Letitia Elizabeth Landon

 

Rosalie

by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

I.

'Tis a wild tale -- and sad, too, as the sigh
That young lips breathe when Love's first dreamings fly:
When blights and cankerworms, and chilling showers,
Come withering o'er the warm heart's passion-flowers.
Love! gentlest spirit! I do tell of thee, --
Of all thy thousand hopes, thy many fears,
Thy morning blushes, and thy evening tears;
What thou hast ever been, and still will be,
Life's best, but most betraying witchery!
It is a night of summer, -- and the sea
Sleeps, like a child, in mute tranquility.
Soft o'er the deep-blue wave the moonlight breaks;
Gleaming, from out the white clouds of its zone,
Like beauty's changeful smile, when that it seeks
Some face it loves, yet fears to dwell upon.
The waves are motionless, save where the oar,
Light as Love's anger, and as quickly gone,
Has broken in upon their azure sleep.
Odors are on the air: -- the gale has been
Wandering in groves where the rich roses weep, --
Where orange, citron, and the soft lime-flowers
Shed forth their fragrance to night's dewy hours.
Afar the distant city meets the gaze,
Where tower and turret in the pale light shine,
Seen like the monuments of other days --
Monuments time half shadows, half displays.
And there are many, who, with witching song
And wild guitar's soul-thrilling melody,
Or the lute's melting music, float along
O'er the blue waters, still and silently.
That night had Naples sent her best display
Of young and gallant, beautiful and gay.

There was a bark a little way apart
From all the rest, and there two lovers leant: --
One with a blushing cheek and beating heart,
And bashful glance, upon the sea-wave bent;
She might not meet the gaze the other sent
Upon her beauty; -- but the half-breathed sighs
The deepening color, timid smiling eyes,
Told that she listened Love's sweet flatteries.
Then they were silent: -- words are little aid
To love, whose deepest vows are ever made
By the heart's beat alone. O, silence is
Love's own peculiar eloquence of bliss! --

Music swept past: -- it was a simple tone;
But it has wakened heartfelt sympathies; --
It has brought into life things past and gone;
Has wakened all those secret memories,
That may be smothered, blut that still will be
Present within thy soul, young Rosalie!
The notes had roused an answering chord within:
In other days, that song her vesper hymn had been
Iter altered look is pale: -- that dewy eye
Almost belies the smile her rich lips wear; --

That smile is mocked by a scarce-breathing sigh
Which tells of silent and suppressed care --
Tells that the life is withering with despair,
More irksome from its unsunned silentness --
A festering wound the spirit pines to bear;
A galling chain, whose pressure will intrude,
Fettering Mirth's step, and Pleasure's lightest mood.

Where are her thoughts thus wandering! -- A spot,
Now distant far, is pictured on her mind, --
A chestnut shadowing a low white cot,
With rose and jasmine round the casement twined,
Mixed with the myrtle-tree's luxuriant blind,
Alone, (O! should such solitude be here?)
An aged form beneath the shade reclined,
Whose eye glanced round the scene -- and then a tear
Told that she missed one in her heart enshrined!
Then came rememberances of other times,
When eve oped her rich bowers for the pale day;
When the faint, distant tones of convent chimes
Were answered by the lute and vesper lay; --
When the fond mother blest her gentle child,
And for her welfare prayed the Virgin mild.
And she has left the aged one to steep
Her nightly couch with tears for that lost child, --
The Rosalie, -- who left her age to weep,
When that the tempter flattered her and wiled
Her steps away, from her own home beguiled.
She started up in agony: -- her eye
Met Manfredi's. Softly he spoke, and smiled.
Memory is past, and thought and feeling lie
Lost in one dream -- all thrown on one wild die.
They floated o'er the waters, till the moon
Looked from the blue sky in her zenith noon, --

Till each glad bark at length had sought the shore,
And the waves echoed to the lute no more;
Then sought their gay palazzo, where the ray
Of lamps shed light only less bright than day;
And there they feasted till the morn did fling
Her blushes o'er their mirth and revelling.
And life was as a tale of faërie, --
As when some Eastern geni rears bright bowers,
And spreads the green turf and the colored flowers;
And calls upon the earth, the sea, the sky,
To yield their treasures for some gentle queen,
Whose reign is over the enchanted scene.
And Rosalie had pledged a magic cup --
The maddening cup of pleasure and of love!
There was for her one only dream on earth!
There was for her one only star above! --
She bent in passionate idolatry
Before her heart's sole idol -- Manfredi!

