Gone To Sleep
Little Georgie Hussy, of des Moines, Iowa, who died during his mother's absence from home.
Drop the curtain gently, softly !
Shut the golden sunlight out;
Bid the merry children, passing,
Hush their laugh and joyous shout.
Lay aside the snowy cover
Over which light shadows creep,
Then draw near and murmur over,
' Little Georgie is asleep !'
Oh ! 'tis hard for thee, poor mother,
Bending o'er thy darling now;
Covering with earnest kisses
Icy lips and marble brow,—
Hard to come and find the treasure
Thou hadst hoped to hold and keep,
Cold and quiet in his casket,
Bright eyes hidden—fast asleep !
Yet remember, when thou bendest'
O'er his erib and empty chair,
When the yearning love within thee
Cries from anguish and despair,
That the One who called him upward
Will thy precious lambkin keep;
Only to earth's cares and sorrows
Has thy darling gone to sleep !
All this blessed summer morning,
With the golden sunlight round me,
Has my heart bowed down, o'erburdened
With its mournful tenderness,—
With this longing for the baby-
That for weary months has bound me,
For the look her blue eyes gave me,
And her winning, fond caress.
I have heard some grief is deeper:
That of mourning ones still yearning
For the brave hearts stilled forever
'Mid the clash of war's alarms,
But I know no sadder picture
Than fond memory, slowly turning
From the past, to gaze in silence
On a mother's empty arms.
Oh, they told me, those who knew not,
That I would not miss her ever,—
Would not always start expectant
At the mention of her name ;
But as many moons have vanished
Since the Father bade us sever,
As her brief existence numbered,
And the void seems just the same.
Often, as the night advanceth,
From my troubled sleep upstarting,
Am I roused by what seem echoes
Of my baby's plaintive cry.
And I catch familiar accents
From my trembling lips departing,—
Whispers of some name endearing,
Or some soothing lullaby.
And my spirit sinks when fadeth
This, my slumber's bright creating,
Till Faith breathes, ' Her fleeting life
Was but a glimpse of heaven to thee.
There in changeless, endless beauty
Is thy angel babe awaiting
To be folded to thy bosom
Through a long eternity.'
So I gaze off with the dawning,
To where day in light is breaking,—
Where the white gleam of the marble
Tells me some death's waves have crossed ;
And I muse, without a shudder,
On that sleep that hath no waking,
For I know it must o'ertake me
Ere I see the loved and lost.
Oh, I trust they'll lay my ashes
Close beside this faded blossom !
Would my arms might twine around her,
And her lips to mine be pressed !
'Twere so sweet to think the casket
Might be folded to my bosom,
That our dust might not be parted
In that deep, unbroken rest !
Aged eighty-four years.
In the voyage of life, 'mid its tempest and gale,
The glow of one beacon has never grown pale ;
It burst into flame at the hour of my birth,
And has since been the brightest, most steadfast on earth.
Other beamings, illusive, might lure to betray,
Other flames, evanescent, might smoulder away,
But the light that from infancy brightened and blessed
Was the love of the mother now called to her Rest.
Oh, the welcoming arms with their tender embrace,
The glance of affection that lighted her face,
The lips that so often have opened in prayer
That my feet might be guarded from pitfall and snare,—
All have passed from my sight, and are hidden away
In the gloom that encircles the spiritless clay ;
But the soul, —the immortal,— released from its bars,
Has laid down life's burden and leapt to the stars,
-Where the dear mother-love, all undimmed, unrepressed,
Will be ours again when we enter our Rest.
'Tis a comforting thought that earth's pathway was trod
From the morn of her life, with the people of God;
That when sorrow was deepest —when death sought her fold—
She reached up her hand for the Father to hold.
And we know that He clasped it, for, strengthened and sure,
Her faith made her feel in His promise secure
To the humble believer ; and long patient years
Of suffering were spent without doubtings or fears ;
And when, in Life's twilight, she asked for release,
When, wearied, she prayed that her waiting might cease,
The Saviour reached down as she slept on my breast,
Unloosened her fetters, and called her to Rest.
So quietly, softly, the summons was given,
We knew not our loss till the portals of heaven
Had oped to receive her, and waiting ones there
Had greeted her coming with anthem and prayer.
And she —oh ! she felt not our throbbings of pain,
Nor marked our wild wish to recall her again ;
For the voices of children, her darlings, her own,
Enchanted her soul with their rapturous tone,
While 'daughter!' 'wife!' 'sister!' from loved ones again
Broke soft on her spirit in joyful refrain.
Her pilgrimage ended and heaven possessed,
We, alone, feel the pang, she has entered her Rest.
Who loves not flowers?—a forest in its dress
Of verdure, rich with figures colored bright ?
Not gaudily, but with such hues as press
With a soft, mellow touch upon the sight,
Wooing the vision's love.
'Tis art alone
Yields gaudy tints to flowers by culture, which
Dame Nature ne'er employs when they are grown
In fields and forests; there they put forth rich,
Indeed, but unassuming forms, with cups
For dew and odors for the zephyrs. Naught ,
Intrudes there, nothing rude that interrupts
The plastic course of Nature ; all is wrought,
The smallest flower expanding, to emit
Unsullied fragrance, pure ambrosial drops,
Reflecting colors, by its structure fit
To enchain the mind in thought. The storm crops
Not a blossom, laying the forest bare;
From among the ruins every flower looks
Blooming still without a nurse's care,
Save Nature, to protect it ; and the brooks,
Though cumbered with the fragments, still gush free
To bathe the violet's head, lest Sol's fierce ray
Might else the floweret sear.
