In the gay and crowded city
Where the tall and jostling roof-trees
Jealous seem of one another,
Jealous of the ground they stand on,
Each one thrusting out its neighbor
From the sunrise, or the sunset,
In a boarding school of fashion
Was Miranda comprehended,
Goal of her supreme ambition.
--Girls were there from different regions,
Distant States, and varying costumes,
She was beautiful they told her,
And her mirror when she sought it
Gave concurrent testimony.
--Many teachers met their classes
In this favorite Institution
Where accomplishments or studies
Were pursued as each selected,
Or their parents gave commandment.
But Miranda was impeded
In successful application,
By the consciousness of beauty
And the vanity it fosters.
--Very fond was she of walking
In the most frequented places,
Fondly fancying all beholders
Gazed on her with admiration.
Striking dresses, gay with colors
She disported and commended,
Not considering that the highest
Of attractions in a woman
Is simplicity of costume,
And a self-forgetful sweetness.
--Men with business over-laden,
Men of science, pondering axioms,
Men of letters, lost in reverie,
She imagined when they passed her
Gaz'd with secret admiration,
Ask'd in wonder, '_who can that be_?'
Backward turned perchance, to view her,
As she lightly glided onward.
--So completely had this beauty
Leagued with vanity, uprooted
Serious thought and useful purpose,
And the nobler ends of being,
That even in the solemn Temple
Where humility befitteth
All who offer adoration,
Close observance of the apparel
Of acquaintances or strangers,
And a self-display intruded
On the service of devotion,
While her fair cheek oft-times rested
Daintily on gloveless fingers
Where the radiant jewels sparkled
On a hand like sculptured marble.
* * * * *
Meantime in the rural mansion
Whence with gladness she departed,
Sate the mother and the sister
By the hearth-stone or the lamp-light,
Thinking of their loved Miranda,
Speaking of her, working for her,
Writing tender, earnest letters
To sustain her mid her studies,
Fearing that her health might suffer
By the labor and privation
That a year at school demanded.
--As the autumnal evenings lengthen'd,
Bertha with a filial sweetness
Sought her mother's favorite authors,
And with perfect elocution
Made their sentiments and feelings,
Guests around the quiet fireside.
--Page of Livy, or of Cæsar,
Stirring scenes of tuneful Maro,
From their native, stately numbers
To the mother's ear she rendered;
Or with her o'er ancient regions,
Fallen sphynx, or ruin'd column,
Led by guiding Rollin, wandered,
Deeply mused with saintly Sherlock,
Or through Milton's inspiration
Scanned the lore of forfeit Eden.
* * * * *
With the vertic rays of Summer
Homeward came the fair Miranda.
How the village people wonder'd
At her fashions, and her movements,
How she made the new piano
Tremble to its inmost centre
With _andante_, and _bravura_,
What a piece she had to show them
Of Andromache the Trojan,
Wrought in silks of every color,
And 'twas said a foreign language
Such as princes use in Paris,
She could speak to admiration.
--Greatly their surprise amused her,
But the Mother and the Sister
With their eagle-eyed affection,
Spied a thorn amid the garland,
Heard the sighing on her pillow,
Saw the flush invade her forehead,
And were sure some secret sorrow
Rankled in that snowy bosom.
* * * * *
Rumor, soon with hundred voices
Whisper'd of a dashing lover,
Irreligious and immoral,
And the anxious Mother counsel'd
Sad of heart her fair-hair'd daughter.
--Scarce with any show of reverence
Listen'd the impatient maiden,
Then with tearless eyes wide open
Like full orbs of shadeless sapphire
All unpausing, thus responded.
--'I have promised Aldebaran,
To be his,--alone,--forever!
And I'll keep that promise, Mother,
Though the firm skies fall around me,
And yon stars in fragments shatter'd,
Each with thousand voices warn'd me.
--Thou hast spoken words reproachful,
Doubting of his soul's salvation,
Of his creed I never question'd,
But where'er he goes, I follow.
Whatsoe'er his lot, I'll share it,
Though it were the darkest chamber
In the lowest hell. 'Twere better
There with him, than 'mid the carols
Of the highest heaven, without him.'
Swan-like arms were wrapped around her
With a cry of better pleading,
'Oh Miranda!--Oh my Sister!
Gather back the words you've spoken,
Quickly, ere the angel write them
Weeping on the doom's day tablet.
--You have grieved our blessed Mother:
See you not the large tears trickle
Down those channels deeply furrow'd
Which the widow-anguish open'd?
Kneel beside me, Oh my Sister!
Darling of my cradle slumbers,
Ask the grace of God to cleanse thee
From thy blasphemy and blindness,
Supplicate the Great Enlightener
Here to purge away thy madness,
Pray our Saviour to forgive thee.'
* * * * *
'Bertha! Bertha! speak not to me,
What knowest thou of love almighty?
Naught except that craven spirit
Measuring, weighing, calculating,
That goes shivering to its bridal.
On this deathless soul, all hazard
Here I take, and if it perish,
Let it perish.
From the socket
This right eye I'd pluck, extinguish
This right hand, if he desire it,
And go maim'd through all the ages
That Eternity can number.
