Alice Cary

April 26, 1820 - 1871


In Illness

by Alice Cary

No harsh complaint nor rude unmannered wo,
Shall jar discordant in the dulcet flow
Of music, raining through the chestnut wings
Of the wild plaining dove,
The while I touch my lyre's late shattered strings,
Mourning about my love.

Now in the field of sunset, Twilight gray,
Sad for the dying day,
With wisps of shadows binds the sheaves of gold,
And Night comes shepherding his starry fold
Along the shady bottom of the sky.
Alas, that I
Sunken among life's faded ruins lie --
My senses from their natural uses bound!
What thing is likest to my wretched plight? --
A barley grain cast into stony ground,
That may not quicken up into the light.

Erewhile I dreamed about the hills of home
Whereon I used to roam;
Of silver-leavéd larch,
And willows, hung with tassels, when like bells
Tinkle the thawing runnel's brimming swells;
And softly filling in the front of March
The new moon lies,
Watching for harebells, and the buds that ease
Heart's lovelorn, and the spotted adder's tongue,
Dead heapéd leaves among --
The verdurous season's cloud of witnesses;
Of how the daisy shines
White, i' the knotty and close-nibbled grass;
Of thickets full of prickly eglantines,
And the slim spice-wood and red sassafras,
Stealing between whose boughs the twinkling heats
Suck up the exhaléd sweets
From dew-embalméd beds of primroses,
That all unpresséd lie,
Save of enamored airs, right daintily,
And golden-ringéd bees;
Of atmospheres of hymns,
When wings go beating up the blue sublime
From hedgerows sweet with vermeil-sprouting limbs,
In April's showery time,
When lilacs come, and straggling flag-flowers, bright,
As any summer light
Ere yet the plowman's steers
Browse through the meadows from the traces free,
Or steel-blue swallows twitter merrily,
With slant wings shaving close the level ground,
Where with his new-washed ewes thick huddled round,
The careful herdsman plies the busy shears.
But this was in life's May,
Ere Lyra was away;

And this fond seeming now no longer seems --
Aching and drowsy pains keep down my dreams; --
Even as a dreary wind
Within some hollow, black with poison flowers,
Swoons into silence, dies the hope that lined
My lowly chamber with illumined wings,
In life's enchanted hours,
When, tender oxlips mixed through yellow strings
Of mulleinstars, with myrtles interfused,
Pulled out of pastures green, I gaily used
To braid up with my hair. Ah, well-a-day!
Haply the blue eyes of another May,
Open from rosy lids, I shall not see,
For the white shroud-folds. If it thus must be,
Oh, friends who near me keep
To watch or weep,
When you shall see the coming of the night
Comfort me with the light
Of Lyra's love,
And pray the saints above
To pity me, if it be sin to know
Heaven here below.


Copyright 1855
Boston: Ticknor And Fields