JOHN SAINT JOHN
AND ANNA GREY
A Romance of Old New Brunswick
MRS. MARGARET GILL CURRIE
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR BY WILLIAM BRIGGS
ENTERED according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year one
thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven, by WILLIAM BRIGGS, at the
Department of Agriculture. [unnumbered page]
TO THE MEMORY OF
My Father’s Sisters
MARGARET AND CATHERINE GILL
(Late of St. Mary’s, New Brunswick)
DAUGHTERS OF A U. E. LOYALIST
THIS POEM IS LOVINGLY INSCRIBED
M. C. G
JOHN SAINT JOHN AND ANNA GREY.
THE broad, round-shouldered giant, Earth,
Upbears no land more sweet
Than that whereon in heedless mirth
Went free my childish feet;
No fairer river furroweth
With its strong, steel-blue share
The hill-sides and the vales of earth,
Than that which floweth there.
For rigid fasting hermit John
They named the glorious stream,
As seamen on his holy morn
Beheld its harbor’s gleam.
It was like rigid hermit John,
A voice amid the wild,
Its honey and its fatness drawn
From forests undefiled.
Now that the green is on the plain,
The azure in the sky,
Wherewith clear sunshine after rain
Decketh the rich July, [unnumbered page]
Broad is the leaf and bright the flower:
Close to the pale, gray sands
Coarse alder grows, and virgin’s bower
Grasps it with slender hands.
With honey-suckles, meadow-sweets
And rue the banks are lined;
O’er wide fields dance gay marguerites
To pipe of merry wind.
By the tall tiger-lily’s side
Stands the rich golden-rod,
A king’s son wooing for his bride,
The daughter of a god.
When fresh and bright were all green things,
And June was in the sky,
The dandelions made them wings,
And did as riches fly;
Now the bright buttercups with gold
Empave a toil-trod road—
Can wayfarers their sheen behold
Nor sigh for streets of God?
The birds are homed amid the boughs
Of oak and elm trees grand;
As for the snipe, her lowly house
She maketh in the sand;
The robin loves the dawning’s hush,
The eve’s the chickadee,
The thistle-bird the garden bush,
The bobolink the lea.
From intervale and swampy dale
Are wafts of fragrance blown, [page 6]
Of fern and mint and calamus,
And wild hay newly mown;
God’s fiery touch hath reached the earth,
And lo! its odors rise
Like incense pure of priceless worth
Offered in sacrifice.
In this region, on a hill-side skirted by the forest dark,
Stood a log-built cottage covered with the hemlock’s ruddy bark.
In that lowly woodland cottage, in the years long passed away,
Dwelt the pale and dark-eyed widow of the soldier, Gerald Grey;
And her little daughter, Anna, in the cottage garden played,
Or amid the swaying shadows of the darkling forest strayed,
Where the trees, bright-leaved in autumn, raised their tossing arms on high;
Where the trees of lasting verdure breathed the sob, or psalm, or sigh:
Where beside the crystal brooklet trailed the dark and broad-leafed vine;
Where the black and crimson berry ripened in the summer’s shine;
Where, amid the damp, green mosses, grew the violet white and shy:
Where the lovely pink-white may-flower scented spring winds whispering by;
Where o’er rock the light dry lichens spread their carpet, garnet gemmed;
Where o’er glades sprang thick the wild-flowers, golden-leaved and hollow-stemmed;
Where the shining, spotted fishes in the shaded waters leapt;
Where, from out the rocky fissures, harmless mottled serpents crept;
Where the hills of wiry wild-grass bared their broad backs to the wind;
Where roamed free the white flocks fleecy and the cows, sweet-breathed and kind;
There where bird and bee and chafer whiled the dreamy summer day,
And the squirrel chirped in autumn, trod in childhood Anna Grey. [page 7]
Anna Grey had eyes of hazel, dream as an Arab tale,
Lustrous as the star of even in the sky of sunset pale;
White and azure-veined her forehead, with bright curls of chestnut crowned,
Red her lips as ripe strawberry ’mid the summer grasses found.
Sweetly round her girlish figure, sweetly full her dimpled face,
Every glance and every motion had a rare, unstudied grace.
In the nights when winter wailing swept the swaying forests dim,
And the stately trees of shadow trembled in their every limb;
When the furious sprites that sally forth to ride the northern blast
In the hours of darkness, shrieking, swept the tiny cot apast,
Anna Grey would rather listen to these strains so wild and grand
Than to song of famed musician playing with a skilful hand.
Volumes old of heavy gilding to the land of exile brought,
Holding many a poet’s fancy, many a mighty thinker’s thought,
Many a painter’s gorgeous vision, love-tale or adventure wild,
Found a true and loving student in the soldier’s orphan child.
Well she loved to hear her mother stories of her youth repeat:
She was born where shining Hudson doth the wave of ocean meet,
In an ancient house manorial by her father’s grandsire planned,
Girt by fields of grain and grasses, orchards green and gardens grand.
In the house were winding stairways, long, broad halls with polished floors,
Paintings fair and antique vases, chandeliers and folding doors.
Often thronged the gay assemblage to her father’s festive board
Where bright wines in shining goblets were by dusky waiters poured.
Dusky butlers laid the silver on the damask white and fine,
Dusky cooks prepared the viands savory for the guests benign:
She by hands of dusky maidens decked in virginal array,
At the mirth-enlivened banquet smiled the gayest of the gay.
Thither to a birth-night supper, with a captain’s laughing dame,
Decked in epaulette and feather, Gerald Grey, the soldier, came.
It is needless I should tarry the old story to explain,
How the soldier loved the maiden, and the maiden loved again. [page 8]
How can tales of love be novel? In an ancient Brook we find
That God’s sons before the Deluge loved the daughters of mankind.
Love is older than the giants, love is older than the Fall,
Old as Adam in his Eden, as the mother of us all.
And the old but thrilling story told so oft was lived again
In the life of the young soldier and the maiden Anna Lane;
And before the braying trumpet woke the frighted land to war,
Ere the booming of the cannon woke the echoing hills afar,
Ere had clashed the swords of kinsmen or their blood the meadows dyed,
In bright taper-lighted parlor Gerald Grey espoused his bride.
When the brave Columbian armies met their king’s in mortal fight,
Then in truth he nobly battled for the cause he deemed the right.
Born where blue Virginian mountains o’er the land their shadows fling,
Yet he marched beneath the standard of the Lone scutcheoned king.
When was past the cruel carnage, roar of gun and trump suppressed,
And the striped and starry banner waved above a land of rest,
Gerald Grey his broad possessions of swart slaves and smiling lands
Near Virginia’s azure mountains forfeited to stranger’s hands;
With his powerful sword-arm buried under Yorktown’s hapless field,
Forehead scarred and spirit war-worn, but a heart that scorned to yield;
With his comrades in the battle—cherished wife and infant band—
Took the home his lot assigned him in a fertile forest land.
But like plants too soon uprooted from the genial soil of birth,
One by one those children languished, one by one were borne to earth;
Then—a messenger of gladness—Anna came to cheer his hearth.
Here to battle with the winter, fierce from the north-eastern main,
Fell the giants of the forest, reap the harvests of the plain,
Long the brave but broken soldier had not leave from heaven to stay;
From his weeping, stricken darlings suddenly he passed away.
When the sky of late September was aflush with sunset gold,
And the fiery-foliaged maple lighted up the sombre wold, [page 9]
With his locks from his pale forehead brushed, his one hand on his breast,
Looking toward the gleaming heavens, sank he to undreaming rest.
And the band of exiled soldiers, close beside the river bright,
Had a forest-shaded acre where to hide their dead from sight,
There of glorious resurrection they, in sure and certain trust,
Laid his ashes unto ashes, and his dust unto dust.
At the time when opes my story half a score of years had sped
Since the husband and the father slumbered with the saintly dead;
Still his pale and pensive widow and her fair and brilliant child
Dwelt within the little cottage on the borders of the wild.
Well they loved the swaying shadows and the forest melody;
Well they loved the sylvan beauty of the home so lone and free;
And its tiny casement, curtained by the vine from woodland stream,
Framed as fair a scene as ever dawned on pastoral poet’s dream.
Toward the sunset and the river swift, the verdant hill inclined;
At its base were low dark fir-trees ever moaning in the wind,
And amid their heavy shadows opened to their eastern view
A green way as broad and level as a castle avenue;
For the fathers of the country in its early, infant day,
Thus o’er woodland, hill and valley planned to lead the king’s highway,
But maturer counsel brought it nearer to the smiling river,
And the broad, unfinished passage, crossed by many a bridgeless stream,
With its thistles and its mosses, and its firs to sob and shiver
’Mid the wild life and the shadows, lay like highway of a dream.
Past the belt of sounding fir-trees oped a broader, lower hill,
Pasture clad, where flocks and cattle drank the brooks and gazed at will.
Sleek and gentle were the cattle, white the flocks that grazed thereon,
Owned by half the landscape’s owner, true and hearty Hugh Saint John. [page 10]
Often, shoulder unto shoulder, in the fierce and bloody fray,
Fought till fainting, gory, weary, Hugh Saint John and Gerald Grey.
They in peace had loved as brothers, they in war were comrades true.
Here their lots were cast together in the region wild and new,
And as father or as brother careth for his very own,
Cared the generous, prospered soldier for the maid and widow lone;
So high heaven’s enriching blessing on his happy mansion smiled,
Shone upon his fertile meadows, glanced upon his pasture wild.
There in summer swung the blue-bell, there in June wind’s scented breath
Bloom of straw and pigeon berry gleamed through grass and amber heath.
Here and there were trees of shadow, maple of the honeyed juice,
Birchen white and spreading oak tree, soughing pine and gummy spruce.
At the foot of the pastures there shrank a low valley,
The home of the pied-loon and sweet whip-poor-will;
A place in which birds of the autumn would rally,
Which the overflown river in spring-time would fill.
Beyond the dump valley were broad, fertile meadows
Where waved in the autumn the rich yellow corn,
And over their clover the billowy shadows
Passed swift in the wind of the gay summer morn.
Their border the river, a fringe of bright jewels,
The highway stretched wavy and brown thro’ their lands;
Now rose they in hillocks, now deepened in dingles,
Or in green level swale met the grey of the sands.
Sturdy orchards that, unfailing, put their spring-time blossoms on,
Yielded red or russet fruitage to the home of Hugh Saint John; [page 11]
Folds for sheep and stalls for cattle, cotes for feathery fowl were there,
Ample barns for store and shelter raised their gables in the air;
In the plain, old-fashioned gardens white and damask roses blew,
Peony bloomed in early summer, hollyhock and lilac grew;
There the lowly velvet pansy showed its purple, poet-praised,
Throve the hardy orange lily and the scarlet tulip blazed;
Bringing thought of happy homestead, comforting and crowning all,
Looking through its many windows, rose the square substantial hall.
Toward the north a youthful city raised ambitious spires and domes
Strongly ’gainst its flanking fir woods, showing white and happy homes.
In the square, substantial mansion Hush Saint John dwelt not alone,
Lighted up by many children was his cheery hearth’s red stone,
O’er the eldest twenty summers had dispensed their sunshine fair,
Tall he was, broad-browed and slender, John Saint John, the son and heir.
Often from the neighbor city to the pleasant mansion came
Stately judge and portly doctor, student pert, and silken dame,
He who ruled for George of England, captains gay, and grey divines.
Hus Saint John had youthful daughters, Hugh Saint John had ancient wines;
In the low and roomy kitchen, where the wood-fire sparkled red,
For the beggar and the Indian, free the board and couch were spread.
Often spake the loyal soldier, “Friend or foe, or rich or poor,
By my fault may never wander faint or thirsty from my door.”
Miss Buret, a lady numbering springs and summers four times ten,
Taught the daughters of the household how to use the brush and pen,
How to curtsey and embroider, play the harp and the guitar,
Speak and write L’Hamond and Virgil, name the plant and point the star;—
Faultless was her French in accent, and she curtsied like a queen;
Without jarring flowed her music, true to life her painted scene. [page 12]
Sharer in the pleasant studies, festive rout and rural game,
O’er the pastures to the mansion day by day the orphan came;
And the maidens loved as sisters, but the stripling, truth must say,
Looked with more than brother’s fondness and delight on Anna Grey.
They together hunted wild-flowers ’neath the sky of rainy May;
They with joyous shout oft coasted down the frozen river brae;
And when childhood’s days were over, rode as stately squire and dame
All along the autumn highways, where the maples flashed like flame.
They had danced in lighted parlor in the merry Christmas time;
They had floated in their white bark ’neath the shade of woods sublime;
They had sung while hoary forests echoed back the joyful strain,
And the brooks and birds gave chorus to the free and glad refrain;
They had walked in gravelled garden ’neath the tender, beaming moon,
When the apple tree and cherry wore the bridal garb of June,
And the moon upon the waters made a slanting bridge of light,
Whereupon the forest fairies might disport the balmy night;
They in April eves returning homeward marked spring’s earliest charms,
Saw the old moon oft presented in the new moon’s slender arms;
Or, from wintry banquet coming, watched the stars that flashed on high—
Grim old bear and rampant lion, all the giants of the sky.
Careless were their hearts, and cheery as the jungle of the bells,
As they rode on icy river, or through snowy forest dells;
Thus they loved the golden mornings shining o’er the self-same hills,
The same golden evenings glancing into brilliant, rushing rills;
The same brown and scarlet autumns, when the reaper bound his sheaf,
The same white and glittering winters, the same springs of wind and leaf.
Theirs were the same pleasant friendships formed in days of genial truth,
Yet far different were the spirits of the maiden and the youth: [page 13]
With a heart awake to duty, passions warm, but temper kind,
Manly calm and sense of justice that no selfish mist could blind;
Planning for his country’s welfare, how to clear her forests dun,
Lead her highways, span her rivers, teach her red majestic son;
Loving well the orphan maiden who his dreams of future crowned,
(Though no spoken word of promise either to the other bound),
From bright boyhood into manhood sprang the youth beside the shore
Of the broad and sparkling river whose sweet saintly name he bore.
Anna Grey had spirit tameless as the winter wind that fills
Leafless trees along the meadow and the pines upon the hills;
And she inly longed to mingle in those gorgeous scenes of earth
Where brave knights of sounding title blend with dames of noble birth.
Oh! if she might tread the chancel of old haughty pictured fanes,
Look on monumental abbeys rising on historic plains,
Or on castles ivy-covered rising high on rocky steeps,
With their halls where kings held wassail, and their moats and dungeon keeps;
Oh! to enter as the mistress loved and flattered, sought and feared,
In some old and wide-halled palace in the by-gone centuries reared,
With its orchards, parks and gardens, gateways grand and fountained springs,
With its vaulted, ghostly chambers, winding stairs and modern wings.
Oh! to enter, gladly greeted, laughter-echoing banquet hall,
Or saloons where merry music rang from pictured wall to wall;
Clad in garb of richest velvet, fringed with gold and wrought with pearl,
As the bride of ruling statesmen or of coroneted earl.
But she’s waken from these dreamings, sighing, “This may never be;
I must wed my honest neighbor, for he dearly loveth me.
John Saint John hath fair position, kindly heart and fertile land,
But he lacketh shining talent, golden store and lineage grand.
I must, even as his mother, wear a sable, silken gown
Till with years of wear and brushing it becometh thin and brown; [page 14]
I must chide my idling maidens, chaffer with the merchant long
That his wares of lasting value I may purchase for a song;
Ne’er a trice forget my dairy or the produce of my sheep,
Wake to care in early morning and aweary sink to sleep;
Yet, with all my thrift, be ready friend or wayfarer to greet,
Showing to the varied comers welcome warm or coldness meet;
And as truly seem a lady haggling o’er my maiden’s hire
As at game of chess or gammon, laughing by the parlor fire.”
Thus would Anna’s wilful musing roam her future lot upon,
And she oft would end then sighing, “I must wed with John Saint John.”
Yet within her heart she’s whisper, “Should a stranger rich and grand,
Brave as knight in olden story, chance to seek our forest land
Here to woo me, he shall win me. I can shine in courtly life;
John need not be long in finding one more fit to be his wife.”
Hearty Hugh Saint John, who never friendship’s sacred trust betrayed,
Even as his own fair daughters loved the gifted orphan maid;
But his stern, industrious partner with a growing coldness saw
How, with all her numerous household, Anna’s wishes were as law.
Often when her son was absent would she speak in shrewish voice:
“Strange that one with John’s discernment makes in love so weak a choice.
Shining eyes or shining talents can’t forever charm the heart;
In our young and rigorous country each must bear a laborer’s part.
Anna Grey can dress her ringlets, hang a pendant to her ear,
And refurbish for her wearing her weak mother’s silken gear.
Thus attired, the pretty maiden is in road or parlor seen
With an air far more befitting for a marchioness or queen
Than for one who should be striving how an honest lot to gain.
Marvellous that one so needy should be idle, gay and vain!
Kitty Broadlands tends the dairy of her father’s twenty kine,
Yet she can within the parlor e’en as well as Anna shine.” [page 15]
Thus relieved, the worthy matron would some thrifty rhyme recite
Of the crowning grace of neatness or of time improved aright;
Of the excellence of saving, how the world is all a stage,
And how little it doth differ in what part we may engage;
Whether that of mad or mistress, royal prince or shepherd swain,
If we do but act it rightly we our meed of praise should gain.
Thus the days of early girlhood o’er the maiden flitted fast,
And the years of opening manhood for the youth sped swiftly past,
Bringing many a short-lived heartache, many a trivial care and pain.
Yet their hearts were free from thraldom as the forest bird’s refrain;
For those days to them were happy with the nameless charm of youth,
With the joy of health and beauty, culture, innocence and truth.
Duty-laden, for the matron, whirled around the busy years,
For her house, her fold, her dairy, heartfelt were her hopes and fears;
And their lapse brought cares and honors for the noble Hugh Saint John;
Winters gay and golden summers for their merry daughters shone. [page 16]
HOW often I dream of the loved and the lost!
They speak and they move as of old;
But my inner heart knoweth what bound they have crossed,
And about them there clingeth the gloom of the ghost,
The shroud and the grave-worm and mould.
I dream of their homes, and their couches are there,
Their pictures, their books and their flowers;
But there gleameth a light that I may not declare
On the curtain’s red fold, in the lamp’s yellow glare,
From worlds that are other than ours.
By rivers all silv’ry they walk in the night,
As the moon is ascending on high,
O’er the fields that to hand of the reaper are white;
But a sorrow intense for life’s profitless flight
Possesses the wind whispering by.
They walk through their gardens set bright with parterres,
On the banks with wild vines over-run;
But the white bird a dirge in its summer-song bears,
And most heavy and sad are the odorous airs,
There falleth a gloom from the sun. [page 17]
Not once, as the saints of the Lord, glorified,
That rise to my slumber-tranced sight,
But as those who have toiled, mourned, and suffered and died
And are launched on a strange shoreless, fathomless tide,
They glide through the visions of night.
O ye woodlands, ye have glory when the winter walketh white
O’er the mountains and the meadows in his majesty and might;
When the fir tree fretteth fondly and the pine lamenteth loud
To the stars and the aurora and the ragged drifting cloud.
Often have I seen the even, cold and clouded, close around
While the winds, their wide wings folded, slumbered in the depths profound;
When, before the mystic midnight hour of spell was overpast,
Howling through the hollow heavens hoarsely blew the biting blast;
And the full, dark clouds were opened that the treasures of the snow,
White and glittering, might be emptied on the frozen earth below.
Then the trees of leafless branches shrieked like maniacs through the sky,
And the pines and firs and cedars moaned a wild and sad reply;
From behind the hills of shadow and through winding wood-ways white
There was roaring, there was raving in the ghastly hours of night.
O ye woodlands, ye have glory and a charm I may not sing,
When across your leafless branches comes the purpling of the spring;
And ye have, in truth, a glory when the summer reigns o’er all,
When amid your leafy arches rich the rains of midnight fall,
Wetting fern and lady’s slipper, the grey lichen tipped with red,
The green clustered wild-grape trailing from the branches overhead.
And ye woodlands, ye have glory when, with flashing flags unfurled,
Like a king the sheaf-crowned Autumn treads the wide north-western world;
When the maple flameth scarlet, and the birch tree gleameth gold, [page 18]
And the beech tree and the cherry glow in tintings manifold;
When the red and ripened berry feasteth many a forest bird,
And the song of bird of autumn through the dreamy aisles is heard.
’Twas a sweet September even and the mighty river lay
Like a mirror ’twixt the forests that the early frosts made gay;
There the broad oaks saw their shadow and the giant maples stood,
Like to sturdy, red-robed captains close beside the glassy flood;
And the trees of height less haughty bore their banners far and wide,
Or like troops of trained soldiers stood in columns side by side.
On this eve they held a banquet at the mansion of my song.
Thither flocked from town and country youths and maids—a merry throng—
And the early guests arriving in the open doorway stood,
Or with joyous shout and laughter woke the echoes of the wood
As they walked beside the river and unmoored the frail white bark,
Grasping paddles green to guide them o’er the waters smooth and dark.
Some were strolling through the gardens, where, of all the wealth of flowers,
Very few were left to brighten ev’n those early autumn hours;
But the rustic seats were pleasant, pleasant were the gravelled ways,
And the bowers by fair deft fingers formed in early summer days.
Some went roaming through the orchard plucking red or russet fruit,
While the yellow gleams of sunset lit the trees from bough to root.
Red clouds floated from the westward, pile on pile and tower on tower,
Forming castles, caves, cathedrals, graceful arch and airy bower.
The fair daughters of the household welcome gave to every guest:
Maude the eldest, blonde and gentle, stood of right before the rest.
She had planned for silken garments to bedeck her for the night,
But the mother overruled her and she walked in spotless white.
Kitty Broadlands by the river walked in purple silk arrayed—
Rich it was and bought with cheeses she herself that summer made. [page 19]
By her walked a youthful escort, somewhat less than she in height,
Glorying in a pea-green neck-cloth and a vest of scarlet bright;
On his chin scant down was showing, and no fitting place he found
For his large and restless fingers when they delved not in the ground.
Kitty kindly helped his shyness till he lost his look of scare,
Freely talked of father, mother, Sammy and the piebald mare;
Dwelling on the latter’s virtues, soon he felt no more alarm
Than if driving her before him on his father’s thriving farm.
Long a bankrupt captain’s daughter watched them from the garden hill
With a look of scornful horror meant their very hearts to chill.
Turning to her dashing escort: “Hear you, ensign, what they say!
Sure our hosts have lost their senses, thither bidding such as they.”