II.

'Tis night again -- a soft and summer night;
A deep-blue heaven, white clouds, moon and starlight
So calm, so beautiful, that human eye
Might weep to look on such a tranquil sky: --
A night just formed for Hope's first dream of bliss,
Or for Love's yet more perfect happiness!

The moon is o'er a grove of cypress trees,
Weeping, like mourners, in the plaining breeze;
Echoing the music of a rill, whose song
Glided so sweetly, but so sad, along.
There is a little chapel in the shade,
Where many a pilgrim has knelt down and prayed
To the sweet saint, whose portrait, o'er the shrine,
The painter's skill has made all but divine.
It was a pale, a melancholy face, --
A cheek which bore the trace of frequent tears,
And worn by grief, -- though grief might not efface
The seal that beauty set in happier years;
And such a smile as on the brow appears
Of one whose earthly thoughts, long since subdued
Past this life's joys and sorrows, hopes and fears --
The wordly dreams o'er which the many brood. --
The heart-beat hushed in mild and chastened mood.
It was the image of the maid who wept
Those precious tears that heal and purify.
Love yet upon her lip his station kept,
But heaven and heavenly thoughts were in her eye.
One knelt before the shrine, with cheek as pale
As was the cold white marble. Can this be
The young -- the loved -- the happy Rosalie?
Alas! alas! hers is a common tale: --
She trusted, -- as youth ever has believed; --
She heard Love's vows -- confided -- was deceived!

Oh, Love! thy essence is thy purity!
Breathe one unhallowed breath upon thy flame,
And it is gone forever, -- and but leaves
A sullied vase -- its pure light lost in shame!

And Rosalie was loved, -- not with that pure
And holy passion which can age endure;
But loved with wild and self-consuming fires, --
A torch which glares -- and scorches -- and expires.
A little while her dream of bliss remained, --
A little while Love's wings were left unchained.

But change came o'er the trusted Manfredi:
His heart forgot its vowed idolatry;
And his forgotten love was left to brood
O'er wrongs and ruin in her solitude!

How very desolate that breast must be,
Whose only joyance is in memory!
And what must woman suffer, thus betrayed! --
Her heart's most warm and precious feelings made
But things wherewith to wound: that heart -- so weak,.
So soft -- laid open to the vulture's beak!
Its sweet revealings given up to scorn
It burns to bear, and yet that must be borne!
And, sorer, still, that bitterer emotion,
To know the shrine which had our soul's devotion
Is that of a false deity! -- to look
Upon the eyes we worshipped, and brook
Their cold reply! Yet these are all for her! --
The rude world's outcast, and love's wanderer!
Alas! that love, which is so sweet a thing,
Should ever cause guilt, grief, or suffering!
Yet she upon whose face the sunbeams fall --
That dark-eyed girl -- had felt their bitterest thrall!

She thought upon her love; and there was not
In passion's record one green sunny spot --
It had been all a madness and a dream,
The shadow of a flower on the stream,
Which seems, but is not; and then memory turned
To her lone mother. How her bosom burned
With sweet and bitter thoughts! There might be rest --
The wounded dove will flee into her nest --

That mother's arms might fold her child again,
The cold world scorn, the cruel smite in vain,
And falsehood be remembered no more
In that calm shelter: -- and she might weep o'er
Her faults and find forgiveness. Had not she
To whom she knelt found pardon in the eyes
Of Heaven, in offering for sacrifice
A broken heart? And might not pardon be
Also for her? She looked up to the face
Of that pale saint; and in that gentle brow,
Which seemed to hold communion with her thought,
There was a smile which gave hope energy.
She prayed one deep, wild prayer, -- that she might gain
The home she hoped; -- then sought that home again.

