Felicia Dorothea Hemans

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

The Parting Song


A youth went forth to exile, from a home
Such as to early thought gives images,
The longest treasur'd, and most oft recall'd,
And brightest kept, of love;-a mountain home,
That, with the murmur of its rocking pines
And sounding waters, first in childhood's heart
Wakes the deep sense of nature unto joy,
And half unconscious prayer;-a Grecian home,
With the transparence of blue skies o'erhung,
And, through the dimness of its olive shades,
Catching the flash of fountains, and the gleam
Of shining pillars from the fanes of old.

And this was what he left!-Yet many leave
Far more:-the glistening eye, that first from theirs
Call'd out the soul's bright smile; the gentle hand,
Which through the sunshine led forth infant steps
To where the violets lay; the tender voice
That earliest taught them what deep melody
Lives in affection's tones.-He left not these.
-Happy the weeper, that but weeps to part
With all a mother's love!-A bitterer grief
Was his-To part unlov'd! -of her unlov'd,
That should have breath'd upon his heart, like Spring,
Fostering its young faint flowers!

Yet had he friends,
And they went forth to cheer him on his way
Unto the parting spot-and she too went,
That mother, tearless for her youngest-born.
The parting spot was reach'd:-a lone deep glen,
Holy, perchance, of yore, for cave and fount
Were there, and sweet-voiced echoes; and above,
The silence of the blue, still, upper Heaven
Hung round the crags of Pindus, where they wore
Their crowning snows.-Upon a reck he sprung,

The unbelov'd one, for his home to gaze
Through the wild laurels back; but then a light
Broke on the stern proud sadness of his eye,
A sudden quivering light, and from his lips
A burst of passionate song.
'Farewell, farewell!

'I hear thee, O thou rushing stream!-thou 'rt from my native dell,
Thou 'rt bearing thence a mournful sound-a murmur of farewell!
And fare thee well-flow on, my stream!-flow on, thou bright and free!
I do but dream that in thy voice one tone laments for me;
But I have been a thing unlov'd, from childhood's loving years,
And therefore turns my soul to thee, for thou hast known my tears;
The mountains, and the caves, and thou, my secret tears have known:
The woods can tell where he hath wept, that ever wept alone!

'I see thee once again, my home! thou 'rt there amidst thy vines,
And clear upon thy gleaming roof the light of summer shines.
It is a joyous hour when eve comes whispering through thy groves,
The hour that brings the son from toil, the hour the mother loves!
-The hour the mother loves!-for me belov'd it hath not been;
Yet ever in its purple smile, thou smil'st, a blessed scene!
Whose quiet beauty o'er my soul through distant years will come-
-Yet what but as the dead, to thee, shall I be then, my home?

'Not as the dead!-no, not the dead!-We speak of them -we keep
Their names, like light that must not fade, within our bosoms deep!
We hallow ev'n the lyre they touch'd, we love the lay they sung,
We pass with softer step the place they fill'd our band among!
But I depart like sound, like dew, like aught that leaves on earth
No trace of sorrow or delight, no memory of its birth!
I go!-the echo of the rock a thousand songs may swell
When mine is a forgotten voice.-Woods, mountains, home, farewell!

'And farewell, mother!-I have borne in lonely silence long,
But now the current of my soul grows passionate and strong!
And I will speak! though but the wind that wanders through the sky,
And but the dark deep-rustling pines and rolling streams reply.
Yes! I will speak!-within my breast whate'er hath seem'd to be,
There lay a hidden fount of love, that would have gush'd for thee!
Brightly it would have gush'd, but thou, my mother! thou hast thrown
Back on the forests and the wilds what should have been thine own!

'Then fare thee well! I leave thee not in loneliness to pine,
Since thou hast sons of statelier mien and fairer brow than mine!
Forgive me that thou couldst not love!-it may be, that a tone
Yet from my burning heart may pierce, through thine, when I am gone!
And thou perchance mayst weep for him on whom thou ne'er hast smil'd,
And the grave give his birthright back to thy neglected child!
Might but my spirit then return, and 'midst its kindred dwell,
And quench its thirst with love's free tears!-'tis all a dream-farewell!'

'Farewell!'-the echo died with that deep word,
Yet died not so the late repentant pang
By the strain quicken'd in the mother's breast!
There had pass'd many changes o'er her brow,
And cheek, and eye; but into one bright flood
Of tears at last all melted; and she fell
On the glad bosom of her child, and cried
'Return, return, my son!'-the echo caught
A lovelier sound than song, and woke again,
Murmuring-'Return, my son!'--

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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