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The Lady of La Garaye. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
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page: 97

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PART III.

  • NEVER again! When first that sentence fell
  • From lips so loth the bitter truth to tell,
  • Death seemed the balance of its burdening care,
  • The only end of such a strange despair.
  • To live deformed; enfeebled; still to sigh
  • Through changeless days that o’er the heart go by
  • Colourless,—formless,—melting as they go
  • page: 98
  • Into a dull and unrecorded woe,—
  • Why strive for gladness in such dreary shade?
  • Why seek to feel less cheerless, less afraid?
  • What recks a little more or less of gloom,
  • When a continual darkness is our doom?
  • But custom, which, to unused eyes that dwell
  • Long in the blankness of a prison cell,
  • At length shows glimmerings through some ruined hole,—
  • Trains to endurance the imprisoned soul;
  • And teaching how with deepest gloom to cope,
  • Bids patience light her lamp, when sets the sun of hope.
  • And e’en like one who sinks to brief repose
  • Cumbered with mournfulness from many woes;
  • Who, restless dreaming, full of horror sleeps,
  • And with a worse than waking anguish weeps,
  • page: 99
  • Till in his dream some precipice appear
  • Which he must face, however great his fear:
  • Who stepping on those rocks, then feels them break
  • Beneath him,—and, with shrieks, leaps up awake;
  • And seeing but the grey unwelcome morn,
  • And feeling but the usual sense forlorn,
  • Of loss and dull remembrance of known grief,
  • Melts into tears that partly bring relief,
  • Because, though misery holds him, yet his dreams
  • More dreadful were than all around him seems:—
  • So, in the life grown real of loss and woe,
  • She woke to crippled days; which, sad and slow
  • And infinitely weary as they were,
  • At first, appeared less hard than fancy deemed, to bear.
  • page: 100
  • But as those days rolled on, of grinding pain,
  • Of wild untamed regrets, and yearnings vain,
  • Sad Gertrude grew to weep with restless tears
  • For all the vanished joys of blighted years.
  • And most she mourned with feverish piteous pining,
  • When o’er the land the summer sun was shining;
  • And all the volumes and the missals rare,
  • Which Claud had gathered with a tender care,
  • Seemed nothing to the book of nature, spread
  • Around her helpless feet and weary head.
  • Oh! woodland paths she ne’er again may see,
  • Oh! tossing branches of the forest tree,
  • Oh! loveliest banks in all the land of France,
  • Glassing your shadows in the silvery Rance;
  • Oh! river with your swift yet quiet tide,
  • page: 101
  • Specked with white sails that seem in dreams to glide;
  • Oh! ruddy orchards, basking on the hills,
  • Whose plenteous fruit the thirsty flagon fills;
  • And oh! ye winds, which, free and unconfined,
  • No sickness poisons, and no heart can bind,—
  • Restore her to enjoyment of the earth!
  • Echo again her songs of careless mirth,
  • Those little Breton songs so wildly sweet,
  • Fragments of music strange and incomplete,
  • Her small red mouth went warbling by the way
  • Through the glad roamings of her active day.
  • It may not be! Blighted are summer hours!
  • The bee goes booming through the plats of flowers,
  • The butterfly its tiny mate pursues
  • With rapid fluttering of its painted hues,
  • page: 102
  • The thin‐winged gnats their transient time employ
  • Reeling through sunbeams in a dance of joy,
  • The small field‐mouse with wide transparent ears
  • Comes softly forth, and softly disappears,
  • The dragon‐fly hangs glittering on the reed,
  • The spider swings across his filmy thread,
  • And gleaming fishes, darting to and fro,
  • Make restless silver in the pools below.
  • All these poor lives—these lives of small account,
  • Feel the ethereal thrill within them mount;
  • But the great human life,—the life Divine,—
  • Rests in dull torture, heavy and supine,
  • And the bird’s song, by Garaye’s walls of stone,
  • Crosses, within, the irrepressible moan!
  • The slow salt tears, half weakness and half grief,
  • That sting the eyes before they bring relief,
  • And which with weary lids she strives in vain
  • page: 103
  • To prison back upon her aching brain,
  • Fall down the lady’s cheek,—her heart is breaking:
  • A mournful sleep is hers; a hopeless waking;
  • And oft, in spite of Claud’s beloved rebuke,
  • When first the awful wish her spirit shook,—
  • She dreams of DEATH,—and of that quiet shore
  • In the far world where eyes shall weep no more,
  • And where the soundless feet of angels pass,
  • With floating lightness o’er the sea of glass.
  • Nor is she sole in gloom. Claud too hath lost
  • His power to soothe her,—all his thoughts are tost
  • As in a storm of sadness: shall he speak
  • To her, who lies so faint, and lone, and weak,
  • Of pleasant walks and rides? or yet describe
  • The merry sayings of that careless tribe
  • page: 104
  • Of friends and boon companions now unseen,—
  • Or the wild beauty of the forest green,—
  • Or daring feats and hair‐breadth ’scapes, which they
  • Who are not crippled, think a thing for play?
  • He dare not:—oft without apparent cause
  • He checks his speaking with a faltering pause;
  • Oft when she bids him, with a mournful smile,
  • By stories such as these the hour beguile,
  • And he obeys—only because she bids—
  • He sees the large tears welling ’neath the lids.
