Alice Cary

April 26, 1820 - 1871


Lyra: A Lament

by Alice Cary

Maidens, whose tresses shine,
Crowned with daffodil and eglantine,
Or, from their stringéd buds of brier roses,
Bright as the vermeil closes
Of April twilights after sobbing rains,
Fall down in rippled skeins
And golden tangles low
About your bosoms, dainty as new snow;
While the warm shadows blow in softest vales
Fair hawthorn flowers and cherry blossoms white
Against your kirtles, like the froth from pails
O'er brimmed with milk at night,
When lowing heifers bury their sleek flanks
In winrows of sweet hay or clover banks --
Come near and hear, I pray,
My plainéd roundelay.

Where creeping vines o'er run the sunny leas,
Sadly, sweet souls, I watch your shining bands,
Filling with stainéd hands
Your leafy cups with lush red strawberries;
Or deep in murmurous glooms,
In yellow mosses full of starry blooms,
Sunken at ease -- each busied as she likes,
Or stripping from the grass the beaded dews,
Or picking jagged leaves from the slim spikes
Of tender pinks -- with warbled interfuse
Of poesy divine,
That haply long ago
Some wretched borderer of the realm of wo
Wrought to a dulcet line; --
If in your lovely years
There be a sorrow that may touch with tears
The eyelids piteously, they must be shed

The mantle of the May
Was blown almost within the summer's reach,
And all the orchard trees,
Apple, and pear, and peach,
Were full of yellow bees,
Flown from their hives away.
The callow dove upon the dusty beam
Fluttered its little wings in streaks of light,
And the gray swallow twittered full in sight;
Harmless the unyoked team
Browsed from the budding elms, and thrilling lays
Made musical prophecies of brighter days;
And all went jocundly. I could but say,
Ah! well-a-day! --
What time spring thaws the wold,
And in the dead leaves come up sprouts of gold,
And green and ribby blue, that after hours
Encrown with flowers;
Heavily lies my heart
From all delights apart,
Even as an echo hungry for the wind,
When fail the silver-kissing waves to unbind
The music bedded in the drowsy strings
Of the sea's golden shells --
That, sometimes, with their honeyed murmurings
Fill all its underswells; --
For o'er the sunshine fell a shadow wide
When Lyra died.

When sober Autumn, with his mist-bound brows,
Sits drearily beneath the fading boughs,
And the rain, chilly cold,
Wrings from his beard of gold,
And as some comfort for his lonesome hours,
Hides in his bosom stalks of withered flowers,
I think about what leaves are drooping round
A smoothly shapen mound,
And if the wild wind cries
Where Lyra lies.
Sweet shepherds softly blow
Ditties most sad and low --
Piping on hollow reeds to your pent sheep --
Calm be my Lyra's sleep,

Unvexed with dream of the rough briers that pull
From his strayed lambs the wool!
Oh, star, that tremblest dim
Upon the welkin's rim,
Send with thy milky shadows from above
Tidings about my love;
If that some envious wave
Made his untimely grave,
Or if, so softening half my wild regrets,
Some coverlid of bluest violets
Was softly put aside,
What time he died!
Nay, come not, piteous maids,
Out of the murmurous shades;
But keep your tresses crownéd as you may
With eglantine and daffodillies gay,
And with the dews of myrtles wash your cheeks,
When flamy streaks,
Uprunning the gray orient, tell of morn --
While I, forlorn,
Pour all my heart in tears and plaints instead,


Copyright 1855
Boston: Ticknor And Fields