The Follower

I.

" Why dost thou look so sad and wan?
And why art thou so wo-begone?
Why dost thou mutter words of fear?
Do I not love thee, father dear?
Is not earth a place of joy?
Tell me, father, tell thy boy."

II.

" There is a fiend doth follow me;
A fearful fiend thou canst not see —
But I behold him. Day or night
He is not absent from my sight:
I know thou lovest me, O my child, —
But this demon drives me wild.

III.

" The world was once both good and fair,
There was a glory in the air,
When my heart was pure and young,
By guilt and misery unwrung;
But a demon such as this,
Makes an agony of bliss.

IV.

" He besets my daily path,
I am the victim of his wrath:
He smears his fingers o'er my meat,
And poisons every thing I eat;
Puts fatal acid in my drink —
Oh, it is misery to think!

V.

" He lies beside me in my bed:
He places thorns beneath my head:
He sits upon my suffering breast,
And sends the dreams that spoil my rest:
He tracks my steps where'er I stray,
And gibes and mocks me night and day.

VI.

" When sympathetic friends condole,
And whisper comfort to my soul,
This spiteful devil comes to and fro,
And turns each friend into a foe;
Perverts my comfort into pain,
Maddening my heart and brain.

VII.

" When I think I'm all alone,
I start to hear his mocking groan:
I see his fearful face and eyes, —
That hellish face which multiplies,
And fills the room from roof to floor
With scowling demons evermore.

VIII.

" Cruel is he. His power is great.
He pursues me. He is fate.
If I look to heaven and pray,
I see his dreadful shape midway.
And ev'n the placid stars assume
His sneering likeness in the gloom.

IX.

" He leads my steps to dark, deep pools,
And says, none live but wretched fools.
He puts sharp weapons in my sight,
And shows me laudanum, ruby bright,
And whispers, if I like him not,
How soon my freedom may be got.

X.

" At times I think my heart will break,
But I resist him for thy sake:
His power departs when thou art near —
Of thy sweet face he stands in fear;
And if thou'lt love me, O my boy,
I'll grapple with him, and destroy."

XI.

" Father, I love thee. I will pray
For strength to drive this fiend away.
And if thou wilt be bold of heart,
I know the demon will depart;
And I will walk with thee abroad,
And scare him with the name of God.

XII.

" I'll lie beside thee in the night,
He shall not come to plague thy sight.
Why should his face fill up the skies
With hideousness and mockeries?
There are fair faces up in heaven,
That always smile on the forgiven.

XIII.

" They beam upon us: they are strong:
This fiend shall not resist them long.
We'll see them in the stars and moon,
We'll see them in the sun at noon;
We'll see them in the leaves and flowers,
And hear them singing 'mid the bowers.

XIV.

" He is but one. Why should we fear
When smiling angels fill the sphere?
And one among them known to thee —
Chief angel of my memory —
My mother, dead and gone before." —
" Talk thus, my child, I'll fear no more.

XV.

" Thy heart is pure, thy speech is mild,
I gain instruction from a child:
The fiend that haunts me must depart, —
He cannot vex me where thou art —
Thy mother's memory! God! and thee!
The fiend has fled — my soul is free."
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