A flush of beauty is upon the sky --
Eve's last warm blushes -- like the crimson dye
The maiden wears, when first her dark eyes meet
The graceful lover's sighing at her feet.
And there were sounds of music on the breeze,
And perfume shaken from the citron trees;
While the dark chestnuts caught a golden ray
On their green leaves, the last bright gift of day;
And peasants dancing gayly in the shade
To the soft mandolin, whose light notes made
An echo fit to the glad voices singing.
The twilight spirit his sweet urn is flinging
Of dew upon the lime and orange stems,
And giving to the rose pearl diadems.

There is a pilgrim by that old gray tree,
With head upon her hand bent mournfully;
And looking round upon each lovely thing,
And breathing the sweet air, as they could bring
To her no beauty and no solacing.
'Tis Rosalie! Her prayer was not in vain,
The truant-child has sought her home again!

It must be worth a life of toil and care, --
Worth those dark chains the wearied one must bear
Who toils up fortune's steep, -- all that can wring
The worn-out bosom with lone suffering, --
Worth restlessness, oppression, goading fears,
And long-deferred hopes of many years, --
To reach again that little quiet spot,
So well-loved once, and never quite forgot; --
To trace again the steps of infancy,
And catch their freshness from their memory
And it is triumph, sure, when fortune's sun
Has shone upon us, and our task is done,
To show our harvest to the eyes which were
Once all the world to us! Perhaps there are
Some who had presaged kindly of our youth;
Feel we not proud their prophecy was sooth?

But how felt Rosalie? -- The very air
Seemed as it brought reproach! there was no eye
To look delighted, welcome none was there!
She felt as feels an outcast wandering by
Where every door is closed! She looked around! --
She heard some voices' sweet familiar sound.
There were some changed, and some remembered things;
There were girls, whom she left in their first springs,
Now blushed into full beauty. There was one
Whom she loved tenderly in days now gone!
She was not dancing gayly with the rest;
A rose-cheeked child within her arms was prest
And it had twined its small hands in the hair
That clustered o'er its mother's brow: as fair
As buds in spring. She gave her laughing dove
To one who clasped it with a father's love;
And if a painter's eye had sought a scene
Of love in its most perfect loveliness --
Of childhood, and of wedded happiness, --
He would have painted the sweet Madeline!
But Rosalie shrank from them, and she strayed
Through a small grove of cypresses, whose shade
Hung o'er a burying-ground, where the low stone
And the gray cross recorded those now gone!
There was a grave just closed. Not one seemed near
To pay the tribute of one long -- last tear!
How very desolate must that one be
Whose more than grave has not a memory!

Then Rosalie thought on her mother's age, --
Just such her end would be with her away:
No child the last cold death-pang to assuage --
No child by her neglected tomb to pray!
She asked -- and like a hope from heaven it came? --
To hear them answer with a stranger's name.

She reached her mother's cottage; by that gate
She thought how her once lover wont to wait
To tell her honeyed tales; and then she thought
On all the utter ruin he had wrought!
The moon shone brightly, as it used to do
Ere youth, and hope, and love, had been untrue;
But it shone o'er the desolate! The flowers
Were dead; the faded jessamine, unbound,
Trailed, like a heavy weed, upon the ground;

And fell the moonlight vainly over trees,
Which had not even one rose, -- although the breeze,
Almost as if in mockery, had brought
Sweet tones it from the nightingale had caught!

She entered in the cottage. None were there!
The hearth was dark, -- the walls looked cold and bare!
All -- all spoke poverty and suffering!
All -- all was changed! and but one only thing
Kept its old place! Rosalie's mandolin
Hung on the wall, where it had ever been.
There was one other room, -- and Rosalie
Sought for her mother there. A heavy flame
Gleamed from a dying lamp; a cold air came
Damp from the broken casement. There one lay,
Like marble seen but by the moonlight ray!
And Rosalie drew near. One withered hand
Was stretched, as it would reach a wretched stand
Where some cold water stood! And by the bed
She knelt -- and gazed -- and saw her mother -- dead!

Source:

The Poetical Works Of Miss Landon
Copyright 1853
Phillips, Sampson, And Co.
110 Washington Street
Boston
 
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