Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




  My gentle Wife, though girlhood’s peach-like bloom
Perchance is passing from thy cheek away,
And though the radiance that did erst illume
Thine eye be temper’d by a milder ray;
And though no more youth’s airy visions play
  Around thy heart, or flutter though thy brain,—
Still art thou worthy of the Poet’s lay,
Still shall my spirit breathe the Lover’s strain,
And, if approved by thee, not breathed perhaps in vain.
E’en as the Painter’s or the Sculptor’s eye
  Dwells on some matchless vision which combines
All that they deem of Beauty, ere they try
By inspiration’s aid, to catch the lines.
To deck earth’s highest and her holiest shrines,—
So did I oft my boyhood’s heart beguile
  With one fair image,—and the glowing mines
Of Ind would have been freely given the while,
To bid that being live to glad me with her smile.
But when in maiden loveliness you came,
Giving reality to all the fair
  And graceful charms that, blent with woman’s name,
Had seem’d too rich for earthly forms to wear,
Yet stood beside me in the twilight there—
Then came the agony, the artists known,
The dread that visions so surpassing rare
  May fade away, and ne’er become their own,
And leave their hearts to mourn, all desolate and lone. [Page 92]
Thou wert the guiding star whose living beam
Flash’d o’er Youth’s troubled thoughts and vague desires;
Something of thee was blent with ev’ry dream
  That fed Ambition’s fierce but smother’d fires.
The gentle fancies Poesy inspires—
The hopes and fears of Manhood’s early dawn,
That lent their witchery to youthful lyres,
Were of thy guileless fascinations born,
And threw their spells around the fount whence they were drawn.
If in my youthful breast one thought arose
That had a trace of Heav’n, it caught its hue
From the instinctive virtue that o’erflows
Each word and act of thine,—and if I threw
  Aside those base desires that sometimes drew
My spirit down to earth’s unhallow’d bowers,
’Twas when I met, or heard, or thought of you,
Or roved beside you, in those ev’ning hours,
Beneath the boughs what waved wide o’er your Island flowers.
Thou canst remember—can’st thou e’er forget,
While life remains, that placid summer night
When, from the thousand stars in azure set,
Stream’d forth a flood of soft subduing light,
And o’er our heads, in Heaven’s topmost height,
  The moon moved proudly, like a very Queen,
Claiming all earthly worship as her right,
And hallowing, by her power, the peaceful scene
Spread out beneath her smile, so tranquil and serene. [Page 93]
Then, as you wander’d, trembling, by my side,
  Gush’d forth the treasured tenderness of years;
And your young ear drank in the impetuous tide
Of early passion—boyhood’s hopes and fears—
Affirm’d with all the energy of tears.
And then love wove around our hearts a chain
  Which ev’ry passing moment more endears—
Mingling our souls, as streams that seek the plain,
Through wastes and flowers to pass, but never part again.
Years have gone by since then—and I have seen
Thy budding virtues blossom and expand;
  Still, side by side, amidst life’s cares we’ve been,
And o’er its verdant spots roved hand in hand;
And I have marked the easy self-command
That every thought and movement still pervades—
The gen’rous nature and the liberal hand—
  The glance that gladdens me, but ne’er upbraids,
And the confiding soul whose faith faints not nor fades.
Like to the young bard’s Harp, whose magic tone
Delights, yet startles, when he strikes the strings,
And stirs his soul with rapture all its own
  As an unpracticed hand he o’er it flings,
Thy heart was once to me. But now its springs
Of deepest feeling I have known so long,
Its treasured stores of rich and holy things,
Its sweetest chords round which soft accents throng,
That life becomes to me like one inspiring song. [Page 94]
Nor think, my love, that time can ever steal
Its sweetness from me. Years may wander by,
And in their course the frolic blood congeal,
Or dim the lustre of that hazel eye.
  But, even then, with proud idolatry
On that pale cheek and wasted form I’ll gaze,
And wander backward to those scenes where I
Bent o’er them first, in youth’s primeval days
Where memory all her wealth of hoarded thought displays.
The lonely beach on which we often roved,
And watched the moonbeams flickering on the sea—
The ancient trees, whose grateful shade we loved,
The grassy mounds where I have sat by thee—
The simple strains you warbled, wild and free.
  The tales I loved to read and you to hear,
With every glance of thine so linked shall be,
That every passing day and circling year,
Shall to my faithful heart my early love endear.
I’ll paint you as you bloom’d in that sweet hour,
  When friendly faces beamed on every side,
And, drooping like a frail but lovely flower,
’Fore God and man you claimed to be my bride,
Or, as you now, with all a mother’s pride,
Fold to your beating breast your darling child;
  And thus, though years beneath our steps may glide,
My fancy still, by mem’ry’s power beguiled,
Shall whisper: Thus she looked—’twas thus in youth she smiled.
  July, 1832. [Page 95]