  • Or if a moment’s gaiety return
  • To his young heart that scarce can yet unlearn
  • Its habits of delight in all things round,
  • And he grows eager on some subject found
  • In their discourse, linked with the outward world,
  • page: 105
  • Till with a pleasant smile his lip is curled,—
  • Even with her love she smites him back to pain!
  • Upon his hand her tears and kisses rain;
  • And with a suffocated voice she cries,
  • “O Claud!—the old bright days!”
  • And then he sighs,
  • And with a wistful heart makes new endeavour
  • To cheer or to amuse;—and so for ever,
  • Till in his brain the grief he tries to cheat,
  • A dreary mill‐wheel circling seems to beat,
  • And drive out other thoughts—all thoughts but one:
  • That he and she are both alike undone,—
  • That better were their mutual fate, if when
  • That leap was taken in the fatal glen,
  • Both had been found, released from pain and dread,
  • page: 106
  • In the rough waters of the torrent’s bed,
  • And greeted pitying eyes, with calm smiles of the Dead!
  • A spell is on the efforts each would make,
  • With willing spirit, for the other’s sake:
  • Through some new path of thought he fain would move,—
  • And she her languid hours would fain employ,—
  • But bitter grows the sweetness of their love,—
  • And a lament lies under all their joy.
  • She, watches Claud,—bending above the page;
  • Thinks him grown pale, and wearying with his care;
  • And with a sigh his promise would engage
  • For happy exercise and summer air:
  • He, watches her, as sorrowful she lies,
  • And thinks she dreams of woman’s hope denied;
  • page: 107
  • Of the soft gladness of a young child’s eyes,
  • And pattering footsteps on the terrace wide,—
  • Where sunshine sleeps, as in a home for light,
  • And glittering peacocks make a rainbow show,—
  • But which seems sad, because that terrace bright
  • Must evermore remain as lone as now.
  • And either tries to hide the thoughts that wring
  • Their secret hearts; and both essay to bring
  • Some happy topic, some yet lingering dream,
  • Which they with cheerful words shall make their theme;
  • But fail,—and in their wistful eyes confess
  • All their words never own of hopelessness.
  • Was then DESPAIR the end of all this woe?
  • Far off the angel voices answer, No!
  • Devils despair, for they believe and tremble;
  • page: 108
  • But man believes and hopes. Our griefs resemble
  • Each other but in this. Grief comes from Heaven;
  • Each thinks his own the bitterest trial given;
  • Each wonders at the sorrows of his lot;
  • His neighbour’s sufferings presently forgot,
  • Though wide the difference which our eyes can see
  • Not only in grief’s kind, but its degree.
  • God grants to some, all joys for their possession,
  • Nor loss, nor cross, the favoured mortal mourns;
  • While some toil on, outside those bounds of blessing,
  • Whose weary feet for ever tread on thorns.
  • But over all our tears God’s rainbow bends;
  • To all our cries a pitying ear He lends;
  • Yea, to the feeble sound of man’s lament
  • How often have His messengers been sent!
  • page: 109
  • No barren glory circles round His throne,
  • By mercy’s errands were His angels known;
  • Where hearts were heavy, and where eyes were dim,
  • There did the brightness radiate from Him;
  • God’s pity,—clothed in an apparent form,—
  • Starred with a polar light the human storm,
  • Floated o’er tossing seas man’s sinking bark,
  • And for all dangers built one sheltering ark.
  • When a slave’s child lay dying, parched with thirst,
  • Till o’er the arid waste a fountain burst,—
  • When Abraham’s mournful hand upheld the knife
  • To smite the silver cord of Isaac’s life,—
  • When faithful Peter in his prison slept,—
  • When lions to the feet of Daniel crept,—
  • When the tried Three walked through the furnace glare,
  • page: 110
  • Believing God was with them, even there,—
  • When to Bethesda’s sunrise‐smitten wave
  • Poor trembling cripples crawl’d their limbs to lave;—
  • In all the various forms of human trial,
  • Brimming that cup, filled from a bitter vial,
  • Which even the suffering Christ with fainting cry
  • Under God’s will had shudderingly past by:—
  • To hunger, pain, and thirst, and human dread;
  • Imprisonment; sharp sorrow for the dead;
  • Deformed contraction; burdensome disease;
  • Humbling and fleshly ill!—to all of these
  • The shining messengers of comfort came,—
  • God’s angels,—healing in God’s holy name.
  • And when the crowning pity sent to earth
  • The Man of Sorrows, in mysterious birth;
  • page: 111
  • And the angelic tones with one accord
  • Made loving chorus to proclaim the Lord;
  • Was Isaac’s guardian there, and he who gave
  • Hagar the sight of that cool gushing wave?
  • Did the defender of the youthful Three,
  • And Peter’s usher, join that psalmody?
  • With him who at the dawn made healing sure,
  • Troubling the waters with a freshening cure;
  • And those, the elect, to whom the task was given
  • To offer solace to the Son of Heaven,
  • When,—mortal tremors by the Immortal felt,—
  • Pale, ’neath the Syrian olives, Jesu knelt,
  • Alone,—’midst sleeping followers warned in vain;
  • Alone with God’s compassion, and His pain!
  • Cease we to dream. Our thoughts are yet more dim
  • Than children’s are, who put their trust in Him.
  • page: 112
  • All that our wisdom knows, or ever can,
  • Is this: that God hath pity upon man;
  • And where His Spirit shines in Holy Writ,
  • The great word COMFORTER comes after it.
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