MY lay is ended! closed the circling year,
From Spring’s first dawn to Winter’s darkling night;
The moan of sorrow, and the sigh of fear,
The ringing chords of triumph and delight
Have died away,–oh, child of beauty bright,–
And all unconscious of my song art thou:
With large blue eyes of Majesty and might,
And red full lips, and fair capacious brow,
No Leader of the World,–but Life’s Beginner, now!
Oh, tender human blossom, thou art fair,
With such a beauty as the eye perceives
Watching a bud of promise rich and rare
In the home-shadow of surrounding leaves.
THOUGHT, the great Dream-bringer, who joys and grieves
Over the visions of her own creating,
Resting by Thee, a sigh of pleasure heaves;
The fever of her rapid flight abating
Amid the golden hopes around thy cradle waiting.
Thou–thou, at least, art happy! For thy sake
Heaven speaks reversal of the doom of pain,
Set on our Nature when the Demon-Snake
Hissed the first lie, a woman’s ear to gain,
And Eden was lamented for in vain!
THOU art not meant, like other men, to thirst
For benefits no effort can attain:
To struggle on, by Hope’s deceiving nurst,
And linger still the last, where thou wouldst fain be first.
The royal canopy above thy head
Shall charm away the griefs that others know:–
Oh! mocking dream! Thy feet Life’s path must tread:
The Just God made not Happiness to grow
Out of condition: fair the field-flowers blow,
Fair as the richer flowers of garden ground;
And far more equally are joy and woe
Divided,–than they dream, who, gazing round,
See but that narrow plot, their own life’s selfish bound.
True,–in thy Childhood’s Spring thou shalt not taste
The bitter toil of factory or mine:
Nor the Strong Summer of thy manhood waste
In labour vain, and want that bids thee pine:
The mellow Autumn of thy calm decline–
The sheltered Winter of thy happy Age–
Shall see home-faces still around thee shine–
No Workhouse threatening, where the heart’s sick rage
Mopes like a prisoned bird within a cheerless cage.
True, that, instead of all this weary grief,
This cutting off what joy our life affords,
This endless pining for denied relief,
All Luxury shall hail thee! music’s chords
Shall woo thee,–and sweet utterance of words
In Minstrel singing: Painting shall beguile
Thine eye with mimic battles, dark with swords,–
Green sylvan landscapes,–beauty’s imaged smile,–
And books thy leisure hours from worldly cares shall wile.
There ends the sum of thy Life’s holiday!
WANT shall not enter near thee,–PLEASURE shall:
But Pomp hath wailed when Poverty looked gay,
And SORROW claims an equal tax from all:
Tears have been known from Royal eyes to fall
When harvest-trudging clowns went singing by:
Sobs have woke echoes in the gilded hall:
And, by that pledge of thine Equality,
Men hail thee BROTHER still, though thou art set so high.
DEATH, too, who heeds not poorer men’s regret,
Neither is subject to the will of Kings;
All Thrones, all Empires of the Earth are set
Under the vaulted shadow of his wings:
He blights our Summers, chills our fairest springs,
Nips the fresh bloom of some uncertain flower,
Yea, where the fragile tendril closest clings,
There doth his gaunt hand pluck, with sudden power,
Leaving green burial-mounds, where stood Affection’s bower.
Where is young Orleans? that fair Prince of France,
Who ‘scaped a thousand threatening destinies
Only to perish by a vulgar chance?
Lost is the light of the most lovely eyes
That ever imaged back the summer skies!
Widowed the hapless Wife, who seeks to train
Childhood’s frail thread of broken memories,
So that her Orphan may at least retain
The haunting shadow of a Father’s face,–in vain!
Oh! Summer flowers, which happy children cull,
How were ye stained that year by bitter weeping,
When he, the stately and the beautiful,
Wrapped in his dismal shroud lay coldly sleeping!
The warm breeze through the rustling woods went creeping,
The birds with gladdening notes sang overhead:
The peasant groups went laughing to their reaping,
But, in the gorgeous Palace, rose instead,
Sobs,–and lamenting Hymns,–and Masses for the Dead!
Where, too, is She, the loved and lately wived,
The fair-haired Daughter of an Emperor,
Born in the time of roses, and who lived
A rose’s life; one Spring, one Summer more,
Dating from Girlhood’s blushing days of yore,–
Fading in Autumn,–lost in Winter’s gloom,–
And with the opening year beheld no more?
She and her babe lie buried in the tomb,
The green bud on the stem,–both withered in the bloom!
