Rosalind and HelenA Modern EclogueROSALIND, HELEN, and her Child.SCENE. The Shore of the Lake of ComoHelen.Come hither, my sweet Rosalind.’T is long since thou and I have met;And yet methinks it were unkindThose moments to forget.Come, sit by me. I see thee standBy this lone lake, in this far land,Thy loose hair in the light wind flying,Thy sweet voice to each tone of evenUnited, and thine eyes replyingTo the hues of yon fair heaven.Come, gentle friend! wilt sit by me?And be as thou wert wont to beEre we were disunited?None doth behold us now; the powerThat led us forth at this lone hourWill be but ill requitedIf thou depart in scorn. Oh, come,And talk of our abandoned home!Remember, this is Italy,And we are exiles. Talk with meOf that our land, whose wilds and floods,Barren and dark although they be,Were dearer than these chestnut woods;Those heathy paths, that inland stream,And the blue mountains, shapes which seemLike wrecks of childhood’s sunny dream;Which that we have abandoned now,Weighs on the heart like that remorseWhich altered friendship leaves. I seekNo more our youthful intercourse.That cannot be! Rosalind, speak,Speak to me! Leave me not! When morn did come,When evening fell upon our common home,When for one hour we parted,--do not frown;I would not chide thee, though thy faith is broken;But turn to me. Oh! by this cherished tokenOf woven hair, which thou wilt not disown,Turn, as ’t were but the memory of me,And not my scornèd self who prayed to thee!Rosalind.Is it a dream, or do I seeAnd hear frail Helen? I would fleeThy tainting touch; but former yearsArise, and bring forbidden tears;And my o’erburdened memorySeeks yet its lost repose in thee.I share thy crime. I cannot chooseBut weep for thee; mine own strange griefBut seldom stoops to such relief;Nor ever did I love thee less,Though mourning o’er thy wickednessEven with a sister’s woe. I knewWhat to the evil world is due,And therefore sternly did refuseTo link me with the infamyOf one so lost as Helen. Now,Bewildered by my dire despair,Wondering I blush, and weep that thouShouldst love me still--thou only!--There,Let us sit on that gray stoneTill our mournful talk be done.Helen.Alas! not there; I cannot bearThe murmur of this lake to hear.A sound from there, Rosalind dear,Which never yet I heard elsewhereBut in our native land, recurs,Even here where now we meet. It stirsToo much of suffocating sorrow!In the dell of yon dark chestnut woodIs a stone seat, a solitudeLess like our own. The ghost of peaceWill not desert this spot. To-morrow,If thy kind feelings should not cease,We may sit here.Rosalind.Thou lead, my sweet,And I will follow.Henry. ’T is Fenici’s seatWhere you are going? This is not the way,Mamma; it leads behind those trees that growClose to the little river.Helen.Yes, I know;I was bewildered. Kiss me and be gay,Dear boy; why do you sob?Henry.I do not know;But it might break any one’s heart to seeYou and the lady cry so bitterly.Helen.It is a gentle child, my friend. Go home,Henry, and play with Lilla till I come.We only cried with joy to see each other;We are quite merry now: Good night.The boyLifted a sudden look upon his mother,And, in the gleam of forced and hollow joyWhich lightened o’er her face, laughed with the gleeOf light and unsuspecting infancy,And whispered in her ear, ’Bring home with youThat sweet strange lady-friend.’ Then off he flew,But stopped, and beckoned with a meaning smile,Where the road turned. Pale Rosalind the while,Hiding her face, stood weeping silently.In silence then they took the wayBeneath the forest’s solitude.It was a vast and antique wood,Through which they took their way;And the gray shades of eveningO’er that green wilderness did flingStill deeper solitude.Pursuing still the path that woundThe vast and knotted trees around,Through which slow shades were wandering,To a deep lawny dell they came,To a stone seat beside a spring,O’er which the columned wood did frameA roofless temple, like the faneWhere, ere new creeds could faith obtain,Man’s early race once knelt beneathThe overhanging deity.O’er this fair fountain hung the sky,Now spangled with rare stars. The snake,The pale snake, that with eager breathCreeps here his noontide thirst to slake,Is beaming with many a mingled hue,Shed from yon dome’s eternal blue,When he floats on that dark and lucid floodIn the light of his own loveliness;And the birds, that in the fountain dipTheir plumes, with fearless fellowshipAbove and round him wheel and hover.The fitful wind is heard to stirOne solitary leaf on high;The chirping of the grasshopperFills every pause. There is emotionIn all that dwells at noontide here;Then through the intricate wild woodA maze of life and light and motionIs woven. But there is stillness now--Gloom, and the trance of Nature now.The snake is in his cave asleep;The birds are on the branches dreaming;Only the shadows creep;Only the glow-worm is gleaming;Only the owls and the nightingalesWake in this dell when daylight fails,And gray shades gather in the woods;And the owls have all fled far awayIn a merrier glen to hoot and play,For the moon is veiled and sleeping now.The accustomed nightingale still broodsOn her accustomed bough,But she is mute; for her false mateHas fled and left her desolate.This silent spot tradition oldHad peopled with the spectral dead.For the roots of the speaker’s hair felt coldAnd stiff, as with tremulous lips he toldThat a hellish shape at midnight ledThe ghost of a youth with hoary hair,And sate on the seat beside him there,Till a naked child came wandering by,When the fiend would change to a lady fair!A fearful tale! the truth was worse;For here a sister and a brotherHad solemnized a monstrous curse,Meeting in this fair solitude;For beneath yon very sky,Had they resigned to one anotherBody and soul. The multitude,Tracking them to the secret wood,Tore limb from limb their innocent child,And stabbed and trampled on its mother;But