Felicia Dorothea Hemans

(25 September 1793 – 16 May 1835 / Liverpool, England)

The Forest Sanctuary - Part Ii. - Poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans

I.
Bring me the sounding of the torrent-water,
With yet a nearer swell-fresh breeze, awake!
And river, darkening ne'er with hues of slaughter
Thy wave's pure silvery green,-and shining lake,
Spread far before my cabin, with thy zone
Of ancient woods, ye chainless things and lone!
Send voices through the forest aisles, and make
Glad music round me, that my soul may dare,
Cheer'd by such tones, to look back on a dungeon's air!

II.
Oh, Indian hunter of the desert's race!
That with the spear at times, or bended bow,
Dost cross my footsteps in thy fiery chase
Of the swift elk or blue hill's flying roe;
Thou that beside the red night-fire thou heapest,
Beneath the cedars and the star-light sleepest,
Thou know'st not, wanderer-never may'st thou know!-
Of the dark holds wherewith man cumbers earth,
To shut from human eyes the dancing seasons' mirth.

III.
There, fetter'd down from day, to think the while
How bright in Heaven the festal sun is glowing,
Making earth's loneliest places, with his smile,
Flush like the rose; and how the streams are flowing
With sudden sparkles through the shadowy grass,
And water-flowers, all trembling as they pass;
And how the rich dark summer-trees are bowing
With their full foliage;-this to know, and pine
Bound unto midnight's heart, seems a stern lot-'twas mine.

IV.
Wherefore was this?-Because my soul had drawn
Light from the book whose words are grav'd in light!
There, at its well-head, had I found the dawn,
And day, and noon of freedom:-but too bright
It shines on that which man to man hath given,
And call'd the truth-the very truth, from Heaven!
And therefore seeks he, in his brother's sight,
To cast the mote; and therefore strives to bind
With his strong chains to earth, what is not earth's-the mind!

V.
It is a weary and a bitter task
Back from the lip the burning word to keep,
And to shut out Heaven's air with falsehood's mask,
And in the dark urn of the soul to heap
Indignant feelings-making even of thought
A buried treasure, which may but be sought
When shadows are abroad-and night-and sleep.
I might not brook it long-and thus was thrown
Into that grave-like cell, to wither there alone.

VI.
And I a child of danger, whose delights
Were on dark hills and many-sounding seas-
I that amidst the Cordillera heights
Had given Castilian banners to the breeze,
And the full circle of the rainbow seen
There, on the snows; and in my country been
A mountain wanderer, from the Pyrenees
To the Morena crags-how left I not
Life, or the soul's life quench'd, on that sepulchral spot?

VII.
Because Thou didst not leave me, oh, my God!
Thou wert with those that bore the truth of old
Into the deserts from the oppressor's rod,
And made the caverns of the rock their fold,
And in the hidden chambers of the dead,
Our guiding lamp with fire immortal fed,
And met when stars met, by their beams to hold
The free heart's communing with Thee,-and Thou
Wert in the midst, felt, own'd-the strengthener then as now!

VIII.
Yet once I sank. Alas! man's wavering mind!
Wherefore and whence the gusts that o'er it blow?
How they bear with them, floating uncombin'd,
The shadows of the past, that come and go,
As o'er the deep the old long-buried things,
Which a storm's working to the surface brings!
Is the reed shaken, and must we be so,
With every wind?-So, Father! must we be,
Till we can fix undimm'd our stedfast eyes on Thee.

IX.
Once my soul died within me. What had thrown
That sickness o'er it?-Even a passing thought
Of a clear spring, whose side, with flowers o'ergrown,
Fondly and oft my boyish steps had sought!
Perchance the damp roof's water-drops, that fell
Just then, low tinkling through my vaulted cell,
Intensely heard amidst the stillness, caught
Some tone from memory, of the music, welling
Ever with that fresh rill, from its deep rocky dwelling.

