Page images

“Standing, with reluctant feet,

Where the brook and river meet." Maidenhood - p. 23

MAIDEN ! with the meek, brown eyes, O thou child of many prayers !
In whose orbs a shadow lies,

Life hath quicksands, -Life hath snares ! Like the dusk in evening skies !

Care and age come unawares !
Thou whose locks outshine the sun, Like the swell of some sweet tune,
Golden tresses, wreathed in one,

Morning rises into noon,
As the braided streamlets run !

May glides onward into June. Standing, with reluctant feet,

Childhood is the bough, where slumbered Where the brook and river meet, Birds and blossoms many-numbered ;Womanhood and childhood fleet! Age, that bough with snows encumbered. Gazing, with a timid glance,

Gather, then, each flower that grows, On the brooklet's swift advance,

When the young heart overflows, On the river's broad expanse !

To em balm that tent of snows. Deep and still, that gliding stream Bear a lily in thy hand ; Beautiful to thee must seem,

Gates of brass cannot withstand As the river of a dream.

One touch of that magic wand. Then why pause with indecision, Bear through sorrow, wrong, and ruth, When bright angels in thy vision In thy heart the dew of youth, Beckon thee to fields Elysian ?

On thy lips the smile of truth. Seest thou shadows sailing by,

O, tbat dew, like balm, shall steal As the dove, with startled eye,

Into wounds, that cannot heal, Sees the falcon's shadow fly?

Even as sleep our eyes doth seal ; Hearest thou voices on the shore, And that smile, like sunshine, dart That our ears perceive no more,

Into many a sunless heart, Deafened by the cataract's roar ?

For a smile of God thou art,



My way is on the bright blue sea, At night, upon my storm-drenched wing, My sleep upon the rocky tide ;

I poised above a helmless bark, And many an eye bas followed me, And soon I saw the shattered thing

Where billows clasp the worn sea-side. Had passed away and left no mark. My plumage bears the crimson blush, And when the wind and storm had done,

When ocean by the sun is kissed ! A ship, that had rode out the gale, When fades the evening's purple flush, Sunk down without a signal-gun,

My dark wing cleaves the silver mist. And none was left to tell the tale. Full many a fathom down beneath I saw the pomp of day depart

The bright arch of the splendid deep, The cloud resign its golden crown, My ear bas heard the sea-shell breathe When to the ocean's beating heart

O’er living myriads in their sleep. The sailor's wasted corse went down. They rested by the coral throne,

Peace be to those whose graves are made And by the pearly diadem,

Beneath the bright and silver sea ! Where the pale sea-grape had o'ergrown Peace that their relics there were laid,

The glorious dwelling made for them. With no vain pride and pageantry.



And I thought how like these chimes
Are the poet's airy rhymes,
All his rhymes and roundelays,
His conceits, and songs, and ditties,
From the belfry of his brain,
Scattered downward, though in vain,
On the roofs and stones of cities !
For by night the drowsy ear
Under its curtains cannot hear,
And by day men go their ways,
Hearing the music as they pass,
But deeming it no more, alas !
Than the hollow sound of brass.

In the ancient town of Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city,
As the evening shades descended,
Low and loud and sweetly blended,
Low at times and loud at times,
And changing like a poet's rhymes,
Rang the beautiful wild chimes,
From the Belfry in the market
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
Then, with deep sonorous clangor
Calmly answering their sweet angrr,
When the wrangling belis had ended,
Slowly struck the clock eleven,
And, from out the silent heaven,
Silence on the town descended.
Silence, silence everywhere,
On the earth and in the air,
Save that footsteps here and there
Of some burgher home returning,
By the street lamps faintly burning,
For a moment woke the echoes
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
But amid my broken slumbers
Still I heard those magic numbers,
As they loud proclaimed the flight
And stolen marches of the night;
Till their chimes in sweet collision
Mingled with each wandering vision,
Mingled with the fortune telling
Gipsy-bands of dreams and fancies,
Which amid the waste expanses
Of the silent land of trances
Have their solitary dwelling.
All else seemed asleep in Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city.

Yet perchance a sleepless wight,
Lodging at some humble inn
In the narrow lanes of life,
When the dusk and hush of night
Shut out the incessant din
Of daylight and its toil and strife,
May listen with a calm delight
To the poet's melodies,
Till he bears, or dreams he hears,
Intermingled with the song,
Thoughts that he has cherished long ;
Hears amid the chime and singing
The bells of his own village ringing,
And wakes, and finds his slumberous

Wet with most delicious tears.
Thus dreamed I, as by night I lay
In Bruges, at the Fleur-de-Blé,
Listening with a wild delight
To the chimes that, through the night,
Rang their changes from the Belfry
Of that quaint old Flemish city.


Iy the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town.
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapours

gray, Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.



At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.
Net a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high,
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes.
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the

And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,-mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy, Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid, that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of

Gold; Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies ; Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease. I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground: I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound; And her lighted bridal chanıber, where a duke slept with the queen, And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between. I bebeld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold, Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold; Saw the fight at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving West, Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote; And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat; Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand, “I am Roland ! I am Roland ! there is victory in the land !” Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once morë. Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware, Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.

« PreviousContinue »