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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882 / Portland, Maine)

The Lunatic Girl

Most beautiful, most gentle! Yet how lost
To all that gladdens the fair earth; the eye
That watched her being; the maternal care
That kept and nourished her; and the calm light
That steals from our own thoughts, and softly rests
On youth's green vallies and smooth-sliding waters.
Alas! few suns of life, and fewer winds,
Had withered or had wasted the fresh rose
That bloomed upon her cheek; but one chill frost
Came in that early Autumn, when ripe thought
Is rich and beautiful, and blighted it;
And the fair stalk grew languid day by day,
And drooped -- and drooped, and shed its many leaves.
'Tis said that some have died of love; and some,
Love's passionate feelings and heart-wasting cares,
have spurned life's threshold with a desperate foot:
And others have gone mad,-- and she was one!--
Her lover died at sea; and they had felt
A coldness for each other when they parted;
But love returned again, and to her ear
Came tidings that the ship which bore her lover
Had sullenly gone down at sea, and all were lost.
I saw her in her native vale, when high
The aspiring lark up from the reedy river
Mounted, on cheerful pinion; and she sat
Casting smooth pebbles into a clear fountain,
And marking how they sunk; and oft she sighed
For him that perished thus in the vast deep.
She had a sea-shell, that her lover brought
From the far-distant ocean, and she pressed
Its smooth cold lips unto her ear, and thought
It whispered tiding of the dark blue sea;
And sad, she cried, 'The tides are out!-- and now
I see his corse upon the stormy beach!'
Around her neck a string of rose-lipped shells,
And coral, and white pearl, was loosely hung;
And close beside her lay a delicate fan,
Made of the halcyon's blue wing; and when
She looked upon it, it would calm her thoughts
As that bird calms the ocean,-- for it gave
Mournful, yet pleasant, memory. Once I marked,
When through the mountain hollows and green woods,
That bent beneath its footsteps, the loud wind
Came with a voice as of the restless deep,
She raised her head, and on her pale, cold cheek
A beauty of diviner seeming came;
And then she spread her hands, and smiled, as if
She welcomed a long absent friend,-- and then
Shrunk timorously back again, and wept.
I turned away a multitude of thoughts,
Mournful and dark, were crowding on my mind;
And as I left that lost and ruined one,--
A living monument that still on earth
There is warm love and deep sincerity,--
She gazed upon the west, where the blue sky
Held, like an ccean, in its wide embrace
Those fairy islands of bright cloud, that lay
So calm and quietly in the thin ether.
And then she pointed where, alone and high,
One little cloud sailed onward, like a lost
And wandering bark, and fainter grew, and fainter,
And soon was swallowed up in the blue depths;
And, when it sunk away, she turned again
With sad despondency and tears to earth.

Three long and weary months -- yet not a whisper
Of stern reproach for that cold parting! Then
She sat no longer by her favorite fountain!--
She was at rest forever.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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