Page images



Eyes not down-dropt nor over-bright, but fed

With the clear-pointed flame of chastity,
Clear without heat, undying, tended by

Pure vestal thoughts in the translucent fane Of her still spirit; locks not wide dispread,

Madonna-wise on either side her head

Sweet lips whereon perpetually did reign
The summer calm of golden charity,
Were fixed shadows of thy fixed mood,

Revered Isabel, the crown and head,
The stately flower of female fortitude,

Of perfect wifehood and pure lowlihead.
The intuitive decision of a bright
And thorough-edged intellect to part

Error from crime; a prudence to withhold;

The laws of marriage charactered in gold
Upon the blanched tablets of her heart;
A love still burning upward, giving light
To read those laws; an accent very low
In blandishment, but a most silver flow

Of subtle-paced counsel in distress,
Right to the heart and brain, though undescried,

Winning its way with extreme gentleness Through all the outworks of suspicious pride; A courage to endure and to obey; A hate of gossip parlance, and of sway, Crowned Isabel, through all her placid life, The queen of marriage, a most perfect wife. The mellowed reflex of a winter moon; A clear stream flowing with a muddy one, Till in its onward current it absorbs

With swifter movement and in purer light

The vexed eddies of its wayward brother:
A leaning and upbearing parasite,
Clothing the stem, which else had fallen quite,

With clustered flower-bells and ambrosial orbs

Of rich fruit-bunches leaning on each other

Shadow forth thee:the world hath not another (Though all her fairest forms are types of thee, And thou of God in thy great charity,) Of such a finished chastened purity.


“Mariana in the moated grange."-Measure for Measure.


With blackest moss the flower-plots

Were thickly crusted, one and all : The rusted nails fell from the knots

That held the peach to the garden-wall. The broken sheds looked sad and strange :

Unlifted was the clinking latch;

Weeded and worn the ancient thatch Upon the lonely moated grange.

She only said, “ My life is dreary,

He cometh not,” she said ;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead!”


Her tears fell with the dews at even;

Her tears fell ere the dews were dried ; She could not look on the sweet heaven,

Either at morn or eventide. After the flitting of the bats,

When thickest dark did trance the sky,

She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.

She only said, “ The night is dreary,

He cometh not,” she said ;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead ! ”


Upon the middle of the night,

Waking she heard the night-fowl crow: The cock sung out an hour ere light:

From the dark fen the oxen's low Came to her: without hope of change,

In sleep she seemed to walk forlorn,

Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn About the lonely moated grange.

She only said, “ The day is dreary,

He cometh not,” she said ;
She said, “I an aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead !”


About a stone-cast from the wall

A sluice with blackened waters slept, And o'er it many, round and small,

The clustered marish-mosses crept. Hard by a poplar shook alway,

All silver-green with gnarled bark :

For leagues no other tree did mark The level waste, the rounding, gray.

She only said, “ My life is dreary,

He cometh not,” she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead !”


And ever when the moon was low,

And the shrill winds were up and away, In the white curtain, to and fro,

She saw the gusty shadow sway. But when the moon was very low,

And wild winds bound within their cell,

The shadow of the poplar fell Upon her bed, across her brow.

She only said, “ The night is dreary,

He cometh not,” she said;

She said, “I am aweary, aweary,

I would that I were dead !”


All day within the dreamy house

The doors upon their hinges creaked The blue fly sung i' the pane; the mouse

Behind the mouldering wainscot shrieked, Or from the crevice peered about.

Old faces glimmered through the doors,

Old footsteps trod the upper floors, Old voices called her from without.

She only said, “My life is dreary,

He cometh not," she said;
She said, “I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead !”


The sparrow's chirrup on the roof,

The slow clock ticking, and the sound Which to the wooing wind aloof

The poplar made, did all confound Her sense; but most she loathed the hour

When the thick-moted sunbeam lay

Athwart the chambers, and the day Was sloping toward his western bower.

Then, said she, “ I am very dreary,

He will not come," she said ;
She wept, “I am aweary, aweary,

O God! that I were dead !”


CLEAR-HEADED friend, whose joyful scorn, Edged with sharp laughter, cuts atwain

The knots that tangle human creeds, The wounding cords that bind and strain

The heart until it bleeds,
Ray-fringed eyelids of the morn

Roof not a glance so keen as thine :
If aught of prophecy be mine,
Thou wilt not live in vain.

Low-cowering shall the Sophist sit;

Falsehood shall bare her plaited brow:

Fair-fronted Truth shall droop not now
With shrilling shafts of subtle wit.
Nor martyr-flames nor trenchant swords

Can do away that ancient lie:

A gentler death shall Falsehoud die, Shot through and through with cunning words.

Weak Truth, a-leaning on her crutch,

Wan, wasted Truth, in her utmost need,
Thy kingly intellect shall feed,

Until she be an athlete bold,
And weary with a finger's touch
Those writhed limbs of lightning speed;

Like that strange angel which of old,
Until the breaking of the light,
Wrestled with wandering Israel,

Past Yabbok brook the livelong night,
And heaven's mazed signs stood still
In the dim tract of Penuel.


Thou art not steeped in golden languors,
No tranced summer calm is thine,

Ever varying Madeline.
Through light and shadow thou dost range,

Sudden glances, sweet and strange,
Delicious spites, and darling angers,

And airy forms of flitting change.

« PreviousContinue »