The Watcher's Story
by Phoebe Carey
She has slept since first the firelight
Mingled with the sun's last ray, --
If she lives till after midnight
She may see another day; --
Though she then could only number
A few weary hours, at best,
And 't were better if her slumber
Could be deepened into rest.
When about my neck, all night through.
White arms, softly dimpled, lay,
Then her face had not a shadow
That I could not kiss away:
And I knew the simple measure
Of her little hopes and fears,
Shared in all her childish pleasure.
Pitied all her childish fears.
But the maiden's deeper yearning
Taught her maidenhood's disguise,
When a tenderer light came burning
In the soft depths of her eyes.
Then she wandered down the meadows,
Like some restless woodland elf,
Or sat hidden deep in shadows,
Singing softly to herself,
Or repeated dreams elysian
From some poet's touching strain,
As some vague and nameless vision
Were half-formed within the brain.
I had counselled, led, reproved her, --
Now the time for these was o'er;
From a baby I had loved her,
She could be a child no more.
Then she grew a listless weeper,
Scarce her lip might lightly speak,
And the crimson glow was deeper
In the white snow of her cheek.
And sometimes, at midnight waking,
I have heard her bitter sighs,
And have seen the tear-drops breaking
Through the closed lids of her eyes.
Sometimes, like a shaken blossom,
Moved her heart with visions sweet;
With my hand upon her bosom,
I could feel it beat, and beat.
While her young face down the meadows
Kept in childhood's pleasant track,
I could kiss off all the shadows,
Other lips had kissed them back!
Oftener then the tear-dews pearly
Dropped upon her soft white cheek,
Sorrow came to her so early,
And her womanhood was weak.
Life grew weary ,very weary:
I had trembled, knowing well
Ever-more it must be dreary,
When the first great shadow fell.
It had fallen, -- the old, sad story,
Hope deferred, and wearying doubts
From her youth's first crown of glory
All the roses had dropped out.
Once, when husbandmen were bearing
To their barns the ripened ear,
And that sorrow had been wearing
On her mortal life a year;
As she sat with me at evening,
Looking earnestly without,
Still half hopeful, and half yielding
To the bitterness of doubt;
Anxiously towards me leaning,
Breaking off a lonesome tune,
She asked, with deepest meaning,
If the year had worn to June.
Said I, roses lately blooming
Have all faded from their prime;
And she answered, He is coming!
'T is the season, 't is the time!
Then she looked adown the valley
Towards the pleasant fields in sight
Where the wheat was hanging heavy
And the rye was growing white;
And she said, with full heart heating
And with earnest, trembling tone,
If to-night should be our meeting,
Let me see him first alone.
So with trust still unabated,
With affection deep and true,
She watched, and hoped, and waited,
All the lonesome summer through,
Till the autumn wind blew dreary;
Then she almost ceased to smile,
And her spirit grew more weary
Of its burden all the while.
I remember well of sharing,
The last watch she ever kept,
Till she turned away dispairing,
Saying sadly while she wept: --
Shut the window! when 't is lifted
I can feel the cheerless rain,
And the yellow leaves are drifted
O'er me, through the open pane.
Heavy shadows, creeping nigher,
Darken over all the walk:
Let us sit beside the fire,
Where we used to sit and talk.
Close the shutter, through the gloaming
My poor eyes can see no more,
And if any one is coming
I shall hear them at the door.
O my friend, but speak, and cheer me, --
Speak until my heart grow light;
What if he were very near me, --
What if he should come to-night!
It might be so, -- ere the morrow
He might sit there where thou art,
And the weight of all this sorrow
Be uplifted from my heart.
Idle, idle, long endurance
Changes hope to fear and doubt,
Saying oft a sweet assurance
Almost wears its meaning out.
O, my thoughts are foolish dreaming,
Fancies of a troubled brain,
Very like the truth in seeming;
But he will not come again.
Never will his hand caress me,
Pushing back this faded hair,
Never whisper soft, 'God bless thee!'
Half in fondness, half in prayer.
Well, if he were standing near me,
Close as thou hast stood to-day,
Could I make the Father hear me,
Could I turn from him to pray?
O my friend, whose soul was never
On such waves of passion tost,
Plead for Heaven's sweet mercy ever,
That I be not wholly lost!
Talk to me of peaceful bosoms,
Never touched by mortal ills:
Talk of beds of fragrant blossoms,
Whitening all the fadeless hills.
Promises of sweet Evangels,
Blessed hope of life above,
O eternity, O angels!
Turn my thoughts from human love!
Source:The Poems Of Phoebe Carey
New York: Hurst And Company