The Forest Sanctuary - Part II.
Bring me the sounding of the torrent-water,
With yet a nearer swell-fresh breeze, awake!
And river, darkening ne'er with hues of slaughter
Thy wave's pure silvery green,-and shining lake,
Spread far before my cabin, with thy zone
Of ancient woods, ye chainless things and lone!
Send voices through the forest aisles, and make
Glad music round me, that my soul may dare,
Cheer'd by such tones, to look back on a dungeon's air!
Because Thou didst not leave me, oh, my God!
Thou wert with those that bore the truth of old
Into the deserts from the oppressor's rod,
And made the caverns of the rock their fold,
And in the hidden chambers of the dead,
Our guiding lamp with fire immortal fed,
And met when stars met, by their beams to hold
The free heart's communing with Thee,-and Thou
Wert in the midst, felt, own'd-the strengthener then as now!
Once my soul died within me. What had thrown
That sickness o'er it?-Even a passing thought
Of a clear spring, whose side, with flowers o'ergrown,
Fondly and oft my boyish steps had sought!
Perchance the damp roof's water-drops, that fell
Just then, low tinkling through my vaulted cell,
Intensely heard amidst the stillness, caught
Some tone from memory, of the music, welling
Ever with that fresh rill, from its deep rocky dwelling.
But so my spirit's fever'd longings wrought,
Wakening, it might be, to the faint sad sound,
That from the darkness of the walls they brought
A lov'd scene round me, visibly around.
Yes! kindling, spreading, brightening, hue by hue,
Like stars from midnight, through the gloom it grew,
That haunt of youth, hope, manhood!-till the bound
Of my shut cavern seem'd dissolv'd, and I
Girt by the solemn hills and burning pomp of sky.
Then darkness!-oh! th' unutterable gloom
That seem'd as narrowing round me, making less
And less my dungeon, when, with all its bloom,
That bright dream vanish'd from my loneliness!
It floated off, the beautiful!-yet left
Such deep thirst in my soul, that thus bereft,
I lay down, sick with passion's vain excess,
And pray'd to die.-How oft would sorrow weep
Her weariness to death, if he might come like sleep!
And faint not, heart of man! though years wane slow!
There have been those that from the deepest caves,
And cells of night, and fastnesses, below
The stormy dashing of the ocean-waves,
Down, farther down than gold lies hid, have nurs'd
A quenchless hope, and watch'd their time, and burst
On the bright day, like wakeners from the graves!
I was of such at last!-unchain'd I trod
This green earth, taking back my freedom from my God!
There came a softer hour, a lovelier moon,
And lit me to my home of youth again,
Through the dim chesnut shade, where oft at noon,
By the fount's flashing burst, my head had lain,
In gentle sleep: but now I pass'd as one
That may not pause where wood-streams whispering run,
Or light sprays tremble to a bird's wild strain,
Because th' avenger's voice is in the wind,
The foe's quick rustling step close on the leaves behind.
Not by the sunshine, with its golden glow,
Nor the green earth, nor yet the laughing sky,
Nor the faint flower-scents, as they come and go
In the soft air, like music wandering by;
-Oh! not by these, th' unfailing, are we taught
How time and sorrow on our frames have wrought,
But by the sadden'd eye, the darken'd brow,
Of kindred aspects, and the long dim gaze,
Which tells us we are chang'd,-how chang'd from other days!
O'er the blue deep I fled, the chainless deep!
-Strange heart of man! that ev'n midst woe swells high,
When thro' the foam he sees his proud bark sweep,
Flinging out joyous gleams to wave and sky!
Yes! it swells high, whate'er he leaves behind;
His spirit rises with the rising wind;
For, wedded to the far futurity,
On, on, it bears him ever, and the main
Seems rushing, like his hope, some happier shore to gain.
Not thus is woman. Closely her still heart
Doth twine itself with ev'n each lifeless thing,
Which, long remember'd, seem'd to bear its part
In her calm joys. For ever would she cling,
A brooding dove, to that sole spot of earth
Where she hath loved, and given her children birth,
And heard their first sweet voices. There may Spring
Array no path, renew no flower, no leaf,
But hath its breath of home, its claim to farewell grief.
Oh! could we live in visions! could we hold
Delusion faster, longer, to our breast,
When it shuts from us, with its mantle's fold,
That which we see not, and are therefore blest!
But they, our lov'd and loving, they to whom
We have spread out our souls in joy and gloom,
Their looks and accents, unto ours address'd,
Have been a language of familiar tone
Too long to breathe, at last, dark sayings and unknown.