Quoth the ensign: “John was ever from the fool a slight remove;
I have heard him like a Ranter preach of duty, truth and love;
You will find him ere ten summers, I’ll engage my sash and sword,
Leading bands of holy pilgrims with their faces Zionward.”
This smart sally called loud laughter form the youths and maidens nigh—
Kitty Broadland’s youthful escort joined in it, he knew not why.
But as still the guests assembled one loved form was wanting there,
For a week from home had tarried John Saint John, the son and heir.
Much as his sisters watched to see him all that busy autumn day,
And their mother, though she chid them, slyly watched as well as they.
And when all the gorgeous landscape was aglint with going day,
Walked ’neath shades of oaks and orchards, Clare Saint John and Anna Grey.
Toward the king’s highway they hasted as they quit the festive hall.
Soon along its wooded windings rode two horsemen swift and tall:
One they knew, their friend and brother—often had they seen him ride—
But a fair-haired, knightly stranger galloped gaily by his side. [page 20]
Well those youths upon their chargers, proud of neck and prancing free,
Might have posed as errant courtiers in a tale of chivalry.
And in truth of courtly lineage was the stranger fair and tall,
Come an idler o’er the ocean—Marmaduke, of Tempest Hall.
Proudly he bestrode his charger—glossy black, of Arab blood—
That, when reined before the gateway, pawed the gravel as he stood.
And the maidens formed a picture worthy of the artist’s power,
As they walked beneath the shadows in the glorious sunset hour.
Anna’s wealth of rippling tresses shone illumined with its gold,
And the briskly rising zephyr shook her raiment’s snowy fold;
Bright the cross upon her bosom, gift of her departed sire
To her mother ere their marriage, flashed as vivid flame of fire.
John Saint John gazed down upon her, and his heart was in his eyes
As she seemed to glow before him like a bright, escaping prize.
Gazed he on her perfect figure, deep-fringed eyes and radiant brow:
“Surely,” thought he, “I have never loved her as I love her now,
Or the passion of my spirit must have breathed in spoken vow.”
Even now he longed to lead her from the merry throng apart,
Press his warm lips to her forehead, fold her to his ardent heart;
Tell her of the love that governed all the dreamings of his youth,
Pledge to her his pure devotion and his never falt’ring truth.
All with kindly glance regarded Marmaduke, the stranger tall;
Blandly did the host and hostess bid him welcome to the hall;
Maids the fairest smiled upon him; youths, all hospitable gay,
Told of fabulous adventure with the bear and wolf at bay—
How they on the spreading snow-shoe hunted antlered moose and deer,
How the speckled trout and salmon leapt in summer waters clear,
How the game of wing and feather thronged the woods in autumn’s prime;
And they gave him joyous welcome to their friendship, sports and clime. [page 21]
Then when fell the gloaming shadows over river, field and rill,
And the great white moon of harvest rose behind an eastern hill,
Every merry guest had entered at the mansions ample door—
Lady Carleton’s charming daughters came the last with chaise and four.
Well and long the household mother on her servants had impressed
Their momentous tasks and duties, and ere coming of a guest
She and the deft household teacher had with their own fingers laid
The snowy damasks on the tables and the shining plate displayed;
Next the china and the crystal duly ranged in fittest place;
Every vase and every rose-bud was disposed with telling grace;
She arranged that rich refreshment waited every comer there,
From the white-haired negro minstrel to the baron’s haughty heir.
Oft on Anna’s dream-like beauty Tempest fixed admiring gaze,
As they whirled through mazy dances ’neath the waxen taper’s blaze!
And a strange new thrill of triumph stirred the maiden’s bounding breast
As his strong yet gentle fingers on her rounded arm were pressed.
All at once her gorgeous fancy flashed with visions wildly grand—
Surely now the airy castles that her hidden thought had planned
Might arise on basis firmer, in proportions just as fair;
Yet might she, the young, the brilliant, tread a castle not of air;
Yet might she with keen enjoyment grasp each boon that prestige brings,
Freely blend with noble ladies, tread the marble courts of kings.
But no change in her appearance could the keenest watcher spy,
Save perchance a heightened lustre in the sparkle of her eye,
Or a shade of deeper crimson in the damask of her cheek.
Wouldst thou hearken now, poor beauty, if a prophet’s voice should speak?
Nay, if such a voice could reach thee little wouldst thou heed its say;
Thou art wise in thine own eyesight, thou wilt have thine own proud way; [page 22]
For thou art a wilful woman as was ever born of Eve;
If thou will’st thine own undoing, why should I thy sorrows grieve?
Thou hast had a love-blest childhood, thou hast had a merry youth,
Yet [x] words of Holy Scripture told so oft are very truth:
As the sparks of living embers seek their sire the fiery sun,
So is every child of Adam born a troublous course to run.
Often those whose morning pathway flower-paved lies ’neath dazzling sky,
Find thick clouds flung o’er their zenith ere the hour of noon is by;
Those o’er thorns and rocks who travel with brows bared to early rain,
Heav’n oft grants a noon of brightness or a gold-bathed sunset plain.
Swift as every night before it round earth rolled that night away,
And its hours with wine and dancing, laughter light and song were gay.
Find thick clouds flung o’er their zenith ere the hour of noon is by;
Those o’er thorns and rocks who travel with brows bared to early rain,
Heav’n oft grants a noon of brightness or a gold-bathed sunset plain.
Swift as every night before it round earth rolled that night away,
And its hours with wine and dancing, laughter light and song were gay.
Swift as many a night of triumph, many a weary night of pain,
Sped the night my song recordeth, nevermore to fall again.
All were happy, all were merry—even the bankrupt’s daughter smiled,
Simpering wiles to lure the stranger chased her scorn and horror wild:
Soon she found a meet occasion of her lineage to boast,
While her escort, broadly smiling, gave the hackneyed jest and toast.
Kitty Broadlands chatted gaily with the parson, students, clowns,
And, except for slight confusion in her pronouns, verbs and nouns,
Hers was not a strain unpleasing, and the youth of scarlet vest
Proved his sense by sitting silent, by the novel scene impressed.
But whatever friend or stranger chance to Kitty’s side might bring,
Well she guarded against wounding her young escort, Peter King.
“Old inhabitants” the parents of the somewhat rustic twain,
Upon rich alluvial meadows lay their fair and broad domain.
Of more wealth and sterner morals these in general were possest
Than their lofty mannered neighbors lately coming from the West.
Lady Carleton’s eldest daughter swept the harp with lily hand,
As she sang this simple ditty by a minstrel of the land: [page 23]
THE SONG OF THE LOYALISTS.
“I wake to a lay of the woods and the river
My harp that was strung in a sunnier clime;
Sweet land of adoption, thy pines as they shiver
Bear to summer’s heart thought of the snow and the rime.
“Of their green tasseled foliage a garland unfading
I would wreathe to the memory of comrades who lie
Hid in earth, while above them new banners parading,
White stars and red stripes meet the blue of the sky.
“Sweet they sleep where o’er Yorktown magnolias are growing,
And the myrtle blooms pale by the Brandywine’s waves,
As if lapped in the dust of the land of the loyal,
With the king’s soughing pines to o’ershadow their graves.
“But our homes, that are guarded by pines of the forest,
Are plenteous and flower-girt and warm with true love;
Our heroes are bravest, our women are fairest,
We honor King George and the Sovereign above.
“There is rest for the dead, there is hope for the living,
We shall labor and love, we shall wed and be gay,
Till, life passed in strongly and ceaselessly striving,
Our heads ’neath the pine-bearing clods they shall lay.”
Tempest, in his courtliest manner and best grace, led Anna Grey
To the harp, and half commanding, half imploring, bade her play.
All who saw her thought her taller than herself of former days;
Never had her eye such lustre and her form such matchless grace,
And her wondrous modulation and expression most impressed
Those who plumed themselves as singers, and the friends who knew her best. [page 24]
“I could not sleep through all those hours
Of darkness and affright,
So, ’neath the vaulted casement crouched,
I watched the boist’rous night.
“The wild winds on the rugged rocks
Dashed the white foaming spray,
Boomed round the lonely battlements
And swept the turrets grey.
“The pale light of the gibbous moon
Streamed through the parted clouds—
She hid her silvery face anon
In their dim, misty shrouds.
“Then saw I many a white-robed maid
And gallant armed knight,
’Neath frowning rock and leafy shade,
Glide in the ghastly light.
“‘Ye ghosts of my illustrious sires,’
I breathed in ardent prayer,
‘Have pity on the captive child
Of your last injured heir.’
“Then my Love’s signal loud and clear
Thrilled through the turret lone;
I waited not to braid my hair
Or clasp my jewelled zone.
“Round me I flung an ample robe,
Fashioned in days of old, [page 25]
Its massive buckles quaintly formed
Of emerald and gold.
“That gorgeous robe, when led to death,
My captive mother wore;
I pushed aside the heavy bolts,
And jarred the oaken door.”
When she ceased all voices clamoured, “We another song would hear.”
Spying then the household mother looking weary and severe,
She in wilfulness selected on Saint John did ne’er admire,
One his sisters disapproved of and that roused his mother’s ire.
ANNA’S SECOND SONG.
“I’ll think no more of sorrow,
I’ll dream no more of care,
To-morrow and to-morrow
Shall be fair and passing fair.
“I’ll bind my burnished tresses
With the fullest, reddest rose
That summer wind caresses,
And the whitest flower that blows.
“I’ll tread the maddest measure,
I’ll sing the gayest song,
I’ll give my heart to pleasure
All the merry summer long.
“I’ll give my heart to pleasure
All the sparkling winter night,
I’ll spare no costly treasure
To be royally bedight. [page 26]
“I’ll ask the years to bear me
Riches and high renown,
But give them leave to spare me
The vaunted silver crown.
“Of gold and sparkling jewels,
Of silks that shimmering shine,
The rarest and the fairest
And costliest shall be mine.”
Thus, as in the years departed, round earth rolled the dark away,
And the hours with wine and dancing, laughter light and song were gay.
But one young and noble forehead stranger shadows gathered on,
[illegible word] a new and sad foreboding filled the heart of John Saint John,
When from out the lighted parlors every lingering guest withdrew,
And the stars of autumn morning in the heaven pallid grew,
O’er the hill and o’er the valley, as they oft had trod before,
Side by side walked John and Anna toward her mother’s cottage door.
Pale was the round moon of harvest with the waxing light of morn;
Cold white mists from off the river by the early air were borne;
In the forest boughs around them chirped the jay and robin sweet,
As they broke the dewy cobwebs with their footsteps light and fleet.
Silently they crossed the meadows, valley and deserted road,
Then the youth turned sharp to Anna—in his eyes his spirit glowed:
“Anna,” spake he with an effort, “while the stars are yet above,
And no eye but God’s upon us, I would talk to thee of love.
Well and truly have I loved thee—(here he grasped her listless hand)—
For thy pleasure and well-being all my schemes of life are planned;
Thee I’ve loved, and loved thee only, ever since our childhood’s day
When along the woods and river we pursued our merry play. [page 27]
I have joyed in thy rejoicing, mourned whatever gave thee pain,
And presumed, perchance too fondly, that I have been loved again.
Speak, ere yet the golden ruler of the day shall climb the sky!
Moon of harvest, pale with dawning, be our witness from on high!
I declare before the morning, and the power that made it light,
I will never cease to love thee, ne’er forsake the faith I plight.
While I have the power to wield it, this strong arm shall be thy stay;
On this breast for rest and shelter thou thy shining head shalt lay;
Far as mortal power availeth from upbraiding, care or fear,
Thou shalt find a sure protection and lasting refuge here.
Tell me now, and tell me truly, ere again I quit thy side,
If thou answerest my passion, and if thou wilt be my bride.”
Silently, with eyelids downcast, all the while fair Anna stood,
Then she started as if hearing some strange noise amid the wood—
Though full well she knew ’twas only wild bird welcoming the day—
Turned, and sighing answered: “John, I truly know not what to say.
What you tell is so surprising, and so little as I deemed,
Half I look to wake in wonder that I have so wildly dreamed.
I have loved you as a brother, counted you a generous friend,
And I owe you thanks and blessings that can never know an end;
But could I return a passion when I knew not of its glow?
How could I suppose you loved me when you never told me so?
Surely I must deem you jesting when you say you loved so well
Through so many years, yet ever failed that love to me to tell.
Think of all our drives together, all our talks by moonlight fair,
Have you not had ample season all your fondness to declare?
Why should you delay its telling to this chill, untimely hour,
When the misty damp of morning lies so deep on field and bower?”
(Here she shuddered, though so warmly wrapped in soft fine crimson shawl)
“Mother’s wondering what detains me, and I thought I heard her call.
Let not what I’ve lightly spoken wound your heart or give you pain;
Duties at your home await you, we may speak of this again.” [page 28]
“Ah, how mindful you are growing of my duties and your own!”
Cried the youth, assuming something of the maiden’s lighter tone.
“But I’d have you wait a little, but to hear a word from one
Whom you own a friend and brother, ere the rising of the sun.
Well might you divine I loved you; have I shunned to make display
Of my care and honor for you since my manhood’s earliest day?
Actions speak, by all conceded, more than words of empty voice,
And my acts have loudly spoken that you were my heart’s own choice.
I have sought and loved your presence, basked in your enchanting smile,
Deeming that its warmth and radiance were my own the happy while.
I’ve been very jealous for you—breath of censure or of blame
Breathed by friend or stranger of you roused my anger to a flame.
Fondly, tenderly I’ve screened you from unkindly winter air,
From the misty damp of autumn or the summer’s sultry glare.”
“Go no further, John, recounting half the debts I owe beside;
Thus you think that you have bought me as a savage buys a bride.
Frankly do I own dependence, yet with sorrow and with shame,
Though I dreamed not you would mention it with taunt or threat or blame.
Truly, John Saint John, I’d rather harden and embrown this hand
As a servant in your kitchen or a laborer on your land
Than bestow it as the guerdon that you now so proudly claim,
Basely servile in my spirit while I wear a wifely name.
Sold for bread that I have eaten! Better to have died of want,
Or have perished of wild winter than your harsh demand to grant.”
Grieved and angry stood the lover; to its utmost height he drew
His tall form and answered coldly: “Since my words you misconstrue,
And my presence only vexes, I will haste to say adieu.”
Swift the maid sped up the pathway to her home embowered in vine,
Through whose leaves in the grey daylight she could see the clusters shine.
There the smell of rare exotics, tended by her mother’s hand,
Floated through the open casement like a breath from balmy land. [page 29]
John had praised their lavish odor as he stood beside them last.
Then a pang of deep relenting o’er her fitful spirit passed.
And she hasted to recall him: but afar adown the way
She could scarce discern his figure ’mid the shades that round it lay.
Then she watched while faintest outline of his form her eye could see
Till ’twas hid to her forever by a spreading birchen tree.
Did she think that never, never through the weary years again
She should see his well-known figure coming up the shady lane?
Never watch again his going over streams and leafy fells,
Never walk again beside him through familiar glades and dells?
Or within her secret spirit did the consciousness arise
That Saint John to her was dearer than all else below the skies?
That the world, with him so cheery, would be blank without his love?
That an arid, flowerless, desert pilgrimage her life would prove?
Well she knew her wilful torture of the earnest words he spake,
But before her better nature had full season to awake,
Thought arose of all the triumph of the night yet scarcely done,
And her tears and her relentings fled like dew before the sun.
John the generous and noble, John the honest and the wise,
Matched against the courtly strange: seemed but mean in her proud eyes.
There was music in the accents, there was magic in the smiles
Of the man who from his boyhood studied grace and courtly wiles;
And to dreamer such as Anna there was charm unspeakable
In the names his careless utterance showed that he had known so well.
He had paid her court and honor more than any maiden there.
Lady Carleton’s eldest daughter, with her gems and ruddy hair,
With her pale brocaded satin and her brow as marble white,
Looked upon the stranger’s homage as her uncontested right;
But with easy grace of manner that no base chagrin displayed,
She of doubtless charms resigned him to the far more gifted maid.
He had asked of Anna’s dwelling; she had told her sylvan home;
He had promised on the morrow to her bowery cot to come. [page 30]
Yes, before another sunset o’er the gleaming landscape glowed,
She should see his Arab charger coming up the lonely road.
“I am free from John,” she murmured; “I will banish him from thought”—
Thus she sped along the pathway and her curtained chamber sought.
But the smell of the exotics brought the thought of him to heart,
As if she had seen his features from amid their blossoms start.
Still her eyelids could not slumber nor her wakened spirit rest,
Long she tarried at her window in her festive raiment drest.
A rare garment of her mother’s, green and shimmering like the sea—
For its value and its memories cherished always carefully—
She drew forth, and in the sunlight of the early morn displayed.
It was splendid, rich and heavy with its lace and silken braid.
Swift she robed herself within it, standing where the mirror glowed.
Very lovely was the image that its polished surface showed:
Slender waist and classic shoulder, arm as marble smooth and round,
Eye of light and brow of beauty, shining, rippling hair unbound.
Then she plied her taper fingers making wreaths of evergreen,
Brightened with the brilliant foliage that o’er all the land was seen.
Or she tied the varied poppies, and the double marigold,
And whatever other blossoms thus far bore the autumn’s cold.
Toward the eve again resplendent in her silken garments rare,
Making haw and waxen berry quaint adorning for her hair.
Like a wood-nymph of the forest, like a naiad of the stream,
Like a goddess of the river, like the spirit of a dream,
Seemed the maid; and lo, a horseman galloped up the shady way,
With plumed hat and coat of velvet, buttoned breeches, hosen gay.
Long it boots not me to tarry all the converse to declare
That ensued that olden even ’twixt the gay and gifted pair;
For they walked until the sunset reddened all the bannered land,
And again the moon of harvest showed her visage broad and bland:
Talked of autumn and its glories, forests wild and lonely seas,
Lands afar where bright birds gather and sweet spices lade the breeze; [page 31]
Talked of flowers and their mute language, poetry and Indian lore,
Kings and queens and lords and ladies, palaces and castles hoar;
Of the passions of the spirit; and the stranger dwelt on love—
Strongest spring of human action, strongest power in heaven above.
Ere he vaulted to the saddle warm he pressed her slender hand,
Saying, “Houri of this heaven, goddess of this forest land,
Fairest of all Adam’s daughters, sure you will not say me nay,
If I ask again to see you when the morrow brings us day.
I will bring a palfrey for you, we will ride amid the land,
’Neath the shade of golden birches and the maple’s scarlet brand.
Farewell, fairest of the fair ones! farewell, brightest of the bright!
Look for me adown the pathway ere the day is at its height.”
As she watched his stately figure down the forest way depart.
Triumph, with a sting that vexed it, filled to overflow her heart.
By her window long she lingered looking on the moon that shone
Half as brightly as the morning o’er the scene so hushed and lone.
Far away she saw its radiance lighting up the river’s wave,
While a distant watch-dog’s baying echoes woke in hill and cave.
Anna listened to the baying; the hushed scene and moonlight white
Spake of peace, but ill her spirit ’corded with the quiet night.
And when starry lights were blinking from the windows of the hall
Sickening sense of desolation fell upon her like a pall.
How she longed to see the maidens, closest friends of all her youth;
Longed to own to John her folly, own his kindness and his truth.
But like her of Grecian fable who, her dearest wish denied,
Anna Grey, her heart to harden, called up all her stubborn pride;
Called up hurting slurs that often his industrious mother threw
Of the useless, fair and flippant youthful maidens that she knew.
Then she thought of the description of his costly home afar
Marmaduke to her had given—there was naught its site to mar.
It o’erlooked a sheltered harbor, it o’erlooked a steepled town;
Round it brooklets, orchards, gardens swept a gentle hill adown.
In its halls were waving banners; there were blazed the Tempest arms,
There hung armor, spears and trumpets that of old blared war’s alarms. [page 32]
And she dreamed how she might enter to those thronged and lighted rooms,
Drest in rich brocade and velvet, product fair of Asia’s looms.
She should gleam in flashing diamonds, washed from deep Golconda’s mine;
Like the cloudless night of winter, she ’mid sparkling throngs should shine.
Then she sunk at last to slumber, lit by many a troubled dream.
Now she seemed with John to wander ’long highway or forest stream;.
But black mists would rise between them—she would lose him in their fold;
From his arm, that strove to shield her, she by mighty force seemed rolled
By some strong, resistless current, though she knew not whence its power,
For it was not fire nor whirlwind, flood nor plague, that ruled the hour.
Then the seat of his great manor she with stately Tempest trod,
When a hollow rumbling earthquake rent the ancient, vast abode.
From its heavy oaken rafters down its side of granite rock,
Even to its vaulted cellars, it was cleft by one dread shock.
Mighty winds snapped the tall steeples, all unroofed the seaward town.
While the sea with savage bellows rose the frighted land to drown.
’Mid it all she sought for shelter John Saint John’s protecting hand.
But she felt that she was distant from him in a stranger land.
Next she trod vine-tangled forests—such she ne’er before had seen—
Where strange yellow lights were floating over all the foliage green.
Olden oaks of growth fantastic there were clasped by tendrilled vine,
There were long and trailing mosses, sturdy nut-tree, hardy pine.
Tracks of ghouls she saw beneath them; awful voices filled the boughs,
Crying woe and desolation unto an accursed house.
Sate a black-robed woman weeping, wailing on the sodden ground—
“Rachel thus bemoans her children,” cried a voice of hollow sound.
From her couch of troubled slumber on that sweet September night
Anna woke with fright and weeping ere the earliest gleam of light. [page 33]
OH, who will say the autumn time is sober,
Riding up hill and down dale o’er the land;
When all the gleaming banners of October
Are borne by merry woods on every hand?
They bear the red for valor, gold for glory,
The green for victor’s palm, for laurel crown;
The brown for earth—there’s naught of earthly story
But bears somewhere a tint of gravest brown.
Shorn are the grain-fields over all the highlands,
Empty the pastures, flocks and herds are gone;
They roam, rejoicing now the low, green islands,
The river islands of the broad St. John.
Bright are those holms as their encircling river,
And sweet with nut-tree, grass, wild-flower and vine;
And rich with all the wealth that earth can gather
From many a thousand years of storm and shine.
There sweetly, gaily sing birds of bright feather,
The spirits of the islands in their voice
(While the blue waves and skies rejoice together)
Say to the merry comer’s heart “Rejoice!” [page 34]
The kine of ivory horn, red, milk-white, spotted,
The fleecy sheep, and steely footed steed,
Deem these the autumn Promised Land, allotted
To all their tribes, and freely roam and feed.
