Barbara Gray

A mourning woman, robed in black,
Stands in the twilight, looking back;
Her hand is one her heart, her head
Bends musingly above the Dead,
Her face is plain, and pinch'd, and thin,
But splendour strikes it from within.

I.

" B ARBARA Gray !
Pause, and remember what the world will say,"
I cried, and turning on the threshold fled,
When he was breathing on his dying bed;
But when, with heart grown bold,
I cross'd the threshold cold,
Here lay John Hamerton, and he was dead.

II.

And all the house of death was chill and dim,
The dull old housekeeper was looking grim,
The hall-clock ticking slow, the dismal rain
Splashing by fits against the window-pane,
The garden shivering in the twilight dark,
Beyond, the bare trees of the empty park,
And faint gray light upon the great cold bed,
And I alone; and he I turn'd from, — dead

III.

Ay, " dwarf" they called this man who sleeping lies;
No lady shone upon him with her eyes,
No tender maiden heard his true-love vow,
And pressed her kisses on the great bold brow.
What cared John Hamerton? With light, light laugh,
He halted through the streets upon his staff;
Halt, lame, not beauteous, yet with winning grace
And sweetness in his pale and quiet face;
Fire, hell's or heaven's, in his eyes of blue;
Warm words of love upon his tongue thereto;
Could win a woman's Soul with what he said,
And I am here; and here he lieth dead.

IV.

I would not blush if the bad world saw now
How by his bed I stoop and kiss his brow!
Ay, kiss it, kiss it, o'er and o'er again,
With all the love that fills my heart and brain.

V.

For where was man had stoop'd to me before,
Though I was maiden still, and girl no more?
Where was the spirit that had deign'd to prize
The poor plain features and the envious eyes?
What lips had whisper'd warmly in mine cars?
When had I known the passion and the tears?
Till he I look on sleeping came unto me,
Found me among the shadows, stoop'd to woo me,
Seized on the heart that flutter'd withering here,
Stung it and wrung it with new joy and fear,
Yea, brought the rapturous light, and brought the day,
Waken'd the dead heart, withering away,
Put thorns and roses on the unhonour'd head,
That felt but roses till the roses fled!
Who, who, but he crept unto sunless ground,
Content to prize the faded face he found?
John Hamerton, I pardon all — sleep sound, my love, sleep sound!

VI.

What fool that crawls shall prate of shame and sin?
Did he not think me fair enough to win?
Yea, stoop and smile upon my face as none,
Living or dead, save he alone, had done?
Bring the bright blush unto my cheek, when ne'er
The full of life and love had mantled there?
And I am all alone; and here lies he. —
The only man that ever smiled on me.

VII.

Here, in his lonely dwelling-house he lies,
The light all faded from his winsome eyes:
Alone, alone, alone, he slumbers here,
With wife nor little child to shed a tear!
Little, indeed, to him did nature give;
Nor was he good and pure as some that live,
But pinch'd in body, warp'd in limb,
He hated the bad world that loved not him!

VIII.

Barbara Gray!
Pause, and remember how he turn'd away;
Think of your wrongs, and of your sorrows, Nay!
Woman, think rather of the shame and wrong
Of pining lonely in the dark so long;
Think of the comfort in the grief he brought.
The revelation in the love he taught.
Then, Barbara Gray!
Blush not, nor heed what the cold world will say;
But kiss him, kiss him, o'er and o'er again,
In passion and in pain,
With all the love that fills your heart and brain!
Yea, kiss him, bless him, pray beside his bed,
For you have lived, and here your love lies dead.
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