sneer,
How best the opposing party may be stung,--
Pleads for Religion with a devil's tongue!
'Oh! shall God tolerate the meanest prayer
That humbly seeks his high supernal throne,
And man--presumptuous Pharisee--declare
His fellow's voice less welcome than his own?
Is it a theme for wild and warring words
How best to satisfy the Maker's claim?
In rendering to the Lord what is the Lord's,
Doth not the thought of violence bring shame?
Think ye he gave the branching forest-tree
To furnish fagots for the funeral pyre?
Or bid his sunrise light the world, to see
Pale tortured victims perish there by fire?
No! oft on earth, dragg'd forth in pain to die,
The heretic may groan--the martyr bleed--
But, set before his Sovereign Judge on high,
'Tis man's offence condemns him, not his creed.
His first commandment was to worship Him;
His next--to love the creature He hath made:
How blind the eyes of those who read, how dim,
Who see not here religious fury stay'd!
From the proud half-fulfilment of his law
Sternly he turns away his awful face,
Nor will contentment from their service draw,
Who fail to grant a fellow-ceature grace.
Haply the days of martyrdom are past,
But still we see, without a visible end,
The bitter warfare of opinion last,
Tho' God hath will'd that man should be man's friend.
Therefore do thou, e'er yet thy youthful heart
Be tinged with their revilings, safe retreat,
And in those fierce discussions bear no part,--
Odious in all--in woman most unmeet,--
But in the still dark night, and rising day,
Humbly collect thy thoughts, and humbly pray.
'And be not thou cast down, because thy lot
The glory of thy dream resembleth not.
Not for herself was woman first create,
Nor yet to be man's idol, but his mate.
Still from his birth his cradled bed she tends,
The first, the last, the faithfullest of friends;
Still finds her place in sickness or in woe,
Humble to comfort, strong to undergo;
Still in the depth of weeping sorrow tries
To watch his death-bed with her patient eyes!
And doubt not thou,--(although at times deceived,
Outraged, insulted, slander'd, crush'd, and grieved;
Too often made a victim or a toy,
With years of sorrow for an hour of joy;
Too oft forgot midst Pleasure's circling wiles,
Or only valued for her rosy smiles,--)
That, in the frank and generous heart of man,
The place she holds accords with Heaven's high plan;
Still, if from wandering sin reclaim'd at all,
He sees in her the angel of recal;
Still, in the sad and serious hours of life,
Turns to the sister, mother, friend, or wife;
Views with a heart of fond and trustful pride
His faithful partner by his calm fireside;
And oft, when barr'd of Fortune's fickle grace,
Blank ruin stares him darkly in the face,
Leans his faint head upon her kindly breast,
And owns her power to soothe him into rest,--
Owns what the gift of woman's love is worth
To cheer his toils and trials upon earth!
'Sure it is much, this delegated power
To be consoler of man's heaviest hour!
The guardian angel of a life of care,
Allow'd to stand 'twixt him and his despair!
Such service may be made a holy task;
And more, 'twere vain to hope, and rash to ask.
Therefore, oh! loved and lovely, be content,
And take thy lot, with joy and sorrow blent.
Judge none; yet let thy share of conduct be,
As knowing judgment shall be pass'd on thee
Here and hereafter; so, still undismay'd,
And guarded by thy sweet thoughts' tramquil shade,
Undazzled by the changeful rays which threw
Their light across thy path while life was new,
Thou shalt move sober on,--expecting less,
Therefore the more enjoying, happiness.'
There was a pause; then, with a tremulous smile,
The maiden turn'd and press'd her mother's hand.--
'Shall I not bear what thou hast borne e'erwhile?
Shall I, rebellious, Heaven's high will withstand?
No! cheerly on, my wandering path I'll take,
Nor fear the destiny I did not make:
Though earthly joy grow dim--though Pleasure waneth--
This thou hast taught thy child, that GOD remaineth!'
And from her mother's fond protecting side
She went into the world, a youthful bride.
Comments about this poem (The Dream by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton )
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
celebrated on May 21st every year
Your Favorite Poets’ Favorite Books of Poetry
Daily Rituals of Famous Authors
Writers seem to be the most prone to unshakeable routines and elaborate superstitions.
Incredible Reading Rooms Around the World
Cozy, beautiful places to curl up with a good book...
Top 500 Poems
The Road Not Taken
Still I Rise
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening