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Poem by Mathilde Blind
OH come, thou power divine, Thou lovely spirit with the wings of light, And let thy dewy eyes Shed their sweet influences on my soul; Oh let me hear thy voice, Whose sound thrills with a keener, deeper bliss, Than the shrill jubilance the bird of joy Pours on the air! Or the child babblings of the gladsome rill When, issuing first from out its mossy couch In venturesome delight, it frisks in glee Adown the hoary mountain, silver-fraught. Oh come! Where I do lie drenched in my bitter tears, And drowning in dejection: haunted by The pale gaunt fears that spectre-like rush forth In shadowy swarms from out the brains's black cells, Like glaring madmen in confusion 'scaped From out their dens, whirling with shambling limbs In whooping dances through the startled dusk, And pouncing wildly on my shiv'ring soul, Where in her hour of weakness prostrate she Doth palpitate in terror, like a deer, That hunted by the swift pursuing hounds, Wounded and bleeding, sinks upon the ground, While with hoarse croaks the ravening birds of prey Wheel close and closer, darkening all the air. But thou-- Come breathe upon me with thy balmy breath, Like a young wind, born in the rosèd east, That leapeth boy-like from the lap of morn, To blow the land all clear from crouching fogs: Thus drive thou hence the phantoms; cleanse my soul! Thou sweet enchantress, with the magic spells! Wails there a heart, lone on the populous earth,-- Like a weak infant lost within the night That crieth piteously in helplessness, And pusheth its blind limbs with gestures scared Against the gloom,-- Then with an airy footfall glidest thou Gently anigh, as softly as a cloud, When one alone in crimson glory slides Along the twilight sky: tak'st the bewildered thing Into thine arms, thy fair and downy arms, And rock'st it on thy bosom--singing low An old, old song, old as the flowers that bloom, And like them ever young; till dreams rise up, Like cool white mists from out the heart of hills, And lie dew-sweet upon it in its sleep! Sits there an orphan girl with sunken cheeks, And red-rimmed eyes, high up beneath the leads, Stitching with aching fingers all the night Beside the meagre flame, to earn her bread, And feed with scanty fuel the low fire Of life, while the shrill blast Dashes the rain against the rattling panes, And down the chimney roars with smoke and wet;-- Then comest thou, with memories all dim And faint, with beauty from the childish years, Transposing them into the time to come With a new lustre of the full-grown heart. Where the bare walls stood with a hungry stare, The golden cornfields, weighed down by their wealth, Sway to and fro; purling the brook flows on; And, like a bit of sky drawn down by love, Wilds of forget-me-nots run riot round; And meadows scent the air; and lowing kine Are driven home; and silver geese hiss loud Within the pools; and childhood's silver laughs Ring o'er the green like chimes of silver bells In the clear atmosphere; and through green boughs Curls up the smoke from many a thatchèd roof, Flushed all the land with roseate floods of eve, While large and full glows low the harvest moon, There as through homely fields she lightly walks, And one is by her side, and whispers low, And thine, oh hope! the future's kindling glow. Rocks there a sailor on a reeling ship, That staggers blindly like a brain-struck man, Around the staring cliffs! While the wild blast, the fiddler of the deep, Wakes such mad music on his shrieking strings That the fierce elements in huge delight Vault from their torpor, rearing giant heights! Ha! The maned billows from abysmal deeps Leap like live Alps, and catch the tearing clouds That dizzy haste along the wilds of sky; Tossing them round in labyrinthic whirls To the witch light of lightning, and the roar Of thunder, in its crashing clattering fall. Yea, while the ocean yawneth for its prey, Yelling with starvèd jaws around the hull, Man's sole frail guardian from the fangs of death,-- Thou softly float'st, Like to the dove that bore the olive branch Across the waste of waters, to his side. . . . No longer sees he then the wide wild sea, No longer hears he the tempestuous blast: But where the cottage leans against the cliff, The evening star shedding its peace adown, He lifts the latch, and with one bound of joy He stands in the low room, beside the hearth, Where sits his winsome wife, and rocks her babe With lullabies; and heaving one big sob He strains her to his breast, her whom he thought On this side of the grave to see no more! Then does she take him by the hand, and leads Him round from cot to cot, where with round cheeks His children lie, sleep-flushed, 'twixt snow-white sheets, And snatching up the youngest in his arms, With an untameable emotion, weeps His kisses on him, till it opens wide Large dream-dew'd eyes, and lisps with cherry mouth, "Oh, Dada, Dada!"