Caroline Bowles Southey



Sunday Evening

by Caroline Bowles Southey

I sat, last Sunday evening,
From sunset even till night,
At the open casement, watching
The day's departed light

Such hours to me are holy, --
Holier than tongue can tell;
They fall on my heart like dew
On the parched heather-bell.

The sun had shone bright all day;
His setting was brighter still;
But there sprang up a lovely air
As he dropped the western hill.

The fields and lanes were swarming
With holyday folks in their best,
Released from their six days' cares
By the seventh day's peace and rest.

I heard the light-hearted laugh,
The trampling of many feet;
I saw them go merrily by,
And to me the sight was sweet.

There's a sacred, soothing sweetness,
A pervading spirit of bliss,
Peculiar from all other times,
In a Sabbath eve like this.

Methinks, though I knew not the day,
Nor beheld those glad faces, yet all
Would tell me that Nature was keeping
Some solemn festival.

The steer and the steed in their pastures
Lie down with a look of peace,
As if they knew 'twas commanded
That this day their labor should cease.

The lark's vesper song is more thrilling,
As he mounts to bid heaven good night;
The brook sings a quieter tune,
The sun sets in livelier light;

The grass, the green leaves, and the flowers,
Are tinged with more exquisite hues;
More odorous incense from out them
Steams up with the evening dews.

So I sat, last Sunday evening,
Musing on all these things,
With that quiet gladness of spirit
No thought of this world brings.

I watched the departing glory,
Till its last red streak grew pale,
And earth and heaven were woven
In twilight's dusky veil.

Then the lark dropped down to his mate,
By her nest on the dewy ground,
And the stir of human life
Died away to a distant sound

All sounds died away -- the light laugh,
The far footstep, the merry call --
To such stillness, the pulse of one's heart
Might have echoed a rose leaf's fall.

And, by little and little, the darkness
Waved wider its sable wings,
Till the nearest objects and largest
Became shapeless, confused things.

And, at last, all was dark; then I felt
A cold sadness steal over my heart;
And I said to myself, Such is life!
So its hopes and its pleasures depart!' --

And when night comes, -- the dark night, --
What remaineth, beneath the sun,
Of all that was lovely and loved?
Of all we have learned and done?

When the eye waxeth dim, and the ear
To sweet music grows dull and cold;
And the fancy burns low, and the heart --
O heavens! can the heart grow old?

Then what remaineth of life
But the lees, with bitterness fraught?
What then?
-- but I checked as it rose,
And rebuked, that weak, wicked though

And I lifted mine eyes up, and lo!
An answer was written on high,
By the finger of God himself,
In the depths of the dark blue sky

There appeared a sign in the east;
A bright, beautiful, fixed star!
And I looked on its steady light,
Till the evil thoughts fled afar:

And the lesser lights of heaven
Shone out with their pale, soft rays,
Like the calm, unearthy comforts
Of a good man's latter days;

And there came up a sweet perfume
From the unseen flowers below,
Like the savor of virtuous deeds,
Of deeds done long ago;

Like the memory of well-spent time,
Of things that were holy and dear;
Of friendsdeparted this life
In the Lord's faith and fear.

So the burden of darkness was taken
From my soul, and my heart felt light:
And I laid me down to slumber
With peaceful thoughts that night.


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