In childhood's glee,
When my light spirits bubbled up in play,
I thought with Darwin lovely flowers could feel,
Were sentient beings, and could laugh or weep.
It was my wont to sit for hours, or steal
Around to see the florid things asleep,
Or, waking up, give forth a cheerful smile
After a pleasant nap. Thus to employ
My time, or much of it, did oft beguile
With rosy bliss the too confiding boy.
Yet 'twas not all illusion. Years mature,
With notice and research, conviction brought,
That flowers at night enjoy repose, secure
From harm, as if the blooming gems were taught
By Nature to seek rest, awake as we,
Refreshed, and with the morn expand in bloom.
Who loves not flowers? At morn and noon, the bee
Within their nectaries, while they perfume
The air, sips honey for the hive, the boon
Imparted freely as the light of day;
And thus do flowers instruct us to attune
The heart to such emotions as display
Unstinted charity from private means,
And while we thus in secret give, around
Diffuse benevolence divine, which screens
The poor from wretchedness wherever found.
Who loves not flowers? To study them, to learn
The use of every organ, how it plies
Its power instinctive to one end, discern
The avenues of health, and when it dies,
To see a flower resign to death its form
With all its loveliness; these to the mind
Impressive truths convey, the bosom warms
With pure devotion, feelings all refined.
Who loves not flowers? 'Tis pleasant to converse
With them. As learned mutes their thoughts unfold
By signs, so Flora's pupils can rehearse
By symbols clear and cogent : they can mold
The callous heart so as to make it feel
The force of virtue, can convince, reclaim
The inward and the outward man, reveal
What Inspiration urges as the aim,
Design, and reason of our living here;
And thus with Heaven's own Book of faith and love,
Unite in yielding proof direct and clear
Of life hereafter. Then, who loves not flowers?
All pale, yet beautiful in grief, she laid her down to rest,
And her head was softly pillowed on a loving sister's breast ;
A flower, exhaling to the skies, yet scarce of earth a part,
She was fading, drooping, dying, ―dying of a broken heart.
' Tell me, sister,' thus she murmured, and her whispered words scarce heard
Fell like strains from distant harp-strings by soft breezes lightly stirred,―
' Tell me, when my sands are wasted, when the silken cord is riven,
Will this memory cling about me ? can I bear it up to heaven ?
' Oh, answer yes, my sister, ―it were cruel to say No ;
He was false, but do not blame him, for I loved ―I loved him so !
I have suffered keenly, deeply, but the strife is almost o'er,
And my latest thoughts now wander to the sunny days of yore.
Do not tell him, should he seek you, how my heart by grief was wrung ;
Only say, I died with blessings and his name upon my tongue.
Tell him how I clasped his image fondly, wildly, to my breast,―
How I prayed that he would join me in the mansions of the blest ;
How the dearest hope I cherished was, that when my soul was free,
Its deep love might still be changeless through a long eternity.
Ask him if he has forgotten the quiet, mossy dell
Where we used to sit together when the twilight shadows fell;
Where he gently smoothed my tresses, drew me closer to his side,
Breathing low, in tenderest accents, ' Golden-haired and sunny-eyed.'
Where my forehead with the baptism of his lips was often wet;
Ah, those moments, gone forever, how I love, how prize them yet !
Their remembrance lingers o'er me, the dear star-light of my heart,
And, though all grow dim around me, this can nevermore depart.
'Ask him more, ―if he remembers one lovely eve in June,
How we wandered to the brook-side to watch the rising moon ;
How, in playfulness, his fingers traced my name upon the sand ;
How his own was writ beneath it in a trembling, fluttering hand.
Oh, he does not dream how sacredly those golden grains I've kept,
Or how, that moonlit evening, while others sweetly slept,
I glided o'er the dewy lawn, soft oped the garden-gate,
And, reaching thus the trysting-spot, ―now lone and desolate,―
I gathered up each tiny grain, and, with a miser's care,
Concealed them with my treasured gifts,―the tress of auburn hair,
The picture, and the withered bud, now hidden on my breast,―
There, sister, let them slumber when you lay me down to rest.
'Softly, softly! Oh, my sister, has the daylight faded quite?
Or does memory now bathe me in a flood of starry light?
I can see him, ―he is coming, ―now his arms are open wide;
Lay me, sister, on his bosom! What is all the world beside ?
Oh, I knew he would be constant! I was sure that he would come ;
Nearer, nearer, sister ―tell him―tell him―I ―am―going―home.
You will never call him faithless ―never censure, blame him― No !
Only tell him, sister dearest, that I loved ―I loved him so!'
Her voice was hushed ; twas over ; no murmur ―scarce a sigh ;
The silence was unbroken, save by seraphs floating by.
The watcher shed no tear-drop as she closed those rayless eyes,
For she knew she would awaken to the joys of Paradise.
The hectic flush had faded from those snowy cheeks of clay,
But she thought of bloom perennial in the climes of endless day.
The pallid lips seemed quivering with a soft angelic smile,
As though the soul, at parting, had lingered there awhile
To breathe its benediction o'er that form of matchless mold,
So calm, so pure, so beautiful, so young, yet, oh ! so cold.