From wild grape-vine they brush the rich, ripe cluster;
Their reckless steps quench the red sand-plum’s shine;
’Neath elms and balm of Gilead trees they muster—
Those elms of form to grace a land divine.
Hath the shore rose-bush quite forgot its blossom,
So frail yet lovely in the lovely June?
Or the anemone, that on its bosom
It bare so sweet a flower that died so soon?
Ah, soon will come the darkness of December—
The holms’ rich grass, the woods’ bright banners gone!
Will herds and steeds in their dim barns remember
The glorious islands of the broad St. John?
Since the days when happ’d the story that my song would fain explain
Many a summer’s shed its sunshine, many a winter’s wept its rain;
For o’er forest and o’er city, bringing bridals, births and biers,
There have sped in mirth and mourning seventy* round and rolling years;
And the mighty men that managed then the world so wise and vast,
As the giants ere the Deluge, are a people of the past.
True, there walk some weary remnants of the race that then bare sway,
With bowed back and step uncertain, feeble voice, and locks of grey,
Oft speak to one another of the days of youthful mirth,
Of the sad degenerate present and the fleeting joys of earth.
* The greater part of this poem was written about twenty-four years ago.
Oft they mourn, “Alas, my brother! ah, his glory passed away;”
They lament their youth and vigor, and their life’s short wasted day.
And the bride that then in satin or in lace of Belgia stood
Pale and pensive by her mirror, in a sweetly silent mood,
With her ruddy golden ringlets, or her smooth and shining braids,
Or her wavy raven tresses, decked by hands of dainty maids
With the fragrant bud and blossom, or the pearl from Persian deep,—
Doth she walk the earth a spectre, doth she lie in deathly sleep?
She hath found that shining ringlet, shining wave and shining braid,
In the sun of life’s midsummer and the frost of age would fade.
Morning winds were coolly blowing over fields of after-grass
That might tempt again the mower with his shining steel to pass
’Mid its trefoil thick with blossoms; and a mansion, low and wide,
Stood with open doors and windows, close beside the river’s tide.
There the healthful breeze was waving parlor curtains grave and stiff,
Into plain and tidy chambers entering with a sweet’ning whiff.
Well it cleared the coarse, dark carpet spread on hall and curtained room,
Product of strong, willing fingers, and the pond’rous kitchen loom;
Free it entered to the kitchen, with its floors so dainty white,
Ample fire-place, wide red over, tins in order, scoured and bright;
Entered, too, the open dairy, cool and pure, where shining rows
Of clean vessels stood awaiting rich new milk when day should close.
There a maid, in homespun habit, moved as brisk as honey-bee
All around them and among them, humming quaint old melody;
’Tending well her many duties, for the milk of twenty kine
There was wrought to golden butter and to cheeses plump and fine.
Kitty Broadlands was the maiden; well had she that morning plied
Work in chamber and in kitchen, ere she to the dairy hied.
’Twas a hymn of death and grave-yards that the maiden chanced to sing,
But if thought e’er left the dairy ’twas to roam to Peter King. [page 36]
When the maid was almost ready to depart the pure domain,
Standing in the open doorway she beheld the bashful swain,
Strongly clad in bluest homespun, with broad hat, and sturdy goad
That he brought wherewith to hasten his fat bullocks o’er the road.
He had listened charmed and silent to the maiden’s dirge-like song,
Watched the wiry, busy figure, with its motions swift and strong;
And when she had turned toward him and had given greetings kind,
Much he strove to speak up boldly to relieve his burdened mind.
As they sought the low, wide mansion, walking gaily side by side,
Peter mustered fitting phrases wherewith to bespeak a bride.
Rustic truly was his diction, but it could his thought impart,
For it was the warm, outspoken language of a manly heart.
Kitty gave an answer fitting honest heart and earnest life—
She the tower of strength as daughter would be tower of strength as wife.
Well he knew he gained a treasure, well that treasure rare he prized,
Many a scheme for nobler living his new-quickened heart devised.
“I have somewhat else to tell thee, Kitty,” said he. “More and more
As with the great world I mingle, lack of learning I deplore.
For one year I fain would study, by some famous master taught.”
“Oh!” cried Kitty, interrupting; “Peter, ’tis a splendid thought!
Haste to put it into action, lest perchance it come to naught.
But one year will not suffice you—study three, or five, or ten;
You have money, youth and talent, win a name ’mid learned men.
I will, as my father wishes, seek for help in household ways,
And devote to mental culture portion of my means and days.”
Fair above the ample mansion of Saint John the morning shone;
Through its many open windows floated girlhood’s cheery tone
Singing bits of song fantastic, or their tasks arranging gay,
For far more than wonted duties waited them that autumn day.
Yester had the house been righted; every vase spoon, I trow,
Book and card in nook appointed, peacefully was resting now.
Pure white gowns and table damasks from the wide-flung kitchen line, [page 37]
Flapping in the breeze of morning, dazzled with their snowy shine;
But the mangling and the pressing still before the daughters lay,
And the mother had appointed gathering fruit the self-same day.
Missed must be the school-room lessons, Miss Buret must lend a hand,
For the help of all her household had the busy mistress planned.
Early on the eve departed a swift carrier had brought
A red-sealed and weighty letter, with a thrilling message fraught;
And the writer said that vacant in the Nova Scotian land
Was a post of rare advantage he for John Saint John had planned.
“When you shall have read this letter,” said the scribe, “without delay,
Even with the morning’s dawning, set the youth upon his way.”
Warmly in his cause he’d battle as for offspring of his own,
And at need would speed petition unto Royal George’s throne.
“For to you,” quoth he, “I’m debtor for my fortune and my fame;
But for you I must have perished, outcast, with a sullied name.”
It is needless I should tarry all the writer’s warmth to tell;
Hugh Saint John, the loyal soldier, long had known and loved him well.
At the letter’s close ’twas written, “Mind not farewells or array,
But with dawn and favoring breezes set the youth upon his way.”
Much was stirred the numerous household with the news the letter brought;
Hugh Saint John, perplexed and doubtful, pondered it with anxious thought.
Though the loving sisters sorrowed that their brother should depart,
Sweetly novel and romantic seemed the scheme to each young heart;
But the mother grasped the project as the crown of her desire—
Brath of honor for her first-born roused her spirit’s restless fire.
“Let the youth himself decide it,” said the father; “speak, my boy.
Do you choose this stately office rather than our plain employ?
Though it bring you wealth and honor it will bring you heavy care,
And amid yon thronging city you a stranger’s heart must bear.
If you go or if you tarry at your need all mine is yours, [page 38]
And a father’s love and counsel, while my mortal life endures.
Go not forth for lack of welcome—freedom, love and plenty here;
Tarry not if your young spirit panteth for a wider sphere.”
John that day on yellow hill-tops, with strong arm but heart oppressed,
Fierce had toiled from early morning till the sun sloped down the west,
Wreaking upon bearded harvest his pent anger and annoy.
Now the hope of Anna’s sorrow at his going gave him joy.
All that day a bird of autumn, chattering in the fringy pine,
To his ears spake these words only, “Anna never shall be thine;”
While a jealous echo answered all things from the forest’s core:
“Anna shall be bride of Tempest; thou shalt greet her nevermore.”
Well he knew the post must bring him wearing toil and constant care,
But he hailed it sent of heaven to redeem him from despair.
Spake he, “I will go, my father, forth into the world of men.
Who would not exchange the sickle for the ready writer’s pen?
Surely ’tis as grand to garner lore profound with doctors grey
As to toil on fields with harvest hoary, as I toiled to-day.
Earnest toil of brain is worthy as the toil of sturdy arm;
Care that maketh wise and thoughtful doth no youthful spirit harm.
For glad childhood, merry boyhood, all my life shall happy be,
But ’tis well the yoke to carry, and ’tis well the world to see.”
Thus he strove, with heart unselfish, cheery aspect to assume,
That home’s cherished love-lit circle might not darken with his gloom.
“Go, my son,” the father answered, “if it be your chosen way;
Justly serve your generation, justly fill your hireling day.
Do not rest in error, pleading inexperience and youth;
What you would that men should deem you, that become in very truth.
Truly merit high preferment, truly earn your golden wage;
Free from blot of bribe or falsehood set your name in history’s page:
To the helpless prove a helper, to the friendless prove a friend;
On your slight or grief or ailment scanty thought or pity spend;
Strength of arm may not be mentioned with the strength of mind and heart, [page 39]
At the power of these affrighted half the ills of life depart.
’Tis your mother’s quenchless spirit that her fragile flesh sustains,
Bearing cares in youth undreamed of, weariness, privations, pains.
Seek the worthiest and the highest, rest not in the good and high;
Shape your course forever tending upward in the eternal sky.
Think that men through generations to the sunset hour of time
Shall be meaner if you grovel, shall be nobler if you climb.
If, unprospering or dishonored, all beside should prove unkind,
In your home and with your father help and succor you shall find.
Space nor time nor shame shall part you from my heart, my hope, my prayer,
Where you hold the place of first-born, only son and foremost heir.”
Long the mother did not tarry listening to the counsel sage—
She had sought her first-born’s chamber while he conned the written page,
Saw that hosiery and linen in their fittest place where lain,
Free from hole or rent unsightly, faintest trace of soil or stain;
And when all seemed duly ordered and the household hushed to rest,
Still the fond and busy mother darned and folded, stitched and pressed:
Mindful of her first-born’s comfort, mindful of her housewife fame,
Still she wrought a garment for him, by the midnight taper’s flame.
Wearily she often nodded, but she would not let it go—
The last stitch was barely fastened ere the cocks began to crow.
Long from open chamber casement John beheld the moonlight calm,
Heard the river waters singing low their ancient nightly psalm,
Watched the few pale stars attending their moon queen so mild and white,
And the silver-winged vessels resting in the windless night—
(On the morn in one bespoken he must hasten to depart).
Then his thoughts sped o’er the pastures to the maiden of his heart.
Pride and anger roused within him to outflare and quench his love,
But its deathless flame was burning all their stormy force above,
And young Hope began to whisper, “She may truly love thee still. [page 40]
’Tis a freak of girlish temper, a strange phase of woman’s will.
Go thy way, and glad returning when the Christmas whites the wold
She will meet and give thee welcome as in merry days of old.”
Then his heart made answer, “Be it even so, and all is well,
I will greet and give her welcome kinder than all words can tell.
But if she hath never loved me, if I have been all deceived,
By my heart shall truest maiden never be again believed;
Never will I search the thousand, seeking still the one to find:
Save my dear and cherished kindred, unto me all womankind
Shall be as the verist strangers. I will seek some better name
Than a portioned maiden’s suitor or a heartless beauty’s flame.
This calm night I make a covenant with my heart and with my eyes,
I will never love their beauty, never deem their wealth a prize;
Never shall their wit entice me, never shall their wiles betray;
To my God and to my fellows I devote my manhood’s day.
Foolish, heartless, misnamed pleasure shall for me no charm possess,
I will give my gold and leisure dreary want and woe to bless.
I will serve my king and country well and truly as I can,
But will risk the wrath of heaven never for the praise of man.
I will seek His steps to follow, I will supplicate His throne,
Who our darksome earth-ways travelled, doing good and good alone.
He hath never scorned nor slighted one who kneeling sought His aid.
He hath tasted gall and wormwood, He himself was once betrayed.”
Thus Saint John sank into slumber, and the morn beheld his sail
Down the rough blue river scudding, hasted by a favoring gale;
Later morn beheld the mansion as my song before hath told.
Maude Saint John, by chamber mirror combing her long locks of gold,
Said to Melicent beside her: “Strange that John has gone away
With no word, or line, or token left or sent to Anna Grey.”
This the mother hears, and entered—“John,” said she, “is angered sore:
He hath very much forgiven, but he will forgive no more.
He hath heart and he can suffer, he hath eyes and he could see
Her coquetting with yon stranger in a style so fond and free. [page 41]
When with cap in hand he bade her farewell tender, soft and long,
Well she knew they formed a picture viewed by an admiring throng;
How she gazed on his equipments, how she dallied with his plume—
Scarce could I restrain my anger even in that crowded room.”
“Mother,” spake the younger sister, that the theme might varied be,
“If at Christmas John returneth from that city by the sea,
May I go with him to see it? oh, they say its sights are fair:
Miss Buret last night was telling they have splendid parties there.”
“Go? You think of naught but pleasure! Help your sister strip the vines;
You may cold in death be lying when another Christmas shines.”
Little deathly looked the maiden as she lightly tripped away,
With a girlish shrug of shoulders and a rhyme of ditty gay,
While the lady long descanted of what starving, prisoning lay
In the path of her fair daughters if they did as Anna Grey.
Flushed, impatient, conscience-goaded, Anna Grey her chamber paced,
While her mother tired preparing viand she might deign to taste—
She could almost weep for pleasure when at last her child partook,
Gave her passionate embracing and an old-time sunny look.
But the sunshine on her features and the sunlight in her heart
Were like gleams in days of snow-storm, seldom seen and swift to part.
Harvest-men amid the meadows, woodmen on the forest road,
Indians gathering splints for baskets, settlers clearing acres broad,
Saw two tall and stately figures ride that day amid the land—
One a maid on prancing palfrey, one a knight on charger grand.
Over hill and over valley proudly did they ride away,
The rich bosses of their gearing flashing in the sunlit day.
She was drest in trailing habit, dark hat, tall and narrow-brimmed,
He in garb of black-green velvet with the spotted ermine trimmed.
Horns and pistols richly mounted pendent from his shoulder glowed,
While the plumes upon his forehead nodded as he gaily rode.
Where the singing, mossy brooklet through the glades its wild way wound; [page 42]
Where the lavish, spendthrift birches tossed their gold upon the ground;
Where the broad-leaved sugar maple flared in wind its scarlet blaze;
Where afar the burnt-wood branches shimmered like a smoky haze;
Where the butternut and oak tree rattled down their fruitage dry;
Where above the cedar branches showed broad strips of fleecy sky;
Where the bells of the nigh city reached them in a holy chime—
Rode young Marmaduke and Anna in that olden autumn’s prime. [page 43]
’TWAS in the summer’s early bloom—
The hour was early eve—
I walked with sullied, sad intent
O’er withered hopes to grieve.
“Tell me,” said I, “thou crescent moon,
Those gorgeous clouds above,
Can love forget?—can human heart
Yield up its early love?”
“The fireflies glanced from shrub to ground;
The southern wind swept by,
Rustling with gentle silvery sound
Among the bearded rye;
Or with a sad, prophetic voice,
As of an injured seer,
Speaking amid the leafy boughs
Of forests standing near.
It told of summer storms to fall
Ere many days were fled,
And whispered to my heart a fear
Of storms more fierce and dread.
From the grey shore a murmur came—
The murmur of the waves— [page 44]
Lapping the scattered rocks that bound
A hill of lonely graves.
Perchance a spirit in the wind
Whispered the thrilling strain
That stirred my waking passions so
And smote my heart with pain.
A voice amid the bending rye
And leafy foliage near,
Said: “Think not now of earthly love,
Or hate, or hope, or fear.
“Before the mower fills his arms,
Or he who bindeth sheaves
Upon the hills embrowned and shorn
The scattered gleaning leaves;
“Before the leaves, so shining now,
Shall fall in autumn’s day,
At beck of wild and hollow winds,
Upon the angry spray,
“Thy flesh beneath its kindred sod
Shall find a tranquil rest;
Seek that thy spirit with its God
Be now and ever blest.
’Tis a world of useless evil, of unprofitable sin,
Where we slight the good that offers and we toil the curse to win.
Fiercely oft the babe contendeth with its elder for a toy
Which, when given to its clamor, bringeth hurt instead of joy;
Painfully the truant hideth ’mid cold shades his cowering form, [page 45]
Triumphing in thus escaping from the school-room bright and warm;
Cleverly the youth outwitteth teacher stern and parent kind,
Following thus a path that leaveth wealth and weal and hope behind.
Past was all the joy of harvest, ended all of summer sweet,
Nightly snows had wrapped the region in a mighty winding sheet;
Dark the clouds hung in the heavens, and an icy drizzling rain
Slowly fell on flowerless garden, fell on empty harvest plain.
’Twas the sad and bleak November of the leafless shrub and tree,
Of the dark and swollen waters, of the wet and lonesome lea.
Ruddy cot and ample mansion stood as in the days of old
When November rains were falling and November winds were cold;
But there lacked a happy presence all about the dwellings twain
That were wont to be most cheery in the days of storm and rain.
Still the mansion’s first-born sojourned, lonely in the neighbor land.
Melicent, the merriest maiden of the merry girlish band,
Was, though still a laughing maiden, prisoner in a curtained room,
With a cough that sounded hollow as the knell of coming doom.
On her cheek was burning hectic, in her eye a glassy light,
And her form was swiftly wasting and her hand was thin and white.
But she bravely kept her courage; never would she much complain,
Saying that sweet health was coming when glad spring came round again.
But that morn so dark and lonely forced her young heart to despond,
As the grave seemed oped before her and the shadowy land beyond.
All in view was ghastly terror, howling storm and utter night,
With no promise of a morning and no gleam of starry light;
Then her spirit sank within her and she shuddered in her fear,
Craving some strong arm to lean on, some protecting presence near;
For she thought if but her father’s or her elder brother’s hand
Might be only stretched to guide her she might tread that fearsome land.
But the thought of that dear brother, from his home so far away,
Where no message might recall him for full many a wintry day, [page 46]
Made her sink in abject weeping with her thin hands o’er her face,
As she spake of faithless Anna and bemoaned her brother’s case.
“Ah!” she sobbed, “though at the Christmas dearest John shall homeward come,
The white shroud shall be my raiment and my home shall be the tomb.
He shall scarce discern my resting place amid the mounds of snow—
O my father! O my mother! was it well that he should go?
Oh, I dread to lie so silent an so ley and so lone,
Far from all the friends and kindred that my cheerful youth hath known,
Where no burst of youthful laughter and no sound of human voice,
Nor a ray of sunlight enters that the dwellers may rejoice.
The dim shadowy land of spirits all alone my soul must tread,
Nor can I return to tell you how my journey shall have sped.
All alone my spirit must appear before a holy God—
Would that it with my poor ashes might be hid below the clod.”
Gentle Maude and Clare were with her, and with hers were blent their tears;
Truly did they mourn her sorrows, truly did they share her fears.
Then the elder took the Bible in her white and trembling hand,
Oped its faded velvet covers, loosed its sturdy brazen band,
Found where ancient Israel’s prophet, sacred bard and shepherd king
Doth a song of joy and rapture to the Lord his Shepherd sing;
For her eye at first alighted where he said, “Although I go
Through death’s gloomy vale of shadow, yet shall I no evil know;
For Thy presence shall attend me, and Thy rod and staff shall cheer.”
“Ah,” she said unto the sufferer, “surely there is comfort here.”
Then she read again, where Jesus to the sad and weary spoke,
Saying, “Come, and take My burthen, come and bear My easy yoke.”
How He suffered, how they laid Him—in a shroud of linen wound—
In the tomb till the third morning rolled its gladsome hours around.
How He blessed His waiting followers when to heaven He did ascend,
How He promised to be with them till the years of time should end. [page 47]
Then she read a hymn of heaven from an ancient book—the prize
Of a serving maid, who conned it often o’er with weeping eyes:
“The Lord is our king and He rules in a land
That is brighter than morning can be,
For the excellent glory of God and the Lamb
Lighteth river and city and sea.
“The river rejoiceth the vales and the street
Of a city of music and mirth,
Whose solid foundations have garniture meet
Of all manner of jewels of worth.
“The sea is of glass, and upon it there stand
The ransomed of many a clime,
Who sing to the harps that they hold in their hands
In a sweet and unfaltering chime.
“Their song is of Hm who once lived, who was dead,
And who liveth forever again:
Whose blood upon Cavalry’s mountain was shed
That His people Mount Zion might gain.
“We must pass through a valley all desert and drear,
We must wade through a cold-flowing stream,
Ere that city we reach that as crystal is clear,
And whose light as a jasper doth beam.
“But our Jesus’s hand and His glorious arm,
And the light of His favor shall bring
The souls He hath ransomed from death and from harm,
His praise in that city to sing. [page 48]
“The Lord is our judge and our lawgiver just,
He is king over present and past;
If we hope in His name, though we sleep in the dust,
We shall waken to praise Him at last.”
These sweet words her spirit entered, and their entrance gave her light.
From the dreaded, darksome valley lifted seemed the veil of night;
For she felt a Father kinder that her own sire ruled that land,
There a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother was at hand.
Where was she the fair and youthful, she the graceful and the gay,
Bright of thought and swift of action, proud and stylish Anna Grey
She in white-sailed ship was speeding far upon the dreary main:
Never to her pleasant lessons should she cross the hills again:
Nevermore a dashing beauty she through gleaming woods should ride,
For ere going of October she became proud Tempest’s bride.
Bride of heartless Tempest—Tempest of the cold grey eye,
Of the broad, receding forehead, Saxon hair and lineage high:
Seeming ever lavish-handed, knowing well the knightly part,
But in truth a selfish niggard and a craven at the heart.
When the year through leafless branches, howling, mourned its early fall,
And the lonely, lingering robin answered the weird cat-bird’s call;
When the crested, murky waters chafed upon the sombre sand,
And the sunlight of October goldened all the leaf-strewn land,
He had led her to the altar of the chancel light and fair,
And irrevocably either plighted faith to other there.
Past were all their grand appearings in church, rout and wildwood grove;
Past the idle talk and wonder that she left her early love;
Still were vended wondrous stories of the stranger’s power of wealth,
And by many it was hinted John had left his home by stealth;
That when the great banquet ended he had wept and torn his hair. [page 49]
Cursed his father, mother, Anna, Tempest, in his deep despair;
Fearing to confront his rival, hating to be seen by light,
He had compassed his departing under covert of the night.
Others in a lower whisper, with a wiser look and tone,
Said that Anna knew his vices, that to very few were known.
Almost all agreed to blame him, and to praise the fortune rare
That had joined the dowerless orphan to the grand and wealthy heir.
Scarce two moons since first she saw him, scarce two weeks since they were wed,
Had elapsed when Anna waited one drear morn for Tempest’s tread.
Thoughts were surging through her bosom like the wind amid the trees
That upon her country’s mountains woo’d the wild wintry breeze.
Could it be that he already wearied of her matchless charms,
And already cursed the passion that had won her to his arms?
For his manner fast was chilling; often seemed he sore perplexed,
Oft would sit in moody silence as if secret trouble vexed.
On the morning after marriage to his hand a letter came—
He had read it, pale with anger, and consigned it to the flame,
But it wrought a change within him, and he hastened to depart
To that fair and sea-girt island that is queen of every mart.
