Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

(1788-1879 / the United States)

Alice Ray: A Romance In Rhyme: Canto I - Poem by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

The birds their love-notes warble
Among the blossomed trees;
The flowers are sighing forth their sweets
To wooing honey-bees;-
The glad brook o'er a pebbly floor
Goes dancing on its way,-
But not a thing is so like spring
As happy Alice Ray.
An only child was Alice,
And, like the blest above,
The gentle maid had ever breathed
An atmosphere of love;
Her father's smile like sunshine came,
Like dew her mother's kiss,
Their love and goodness made her home,
Like heaven, the place of bliss.
Beneath such tender training,
The joyous child had sprung
Like one bright flower, in wild-wood bower,
And gladness round her flung;
And all who met her blessed her,
And turned again to pray,
That grief and care might ever spare
The happy Alice Ray.
The gift that made her charming
Was not from Venus caught;
Nor was it, Pallas-like, derived
From majesty of thought;-
Her healthful cheek was tinged with brown,
Her hair without a curl;
But then her eyes were love-lit stars,
Her teeth as pure as pearl.
And when in merry laughter
Her sweet, clear voice was heard,
It welled from out her happy heart
Like carol of a bird;
And all who heard were moved to smiles,
As at some mirthful lay,
And, to the stranger's look, replied-
''Tis that dear Alice Ray.'
And so she came, like sunbeams
That bring the April green;
As type of nature's royalty,
They called her 'Woodburn's Queen!'
A sweet, heart-lifting cheerfulness,
Like spring-time of the year,
Seemed ever on her steps to wait,-
No wonder she was dear.
Yet though with nature living,
And little taught by rules,
Her mind had often grasped a truth
Beyond the art of schools;-
No Sophist could have moved her faith,-
She knew her Bible true,
And thrice, ere sixteen springs she bloomed,
Had read the good Book through.
In sooth, books oft beguiled her
From work as well as play,
And in their dear companionship
She passed the live-long day-
Sweet Poesy and wild Romance,
Tales of the Wise and Good,
Poor Christian's weary Pilgrimage,
And 'Sweetened Solitude.'
And, with the Story-tellers,
What friendships had she made!
She pitied lonely Crusoe's lot,
And loved Scheherazade,-
But to the Bard of Avon turned
Her fancy and her heart,
Nor knew which most in him she loved-
The nature or the art.
Her world was ever joyous-
She thought of grief and pain
As giants in the olden time
That ne'er would come again;
The seasons all had charms for her;
She welcomed each with joy,-
The charm that in her spirit lived
No changes could destroy.
Her heart was like a fountain,
The waters always sweet,-
Her pony in the pasture,
The kitten at her feet,
The ruffling bird of June, and
The wren in the old wall-
Each knew her loving carefulness,
And came at her soft call.
Her love made all things lovely,
For in the heart must live
The feeling that imparts the charm-
We gain by what we give.
She never thought of ugliness
Unless with sin conjoined,-
How could dark Envy's shadow creep
On such a warm, pure mind?
And who could dream the future
Had ills for her in store?
Her cup of life seemed filled from springs
With pure joy brimming o'er-
And Piety, like living plant,
Beside the waters rose,
With healing leaves to shelter her
From every storm that blows.
And though, as years rolled onward,
Her parents might be gone,
Yet still the loving Alice
Would never be alone.
Was not young Arthur even now
For ever by her side?
They were too young to marry yet,
But she would be his bride:
So thought the town of Woodburn,
And all the gossips cried-
'A noble Bridegroom he will make!
And she a charming Bride!'
The son of good old Deacon Gray-
And vainly had you gone,
To find a youth like Arthur,
From Maine to Galveston.
He won the prize at college
And in the wrestler's ring;
Could shoot a squirrel in the eye,
Or woodcock on the wing;
He rode with grace and bearing high,
Like Cossack in command;
And his good steed would gently feed,
Like Arab's, from his hand;
And, when he called his dog or steed,
His tones were ever bland.
And he the Law was reading,
And all the neighbours said,-
'He'll make a Judge like Marshall,
With such a heart and head!'
Aunt Mary said the orphan
Would find a friend in him,
For when she told a moving tale,
His eyes with tears were dim.
The brave are ever gentle,
The good should be the gay,-
And Arthur was as bold of heart
As knight in tourney fray,-
His mind was always firm for truth
As rock 'mid ocean's spray;
And, though a restless daring will
At times he might display,
His wildest moods were calmed at once,
But mention Alice Ray.
And she-though when you talked of him,
She blushed and turned away-
Was still his partner in the dance
And in the dashing sleigh;
-They always searched together
For flowers the first of May;
And duly to the Sabbath School
On every holy day
She went-they both were Teachers there,-
She went with Arthur Gray.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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