The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler/To My Cousin
To My CousinEdit
Come out with me into the moonlight, coz!
Fling by that page of romance—the hot breath
Of the dim taper, ill befits an eve
So beautiful as this—I know there is
A deep bewildering interest in that tale;
For the low drooping head, the parted lip,
The feverish glow that brightens cheek and eye,
And the light finger press'd upon the page,
As if that volume were the magic link
That bound thee to illusion—all proclaim
The spell that hath enchain'd thee. Yet come out,
And I will show thee full as bright a page,
And one where thou may'st read as wild a tale
Of love and chivalry, as that from which
My voice hath won thee.—Is it not, sweet coz,
A most delicious night? and how could I
Gaze upward on that moon, and thou not here—
Our arms entwining thus—and the light touch
Of those soft fingers resting upon mine,
That I may feel their gentle pressure tell
Thy voiceless feelings—when I turn to say
“How very beautiful!”—It is a night
For Poetry—and the low breeze comes by
As 't were a holy whisper, sent to quell
The spirit's fever.—We will fling aside
Like a dull robe the thought of present things,
And wrap ourselves in dreams.
And yet 't is not
A scene like that we gazed on when yon moon
Last moved, so empress-like, across the sky—
Nay, thou rememberest—I know it well
By the curl'd lip turn'd towards me with a smile
Of recollected pleasure: yet again
Look towards yon concave: other eyes than ours
Are gazing on that orb, and kindly lips
Perchance are naming us.
Did we not say
Yon planet should be written, like a book,
With cherish'd memories?—and when the hour
Of her arising came, that we would think
On those from whom we parted?—Look, Annette!
Couldst thou not fancy that a friendly eye
Was smiling on thee from the distant sphere?
Nay, laugh not, cousin,—'t was a silly thought!—
But who would fetter fancy's wildest wing
Upon a night like this? The very light
That falls around us hath a dreamy spell,
And gives the scene a dim unreal shade,
Like a forgotten thought come back again.
It is most beautiful! yet on the heart
The sense of pleasure presses, with a weight
That half hath started tears—'t is strange that even
Our happiness should be so link'd with pain!
And beauty—perfect beauty—only wake
The knowledge that our spirits are too weak,
To feel it in its full deep blessedness!
Didst never wish to be an angel, coz?
That thou might understand the pencilling
Writ on the sunset sky—and send abroad
A soul unfetter'd on a night like this!
Well, let us wander on—did I not say
I knew a history of the olden time,
That I would tell to thee?—we should have been
Beneath our grape-vine bower—thou know'st it, love,
And I thine own true knight to sing thee,
While thou didst touch the lute—
But 't is not so—
And while I tell the tale of which I spake,
If I can win from thee one gentle sigh,
I will not ask for music!—
'T was a night
Moon-lit, and calm, and beautiful,—like this;
Music was swelling out, upon the breeze,
From a gay festive hall—and starry lamps
Flung out their perfumed splendour upon brows
Of alabaster whiteness, and dark hair
Enwreathed with dazzling gems: light forms went by
Graceful and fairy-like, amid the dance,
Beside a nation's chivalry—and songs
Melted away in liquid melody
From rosy lips, and the gay laugh broke forth;
Or, when the ancient minstrel breathed some tale
Of love and sadness, gentle tears fell forth
From eyes that shone more lovely through their mist
But there was one, had stolen from that scene
Of smiles and joyousness, to where the moon
Look'd downward, silently, through jasmine leaves,
And the low night-breeze kiss'd the drooping bells
Of the sweet clematis.
And there she stood—
Her head bent slightly back, and the long fringe
Of her dark melancholy eye raised up
And laid against her brow, as if her soul
Were lifted in that long deep glance to Heaven!
Her cheek was pale—so pale, that its faint tinge
Of lingering carmine scarce sufficed to tell
That the slight form, round which the white robes fell
So gracefully, was not in very deed
A sculptor's form of beauty—her dark hair
Was carelessly thrown backward, and her hand
Twisted among its tresses, look'd as 't were
A wandering moon-beam—'t was so delicate!
A deeper sadness gather'd on the brow,
The queenly brow, of that young worshipper,
Until it droop'd upon her breast, and tears
Came crowding to her eyelids. Could it be
That grief had paled a cheek so beautiful?
That gush of tears went by—and she raised up
Her forehead to the breeze, and touch'd the lute,
That lay beside her, to a mournful strain,
The while she sung to it:—
“This faded cheek, this faded cheek,
Pale lip and alter'd brow,
Are all the outward signs that speak
The love I bear thee now.
I name thee not amid the halls,
Where mirthful glances shine;
But not one tear in secret falls,
That is not truly thine.
“They told me, that the vows we spake
Were soon forgot by thee;
But though my heart, perchance, may break,
'T will ne'er be false to thee.
Nor would'st thou, dearest, all so soon
That one deep vow forget,
The first, the last, the only one,
That told our hearts had met.
”They told me thou wast false, that pride
Might dry my burning tears,
When I should learn that thou hadst died
Amid thine early years.
They did not know how deeply dear
Was every thought of thee,
More fondly, truly, cherish'd here,
Than living love could be.”
The strain was hush'd—A rustle midst the leaves
Hath caught the maiden's ear, and a low voice
Whisper'd the name of “Eva!” Could it be
That the dark grave had given up its dead?
Or was that breath a summons from the land
Of parted spirits? But a moment more,
And her own knight was kneeling at her feet—
Her head fell on his bosom—hours past on,
And when the gray dawn made a pause amid
The mirth of their gay revelling, they came
To seek that absent one,—and both were there,
Silent and motionless as they had sunk,
When the first shock was over—one in death,
And one in cold despair!