X.
But so my spirit's fever'd longings wrought,
Wakening, it might be, to the faint sad sound,
That from the darkness of the walls they brought
A lov'd scene round me, visibly around.
Yes! kindling, spreading, brightening, hue by hue,
Like stars from midnight, through the gloom it grew,
That haunt of youth, hope, manhood!-till the bound
Of my shut cavern seem'd dissolv'd, and I
Girt by the solemn hills and burning pomp of sky.

XI.
I look'd-and lo! the clear broad river flowing,
Past the old Moorish ruin on the steep,
The lone tower dark against a Heaven all glowing,
Like seas of glass and fire!-I saw the sweep
Of glorious woods far down the mountain side,
And their still shadows in the gleaming tide,
And the red evening on its waves asleep;
And midst the scene-oh! more than all-there smil'd
My child's fair face, and hers, the mother of my child!

XII.
With their soft eyes of love and gladness rais'd
Up to the flushing sky, as when we stood
Last by that river, and in silence gaz'd
On the rich world of sunset:-but a flood
Of sudden tenderness my soul oppress'd,
And I rush'd forward with a yearning breast,
To clasp-alas! a vision!-Wave and wood,
And gentle faces, lifted in the light
Of day's last hectic blush, all melted from my sight.

XIII.
Then darkness!-oh! th' unutterable gloom
That seem'd as narrowing round me, making less
And less my dungeon, when, with all its bloom,
That bright dream vanish'd from my loneliness!
It floated off, the beautiful!-yet left
Such deep thirst in my soul, that thus bereft,
I lay down, sick with passion's vain excess,
And pray'd to die.-How oft would sorrow weep
Her weariness to death, if he might come like sleep!

XIV.
But I was rous'd-and how?-It is no tale
Even midst thy shades, thou wilderness, to tell!
I would not have my boy's young cheek made pale,
Nor haunt his sunny rest with what befel
In that drear prison-house.-His eye must grow
More dark with thought, more earnest his fair brow,
More high his heart in youthful strength must swell;
So shall it fitly burn when all is told:-
Let childhood's radiant mist the free child yet enfold!

XV.
It is enough that through such heavy hours,
As wring us by our fellowship of clay,
I liv'd, and undegraded. We have powers
To snatch th' oppressor's bitter joy away!
Shall the wild Indian, for his savage fame,
Laugh and expire, and shall not truth's high name
Bear up her martyrs with all-conquering sway?
It is enough that Torture may be vain-
I had seen Alvar die-the strife was won from Pain.

XVI.
And faint not, heart of man! though years wane slow!
There have been those that from the deepest caves,
And cells of night, and fastnesses, below
The stormy dashing of the ocean-waves,
Down, farther down than gold lies hid, have nurs'd
A quenchless hope, and watch'd their time, and burst
On the bright day, like wakeners from the graves!
I was of such at last!-unchain'd I trod
This green earth, taking back my freedom from my God!

XVII.
That was an hour to send its fadeless trace
Down life's far sweeping tide!-A dim, wild night,
Like sorrow, hung upon the soft moon's face,
Yet how my heart leap'd in her blessed light!
The shepherd's light-the sailor's on the sea-
The hunter's homeward from the mountains free,
Where its lone smile makes tremulously bright
The thousand streams!-I could but gaze through tears-
Oh! what a sight is Heaven, thus first beheld for years!

XVIII.
The rolling clouds!-they have the whole blue space
Above to sail in-all the dome of sky!
My soul shot with them in their breezy race
O'er star and gloom!-but I had yet to fly,
As flies the hunted wolf. A secret spot,
And strange, I knew-the sunbeam knew it not;-
Wildest of all the savage glens that lie
In far sierras, hiding their deep springs,
And travers'd but by storms, or sounding eagles' wings.

XIX.
Ay, and I met the storm there!-I had gain'd
The covert's heart with swift and stealthy tread:
A moan went past me, and the dark trees rain'd
Their autumn foliage rustling on my head;
A moan-a hollow gust-and there I stood
Girt with majestic night, and ancient wood,
And foaming water.-Thither might have fled
The mountain Christian with his faith of yore,
When Afric's tambour shook the ringing western shore!

XX.
But through the black ravine the storm came swelling-
Mighty thou art amidst the hills, thou blast!
In thy lone course the kingly cedars felling,
Like plumes upon the path of battle cast!
A rent oak thunder'd down beside my cave-
Booming it rush'd, as booms a deep sea-wave;
A falcon soar'd; a startled wild-deer pass'd;
A far-off bell toll'd faintly through the roar-
How my glad spirit swept forth with the winds once more!

XXI.
And with the arrowy lightnings!-for they flash'd,
Smiting the branches in their fitful play,
And brightly shivering where the torrents dash'd
Up, even to crag and eagle's nest, their spray!
And there to stand amidst the pealing strife,
The strong pines groaning with tempestuous life,
And all the mountain-voices on their way,-
Was it not joy?-'twas joy in rushing might,
After those years that wove but one long dead of night!

XXII.
There came a softer hour, a lovelier moon,
And lit me to my home of youth again,
Through the dim chesnut shade, where oft at noon,
By the fount's flashing burst, my head had lain,
In gentle sleep: but now I pass'd as one
That may not pause where wood-streams whispering run,
Or light sprays tremble to a bird's wild strain,
Because th' avenger's voice is in the wind,
The foe's quick rustling step close on the leaves behind.

XXIII.
My home of youth!-oh! if indeed to part
With the soul's lov'd ones be a mournful thing,
When we go forth in buoyancy of heart,
And bearing all the glories of our spring
For life to breathe on,-is it less to meet,
When these are faded?-who shall call it sweet?
-Even though love's mingling tears may haply bring
Balm as they fall, too well their heavy showers
Teach us how much is lost of all that once was ours!

XXIV.
Not by the sunshine, with its golden glow,
Nor the green earth, nor yet the laughing sky,
Nor the faint flower-scents, as they come and go
In the soft air, like music wandering by;
-Oh! not by these, th' unfailing, are we taught
How time and sorrow on our frames have wrought,
But by the sadden'd eye, the darken'd brow,
Of kindred aspects, and the long dim gaze,
Which tells us we are chang'd,-how chang'd from other days!

XXV.
Before my father-in my place of birth,
I stood an alien. On the very floor
Which oft had trembled to my boyish mirth,
The love that rear'd me, knew my face no more!
There hung the antique armour, helm and crest,
Whose every stain woke childhood in my breast,
There droop'd the banner, with the marks it bore
Of Paynim spears; and I, the worn in frame
And heart, what there was I?-another and the same!

XXVI.
Then bounded in a boy, with clear dark eye-
-How should he know his father?-when we parted,
From the soft cloud which mantles infancy,
His soul, just wakening into wonder, darted
Its first looks round. Him follow'd one, the bride
Of my young days, the wife how lov'd and tried!
Her glance met mine-I could not speak-she started
With a bewilder'd gaze;-until there came
Tears to my burning eyes, and from my lips her name.

XXVII.
She knew me then!-I murmur'd 'Leonor!'
And her heart answer'd!-oh! the voice is known
First from all else, and swiftest to restore
Love's buried images with one low tone,
That strikes like lightning, when the cheek is faded,
And the brow heavily with thought o'ershaded,
And all the brightness from the aspect gone!
-Upon my breast she sunk, when doubt was fled,
Weeping as those may weep, that meet in woe and dread.

XXVIII.
For there we might not rest. Alas! to leave
Those native towers, and know that they must fall
By slow decay, and none remain to grieve
When the weeds cluster'd on the lonely wall!
We were the last-my boy and I-the last
Of a long line which brightly thence had pass'd!
My father bless'd me as I left his hall-
-With his deep tones and sweet, tho' full of years,
He bless'd me there, and bath'd my child's young head with tears.

XXIX.
I had brought sorrow on his grey hairs down,
And cast the darkness of my branded name
(For so he deem'd it) on the clear renown,
My own ancestral heritage of fame.
And yet he bless'd me!-Father! if the dust
Lie on those lips benign, my spirit's trust
Is to behold thee yet, where grief and shame
Dim the bright day no more; and thou wilt know
That not thro' guilt thy son thus bow'd thine age with woe!