Then, RUSSIA wept! Then, bowing to the dust
That brow whereon proud Majesty and Grace
Are chiselled as in some ideal bust,–
All vain appeared his power, his realm’s wide space,
And the high blood of his imperial race!
He sank,–a grieving man,–a helpless Sire,–
Who could not call back to a pale sweet face
By might of rule, or Love’s intense desire,
The light that quivering sank, in darkness to expire.
Where is the angel sent as Belgium’s heir?
Renewing hopes so linked with bitter fears,
When our own Charlotte perished young and fair,–
The former love of long departed years!
That little One is gone from earth’s cold tears
To smile in Heaven’s clear sunshine with the Blest,
And in his stead another bud appears.
But when his gentle head was laid to rest,
Came there not boding dreams to sting his Father’s breast?
Of Claremont? of that dark December night,
When, pale with weary vigils vainly kept,–
Crushed by the destiny that looked so bright,–
Dark-browed and beautiful, he stood and wept
By one who heard him not, but dumbly slept!
By one who loved him so, that evermore
Her young heart with a fervent welcome leapt
To greet his presence! But those pangs are o’er,
And Heaven in mercy keeps more smiling days in store.
God hath built up a bridge ‘twixt man and man,
Which mortal strength can never overthrow;
Over the world it stretches its dark span,–
The keystone of that mighty arch is WOE!
Joy’s rainbow glories visit earth, and go,
Melting away to Heaven’s far-distant land;
But Grief’s foundations have been fixed below:
PLEASURE divides us:–the Divine command
Hath made of SORROW’S links a firm connecting band.
In the clear morning, when I rose from sleep,
And left my threshold for the fresh’ning breeze,
There I beheld a grieving woman weep;
The shadow of a child was on her knees,
The worn heir of her many miseries:
‘Save him!’ was written in her suppliant glance:
But I was weaker than its fell disease,
And ere towards noon the Dial could advance
Death indeed saved her babe from Life’s most desperate chance.
The sunset of that day,–in splendid halls–
Mourning a little child of Ducal race
(How fair the picture Memory recalls!)
I saw the sweetest and the palest face
That ever wore the stamp of Beauty’s grace,
Bowed like a white rose beat by storms and rain,
And on her countenance my eyes could trace,
And on her soft cheek, marked with tearful stain,
That she had prayed through many a midnight watch in vain.
In both those different homes the babe was dead:
Life’s early morning closed in sudden night:
In both, the bitter tears were freely shed,
Lips pressed on lids for ever closed from light,
And prayers sobbed forth to God the Infinite.
From both, the little one was borne away
And buried in the earth with solemn rite.
One, in a mound where no stone marked the clay,
One, in a vaulted tomb, with funeral array.
It was the last distinction of their lot!
The same dull earth received their mortal mould:
The same high consecration marked the spot
A Christian burying-place, for young and old:
The same clear stars shone out all calmly cold
When on those graves the sunset hour grew dim:
And the same God in glory they behold,–
For Life’s diverging roads all lead to Him
Who sits enthroned in light among the Cherubim!
None could revoke the weeping Beggar’s loss,–
None could restore that lovely Lady’s child,–
Else untold sums had been accounted dross
To buy, for one, the life that moved and smiled:
Else had my heart, by false regret beguiled,
Recalled the other from his blest abode:
One only power was left by Mercy mild,
Leave to give alms,–which gladly I bestowed
Where the lone tears had fall’n, half freezing while they flowed.
Beautiful Royal Child, that art to me
Only the sculptured image of a thought:
A type of this world’s rank and luxury
Through whom the Poet’s lesson may be taught:
The deeds which are by this world’s mercy wrought,
Lie in the compass of a narrow bound;
Our Life’s ability,–which is as nought,–
Our Life’s duration,–which is but a sound,–
And then an echo, heard still faintly lingering round!
The sound being sweet, the echo follows it;
And noble deeds should hallow noble names:
The very Ancestry that points a right
To all the old hereditary claims,
With a true moral worldly triumph tames.
What vanity Earth’s riches to amass,–
What folly to incur its thousand shames,–
When bubble generations rise and pass,
So swiftly, by the sand in Time’s returning glass!
Pilgrims that journey for a certain time–
Weak Birds of Passage crossing stormy seas
To reach a better and a brighter clime–
We find our parallels and types in these!
Meanwhile since Death, and Sorrow, and Disease,
Bid helpless hearts a barren pity feel;
Why, to the POOR, should checked compassion freeze?
BROTHERS, be gentle to that ONE appeal,–
WANT is the only woe God gives you power to heal!