Often was he seated lonely, looking o’er the waters gray;
Anna’s converse could not stay him, nor her song his care allay.
That sad morn she had not seen him, though the hour of noon was night,
And she [x] press the teardrops from her shining eye
The poor [x]of weeping she perforce herself denied,
For it seemed but illy suited to a gay and happy bride,
As she fain would be accounted by the captain’s prying dame
Who full oft with show of frankness to her rich apartment came.
Long that morn the lady tarried, taxing Anna’s self-control,
Till she wished for her departing with the fervor of her soul.
When at last her going footsteps and her warbled song were heard— [page 50]
Song that sounded empty, heartless as the note of talking bird—
Then the winds so sadly sounded al amid the sails and shrouds,
Then the rain like floods of weeping, passionate burst forth low rent clouds,
And the salt and sobbing billows dashed the tall ship’s oaken side.
Thoughts of pleasures gone forever overwhelmed the hapless bride;
Pleasures truly gone forever as if ages had o’erpast
In the stead of days autumnal, since she tasted of them last.
Sadly as the wind that wailing swept the lorn and leaden main,
Came her sighs from young heart bursting with its bitter, homesick pain.
Wretched as the rain that ceaseless, icy, drizzling, crusted all,
Fell her tears with no relieving in their think and blending fall:
Tossed by hopes and fears of future that she could not fathom more
Than the restless waves that bore her to a dreaded stranger shore.
Long she lay; at last, arousing, ’twas beside her couch to find
Stately Marmaduke astanding, as she thought, with aspect kind;
Then, forgetful of his grandeur of his coldness, of her pride,
Only feeling that her spirit craved, and would not be denied,
Sympathy and tender loving such as it had ever known;
Swift her heard was on his bosom and her arms about him thrown.
But as swift he raised her from him, speaking in her tingling ears:
“Anna, you will spoil my ruffles with your senseless maudlin tears.
Of all sights, my utmost loathing is to see a woman weep,
For their tears are as deceitful as their hearts are false and deep.
Are you mourning for your cottage built of logs upon the wild?
Or your semi-idiot mother doubtless wailing for her child?
You to weep! You should be laughing. I have all the cause for tears;
For your sake I’ve risked a fortune and a name among my peers.
Aye, have dared my mother’s anger, all my haughty kindred’s scorn—
You to weepm when you have nothing but your poverty to mourn!”
Silent, stunned, amazed she listened—could he speak to wound her more?
Still his lashing words were falling on her spirit smarting sore; [page 51]
’Twas perchance the frenzied anguish of her wild eye woke his fear,
Or a latent sense of manhood roused in shame such words to hear,
For in accents somewhat milder, with a little less of scorn,
He pursued: “My brain is maddened since I grasped, that hapless morn,
The last letter of my mother’s. She most harshly bids me come;
And I dare not longer tarry, though I loathe to seek my home,
As I am with you encumbered. She had formed another plan;
I have thwarted her aspirings, and we both must feel her ban.
Little roses her to passion and her anger long endures,
Yet I soon shall find my welcome, though I cannot speak for yours.”
Pen of poet, brush of painter, utmost power of both combined,
Could but ill depict the passions storming then through Anna’s mind.
Burning rage and strong resentment soon most important to prove,
And a deep and heart-sick longing for a lost, unselfish love
Borne by one who would have girded on his sword for mortal strife
To defend and proudly honor her he sought to be his wife.
But the greatness of her sorrow bade her rouse her spirit’s strength,
And young hope its drooping pinions stirred within her heart at length.
What a boon is hope to mortals, ending but with closing life!
Who could face without its helping all th’ oppression and the strife?
Hope portrayed the happy chances that before her might unfold.
Well it was she knew so little of the cruel world and cold,
Of the haughty, false and envious hearts, possessed by humankind,
Or the hope that then upheld her, had been banished from her mind;
And perchance beneath the waters, lapping swift the vessel’s side,
She had sought her form of beauty and her bursting heart to hide.
Well she realized so little in that lone and evil hour
All the honor paid to riches, all the worship pair to power:
How the mean man and the mighty and the wise and foolish bend
Unto him whom fortune taketh by the hand as chosen friend;
Of how seldom those apnurtured upon fortune’s lap secure [page 52]
Are unconscious or forgetful of their right to crush the poor;
How the good man’s scornful pity and the evil’s scornful hate
Come to him who vainly struggles in the net of adverse fate;
Of how futile are the efforts of one soul, however strong,
Matched against the will of numbers, the designing of a throng.
No; ah, no! she little fancied that she stood alone and poor,
That it must be hers in silence to succumb and to endure.
Schemes of vengeance wild she nurtured, as she pale and trembling stood,
Upon Tempest and his mothers, upon all who shared his blood.
But the clouds of heaven grew weary and their constant dripping ceased,
As the noisy wind toward gloaming shifted from the numbing east
From the crimson west uprising came a bracing breeze and strong,
Or like troops of lightsome dancers they behind each other whirled,
Or they gleamed like brilliant banners on their stricken staffs enfurled;
Or like hair all gray and ragged, dabbled with the sanguine tide,
Of a heart both fond and faithful that in winning battle died.
Anna listened to confusion of the west wind and the flood,
Looked upon the sunset heavens with their garments rolled in blood.
Short time since a scene so glorious had her every grief beguiled,
Now as sad she gazed upon it, very bitterly she smiled,—
Smiled in memory of her childhood, of her girlhood’s happy day
Of a deathless love that blessed it, lost to her and lost for aye.
Entering to her lighted cabin she amid her treasured store
Sought for book or gem or trinket that a thought of pleasure bore.
Soon she found a tiny volume, gift of John the year gone by;
Bound in gilt and azure was it, and she grasped it reverently.
John had writ her name within it—’twas a book of pleasant rhyme—
Vividly it brought before her the last merry Christmas time.
As an oracle she oped it, on these words her vision fell,
Striking in upon her spirit sadly as a funeral knell: [page 53]
Oh, there is a strange evil that waiteth thy coming,
Young beautiful bride of a week and a day;
And there was a strange sorrow that troubled thy going;
There shall be a horror still haunting thy way.
Thou shalt dwell in a palace, but stricken and chidden,
And soon from bright garden and tapestried room
Thou shalt pass like a ghost, and thy name shall be hidden
By darkness more dense than the shadow of doom.
For thou shalt not lie down by the side of thy father,
’Twixt shade of the forest and flow of the wave,
Where thy mother, in mourning, comes often to gather
The faint-colored violets off his long grave.
Neither shalt thou be laid in the sepulchres hoary
Of sires of thy bridegroom; nor near to the pile
Whose stained windows memorial, glazed to their glory,
O’erlook dreamy chancel and echoing aisle.
Neither shalt thou lie down in the light of thy morning,
In strength of thy youth and the blush of thy bloom:
Murky clouds shall have hidden the gold of thy dawning,
Thy heart shall be weak ere thou greetest the tomb.
Far away from the fair forest home of thy childhood,
The true one who woo’d thee in youth’s early day;
To the music of winds and the mirth of the wildwood
Thy life shall be shut till thy looks shall be gray.
Thou hast dashed from thy own lip the cup of true pleasure,
Hast planted the cypress that shadows thy way;
Thou hast robbed thy own soul of unspeakable treasure,
Young beautiful bride of a week and a day. [page 54]
After short and prosperous voyage, as the night was turning pale,
Three weeks thence a stately vessel dropped her anchor, furled her sail.
As the hearty British sailors shouted for their native land,
Drearily looked Anna Tempest on a region strange and grand.
Marmaduke was sitting near her, gloomy as an evil ghost,
Dreaming, absent, sighing often, all his knightly bearing lost.
Anna curbed her heart to rouse him, saying: “Husband, mist it be
That we seek your angry mother? Let us from her presence flee.”
But she only spake to rouse him, for her fond ambitious heart
Could not yet with all its visions of great wealth and grandeur part.
Blankly then he looked upon her, deigning not to make reply;
Rose ere long and gazing seaward walked with a rekindled eye.
When again he spake to Anna ’twas in hopeful, gleeful tone—
All his gloom and all his harshness like a morning mist had flown.
“Trust me, Anna, trust me truly, and all things shall yet be well;
But be sure to win my mother, for her wrath is fierce and fell.
You must also court my sisters—nine there are, both proud and old;
One is widowed, with two daughters—these are young and fair and bold.
More than all things seek their favor, for they rule their mother well,
And my mother lists to nothing more than to the tales they tell.
As for my bed-ridden father, poor and almost imbecile,
He will swear you are an angel if above his couch you smile.”
Scarce could Anna curb her anger as these words he lightly spoke;—
Did he dream of her subjection to the manifolded yoke?
But her proud and sickened spirit could not, would not, frame reply,
As she fixed her gaze upon him scornfully and silently. [page 55]
Dull the sunlight of November struggled through gray clouds up-piled
In a sky that arched a landscape which in sombre beauty smiled.
Soft the waters of the harbor lapped where ships of mighty mast,
Fishing craft and pleasure shallop dropped their anchors safe and fast
Mighty trees o’erlooked the harbor, bowery were the streets and lanes,
Blooming flowers like happy faces peeped from polished window panes.
A cathedral, shade-environed, from its ivied tower sublime
Sounded forth the noon and midnight, even-song and matin chime.
Many a church and many a chapel bold the gleaming cross upraised;
Flags were floating in the sea-breeze, with device and motto blazed.
There were homes of ancient nobled, orphanage and school endowed,
White-washed cot of lowly lab’rer, marble dome of banker proud;
Mighty factories, gloomy-windowed, that had never heard the roar
Of the fire-fed, steam-breath’d monster, stood anear the pleasant shore.
There the mercer showed his velvets, ribbons bright, and stiff broacade;
Tawny Jews paraded jewels rarely polished and inlaid;
Dingy dustmen, grimy coalmen, sooty sweeps with ragged hair,
Wiry tinkers, noisy hawkers, plied their trades or cried their ware;
Soiled and tawdry gypsy beauties told long tales from travellers’ palms;
Ragged cripples hopped on crutches, barefoot urchins asked for alms;
Ample coaches, lined with velvet, bore their freight of ladies bright,
Others rode with swain or servant upon palfreys swift and light; [page 56]
Handmaid trim and haggard seamstress, gay apprentice, laughing page;
Answering hearts of youths and maidens, mother kind and soldier brave;
Blazing forge and ringing anvil, sound of hammer and of saw;
Students gowned with caps fantastic, learned doctors of the law;
Shabby orphans lean and decent, widows draped in weeds of woe—
Helped to form an English city more than seventy* years ago.
Here, as hearty British sailors shouted for their native land,
Drearily looked Anna Tempest on the scenes grotesque or grand.
Broad and far a street went sweeping from the thronging town away—
Giant oaks and elms with shadow almost shut it from the day;
Then it merged again to sunlight, wound its way by hillsides green;
O’er the meadows in the distance was the gleaming ocean seen.
Parks uprose in stately order where the deer were browsing free;
Fleecy flocks and hornèd cattle fed on watered pasture lea:
Gardens gay with bowers of shadow, winding walks and seats of ease;
Trees defending from the east-wind curious harps that wooed the breeze;
Gateway with heraldic figures hewn upon its rocky sheen;
Wreathen garlands, trailing serpents o’er the solid arch were seen.
There were huge and maned lions crouching on their granite paws,
Harpies with their snaky tresses, stony eyes and brazen claws;
All about the grounds and gardens fountains leapt and brooklets streamed;
Figures culled from classic legend in the purest marble gleamed;
Peacocks screamed from grassy terrace, prisoned song-birds warbled clear,
And the lordly home of Tempest reared its stately turrets near.
On that morning Lady Tempest sat within a curtained room,
* This was written more than twenty years ago.
Hung about with gorgeous chintzes redolent of rare perfume,
In an ample chair encushioned like the curtains, where the blade
Of tall grass, the rose, the tulip, iris lily were displayed.
Here and there were matching sofas; swaying chairs the tables bore;
Gilded volumes of embroidery, lace designs and crochet lore;
There were ottomans of velvet wrought in wools whose shades outvied
Southern Afric’s wilding meadows, or an English garden’s pride;
Waxen flowers and marble vases, Parian statuettes were there;
Pearl work-boxes, silk work-tables, horns of shell and wreaths of hair.
Near the grate hung brilliant fire-screens—one of richest silk displayed
Sarah entertaining angels:—she was drest in green brocade,
High-heeled boots and Mechlin head-dress! From her zone were handing keys;
The ethereal guests wore girdles, breeches buckled at the knees,
While the needful wings were springing from beneath the shoulder blade.
The queued Father of the Faithful to the roasted fatling bade.
Lady Tempest, clad in cambric, wrapped about with Indian shawl,
With fierce gesture of impatience clasped her withered hands so small;
Clutched her shawl about her bosom, crushed a broidered kerchief fine,
Waiting for her two granddaughters and her wealthy daughters mine.
(Sister nine, but little semblance they unto the Muses bore;
More they seemed like three-fold furies of the fabled days of yore.)
Most uncommon was th’ appearing of the lady’s eyes of jet,—
Never one who looked upon them could their evil light forget.
Her dark brow had many a wrinkle, her dull cheek had many a seam,
Hers was all in all a visage that might haunt a feverish dream.
There was little trace of beauty in her black and restless eye,
Round her mouth so shrunk and purplish, on her brow so dark and high.
She had trod a chequered pathway, strange adventures had she seen—
She had been a needy maiden; wedded and a widow, been; [page 58]
Of high birth, but robbed of fortune that by right to her belonged;
By a coarse and cruel cousin starved and beaten, cursed and wronged.
She in childhood pair her starving by despoiling trees of fruit,
Smashing dozens of Madeira, plucking choice vines from the root;
And she would repay her beating on rare fowl or horse or hound—
These would stalk all nude of feathers, maimed or bearing ghastly wound;
And she lived to hurl back curses wilder than his maddest thought,
Wrong unto his children’s children still with tireless hand she wrought.
Since had many a foe and evil risen to obstruct her path,
But she had herself o’ercome them by her matchless force of wrath;
By her temper all o’erbearing, by the fury of her tongue,
Strong she conquered, weak she trampled, awed the agèd, quelled the young.
Fierce she scorned whoe’er submitted, well she gloried in her power,
For her fury and her riches were her bulwark and her tower.
Ne’er to will of any being had her spirit bowed the least—
She was her own God and prophet, her own altar, fane and priest.
Fortune she had once been robbed of to her hand returned again,
Then she wed a wealthy merchant trading to the Indian main.
Wondrously had ever thriven every scheme that he controlled;
At his touch all ores, all fabrics, were transmuted into gold.
Gems of India, teas of China, spices borne o’er desert tract,
Tumbled wealth into his coffers in a yellow cataract,
And full many a needy noble, to his costly pleasures sold,
Pledged his all that might be bartered for the mighty merchant’s gold.
Thus it was the Lord of Tempest felt the bondage and the thrall
Of a deeply owing debtor to the harsh Ezekiel Small.
One dark day there came a courier to the merchant, in his pride,
Bringing not a word of tidings of his tall ships on the tide.
No; he had another message, on a different errand came:
Hence away he called the merchant,—Death his awe-inspiring name. [page 59]
Unto each of his nine daughters Small a goodly portion gave,
And, perchance a little fearful that his wife beyond the grave
Might pursue him with her fury, that such ill might not betide,
He bestowed on her a portion ampler than the whole beside.
Many a vessel with its cargo came into her grasping hands,
Judgment bonds on handsome houses, mortgages on smiling lands,
And the debtor deemed most hopeless was the heir of Tempest towers.
He had spent, in princely riot, wealth and soul and body’s powers—
Debts at every angle met him, debts he could not face nor flee,
Loans to bankers, debts of honor, bills to men of low degree.
Then a bright dream dawned upon him—brilliant dreams had banned his life—
To repair his shattered prospects with the fortunes of a wife.
Who more fitting for a partner than the dame he deeply owed!
’Twas her gold that like a vision of delight decked his abode.
Like a baron’s stately mansion was it in the days gone by,
Now it seemed a princely palace for its grace and luxury.
And ’twas gold of hers had gilded carven cornice, paved the halls,
And in painting rare and sculpture brightened niche and lofty walls.
“Well,” quoth he, “I know her hideous, but she’s doubtless fond as old;
I will make her Lady Tempest, she shall bring me store of gold.
I my old sports will follow; once again relieved from care,
Merrily my days will speed them; hers in ’broidery, books and prayer,
With her nine uncomely daughters, dully, placidly will flee—
Should she choose the mirth and revel it will matter naught to me.”
Thus he sought the august widow; well I ween he spake her fair.
She had ever deemed it fitting she a coronet should wear,
And she hasted now to grasp it to bedeck her whit’ning hair.
They were wed, and of the union—godless, loveless and unblest—
A fair son was born. Now, truly it would seem the last request
Of the lady had been answered; but more haughtier grew her will,
And more fiercely raged her passion at each real or fancied ill. [page 60]
None could count on peace and stillness in the mansion and high wide—
One perchance at depth of midnight would be summoned to her side
To account for peccadillo in some corner wrought by day
That had not escaped her notice but had banished sleep away.
If perchance a serving maiden, kept in weary thrall by day,
At the midnight penned a letter to her lover far away,
By a scanty tallow taper in an attic far on high,
She was brought in early morning to confront the lady’s eye,
Charged with amor, stealing, witch-craft, lashed with many a galling word,
Till she rued that she had ever gentle voice of wooer heard.
As for Cecil, Lord of Tempest, he had led a happier life
In the cell of debtor’s prison than with his all-owning wife.
Cook and footman, steward, ploughman, owned her furious will alone—
Meaner than the meanest seemed he in the hall so late his own.
Now ’twas hers, and she proclaimed it; sycophants took up the strain,
Strangers slighted, traders passed him, servants snubbed her smile to gain.
As for her nine hapless daughters, if warm hearts were ever theirs,
She had well out-scoffed, out-crushed them in their early girlhood’s years.
There had not been lacking suitors brave enough to face her wrath
In the frantic hope of gaining golden paving for life’s path.
Vain the hopes of most had proven, but a miser lean and grey
Favor found and wed the seventh ere her teens were quite away;
Though she after strove to part them, death yet more alert than she
Proving once a friend in trouble, set the ancient husband free.
Then the widow with two daughters to her mother’s home resought;
Goodly store of gold and jewels to its stately towers she brought.
There the dozen swelt in grandeur, curious ’broidery their toil,
And their pastime jealous whispering, slander and unceasing broil. [page 61]
’Twas their wont for two—the foremost in their mother’s kindly thought—
Day by day to carry to her of the others ill report;
But short time they held the office of informer and of spy,
For the culprits of the yester, on the morrow raised on high,
Grimly smiled upon the fallen favorites of the day gone by.
Thus the eight in fair succession passed from favor to disgrace,
But the widow and her daughters ever held the foremost place;
And the grandmother and mother planned for the two handsome girls
Consorts rich as eastern nabobs, grand as English dukes and earls.
And the lady had ambitious schemings for her comely son,
Though he was both spoilt and vicious and her will had seldom done.
If real love for any mortal warmed her wicked, withered breast,
’Twas for him, so bright and stately, soon to wear the baron’s crest;
Still his wretched father lingered, palsied now and grudged his breath,
Just within life’s dreary boundary, just without the gates of death.
On the morning of my story, much oppressed the lady’s mind,
When at last the widow entered, with the half a score behind,
She forgot to chide their tarrying, from a gilded box she drew
Forth a letter with the Tempest bearings on its texture blue.
“Here are tidings from your brother; arm your hearts and think of all,
Conjure up all shapes of evil that his pathway might befall.
You cannot imagine greater than he owneth as his lot—
He has wed a squatter’s daughter from her father’s filthy cot.
Such she must be, for he dwelleth on the fact that she is white.
Rather would I she were Indian, sable as the depth of night,
Then we might ignore the marriage and might send her free again
With some pretty beads and trinkets to her brethren o’er the main.
This base creature as a savage will be odious and unclean,
Yet as full of vain pretensions and as haughty in her mien
As the heiress of a million or a princess of the blood.
Let her be whate’er she may be; nurtured in a barbarous wood [page 62]
She will not be fitting comrade e’en for Robin at his toil.
She has fed on uncooked fishes, reptiles and the forest spoil,
Or on nuts and roots they gather with sharp sticks from out the ground—
I have read it of such creatures long ago in book profound.
Oh, ’tis fearful but to think of, and it must not, shall not be,
That she should be brought to mingle equally with you and me.
Tell me,” said she, “Maud and Sybil,” gazing at the youthful girls,
Who were looking wild and curious through their wealth of morning curls,
“Where has Marmaduke been roaming? I am sure it was not where
Went your grandsires merchant vessels, yet they called them Indians there.
Indians all are savage creatures, whites among them serve their gods,
Hideous as their dismal forests, foul as their obscene abodes.”
Thus she waited not for the answer, but pursued her stirring strain,
“How can I, pray tell me, ever face the Countess Lisle again?
Her young ward, with thirty thousand by the year, I promised fair
Should with Marmaduke be wedded truly as he is my heir.”
Then the stout and coarse-browed widow struck with thought most rarely bright,
Said: “No doubt, as she is heathen, they were wed by idol rite;
Thus ’twill be a Christian duty, be most proper and most just,
Swiftly as we may to part them and to humble her in dust.”
To her words the eight made echo, from the eldest, sharp and lean,
To the youngest, short-haired, weak-eyed, small and stooped, of bearing mean.
Then a covered coach as gloomy as if wretch condemned it bore
To the cell of murderer’s prison, slowly trundled to the door.
In it sat the youthful Tempest with his beauteous bride beside;
Pale she was with days of grieving, full with tears she scarce could hide.
And the twelve stood gazing on her as he helped her to alight
As if some strange, hideous object had transfixed them at the sight. [page 63]
While her rare commanding beauty, and the grace of her attire—
Though it doubtless did surprise them, almost forced them to admire—
But their envy roused to aid them, and the lady’s falsest pride
Was that she ne’er uttered falsely—that she never, never lied.
Though of beauty like a houri’s, though of talent fit to sway
All the jewel-yielding Indies, Russia, Britain and Cathay,
Gifts in her, or grace or beauty, were but fuel to the wrath
Flaming in the lady’s bosom, soon to cross her victim’s path.
Nothing earthly could avail her from that ill-starred entering hour
Save the force her foes to humble, or the guile to ’scape their power.
There was none to bid her welcome. Menials bowed to Marmaduke;
In their glance at her was mingled cold displeasure and rebuke.