XXX.
And thou, my Leonor! that unrepining,
If sad in soul, didst quit all else for me,
When stars-the stars that earliest rise-are shining,
How their soft glance unseals each thought of thee!
For on our flight they smil'd;-their dewy rays,
Thro' the last olives, lit thy tearful gaze
Back to the home we never more might see;
So pass'd we on, like earth's first exiles, turning
Fond looks where hung the sword above their Eden burning.

XXXI.
It was a woe to say-'Farewell, my Spain!
The sunny and the vintage land, farewell!'
-I could have died upon the battle plain
For thee, my country! but I might not dwell
In thy sweet vales, at peace.-The voice of song
Breathes, with the myrtle scent, thy hills along;
The citron's glow is caught from shade and dell;
But what are these?-upon thy flowery sod
I might not kneel, and pour my free thoughts out to God!

XXXII.
O'er the blue deep I fled, the chainless deep!
-Strange heart of man! that ev'n midst woe swells high,
When thro' the foam he sees his proud bark sweep,
Flinging out joyous gleams to wave and sky!
Yes! it swells high, whate'er he leaves behind;
His spirit rises with the rising wind;
For, wedded to the far futurity,
On, on, it bears him ever, and the main
Seems rushing, like his hope, some happier shore to gain.

XXXIII.
Not thus is woman. Closely her still heart
Doth twine itself with ev'n each lifeless thing,
Which, long remember'd, seem'd to bear its part
In her calm joys. For ever would she cling,
A brooding dove, to that sole spot of earth
Where she hath loved, and given her children birth,
And heard their first sweet voices. There may Spring
Array no path, renew no flower, no leaf,
But hath its breath of home, its claim to farewell grief.

XXXIV.
I look'd on Leonor, and if there seem'd
A cloud of more than pensiveness to rise,
In the faint smiles that o'er her features gleam'd,
And the soft darkness of her serious eyes,
Misty with tender gloom; I call'd it nought
But the fond exile's pang, a lingering thought
Of her own vale, with all its melodies
And living light of streams. Her soul would rest
Beneath your shades, I said, bowers of the gorgeous west!

XXXV.
Oh! could we live in visions! could we hold
Delusion faster, longer, to our breast,
When it shuts from us, with its mantle's fold,
That which we see not, and are therefore blest!
But they, our lov'd and loving, they to whom
We have spread out our souls in joy and gloom,
Their looks and accents, unto ours address'd,
Have been a language of familiar tone
Too long to breathe, at last, dark sayings and unknown.

XXXVI.
I told my heart 'twas but the exile's woe
Which press'd on that sweet bosom;-I deceiv'd
My heart but half:-a whisper faint and low,
Haunting it ever, and at times believ'd,
Spoke of some deeper cause. How oft we seem
Like those that dream, and know the while they dream,
Midst the soft falls of airy voices griev'd,
And troubled, while bright phantoms round them play,
By a dim sense that all will float and fade away!

XXXVII.
Yet, as if chasing joy, I woo'd the breeze,
To speed me onward with the wings of morn.
-Oh! far amidst the solitary seas,
Which were not made for man, what man hath borne,
Answering their moan with his!-what thou didst bear,
My lost and loveliest! while that secret care
Grew terror, and thy gentle spirit, worn
By its dull brooding weight, gave way at last,
Beholding me as one from hope for ever cast!

XXXVIII.
For unto thee, as thro' all change, reveal'd
Mine inward being lay. In other eyes
I had to bow me yet, and make a shield,
To fence my burning bosom, of disguise;
By the still hope sustain'd, ere long to win
Some sanctuary, whose green retreats within,
My thoughts unfetter'd to their source might rise,
Like songs and scents of morn.-But thou didst look
Thro' all my soul, and thine even unto fainting shook.

XXXIX.
Fall'n, fall'n, I seem'd-yet, oh! not less belov'd,
Tho' from thy love was pluck'd the early pride,
And harshly, by a gloomy faith reproved,
And sear'd with shame!-tho' each young flower had died,
There was the root,-strong, living, not the less
That all it yielded now was bitterness;
Yet still such love as quits not misery's side,
Nor drops from guilt its ivy-like embrace,
Nor turns away from death's its pale heroic face.

