Dealing its dole,
The Curfew Bell
Is beginning to toll.
Cover the embers,
And put out the light;
Toil comes with the morning,
And rest with the night.
Dark grow the windows,
And quenched is the fire;
Sound fades into silence,—
All footsteps retire.
No voice in the chambers,
No sound in the hall!
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all!
The book is completed,
And closed, like the day;
And the hand that has written it
Lays it away.
Dim grow its fancies;
Forgotten they lie;
Like coals in the ashes,
They darken and die.
Song sinks into silence,
The story is told,
The windows are darkened,
The hearth—stone is cold.
Darker and darker
The black shadows fall;
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all.
No sound of wheels or hoof—beat breaks
The silence of the summer day,
As by the loveliest of all lakes
I while the idle hours away.
I pace the leafy colonnade,
Where level branches of the plane
Above me weave a roof of shade
Impervious to the sun and rain.
At times a sudden rush of air
Flutters the lazy leaves o’erhead,
And gleams of sunshine toss and flare
Like torches down the path I tread.
By Somariva’s garden gate
I make the marble stairs my seat,
And hear the water, as I wait,
Lapping the steps beneath my feet.
The undulation sinks and swells
Along the stony parapets,
And far away the floating bells
Tinkle upon the fisher’s nets.
Silent and slow, by tower and town
The freighted barges come and go,
Their pendent shadows gliding down
By town and tower submerged below.
The hills sweep upward from the shore,
With villas scattered one by one
Upon their wooded spurs, and lower
Bellaggio blazing in the sun.
And dimly seen, a tangled mass
Of walls and woods, of light and shade,
Stands, beckoning up the Stelvio Pass,
Varenna with its white cascade.
I ask myself, Is this a dream?
Will it all vanish into air?
Is there a land of such supreme
And perfect beauty anywhere?
Sweet vision! Do not fade away;
Linger, until my heart shall take
Into itself the summer day,
And all the beauty of the lake;
Linger until upon my brain
Is stamped an image of the scene,
Then fade into the air again,
And be as if thou hadst not been.
There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
That dwells where’er the gentle south—wind blows;
Where, underneath the white—thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast ushering star of morning comes
O’er—riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky—sandalled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
Departs with silent pace! That spirit moves
In the green valley, where the silver brook,
From its full laver, pours the white cascade;
And, babbling low amid the tangled woods,
Slips down through moss—grown stones with endless laughter.
And frequent, on the everlasting hills,
Its feet go forth, when it doth wrap itself
In all the dark embroidery of the storm,
And shouts the stern, strong wind. And here, amid
The silent majesty of these deep woods,
lts presence shall uplift thy thoughts from earth,
As to the sunshine and the pure, bright air
Their tops the green trees lift. Hence gifted bards
Have ever loved the calm and quiet shades.
For them there was an eloquent voice in all
The sylvan pomp of woods, the golden sun,
The flowers, the leaves, the river on its way,
Blue skies, and silver clouds, and gentle winds,
The swelling upland, where the sidelong sun
Aslant the wooded slope, at evening, goes,
Groves, through whose broken roof the sky looks in,
Mountain, and shattered cliff, and sunny vale,
The distant lake, fountains, and mighty trees,
In many a lazy syllable, repeating
Their old poetic legends to the wind.
And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth,
My busy fancy oft embodies it,
As a bright image of the light and beauty
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues
That stain the wild bird’s wing, and flush the clouds
When the sun sets. Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung,
And on her lip the rich, red rose. Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever—shifting beauty. Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, front the morning’s dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.
The panting City cried to the Sea,
‘I am faint with heat,—O breathe on me!’
And the Sea said, ‘Lo, I breathe! but my breath
To some will be life, to others death!’
As to Prometheus, bringing ease
In pain, come the Oceanides,
So to the City, hot with the flame
Of the pitiless sun, the east wind came.
It came from the heaving breast of the deep,
Silent as dreams are, and sudden as sleep.
Life-giving, death-giving, which will it be;
O breath of the merciful, merciless Sea?
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
When the dying flame of day
Through the chancel shot its ray,
Far the glimmering tapers shed
Faint light on the cowléd head;
And the censer burning swung,
Where, before the altar, hung
The crimson banner, that with prayer
Had been consecrated there.
And the nuns’ sweet hymn was heard the while,
Sung low, in the dim, mysterious aisle.
'Take thy banner! May it wave
Proudly o’er the good and brave;
When the battle’s distant wail
Breaks the sabbath of our vale.
When the clarion’s music thrills
To the hearts of these lone hills,
When the spear in conflict shakes,
And the strong lance shivering breaks.
'Take thy banner! and, beneath
The battle—cloud’s encircling wreath,
Guard it, till our homes are free!
Guard it! God will prosper thee!
In the dark and trying hour,
In the breaking forth of power,
In the rush of steeds and men,
His right hand will shield thee then.
‘Take thy banner! But when night
Closes round the ghastly fight,
If the vanquished warrior bow,
Spare him! By our holy vow,
By our prayers and many tears,
By the mercy that endears,
Spare him! he our love hath shared!
Spare him! as thou wouldst be spared!
’Take thy banner! and if e’er
Thou shouldst press the soldier’s bier,
And the muffled drum should beat
To the tread of mournful feet,
Then this crimson flag shall be
Martial cloak and shroud for thee.'
The warrior took that banner proud,
And it was his martial cloak and shroud!
As the dim twilight shrouds
The mountain’s purple crest,
And Summer’s white and folded clouds
Are glowing in the west,
Loud shouts come up the rocky dell,
And voices hail the evening—bell.