--Prayer is not for me, but action,
Against thee, and Her who bare me
Stand I at Love's bidding, boldly
In the armor that he giveth,
For life's battle, strong and ready.
--Hush! I've sworn, and I'll confirm it.'
* * * * *
In due time, the handsome suitor
Paid his devoirs to Miranda,
In her own paternal dwelling.
Very exquisite in costume,
Very confident in manner,
Pompous, city-bred, and fearless
Was the accepted Aldebaran.
--Axious felt she, lest the customs
Of the rustic race around her,
So she styled her rural neighbors,
Might discourage or disgust him,
But he gave them no attention,
Quite absorbed in other matters.
--In their promenades together
She beheld the people watching
Mid their toils of agriculture,
Saw them gaze from door and windows,
Little ones from gates and fences,
On the stylish Alderbaran,
And her heart leap'd up exulting.
--Notice took he of the homestead,
With an eye of speculation,
Ask'd the number of its acres,
And what revenue they yielded.
Notice took of herds and buildings
With their usufruct, and value,
Closer note than seem'd consistent
With his delicate position;
But Miranda, Cupid blinded,
No venality detected.
--He, in gorgeous phrase address'd her,
With an oriental worship,
As some goddess condescending
To an intercourse with mortals.
Pleas'd was she with such observance,
Pleas'd and proud that those around her
Should perceive what adoration
Was to her, by him accorded.
--When he left, 'twas with the assurance
The next visit should be final.
Marking on his silver tablet
With gay hand, the day appointed
When he might return to claim her
In the nuptial celebration.
* * * * *
There's a bridal in the spring-time,
When the bee from wintry covert
Talking to the unsheath'd blossoms,
Meditates unbounded plunder,
And the bird mid woven branches
Brooding o'er her future treasures
Harkeneth thrilling to the love-song
Of her mate, who nestward tendeth.
--There's a bridal in the spring-time,
And the beautiful Miranda
Through her veil of silvery tissue
Gleams, more beautiful than ever.
From the hearth-stone of her fathers,
With the deathless love of woman
Trusting all for earth or heaven
To a mortal's rule and guidance,
One, but short time since, a stranger,
Forth she goes.
The young beholders
Gazing on the handsome bridegroom,
Gazing on the nuptial carriage,
Where the milk-white horses sported
Knots of evergreen and myrtle,
Felt a pleasure mix'd with envy
At a happiness so perfect.
--But more thoughtful ones, instructed
By the change of time and sorrow,
By the cloud and by the sunbeam,
Felt the hazard that attended
Such intrustment without limit,
Vows that none had right to cancel
Save the hand of Death's dark Angel.
* * * * *
Of the sadness left behind her
In the mansion whence she parted,
Loneliness, and bitter heart-ache,
Deep, unutter'd apprehension,
Fearful looking for of judgment,
It were vain in lays so feeble
To attempt a true recital.
--Still, to Mother and to Sister
Came epistles from Miranda,
Essenc'd and genteelly written,
Painting happiness so perfect,
So transcending expectation,
So surpassing all that fancy
In her wildest flights had pencil'd,
That even Eden ere the tempter
Coil'd himself amid the blossoms
Fail'd to furnish fitting symbol.
* * * * *
Heartfelt bliss is never boastful,
Like the holy dew it stealeth
To the bosom of the violet,
Only told by deeper fragrance.
--He who saith 'See! see! I'm happy?
Happier than all else around me,'
Leaves, perchance, a doubt behind him
Whether he hath comprehended
What true happiness implieth.
* * * * *
Oh, the storm-cloud and the tempest!
Oh, the dreary night of winter!
Drifting snows, and winds careering
Down the tall, wide-throated chimney,
Like the shrieking ghosts from Hades.
Shrieking ghosts of buried legions.
--'Mother! hear I not the wailing
Of a human voice?'
'Tis the blast that rends the pine-trees.
The old sentry-Oak is broken,
Close beside our chamber-window,
And its branches all are moaning.
'Tis their grief you hear, my daughter.'
* * * * *
But the maiden's car was quicken'd
To all plaint of mortal sorrow,
And when next, the bitter north wind
Lull'd, to gather strength and vigor,
For a new exacerbation,
Listening close, she caught the murmur,
'Hush mein daughter! hush mein baby.'
Then she threw the door wide open,
Though the storm rush'd in upon her,
With its blinding sleet and fury.
What beheld she, near the threshold,
Prostrate there beside the threshold,
But a woman, to whose bosom
Clung a young and sobbing infant?
--Oh the searching look that kindled
'Neath those drooping, straining eye-lids,
Searching mid the blast and darkness,
For some helper in her anguish,
Searching, kindling look, that settled
Into heavy, deadly slumber,
As the waning taper flashes
Once, to be relumin'd never.
Still her weak arm clasp'd the baby,
Rais'd its pining, pinching features,
Faintly cried, 'Mein kind! Have pity,
Pity, for the love of Jesus!'
--Yes, forlorn, benighted wanderer,
Thy poor, failing feet have brought thee
Where the love of Jesus dwelleth.