the youth, for God’s most holy grace,A priest saved to burn in the market-place.Duly at evening Helen cameTo this lone silent spot,From the wrecks of a tale of wilder sorrowSo much of sympathy to borrowAs soothed her own dark lot.Duly each evening from her home,With her fair child would Helen comeTo sit upon that antique seat,While the hues of day were pale;And the bright boy beside her feetNow lay, lifting at intervalsHis broad blue eyes on her;Now, where some sudden impulse calls,Following. He was a gentle boyAnd in all gentle sorts took joy.Oft in a dry leaf for a boat,With a small feather for a sail,His fancy on that spring would float,If some invisible breeze might stirIts marble calm; and Helen smiledThrough tears of awe on the gay child,To think that a boy as fair as he,In years which never more may be,By that same fount, in that same wood,The like sweet fancies had pursued;And that a mother, lost like her,Had mournfully sate watching him.Then all the scene was wont to swimThrough the mist of a burning tear.For many months had Helen knownThis scene; and now she thither turnedHer footsteps, not alone.The friend whose falsehood she had mournedSate with her on that seat of stone.Silent they sate; for evening,And the power its glimpses bring,Had with one awful shadow quelledThe passion of their grief. They sateWith linkèd hands, for unrepelledHad Helen taken Rosalind’s.Like the autumn wind, when it unbindsThe tangled locks of the nightshade’s hairWhich is twined in the sultry summer airRound the walls of an outworn sepulchre,Did the voice of Helen, sad and sweet,And the sound of her heart that ever beatAs with sighs and words she breathed on her,Unbind the knots of her friend’s despair,Till her thoughts were free to float and flow;And from her laboring bosom now,Like the bursting of a prisoned flame,The voice of a long-pent sorrow came.Rosalind.I saw the dark earth fall uponThe coffin; and I saw the stoneLaid over him whom this cold breastHad pillowed to his nightly rest!Thou knowest not, thou canst not knowMy agony. Oh! I could not weep.The sources whence such blessings flowWere not to be approached by me!But I could smile, and I could sleep,Though with a self-accusing heart.In morning’s light, in evening’s gloom,I watched--and would not thence depart--My husband’s unlamented tomb.My children knew their sire was gone;But when I told them, ’He is dead,’They laughed aloud in frantic glee,They clapped their hands and leaped about,Answering each other’s ecstasyWith many a prank and merry shout.But I sate silent and alone,Wrapped in the mock of mourning weed.They laughed, for he was dead; but ISate with a hard and tearless eye,And with a heart which would denyThe secret joy it could not quell,Low muttering o’er his loathèd name;Till from that self-contention cameRemorse where sin was none; a hellWhich in pure spirits should not dwell.I ’ll tell thee truth. He was a manHard, selfish, loving only gold,Yet full of guile; his pale eyes ranWith tears which each some falsehood told,And oft his smooth and bridled tongueWould give the lie to his flushing cheek;He was a coward to the strong;He was a tyrant to the weak,On whom his vengeance he would wreak;For scorn, whose arrows search the heart,From many a stranger’s eye would dart,And on his memory cling, and followHis soul to its home so cold and hollow.He was a tyrant to the weak,And we were such, alas the day!Oft, when my little ones at playWere in youth’s natural lightness gay,Or if they listened to some taleOf travellers, or of fairyland,When the light from the wood-fire’s dying brandFlashed on their faces,--if they heardOr thought they heard upon the stairHis footstep, the suspended wordDied on my lips; we all grew pale;The babe at my bosom was hushed with fearIf it thought it heard its father near;And my two wild boys would near my kneeCling, cowed and cowering fearfully.I ’ll tell thee truth: I loved another.His name in my ear was ever ringing,His form to my brain was ever clinging;Yet, if some stranger breathed that name,My lips turned white, and my heart beat fast.My nights were once haunted by dreams of flame,My days were dim in the shadow castBy the memory of the same!Day and night, day and night,He was my breath and life and light,For three short years, which soon were passed.On the fourth, my gentle motherLed me to the shrine, to beHis sworn bride eternally.And now we stood on the altar stair,When my father came from a distant land,And with a loud and fearful cryRushed between us suddenly.I saw the stream of his thin gray hair,I saw his lean and lifted hand,And heard his words--and live! O God!Wherefore do I live?--’Hold, hold!’He cried, ’I tell thee ’t is her brother!Thy mother, boy, beneath the sodOf yon churchyard rests in her shroud so cold;I am now weak, and pale, and old;We were once dear to one another,I and that corpse! Thou art our child!’Then with a laugh both long and wildThe youth upon the pavement fell.They found him dead! All looked on me,The spasms of my despair to see;But I was calm. I went away;I was clammy-cold like clay.I did not weep; I did not speak;But day by day, week after week,I walked about like a corpse alive.Alas! sweet friend, you must believeThis heart is stone--it did not break.My father lived a little while,But all might see that he was dying,He smiled with such a woful smile.When he was in the churchyard lyingAmong the worms, we grew quite poor,So that no one would give us bread;My mother looked at me, and saidFaint words of cheer, which only meantThat she could die and be content;So I went forth from the same church doorTo another husband’s bed.And this was he who died at last,When weeks and months and years had passed,Through which I firmly did fulfilMy duties, a devoted wife,With the stern step of vanquished willWalking beneath the night of life,Whose hours extinguished, like slow rainFalling forever, pain by pain,The very hope of death’s