----That thou dost for him! Wanders the patriot on a stranger shore, And exile from the land he loved too well: Within his heart The festering wound a thankless nation strikes, When cloud-capp'd by its ignorance and fear, And goaded on by spurring king and priest, Like a mad dog it turns and bites the hand Stretched out to heal. He sees his friends fall off like rotten leaves That scrambling flee the tempest-girted oak; He sees the enemies he boldly braved, Forging the red-hot slanders wherewithal To scorch his writhing soul! Alone in the wide world, alone he stands; Alone, save where beyond the roaring seas His mother weeps, and weeps, oh God! through him. Then, blowing from dead deserts the simoom Of doubt breathes on him, with its killing breath, With'ring the flowers of faith, the groves of youth, And buffeting his heart on cruel waves Of wind, e'en like a quiv'ring autumn leaf. Oh, is it strange? That in the midnight, on the dark there grow Pale faces sweating blood, and wrapped in shrouds, Turning reproachful eyes upon his eyes, And asking dumbly, "Wherefore did we die, And spill the wine-filled goblets of our youth On barren soil that will not teem with birth?" That brides, like broken lilies whirled along By arrowy streams, glide past and sadly sob, "Thou'st mowed us down, and mowed us down in vain!" That infants thrill the silence with their wail, "Why are we fatherless, if fatherland Is still denied?" And that his heartstrings quake With sobs of mothers' hearts that hopeless break? Strange that his purpose, that did seem so fair, With a white blaze of light around her head, Which fell like orient beams on nations' brows, Should wane before his terror-stricken eyes? And that in direst agony of soul His noble nature tott'ring on her base, Should question if his deeds were rightful deeds? Stirred up by God's own living breath, or pushed By hot ambition's ravenous desire? And if the aim that drew were but a dream By which his visionary youth was mocked, As travellers in the desert by the shine Of fair false waters?--At that torturing thought Smells of cold graves struck damp upon his brow, Till his wilds eyes grew void, and limp his limbs, And he had dropped resistless in the jaws Of madness or of death! Hadst thou not come, perennial presence! bright As Phosphorus in the dim morning skies! And poured thy morning sunbeams on his heart, And blown thy morning breezes on his soul, Till freshly born the world, and on him smiled With eyes as tender as his mother's were, When sowing love upon his cradled self. Then back plucked he his purpose, fixed it firm In iron steadfastness upon his soul, And called on faith, where with upturnèd eyes Above the clouds she treads the mountain peaks, And on that love, which boundless as the sky, Stretches o'er all mankind its azured vault. Then rose he, set his trustful eyes on high, And set his heart among the lowly born: For in the vasty glimmerings of the dawn He saw such visions of the things to be, Such heights of being ascended, and such love And justice throning on the seats of men, That with unflagging steps he calmly trod The walks of martyrdom! Oh, crown his brows With buds of those full summers of the race! Mourns there an aged mother, lying low Upon the lowly grave, Round which the autumn moans her mournful dirge, And shivering cadence of the shrunken leaves Keeps saddest measure with the wailing wind; While the pale glimm'rings of the waning moon Fall in cold tears upon the unknown tomb, Beneath whose sod, washed by the ghastly mists, Lies he, her one sole flower, that on the breast Of life bloomed for her all the days and nights; In the midsummer of his lusty life Devoured by that grim beast, whose reeking breath Is saturated with the blood of man-- The twin of pestilence--the foul firstborn Of her who spinneth in the nether gloom The phantasms that turn mad the brains of men, And him whose savage lusts and greedy soul Would make his footstool on the necks of men! Oh here, even here like a stray beam of light That glides unscared in sacred tenderness Across the heavy vapours, brooding blind In shapeless masses o'er a joyless tarn Deep sunk in mountains,--even here the gleam Of thy gold hair makes music in the dark, Cradlest the head of grief on thy warm breast, Whisperest in tones sweeter than honeycomb Of that new heaven where death shall be no more, Nor grief, nor crying, neither shall there be More pain; for former things have passed away. And with thy wings of light around her soul, And with thy dewy eyes upon her heart, Death takes her gently like a cherubim By the shrunk hand, and leads her to her rest. * * * * * Oh Hope! thou consolation of the soul! Flash forth, and like a sun strike on the clouds Of dull despondency, that pour their rain In showers upon the sad heart's shivering soil; Flash forth, and force each drop e'en as it falls To glass thy loveliness, and on the cloud Frowning in dumb defiance, paint such bloom Etherial, that its blackness but becomes A foil on which thy brightness brighter beams, Till spanned with rainbow-glory the sad soul Glistens in glimmering smiles through all her tears, And life shone through by white eternity, Circled with calm as by a covenant, Is born in beauty of the bitter tears, Like Aphrodite from the salt sea waves.
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