XL.
Yes! thou hadst follow'd me thro' fear and flight;
Thou wouldst have follow'd had my pathway led
Even to the scaffold; had the flashing light
Of the rais'd axe made strong men shrink with dread,
Thou, midst the hush of thousands, wouldst have been
With thy clasp'd hands beside me kneeling seen,
And meekly bowing to the shame thy head-
-The shame!-oh! making beautiful to view
The might of human love-fair thing! so bravely true!

XLI.
There was thine agony-to love so well
Where fear made love life's chastener.-Heretofore
Whate'er of earth's disquiet round thee fell,
Thy soul, o'erpassing its dim bounds, could soar
Away to sunshine, and thy clear eye speak
Most of the skies when grief most touch'd thy cheek.
Now, that far brightness faded! never more
Couldst thou lift heavenwards for its hope thy heart,
Since at Heaven's gate it seem'd that thou and I must part.

XLII.
Alas! and life hath moments when a glance
(If thought to sudden watchfulness be stirr'd,)
A flush-a fading of the cheek perchance.
A word-less, less-the cadence of a word,
Lets in our gaze the mind's dim veil beneath,
Thence to bring haply knowledge fraught with death!
-Even thus, what never from thy lip was heard
Broke on my soul.-I knew that in thy sight
I stood-howe'er belov'd-a recreant from the light!

XLIII.
Thy sad sweet hymn, at eve, the seas along,-
-Oh! the deep soul it breath'd!-the love, the woe,
The fervor, pour'd in that full gush of song,
As it went floating through the fiery glow
Of the rich sunset!-bringing thoughts of Spain,
With all her vesper-voices, o'er the main,
Which seem'd responsive in its murmuring flow.
-' Ave sanctissima! '-how oft that lay
Hath melted from my heart the martyr-strength away!

Ave, sanctissima!
'Tis night-fall on the sea;
Ora pro nobis!
Our souls rise to thee!

Watch us, while shadows lie
O'er the dim water spread;
Hear the heart's lonely sigh,
-Thine , too, hath bled!

Thou that hast look'd on death,
Aid us when death is near!
Whisper of Heaven to faith;
Sweet mother, hear!

Ora pro nobis!
The wave must rock our sleep,
Ora, mater, ora!
Thou star of the deep!

XLIV.
'Ora pro nobis, mater!' -What a spell
Was in those notes, with day's last glory dying
On the flush'd waters!-seem'd they not to swell
From the far dust, wherein my sires were lying
With crucifix and sword?-Oh! yet how clear
Comes their reproachful sweetness to mine ear!
'Ora!' -with all the purple waves replying,
All my youth's visions rising in the strain-
-And I had thought it much to bear the rack and chain!

XLV.
Torture!-the sorrow of affection's eye,
Fixing its meekness on the spirit's core,
Deeper, and teaching more of agony,
May pierce than many swords!-and this I bore
With a mute pang. Since I had vainly striven
From its free springs to pour the truth of Heaven
Into thy trembling soul, my Leonor!
Silence rose up where hearts no hope could share:
-Alas! for those that love, and may not blend in prayer!

XLVI.
We could not pray together midst the deep,
Which, like a floor of sapphire, round us lay,
Through days of splendour, nights too bright for sleep,
Soft, solemn, holy!-We were on our way
Unto the mighty Cordillera-land,
With men whom tales of that world's golden strand
Had lur'd to leave their vines.-Oh! who shall say
What thoughts rose in us, when the tropic sky
Touch'd all its molten seas with sunset's alchemy?

XLVII.
Thoughts no more mingled!-Then came night-th' intense
Dark blue-the burning stars!-I saw thee shine
Once more, in thy serene magnificence,
O Southern Cross! as when thy radiant sign
First drew my gaze of youth.-No, not as then;
I had been stricken by the darts of men
Since those fresh days, and now thy light divine
Look'd on mine anguish, while within me strove
The still small voice against the might of suffering love.