dear rest;Which, since the heart within my breastOf natural life was dispossessed,Its strange sustainer there had been.When flowers were dead, and grass was greenUpon my mother’s grave--that motherWhom to outlive, and cheer, and makeMy wan eyes glitter for her sake,Was my vowed task, the single careWhich once gave life to my despair--When she was a thing that did not stir,And the crawling worms were cradling herTo a sleep more deep and so more sweetThan a baby’s rocked on its nurse’s knee,I lived; a living pulse then beatBeneath my heart that awakened me.What was this pulse so warm and free?Alas! I knew it could not beMy own dull blood. ’T was like a thoughtOf liquid love, that spread and wroughtUnder my bosom and in my brain,And crept with the blood through every vein,And hour by hour, day after day,The wonder could not charm awayBut laid in sleep my wakeful pain,Until I knew it was a child,And then I wept. For long, long yearsThese frozen eyes had shed no tears;But now--’t was the season fair and mildWhen April has wept itself to May;I sate through the sweet sunny dayBy my window bowered round with leaves,And down my cheeks the quick tears ranLike twinkling rain-drops from the eaves,When warm spring showers are passing o’er.O Helen, none can ever tellThe joy it was to weep once more!I wept to think how hard it wereTo kill my babe, and take from itThe sense of light, and the warm air,And my own fond and tender care,And love and smiles; ere I knew yetThat these for it might, as for me,Be the masks of a grinning mockery.And haply, I would dream, ’t were sweetTo feed it from my faded breast,Or mark my own heart’s restless beatRock it to its untroubled rest,And watch the growing soul beneathDawn in faint smiles; and hear its breath,Half interrupted by calm sighs,And search the depth of its fair eyesFor long departed memories!And so I lived till that sweet loadWas lightened. Darkly forward flowedThe stream of years, and on it boreTwo shapes of gladness to my sight;Two other babes, delightful more,In my lost soul’s abandoned night,Than their own country ships may beSailing towards wrecked marinersWho cling to the rock of a wintry sea.For each, as it came, brought soothing tears;And a loosening warmth, as each one laySucking the sullen milk away,About my frozen heart did play,And weaned it, oh, how painfully--As they themselves were weaned each oneFrom that sweet food--even from the thirstOf death, and nothingness, and rest,Strange inmate of a living breast,Which all that I had undergoneOf grief and shame, since she who firstThe gates of that dark refuge closedCame to my sight, and almost burstThe seal of that Lethean spring--But these fair shadows interposed.For all delights are shadows now!And from my brain to my dull browThe heavy tears gather and flow.I cannot speak--oh, let me weep!The tears which fell from her wan eyesGlimmered among the moonlight dew.Her deep hard sobs and heavy sighsTheir echoes in the darkness threw.When she grew calm, she thus did keepThe tenor of her tale: He died;I know not how; he was not old,If age be numbered by its years;But he was bowed and bent with fears,Pale with the quenchless thirst of gold,Which, like fierce fever, left him weak;And his strait lip and bloated cheekWere warped in spasms by hollow sneers;And selfish cares with barren plough,Not age, had lined his narrow brow,And foul and cruel thoughts, which feedUpon the withering life within,Like vipers on some poisonous weed.Whether his ill were death or sinNone knew, until he died indeed,And then men owned they were the same.Seven days within my chamber layThat corse, and my babes made holiday.At last, I told them what is death.The eldest, with a kind of shame,Came to my knees with silent breath,And sate awe-stricken at my feet;And soon the others left their play,And sate there too. It is unmeetTo shed on the brief flower of youthThe withering knowledge of the grave.From me remorse then wrung that truth.I could not bear the joy which gaveToo just a response to mine own.In vain. I dared not feign a groan;And in their artless looks I saw,Between the mists of fear and awe,That my own thought was theirs; and theyExpressed it not in words, but said,Each in its heart, how every dayWill pass in happy work and play,Now he is dead and gone away!After the funeral all our kinAssembled, and the will was read.My friend, I tell thee, even the deadHave strength, their putrid shrouds within,To blast and torture. Those who liveStill fear the living, but a corseIs merciless, and Power doth giveTo such pale tyrants half the spoilHe rends from those who groan and toil,Because they blush not with remorseAmong their crawling worms. Behold,I have no child! my tale grows oldWith grief, and staggers; let it reachThe limits of my feeble speech,And languidly at length reclineOn the brink of its own grave and mine.Thou knowest what a thing is PovertyAmong the fallen on evil days.’T is Crime, and Fear, and Infamy,And houseless Want in frozen waysWandering ungarmented, and Pain,And, worse than all, that inward stain,Foul Self-contempt, which drowns in sneersYouth’s starlight smile, and makes its tearsFirst like hot gall, then dry forever!And well thou knowest a mother neverCould doom her children to this ill,And well he knew the same. The willImported that, if e’er againI sought my children to behold,Or in my birthplace did remainBeyond three days, whose hours were told,They should inherit nought; and he,To whom next came their patrimony,A sallow lawyer, cruel and cold,Aye watched me, as the will was read,With eyes askance, which sought to seeThe secrets of my agony;And with close lips and anxious browStood canvassing still to and froThe chance of my resolve, and allThe dead man’s caution just did call;For in that killing lie ’t was said--’She is adulterous, and doth holdIn secret that the Christian creedIs false, and therefore is much needThat I should have a care to saveMy