And he trod through hall and passage, while she trembling pressed beside,
More like night-thief with his booty than like bridegroom with his bride.
She had planned so well to bear her, and such dignity maintain,
That her foes, howe’er they hated, would not dare to show disdain;
But her own heart, turning traitor in that hour of trial sore,
Clad both home and John is aspects they had never worn before.
Home arose more pure and peaceful, lovely as the sunset hour
When it falls all calm and cloudless upon altar, hearth, and tower.
Often had she blushed when strangers stooped to pass its lowly door—
How much fairer than the gateway that such haughty bearings bore
Seemed it now to heart and memory, with its over-arching vine,
With its vista dim before it and afar its river’s shine.
Then that priceless, loving mother of true heart and voice so mild,
She would make it home to Anna even in a howling wild.
O my mother! O my mother! she could almost wail aloud,
Even in the Tempest mansion by the side of Tempest proud.
There were fragrant white Nile lilies stranding near the mansion’s door, [page 64]
’Twas perchance their tender perfume thought of John Saint John that bore.
From her heart she strove to banish thought of him in virtuous haste,
But he seemed to go before her as the lordly hall she paced;
Even as she saw him going on that well-remembered morn
When she from her side dismissed him in such cruel wrath and scorn.
Thought of all his patient kindness would rise within her mind,
All his noble scorn of falsehood, all his gentleness refined.
How he felt the claims of weakness, how he feared an action base,
Yet had strength and flaming courage lion of the wild to face.
Ever brave was he in danger, only fearful of the wrong,
Even as a woman tender, even as a soldier strong.
Then the fervent love he bore her, memory would its tones recall;
Had his home been humble hovel in the stead of handsome hall;
Had his form been coarse and crooked in the stead of lithe and straight;
Had he borne unsightly blemish, had he halted in his gait;
Had his brow been dark and beetling in the place of broad and fair,
And his thick speech too ungainly all his fondness to declare;
If the same true heart and purpose, the same courage, honor, love,
Placing her all other creatures infinitely far above,
Dwelt within him she could love him, in his presence could rejoice,
Could delight to hear his footsteps and the cadence of his voice;
But there were great hills between them, mighty rivers coursed their way;
Like the gulf that sundered Dives from the bless’d, the ocean lay,
But much more than mountains parted, more than oceans rolled to sever;
Wild the though swept o’er her spirit, “We are parted now forever.”
So she sat in stupefaction in the room where Tempest led,
With its rarely pictured ceiling and its carved and curtained bed;
Sat beneath the rustling curtains white as Solomon’s array,
Wrought with wreaths of golden roses bright and yellow as the day. [page 65]
From the long and narrow windows one might look o’er park and lea
Over fountain, brooklet, garden, even to the gleaming sea.
This was what in dreamy childhood she had strongly longed to see,
What in fancy-governed girlhood she had planned her home should be.
Thus the promised land of fancy proved a howling wilderness,
Where no Jordan poured its waters, milk nor honey flowed to bless;
But she must arouse her spirit; she must battle for her right,
Show the veteran blood within her and for life and freedom fight.
Then she heard a footstep coming briskly up the marble stair;
Soon her husband stood beside her with a bland and courtly air:
“Curb your heart, my queenly Anna; you must now my mother see.
Bear her speech by still remembering we shall very soon be free.
Swiftly doth my father hasten to the shadowy land of death,—
I shall be the Baron Tempest at the going of his breath—
And a mortal sickness preyeth now upon my mother’s life.
Had I tarried but a little ere I took my bonnie wife
We had stepped at once to freedom, title and unbounded wealth;
Now my lovely bride is hidden like a treasure gained by stealth.
You shall dwell in all the glory of this sumptuous palace home,
But abroad by name of Tempest you shall never seek to roam
Till in zenith of your glory you in blazoned coach shall ride
As the noble Lady Tempest with your leal knight by your side.
Fret not if awhile the household fail to call you by my name,
Or that you are shut from banquets thronged by guests of wealth and fame;
Truly as my name is knightly, truly as you are my wife,
Truly as I hope for mercy at the close of mortal life,
Wrong shall never here befall you, ill shall never here betide.
When I shall be Baron Tempest I shall own you as my bride
If you will but keep my counsel, if you will but truly vow
All to leave unto my wisdom and maintain your silence now.
If my mother by the harshness of reproof should chance provoke,
Smile and seem as well contented as if she in kindness spoke. [page 66]
It will prove a trifling trial for the end to be attained—
You will smile as you recall it when your purpose has been gained;
And no other course is open, for my mother’s boundless claim
Strippeth from me and my father all by title, all but name.
She would scruple not to urge it if again I crossed her will:
As I had already crossed it she had planned me grievous ill—
Nothing but my timely coming had availeth her wrath to still.”
Anna answered not. She knew him fit for the betrayer’s part,
But she would not speak lest weeping should disclose how weak her heart;
And she knew not whom to fly to, knew not where for help to call.
Vile suspicions must attend her if an outcast from the Hall;
She who ever had been foremost to speak, fearless for her claim,
Must consent in abject silence to forego her rightful name.
“But,” she sighed, “I soon shall end it.” Then she rose and followed him
Through full many a gorgeous parlor, through full many a passage dim;
Through the halls all bright with pictures, where sweet dames of Tempest line
Seemed to smile on her with pity in their azure eyes benign:
While the knights, with sword and armor girt upon their figures strong,
Seemed as they might grasp their weapons to avenge her cruel wrong.
Through her brain kept ringing, ringing, “Woe, most bitter woe, to thee!
Who despoiled when none despoiled thee, and who dealed’st treacherously.
When thou shalt have done despoiling, thou shalt be despoiled in turn;
When thy treacherous dealing ceaseth, thou shalt others’ falseness mourn.”
Then she entered where the lady, seated in her throne-like chair,
Drest in heavy broidered satin, brilliants in her hoary hair, [page 67]
Was environed by her daughters. Like old mammoth butterflies
Shone they in their silken garments, colored with the gaudiest dyes;
Jewelled stomachers oppressed them, monster diamonds decked their hair;
Every wrist and many a finger bore of gems a vulgar share.
For they looked that eve to welcome him they planned to be the spouse
Of the dashing Sybil Ambrose, eldest grandchild of the house.
Anna turned to look for Tempest, but he had already flown—
He had left her at the threshold, ’mid her many foes alone.
Sooth to say, she bore her proudly ’neath the gleam of wrathful eyes
Gloating on her as a wild beast gloats upon a certain prize.
Lady Tempest broke the silence: “Anna Grey, you enter here
By the mistress uninvited, and must look for sorry cheer.
You are fain to blend with nobles, though most basely bred and born;
It is meet such bold intrusions should be met with cutting scorn.”
Anna answered: “I have entered here the duly wedded bride
Of the lawful heir of Tempest, Who presumes my coarse to chide?
You have slurred my birth and breeding—you of either naught can know.
Though I cannot boast them noble, they are fair, as I can show;
For my father was a soldier brave as ever drew a sword,
And his sire a wealthy planter, and his grandsire Scottish lord.
My dear mother came of people gentle since an ancient day,
Dwelling long in wealth where Hudson to the ocean makes its way.”
“You are growing very wordy o’er the glories of your race;
Tell us somewhat of your riches, we would pray you, of your grace.
Rank is sorry thing to rest on when it hath no golden prop,
And it forms a sorry pillar when no gold begilds the top.”
This was her chief stroke of rhetoric, and she said it very oft—
Borrowed ’twas from some base flatterer fain to gain her favor soft.
But her daughters felt its beauty, for meagre eldest smiled,
And the youngest, when her turn came, tittered like a simple child. [page 68]
As the mother looked upon them, she pursued: “You do not tell
Of your bank-stock, bonds or acres—sound of these would please us well.
And you scarcely wear a jewel, while your dress so plain and brown
Sure was cut for our first mother when she lost her fig-leaf gown.
Not with bearing of a lady to this hall to-day you came—
How much less like bride of Tempest than like cringing child of shame.
Let not her who knows no usage in a lady’s part engage;
Her who brings no bridal portion look for wifely privilege.”
Anna would again have spoken, but her utterance failed and died;
She had fallen but for clutching the rich curtains at her side.
Then her eyeballs shot strange lightning, strength forsook each trembling limb,
Nothing knew she when they bore her to her chamber grand and dim. [page 69]
LIKE those rare souls who, for God’s loving praise,
With joy all worldly pomp and pride forego,
The earth hath put aside her blooms and bays
To wear the holy garments of the snow.
And she hath her reward, her heaven’s glow:
With largest stars her hills are crystal bright;
The melodies midsummer may not know
Are trilled along her winding ways of white,
By bells of prancing steeds, in shining harness dight.
Lilies and wind-flowers were like my sweet Rose,
Who in high summer of her childhood died;
Birches and maples ere October’s close
Put robes of office and renown aside.
Leaves of the elm and lilac lost their pride,
Yet lingered long, the ghosts of what they were;
The pansies were the flowers that opened wide
To northern blasts, as to the balmy air—
In green and blossomed age they met the snow-wreaths fair.
But winter’s glory is not robes of snow,
Large stars of night nor gleaming hills of morn—
It is that in her days of long ago
The Son of God was of the Virgin born.
For this the graves of earth are not forlorn,
The icy wilderness no more is sad; [page 70]
For this the rose of summer decks the thorn,
The little hills, in snows or pasture clad,
Shout to our answering hearts in voices strong and glad.
It is the Twelfth-night, and that word doth bring
Thought of a gleaming heaven,
With Mars a ruddy-robed, exalted king,
And Venus star of even,
The seven great Oxen that ear the barren skies,
All night around the Pole,
While the encrusted earth beneath them lies
White as a shriven soul.
With quenchless love I love the quenchless stars
Whose sparkling eyes look down
Upon the grass-grown scene of ancient wars,
On the new western town;
That gleam as glorious o’er Montana’s steeps,
Where coarse, fierce ruffians ride,
As o’er the dust where warrior Deborah sleeps
By Kishon’s ancient tide.
In rare devices is the dark inlaid
With white stars glittering clear—
Eagle and bear, hunter and hound and maid,
Herdsman and charioteer.
The tuneful Jubal saw the lyre and crown
From Nod’s dim plains of old,
And giants grim, in days of their renown,
Did girt Orion behold. [page 71]
Egypt and Ur explored the nightly heaven
To wrest that mystic lore
That freely unto every man is given
When death’s weird rite is o’er.
The grandest dream of time was dreamed in Luz,
Beneath the Milky-way,
And Teman’s thoughtful chief, journeying to Uz,
Marked stars in high array.
But ah, what varied thoughts possess the eyes
That now behold them burn!
The thirsty, shipwrecked seaman looks and sighs,
Cold school-men look and learn.
The poet sees with burning, rapturous thought,
That words may not declare,
And thousands see, as though they saw them not,
And scarce perceive them fair.
Behold the Pleiades, whose influence sweet
To our dim earth extends;
Their bright ways may be trod by spirit feet
Of our departed friends.
In lustrous Gemini our eyes that know
Weeping and loss and sin,
May see God’s lighted gates of praise, where go
The saved with singing in.
The same sun that in declining fell athwart the silken bed
Where in down unhappy Anna hid her sorely stricken head,
Fell in the full light of mid-day on the ocean’s western side,
O’er a city sitting queenly by the dark and wintry tide. [page 72]
There Saint John in rich black raiment, o’er the scanty, crispy snow,
Might be seen at morn or even walking briskly to and fro;
Clear his eyes and firm his lips were, with an ever ready smile,
Though a covert sadness seemed to linger round them all the while.
But that day within his office, with its desks of rosewood tall,
With its charts and maps on rollers hung against the painted wall,
With its great books ranged in order in their mottled covers bound,
Finely printed, primly worded, tedious, dull, yet most profound;
With its warmly colored carpet, hempen mats, and polished grate
Where the anthracite was glowing from the morn till evening late,
Stood the youth, his firm lips tightly pressed, his brow o’ercast with thought,
And his clear eyes bent intently on some problem that he wrought.
He had vowed his task to conquer, but his thoughts would wander still,
Spite of all his strong resolving, spite of all his force of will;
For a dark and vexing phantom from the visions of the night
Filled that cheery room with shadow, dulled his mental ear and sight.
He had dreamed of home, and Sorrow sat a guest in every room;
All the orchards, grounds and gardens were enwrapped in ghostly gloom.
There his father and his sisters seemed some bitter grief to mourn,
And his mother in black garments, weeping, urged his swift return.
Then his dream had turned to Anna—she was kneeling by his side,
Frankly owning all her falsehood, freely mourning all her pride.
There she sought for his forgiveness, and with tears and pleadings strong
Prayed that he would fight to free her from her thraldom and her wrong.
Melicent had written to him of her sickness long before;
He had heard of Anna’s marriage almost as she quit the shore.
But the pleasant, hopeful missive from his sister’s wasting hand
Bore no fear that she was hasting swiftly to the shadowy land. [page 73]
Since that time no word had reached him, for our country in that day
Trusted sail or forest rider all its tidings to convey:
Sometimes news was swiftly carried by a favoring wind and strong;
Oft, opposed by adverse breezes, on the waves it tarried long.
Soon along the white street prancing, halting at the office door,
Making all their bright bells jingle, stood his patron’s ponies four.
There in robes of fur and scarlet, looking sad and worn and grey,
With a face turned very purple with the winter of the day,
Sat the man who ever for him had a word of kindly cheer,
But who now seemed crushed and silent, as with sudden grief or fear.
“John, I am not wont to bring you evil news,” he spake at last;
“I am ever grieved at seeing any young life overcast,
But the ill I now must tell you cometh from His hand alone
Who the universe is ruling from His high and righteous throne.
Ruthless Death hath snatched a sister from your well-loved household band.”
Here he placed a black-sealed letter in the youth’s extended hand.
John the missive read in silence; tears of his were seldom seen,
For his deeply flowing feelings had a surface most serene.
This was not his earliest sorrow, he had tasted grief before,—
Bitter grief, ere he his footsteps turned from his loved homestead’s door.
That same eve across the waters, crested with their hoary foam,
He with saddened soul was speeding swiftly toward his mournful home.
When the wintry sky was cloudless, wintry earth all stainless white,
And the sun at early setting left the west with primrose bright;
Ere a star, save tender Hesper, yet had showed its diamond eye,
On the Eve so famed and hallowed, of the Christ’s Nativity,
John beheld the white smoke rising from the chimneys of his home;
Half he looked that his third sister should with merry welcomes come.
Oh, what memories thronged upon him as he trod the shadows long [page 74]
That the forkèd orchard branches and the oaken branches strong
Threw athwart the dim road leading from the highway to the door.
Two most wont to give him welcome in the happy days of yore
Now should come with laugh and banter up that pathway nevermore.
One fair, gentle form was lying ’neath brown earth and virgin snow,
But her spirit was not hidden far the church-yard clod below—
No; he felt that as an angel she was watching all the scene
From the vast, near-seeming heaven of that Christmas Eve serene.
One was gone. Ah, how? Ah, whither? Could he bear to think of her
When the thought such bitter memory and such aching grief would stir!
No; she walks perchance already Lady Tempest fair and grand,
Second to no baron’s lady in all England’s knightly land.
But the ever-haunting whisper from some spirit region came:
She is thrust from rightful station, robbed of freedom and of name.
He had now no heart to blame her; he was fain himself to chide
That when most she needed counsel he had hasted from her side.
Soft the mansion’s door he opened, but no sound of gleeful din,
Merry voice of laugh or singing came from the dim rooms within.
Heavy hung the parlor curtains, adding to the twilight’s gloom:
The guitar and harp stood covered in a corner of the room;
But the logs of birch and maple leapt in red and cherry blaze—
Like a brilliant fragment seemed they from the olden wintry days.
Still he stood in silence, gazing dreamily in crimson flame,
As a voice of holy praying faintly from a chamber came.
When, enwrapped in pensive musing, sought he to ascend the stair,
Gliding ghost-like from the chamber, Kitty Broadlands met him there.
Toward the fire again she led him with a sad and tearful eye,
Saying, “Your sweet sister Clara lieth at the point to die.
Very calmly she is going, even as the other went—
Never was a death more lovely than the death of Melicent;
For the heaven seemed open to her and she saw her Saviour dear,
Then she said to us beside her, ‘I can stay no longer here.’ [page 75]
As the day was faintly dawning, ere the morning stars grew pale,
Heartened by that joyous vision, entered she the shadowy vale.”
Well I ween that there was weeping, smiles, and deep though chastened joy,
When the sisters met their brother, and the parents met their boy.
In a time of storm and tempest, on the old year’s final day,
Her last words of heaven and glory, gentle Clara passed away.
To her friends she said consoling, “Do not mourn that I should go
Where the rivers of God’s pleasures with no refluent tide do flow.
When you wake your harp to music by the cheerful winter fire,
Think you have two sisters tuning harps of gold in heaven’s choir.
When you weave your bowers next summer, think that I and Melly stray
Where the bowers are always blooming, and the gardens ever gay.
We shall never, never sorrow, we shall never, never sin.
Fain would I the year that’s coming in my Father’s house begin—
That bright house of many mansions Jesus suffered to prepare,
With my sister gone before me, I would spend the New Year there.”
Once when Maude alone was with her, thus of Anna Grey she spake:
“I can not feel angered with her, even for my brother’s sake;
But I dreamt last night I saw her—her bright hair was shorn away,
She seemed quaintly clad in sable, scant and livery-like array;
Low she spake in tones of anguish, with her deep eyes full of woe—
‘Bless me, and forgive me, Clara, for your bother ere you go.’
Then I thought I kindly kissed her, and I told her that my love
Toward her still should turn with yearning even from the realms above;
And I know and feel that after all her weary way is done,
I again shall see and love her in the realms beyond the sun.
Strange and sad was her misguiding, but she will be found at last—
Sought and found of the Good Shepherd ere her mortal life is past.
Pray for her, my darling sister, pray that she may stand with me;
Pray we all may stand together on the shining crystal sea—
That a sisterhood of glory in our mighty Sire’s abode, [page 76]
Where they give them not in marriage as the angels of our God—
With our errors all forgiven, with our sorrows all gone by,
We may spend in holy friendship rapture-crowned eternity.
Mark how softened mother seemeth; she hath a remorseful fear
That it was her harshness parted Anna from our brother dear.
Much I wondered yester-even words like these from her to hear—
‘What is wealth that in its winning hearts of youth should be despised?
What is thrift that more than riches, more than hope of heaven I prized!’”
Sadly passed a lonely winter; and when the recurring spring
Clad the forest ways in verdure, woke the woodland birds to sing,
Lit the heavens, loosed the waters from the winter’s icy thrall,
Darkened like eyes blind with weeping were the windows of the Hall,
There a widow, bowed and stricken, wept the husband of her youth;
There a lonely son and daughter mourned their sire in very truth:
Oft in dreamy months of winter, spake he, “Sing ‘The Farewell Hymn,’
That my mother loved and chanted as with death her eyes grew dim.”
THE FAREWELL HYMN.
“Ye patient years of time, pursue
Your sun-encircling road;
From the dim vales of earth I go
To walk the hills of God—
Those hills that have for radiance
The glory of the Lord.
“O pleasant, sand-foundation homes
Of changeful earth, farewell;
On living rock are built the domes
Where I henceforth shall dwell; [page 77]
Mansions of wall chalcedony,
Of diamond pinnacle.
“Organ harp and of tuneful strain,
Joy of our pilgrim years;
My spirit’s ear is closed to sin,
And even now it hears
The hymning of the angel choirs,
The music of the spheres.
“O gorgeous, storied scenes of earth,
By bard and hero trod,
My heart is pure by second birth,
And I shall look on God;
Shall see His land that lies afar,
So famed and fair and broad.
“Farewell, O friends, the good and dear,
But not a long farewell—
The kiss of welcome waits you there,
Where God and angels dwell;
The Song of God is brother kind,
His grace what tongue can tell?”
Long his loved and trusted servants raised the voice of grief aloud;
Many who had fought beside him came to see him in his shroud;
And they said, ‘Alas, how fleeting are the days of human life!
As a dream the years have vanished since we joined in crimson strife.
And in loss or wounds or winning, Hugh Saint John was ever brave,
Ever first in cause of honor, ever quick the weak to save.
And in peace he bore him nobly—tender husband, parent kind,
Generous neighbor, friend and master—hath he left a foe behind?” [page 78]
To his last long rest they laid him, in an April day of rain,
On the consecrated hill-side where reposed his daughters twain.
How sped by to captive Anna all that dark December time,
Prisoned amid gorgeous chambers, far from love or native clime;
How sped all the dreary winter unto her whose tearful eye
Looked not from the broad and joyous out-door earth to arching sky.
Never since the day she entered at the mansion’s carven door
Had she by the dark or daylight passed its marble threshold o’er.
Oft had she essayed escaping from her lonely, lofty rooms,
Whose bright-hung and deep, long windows seemed but rifts to let in glooms.
There was nothing sweet in sunshine when it fell upon her there;
Moonlight spake that she was prisoned, stars looked down with cheerless stare.
Upward borne in nights of winter, faint as if from far away,
Came the sounds of mirth and feasting, dancers’ steps and music gay.
Sometimes would the wish possess her, even then, to move again
In the light of festal parlors to a quick and dulcet strain,
To attract her charms, when wont to mingle in her days of mirth and pride
With the joyous and the youthful on the ocean’s western side.
But the days passed by all lonely, and the eves passed by all gloom,
And the closing of the night-times seemed like closing of the tomb;
While the morn’s awakening brought unto her wakened thought and eye
Gloom of present, fear of future, memory sad of joys gone by.
Seldom Marmaduke approached her, but she saw him proudly ride
Through the grounds with a fair lady, furred and jewelled, by his side.
A tall foreign count, with ladies, who were, as she well opined,
Handsome Maude and Sybil Ambrose, often followed close behind.
Thus she knew that old Sir Cecil still was prisoned in the clay,
For there must be form of mourning while unburied corse he lay. [page 79]
At each unsuccessful effort to escape her prison fair—
For there was a door fast bolted at the foot of the broad stair—
She would to her heart make promise, “I my doom shall triumph o’er:
I shall rend the dome asunder if I may not pass the door.
I shall form my chamber’s hangings to one web and thus descend
To the earth whose hard, cold bosom I shall greet as breast of friend.
I shall bear the cherished witness, written by my pastor’s hand,
That to Marmaduke of Tempest I was joined in wedlock’s band,
I shall vindicate my legal wifely rights by strength of law;
I shall make my cruel tyrants from their haughty heights withdraw
When a corse Sir Cecil lieth, I the stairway’s door shall pass—
At my will it shall be opened though its bars are steel or brass!
