Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/Under the fir-trees
UNDER THE FIR-TREES.
A HARVEST ROMANCE.
“Ha, Marian! well met, fair maid! Where roaming this bright morn?”
The maiden, with a sigh, replies, “My Lord, to lease the corn.”
Her hair with blossoms wild bedeck’d, her cheek with blushes dyed,
She stands a very queen of flowers, yet downcast as a bride.
“Come Marian, my love, with me; nay, why so bashful now?
This scorching sun will deeply tinge the whiteness of thy brow;
The coarse, harsh stubble of the fields these little hands will spoil;
My village beauty was not born to suffer heat and toil.
“Come, fairest, come, why linger still? Such rude employment leave;
Beneath the fir-trees’ welcome shade, we’ll wander as at eve.
Have you that happy hour forgot—my murmur’d vows and sighs?
Dear Marian, turn, and let me read my answer in thine eyes!”
Fair Marian at his bidding turns; they pace beneath the trees,
Whose tall and tender columns wave and mutter with each breeze.
But those sweet eyes are filled with tears, the blush forsakes her cheek.
“What is it troubles Marian so? Speak, little maiden, speak.”
But Marian, resting on a bank, looks down and thinks awhile;
The handsome noble, lounging near, looks on with careless smile.
No sound disturbs the solitude but labour’s distant hum:
Impatiently at last he cries, “My sweetest, art thou dumb?”
Then, hands clasped loosely round his arm, upturn’d her pretty face,
Fair Marian says with earnest air, yet full of modest grace,
“The words you whisper’d me last night, and once we met before,
Were best unsaid—must be forgot—and we must meet no more.
“Nay, hear me, while I tell you how, in listening to those vows,
With joyful heart methought I heard the waving fir-tree boughs
Say, as the soft wind through them sang, ‘Such fond words must be true.
Ah! happy, happy Marian! he loves and loves but you!’
“We parted—homeward went your steps, but mine here linger’d still,
Lest other eyes should guess what hopes my flutt’ring bosom fill;
But as I mused, another song the trees sang in mine ear,—
Ah, simple, simple Marian! Doubt, maiden, doubt and fear!’
“Then askèd I my sinking heart—Can such change be in life?
The daughter of the labouring man become the noble’s wife?
Inured to earn my daily bread, the child of want and care,
Can such as I the gems of wealth be ever meant to wear?
“Then asked I again my heart,—But could my lord mean guile?
Would one so great as he deceive poor Marian with a smile?
The untarnish’d honour of his house, his name be all forgot?’
So mournfully the branches waved, I trembling fled the spot!
“And through the long and wakeful night still sounded in mine ear
The soughing of those fir-tree boughs,—‘Doubt, maiden, doubt and fear!’
My lord, I have no more to tell, my inmost thought you know.”
But now her falt’ring voice in vain essays to bid him go.
The young man listened with his head bent down upon his breast.
He answered,—“Little friend, forgive this sad and sorry jest;
In seeing you so beautiful, I have been much to blame,
For trifling with so pure a heart, regardless of your fame!”
Bending yet lower, that fair face he once more looks upon.
“Forgive—forget me, Marian.” One kiss, and he is gone!
Faintly, more faintly falls his step—it dies in far-off grove,
And with it fades the maiden’s dream, her first sweet dream of love.
Up, up, there is no longer time here grievingly to stay;
For in the fields ask many tongues “Where Marian is to-day?”
The griefs and cares of poverty must workfully be borne;
But Marian’s tears fall thick and fast, while leasing in the corn.