children from eternal fire.’Friend, he was sheltered by the grave,And therefore dared to be a liar!In truth, the Indian on the pyreOf her dead husband, half consumed,As well might there be false as ITo those abhorred embraces doomed,Far worse than fire’s brief agony.As to the Christian creed, if trueOr false, I never questioned it;I took it as the vulgar do;Nor my vexed soul had leisure yetTo doubt the things men say, or deemThat they are other than they seem.All present who those crimes did hear,In feigned or actual scorn and fear,Men, women, children, slunk away,Whispering with self-contented prideWhich half suspects its own base lie.I spoke to none, nor did abide,But silently I went my way,Nor noticed I where joyouslySate my two younger babes at playIn the courtyard through which I passed;But went with footsteps firm and fastTill I came to the brink of the ocean green,And there, a woman with gray hairs,Who had my mother’s servant been,Kneeling, with many tears and prayers,Made me accept a purse of gold,Half of the earnings she had keptTo refuge her when weak and old.With woe, which never sleeps or slept,I wander now. ’T is a vain thought--But on yon Alp, whose snowy head’Mid the azure air is islanded,(We see it--o’er the flood of cloud,Which sunrise from its eastern cavesDrives, wrinkling into golden waves,Hung with its precipices proud--From that gray stone where first we met)There--now who knows the dead feel nought?--Should be my grave; for he who yetIs my soul’s soul once said: ”T were sweet’Mid stars and lightnings to abide,And winds, and lulling snows that beatWith their soft flakes the mountain wide,Where weary meteor lamps repose,And languid storms their pinions close,And all things strong and bright and pure,And ever during, aye endure.Who knows, if one were buried there,But these things might our spirits make,Amid the all-surrounding air,Their own eternity partake?’Then ’t was a wild and playful sayingAt which I laughed or seemed to laugh.They were his words--now heed my praying,And let them be my epitaph.Thy memory for a term may beMy monument. Wilt remember me?I know thou wilt; and canst forgive,Whilst in this erring world to liveMy soul disdained not, that I thoughtIts lying forms were worthy aught,And much less thee.Helen.Oh, speak not so!But come to me and pour thy woeInto this heart, full though it be,Aye overflowing with its own.I thought that grief had severed meFrom all beside who weep and groan,Its likeness upon earth to be--Its express image; but thou artMore wretched. Sweet, we will not partHenceforth, if death be not division;If so, the dead feel no contrition.But wilt thou hear, since last we parted,All that has left me broken-hearted?Rosalind.Yes, speak. The faintest stars are scarcely shornOf their thin beams by that delusive mornWhich sinks again in darkness, like the lightOf early love, soon lost in total night.Helen.Alas! Italian winds are mild,But my bosom is cold--wintry cold;When the warm air weaves, among the fresh leaves,Soft music, my poor brain is wild,And I am weak like a nursling child,Though my soul with grief is gray and old.Rosalind.Weep not at thine own words, though they must makeMe weep. What is thy tale?Helen.I fear ’t will shakeThy gentle heart with tears. Thou wellRememberest when we met no more;And, though I dwelt with Lionel,That friendless caution pierced me soreWith grief; a wound my spirit boreIndignantly--but when he died,With him lay dead both hope and pride.Alas! all hope is buried now.But then men dreamed the aged earthWas laboring in that mighty birthWhich many a poet and a sageHas aye foreseen--the happy ageWhen truth and love shall dwell belowAmong the works and ways of men;Which on this world not power but willEven now is wanting to fulfil.Among mankind what thence befellOf strife, how vain, is known too well;When Liberty’s dear pæan fell’Mid murderous howls. To Lionel,Though of great wealth and lineage high,Yet through those dungeon walls there cameThy thrilling light, O Liberty!And as the meteor’s midnight flameStartles the dreamer, sun-like truthFlashed on his visionary youth,And filled him, not with love, but faith,And hope, and courage mute in death;For love and life in him were twins,Born at one birth. In every otherFirst life, then love, its course begins,Though they be children of one mother;And so through this dark world they fleetDivided, till in death they meet;But he loved all things ever. ThenHe passed amid the strife of men,And stood at the throne of armèd powerPleading for a world of woe.Secure as one on a rock-built towerO’er the wrecks which the surge trails to and fro,’Mid the passions wild of humankindHe stood, like a spirit calming them;For, it was said, his words could bindLike music the lulled crowd, and stemThat torrent of unquiet dreamWhich mortals truth and reason deem,But is revenge and fear and pride.Joyous he was; and hope and peaceOn all who heard him did abide,Raining like dew from his sweet talk,As where the evening star may walkAlong the brink of the gloomy seas,Liquid mists of splendor quiver.His very gestures touched to tearsThe unpersuaded tyrant, neverSo moved before; his presence stungThe torturers with their victim’s pain,And none knew how; and through their earsThe subtle witchcraft of his tongueUnlocked the hearts of those who keepGold, the world’s bond of slavery.Men wondered, and some sneered to seeOne sow what he could never reap;For he is rich, they said, and young,And might drink from the depths of luxury.If he seeks fame, fame never crownedThe champion of a trampled creed;If he seeks power, power is enthroned’Mid ancient rights and wrongs, to feedWhich hungry wolves with praise and spoilThose who would sit near power must toil;And such, there sitting, all may see.What seeks he? All that others seekHe casts away, like a vile weedWhich the sea casts unreturningly.That poor and hungry men should breakThe laws which wreak them