Gently in a bed they laid her,
Chafed her stiffening limbs and temples,
Pour'd the warm, life-giving cordial,
But what seem'd the most to cheer her,
Were some words by Bertha spoken
In her own, dear native language.
Voice of Fatherland! it quicken'd
All the heart's collapsing heart-strings,
As though bath'd, and renovated
In the Rhine's blue, rushing waters.
* * * * *
O'er the wildering waste of ocean,
Moved by zeal of emigration
She had ventured with her husband
To this western World of promise,
On that dreary waste of waters
He had died, and left her mourning,
All unguided, unbefriended.
--There the mother-sorrow found her
And compell'd her by the weeping
Of the new-born, to encounter
With a broken-hearted welcome
Life once more, which in the torrent
of her utter desolation
She had cast aside, contemning
As a burden past endurance.
--Outcast in this land of strangers,
Strange of speech, and strange in manner,
She had travel'd, worn and weary,
Here and there, with none to aid her,
Ask'd for work, and none employ'd her,
Ask'd for alms, and few reliev'd her,
Till at length, the wintry tempest
Smote her near that blessed roof-tree.
* * * * *
Heavy slumber weigh'd her downward,
Slumber from whence none awaketh.
Yet at morn they heard her sighing,
On her pillow faintly sighing,
'I am ready! I am ready!'
'Leonore! my child! my darling!'
Then they brought the infant to her,
Cleanly robed, and sweetly smiling,
And the parting soul turn'd backward,
And the clay-seal on the eyelids
Lifted up to gaze upon it.
Bertha kiss'd the little forehead,
Said '_mein kind_,' and lo! a shudder
Of this earth's forgotten pleasure
Trembled o'er the dying woman,
And the white hand cold as marble
Strove to raise itself in blessing,
For the mother-joy was stronger
That one moment, while it wrestled
With the pausing king of terrors,
Stronger than the king of terrors.
Then they laid her icy fingers
Mid the infant's budding ringlets,
And the pang and grasp subsided
In a smile and whispering cadence,
'God, mein God, be praised!'--and silence
Settled on those lips forever.
* * * * *
Favor'd is the habitation
Where a gentle infant dwelleth,
When its brightening eye revealeth
The immortal part within it,
And its curious wonder scanneth
All its wide spread, tiny fingers,
And its velvet hand caressing
Pats the nurse's cheek and bosom,
Hoary Age grows young before it,
As the branch that Winter blighted
At the touch of Spring reviveth.
When its healthful form evolveth,
And with quadrupedal pleasure
Creeping o'er the nursery carpet,
Aiming still, its flowery surface
With faint snatches to appropriate,
Or the bolder art essaying
On its two round feet to balance
And propel the swaying body
As with outstretch'd arms it hastens
Tottering toward the best beloved,
Hope, her freshest garland weaveth
Glittering with the dews of morning.
When the lisping tongue adventures
The first tones of imitation,
Or with magic speed o'ermasters
The philosophy of language
Twining round the mind of others,
Preferences, and pains and pleasures,
Tendrils strong, of sentient being,
Seeking kindness and indulgence,
Loving sports and smiles, and gladness,
Tenderest love goes forth to meet it,
Love that every care repayeth.
* * * * *
Thus the little German exile
Leaning on her foster parents
Brought a love that soothed and cheer'd them,
And with sweet confiding meekness
Taught to older ones the lesson
Of the perfect trust, we children
Of One Great Almighty Parent
Should repose in His protection
Goodness and unerring wisdom:
Though His discipline mysterious
Oft transcendeth feeble reason,
And perchance overthrows the fabrics
That in arrogance we builded,
Call'd _our own_, and vainly rented
To a troop of hopes and fancies,
Gay-robed joys, or fond affections.
* * * * *
'Tis a solemn thing and lovely,
To adopt a child, whose mother
Dwelleth in the land of spirits:
In its weakness give it succor,
Be in ignorance its teacher,
In all sorrow its consoler,
In temptation its defender,
Save what else had been forsaken,
Win for it a crown in Heaven,--
Tis a solemn thing and lovely,
Such a work as God approveth.
* * * * *
Blessed are the souls that nurture
With paternal care the orphan,
Neath their roof-tree lending shelter,
At their table breathing welcome,
Giving armor for the journey
And the warfare that awaiteth
Every pilgrim, born of woman,
Blessed, for the grateful prayer
Riseth unto Him who heareth
The lone sigh of the forsaken,
Bendeth, mid the song of seraphs,
To the crying of the ravens,
From whose nest the brooding pinion
By the archer's shaft was sever'd.
* * * * *
Pomp and wealth, and pride of office
With their glitter and their shouting,
May not pass through death's dark valley,
May not thrill the ear that resteth
Mid the silence of the grave-yard;
But the deed that wrought in pity
Mid the outcast and benighted,
In the hovel or the prison,
On the land or on the ocean,
Shunning still the applause of mortals,
Comes it not to His remembrance
Who shall say amid the terrors
Of the last Great Day of Judgment,
'Inasmuch as ye have done it
Unto one, the least, the lowest.
It was done to Me, your Saviour.'