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

Alice Ray: A Romance In Rhyme: Canto Iv

Around the sides of Etna
How fair the gardens grow,-
Yet burning Desolation
Is fierce and near below!-
While straying 'mid the vines and flowers,
We rarely pause to think,
How close this Beauty presses on
Destruction's awful brink!
And when the gay are flaunting,
Like flowers from hot-house brought,
We oft forget their blandest smile
Conceals some burning thought
Of pain, remorse or envy,
The surface hid beneath,-
Oh many wear the flowers without
Whose hearts are filled with death!
When all looks fair in seeming,
And outwardly serene,
We say ''tis good;'-but had we power
To lift the veil between,
And see how passion's lava
Is gathering in the breast,
While Justice, like a hidden stream
That cannot be suppressed,
Is wearing channels, day by day,
And coming nigh and nigher,-
How we should warn the world to flee
From sin's volcanic fire!
Ay, Justice, who evades her?
Her scales reach every heart;
The action and the motive,
She weigheth each apart;
And none who swerve from right or truth
Can 'scape her penalty;-
Oh! sore the Retribution,
Poor Alice, laid on thee.
Yet Alice had not broken
A law that men endite;
But still, in her own mind she saw
The Law in purer light;
Had she not pined for Beauty,
With Envy's selfish eye,
And wed a man she did not love
For wealth, and station high?
She knew she did not love him,
Not with that pure, heart-love,
A true wife for her husband feels,
Kindled from heaven above:-
To wed a man one does not love,
What suffering to incur!
But Alice had another grief-
Her husband loved not her:-
That is,-'twas not his nature
To love with constancy;
When dazzled by her beauty,
And she a novelty,
He loved,-but soon the holy charm
Had lost its light and power,
And he would leave her lone and sad
For some new toy or flower.
She felt the change as woman
Feels, with the deepest pain,
And often strove, by sweetest wiles,
To lure his heart again;-
She wore the colours he admired,
The jewels he had given,
And met him with a face of smiles
Even when her heart was riven.
When once she tried to tell him
How she her bird had freed,
And how it nestled in her neck-
He only cried-'Indeed!
Where is the paper? 'Tis the day
To learn whose racer wins;-
And then, tonight, with that new star,
The Opera begins.'
Their souls were never mated,-
Hers centred in a home
Where all was truth and tenderness,
And none but dear ones come;
His joy was found on Pleasure's tide,
With gay companions nigh,
And should they sink, it mattered not,
If he but held a buoy;-
The motto graven on his seal
Was, 'I-and only I.'
What wonder that in sadness
The loving Alice pined;-
Had Heaven her lot appointed
She might have been resigned;
But 'twas the bitter chalice
Which she herself had filled,-
It was the deadly Upas plant-
Her Envy had distilled.
What cared she now for Beauty?
Her Husband marked it not,-
Her flowing hair might sweetly curl,
-Its colour he forgot;
Her face was like Belinda's fair,
And yet he turned away
And gazed, and praised some painted thing
That flaunted in the play.
Yet still the hoping Alice
Was so unused to grief,
She tried to think some good would come,
Some change would bring relief;
But days, weeks-months, are passing by,
And still her chains grow stronger;
She felt her sorrow was so great
She could not bear it longer.
And now kind thoughts of Arthur
Would with her dreamings come,
She strove to drive him from her mind-
But he was near her home,
And all she loved and sighed to see,-
As well forget her prayer
As him who often by her side
Had knelt that right to share.
And he had loved her truly,
And she to him was fair,
But now, with all her Beauty,
No one for her would care;
She felt the crisis coming,
Even her bright hopes had fled,
She wished but for her mother
To hold her throbbing head.
And when the blush of morning
Burst on the eastern sky,
The high roofs seemed like leaden weights
Upon her lifted eye,-
And when, as blesséd evening came,
She looked towards the west,
She felt as if the cold, hard walls
Were closing round her breast!
And dreadful was the struggle
Of the last dying scene,-
Oh, what despairing thoughts arose,
With tears and prayers between!
The last pang came-she gave one shriek,
As though her heart-strings broke,-
And then a hand clasped hers, and then
The breathless girl-awoke!
She woke, and there was Arthur,
Beneath that old elm tree,
With face of ashy pallor,
Beside her on his knee;-
'What ails thee, Alice, dearest?
Thy cry was strange and wild;'
She laid her head upon his breast,
And wept as weeps a child.
And ere she ceased her sobbing,
She told him all her woes,
From her Saratoga sorrows,
To that dark Vision's close:
She said-'My heart was wrong and weak,
How could I be so dull!
But now my dream has taught me this,
The loved are beautiful.
Forgive me, oh, forgive me,
My foolishness and pride!'
-He whispered he forgave her all-
And something more beside;
I could not hear distinctly,
For song began to flow,
The joyous bird was over-head,
And lovers speak so low.
But this I know-ere Autumn
Put on his Winter grey-
While yet the melted rainbow,
'Mid forest shadow lay,
And trees were flushed with glory
More rich than flowers of May-
Though very late the season
For such a grand array,
It seemed as Earth kept on her robes
For Festival display-
But on the Friday after
That bright Thanksgiving-Day,*
Had you in Woodburn village
Enquired for Alice Ray-
They would have smiled and said-'She now
Is Mrs. Arthur Gray!'

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