When the neighbours and the kinsmen throng about the Baron’s bier,
I shall, calm and proud and stately, in their very midst appear.
I shall witness of my marriage, I shall tell my cruel wrong,
Sure my charms, my tale of sorrow will enlist the stranger throng.
Marmaduke in shame shall hasten to appear upon my side,
Owning me the Lady Tempest, owning me his injured bride.
But if he shall fail to do so, I shall, ’spite his falsehood base,
Prove the truth of all I utter, triumph in his deep disgrace.
I have proof that none can question in the lines I cherish here;
I can summon o’er the ocean ample evidence and clear,
For the good Sir Thomas Carleton gave me as a bride away,
And the church was thronged with noblest of the region in that day.”
Yet would sober reason whisper, “Vain your hope to ’scape your cage
And the well-waged dame that guards you, rigid, taciturn and sage.”
She would hush the voice despairing, and as cheerful spring-time came,
She was tended by the gentle daughter of the rigid dame.
She had pleasant words for Anna, pity for her ceaseless tears,
Praises for her grace and beauty, soothing for her grief and fears.
Then was hushed all mirthful clamor: old Sir Cecil had at last
’Scaped his wife, and to the freedom of the world of spirits passed.
Anna, robed in flowing garments, formed of velvet and of silk,
Sable-hued, her bright hair rippling round her brow as white as milk, [page 80]
Very pale and weakly trembling with the tumult of her heart,
And with eye too wildly brilliant, hasted to enact her part;
For the gentle-hearted maiden, framing many a falsehood fair,
To avail if Anna sped not, oped the portal of the stair,
Full of strong and fierce resolving to o’ercome her adverse fate.
With a thrill, as if of triumph, Anna saw arrayed in state
Furious ill-eyed Lady Tempest, looking darker than of yore
In the heavy crape that decked her in the massive cap she wore;
And the nine around her, forming a half-circle, grimly smiled;
Marmaduke and his fair nieces laughingly the time beguiled.
Sybil with a pencil sketched upon a card a doctor grey;
Maude beneath wrote an amusing speech that she had heard him say;
Marmaduke the wig ungainly of a distant kinsman drew,
And portrayed the joy unbounded that he felt in mourning new.
Round them sat the throng of strangers, of poor Anna’s hope the base,
They were all as paid retainers bent to gain the Lady’s grace.
On that morn not one true-hearted or impartial comer pressed
To the Hall, save on deaf kinsman of th’ ungainly wig possessed.
In their very midst appearing, pale as ghost from land of shade,
Anna stood a lovely vision, in her flowing garb arrayed.
So engrossed were all there present that she stood amid them all
As if from the floor uprising, or outgliding from the wall;
Or as if the painted ceiling had been reft to let her down.
Even th’ ready Lady Tempest had not time to muster frown
Ere she spake: “I come to tell you, gathered here in mournful guise,
While the late Sir Cecil Tempest shrouded for his burial lies,
That if he who sitteth yonder,”—and she pointed where was seen
Marmaduke with starting eyeballs and a pale and frighted mien,—
“Be this stately manor’s master, Lord of Tempest fair and grand,
I as truly am the lady who should sit at his left hand.
He and I were truly wedded in the by-gone autumn-time—
I can call unbounded witness from my distant natal clime;
That he wed me in a city of the woods, o’er the ocean’s wave,
Here I bear the witnessed which to me my pastor gave. [page 81]
Though I have been basely ’prisoned and forsaken since I passed
Through these portals, I have-baffled cruel might and guile at last.”
But the widow, whom her mother valued for her ready thought,
Had already words most fitting to confront her witness sought:
“How has my poor maniac maiden made through bolted doors her way?
Mark how subtle was her cunning to assume Maude’s rich array!
She was crazed before the winter fell in whiteness o’er the land;
I myself have gently tended her as with a mother’s hand.
For she was so fair and youthful, and withal so kind of yore,
That I feel her loss most keenly and her sorrow I deplore.
Weakly dreading to commit her unto Bedlam’s cell of gloom,
I have kept her safely fastened in the mansion’s padded room,
Where the late Sir Cecil’s mother pined for many a year unblest,
Drivelling as a very idiot, ere they laid her to her rest.
This poor maid was seized with fancy that she was the portioned bride
Of my brother while he sojourned on the ocean’s western side.
Ever and anon she raveth of her prisoning and her wrong;
She must now be straightly tended and be bound in fetters strong,”
Anna turned her eyes on Tempest, standing by his sister’s side,
But he gave no word or gesture that the cruel lie denied.
All her hope turned toward the strangers, but they shrank in fear as wild
As if madness were contagious, or a maniac’s breath defiled.
Like a swift down-rushing torrent, o’er her spirit swept the thought
How in truth to foes most cruel she was in subjection brought.
’Twas perchance a broad, bright window filled with flowers that called to mind
With fresh force her home, her mother, happy youth, and comrades kind;
For the deep blue sky showed through it, and the newly-budding boughs,
These her young and earnest spirit saw, and leapt with mighty bound
And unutterable longings to stand free on the fresh ground; [page 82]
To look upward to the heavens, with no prisoning roof between;
To delight her ear with bird-song, and her eye with leafage green;
And to feel the charm, which language is but meagre to portray,
In the earth so broad and verdant, in the gold and azure day.
Then she scorned both wealth and grandeur, though she’s worshipped both so long;
Now without a sigh she left them to that proud, unholy throng.
They had called the strong male servants, and with terror she was wild,
As the thought of padded dungeon, fetters and strait garb defiled
By an ancient driv’ling maniac, rose at once upon her mind,
Loud she shrieked, and fought for freedom from the rasping hands unkind;
Naught they heeded of her crying, but they bruised her shoulders white,
And her arms, all fairly moulded, with their grasp so vice-like tight.
Half they dragged and half they bore her through long halls and parlors dim,
Hung about with costly arras wrought with forms of goblins grim,
Wide displaying gorgeous pictures, visions of undying souls.
There were garnered curious treasures from the Indies, from the Poles
And from every clime betwixt them; but they swiftly onward passed,
Till they reached a room most lonely, dark and damp and chill, at last.
It had one uncurtained window looking on the mantled wave
Of a pool that evil odor to the air about it gave.
And within the walls were dreary, and the floor was hard and bare,
There was neither lamp nor table, neither couch nor cushioned chair.
On a lowly stool she sate her as she fixed her wistful eye
On the scanty glimpse vouchsafed her of the happy spring-time sky.
Thus sped by a day of sunshine, thus sped by a vernal night,
And another day whose dawning was with gold and crimson bright. [page 83]
UPON the rugged, half-cleared hills the trees
Of fallen leaf stand bare and desolate;
The north-east wind, whose sighing will not cease,
Inspires the dark, tall pines with sorrows weird and great.
The black and tapering fir sets every barb
To the wild strain that fills the hollow arch;
Most piteous seems its plaint, most sad its garb,
In this wind-shaken, livid morn of middle March.
I hear not now the winds I used to hear
In the sweet years so long and long gone by—
The glad, the privileged, wasted years, still dear,
Of early youth gone into past eternity.
Then every wind awoke rich thoughts and high
Of robber-haunted woods and castles hoar,
White palaces, and dames of lovelit eye,
Seas, ships, and long farewells, and knights equipped for war.
The winds seem weeping for the early dead—
And not the brilliant early dead alone,
But those of gentle eye and faltering tread,
White hair and true hearts seven times tried, do they bemoan.
Unutterable things the trees reply,
As if some sorer ill than death they mourned;
As burning shame or sin of crimson dye—
A youth of promise to an evil manhood turned. [page 84]
They seem to chide the March winds, saying, “Mourn
Not for the saintly dead in earth who rest.
Mourn for the banished that may ne’er return,
For broken hearts, hopes unfulfilled and homes unblessed.
“For dreary wageless toil, for pain and blame,
For eyes that fail for good they never see;
Oh, mourn for crimson sin and burning shame,”
They seem to wail again with gasp of agony.
The white storm cometh down o’er all the hills;
Still mourn the winds, and still the trees make moan.
My heart is sad for life’s most cruel ills—
I mourn the fair, the wise, the dear, to darkness flown.
Beyond my country’s rugged hills of March,
Up to the hills of March,
The bright light far above the clouded arch
Even now by faith’s anointed vision I descry.
God sends the pitiless, lamb-killing storm,
To bring forth flowers of May and pasture grass;
He hides awhile in earth a precious form
That some great good to all may thus be brought to pass.
But, ah! the sin, th’ eternal loss and shame!
For these I mourn, for these the Christ of God
Wept bitter tears o’er doomed Jerusalem
As once a lowly king on Olivet He rode.
Down dashed the night rain upon city and manor,
The sea of the harbor broke white on the docks,
Bright windows were shuttered and furled every banner,—
’Twas the wild raging storm of the spring equinox. [page 85]
In that prison-like room in a wing of the mansion
Fair Anna sat lonely; no form had she seen
Since morn of the yester. On earth’s wide expansion
Heart sadder than hers had no being, I ween.
In darkness she sat, though eleven had sounded
From the loud ringing bells in the ivied church tower;
But it seemed as the dawn to the gloom that surrounded
Her lonely young soul in that terrible hour.
Oh, deep were the thoughts that, her spirit possessing,
Recalled her sweet home and her mother so mild;
Oh, the rest of that home! Oh, that mother’s pure blessing!
Oh, the freedom of heart in the woodland so wild!
But light though she’s prized the rich boon of a mother,
She truly, most truly, would value it now.
Another had loved her—she thought of that other,
And screaming with pain clasped her hands o’er her brow.
She was fainting now with fasting, she was spent with ceaseless tears,
Chilled with damp, and all her spirit shuddering with ghastly fears.
Could it be they planned her staring in that far and lonely room?
Was the wall she now was pressing but enclosure of her tomb?
Fierce she tried the heavy portal, but its lock was firm and fast;
Loud she cried,—her wail but mingled with the night-wind’s shrieking blast.
Oh, for light, for food the meanest, warmth, or sound of human voice!
Even if it spake but chiding, it would make her heart rejoice.
Oh, for freedom more than all things!—freedom, life’s best, truest prize!—
She would beg with thankful spirit, she would toil in lowliest guise.
Oh, if Marmaduke would give her freedom she would ask no more,—
He might even keep the trinkets that from her far home she bore;
He might bar his doors against her, he might even brand her fame. [page 86]
She would flee where sound of Tempest, wealth and glory never came;
Where that name, so loathed and dreaded, she might never, never hear,
And her tale of wrong and sorrow ne’er should vex a listening ear.
But in lull of surge and howling, at the end of the long hall,
She could hear the sound of footsteps on an echoing stairway fall;
And the light of gleaming taper underneath the portal stole.
There was sound of earnest whispers and strange terror thrilled her soul,
“You are come,” she shrieked, “to slay me; but oh, spare me of your grace;
Oh, have pity on my terror; spare me but a little space—
Spare me but until the dawning of another day begin,
Till I plead for hope of heaven, for the pardon of my sin!”
Then a tall male servant entered with a taper in his hand,
Marmaduke behind was following, pale and scornful, grave and grand.
Anna sped to him and kneeling, cried, “O Tempest, send me forth;
I will go where’er you bid me—east or west or south or north!
Send me forth in all the darkness, all the unrelenting storm;
I ’neath hedge or tree till morning will conceal my trembling form.
There is freedom in the night-wind, there is freedom in the rain,
In the roaring of the tempest, in the surging of the main;
And with free and kindly nature I again would bear a part,
Though the waters drench or drown me, though the chill winds pierce my heart.
None shall guess I ever knew you; I will flee afar, afar,
By the morning’s early twilight, by the evening’s early star;
I will even tax the midnight that it bear me from your side,
Then ignore our pompous marriage, say I never was your bride.
At your hand I ask no helping, and no other name I crave
Save the one so fair and simple that, ungrudged, my father gave.”
Here from off her slender finger swift she drew her bridal ring—
“Take, oh, take this golden bauble; ’tis a lying, mocking thing! [page 87]
Would that it were darkly lying with its kindred yellow ore,
Yet to gladden eye of finder in deep mines of Guinea’s shore.
Hearken to my abject pleading, spare my life and set me free;
I will haste to some far harbor of the broad and happy sea:
I will strive to cross its waters that I may lie down and die
In the pure and tender sunlight of a loving mother’s eye.”
Tempest took the ring she proffered, for he loved the glint of gold,
And it would to eyes of strangers but confirm the tale she told.
Then he spake: “You owe me thanking; I have saved you from the gloom,
That your rashness richly merits, of the mansion’s padded room.
You did ill my steps to follow, very ill indeed for me—
Even you had been less wretched in your poor obscurity;
But it may not now be mended, and it is most kindly now
To bestow you where no thorny coronet shall vex your brow.
For my kindred all assure me that you cannot rightly blend
In the gay and splendid circle where I now my days shall spend.
You have neither birth nor breeding, cannot bear yourself to gain
Swift submission from your menials, homage form the courtly train;
Yet but for your evil temper you might still have dwelt at ease
In a room like royal chamber, where both art and nature please.
It is vain to ask for freedom—do you deem me imbecile?
Would I have my name resounded through the breadth of England’s isle?
And you would most surely perish, for I know the cold world well;
It would give you scanty credence, as your pretty tale you’d tell.
You would perish, or else hide you in some den of evil fame.
I have planned a scheme to shield you safe from mischief, want and shame.”
Anna answered not, her spirit all o’ercome by long restraint,
And her frame, with damp and fasting, was most deathly chill and faint;
On the floor so bare and cheerless sank she in a heavy swoon.
When she woke again, above her o’er torn clouds sailed the fair moon, [page 88]
Southern winds were loudly wailing in the boughs around her way.
On a winding shore was dashing free the wild and salty spray,—
’Twas perchance the cold drops spattering her wan brow awoke her thought,—
And she marvelled long and feebly how she had been thither brought.
When she saw the heavy features of the servant at her side,
Much she feared some foul or ghastly ending to her midnight ride;
But she was too weak to rouse her, and the scene so glorious lay
All above her in the heavens, all around her lonely way,
That she blessed the wingèd night-winds, blessed the gibbous moon of March,
Blessed the ragged clouds that scudded through the deep unbounded arch.
A round holm of crag and castle lay not distant form the shore,
Shewing to the stormy moonlight unroofed wall and column hoar.
And a turning in the roadway brought in view a church whose spire
Rose aloft into the heavens, like a holy soul’s desire;
While the white and scattered tombstones, in the spacious yard around,
Told that there the hearts of mortals slept in hope beneath the ground.
Anna thought how pure and lovely looked the slender cross of white—
Thought of Him who once did suffer on a cross on Calvary’s height;
Marvelled if for her He suffered; thought of crosses she had borne,
Crosses of her own constructing in the by-gone months forlorn.
Then to him who sat beside her spake she as to humble friend,
Asking of their journey’s purpose, of its length and of its end.
Her kind speech awoke his kindness, and he said “Though no complaint
You have uttered, yet, fair lady, you must be most weak and faint.”
A bright flask of cordial nectar drew he from his doublet breast;
Candied fruits and snowy comfits in her trembling hands he prest. [page 89]
And with thankfulness and blessings, never felt or breathed before,
Ate she of that menial’s bounty by that far and lonely shore.
Spake the servant, “He of Tempest journeyeth by another way;
He will at our journey’s ending meet us at the dawn of day.”
So she would not question further, but her spirit framed the prayer,
“O thou God of high and lowly, I commit me to thy care!”
Then she marvelled that so many days had passed in weary woe,
Yet she had not asked of Heaven peace or freedom to bestow,
Though she knew high Heaven the fountain whence her every good must come;
And with prayer was sweetly blended many a thought of happy home.
Now the dawn was redly rising from behind a mansion grand,
Tree-surrounded, many-windowed, like a noble’s of the land;
But there seemed a horror clinging all about its towers and halls,
And as light of day grew clearer and more near its sombre walls,
Anna noted grated windows, guarded gates in walls of stone:
All the truth at once flashed on her, all her destiny was known.
On a glossy charger mounted, like the first she saw him ride,
Marmaduke advanced to meet them, riding from the gateway wide.
Rousing all the spirit left her, wild she cried, “I will be free.
Will not God or man have pity on my helpless misery?
With the ghastly wails of maniacs in my ears by night and day,
And the fierce eyes gleaming on me, I shall grow as wild as they.”
She essayed to quit the carriage with one strong and mighty bound,
But thick folds of heavy clothing round her wasted form were wound,
And, beside, a thong of leather bound her that she could not flee;
Then she, turning, spake to Tempest in such tones of agony,
With such tearful, earnest pleading that they touched the servant’s heart,
And forgetting golden guerdon he had turned him to depart;
But his master woke the evil in his soul by taunting gibe,
And aroused anew his avarice by another whispered bribe.
’Twas indeed most sad to hear he as they rode toward the door, [page 90]
Sobbing, moaning, pleading, crying—surely never one before
With such bitter lamentation passed that dreary threshold o’er.
“When have I, O Tempest, tell me, ever done your such despite
That you now are fain to shut me from the meanest beggar’s right,
From the freshness of the morning, from the glory of the eve,
Amid sounds to rend my spirit, amid sights mine eyes to grieve?
You have robbed of all that maketh life to be esteemed a prize;
Yet I prize it—I would wander glad beneath the free blue skies.
I have moved in fashion’s circle, where I ne’er may blend again,
And I loved the dance and banquet, loved as beauty’s queen to reign;
Loved the glance of admiration, loved the homage of the heart;
I with hope of these have parted and I must forever part;
But I love the cheerful sunlight, and I love the meadows sweet,
Love the forest and its wild ways, where went free my childhood’s feet;
Love the flowers and trees and fruitage, sparkling wave and starry night,
And the wintry snow that covers my dear land in robe of white.
Glad, kind nature will not scorn me; birds will sing as sweet to me
As if I were owned most freely bride of knight of high degree;
Neither will my country’s wild hills frown upon my coming more
Than if I my rightful circlet and the arms of Tempest wore.
Marmaduke, I love my mother; but restore me to her breast
And of all your shining thousands I will make no more request.
All pre-occupied and scornful, all unheedful, Tempest stood;
More is moved the granite boulder by the dash of summer flood,
More are moved the Alpine summits by the winds that o’er them blow
Than was moved the heartless husband by her tears and frantic woe.
They had reached the guarded portal, where all spake of slavery
TO the weeping one who trembled like the leaf of aspen tree.
Soon there came a portly doctor with a bald and shining head,
And a plump and smiling matron followed close upon his tread. [page 91]
Anna told her tale of anguish; her they answered as a child
Who of every fancied grievance should be merrily beguiled,—
Telling her her haughty tyrants should most surely taste their wrath,
Promising to set her footsteps soon upon her homeward path.
Anna sat where none seemed present, in a high, bright-furnished room,
Holding naught but grated windows to impress the heart with gloom.
From behind a heavy curtain soon emerged a woman fair,
With a restless eye and glittering, robes of black, and shaven hair.
Guileless was her soul and gentle, and her faith in God was strong;
Oft she spake in chiming numbers, glorious was her gift of song.
Pitying glance she cast on Anna, as she sat in abject woe,
With her rich hair all dishevelled and her thin, pale face bent low.
Opening then a carved piano, thus she sang in minor key;
Anna raised her head to listen to the sweet sad melody.
“My memory’s earliest dawning light is dark
With clouds that soon upon my spirit broke
In cold and drenching rains—I stood the mark
For the fierce tempest and the lightning’s stroke.
From the high heaven seemed rent away the shroud
The waters from the waters to divide,
And many a leaden, chilling, bursting cloud
Swept wildly o’er me as it sought the tide.
“Yet in my childish heart was ardent love—
I loved my mother mild, my troubled home;
I love it still as dreary earth I rove,
And shall, as branded Cain, unresting roam.
A warmer love sprang up within my heart,
Gilding the heaven of my girlish years:
I deemed its genial glow would ne’er depart,
Its brightness ne’er be dimmed by mist of tears. [page 92]
“I said, ‘High Heaven is ever just and kind:
The clouded morning brings a shining noon;
The traveller whose day is dark shall find
His evening way lit by the stars and moon.’
But where we dwelt was near the Northern Sea,
Our dwelling had its base upon the sand;
Then the wild storm arose in savage glee,
And lashed the waves to foam and shook the land.
“Our pleasant dwelling by the Northern Sea
Was reared amid the glorious summer hours;
Its walls were clad with vines, the home of bee,
While round it sang the birds and bloomed the flowers.
I looked, and all my joy was darkened o’er,
The mirth of all the land was mute and gone,
And ere the night were strewn along the shore
The ruins of the pleasant home of morn.
“And little knew I of the wondrous way
Of Him who is as merciful as just;
He stays his rough wind in the east wind’s day,
But levels oft our cherished hopes in dust.
But still that love, shut from my outward sky,
Liveth in memory to cheer the night;
The many waters and the tempest high
Were powerless to outfare or quench its light.”
When the lay was done she sat her close to suffering Anna’s side,
Saying, “Strange you do not know me—I am Countess Bertha Clyde;
But full well I know your bearing, we have oft each other seen
In our days of youth and pleasure, at the palace of the Queen.
Well I knew and well I loved you—you are Lady Lillian Lake;
Much I marvelled you so early should the royal courts forsake.
Now I know you quit the palace for the self-same cause that I [page 93]
Was induced the hollow splendor of its marble courts to fly.
But I may not stay discussing all the trials we have seen;
I rejoice that you are growing more content and more serene.
Though we have been sorely chastened. ’twas by our own Father, God;
He hath scourged us with our follies back unto His own abode.”
Bertha placed a ponderous Bible, that lay oped on polished stand,
On the velvet couch beside her, close to Anna’s resting hand;
And the type so clear and open she, though scarcely conscious, read;
’Twas where God to ancient Israel by the prophet Hosea said,
“Come and let us humbly hasten our return to God the Lord;
He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten with His rod,
But will bind our smitten spirits.” Every word seemed meaning fraught,
And most strangely new to Anna, waking many searching thought.
Thus began a life for Anna, destined thus to pass away,
Half as long as Scottish Mary pined in gloomy Fotheringay.
Doctors, servants and officials termed her Mistress Anna Grey,
Till she half forgot that other name she bore in prouder day.
With the patients joined she little, but the harmless Bertha Clyde
Roamed at will through hall and parlor, and was often at her side.
Best she loved to sit beside her at the closing of the day,
And recite prophetic Scripture or some wild or plaintive lay.
Once she came in early morning, saying with a pleading glance,
As if fearing snub or coldness, “Listen to my rhymed romance.”