Yet, as if chasing joy, I woo'd the breeze,
To speed me onward with the wings of morn.
-Oh! far amidst the solitary seas,
Which were not made for man, what man hath borne,
Answering their moan with his!-what thou didst bear,
My lost and loveliest! while that secret care
Grew terror, and thy gentle spirit, worn
By its dull brooding weight, gave way at last,
Beholding me as one from hope for ever cast!
For unto thee, as thro' all change, reveal'd
Mine inward being lay. In other eyes
I had to bow me yet, and make a shield,
To fence my burning bosom, of disguise;
By the still hope sustain'd, ere long to win
Some sanctuary, whose green retreats within,
My thoughts unfetter'd to their source might rise,
Like songs and scents of morn.-But thou didst look
Thro' all my soul, and thine even unto fainting shook.
Fall'n, fall'n, I seem'd-yet, oh! not less belov'd,
Tho' from thy love was pluck'd the early pride,
And harshly, by a gloomy faith reproved,
And sear'd with shame!-tho' each young flower had died,
There was the root,-strong, living, not the less
That all it yielded now was bitterness;
Yet still such love as quits not misery's side,
Nor drops from guilt its ivy-like embrace,
Nor turns away from death's its pale heroic face.
Thy sad sweet hymn, at eve, the seas along,-
-Oh! the deep soul it breath'd!-the love, the woe,
The fervor, pour'd in that full gush of song,
As it went floating through the fiery glow
Of the rich sunset!-bringing thoughts of Spain,
With all her vesper-voices, o'er the main,
Which seem'd responsive in its murmuring flow.
-' Ave sanctissima! '-how oft that lay
Hath melted from my heart the martyr-strength away!
We could not pray together midst the deep,
Which, like a floor of sapphire, round us lay,
Through days of splendour, nights too bright for sleep,
Soft, solemn, holy!-We were on our way
Unto the mighty Cordillera-land,
With men whom tales of that world's golden strand
Had lur'd to leave their vines.-Oh! who shall say
What thoughts rose in us, when the tropic sky
Touch'd all its molten seas with sunset's alchemy?
I knew not all-yet something of unrest
Sat on my heart. Wake, ocean-wind! I said;
Waft us to land, in leafy freshness drest,
Where through rich clouds of foliage o'er her head,
Sweet day may steal, and rills unseen go by,
Like singing voices, and the green earth lie
Starry with flowers, beneath her graceful tread!
-But the calm bound us midst the glassy main;
Ne'er was her step to bend earth's living flowers again.
Yes! as if Heaven upon the waves were sleeping,
Vexing my soul with quiet, there they lay,
All moveless through their blue transparence keeping,
The shadows of our sails, from day to day;
While she-oh! strongest is the strong heart's woe-
And yet I live! I feel the sunshine's glow-
And I am he that look'd, and saw decay
Steal o'er the fair of earth, th' ador'd too much!
-It is a fearful thing to love what death may touch.
And a clear sparkle in her glance, yet wild,
And quick, and eager, like the flashing gaze
Of some all wondering and awakening child,
That first the glories of the earth surveys.
-How could it thus deceive me?-she had worn
Around her, like the dewy mists of morn,
A pensive tenderness through happiest days,
And a soft world of dreams had seem'd to lie
Still in her dark, and deep, and spiritual eye.
And from her lips the mountain-songs of old,
In wild faint snatches, fitfully had sprung;
Songs of the orange bower, the Moorish hold,
The 'Rio verde', on her soul that hung,
And thence flow'd forth.-But now the sun was low,
And watching by my side its last red glow,
That ever stills the heart, once more she sung
Her own soft 'Ora, mater!' -and the sound
Was even like love's farewell-so mournfully profound.
And if the love which here was passing light
Went with what died not-Oh! that this we knew,
But this!-that through the silence of the night,
Some voice, of all the lost ones and the true,
Would speak, and say, if in their far repose,
We are yet aught of what we were to those
We call the dead!-their passionate adieu,
Was it but breath, to perish?-Holier trust
Be mine!-thy love is there, but purified from dust!
Gorgeous, yet full of gloom!-In such an hour,
The vesper-melody of dying bells
Wanders through Spain, from each grey convent's tower
O'er shining rivers pour'd, and olive-dells,
By every peasant heard, and muleteer,
And hamlet, round my home:-and I am here,
Living again through all my life's farewells,
In these vast woods, where farewell ne'er was spoken,
And sole I lift to Heaven a sad heart-yet unbroken!