XLVIII.
But thou, the clear, the glorious! thou wert pouring
Brilliance and joy upon the crystal wave,
While she that met thy ray with eyes adoring,
Stood in the lengthening shadow of the grave!
-Alas! I watch'd her dark religious glance,
As it still sought thee through the Heaven's expanse,
Bright Cross!-and knew not that I watch'd what gave
But passing lustre-shrouded soon to be-
A soft light found no more-no more on earth or sea!

XLIX.
I knew not all-yet something of unrest
Sat on my heart. Wake, ocean-wind! I said;
Waft us to land, in leafy freshness drest,
Where through rich clouds of foliage o'er her head,
Sweet day may steal, and rills unseen go by,
Like singing voices, and the green earth lie
Starry with flowers, beneath her graceful tread!
-But the calm bound us midst the glassy main;
Ne'er was her step to bend earth's living flowers again.
L.
Yes! as if Heaven upon the waves were sleeping,
Vexing my soul with quiet, there they lay,
All moveless through their blue transparence keeping,
The shadows of our sails, from day to day;
While she-oh! strongest is the strong heart's woe-
And yet I live! I feel the sunshine's glow-
And I am he that look'd, and saw decay
Steal o'er the fair of earth, th' ador'd too much!
-It is a fearful thing to love what death may touch.

LI.
A fearful thing that love and death may dwell
In the same world!-She faded on-and I-
Blind to the last, there needed death to tell
My trusting soul that she could fade to die!
Yet, ere she parted, I had mark'd a change,
-But it breath'd hope-'twas beautiful, though strange:
Something of gladness in the melody
Of her low voice, and in her words a flight
Of airy thought-alas! too perilously bright!

LII.
And a clear sparkle in her glance, yet wild,
And quick, and eager, like the flashing gaze
Of some all wondering and awakening child,
That first the glories of the earth surveys.
-How could it thus deceive me?-she had worn
Around her, like the dewy mists of morn,
A pensive tenderness through happiest days,
And a soft world of dreams had seem'd to lie
Still in her dark, and deep, and spiritual eye.

LIII.
And I could hope in that strange fire!-she died,
She died, with all its lustre on her mien!
-The day was melting from the waters wide,
And through its long bright hours her thoughts had been,
It seem'd, with restless and unwonted yearning,
To Spain's blue skies and dark sierras turning
For her fond words were all of vintage-scene,
And flowering myrtle, and sweet citron's breath-
-Oh! with what vivid hues life comes back oft on death!

LIV.
And from her lips the mountain-songs of old,
In wild faint snatches, fitfully had sprung;
Songs of the orange bower, the Moorish hold,
The 'Rio verde', on her soul that hung,
And thence flow'd forth.-But now the sun was low,
And watching by my side its last red glow,
That ever stills the heart, once more she sung
Her own soft 'Ora, mater!' -and the sound
Was even like love's farewell-so mournfully profound.

LV.
The boy had dropp'd to slumber at our feet;-
-'And I have lull'd him to his smiling rest
Once more!' she said:-I rais'd him-it was sweet,
Yet sad, to see the perfect calm which bless'd
His look that hour;-for now her voice grew weak;
And on the flowery crimson of his cheek,
With her white lips a long, long kiss she press'd,
Yet light, to wake him not.-Then sank her head
Against my bursting heart.-What did I clasp?-the dead!

LVI.
I call'd-to call what answers not our cries-
By that we lov'd to stand unseen, unheard,
With the loud passion of our tears and sighs
To see but some cold glistering ringlet stirr'd,
And in the quench'd eye's fixedness to gaze,
All vainly searching for the parted rays;
This is what waits us!-Dead!-with that chill word
To link our bosom-names!-For this we pour
Our souls upon the dust-nor tremble to adore!

LVII.
But the true parting came!-I look'd my last
On the sad beauty of that slumbering face;
How could I think the lovely spirit pass'd,
Which there had left so tenderly its trace?
Yet a dim awfulness was on the brow-
No! not like sleep to look upon art Thou,
Death, death!-She lay, a thing for earth's embrace,
To cover with spring-wreaths.-For earth's?-the wave
That gives the bier no flowers-makes moan above her grave!