And when they robed her for the tomb, they found a shining band
Of auburn hair, ―a withered bud, ―his pictured face,― and sand !
These, and that face so sadly sweet, a tale of suffering spoke ;
They told how much that gentle heart was tortured ere it broke.
Came she with the April dawning ;
Such a tiny, tender thing,
Little sisters thought a seraph
Bore her earthward 'neath its wing.
And they said her harp was heavy
As her golden, starry crown,
Else the kind bestowing angel
Would have tried to bring it down.
And they spoke in softest whispers
When she nestled to my breast,
Saying, as they gazed above them,
' 'Twas so far she needeth rest.'
So she slumbered, Baby Margie,
Dreaming of her native skies;
This we knew, for, on awaking,
Heaven still lingered in her eyes.
April flow' ret ! Spring's first blossom !
How our thoughts would onward rove,
Picturing, from her fair unfolding,
What the perfect flower might prove !
Thinking how new joy would thrill us,
Deeper transports still be stirred,
When her trembling voice came freighted
With the first sweet, lisping word.
Musing how her step uncertain
Soon our guidance would repay ;
Tender feet ! Life's paths were rugged,—
All too rough to lure her stay.
So she wandered, Baby Margie,
Upward to the golden strand,—
Left the hearts that could not hold her,
Reaching toward the spirit-land.
Earth seems lone and drear without her,
Home is robbed of half its bliss,
For our hearts' exultant morning
Broke with her awakening kiss.
Faith looks up, but Love still turneth,
Bruised and bleeding, to the dust ;
And, in tones of wildest anguish,
Cries to Him for perfect trust.
Lips whose gentlest pressure thrilled us,
Cheek and brow so saintly white,
Underneath the church-yard daisies
They have hid ye all from sight.
Though we yielded back her spirit
Trustingly to God who gave,
'Twas as if our hearts were buried
When we left our darling's grave.
There's an empty crib beside us,
And the wrappings still remain,
Showing, from their careful folding,
Where a precious form has lain.
Yestereve a string of coral,
In my searching, met my view,
And a half-worn, crimson stocking
Prisoned in a dainty shoe.
When the children's sports are over,
When their mimic work is done,
When they come and kneel before me,
Hushed and solemn, one by one,—
When their low-voiced 'Our Father'
Meekly from their young lips fall,
And they rise and wait in silence,
Then I miss her most of all.
'Twas her lips, while yet she lingered,
Claimed the last, the warmest kiss,
And their saddened, wistful glances
Tell me truly what they miss.
And they wonder if she wants me
In her home so strange and new ;
'Tis a point I cannot answer,
For I often wonder, too.
Though I know the seraphs bore her
To the mansions of the blest ;
Still, I think, she must have missed me
When she left my longing breast.
And I trust some angel-mother,
Followed by her pleading eyes,
Took her gently to her bosom
When my cherub reached the skies.
Father-love, I know, is holy :
In the heavenly Parent's arms
All His spotless lambs are gathered,
Free from pain or earth's alarms.
But the thought that some fond mother,
Yearning for her babe below,
Clasped my little orphan -angel
To her heart, with love aglow,
Makes me feel that naught is wanting
To perfect her bliss above ;
For her gentle, trusting spirit
Needs a mother's tenderest love.
Kind Old Year ! thou gavest our treasure
With the opening buds of spring,
And our grateful spirits thanked thee
For thy vernal offering.
But, alas ! thou couldst not leave her
To the chance of coming woe,
So thou blessed her dreamless slumber
Ere thy summons came to go.
Fond Old Year ! Such tearful memories
Bind my mourning soul to thee !
In thy arms my baby tasted
Life and immortality.
Thou and she have gone together,—
Crossed the bounds of Time's dark swell,—
Therefore let my benediction
Mingle with thy parting knell.
The Shadows On The Wall
Fever sapped my very life-blood, frenzy fired my tortured brain,
And the friends who watched beside me, felt their lingering hopes were vain.
I was going —going from them, all unconscious of their fears ;
Hastening to the Silent Valley, deaf to moans and blind to tears.
But a change was wrought at midnight —the destroyer's hand was stayed,
And the frenzy and the fever fled, affrighted and dismayed.
And the dear ones who had trembled as I neared the mystic goal,
Spoke in glad, rejoicing whispers as light slumber held control ;
All, save one, the youngest —fairest— gentle friend of other years,
Who knelt reverently beside me, and returned her thanks with tears.
Since the sunny days of childhood we had known each other well,
And each fleeting year we numbered but increased love's magic spell ;
But, till sickness felled me, never did her acts of love divine
Seem to drop, like gems unnumbered, from a great exhaustless mine.
With a sister's sweet devotion would her young head o'er me bow,
As she bathed my cheeks with kisses, and with tear-drops dewed my brow,
Like a fond and gentle mother on her bosom lay my head,
And, in soft, endearing accents, speak of happy hours long fled.
When the dreadful dream was ended, when delirium's spell was broke,
When, with all an infant's weakness, I to consciousness awoke,
I could see the form of Emma round my darkened chamber glide,
And could hear her sweet voice breathing soothing whispers by my side
Not till stars were shining brightly in the blue sky overhead
Would she leave me to my slumbers with a Sibyl's noiseless tread,
Then, within the room adjoining, sat she with attentive ear,
Ready, at the slightest murmur, at my bedside to appear.
