Beyond the woods, yet half by woods inclosed,
A tangled wilderness of fair growth lay;
A spot where dreaming poet might have dozed
Into the dawning of a fairy day;
For in its desolation wild reposed
Something that pointed to a past more gay,
Since here and there one found the lingering trace
Of caresome hands in the neglected place.
The once trim walks were coated thick with moss;
Dwarfed were the garden roses, and their glow
From vivid crimson paled to fainter gloss
Nigh broken sun-dial; and the water's flow
Had ceased to murmur in the ancient foss,
Whose slopes were now with purple thyme a-blow;
And on the fragments of the crumbled wall
The golden wall-flower stood like seneschal.
The nut-trees made an archway overgrown,
And midst the boughs the timid squirrel leapt;
At eve the nightingale with mellow tone
Sang with the mourning wind a dirge that crept
Into all hearts - until one heart more lone
Than others, gathered up the strain and wept;
Nor knew if 'twere half joy or wholly grief
That in the sympathetic chord had found relief.
The clouds sent flickering shadows o'er the grass,
As though some spectral life were there up-stirred;
And as the fitful breezes onward pass,
A murmur cf strange voices might be heard,
As though some unseen quire were chanting mass,
Echoed throughout the grove by plaintive bird;
And still the wanderer listening, asks for whom
The wild amen; For whom the flowers did bloom.
The ancient summer-house with broken vane,
And rotting pillars where the woodbines twine;
And on a cobwebbed solitary pane
In casement, that with colors once did shine,
And shewed the seasons through each differing stain,
Was writ in jagged-wise a Latin line,
" Sic transit gloria mundi;" and below,
"My Ursula! the world is full of woe."
It read as epitaph above the grave
Of human hopes, all blighted as the space
Around, whose wreck no hand was stretched to save;
Yet that with tender, melancholy grace,
A sermon in that blooming desert gave
To him whose soul had power enough to trace
In the lone scene, so desolate, so lone,
Though man upbuilds, God shapes the crowning stone.
I spake the name a score of times aloud,
"Sweet Ursula," a source of joy and woe!
The glory of a life, the light allowed
To make all nature flush with deeper glow.
Then light put out — then darkness — then a cloud
And agony that nought but love can know —
The bitter memory of a sweetness past,
A gleam of sunshine all too bright to last.
The lazy lilies gleamed with petals white
Upon the pool o'errun with weeds and sedges,
That once shone clear and fair as mirror bright,
With blue forget-me-nots on shelving ledges,
Where water-flags upreared their banners light,
And the marsh-mallow crept along its edges —
But in the water face to face no more
Smiled back as in the happier days of yore.
Ah! could the olden stones a story tell,
How sweet a love-tale might they not reveal
Of mystic Ursula, and what befell
In the fond hopes and doubts that lovers feel,
Till blighted by that sorrowful farewell
That all the beauty of the world did steal;
Shattered the rainbow in fresh-gathered cloud,
And changed the bridal robe to funeral shroud.
Perchance her monument this wildered spot,
Tended by Nature's pitying hand alone,
For one by generations now forgot,
To whom he reared no proud sepulchral stone;
But with love's jealousy he willed that not
Another o'er her grave should make his moan,
But he alone through hieroglyphic bloom,
Should haunt the precincts of the loved one's tomb.
Ay, who can tell! For time his seal hath set
On life and all its secrets gone before;
The hearts are dead that never could forget;
The hearts that live, but know the tale no more.
Each hath its bitterness o'er which to fret,
Each hath its joys eclipsing those of yore;
To each its own small world the real seems,
Outside of which is but a land of dreams.
Yet still one loves to linger here and muse,
And conjure up vague theories of the past;
And here a hand to trace; and there to lose
The touch of human life upon it cast;
And still for idle loitering make excuse,
And weave a tale of mystery to the last;
And in the old deserted garden bowers
Find fairer blossoms than 'mongst tended flowers.