LVIII.
On the mid-seas a knell!-for man was there,
Anguish and love-the mourner with his dead!
A long low-rolling knell-a voice of prayer-
Dark glassy waters, like a desert spread,-
And the pale-shining Southern Cross on high,
Its faint stars fading from a solemn sky,
Where mighty clouds before the dawn grew red;-
Were these things round me?-Such o'er memory sweep
Wildly when aught brings back that burial of the deep.

LIX.
Then the broad lonely sunrise!-and the plash
Into the sounding waves!-around her head
They parted, with a glancing moment's flash,
Then shut-and all was still. And now thy bed
Is of their secrets, gentlest Leonor!
Once fairest of young brides!-and never more,
Lov'd as thou wert, may human tear be shed
Above thy rest!-No mark the proud seas keep,
To show where he that wept may pause again to weep.

LX.
So the depths took thee!-Oh! the sullen sense
Of desolation in that hour compress'd!
Dust going down, a speck, amidst th' immense
And gloomy waters, leaving on their breast
The trace a weed might leave there!-Dust!-the thing
Which to the heart was as a living spring
Of joy, with fearfulness of love possess'd,
Thus sinking!-Love, joy, fear, all crush'd to this-
And the wide Heaven so far-so fathomless th' abyss!

LXI.
Where the line sounds not, where the wrecks lie low,
What shall wake thence the dead?-Blest, blest are they
That earth to earth entrust; for they may know
And tend the dwelling whence the slumberer's clay
Shall rise at last, and bid the young flowers bloom,
That waft a breath of hope around the tomb,
And kneel upon the dewy turf to pray!
But thou, what cave hath dimly chamber'd thee?
Vain dreams!-oh! art thou not where there is no more sea?

LXII.
The wind rose free and singing:-when for ever,
O'er that sole spot of all the watery plain,
I could have bent my sight with fond endeavour
Down, where its treasure was, its glance to strain;
Then rose the reckless wind!-Before our prow
The white foam flash'd-ay, joyously-and thou
Wert left with all the solitary main
Around thee-and thy beauty in my heart,
And thy meek sorrowing love-oh! where could that depart?

LXIII.
I will not speak of woe; I may not tell-
Friend tells not such to friend-the thoughts which rent
My fainting spirit, when its wild farewell
Across the billows to thy grave was sent,
Thou, there most lonely!-He that sits above,
In his calm glory, will forgive the love
His creatures bear each other, ev'n if blent
With a vain worship; for its close is dim
Ever with grief, which leads the wrung soul back to Him!

LXIV.
And with a milder pang if now I bear
To think of thee in thy forsaken rest,
If from my heart be lifted the despair,
The sharp remorse with healing influence press'd,
If the soft eyes that visit me in sleep
Look not reproach, though still they seem to weep;
It is that He my sacrifice hath bless'd,
And fill'd my bosom, through its inmost cell,
With a deep chastening sense that all at last is well.

LXV.
Yes! thou art now-Oh! wherefore doth the thought
Of the wave dashing o'er thy long bright hair,
The sea-weed into its dark tresses wrought,
The sand thy pillow-thou that wert so fair!
Come o'er me still?-Earth, earth!-it is the hold
Earth ever keeps on that of earthy mould!
But thou art breathing now in purer air,
I well believe, and freed from all of error,
Which blighted here the root of thy sweet life with terror.

LXVI.
And if the love which here was passing light
Went with what died not-Oh! that this we knew,
But this!-that through the silence of the night,
Some voice, of all the lost ones and the true,
Would speak, and say, if in their far repose,
We are yet aught of what we were to those
We call the dead!-their passionate adieu,
Was it but breath, to perish?-Holier trust
Be mine!-thy love is there, but purified from dust!