A FRAGMENT READ TO ANNA BY COUNTESS BERTHA CLYDE.
As morn flashed up o’er the wide, wide water,
The ancient wife awaked her daughter.
She spake and said: “From home I warn you;
For twenty tedious years I’ve borne you,
And you never gained me a silver penny.
What use are you here? I know not any. [page 94]
And never a suitor has come awooing—
Go see what men in the world are doing.
You have a sire; on earth’s expansion
He dwelleth in a marble mansion.”
The maid rose up, as well became her,
(The dame the while was fain to blame her),
Forth went she with a shining slipper
And a flowing robe that was wont to trip her;
Her golden hair was curled and braided,
She wore a chaplet somewhat faded;
Her eye was bright as a sapphire jewel
And not like the old dame’s—black and cruel;
Her teeth like pearls of distant ocean,
Like the airy breeze her graceful motion.
She went by vale and lofty mountain
And gushing stream and gurgling fountain;
She roamed by meadows richly planted,
She trod dark woods and vales enchanted;
She saw the birds that gather early
Amid the fields of wheat and barley;
She saw the hinds that labor daily,
And plumed young nobles riding gaily;
She saw the city’s dashing daughters
Ride with their lovers by the waters.
She found a grove as night was falling,
Where she heard the turtle its fellow calling;
So she said her prayers ’neath a shady willow,
And laid her head on a rocky pillow,
To dram, like him of Scripture story,
To dream of joy and light and glory.
When she awoke at morn dark lowering,
A wretched form was by her cowering,
With tangled hair all long and flowing.
“Whence I am come and whither going,” [page 95]
He said, “I am loth to tell, fair maiden,
For my mission is sad and mystery laden.
I came last night to yonder city,
But I could not find a man to pity;
For my purse was empty and garments seedy,
And the rich care naught for the poor and needy.
I slept with the sky for roof and awning,
And have naught to break my fast this dawning.”
Now, the old dame, grudging and half unwilling,
Had given an ancient silver shilling
And a store of cakes in a wicker basket,
And her linen in a leathern casket.
She shared her cakes with the hungry stranger,
And thought not o’er-wisely of coming danger.
He spake of the journey he must travel
And the mystery he must needs unravel.
She bade him take the ancient shilling;
But he seemed doubtful and unwilling,
And turned it o’er and gazed upon it,
As th’ light of misty morn shone on it.
“Remember” was carved upon the eagle
And “me” upon the statue regal.
He grasped the coin and backward started,
With look half wild, half broken-hearted,
Then said: “It makes me melancholy,
For it calls back days of youthful folly.
I take it—thou art blessed in giving,
I, too, am happy in receiving.
When I return from my lonely mission
With realized dreams of my youth’s ambition,
I will sixty-fold reward thee duly—
Remember, I have spoken truly.
But how into thy gentle fingers
Came this ungodly coin, where lingers [page 96]
The traces of the witch-like sneering,
The same malevolent appearing
That stamped the features of the giver
When I was the accursed receiver?”
“My mother gave it yester morning;
She bade me leave with wrath and scorning.
They call her ‘Ancient Jean the Lady;’
She dwells within a cottage shady
’Mid groves of oak and elm and willow,
Down close beside the sounding billow.”
He said, “What name to thee is given,
Thou angel, bright as one from heaven?”
“ ’Tis Circelinda.” “Heaven bless thee,”
Quoth he, “and gracious saints caress thee.
Thy name unique, that never story
Nor song hath graced, shall yet have glory.
Adieu; thou art a lady queenly,
And I a knight, though seen so meanly.
I go to seek my lordly brother,
To prove what wizard told my mother.”
The sun dispelled the mist of morning.
But she journeyed onward, the distance scorning;
For her footsteps, light as touch of feather,
Scarce dented grass or hazy heather.
She came to a hill that, gently sloping—
A vista of rarest beauty oping—
Displayed the drooping elm and willow,
And sapphire, sunshine-crested billow;
The shore in cove and portlet wending,
And paths the farther banks ascending,
That entered forests high and hoary,
Clad in their robe of summer glory.
Down rushed the noisy streamlet toward her;
Rich meadows stretched to the river’s border; [page 97]
The hills behind sloped upward from her
And met the laughing sky of summer;
The trees rejoiced in their height and greenness,
The gray rocks stared in their naked leanness;
Tall shining grass in the fields was growing,
And the rose and thyme their sweet breath blowing;
The birds of dusk and of shining feather
Held concert on spray and rock together;
Till it seemed like a song she had heard of heaven,
The rest of the weary and sin-forgiven.
So she sat ’neath a shrub of blossoms yellow,
Beside a streamlet bright and shallow,
And thought of the days of vanished childhood
By the caverned shore and tangled wild-wood;
But from her reverie awaking
She started, for the earth seemed quaking,
And a snorting steed passed close beside her,
Saddled and bridled without a rider.
Frighted she fled along the meadow
Beneath the elm and willow’s shadow,
Till her flying steps unpondered brought her
Close to the edge of the shining water,
Where, faint and wet and soiled and gory,
There lay a form in manhood’s glory.
She turned to fly, but thought came o’er her
That one who suffered lay before her.
She raised his head and gently laved it,
And water brought—his hot lips craved it,
And eager drank, till strength returning
And in his eye the life-fire burning,
He said: “What god or kindly spirit,
Or whim, perchance of little merit,
Hath brought thee, woman’s fairest daughter,
To this far, unfrequented water, [page 98]
To soothe in weakness, wounds and danger,
A lonely fate-unfavored stranger?
For though of noble birth and standing,
And wealth in vulgar eyes commanding,
In early youth my heart was blighted
By tenderest feelings unrequited.
I loved my proud, imperious mother—
Such love I never bore another.
I well recall her broad, white forehead;
I raised my eyes, that ne’er had sorrowed,
With love and confidence and duty
To gaze upon her matchless beauty.
Her eyes were lustrous, dark and flashing,
But, ah! her wrath, like thunder crashing,
Like mountain storm or torrent’s clangor,
Fell fierce on all who dared her anger.
But, ah! her wrath, like thunder crashing,
Like mountain storm or torrent’s clangor,
Fell fierce on all who dared her anger.
But me, her loving child and only
In this wide world so cold and lonely,
She left, beneath the base direction
Of one my father’s kind protection
Had raised from want to fair position,
Yet who was filled with vile ambition
To rob him of his dearest treasure,
And give him sorrow without measure.
Why should my memory dwell upon her?
My sainted father’s tarnished honor,
My own—shame whispers it were better
That I forever should forget her.”
The gentle girl hath laved his bruises
And bound his wounds, while thus he chooses
To speak with such impassioned feeling,
So much of dark disgrace revealing.
At length he rose and bade her follow,
O’er swelling mound and grassy hollow. [page 99]
His chest was broad, his height was regal,
His eye like that of mountain eagle;
His ample curls were black and shining,
Around his high white brow entwining;
His years a score and ten or younger,
But in his eyes the spirit-hunger,
And round his bearded mouth expression
Of goading care or deep depression,
Might strike at first the chance beholder
As those of one full ten years older.
He asked her of her destination,
And to that far nook of creation
What kindly happy chance had sent her,—
For sure superior strength was lent her
To roam o’er plain and mountain by-way
Such distance from the royal highway.
She frankly told him that her mother
(She deemed her such and knew no other)
In the bright early dawning yester
Forever from her home dismissed her;
Since when she roamed o’er height and hollow,
Striving each path she saw to follow,
Till, frightened by the steed that passed her,
And fearing much some sad disaster,
She wildly fled she knew not whither,
O’er brake and marsh and heath and heather
And found his form so helpless lying
She truly deemed him swiftly dying.
And much he spake of tender pity,
And of his home beside the city,
Where pressing want and worse temptation
Might ne’er assail; where education
And pleasant home of wealth should greet her,
A prudent elder dame should meet her, [page 100]
To teach her of her right demeaning,
From slanderous tongue her fair name screening.
’Twas thus they passed o’er vale and meadow,
’Neath trees of fruit, and flower, and shadow.
They came to hills where herds were feeding,
They saw afar the highway leading
By villas tall, ’mid gardens flowery,
By pastures green and orchards bowery.
The sun was hot in summer heaven,
No cloud across the arch was driven;
The maid was sore of foot and weary,
And in her eyes the land, so cheery,
Looked sickening, hopeless, homeless, dreary.
He strove her drooping heart to rally,
And told her of the sunset valley,
The gardens with their sparkling fountains,
And southward far the mist mountains,
That purpled in the light of morning—
All these his palace home adorning,
With sculptured forms and pictured beauty,
And silver bells that woke to duty,
She should enjoy, with kind protection
And virtuous wisdom’s sage direction.
They reached the highway portal-vaulted,
And passed beneath its arch exalted.
There came a man with locks so hoary
They decked him like a crown of glory;
Though bent with age, he hasted, crying,
“Lord Hugh, thy ancient nurse is dying,
I little thought so near to find thee.
She bade me that I should remind thee,
That once the year that’s gone she told thee
Before she died she must behold thee,
Because she holds a secret pressing, [page 101]
That goads her ever to confessing.
Its weight of guilt is so distressing,
She cannot breathe her last in blessing.”
Lord Hugh looked on the maiden slender,
With none to succor or defend her.
Then swift she spake, “O lordly stranger,
Thy nurse’s soul hath grievous danger;
Hasten that she may yet be shriven,
And win at last to holy Heaven;
The angels strong are my protection.”
Then came, he deemed by Heaven’s direction,
Along the trampled gravel dashing,
A carriage in the sunlight flashing.
He bade the driver take the maiden
Into his carriage, lightly laden,
And bear her to the Manor Shalley,
Beside the city of the valley.
Within the coach of velvet lining
The weary girl, at ease reclining,
Was startled by its sudden halting.
Into its door a youth came vaulting,
Of stately height and slender moulding,
Who stared, its occupant beholding,
Nor heeded aught her crimson blushes,
(For to her brow the red blood rushes).
“I much rejoice, as is my duty,
To see you here, my languid beauty.
Some guardian sprite or generous fairy
Hath seen me desolate and weary,
And in her anxious wish to cheer me
Hath placed such lovely being near me,
With sweet and tender smiles to bless me,
And in my solitude caress me.”
The maid up-rose with fear and trembling, [page 102]
Her grief and anger not dissembling;
In very truth she spake not meanly—
Her indignation made her queenly.
She bade the servant cease his driving.
He said he would when safe arriving
At Shalley Manor, there to leave her.
He spake it only to deceive her;
He knew the humor of his master,
And urged his fiery coursers faster,
Until the pleasant Manor Shalley,
Thew city and the sunset valley,
Were far behind and mingled dimly
With distant hills in twilight grimly.
They reach Lord Paul’s domain enchant
Rich odors came from gardens planted.
It was the far-famed Chandos Manor,
Of hall bedecked with bust and banner.
Lamps blinked in trees both tall and shady,
And marble infant, knight and lady
Were crowned with golden lamplets blazing—
The sight was brilliant and amazing.
Fountains from marble swans came hissing;
The maiden, half her fears dismissing,
Sprang from the coach as help was offered,
And spurned Lord Paul’s white fingers proffered.
Like frightened fawn she forward darted
Where the long, leafy branches parted.
How sped Lord Hugh, who left the maiden
At duty’s call ere fell the even?
He found his nurse with sorrow laden,
Most distant from the gate of heaven. [page 103]
She cried, “Lord Hugh, forgive the evil
That I have done or helped in doing;
For its deep guilt the angry Devil
Is to the death my soul pursuing.
The rich estates of Chandos Manor
Are all thy own by rightful heiring.”
Bertha ceased and whispered gaily, “I of this will tell you more
When you sing to me a ditty of the ocean’s western shore.”
Anna was too sore in spirit yet to speak of days gone by,
Or sweet home-land, so caressing Bertha very tenderly,
She replied, “I cannot tell you of my happy western home;
At its mention tears would blind me, and the sobs tempestuous come.”
“Tell me, then, of joyous nature, of the robin’s early song,
Of the green fields and the waters—I have pined for these so long.”
As they stood within the casement, they could see the clouds uprise
White and spirit-like o’er hill-tops, drifting northward through the skies.
“Sing,” said she, “of clouds of summer that drop fatness o’er the land:
They are nigh and they are glorious, sing of them in numbers grand.”
Anna had no heart for singing, scarce a knack of pleasant rhyme,
Yet she sang to cheer her comrade, and to while the weary-time.
“Up from behind the hills that bound my vision,
Out of the southern sea,
The rich white clouds arise; blest is their mission,
And sweet their ministry.
“More excellent in height, in sight more glorious
Are they than hills of prey; [page 104]
And all the flags that flaunt o’er hosts victorious
Are not so bright as they.
They stand in order now like seven mountains,
Seven rugged hills of light,
Whose sides are pierced by apertures, whence fountains
Gush foaming, feathery white.
A giant sits upon a summit ragged,
And feasteth with his bride:
With their vast board spread out o’er hillocks jagged,
Through air sublime they ride.
“They vanish, and now comes a woman slender
With hoar, dishevelled hair:
Weeping like Rachel for her children tender,
She clasps her hands in prayer.
“A girded, mitred priest is entering slowly
With censer fuming pale,
And robes bell-bordered, to some cloud-screened Holy
Of holies, through the veil.
“And countless figures more are still uprising
From the far southern sea,
The while I sit with fancy fond devising
The forms that they may be.
“Lofty they are and pure, and hope inspiring;
They bring no thought of care,
Nor blame, nor toil, distasteful, wageless, tiring;
Sweet dreams and grand they bear.
“O vault of heaven! thy stars are passing glorious,
Tender thy moon and fair; [page 105]
Thy sun, a royal bridegroom, rides victorious
Through thy blue wastes of air;
“But the sweet clouds seem nearer, more of kindred,
Than these: they had their birth
On this our globe, and have they not meandered
The dark, dull ways of earth?
“And though so vastly lower than Orion,
Or sun, or moon, they be,
They may have fallen in latter rain on Zion,
Or laved Gethsemane,
“Now far away the seven hills have drifted,
The giant at his feast,
The weeping Rachel with her hands uplifted,
The rich-robed, girded priest.
“They crowd together in the northern heaven,
They mingle in the west,
To fall, before the balmy dusk of even,
On hills and pastures blest.”
Bertha clasped her hands and listened, joyous as a happy child;
On her forehead was no shadow, in her eye no anguish wild.
Then she spake: “How sweet your song is! To my weary brain ’tis rest;
Often sing to cheer and lull me, sing of scenes of nature blest.”
The glad thought arose to Anna: “Thus I may beguile my hours
Striving to bring joy to others with my spirit’s utmost powers.
As I have been basely thankless to sweet mother, lover, friend,
Now I’ll seek to render kindness to the sad till life shall end.”
Oft did Bertha tell to Anna legends fair, but incomplete—
Even as her reason riven, as her nature rich and sweet. [page 106]
THE COMING HOME OF GUY PHILIP.
A FRAGMENT READ TO ANNA BY COUNTESS BERTHA CLYDE.
There is a palace standing
In a wild lonely land,
Its lordly site commanding
A view of waters grand.
Behind are mighty mountains
That prop the bending sky,
Wherefrom there glitter fountains
That never yet were dry.
For though their sides are covered
With woods that greenly grow,
Their topmost peaks are smothered
In everlasting snow.
The doors are quaintly garnished,
And carved in figures strange;
By weather all untarnished,
With time they do not change.
Two hundred years have vanished
Since from the enchanted bound
The living foot was banished,
And voice forbid to sound.
Within is voice of weeping,
Of pleading and of prayer,
And noise of footsteps creeping
On the broad marble stair.
They are unhappy spirits,
That weep, and plead, and pray, [page 107]
Hoping their long demerits
They may at last repay.
From fiends that taunt and harass
They swift and ceaseless glide,
Round ’neath the heavy arras,
And up the stairway wide.
Wrought on the silken arras
Are scenes of war and love:
Helen in flight with Paris,
The glorious court of Jove,
The tent of strong Achilles,
Before the Trojan wall;
Fair nymphs with drooping lilies
Crowned for high festival;
Ulysses o’er the billow
Sailing, strange lands to see;
Sad Dido with her willow,
And staid Penelope.
One chamber, at a distance
From parlor and from hall,
Bears token of resistance
Made to foul thrust and thrall:
Such as bright tresses scattered,
And weapons gory dim,
Snapped chain, and blood-bespattered
Floor, wall and window grim.
Thus pass the weary ages,
Above the lonely land
Where, all unknown to sages,
The hills and palace stand. [page 108]
There gapeth a cavern ’twixt palace and wave,
All gloomy and dank as a wide open grave,
And from it their cometh a murmuring sound
Of waters aflowing afar under ground.
When the southern winds rouse the wild clouds from the sea,
They rush o’er the mountains in turbulent glee;
They empty their fatness on meadow and hill,
They raise to a torrent each murmuring rill.
’Tis then that the river, so rapid and swoll’n,
No more in its old gravelly bed will be holn;
But swift it o’erpasseth its guardian bank,
And leaps with a roar down this cavern so dank:
For its ceaseless endeavor and clamorous shock
Have opened a rift in the masonried rock
That shows, when the waters have slackened away,
Wide cavernous cells to the light of the day.
Ah, me! for the legend that cleaves to these cells,
Ah, me! for the tale that their history tells,
Of sorrow, oppression, of passionate love,
Of hate that no tears and no curses could move,
Of crimes that a reprobate mortal will dare,
Of dark retribution and hopeless despair.
In the long vanished ages this palace arose
At the will of Alonzo, the dread of his foes,
But the loved of his monarch, his country, his friend,
So wise to give counsel, so strong to defend.
He builded his palace of marble and stone,
Nigh the waters at foot of the mountains, alone.
There he girt it with gardens of glorious trees,
The home of bright birds, the sweet haunt of the breeze.
The hands of the painter and sculptor were there,
As a bower of the houris its chambers were fair.
There he lived, there he died, by that murmuring flood,
With the Lady Matilda, a princess of blood; [page 109]
And there dwelt his sons in a long loyal line—
There was Richard the sturdy, and Hugh the benign,
There was Thomas the faithful, Segismund the wise,
And many more named for their deeds of emprise.
Of their brothers, some warred on the boisterous sea,
Some had mitre and cap of the highest degree;
Their sisters were wed with the issue of kings,
Who dowered them with realms when they gave them their rings.
The one the most famous for beauty and truth
Was a Sister of Mercy, and died in her youth.
Thus in wealth and in glory the ages sped on
Till the days of Guy Philip two centuries agone.
Guy Philip had wedded his bride by the sea,
When summer o’er all things reigned gloriously;
And proud beat his heart as swift over the foam
Rode the snowy-winged vessel that carried him home.
There was braying of trumpets, loud ringing of bells;
There were echoes of gladness through village and dells;
There were chaplet-crowned maidens, and dames in their prime,
Bowed grandsires whose heads were o’er-frosted by time;
Strong young men, slim striplings and infants so fair,
With kith and kin, waiting to welcome them there.
An arch of white flowers they had reared on the shore,
With a golden-hued carpet the sands were spread o’er,
And the coach which awaited the jubilant band
Was drawn by six coursers from Araby’s land
That arched their proud necks and oped wide their brown eyes
As their gold gearing flashed in the light of the skies.
There was one who in silence awaited the ship,
His eye dull and sightless, and shrivelled his lip.
His staff he was bearing, for great was his age—
’Twas Michael the hermit, the prophet, the sage,
Though wrinkled and praised and grievously old,
For a century over his white head had rolled; [page 110]
Yet piercingly keen was his vision of mind,
And his tremulous accent was clear and refined.
While the blessings, the welcomes, were deafening to hear,
He spake not, he moved not. Guy Philip drew near;
Full gently he hailed him: “O Michael the good,
Thou eremite, prophet and sage of the wood,
Say why on my jubilant coming you frown;
My grandsire and sire for your blessing knelt down.
Their swords never faltered; but mine is as true,
As brilliant as ever a conqueror drew.
My fleet steed hath borne me o’er fields of the slain;
I have reaped me green laurels on red battle plain.”
The seer raised aloft one gray tremulous hand—
It was skinny and thin as a sorcerer’s wand—
Then gray-breads, uncovered, all reverently stood,
To list to the prophet and sage of the wood,
And the young hushed their mirth that the prophet might speak.
’Twas the ghost of a flush dyed his saffron-hued cheek
As he spake: “O thou warrior, youthful and bold,
Why look’st thou for boon to one helpless and old?
Thy vassals are legion, thy lady is fair,
Thy fine gold can buy thee both blessing and prayer.”
“Sage Michael, I crave not for prayers that are sold,
I ask not for benisons purchased with gold;
But such blessing of love and such tribute of worth
As thou gavest my sires who are passed to the earth.”
“I would fain not awaken thy turbulent ire;
I would fain bless the heir of thy grandsire and sire.
Thou askest my blessing, thou cravest my prayer,
Thou wouldst bribe me with glittering gold didst thou dare.
But e’en if I would that my gifts should be sold,
Like the Moabite seer of the mountains of old,
The strange scenes to my visionless eyes that are bought
And the wonderful words to my tongue that are taught [page 111]
Arise from the fathomless fountain of truth
Like the waters that feed this clear stream in its youth
Those visions, those words rise like waters in spring;
Now listen, my children, your prophet shall sing
As loud as in pageants long vanished away,
When the hand of a glorious chieftain bare sway.
I tell thee, Guy Philip, a year hath not rolled
Since ’twas given my visionless eyes to behold
A strange thrilling scene—’twas thy haughty form stood
In a far northern land, by a foam-crested flood,
The Baltic’s cold wave, on its waters to fling
The corpse of the heir of old Narroway’s king.
Not a foe nor a stranger, but friend of thy youth,
Who loved thee, who sought thee, who trusted thy truth.
Thy sword, which thou boastest so good hath been proved,
Is dark with a stain that may ne’er be removed;
And thy fleet red-roan charger hath gore on his mane
From a warm heart out-crushed on the far seaside plain.
I speak not to tell how thou plightest thy sooth
To the Lady Adella who loved thee in truth,
And didst leave her all desolate, ruined and sad,
With strong fetters bound in the home of the mad.
From her lone, grated casement she easts her wild eye”—
“Haste, seize the gray dotard and finish his lie!”
Aloud cried Guy Philip, half choking with ire,
Pale, trembling with rage and astonishment dire.
“Haste, bind him, ye vassals! Why stand ye amazed?
My lords, ye perceive that the blind fool is crazed;
And ne’er had he reached to so hideous a stage
Of blinded and palsied and idiot age,
Were it not that for crimes that the tongue cannot tell
The fiends would not harbor his presence in hell.
