Page images
PDF
EPUB

EDITH,

A TALE OF THE WOODS.

Du Heilige! rufe dein Kind zurück!
Ich habe genossen das irdische Glück,
Ich habe gelebt und geliebet.

Wallenstein.

The woods-oh! solemn are the boundless woods

Of the great Western World, when day declines, And louder sounds the roll of distant floods,

More deep the rustling of the ancient pines: When dimness gathers on the stilly air,

And mystery seems o'er every leaf to brood, Awful it is for human heart to bear

The might and burden of the solitude ! Yet, in that hour, ’midst those green wastes, there

sate One young and fair; and oh! how desolate ! But undismay'd; while sank the crimson light, And the high cedars darken'd with the night. Alone she sate: though many lay around, They, pale and silent on the bloody ground, Were sever'd from her need and from her woe,

Far as Death severs Life. O’er that wild spot Combat had raged, and brought the valiant low,

And left them, with the history of their lot,
Unto the forest oaks. A fearful scene
For her whose home of other days had been

* Founded on incidents related in an American work, “Sketches of Connecticut.”

Midst the fair halls of England! but the love

Which fill’d her soul was strong to cast out fear; And by its might upborne all else above,

She shrank not-mark'd not that the dead were

near.

Of him alone she thought, whose languid head

Faintly upon her wedded bosom fell; Memory of aught but him on earth was fled,

While heavily she felt his life-blood well Fast o'er her garments forth, and vainly bound With her torn robe and hair the streaming wound, Yet hoped, still hoped !-Oh! from such hope how

long Affection wooes the whispers that deceive, Ev'n when the pressure of dismay grows strong,

And we, that weep, watch, tremble, ne'er believe The blow indeed can fall! So bow'd she there, Over the dying, while unconscious prayer Fill'd all her soul. Now pour'd the moonlight down, Veining the pine-stems through the foliage brown, And fire-flies, kindling up the leafy place, Cast fitful radiance o'er the warrior's face, Whereby she caught its changes : to her eye

The eye that faded look'd through gathering haze, Whence love, o'ermastering mortal agony,

Lifted a long deep melancholy gaze, When voice was not; that fond sad meaning pass'dShe knew the fullness of her woe at last! One shriek the forests heard, -and mute she lay And cold; yet clasping still the precious clay To her scarce-heaving breast. Oh, Love and Death; Ye have sad meetings on this changeful earth, Many and sad! but airs of heavenly breath

Shall melt the links which bind you, for your birth Is far apart.

Now light, of richer hue Than the moon sheds, came flushing mist and dew; The pines grew red with morning; fresh winds play'd, Bright-colour'd birds with splendour cross'd the shade, Flitting on flower-like wings; glad murmurs broke

From reed, and spray, and leaf, the living strings Of earth's Eolian lyre, whose music woke

Into young life and joy all happy things. And she too woke from that long dreamless trance, The widow'd Edith : fearfully her glance Fell, as in doubt, on faces dark and strange, And dusky forms. A sudden sense of change Flash'd o'er her spirit, ev'n ere memory swept The tide of anguish back with thoughts that slept; Yet half instinctively she rose, and spread Her arms, as 't were for something lost or fled, Then faintly sank again. The forest-bough, With all its whispers, waved not o'er her now,Where was she? 'Midst the people of the wild,

By the red hunter's fire: an aged chief, Whose home look'd sad — for therein play'd no child

Had borne her, in the stillness of her grief, To that lone cabin of the woods; and there, Won by a form so desolately fair, Or touch'd with thoughts from some past sorrow sprung, O'er her low couch an Indian matron hung, While in grave silence, yet with earnest eye, The ancient warrior of the waste stood by, Bending in watchfulness his proud grey head, And leaning on his bow."

Vol. V. -16

And life return'd, Life, but with all its memories of the dead,

To Edith's heart; and well the sufferer learn'd Her task of meek endurance, well she wore The chasten'd grief that humbly can adore, 'Midst blinding tears. But unto that old pair, Ev'n as a breath of spring's awakening air, Her presence was; or as a sweet wild tune Bringing back tender thoughts, which all too soon Depart with childhood. Sadly they had seen

A daughter to the land of spirits go, And ever from that time her fading mien,

And voice, like winds of summer, soft and low, Had haunted their dim years; but Edith's face Now look'd in holy sweetness from her place, And they again seem'd parents. Oh! the joy, The rich, deep blessedness—though earth's alloy, Fear that still bodes, be there—of pouring forth The heart's whole power of love, its wealth and worth Of strong affection, in one healthful flow, On something all its own !--that kindly glow, Which to shut inward is consuming pain, Gives the glad soul its flowering time again, When, like the sunshine, freed.-And gentle cares Th’ adopted Edith meekly gave for theirs Who loved her thus :— her spirit dwelt, the while, With the departed, and her patient smile Spoke of farewells to earth ;- yet still she pray'd, Ev'n o'er her soldier's lowly grave, for aid One purpose to fulfil, to leave one trace Brightly recording that her dwelling-place Had been among the wilds; for well she knew The secret whisper of her bosom true, Which warn'd her hence.

And now, by many a word Link'd unto moments when the heart was stirr’d, By the sweet mournfulness of many a hymn, Sung when the woods at eve grew hush'd and dim, By the persuasion of her fervent eye, All eloquent with child-like piety, By the still beauty of her life, she strove To win for heaven, and heaven-born truth, the love Pour'd out on her so freely. - Nor in vain Was that soft-breathing influence to enchain The soul in gentle bonds: by slow degrees Light follow'd on, as when a summer breeze Parts the deep masses of the forest shade And lets the sunbeam through :- her voice was made Ev'n such a breeze; and she, a lowly guide, By faith and sorrow raised and purified, So to the Cross her Indian fosterers led, Until their prayers were one. When morning spread O'er the blue lake, and when the sunset's glow Touch'd into golden bronze the cypress-bough, And when the quiet of the Sabbath time Sank on her heart, though no melodious chime Waken’d the wilderness, their prayers were one. — Now might she pass in hope, her work was done. And she was passing from the woods away; The broken flower of England might not stay Amidst those alien shades; her eye was bright Ev'n yet with something of a starry light, But her form wasted, and her fair young cheek Wore oft and patiently a fatal streak, A rose whose root was death. The parting sigh Of autumn through the forests had gone by, And the rich maple o'er her wanderings lone

« PreviousContinue »