LXVII.
A thing all heavenly!-clear'd from that which hung
As a dim cloud between us, heart and mind!
Loos'd from the fear, the grief, whose tendrils flung
A chain, so darkly with its growth entwin'd.
This is my hope!-though when the sunset fades,
When forests rock the midnight on their shades,
When tones of wail are in the rising wind,
Across my spirit some faint doubt may sigh;
For the strong hours will sway this frail mortality!

LXVIII.
We have been wanderers since those days of woe,
Thy boy and I!-As wild birds tend their young,
So have I tended him-my bounding roe!
The high Peruvian solitudes among;
And o'er the Andes-torrents borne his form,
Where our frail bridge hath quiver'd midst the storm.
-But there the war-notes of my country rung,
And, smitten deep of Heaven and man, I fled
To hide in shades unpierc'd a mark'd and weary head.

LXIX.
But he went on in gladness-that fair child!
Save when at times his bright eye seem'd to dream,
And his young lips, which then no longer smil'd,
Ask'd of his mother!-that was but a gleam
Of Memory, fleeting fast; and then his play
Through the wide Llanos cheer'd again our way,
And by the mighty Oronoco stream,
On whose lone margin we have heard at morn,
From the mysterious rocks, the sunrise-music borne.

LXX.
So like a spirit's voice! a harping tone,
Lovely, yet ominous to mortal ear,
Such as might reach us from a world unknown,
Troubling man's heart with thrills of joy and fear!
'Twas sweet!-yet those deep southern shades oppress'd
My soul with stillness, like the calms that rest
On melancholy waves: I sigh'd to hear
Once more earth's breezy sounds, her foliage fann'd,
And turn'd to seek the wilds of the red hunter's land.

LXXI.
And we have won a bower of refuge now,
In this fresh waste, the breath of whose repose
Hath cool'd, like dew, the fever of my brow,
And whose green oaks and cedars round me close,
As temple-walls and pillars, that exclude
Earth's haunted dreams from their free solitude;
All, save the image and the thought of those
Before us gone; our lov'd of early years,
Gone where affection's cup hath lost the taste of tears.

LXXII.
I see a star-eve's first-born!-in whose train
Past scenes, words, looks, come back. The arrowy spire
Of the lone cypress, as of wood-girt fane,
Rests dark and still amidst a heaven of fire;
The pine gives forth its odours, and the lake
Gleams like one ruby, and the soft winds wake,
Till every string of nature's solemn lyre
Is touch'd to answer; its most secret tone
Drawn from each tree, for each hath whispers all its own.

LXXIII.
And hark! another murmur on the air,
Not of the hidden rills, or quivering shades!
-That is the cataract's, which the breezes bear,
Filling the leafy twilight of the glades
With hollow surge-like sounds, as from the bed
Of the blue mournful seas, that keep the dead:
But they are far!-the low sun here pervades
Dim forest-arches, bathing with red gold
Their stems, till each is made a marvel to behold,

LXXIV.
Gorgeous, yet full of gloom!-In such an hour,
The vesper-melody of dying bells
Wanders through Spain, from each grey convent's tower
O'er shining rivers pour'd, and olive-dells,
By every peasant heard, and muleteer,
And hamlet, round my home:-and I am here,
Living again through all my life's farewells,
In these vast woods, where farewell ne'er was spoken,
And sole I lift to Heaven a sad heart-yet unbroken!

LXXV.
In such an hour are told the hermit's beads;
With the white sail the seaman's hymn floats by:
Peace be with all! whate'er their varying creeds,
With all that send up holy thoughts on high!
Come to me, boy!-by Guadalquivir's vines,
By every stream of Spain, as day declines,
Man's prayers are mingled in the rosy sky.
-We, too, will pray; nor yet unheard, my child!
Of Him whose voice we hear at eve amidst the wild.

LXXVI.
At eve?-oh! through all hours!-From dark dreams oft
Awakening, I look forth, and learn the might
Of solitude, while thou art breathing soft,
And low, my lov'd one! on the breast of night:
I look forth on the stars-the shadowy sleep
Of forests-and the lake, whose gloomy deep
Sends up red sparkles to the fire-flies' light.
A lonely world!-even fearful to man's thought,
But for His presence felt, whom here my soul hath sought.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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