Well, one eve my eye had wandered from the bright and cheerful light
That came streaming through the doorway, to the wall so smooth and white,
When methought I heard a footfall ('twas not Emma's, I was sure)
Stepping lightly through the hall and pausing at the inner door.
It was opened —oh, so softly I could scarcely hear the sound ;
Had a human hand unclosed it, or were spirits stalking round ?
While I looked and thought and wondered, lo ! there glided from the hall,
With a stealthy tread, a shadow, and stood waiting on the wall.
'Twas as handsome as the 'photos' done by Emerson last week ;
Its two lips were slightly parted, as though just about to speak ;
And its eyes —I lost their color with their most bewitching flash,
Yet I saw it sported whiskers and a slightly-curled moustache ;
Then its nose was sharp and classic, —it was finely built and tall,
And a full round chin and forehead had this shadow on the wall.
Quick before my wondering vision did a second shadow glide ;
It excelled the air in fleetness till it reached the other's side.
Ah ! full well that face, that figure, and those graceful curls were known,
For, with sportive pencil, oft had I the self-same outline drawn.
And, so great was my amazement, I my voice could scarce suppress
When I saw these phantom figures meeting with a warm caress ;
And —my memory here grows faithless —I can only just recall
That I saw four lips of shadow meet upon the pictured wall.
When the pantomime was ended, I grew restless from surprise,
And, remembering not my weakness, I in vain essayed to rise ;
But the shadows heard my movement, and they fled before my gaze
With the swiftness of the lightning, choosing wisely different ways;
And when, in a moment after, bent a fair face o'er my bed,
Eyes were closed and breast was heaving: 'Sleeping sweetly,' Emma said;
Never dreamed she that the sleeper had been witness to it all,
Or, more truly, to the tableau of the shadows on the wall.
Often have I seen the substance of the shadow first since then,
And no nobler heart is numbered in the family of men.
He is worthy of his Emma, who, now standing by his side,
Does not note his beaming glance of mingled tenderness and pride.
With one hand upon his shoulder and the other clasped in mine,
She's been coaxing for a poem about ' Charles and Emmeline ;'
And I've quickly snatched my pencil for the first time to recall
To the twain the summer's eve I saw the shadows on the wall.
Recollections Of Pittsburg
Arouse thee, my muse !
From thy lethargy start,
And weave into words
What thou' It find in my heart.
Let thy harp be new-strung,
And obey my command,
To sing me a song
Of my own native land,—
Of the clime where I roamed,
With a heart light and free
As the ripples that dance
On the breast of the sea;
Where I flitted along
With my innocent dreams,
As free as the breezes
That dimpled our streams.
Where, stretched on the greensward,
Grown weary of play,
I slept through the noon
Of the long summer's day.
Where winter brought sledges
And mountains of snow ;
And bridged all the streams
In the valley below.
Where I wished some good fairy
Would give me the power
To turn to a zephyr,
A bird, or a flower ;
A sunbeam—a dewdrop,
A sprite free and wild;
It mattered not what
So I was not a child.
How well I remember
How urchins, in crowds,
Would scale some tall spire
That seemed reaching the clouds,
To prove to the timorous,
To what wonderful heights
Silken bubbles could go !
What shouts rent the air
When each miniature thing
Rode off on the wind,
With the pride of a king !
What wondrous surmises
By all were begun,
As to where it would stop,—
At the moon, stars, or sun !
Then the hill that surrounded
The ' City of Smoke ;'
What scenes of enchantment
Its vistas awoke !
The meeting of waters,—
The trio in view ;
Their jeweled hands clasping,—
How steadfast, how true,
The union of hearts,
Whose High-Priest was the sun !
Whose vows were, ' Henceforward,
Name, purposes, one!'
What wonder that picture
In memory is laid,
Too faithful to perish,
Too constant to fade.
I've a brother (God bless him !)
Whose joy used to be
To sit in the twilight
With ' Sis' on his knee,
And tell her in whispers
Of angels of light
Floating down through earth-shadows
To watch her by night;
That no good little girl
Need be ever afraid,
For His arms were about her
In sunlight and shade;
That even the babe
On a fond mother's breast
Nor shudders, nor shrinks,
When He calls it to Rest.
Years have fled, and now ' Sis'
Has to matronhood grown ;
While the 'brother' calls sons
In ripe manhood his own.
But those lessons of Faith,
His sweet pictures of Trust,
Will live when the lips
That portrayed them are dust.
With the wealth of the Indies
Can never be bought
The rapturous bliss
Of each beautiful thought,
That has sprung from the seed
That were sown in Life's spring,
When no grief bowed my spirit
Nor trammeled its wing.
'Tis a chilling remembrance,
(It frightens me yet,)
The day I trudged homeward
Had played truant from school,
And, most shocking of all,
Had taken a bath
In our famous canal.
' How father will threaten!
How mother will scold !'
I whispered, while trembling
From terror and cold.
And when sister came in
And wet garments descried,
' Oh, my I' I returned to her
'Sis, you must hide.'
How gently and softly
In bed was I laid,
And never was told
The excuse she had made!
Yet that night, when our household
All quietly slept,
I knew that my mother
Bent o'er me and wept.
