Tales of humour and romance/The Harp






The harp stands neglected;—she's gone, whose light fingers
Awoke from its strings the soul-melting strain;
Touch—touch its still cords,—in their echo e'en lingers
A spell that can woo back her spirit again.
Like the harp; sweetest spirit! thou'st been my fond treasure,
But like its wild notes, thou hast flitted away,
Oh! could my sad soul like the tones of that measure,
As softly—as sweetly to heaven die away.



The secretary and his young wife had not yet passed the spring days of their honey-moon—no selfish motives, no transitory inclinations had united them; a warm and long proved affection was the seal of their union. Early had they known each other, but Sellner's unprovided condition forced him to defer the accomplishment of his wishes. At length he received his appointment, and on the following Sunday he conducted home his affectionate Josephina as his wife. After the long irksome days of congratulation and family feasting were over, the young couple could at last enjoy the peaceful evening undisturbed by the presence of any third person. Plans of future life, Sellner's flute, and Josephina's harp filled up the hours which to them seemed to flit but too quickly away, and they hailed the deep and perfect unison of their tones, as a friendly presage of future days of happiness. One evening they had been long amusing themselves with their music, when Josephina began to complain of head-ache. She had concealed from her anxious husband an attack which she had had in the morning, and what was at first a very trifling fever, had on account of the weakness of her nerves been greatly increased by the excitement of the music, and the consequent straining of her feelings:—she concealed it no longer, and Sellner full of anxiety sent for a physician. He came, treated the matter as a trifle, and promised a complete recovery on the morrow.

But after a very restless night, in which she raved continually, the physician found the poor Josephina labouring under all the symptoms of a nervous fever. He tried every mean, yet Josephina's disease grew daily worse.—Sellner was in agony. On the ninth day, Josephina felt that her tender nerves could no longer endure the disease,— the physician too had previously acquainted Sellner of it. She foresaw her last hour was at hand, and with quiet resignation she awaited her destiny. "My dearest Edward," said she, to her husband, while she pressed him for the last time to her bosom, "with deep sorrow I quit this world where I found thee, and the greatest earthly bliss upon thy bosom, yet, though I must no longer he happy in thy arms, yet Josephina's love shall hover around thee as a guardian spirit until we meet again in heaven!" As she said this, she fell back and softly sank to rest. It was about nine in the evening. What Sellner suffered was inexpressible; he contended long with life—sorrow had destroyed his health, and when after many week's confinement be again rose, he had no longer the vigour of youth in his limbs; he gloomily brooded over his loss, and visibly pined away. Deep melancholy had taken the place of despair, and a still sorrow hallowed every recollection of his beloved. He had left Josephina's room in the same situation in which it was before her death. Upon the table still lay the materials of her work; and the harp stood silent and unmoved in the corner. Every evening Sellner entered this sanctuary of his love, took his flute, and breathed in melancholy tones his longing after his dear loved shade. Once he stood thus, lost in the dreams of fancy in Josephina's chamber. A clear moon-light night wooed him to the open window, and from the neighbouring Castle-tower the watchman called the ninth hour; when all of a sudden, the harp, as if moved by the soft breath of a spirit sounded in unison with his tones. Deeply affected he laid down his flute, and the harp also ceased to sound. He now commenced with a trembling frame Josephina's favourite air, and louder and more powerful the harp sounded its notes, uniting its tones in the most perfect unison with his. He sank down in joyful ecstacy upon the ground, stretched forth his arms to embrace the beloved shadow, and instantly he felt himself as if breathed upon by the warm breath of spring, whilst a pale glimmering light floated around him. Deeply inspired he cried out, "I know thee hallowed shade of my sainted Josephina. Thou saidst thou wouldest surround me with thy love, thou hast kept thy word. I feel thy breath, I feel thy kisses on my lips, I feel myself embraced by thy glorified spirit." With deepest feelings of delight he again seized his flute, and again the harp sounded; but always softer and softer, till at length its whispering tones died away. Sellner's whole frame was powerfully roused by the spiritual visitation of this evening,—restless, he threw himself upon his bed, and the whispering of the harp ever recurred to him in his heated dreams. Late and exhausted with the phantoms of the night he awoke, felt his whole frame strongly affected, and a voice plainly spoke within him, expressing as he thought his immediate dissolution, and announcing the victory of the soul over the body. With restless desire he waited for the evening, and with eager hopes repaired to the chamber of Josephina. Already had he succeeded in lulling himself with his flute into quiet dreams, when the ninth hour struck, and scarce had the last sound of the clock ceased to vibrate, when the harp began again softly to sound, till at last it thrilled in full harmonious chords. When his flute was silent, the magic also ceased. The pale glimmering light too floated over him, and in his ecstacy he could only cry, "Josephina, Josephina, take me to thy affectionate bosom!" The tones of the harp at this moment parting with sighs, became softer and softer, until at length its whispers lost themselves in long tremulous chords. Still more powerfully agitated than ever by the occurrences of this evening, Sellner tottered back to his room. His faithful servant was terrified at his appearance, and went in spite of his master's prohibition, in search of the physician who was also the old friend of Sellner. The physician found him under a very severe attack of fever, accompanied with the same kind of symptoms that had attended Josephina's illness, but much worse in degree. The fever increased considerably throughout the night, during which he continually raved of Josephina and the harp. In the morning he became quieter, because the struggle was over, and he felt more and more plainly that his dissolution was at hand, though the physician would not allow it. The patient then related what had happened to him upon the two evenings, and all the cold reasoning of his sceptical friend could not draw him from his opinion. As the evening approached, he became still weaker, and begged at last with a trembling voice, that he might be carried into Josephina's room. It was done. In deep distress he looked around, saluted each sweet recollection with a silent tear, and spoke with undoubting firmness of the ninth hour as the time of his death. The decisive moment approached, he ordered all to retire after he had taken farewell of them, except the physician who insisted at all events on remaining. At length the ninth hour sent down its hollow sound from the Castle-tower; Sellner's countenance became illuminated, and a deep emotion glowed once more upon his pale features. "Josephina," cried he, as if actuated by divine inspiration. "Josephina, greet me yet once more on my departure, that I may know thou art near me, and may overcome death by the power of thy love." At this moment, the harp, as if by magic power began to pour forth its powerful chords, like songs of triumph, and then a glimmering light floated round the dying Sellner." "I come, I come," cried he, and sank back, struggling with life. Softer and softer sounded the notes of the harp, while a last remnant of bodily strength once more raised Sellner up, and at the same moment the strings of the harp snapt asunder as if torn by the hand of a spirit. The physician trembled in every limb, pressed to his heart the departed Sellner, who now in spite of the last struggle, lay with closed eyes as if in a soft slumber, and in deep agitation left the house. Many a year elapsed ere he could eradicate the remembrance of that hour from his heart, and he allowed a profound silence to rest over the last moments of his friend, till at length in a moment of confidence he communicated the occurrences of that evening to some friends, at the same time showed them the harp which he had kept as a remembrance of the departed.