Faint is the goatherd’s song,
And sighing comes the breeze;
The silent river sweeps along
Amid its bending trees —
And the full moon shines faintly there,
And music fills the evening air.
Beneath the waving firs
The tinkling cymbals sound;
And as the wind the foliage stirs,
I see the dancers bound
Where the green branches, arched above,
Bend over this fair scene of love.
And he is there, that sought
My young heart long ago!
But he has left me —though I thought
He ne’er could leave me so.
Ah! lover’s vows —how frail are they!
And his —were made but yesterday.
Why comes he not? I call
In tears upon him yet;
'Twere better ne’er to love at all,
Than love, and then forget!
Why comes he not? Alas! I should
Reclaim him still, if weeping could.
But see —he leaves the glade,
And beckons me away:
He comes to seek his mountain maid!
I cannot chide his stay.
Glad sounds along the valley swell,
And voices hail the evening—bell.
The rising moon has hid the stars;
Her level rays, like golden bars,
Lie on the landscape green,
With shadows brown between.
And silver white the river gleams,
As if Diana, in her dreams,
Had dropt her silver bow
Upon the meadows low.
On such a tranquil night as this,
She woke Endymion with a kiss,
When, sleeping in the grove,
He dreamed not of her love.
Like Dian’s kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought;
Nor voice, nor sound betrays
Its deep, impassioned gaze.
It comes,—the beautiful, the free,
The crown of all humanity,—
In silence and alone
To seek the elected one.
It lifts the boughs, whose shadows deep
Are Life’s oblivion, the soul’s sleep,
And kisses the closed eyes
Of him, who slumbering lies.
O weary hearts! O slumbering eyes!
O drooping souls, whose destinies
Are fraught with fear and pain,
Ye shall be loved again!
No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Responds unto his own.
Responds,—as if with unseen wings,
An angel touched its quivering strings;
And whispers, in its song,
“'Where hast thou stayed so long?”
The Archbishop, whom God loved in high degree,
Beheld his wounds all bleeding fresh and free;
And then his cheek more ghastly grew and wan,
And a faint shudder through his members ran.
Upon the battle-field his knee was bent;
Brave Roland saw, and to his succor went,
Straightway his helmet from his brow unlaced,
And tore the shining hauberk from his breast.
Then raising in his arms the man of God,
Gently he laid him on the verdant sod.
Rest, Sire,' he cried,—'for rest thy suffering needs.'
The priest replied, ‘Think but of warlike deeds!
The field is ours; well may we boast this strife!
But death steals on,—there is no hope of life;
In paradise, where Almoners live again,
There are our couches spread, there shall we rest from pain.
Sore Roland grieved; nor marvel I, alas!
That thrice he swooned upon the thick green grass.
When he revived, with a loud voice cried he,
’O Heavenly Father! Holy Saint Marie!
Why lingers death to lay me in my grave!
Beloved France! how have the good and brave
Been torn from thee, and left thee weak and poor!'
Then thoughts of Aude, his lady-love, came o’er
His spirit, and he whispered soft and slow,
'My gentle friend!—what parting full of woe!
Never so true a liegeman shalt thou see;—
Whate’er my fate, Christ’s benison on thee!
Christ, who did save from realms of woe beneath,
The Hebrew Prophets from the second death.'
Then to the Paladins, whom well he knew,
He went, and one by one unaided drew
To Turpin’s side, well skilled in ghostly lore;—
No heart had he to smile, but, weeping sore,
He blessed them in God’s name, with faith that He
Would soon vouchsafe to them a glad eternity.
The Archbishop, then, on whom God’s benison rest,
Exhausted, bowed his head upon his breast;—
His mouth was full of dust and clotted gore,
And many a wound his swollen visage bore.
Slow beats his heart, his panting bosom heaves,
Death comes apace,—no hope of cure relieves.
Towards heaven he raised his dying hands and prayed
That God, who for our sins was mortal made,
Born of the Virgin, scorned and crucified,
In paradise would place him by His side.
Then Turpin died in service of Charlon,
In battle great and eke great orison;—
'Gainst Pagan host alway strong champion;
God grant to him His holy benison.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to—morrow
Find us farther than to—day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Bell! thou soundest merrily,
When the bridal party
To the church doth hie!
Bell! thou soundest solemnly.
When, on Sabbath morning,
Fields deserted lie!
Bell! thou soundest merrily;
Tellest thou at evening,
Bed-time draweth nigh!
Bell! thou soundest mournfully.
Tellest thou the bitter
Parting hath gone by!
Say! how canst thou mourn?
How canst thou rejoice?
Thou art but metal dull!
And yet all our sorrowings,
Arid all our rejoicings,
Thou dost feel them all!
God hath wonders many,
Which we cannot fathom,
Placed within thy form!
When the heart is sinking,
Thou alone canst raise it,
Trembling in the storm!
‘Ah, how short are the days! How soon the night overtakes us!
In the old country the twilight is longer; but here in the forest
Suddenly comes the dark, with hardly a pause in its coming,
Hardly a moment between the two lights, the day and the lamplight;
Yet how grand is the winter! How spotless the snow is, and perfect!’
Thus spake Elizabeth Haddon at nightfall to Hannah the housemaid,
As in the farm-house kitchen, that served for kitchen and parlor,
By the window she sat with her work, and looked on a landscape
White as the great white sheet that Peter saw in his vision,
By the four corners let down and descending out of the heavens.