Eloise Alberta Bibb
The Vestal Virgin - Poem by Eloise Alberta Bibb
Virgin of the vestal flame,
Numa's child so chaste and fair,
Ah! Floronia is thy name!
Goddess of the raven hair;
Weepest thou o'er love denied?
Thou canst ne'er become a bride.
Thou hast sworn to tend the fires.
While thy bosom pants with life,
That the vestal hall requires,
Hence thou ne'er canst be a wife:
Germ of death, Floronia fair,
Sleepest in thy heart, - beware!
Glorious night! the evening air
Shakes the murmuring fountain's breast,
Moonbeams now their lustre share,
Gives to earth an air of rest.'
From the convent's garden bower,
Comes Floronia at midnight's hour,
Deep in thought, yet still she hears
Light steps rustling o'er the leaves;
'Tis a phantom here she fears,
To the garden bower she cleaves,
Fearful lest some wandering shade,
Her retreat a visit paid.
'Ay, no mortal dare come near,'
Thinks Floronia with affright,
'Guarded all these gates are here,
Yet the vision comes in sight,
Sacred are these cloistered walls,
Vestal maids receive no calls.
'See! the moon is shining now,
On his face she throws her light, -
Ah! methinks I know that brow,
And that sparkling eye so bright,
Lucius! my heart's desire,
Why for me thou dost inquire?
'Lucius, dost thou not know
All such meetings end in death,
Thou wilt bring us both to woe,
Love, thy boldness steals my breath,
Pledged to feed the vestal flame,
Never can I bear thy name.'
'Ah, Floronia! could'st thou know,
Mine's a flame more potent still,
Sick my heart with passion's glow,
Mad my brain with thoughts that kill.
Rome, for wisdom thou'rt renowned,
'Tis a boasted, hollow sound.
'Lofty walls and guarded gates
Thwart not love's most strong desire;
Listen, while my tongue relates
How I quenched love's burning fire:
Deepest abyss, love, for thee,
Would I plunge, thy face to see.
'Tarquin built in days of yore,
Subterranean passage here,
Lovers, aye, like me, before,
Trod this aqueduct so drear.
Love, I beg thee fly with me,
See, I give my life for thee.'
'Lucius, behold the dawn,
Go, I pray thee, leave me here,
Mark the first fresh breath of morn,
Leave this cloister dark and drear, -
Lo! ye gods - we are perceived,
Warnings, they, no doubt, received.
'Lucius, I beg thee, fly!
Go, my heart, think not of me.
Love, I cannot see thee die,
Look! - they carry chains for thee;
Hear the virgins' dismal cry,
Darling, thou wilt surely die.
'See! the pontiff cometh near,
Fly, my own, thou canst be free!
Seek thy unknown passage drear, -
Lucius, think not of me!
Vain! the lictors bind him fast,
They have stilled his voice at last.
'With those rods they're scourging him,
Vesta! save my early love!
Oh! they tear him limb from limb;
Help him, gods, who reign above;
Mark! his large and bright blue eyes
Seek my face before he dies.
'Lucius, lost love, farewell!
I will meet thee soon again;
Short indeed was love's sweet spell,
Full of misery, dread and pain;
Ah! they bind me now in chains,
Soon released I'll be from pains.'
'Drear this dungeon, cold and dark,
Showers of stones are on my tomb;
They have left a single spark,
In this bleak and silent room.
Slowly must I perish here,
In this gloomy dungeon drear.
'Not a dagger have I, - none,
O, to end this torturing pain;
Poison, weapons - no, not one, -
Wild my thoughts and mad my brain.
Lucius, call me, love, to thee,
Set this tortured spirit free.
'Rome, thou tyrant, - barbarous land,
Jupiter dost frown on thee;
May Olympu's angry hand
Set these tortured vestals free!
Dark my soul with dread and fear,
Darling Lucius, enter here.
'Death! - dost thou - encompass me?
Is it - thee - that grips - my heart?
Come, - thou friend, I - welcome thee.
True, - with torture, - now, I part?
Lucius, - for thee, - I cry,
Gods! - at last - at last - I die.'
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