One tender hand lifted
My pillow of down,
The other moved soft
O'er my tresses of brown,
While lips that might banish
My dream, did they speak,
Left the seal of their pardon
And love on my cheek.
I am changed from the truant
Of life's early spring ;
Am no longer a dreamer,
A light-hearted thing.
Yet, could Fancy transport me
To where I command,
I'd be off in a trice
To my own native land.
Would fly to the common,
And search for the swing;
Would clamber the hill-side,
And drink at the spring ;
On the meeting of waters
Would gaze with delight,
And watch the balloons
As they hurry from sight;
Would haste to the homestead,—
The homestead—ah me !
Where now are the boughs
Of our family tree?
No father to welcome,
No mother to bless;
No sister to shield,
And no brother's caress;
The hearthstone deserted,—
The love-light all fled ;
The children far distant,
The parent tree—dead.
While the dreamer of old,
With her lyre in her hand,
Essayeth to sing
Of her dear, native land.
Eighteen Hundred And Sixty-Two
I'd a dream last night : in the dim twilight
I was thrilled by a strange emotion ;
For the Old Year came, with his withered frame,
And led me on by a torch of flame
To the verge of the p&hless ocean.
In our onward flight, by the lurid light
Beamed his eye with a spectral brightness;
And he shivered so in the drifting snow,
While his silvered hairs fluttered to and fro
O'er a forehead of ghostly whiteness.
Yet he made no moan as we hurried on,
While the stars bent, pitying, o'er him;
Though from rock and dell rose a parting knell,
And the weird trees whispered a low farewell
As their shadows knelt before him.
But he paused with me by the grand old Sea,
Where the Nighty in her glory slumbered ;
And he gathered sand from the golden strand,
And said, as it dropped from his palsied hand,
' 'Tis thus that my hours are numbered.
' Yet before I go to my couch of snow
I will sing, though my voice may quiver;
For my heart is brave as yon dauntless wave
That laughs ere it leaps to its ocean grave,
To be locked in its depths forever.
' But no thought of earth, with her joy and mirth,
Upon memory's page is beaming;
Not her sweet spring flowers, or her summer hours,
Or the whispered echoes from love-lit bowers,
Or her bright autumnal gleaming.
'For these strains are old, you have heard them told
By the years that have dawned and perished ;
And the witching ways of their smiling Mays,
And their golden, dreamy October days,
Are like those I once fondly cherished.
' So my voice shall sweep to the boundless deep,
Far down 'neath the wild waves hoary,
That madly tore from their glittering floor
The magic chain, lest the listening shore
Might learn of their viewless glory.
* * * *
' Then list to me, and I'll sing to thee
Of the mystic depths where I've wandered free;
Of the coral halls and the diamond bed
Where old Neptune sits with his pale-faced dead;
Of the fairy grottoes of gold and pearl,
That the sea-nymphs weave for each fair young girl
That the storm-king bears from the ocean's crest
And lays, in her beauty, down to rest.
' Oh, wonderful things have I seen below,
Where the bright fern clings and the sea-flowers blow;
Where the mermaids gather and slyly hide
Their red-lipped shells from the amorous tide;
Where shattered wrecks, with their gold-heaped spars,
On the pebbles gleam like a heaven of stars.
' 'There is one bright spot that I love to scan:
'Tis the emerald couch of a valiant man,
Whom the breakers' roar nor the flame-lit sky,
Nor the prayers of kindred, could urge to fly.
The ship's on fire !' like a funeral knell
On the hearts of that startled crew it fell;
And strong men shook, as the lurid glare
On the waters gleamed like a hideous stare;
And women shrieked, as with fiendish sound
The fiery serpents hemmed them round,
And hissed in glee as their fangs were pressed
Through the babes that slept on their mothers' breast.
But the brave commander, with dauntless mien,
At the helm of the sinking ship was seen
And when maddened flames through the crackling shrouds
And the hot air leaped till they licked the clouds,
When the whirlwind force of the tempest's breath
Swept the tottering wreck in the jaws of death,
With the firm, strong grasp of an iron will
He clung to the mast, and he clings there still.
' The beautiful maidens adown the main
Have tried to untwine his grasp in vain;
They made him a couch of the greenest moss
And the snow-white down of the albatross;
And they placed at the head, for a funeral stone,
The shell that could utter the softest moan ;
And they tried to melt in their gentle hold
The icy touch of those fingers cold.
But they found it vain ; so with tender care
They wove a pillow of sea-weeds there,
And, circling around it, these matchless girls
Knelt as they severed their own bright curls,
And tossed them down till their sheen was pressed
By the brave man's feet they had wooed to rest.
And 'tis thus he stands, like a warrior bold,
Chained to the wreck with his iron hold.
'And far away, where the billows moan
In a sadder strain and with softer tone,
I have seen, in its infant beauty, lay
A bright creation of human clay,
As pure its cheek and its brow as fair
As dews from heaven or the snow-flakes are;
And the dimpled hands round that cherub face
Were fondly clasped in a long embrace,
While the sleep that closed its unconscious eye
Grew deep 'neath the waves' soft lullaby.
A. lonesome thing seemed that babe to me,
Rocked in the arms of the great, broad sea;
A wee, small thing to have come so far
All by itself, without spot or scar;
A frail, weak thing, with no hand to guide
Such tender feet down the rugged tide.