toil and scornWe understand; but Lionel,We know, is rich and nobly born.So wondered they; yet all men lovedYoung Lionel, though few approved;All but the priests, whose hatred fellLike the unseen blight of a smiling day,The withering honey-dew which clingsUnder the bright green buds of MayWhilst they unfold their emerald wings;For he made verses wild and queerOn the strange creeds priests hold so dearBecause they bring them land and gold.Of devils and saints and all such gearHe made tales which whoso heard or readWould laugh till he were almost dead.So this grew a proverb: ’Don’t get oldTill Lionel’s Banquet in Hell you hear,And then you will laugh yourself young again.’So the priests hated him, and heRepaid their hate with cheerful glee.Ah, smiles and joyance quickly died,For public hope grew pale and dimIn an altered time and tide,And in its wasting withered him,As a summer flower that blows too soonDroops in the smile of the waning moon,When it scatters through an April nightThe frozen dews of wrinkling blight.None now hoped more. Gray Power was seatedSafely on her ancestral throne;And Faith, the Python, undefeatedEven to its blood-stained steps dragged onHer foul and wounded train; and menWere trampled and deceived again,And words and shows again could bindThe wailing tribes of humankindIn scorn and famine. Fire and bloodRaged round the raging multitude,To fields remote by tyrants sentTo be the scornèd instrumentWith which they drag from mines of goreThe chains their slaves yet ever wore;And in the streets men met each other,And by old altars and in halls,And smiled again at festivals.But each man found in his heart’s brotherCold cheer; for all, though half deceived,The outworn creeds again believed,And the same round anew beganWhich the weary world yet ever ran.Many then wept, not tears, but gall,Within their hearts, like drops which fallWasting the fountain-stone away.And in that dark and evil dayDid all desires and thoughts that claimMen’s care--ambition, friendship, fame,Love, hope, though hope was now despair--Indue the colors of this change,As from the all-surrounding airThe earth takes hues obscure and strange,When storm and earthquake linger there.And so, my friend, it then befellTo many,--most to Lionel,Whose hope was like the life of youthWithin him, and when dead becameA spirit of unresting flame,Which goaded him in his distressOver the world’s vast wilderness.Three years he left his native land,And on the fourth, when he returned,None knew him; he was stricken deepWith some disease of mind, and turnedInto aught unlike Lionel.On him--on whom, did he pause in sleep,Serenest smiles were wont to keep,And, did he wake, a wingèd bandOf bright Persuasions, which had fedOn his sweet lips and liquid eyes,Kept their swift pinions half outspreadTo do on men his least command--On him, whom once ’t was paradiseEven to behold, now misery lay.In his own heart ’t was merciless--To all things else none may expressIts innocence and tenderness.’T was said that he had refuge soughtIn love from his unquiet thoughtIn distant lands, and been deceivedBy some strange show; for there were found,Blotted with tears--as those relievedBy their own words are wont to do--These mournful verses on the ground,By all who read them blotted too.’How am I changed! my hopes were once like fire; I loved, and I believed that life was love.How am I lost! on wings of swift desire Among Heaven’s winds my spirit once did move.I slept, and silver dreams did aye inspire My liquid sleep; I woke, and did approveAll Nature to my heart, and thought to makeA paradise of earth for one sweet sake.’I love, but I believe in love no more. I feel desire, but hope not. Oh, from sleepMost vainly must my weary brain implore Its long lost flattery now! I wake to weep,And sit through the long day gnawing the core Of my bitter heart, and, like a miser, keep--Since none in what I feel take pain or pleasure--To my own soul its self-consuming treasure.’He dwelt beside me near the sea;And oft in evening did we meet,When the waves, beneath the starlight, fleeO’er the yellow sands with silver feet,And talked. Our talk was sad and sweet,Till slowly from his mien there passedThe desolation which it spoke;And smiles--as when the lightning’s blastHas parched some heaven-delighting oak,The next spring shows leaves pale and rare,But like flowers delicate and fair,On its rent boughs--again arrayedHis countenance in tender light;His words grew subtle fire, which madeThe air his hearers breathed delight;His motions, like the winds, were free,Which bend the bright grass gracefully,Then fade away in circlets faint;And wingèd Hope--on which upborneHis soul seemed hovering in his eyes,Like some bright spirit newly bornFloating amid the sunny skies--Sprang forth from his rent heart anew.Yet o’er his talk, and looks, and mien,Tempering their loveliness too keen,Past woe its shadow backward threw;Till, like an exhalation spreadFrom flowers half drunk with evening dew,They did become infectious--sweetAnd subtle mists of sense and thought,Which wrapped us soon, when we might meet,Almost from our own looks and aughtThe wild world holds. And so his mindWas healed, while mine grew sick with fear;For ever now his health declined,Like some frail bark which cannot bearThe impulse of an altered wind,Though prosperous; and my heart grew full,’Mid its new joy, of a new care;For his cheek became, not pale, but fair,As rose-o’ershadowed lilies are;And soon his deep and sunny hair,In this alone less beautiful,Like grass in tombs grew wild and rare.The blood in his translucent veinsBeat, not like animal life, but loveSeemed now its sullen springs to move,When life had failed, and all its pains;And sudden sleep would seize him oftLike death, so calm,--but that a tear,His pointed eye-lashes between,Would gather in the light sereneOf smiles whose lustre bright and softBeneath lay undulating there.His breath was like