Long ago ought that meagre and tremulous form
To have furnished repast for the greedy grave-worm; [page 112]
Or, so little of flesh in its substance is found,
It better had feasted the raven and hound.
We may not at his age, for his meaningless word,
Devote him a victim to halter or sword;
So bind him and gag him, and bear him away,
That his presence offend not the light of the day.”
Two tall swarthy youths the chief’s mandate obeyed,—
They had come with the ship and were strangely arrayed.
The scarfs of their turbans were white as the milk;
Their knee-reaching tunics were emerald silk;
Their sashes and hosen were yellow as day;
With jewels the hilts of their daggers were gay.
Twin brothers were they from the Nubian land;
They lived but to speed at Guy Philip’s command.
But heed thee, Guy Philip, pray have thou a care:
They forge thee a yoke that no mortal can bear;
The bondage to them thy fair daughter shall feel,
More galling than fetters of brass or of steel.
They grasped the unconq’rable Nestor and bore
His shadowy figure away from the shore.
Then the aged men frowned, and the younger men placed
Their hands on the hilts of their daggers in haste,
But none spake out boldly and none raised a hand
To rescue from outage the seer of the land.
Now a murmur was growing to tumult and noise,
In a crowd, near the chieftain, of striplings and boys.
From a jewel-clasped purse he cast handfuls that rolled
Mid the sedge-grass and pebbles in coinage of gold.
The youths grasped the guerdon and rent the broad sky
With “A curse to the dotard, a curse to his lie!
But blessings of welcome and greetings of fame
To the heir of a house of a glorious name;
And the Lady Theresa, long may she abide
To teach us and bless by this murmuring tide.” [page 113]
The summer was glorious around them that day,
O’er mountain, o’er meadow, o’er brooklet and brae,
O’er blue, bounding river, o’er castles, o’er caves.
It gleamed on the trees, it illumined the waves;
The broad azure heaven was full of its light,
It pierced to the depths, it surmounted the height.
The cliff of the mountain by summer was dressed
In the brakes and the lichens that clung to its crest;
And in deep forest dingles of evergreen shade,
Where the light of the winter might never invade,
Through some tortuous rift a bright glance it threw,
To cheer the pale plants that in deep shadow grew;
And in opener glades where the murmuring brook
Beside the broad willows its winding way took.
On that long vanished day the sweet summer’s glad shine
Dressed the ruddy-red rose and the venomous vine,
The glistering buttercups, blossoms of fruit,
And velvety violets, round far-reaching root.
The pathway that led from the heart of the wood
Through shadow and shine to the brink of the flood,
Was decked with free hand by the summer serene,
Who ruled through its length like a quiet young queen.
The summer was genial o’er fields of the vine,
That promised their dresser a wealth of red wine;
O’er sturdy old orchards whose branches hung low
With the weight of young fruitage on every bough,
That ere many morrows in richness would vie
With the Eve-tempting apples of ages gone by;
O’er grain-bearing meadows, where bearded heads rolled
In the azure of morning or eventide’s gold,
Or slept on their stalks in that sleep wherewith noon
Husheth all the fair earth in the dream-days of June.
O’er kiosk-decked gardens where fountains at play
Threw heavenward ever their glittering spray; [page 114]
O’er church of the Virgin that grave-girded stood
Not far from the palace and night to the flood.
There lest the full glow of the sun put to shame
The tapers that burned with a sanctified flame,
Upon the high altar, its splendor was shorn
By the stain of the windows that looked to the morn;
But softened it fell, richly tinted and faint,
On the picture and bust of apostle and saint;
On the old Hebrew fisher who bare Heaven’s keys,
And the harlot who washed holy feet on her knees,
And the loved and the lovely apostle who died
In a lone haunted isle of the Ægean tide.
The light of the summer streamed down on the crowds,
It glowed on the ship of white sails and gray shrouds;
More brightly above all the clear heaven shone
Than the glittering crystal or lazuli stone,
And richer around was the garniture green
Than the silk arras woven for Arabic queen;
More brilliant beneath was the carpet of bloom
That the product of Persian or Ottoman loom.
In all that broad region there was but one spot
Where the gladness and glow of the summer came not;
’Twas the old mansion dungeon midway to the wave.
Bertha, ceasing, turned to Anna: “Surely you are sad no more,
You are innocent and youthful and you weep not as before;
Now I listen for a ditty of the Ocean’s western shore.”
A POEM READ FOR BERTHA BY ANNA.
“The memories of my childhood are of wild-flowers on the hill,
Of the white birch in the wild-wood and the shallow mossy rill;
Of the fir that moaneth ever as in pain or fear or grief,
Of the willows by the river, the gray poplar’s restless leaf; [page 115]
Of the pine whose branches southward are so full and long and wide,
But so scant upon the northward, for a compass and a guide;
Of the roaring blast of winter laden with the drifting snow,
Clamoring as it fain would enter to the firelight’s ruddy glow.
Long our blustry northern winter raves above wide forest lands,
Where the grim frost binds the waters with its strong and glittering bands.
The gay Spring, with witching music of her winds and birds and showers,
Charmeth long the southern regions ere she deigns to visit ours.
When her face she turneth toward us and our thankful hopes awake,
Many times the fickle maiden south again her way will take;
Then the North Wind roars triumphant and the white showers clothe the plain,
Turning back the April morning to the Christmas time again.
Still the May-flowers wait her coming with a pure and patient heart;
From beneath the melting snow-drifts do the waxen blossoms start;
As a queen is the sweet May-flower, and in her royal train
Violets and dandelions come to deck the grassy plain;
Then the white and purple trilliums, the yellow adder’s tongue,
The primrose and spring-beauty, grow the forest ways among.
O the glory of those forests, gay with bright or dusky bird,
There the matin of the waxwing in the cedar boughs is heard,
When the herald winds awaken to the day of song and feast
All the wild life of the forest, reptile, insect, bird and beast.
The red deer, that never started at the noise of hound or horn,
In the lovely forest chambers waken in the early morn;
Then they cast their mild eyes upward to the rifted wreathen roof,
Stamping moist and verdant mosses with the slender parted hoof;
Swiftly haste they toward the sunrise goldening the eastern hills,
There to toss their hornless foreheads as they quaff the crystal rills.
Glad the chafer and the dayfly, dragon-fly and humble-bee
With their myriad kindred mingle in the day of feast and glee.” [page 116]
One wild night in depth of winter Bertha Clyde grew wholly sane,
Passing at the early dawning to the heaven she longed to gain.
Ana sorrowed for her going, yet rejoiced to see her lie
With no mark of latent madness in her lustrous raven eye;
For though ever meek and gentle, sometimes even glad and bright,
Oft she knew long days of anguish, nights of horror and affright.
“Long,” said she, “my thought hath wandered in a strange perplexing dream,
Through thick clouds my reason striving to transmit a guiding beam.
Fare-thee-well, my sister Anna, seek to meet me in that land
Where our God’s unfathomed doings we at last shall understand.”
Anna had in truth been striving the celestial land to gain,
Even since the morn she journeyed to the home of the insane. [page 117]
I SOJOURNED once within a mighty city
And walked on hallowed ground,
Within whose bound the fair and proud and witty
Of old their rest had found.
There was the marble shaft and mausoleum
To saint and hero raised;
On crumbling tombstones carved with quaint inscriptions
With reverent eyes I gazed.
To point the trembling hope of sorrowing mortals
To One above who saves,
A church of gleaming windows reared its portals
And towers above the graves.
One stone there was, sunken amid the grasses,
That nothing but the name
Of “Charlotte Temple” told; the stranger passes
And knows not oft her fame.
No smile of scorn, no tear of tender pity
Can reach her dust-hid face;
The rocky earth of the great Empire City
Laps her in strong embrace.
The wooing birds, the tender flowers of summer
About her death-couch are; [page 118]
Not distant is the freighted harbor’s murmur,
Near is the flying car.
Near is the place where merchant princes mingle
And mighty dies are cast:
She heeds not these, nor all the Babel jangle
That fills the city vast.
So long her spirit feet have prest the mountains
Of the far spirit spheres;
So long her spirit lips have quaffed the fountains
Of the eternal years;
A spirit’s judgements, loves, and aspirations
Have ruled her life so long,
Can she but wonder that earth’s gross temptations
Should lure the human throng?—
A throng as truly spirit as th’ archangel,
Yet as the insect frail;
Deathless and strong, in God’s light all things seeing,
They pass within the veil.
Ample time for contemplation Anna had in parlors dim.
Guarded walks and lonesome gardens, where the trees stood grand and prim.
Oft she thought of days of childhood, of the forests free and wild,
Whose bright brooks and paths of shadow her unfettered feet beguiled;
Thought of moonlight on the waters, when Saint John the fragile craft
Guided o’er them, while his sisters and herself in gladness laughed;
Thought of festive nights of winter when she moved in mazy dance,
Or in antic play was mingling, meeting oft his loving glance; [page 119]
Thought of rides in golden autumn underneath the elm trees tall;
Thought of long and pleasant lessons at the light and sunny hall;
Thought of Sabbaths fair and hallowed, musical with sound of bell
That came floating, zephyr-wafted, over woody hill and dell;
Thought of the old church, its chancel and its slender altar rail,
And its wind ws where the sunlight streamed in crimson, gold or pale;
The staunch pulpit, velvet-cushioned, the square pews so richly lined
(Carleton’s bore his crest and motto, Hugh Saint John’s was close behind).
She could seem to see the pastor with his gray and reverend head;
The small clerk in wig and breeches that the loud responses read.
Up the dreamy aisle, in order time or change could not destroy,
Passed Sir Thomas and his daughters, Lady Carleton, Captain Foy,*
Hugh Saint John, broad-browed and florid, his pale wife with sharp, dark eye;
John in habit trim and tasteful following very soberly;
Maude Saint John with golden ringlets, Clare Saint John with braids of brown,
Melicent, the merriest in the country or the town;
Miss Buret of primmest manner but of tender, gentle heart,
Ever seeking sweet instruction to the youthful to impart;
Her own mother with her garments black as widow’s weeds could be
Soft eyes, waxen cheek and forehead and a form of symmetry.
Oft she thought what base requital she had made for all the good
Heaped upon her helpless childhood and her early womanhood.
She had turned her back on mercy, love and hope and peace and light,
A proud, shadowy phantom following into dark despair and night.
Long at thought of cruel Tempest thrilling anger stirred her heart,
Bidding sunset gold of memory, dawning hope of heaven depart.
* Lady Carleton’s son by a former marriage.
Oft at dripping of the night-rain, wail of storm-foretelling wind,
Her lone soul would break with longing for the life she’d left behind;
Often from shriek-riven midnight till the crimson dawn of day
She would mourn, with bitter weeping, joys forever passed away.
She at length beheld that jewel Heaven doth sell, that may be ours,
If we meekly yield to gain it all possessions, passions, powers;
Then for joy of God she bartered wailings o’er lost joys of earth,
Sold her hatred of the Tempests for that pearl of priceless worth.
Now she moved in the asylum as a comfort and a light;
Servants loved her, sufferers blest her, for her gentleness was might;
Sometimes seemed a vexing demon at her song awhile to fly,
Often could she quell the wildest with her strong and steadfast eye.
When the purple clouds paraded in the east, foretelling day,
When the last gleam of primrose passed from sunset heavens away,
Through the days of placid sunshine, in the storms of thund’rous roar,
Anna prayed, “O God, restore me to my mother’s arms once more.”
Fondest letters to her mother, blurred with penitential tears,
Had evoked no answering token through the weary, lagging years;
So with deeds of tenderest mercy she would still beguile her stay,
Till some door of hope should open, some star rise to guide her way.
Often when the news of nations, wafted on their wings of white,
Visited her lonely dwelling, she would read with strange delight;
Then with agony of longing she would pray again to dwell
In the fair, broad world unprisoned, far from grate, or gyve, or cell.
As she read one summer morning, lo, these words her eyes espied:
“Marmaduke, the Lord of Tempest, at the Tempest Manor died—
Died in the full strength of manhood, in the glow of seeming health,
Loved for his unnumbered virtues, master of unbounded wealth.”
Much there was of lying flatt’ry penned to meet his mother’s eye,
(All from fear or hope of guerdon sought her favoring smile to buy).
Anna read with mingled feelings—she could not rejoice to know
Even that her proud oppressor sank to everlasting woe. [page 121]
Her God’s rod had taught and chastened, Tempest felt th’ avenger’s blow;
Yet they both were greatly guilty; he had holiest vows betrayed,
She had once a young life blighted, good with evil had repaid.
As she passed to seek her chamber in its silent light to pray,
Thus she heard a voice she knew not to the chief physician say:
“On the morrow I a stranger from the western world will bring,
Lady of a learned doctor, Mrs. Catherine Broadlands King.
She a hapless dame is seeking, Lady Tempest, once Miss Grey,
Dwelling here, though not a maniac—they were friends in early day.
She indeed is Lady Tempest, as her seeker surely knows,
But denied her name and station by her harsh and daring foes.”
At the thought of coming freedom, joy that she could not control,
Like the long-lost joy of childhood, thrilled through Anna’s inmost soul;
But what wonder-working fairy had arrayed by magic rare
Peter King and Catherine Broadlands as the famous and the fair.
Sure their patois must betray them—he the honest rustic clown,
She the faithful household toiler—how had these achieved renown?
“Ah,” she mused, “they used their talents while my own were wrapped away,
Rusting, useless, self-enfolded, hidden from the light of day.
They were willing to be useful, sought not much to be admired,
But what merits admiration they with all their souls desired.
Unto such the god of this world, though arrayed in garments bright,
Stands revealed a foe malicious and a fiend of foulest night.
Giving heed to words of knowledge, heark’ning unto wisdom’s cry,
They in mercy are delivered from his ancient, specious lie:
That the soul that spurneth duty, love and truth in joy may live;
That cold gold and hollow splendor to warm hearts can comfort give.”
Though the stranger named the morrow, ere the sun had sunk to rest,
Crimsoning the southward mountains and the heavens of the west,
She who faithful in a little filled so well the household sphere, [page 122]
Faithful in a greater matter to the guarded gates drew near—
Not as oft in days of girlhood on her willing, nimble feet,
But in shining open carriage drawn by horses black and fleet.
Strong her husband sat beside her with full brow and steadfast eye,
Looking toward the gilded mountains and the happy evening sky.
It may be some thought came o’er him of his boyhood o’er the seas,
When the piebald mare he followed, ploughing over fertile leas;
But six years of earnest study, three of toil in noblest ways,
Had divested speech and bearing of all faults of earlier days.
In the latest glow of sunset Anna passed the guarded gate
That she entered one gray morning wild with terror for her fate.
Long in high, bright-lighted parlor talked the friends, until the break
Of the balmy summer morning did the watchful cock awake.
Catherine told how death had darkened all the region once so gay:
That fair Melivent and Clara passed to earth in girlhood’s day;
That their fond and gallant father, at the coming of the spring,
Sank in sleep that to this mortal life knows no awakening.
Bright-haired Maude, a wife and mother, five short years had leave to stay
Ere from bliss and beauty summoned by the voice of death away.
John with Anna’s widowed mother, fondly cherished, and his own,
Lived, to all dispensing blessing, till nine years their course had flown.
Fearing not the frown of mortals, soon his name was spread abroad
As of one who hated evil, loved his fellows and his God;
Kind and generous, like his father, but his deeds his sire’s surpassed,—
Where he held the merry banquet John Saint John held holy fast,—
Such a fast as God approveth, for he rightly counted love
Better than all sacrifices, whole burnt-offerings far above.
He with bread made glad the hungry, brought the desolate and poor,
That could render no requiting, to his sheltering home secure;
From the rooms where once had sounded music gay and dancer’s heel,
Rose the voice of fervent praying, rose the psalm in solemn peal.
Heaven prospered all his doings; with unstinted hand he gave [page 123]
To convey the joyful tidings of the Cross o’er ocean’s wave.
Through the years no certain tidings came of Anna o’er the seas,
Though the birds of air seemed whispering that she was but ill at ease;
Then there came a dark-browed stranger, emigrant from England’s shore—
While Saint John reaped golden harvest, he a laborer sought his door.
As he toiled among the reapers, ere the setting of the day,
He beheld the widowed mother of the lady of my lay.
Still her form was slight and stately, clear her eye, her forehead fair
Richly crowned with wavy tresses of the brightest hoary hair.
Swift he asked her name and station, and with star of strong surprise
Cried, “My way hath all been ordered by the hand that rules the skies.”
Then to John Saint John was uttered a sad tale of cruel wrong,
Waking all the flaming spirit of his youth repressed so long.
For this stranger was the servant that to fainting Anna gave
Kindly cordials as they journeyed that wild midnight by the wave.
He himself had ne’er forgiven for the evil part he played.
He for gold had helped to bury a young life in dreaded shade;
He for gold had hidden evil, but it fled his grasping still,
As was meet for wage of sinning, buying only grievous ill.
Penniless and self-reproachful he forsook his native shore,
Fain to drown the captive’s pleadings in the mighty ocean’s roar.
Still that voice his mental hearing vexed by day and woke by night,
Still he saw that weeping figure in the dark as in the light.
While at Tempest Hall he tarried, oft it woke his trembling sleep;
It had followed all his rovings o’er the land and o’er the deep.
When he saw the widowed mother ’twas as if that lovely face,
Marked by time and bitter sorrow, rose to haunt the distant place.
He recalled the captive’s pleadings that she might return again
To the bosom of her mother o’er the mighty western main.
Well he knew it was the mother who was standing in his gaze,
That the daughter’s fate to show her he had wended all his ways. [page 124]
Thus to John Saint John he uttered all the tale of Anna’s ill,
Praising still her grace and beauty, her base lord condemning still.
John was marked of the Destroyed; well he knew he soon must pass
To his couch beside his kindred ’neath the waving church-yard grass.
Peter King, the famed physician, ’tended him with all his art;
Catherine, gentle, strong and faithful, wrought for him a sister’s part,
Cheered him, counselled, watched with, prayed with, soothed with many a promise fair
From that book that doth God’s kindness to His suffering ones declare.
Glad his soul laid hold on promise, he was willing to depart;
But for his thrice stricken mother would a pang assail his heart.
Much he sorrowed for another, widowed long and desolate;
All his spirit burned to rescue Anna from her cruel fate.
Blue as the sapphire of the heavenly pavements
Glittered the cloudless sky of winter morn;
White as the linen vestments of the ransomed
Seemed the pure garb by hill and valley worn.
The woods of evergreen stood black but comely,
Cresting the little hills, the mountain’s brow;
The spectral leaves of winter beech were tapping,
With every breath of wind, both trunk and bough.
Then John Saint John from couch of weary languor,
Looking o’er beauty of the wintry land,
Spake thus with cheer to his pale mother watching
With love-lit eye, ceaseless at his right hand:
“I love the glory of this brilliant landscape,
But rarer glory decks my home above,
Where dwell my honored sire, my gentle sisters,
In sunlight of our Elder Brothers love” [page 125]
Through all the years he had not mentioned Anna,
Save that of late he often named a scheme
To free her from the grasp of the oppressor,
Her mortal life from bondage to redeem.
Now freely spake he of his youth and Anna,
Of her great beauty and her mirth of old,
Of his sure hope that she would yet be gathered
By the Good Shepherd to His heavenly fold.
“I had,” said he, “in youth ambitious longings;
I planned to win as statesman high degree;
But He who ruleth over men and nations
Ordained that I a king and priest should be.
“I hoped to wear the honors of my country,
To win the laurels of a just renown;
Christ hath enwrought for me a robe of glory,
Hath fashioned for my brow a jewelled crown.
“I haste to wear them in my Father’s kingdom,
My fair, my happy land of birth, farewell.
Farewell, my widowed friend; farewell, my mother;
A little while, and you with me shall dwell.”
Then his fancy seemed to wander—he was faintly heard to say,
“Tell poor Anna I forgive her; give my love to Anna Grey.”
Once again he roused and shouted, “Lo, with songs and joy I come!
See my band of angel sisters waiting to escort me home.
Fare thee well, my dearest Anna; in our Father’s house above
We shall meet as God’s own angels and discourse of heavenly love.”
Then, his radiant eye of azure with a gleam celestial fired,
Earnest gaze he fixed on Catherine, sighed “Remember,” and expired. [page 126]
All the meaning of “Remember” Catherine knew, for promise sure
She had pledged in aid of Anna sagest counsel to secure;
She had pledged, despite opposing powers of Tempest, to restore
Her the loved and unforgotten to her mother’s arms once more:
Her the loved and unforgotten, for of forests rich and wild
John had willed her many an acre, many a mead that gaily smiled;
Flocks and herds and watered pasture, silver, gold, and pleasant home
Looking to the south and westward, to the sparkling river’s foam.
Catherine well performed her mission; none, in truth, her course opposed.
Anna heard with bitter weeping all the story she disclosed.
Hers were tears of true repentance, tears of holy, tender love
For the form in darkness sleeping, for the soul the sky above.
’Gainst the haughty house of Tempest she would urge no rightful claim;
Soon across the mighty waters to her western land she came.
Thin had grown her rounded figure, silver-streaked her chestnut hair,
Round her mouth were lines of sorrow, o’er her brow was shade of care,
Yet a charm that rivalled girlhood’s, in her gracious presence shone.
Long she cheered her widowed mother, cheered the mother of Saint John;
Cheered and blessed whoe’er she met with as the ways of earth she trod;
Carried light and smiles and comfort into many a drear abode.
Little children loved her coming, feeble age her presence blest,
To the burdened and the weary thought she brought of heavenly rest.
For she was no harsh ascetic; she went forth among her kind
Bearing wine and oil of kindness, seeking bleeding hearts to bind.
Her pure heart held sweet communion and a league of love with waves,
All earth’s gentle speechless creatures, clouds and winds and stones and caves;
Flowers that deck the wood and meadow, stars that shine in nightly skies, [page 127]
As most precious friends and comrades her rich nature learned to prize.
Gard she wore of deepest mourning till they laid her down to rest
On the hill where kith and kindred bore the clods on brow and breast—
Mourning with no gleaming trinket to relieve its heavy fold,
But she shone with an adorning rarer far than gems and gold.
Long in death the mournful widows slept by their beloved dead,
Ere the fair and gentle Anna hid in dust her whitened head.
On the consecrated hill-side where is heard the sound of waves,
And the whispering of the forest from amid the grass-grown graves,
To her quiet rest they bore her one sweet pensive Autumn day,—
Side by side in death they slumber, John Saint John and Anna Grey