Caroline Bowles Southey




by Caroline Bowles Southey

There was a time, -- sweet time of youthful folly --
Fantastic woes I courted, feigned distress,
Wooing the veiled phantom Melancholy
With passion, born, like Love, in idleness.

And, like a lover, -- like a jealous lover, --
I hid mine idol with a miser's art, --
Lest vulgar eyes her sweetness should discover, --
Close in the inmost chambers of mine heart.

And then I sought her, -- oft in secret sought her,
From merry mates withdrawn and mirthful play, --
To wear away, by some deep, stilly water,
In greenwood haunt, the livelong summer day;

Watching the flitting clouds, the fading flowers,
The flying rack athwart the waving grass,
And murmuring oft, Alack, this life of ours!
Such are its joys! so swiftly doth it pass!

And then mine idle tears (ah, silly maiden!)
Bedropt the liquid grass like summer rain,
And sighs, as from a bosom sorrow-laden,
Heaved the light heart that knew no real pain.

And then I loved to haunt lone burial-places,
To pace the churchyard earth with noiseless tread
To pore in new-made graves for ghastly traces --
Brown, crumbling bones-of the forgotten dead;

To think of passing-bells, of death and dying; --
'Twere good, methought, in early youth to die;
So loved! lamented! in such sweet sleep lying,
The white shroud all with flowers and rosemary

Stuck o'er by loving hands! But then 't would grieve me
Too sore, forsooth! the scene my fancy drew;
I could not bear the thought to die and leave ye;
And I have lived, dear friends, to weep for you

And I have lived to prove what fading flowers, --
And life's best joys, and all we love and prize, --
What chilling rains, succeed the summer showers!
What bitter drops wrung slow from elder eyes!

And I have lived to look on death and dying,
To count the sinking pulse, the shortening breath,
To watch the last faint life-streak flying -- flying --
To stoop, to start, to be alone with death.

And I have lived to feign the smile of gladness,
When all within was cheerless, dark, and cold;
When all earth's joy seemed mockery and madness
And life more tedious than a tale twice told.

And now, -- and now, -- pale, pining Melancholy I
No longer veiled for me your haggard brow
In pensive sweetness, such as youthful folly
Fondly conceited; I abjure ye now!

Away! avaunt! No longer now I call ye
Divinest Melancholy! mild, meek maid!
No longer may your siren spells inthrall me,
A willing captive in your baleful shade.

Give me the voice of mirth, the sound of laughte
The sparkling glance of Pleasure's roving eye;
The past is past; avaunt, thou dark hereafter!
Come, eat and drink; to-morrow we must die.

So, in his desperate mood, the fool hath spoken, --
The fool, whose heart hath said there is no God;
But for the stricken soul -- the spirit broken --
There's balm in Gilead still. The very rod,

If we but kiss it as the stroke descendeth,
Distilleth oil to allay the inflicted smart;
And peace that passeth understanding blendet
With the deep sighing of the contrite heart.

Mine be that holy, humble tribulation,
No longer feigned distress, fantastic woe;
I know my griefs; but then my consolation,
My trust, and my immortal hopes, I know.


The Floral Wreath Of Autumn Flowers
Copyright 1850
Detroit: Kerr, Doughty and Lapham