inconstant flameAs eagerly it went and came;And I hung o’er him in his sleep,Till, like an image in the lakeWhich rains disturb, my tears would breakThe shadow of that slumber deep.Then he would bid me not to weep,And say, with flattery false yet sweet,That death and he could never meet,If I would never part with him.And so we loved, and did uniteAll that in us was yet divided;For when he said, that many a rite,By men to bind but once provided,Could not be shared by him and me,Or they would kill him in their glee,I shuddered, and then laughing said--’We will have rites our faith to bind,But our church shall be the starry night,Our altar the grassy earth outspread,And our priest the muttering wind.’’T was sunset as I spoke. One starHad scarce burst forth, when from afarThe ministers of misrule sentSeized upon Lionel, and boreHis chained limbs to a dreary tower,In the midst of a city vast and wide.For he, they said, from his mind had bentAgainst their gods keen blasphemy,For which, though his soul must roasted beIn hell’s red lakes immortally,Yet even on earth must he abideThe vengeance of their slaves: a trial,I think, men call it. What availAre prayers and tears, which chase denialFrom the fierce savage nursed in hate?What the knit soul that pleading and paleMakes wan the quivering cheek which lateIt painted with its own delight?We were divided. As I could,I stilled the tingling of my blood,And followed him in their despite,As a widow follows, pale and wild,The murderers and corse of her only child;And when we came to the prison door,And I prayed to share his dungeon floorWith prayers which rarely have been spurned,And when men drove me forth, and IStared with blank frenzy on the sky,--A farewell look of love he turned,Half calming me; then gazed awhile,As if through that black and massy pile,And through the crowd around him there,And through the dense and murky air,And the thronged streets, he did espyWhat poets know and prophesy;And said, with voice that made them shiverAnd clung like music in my brain,And which the mute walls spoke againProlonging it with deepened strain--’Fear not the tyrants shall rule forever,Or the priests of the bloody faith;They stand on the brink of that mighty river,Whose waves they have tainted with death;It is fed from the depths of a thousand dells,Around them it foams, and rages, and swells,And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,Like wrecks, in the surge of eternity.’I dwelt beside the prison gate;And the strange crowd that out and inPassed, some, no doubt, with mine own fate,Might have fretted me with its ceaseless din,But the fever of care was louder within.Soon but too late, in penitenceOr fear, his foes released him thence.I saw his thin and languid form,As leaning on the jailor’s arm,Whose hardened eyes grew moist the whileTo meet his mute and faded smileAnd hear his words of kind farewell,He tottered forth from his damp cell.Many had never wept before,From whom fast tears then gushed and fell;Many will relent no more,Who sobbed like infants then; ay, allWho thronged the prison’s stony hall,The rulers or the slaves of law,Felt with a new surprise and aweThat they were human, till strong shameMade them again become the same.The prison bloodhounds, huge and grim,From human looks the infection caught,And fondly crouched and fawned on him;And men have heard the prisoners say,Who in their rotting dungeons lay,That from that hour, throughout one day,The fierce despair and hate which keptTheir trampled bosoms almost slept,Where, like twin vultures, they hung feedingOn each heart’s wound, wide torn and bleeding,--Because their jailors’ rule, they thought,Grew merciful, like a parent’s sway.I know not how, but we were free;And Lionel sate alone with me,As the carriage drove through the streets apace;And we looked upon each other’s face;And the blood in our fingers intertwinedRan like the thoughts of a single mind,As the swift emotions went and cameThrough the veins of each united frame.So through the long, long streets we passedOf the million-peopled City vast;Which is that desert, where each oneSeeks his mate yet is alone,Beloved and sought and mourned of none;Until the clear blue sky was seen,And the grassy meadows bright and green.And then I sunk in his embraceEnclosing there a mighty spaceOf love; and so we travelled onBy woods, and fields of yellow flowers,And towns, and villages, and towers,Day after day of happy hours.It was the azure time of June,When the skies are deep in the stainless noon,And the warm and fitful breezes shakeThe fresh green leaves of the hedge-row briar;And there were odors then to makeThe very breath we did respireA liquid element, whereonOur spirits, like delighted thingsThat walk the air on subtle wings,Floated and mingled far away’Mid the warm winds of the sunny day.And when the evening star came forthAbove the curve of the new bent moon,And light and sound ebbed from the earth,Like the tide of the full and the weary seaTo the depths of its own tranquillity,Our natures to its own reposeDid the earth’s breathless sleep attune;Like flowers, which on each other closeTheir languid leaves when daylight’s gone,We lay, till new emotions came,Which seemed to make each mortal frameOne soul of interwoven flame,A life in life, a second birthIn worlds diviner far than earth;--Which, like two strains of harmonyThat mingle in the silent sky,Then slowly disunite, passed byAnd left the tenderness of tears,A soft oblivion of all fears,A sweet sleep:--so we travelled onTill we came to the home of Lionel,Among the mountains wild and lone,Beside the hoary western sea,Which near the verge of the echoing shoreThe massy forest shadowed o’er.The ancient steward with hair all hoar,As we alighted, wept to seeHis master changed so fearfully;And the old man’s sobs did waken meFrom my dream of unremaining gladness;The truth flashed o’er me like quick madnessWhen I looked, and saw that