Yet I know when they launched that unguided barge
The void in its mother's heart seemed large
As the ocean's self, and her grief as wild
As the breakers dashing above her child.
' But my strain must cease :—through the starlight clear
I have heard the steps of the coming Year;
My pulses flutter, my eye grows dim,
Yet once I was merry and strong like him.
Oh, my brighter days !—they are crowding back :
I am gazing now on Spring's rosy track,
Till the Summer comes with her broad, bright smile,
And the Autumn follows her steps the while.
But they vanish now,—yes, they all have flown,
And left me here, with the Night, alone.
I'm a frail old man,—all my bright dreams sped,
My fond hopes crushed, and my loved ones dead.
Well, my snow-couch waits me,—yon phantom bell
Is tolling slowly my parting knell.
I will rest me here where the wild waves sweep :—
Good-night, fair Earth, I—must—sink—to—sleep.'
So the Old Year slept, and the New Year leaped
From the clouds to the moaning billow;
And he bade it stand on the golden strand,
And guide his steps with its jeweled hand
To the aged champion's pillow.
And the New Year bowed, while the starry crowd
That had thronged the verge of even
Marked his earnest gaze, and in hymns of praise
They told the birth of this Prince of Days
To the countless hosts of heaven.
And the clouds drew up, from their magic cup,
The tears that each gentle flower
Had wept unseen when the earth was green,
And faithless zephyrs, with flattering mien,
Went wooing from bower to bower.
And this treasured dew, when the year was new,
They poured from their crystal chalice,
Till it touched his brow, though I scarce knew how,
Nor yet who had breathed the baptismal vow
That rang through his midnight palace.
Then I saw him fly through the sapphire sky,
Earth's spells and her fetters scorning,
Till he sat alone where his sire had flown,
A crowned king on his royal throne:—
And when I awoke—it was morning.
Eighteen Hundred And Fifty-Nine
Oh, a grand old vessel was Fifty-Nine,
And a captain brave had she;
For eighteen hundred and more stout ships
He had steered over life's rough sea.
Eighteen hundred and more stout ships,
Bound not for different goals,
But all for the same, and freighted down
With cargoes of human souls.
And some of these souls were seared by crime;
Some, sin had made foul and black;
While others were pure as the flakes of snow
That cover our wild-flower track.
There were souls of monarchs, and souls of kings,
(The souls of their subjects, too ;)
And some were treacherous, false, and vile,
While others were heavenly true.
There were souls of brokers, bare, flinty things,
All shaved to tlie very core,
For even their honor was loaned on time,
At a hundred per cent, or more.
There were coquettes' souls of chameleon dyes,
And bachelors', knotty as pine,
And these unsocial and selfish souls
Came alone to old Fifty-Nine.
And old Captain Time, as they came aboard,
Counted all he could see;
But some were so narrow and shriveled up,
That they smuggled their passage free.
It was noon of night when the ship was launched,
But the ocean was calm and clear;
And merrily on, with her motley crew,
Went dancing the proud New Year.
On, past the glaciers of snow and ice
That decked the receding shore;
On to the isles where the spring-time sleeps,
Till she hears Time's distant oar.
And the forests woke when they heard afar
The flutter of coming sails ;
And whispered softly a low salute,
That was borne by the passing gales.
And every eye on the vessel's deck
Was turned toward that vision bright;
And those who worshiped at Nature's shrine
Were thrilled with a wild delight.
For those isles looked fair as a gleam of heaven
Through the sunset's golden bars;
Or like beauty's cheek, when its mantling flush
Is seen by the light of stars.
The ship was moored where the gentle flowers
Breathed fragrance on all around,
And the hours to some of the host within
Brought blessings and peace profound.
But, hark ! from the deck of old Fifty-Nine
A shout of defiance comes;
Then the tramp of feet, and the clang of war,
And the roll of advancing drums.
'To arms !' is echoed, in thunder-tones,
Through the din of the cannon's roar;
While sword and spear and the fair green earth
Are sated with human gore.
But Captain Time says never a word
To still the contending foes;
He has promised to steer the ship to port,
And has no hotirs to lose.
He is out, 'mid the blast and the shivering sails,
Tolling the funeral bell,
And every soul that can hear the sound
Sighs at the parting knell.
It tolls for one who has journeyed far,
Whose labors a world may boast;
Who has trodden Atlantic's crowded shore
And Pacific's quiet coast;
Whose wanderings led him o'er Southern plains,
Where eternal sunshine sleeps ;
And up to the loftiest Alpine height
Through snow-drifts' 'wildering steeps.
But Life's work is done, and the mourners pause
That the billows his dirge may sing,
As the dust of Humboldt is laid to rest
On the breast of the gentle Spring.
And slowly now is the vessel turned
From those bright, enchanting isles,
To hasten on where the Summer waits
With her witching, sunny smiles.
And it is not strange that those saddened hearts
Grew light as they neared her bowers,
And caught the gleam of her azure robes
Begirt with a zone of flowers;
Or that Captain Time, though his form is bent,
With labor and age and care,
Should feel a thrill through his palsied frame
When his ship was anchored there;
That the hoary seaman should half forget
The weight of unnumbered years,
When her rippling laugh, through ten thousand rills,
Was borne to his aged ears.
But see ! as they coast round those India isles,
Where the flowers of the orange blow,
Where the bulbul warbles its vesper hymns
By the light of the fire-fly's glow,
With the speed of thought he has left her side,
And fair Summer stands alone :
For off to the aft of old Fifty-Nine
Was a sound like a dying groan.
