« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Spake more than Woman's Thought: and all her face
Was moulded to such Features, as declared,
That Pity there had oft and strongly work’d,
And sometimes Indignation. Bold her mien,
And like an haughty Huntress of the woods
She mov'd: yet sure she was a gentle maid!
And in each motion her most innocent soul
Beam'd forth so brightly, that who saw would say,
Guilt was a thing impossible in her!
Nor idly would have said, for she had liv’d
In this bad World, as in a place of Tombs
And touch'd not the pollutions of the Dead.
'Twas the cold season when the Rustic's eye
From the drear desolate whiteness of his fields
Rolls for relief to watch the skiey tints
And clouds slow-varying their huge imagery;
as she was wont, the healthful Maid
Had left her pallet ere one beam of day
Slanted the fog-smoke. She went forth alone,
Urged by the indwelling angel-guide, that oft, .
With dim inexplicable sympathies
Disquieting the Heart, shapes out Man's course
To the predoomed adventure. Now the ascent
She climbs of that steep upland, on whose top
The Pilgrim-Man, who long since eve had watch'd
The alien shine of unconcerning Stars,
Shouts to himself, there first the Abbey-lights
Seen in Neufchatel's vale; now slopes adown
The winding sheep-track valeward: when, behold
In the first entrance of the level road
An unattended Team! The foremost horse
Lay with stretch'd limbs; the others, yet alive
But stiff and cold, stood motionless, their manes
Hoar with the frozen night-dews. Dismally
The dark-red dawn new glimmer'd; but its gleams
Disclosed no face of man. The maiden paused,
Then hail'd who might be near.
No voice replied.
From the thwart wain at length there reach'd her ear
A sound so feeble that it almost seem'd
Distant—and feebly, with slow effort push’d,
A miserable man crept forth : his limbs
The silent frost had eat, scathing like fire.
Faint on the shafts he rested. She, mean time,
Saw crowded close beneath the coverture
A mother and her children-lifeless all,
Yet lovely! not a lineament was marr'd
Death had put on so slumber-like a form!
It was a piteous sight; and one, a babe,
The crisp milk frozen on its innocent lips,
Lay on the woman's arm, its little hand
Stretch'd on her bosom.
Mutely questioning, The Maid gazed wildly at the living wretch. He, his head feebly turning, on the group Look'd with a vacant stare, and his eye spoke The drowsy calm that steals on worn-out anguish. She shudder'd: but, each vainer pang subdued, Quick disentangling from the foremost horse The rustic bands, with difficulty and toil The stiff, crampt team forced homeward. There arrived Anxiously tends him she with healing herbs, And weeps and prays—but the numb power of Death Spreads o'er his limbs; and ere the noon-tide hour, The hov'ring spirits of his Wife and Babes Hail him immortal! Yet amid his pangs, With interruptions long from ghastly throes, His voice had falter'd out this simple tale.
The Village, where be dwelt an Husbandman,
By sudden inroad had been seiz'd and fired
Late on the yester-evening. With his wife
And little ones he hurried his escape.
They saw the neighbouring Hamlets fame, they heard
Uproar and shrieks! and terror-struck drove on
Through unfrequented roads, a weary way!
But saw nor house nor cottage. All had quench'd
Their evening hearth-fire : for the alarm had spread.
The air clipt keen, the night was fang’d with frost,
And they provisionless! The weeping wife
J11-hush'd her children's moans; and still they moan’d,
Till Fright and Cold and Hunger drank their life.
They closed their eyes in sleep, nor knew 'twas Death.
He only, lashing his o'er-wearied team,
Gained a sad respite, till beside the base
Of the high hill his foremost horse dropt dead.
Then hopeless, strengthless, sick for lack of food,
He crept beneath the coverture, entranced,
Till waken'd by the maiden.-Such his tale.
Ah ! suffering to the height of what was suffered, Stung with too keen a sympathy, the Maid Brooded with moving lips, mute, startful, dark ! And now her flush'd tumultuous features shot Such strange vivacity, as fires the eye Of misery Fancy-craz'd! and now once more Naked, and void, and fix'd, and all, within, The unquiet silence of confused thought
And shapeless feelings. For a mighty hand
Was strong upon her, till in the heat of soul
To the high hill-top tracing back her steps,
Aside the beacon, up whose smoulder'd stones
The tender ivy-trails crept thinly, there,
Unconscious of the driving element,
Yea, swallow'd up in the ominous dream, she sate,
Ghastly as broad-eyed Slumber! a dim anguish
Breath'd from her look! and still with pant and sob
Inly she toil'd to fee, and still subdued
Felt an inevitable Presence near.
Thus as she toil'd in troublous extacy,
An horror of great darkness wrapt her round,
And a voice uttered forth unearthly tones,
Calming her soul," 0 Thou of the Most High
“ Chosen, whom all the perfected in Heaven
« Behold expectant
[ The following fragments were intended to form part of the Poem when finished.]
" Maid belov'd of Heaven ! “ (To her the tutelary Power exclaimed) 66 Of Chaos the adventurous progeny