there was deathOn Lionel. Yet day by dayHe lived, till fear grew hope and faith,And in my soul I dared to say,Nothing so bright can pass away;Death is dark, and foul, and dull,But he is--oh, how beautiful!Yet day by day he grew more weak,And his sweet voice, when he might speak,Which ne’er was loud, became more low;And the light which flashed through his waxen cheekGrew faint, as the rose-like hues which flowFrom sunset o’er the Alpine snow;And death seemed not like death in him,For the spirit of life o’er every limbLingered, a mist of sense and thought.When the summer wind faint odors broughtFrom mountain flowers, even as it passed,His cheek would change, as the noonday seaWhich the dying breeze sweeps fitfully.If but a cloud the sky o’ercast,You might see his color come and go,And the softest strain of music madeSweet smiles, yet sad, arise and fadeAmid the dew of his tender eyes;And the breath, with intermitting flow,Made his pale lips quiver and part.You might hear the beatings of his heart,Quick but not strong; and with my tressesWhen oft he playfully would bindIn the bowers of mossy lonelinessesHis neck, and win me so to mingleIn the sweet depth of woven caresses,And our faint limbs were intertwined,--Alas! the unquiet life did tingleFrom mine own heart through every vein,Like a captive in dreams of liberty,Who beats the walls of his stony cell.But his, it seemed already free,Like the shadow of fire surrounding me!On my faint eyes and limbs did dwellThat spirit as it passed, till soon--As a frail cloud wandering o’er the moon,Beneath its light invisible,Is seen when it folds its gray wings againTo alight on midnight’s dusky plain--I lived and saw, and the gathering soulPassed from beneath that strong control,And I fell on a life which was sick with fearOf all the woe that now I bear.Amid a bloomless myrtle wood,On a green and sea-girt promontoryNot far from where we dwelt, there stood,In record of a sweet sad story,An altar and a temple brightCircled by steps, and o’er the gateWas sculptured, ’To Fidelity;’And in the shrine an image sateAll veiled; but there was seen the lightOf smiles which faintly could expressA mingled pain and tendernessThrough that ethereal drapery.The left hand held the head, the right--Beyond the veil, beneath the skin,You might see the nerves quivering within--Was forcing the point of a barbèd dartInto its side-convulsing heart.An unskilled hand, yet one informedWith genius, had the marble warmedWith that pathetic life. This taleIt told: A dog had from the sea,When the tide was raging fearfully,Dragged Lionel’s mother, weak and pale,Then died beside her on the sand,And she that temple thence had planned;But it was Lionel’s own handHad wrought the image. Each new moonThat lady did, in this lone fane,The rites of a religion sweetWhose god was in her heart and brain.The seasons’ loveliest flowers were strewnOn the marble floor beneath her feet,And she brought crowns of sea-buds whiteWhose odor is so sweet and faint,And weeds, like branching chrysolite,Woven in devices fine and quaint;And tears from her brown eyes did stainThe altar; need but look uponThat dying statue, fair and wan,If tears should cease, to weep again;And rare Arabian odors came,Through the myrtle copses, steaming thenceFrom the hissing frankincense,Whose smoke, wool-white as ocean foam,Hung in dense flocks beneath the dome--That ivory dome, whose azure nightWith golden stars, like heaven, was brightO’er the split cedar’s pointed flame;And the lady’s harp would kindle thereThe melody of an old air,Softer than sleep; the villagersMixed their religion up with hers,And, as they listened round, shed tears.One eve he led me to this fane.Daylight on its last purple cloudWas lingering gray, and soon her strainThe nightingale began; now loud,Climbing in circles the windless sky,Now dying music; suddenly’T is scattered in a thousand notes;And now to the hushed ear it floatsLike field-smells known in infancy,Then, failing, soothes the air again.We sate within that temple lone,Pavilioned round with Parian stone;His mother’s harp stood near, and oftI had awakened music softAmid its wires; the nightingaleWas pausing in her heaven-taught tale.’Now drain the cup,’ said Lionel,’Which the poet-bird has crowned so wellWith the wine of her bright and liquid song!Heard’st thou not sweet words amongThat heaven-resounding minstrelsy?Heard’st thou not that those who dieAwake in a world of ecstasy?That love, when limbs are interwoven,And sleep, when the night of life is cloven,And thought, to the world’s dim boundaries clinging,And music, when one beloved is singing,Is death? Let us drain right joyouslyThe cup which the sweet bird fills for me.’He paused, and to my lips he bentHis own; like spirit his words wentThrough all my limbs with the speed of fire;And his keen eyes, glittering through mine,Filled me with the flame divineWhich in their orbs was burning far,Like the light of an unmeasured starIn the sky of midnight dark and deep;Yes, ’t was his soul that did inspireSounds which my skill could ne’er awaken;And first, I felt my fingers sweepThe harp, and a long quivering cryBurst from my lips in symphony;The dusk and solid air was shaken,As swift and swifter the notes cameFrom my touch, that wandered like quick flame,And from my bosom, laboringWith some unutterable thing.The awful sound of my own voice madeMy faint lips tremble; in some moodOf wordless thought Lionel stoodSo pale, that even beside his cheekThe snowy column from its shadeCaught whiteness; yet his countenance,Raised upward, burned with radianceOf spirit-piercing joy whose light,Like the moon struggling through the nightOf whirlwind-rifted clouds, did breakWith beams that might not be confined.I paused, but soon his gestures kindledNew power, as by the moving windThe waves are lifted; and my songTo low soft notes now changed and dwindled,And, from the twinkling wires among,My languid fingers drew and flungCircles of life-dissolving sound,Yet faint; in aëry rings they boundMy Lionel, who, as every strainGrew fainter but more sweet, his mienSunk with the sound relaxedly;And slowly now he turned to me,As slowly faded from his faceThat awful joy; with look sereneHe was soon drawn to my embrace,And my wild song then died awayIn murmurs; words I dare not sayWe mixed, and on his lips mine fedTill they methought felt still and cold.’What is it with thee, love?’ I said;No word, no look, no motion! yes,There was a change, but spare to guess,Nor let that moment’s hope be told.I looked,--and knew that he was dead;And fell, as the eagle on the plainFalls when life deserts her brain,And the mortal lightning is veiled again.Oh, that I were now dead! but such--Did they not, love, demand too much,Those dying murmurs?--he forbade.Oh, that I once again were mad!And yet, dear Rosalind, not so,For I would live to share thy woe.Sweet boy! did I forget thee too?Alas, we know not what we doWhen we speak words.No memory moreIs in my mind of that sea-shore.Madness came on me, and a troopOf misty shapes did seem to sitBeside me, on a vessel’s poop,And the clear north wind was driving it.Then I heard strange tongues, and saw strange flowers,And the stars methought grew unlike ours,And the azure sky and the stormless seaMade me believe that I had diedAnd waked in a world which was to meDrear hell, though heaven to all beside.Then a dead sleep fell on my mind,Whilst animal life many long yearsHad rescued from a chasm of tears;And, when I woke, I wept to findThat the same lady, bright and wise,With silver locks and quick brown eyes,The mother of my Lionel,Had tended me in my distress,And died some months before. Nor lessWonder, but far more peace and joy,Brought in that hour my lovely boy.For through that trance my soul had wellThe impress of thy being kept;And if I waked or if I slept,No doubt, though memory faithless be,Thy image ever dwelt on me;And thus, O Lionel, like theeIs our sweet child. ’T is sure most strangeI knew not of so great a changeAs that which gave him birth, who nowIs all the solace of my woe.That Lionel great wealth had leftBy will to me, and that of allThe ready lies of law bereftMy child and me,--might well befall.But let me think not of the scornWhich from the meanest I have borne,When, for my child’s belovèd sake,I mixed with slaves, to vindicateThe very laws themselves do make;Let me not say scorn is my fate,Lest I be proud, suffering the sameWith those who live in deathless fame.She ceased.--’Lo, where red morning through the woodsIs burning o’er the dew!’ said Rosalind.And with these words they rose, and towards the floodOf the blue lake, beneath the leaves, now windWith equal steps and fingers intertwined.Thence to a lonely dwelling, where the shoreIs shadowed with steep rocks, and cypressesCleave with their dark green cones the silent skiesAnd with their shadows the clear depths below,And where a little terrace from its bowersOf blooming myrtle and faint lemon flowersScatters its sense-dissolving fragrance o’erThe liquid marble of the windless lake;And where the aged forest’s limbs look hoarUnder the leaves which their green garments make,They come. ’T is Helen’s home, and clean and white,Like one which tyrants spare on our own landIn some such solitude; its casements brightShone through their vine-leaves in the morning sun,And even within ’t was scarce like Italy.And when she saw how all things there were plannedAs in an English home, dim memoryDisturbed poor Rosalind; she stood as oneWhose mind is where his body cannot be,Till Helen led her where her child yet slept,And said, ’Observe, that brow was Lionel’s,Those lips were his, and so he ever keptOne arm in sleep, pillowing his head with it.You cannot see his eyes--they are two wellsOf liquid love. Let us not wake him yet.’But Rosalind could bear no more, and weptA shower of burning tears which fell uponHis face, and so his opening lashes shoneWith tears unlike his own, as he did leapIn sudden wonder from his innocent sleep.So Rosalind and Helen lived togetherThenceforth--changed in all else, yet friends again,Such as they were, when o’er the mountain heatherThey wandered in their youth through sun and rain.And after many years, for human thingsChange even like the ocean and the wind,Her daughter was restored to Rosalind,And in their circle thence some visitingsOf joy ’mid their new calm would intervene.A lovely child she was, of looks serene,And motions which o’er things indifferent shedThe grace and gentleness from whence they came.And Helen’s boy grew with her, and they fedFrom the same flowers of thought, until each mindLike springs which mingle in one flood became;And in their union soon their parents sawThe shadow of the peace denied to them.And Rosalind--for when the living stemIs cankered in its heart, the tree must fall--Died ere her time; and with deep grief and aweThe pale survivors followed her remainsBeyond the region of dissolving rains,Up the cold mountain she was wont to callHer tomb; and on Chiavenna’s precipiceThey raised a pyramid of lasting ice,Whose polished sides, ere day had yet begun,Caught the first glow of the unrisen sun,The last, when it had sunk; and through the nightThe charioteers of Arctos wheelèd roundIts glittering point, as seen from Helen’s home,Whose sad inhabitants each year would come,With willing steps climbing that rugged height,And hang long locks of hair, and garlands boundWith amaranth flowers, which, in the clime’s despite,Filled the frore air with unaccustomed light;Such flowers as in the wintry memory bloomOf one friend left adorned that frozen tomb.Helen, whose spirit was of softer mould,Whose sufferings too were less, death slowlier ledInto the peace of his dominion cold.She died among her kindred, being old.And know, that if love die not in the deadAs in the living, none of mortal kindAre blessed as now Helen and Rosalind.