He has reached the spot, and he chants this dirge
As they bear the dust to shore,
And lay it down in its lonely bed
With a sigh of 'Nevermore' :
' Toll ! toll ! for a mighty soul
Is anchored in harbor now;
A mind creative, whose giant thoughts
Made men to his genius bow.
'Old Fifty-Nine, you are not so strong
Since you yielded up this prize;
You will feel no more his sustaining arm
When feuds and dissensions rise.
He will slumber here while incense sweet
From the date- and the palm-tree float ;
And a nation will hold in its heart of hearts
The name of the statesman Choate.
' But reef the topsail ! we may not wait
To sigh o'er the mighty dead,
For I know, from the surge of yon mountain waves,
There are breakers and shoals ahead.
Now cheerily, lads ! though the billows dash,
And the morrow bring cloudy weather,
We can bring her through with her motley crew
If we only ' pull together.''
And onward now, where grave Autumn sits
In her scarlet robes and golden,
And presses the juice from the purple grape
Like matrons in vineyards olden;
Where the blushing fruit from the ardent gaze
Of the sun drops down, to cover
The deepening flush that might else betray
Her heart to her distant lover:—
To this calm retreat Time hastens on,
To rest with the Autumn sober,
To gaze awhile on the cloudless skies
Of her dreamy, bright October.
But, hist ! there's an echo borne to his ear,
Too' feeble for distant thunder;
A sound as if fiends on old Fifty-Nine
Were tearing her shrouds asunder.
He turns and gazes ; no fleet of war
Has fired a signal warning;
He sees no speck upon sea or sky
On that fair autumnal morning.
And yet—'tis strange (he is very old,
And, perchance, he is frail and doting)—
But he fancies he sees the timbers shake
Where the Flag of the Free is floating.
And he thinks he hears (what absurd conceits
Make mortals unfit to reason !)—
He thinks he hears in that muffled sound
A murmur of 'Death and Treason.'
Yet he breathes no word of his doubts and fears,
Lest they call it imagination,
Until night comes on, and he finds the clan
At their murderous preparation.
And he looks aghast at the horrid work
The shadows of darkness cover,—
On the thirsty band that, like birds of prey,
O'er their slumbering victims hover.
And with scorn he turns from those dastard souls,
Their mutinous schemes bewailing,
While thought flies off to the days agone,
When old Fifty-Two was sailing.
And he thinks of one of its gallant crew,
Of his words of prophetic warning,
And sighs in vain for a Webster heart,
With patriot fervor burning.
'But, true hearts, rouse ye,' the captain cries,
As the tars from their hammocks spring ;
'We have traitors here we must urge to stay,
Till we let them off—with a swing.'
And once again is the vessel turned,
To stem the boisterous gales
That blow from the bleak December's shore
And moan through the shivering sails.
And hundreds of souls are landed here
On this coast so drear and bare,
While some are left on the vessel's deck
With looks of mute despair ;
For they see their captain's form on shore,
Afar o'er the waters wide,
And know that the ship is dashing on
To eternity's waiting tide.
And if ye list, at the dead of night,
To learn what her fate may be,
Ye may hear the wail of old Fifty- Nine
As she sinks in that soundless sea.
A Temperance Poem
Inscribed To The Ladies
Mr. Lionel Lightfoot, a man, you must know,
Whose life had been upright and blameless,
To the capital's chamber came three years ago
From a county that here shall be nameless.
He was loyal at heart, but all tyranny spurned,
And, when comrades endeavored to prove him,
Allegiance to Alcohol's power he spurned,—
Neither jeers nor persuasions could move him.
Though at club-room or bar they would oftentimes meet,
He ne'er treated, nor could be entreated to treat.
And now 'twas mid-winter, —the question was up
To legally sanction or banish the cup.
The ladies had come, with their beauty and grace,
To cheer the desponding and brighten the place.
Discussions grew warm, but all pleading was vain,
For Alcohol triumphed, and Whisky again
Would desolate hearthstones, —bring Want and Despair
To dear ones once guarded with tenderest care.
And Lightfoot lamented, —his mother's calm smile
Seemed resting upon him, —her voice, too, the while,
Those soft, tender tones to remembrance so dear,
Sweet, earnest, and true, floated back to his ear :
' My son, if they sanction this blight of the soul,
Forget not my teachings —beware of the bowl !'
The day had departed, the twilight had fled,
At the still hour of midnight the Old Year lay dead.
The breeze sighed its requiem, the ocean its moan,
For the aged and mighty who perished alone ;
But the sun of the morning rose fair o'er the scene
Where, in night's fearful silence, the death-pall had been.
And now it was New Year, —'a happy New Year,'—
And young Lightfoot were guilty of treason
If he failed to the fair ones in person to pay
His dues, with the dues of the season.
So, calling on Fairface, an exquisite dandy,
An ardent believer in spirits —of brandy,
He found him perturbed —in a barbarous passion,—
His moustache had been trimmed quite too close for the fashion ;
His head, too —oh, shocking to add to the list !—
Two hairs on the left the Macassar had missed.
But Lightfoot restored him : ' The former,' he said,
'Looked so foreign —distangué '(a beautiful red
He fain would have added, but paused, lest the ire
Of his comrade might set his adornment on fire.)
Then, waiting till Fairface made smooth as a die
For the fiftieth time his ' miwaculous tie,'
With assurance his collar just touched his goatee
Without varying, in distance, the slightest degree,
With cane between gloves of invisible green,
They called on Miss Mabel —society's queen ;
And, listening the while to the lively narrations
Of her numerous calls and her morning libations,
' Your health !' cries ma belle; returns Lightfoot, ' Ex-cuse me,
I never indulge.' ' What ! on New Year's refuse me !
Politeness demands it; beside' (soft and low),
' Champagne is so perfectly harmless, you know.'
Ah, woman, fair temptress, thou knew'st not the while
The doom that was sealed by that innocent smile;
Or how fatal the spell in that voice, that was given
To lure man from vice And direct him to heaven.
Thou saw' st not the phantoms that clutched at the bowl,
Nor the serpents that fastened their fangs in his soul ;
Thou heardst not the clank of the chains that were wound
By fiends that kept mocking the spirit they bound.
So Lightfoot was tempted, and yielded at last,
Beguiled by this siren of beauty ;
And, quitting her presence, he carried away
Her smile of approval as booty.
A dangerous trophy, these smiles of the fair;
They melted his good resolutions to air ;
For though he had reasoned, 'I'll only partake
This once of the wine, for the fair charmer's sake,'
He was sadly mistaken, —the breach had been made,
The fortress surrendered, its inmates betrayed ;
The noble resolves that had guarded the tower
Where Faith held her torch in temptation's dark hour,
The purposes high that had stamped on his brow
The glory of manhood, oh, where were they now?
But why follow on with the twain as they flit
From bower to bower, partaking?
Or tell how the feeble resolves of the one
Were seized with an ague of shaking?
How, long before night-fall, he fancied his brain
Was dancing a reel on a circular plain ?
How houses inverted, in warlike array,
Wheeled backward and forth in an endless chasse ?
We pass these sad pictures, nor linger to tell
How, step after step, from true manhood he fell.
How at first he took naught but the choicest of wine,—
Some ancient Madeira, or rum superfine ;
How he drank but with gentlemen, such as would deign
To touch no cheap brandy nor third-rate champagne.
Behold him, at last, in some vice-crowded den,
Where skulk the crouched forms of what once ranked as men;
Where the pestilent fumes from each whisky-scorched throat
The pure air of heaven with plague-spots have smote ;
Where Malice, Pollution, and Wretchedness teem,
And Guilt stalks among them to mock and blaspheme.
There see him, the victim of Woman's soft smile,
Debauched and corrupted, degraded and vile.
Years pass, and again with our 'pillars of State'
Is the same question pending in earnest debate ;
The fair ones are listeners ; Miss Mabel has come
To hear of the darkness in many a home,—
Of the desolate hearthstones the rum-fiend has made,
Of promises broken and loved ones betrayed,
She listens —grows weary— departing, at last,
She hastes to her chamber to think of the Past.
Though languid, she wooes a calm slumber in vain,
For the sleep that should soothe her but frenzies her brain.
She dreams —'tis of Lightfoot : she tempts him to drink.
He quaffs at her bidding, then ceases to shrink
From frequent indulgence of evils the worst;
His hopes are all blasted, his life is accurst ;
She sees him descending from honor —renown—
And sinking to ruin —down— hopelessly down.
There, wrestling with rum-fiends, in fury he raves,
Like a soul reft of reason, on life's maddening waves.
Half palsied with fright, 'mid the demons he stands,
And wards off their blows with his skeleton hands.
His eyes start with horror, and fearfully gloat
On blades, newly whetted, that point at his throat.
He shudders and cringes from serpents that hiss
And dart their forked tongues from their slimy abyss ;
And, reeling from terror, he howls in his pains,
As devils incarnate stand welding his chains;
While one, a' pale imp, the grim valet of Death,
With fagots of sulphur is firing his breath.
O horror ! it blazes ! it seethes to his brain !
His heart-strings have cracked —the blood boils in each vein !
A shudder —a gasp— a wild effort to speak—
And Miss Mabel awakes with a hideous shriek.
O ladies ! dear ladies ! when next round the wine
Your delicate fingers caressingly twine,
When, like a soft blessing, the breath of your lips
Floats over and hallows the juice ere he sips,
Just call the crouched form of poor Lightfoot to view,
And know that the dream of Miss Mabel was true.
Then, by your allurements, teach man to refrain,
And prove that your charms were bestowed not in vain ;
Let your spotless example illustrate the plan
That woman was made as a help-meet for man,
To warn him from treading the pathway of sin
By the beautiful love-light that glows from within.
And, oh ! as ye muse oti that Eden above,
Whence spirits departed are gazing in love,
And guarding their kindred, who, chained by the clay,
Are prone by the tempter to wander astray,
A father's fond blessing may greet you, the while,
A sister bend over your couch with a smile,
A mother, in accents of rapturous joy,
May sing how your warnings have rescued her boy.
Then woman, O woman ! thy mission fulfill !
Know man is the subject —the slave to thy will!
Thou wast given to guide him, —his beacon and star
To cheer when beside him and gleam from afar.
Then keep thy soul white, for one shadow of sin
May dim the bright taper that burneth within ;
And vain are his struggles life's billows above,
When the beacon goes out in the light-house of love.