The Stayed Curse

With face half hidden in ungathered hair,
Which fell like sunshine o'er her shoulders bare,
She leaned her cheek against her chamber wall,
As if to note when some far voice should call.
Her weary soul stood at its prison bars,
Fainting to hear a summons from the stars:
For life was now a midnight wilderness,
Wherein none whispered peace to her distress,
Save One, whose voice, of love and pity blended.
Mid her loud grief was not yet comprehended.
She heard alone the vulture sailing by,
Led by the foulest birds of calumny;
Felt the cold serpents crawl against her feet,
And saw the gaunt wolves steal to her retreat.
The wide world scowled and reddened at her shame,
Scorching her soul with horror; and her name
Was struck, as with the violent hand of rage,
With one huge blot from off the social page.
What wonder that the soul thus rudely wrung
Should shape such words as half appalled the tongue!
Words like fierce arrows for the faithless breast
Where love had dreamed with too confiding rest;
Shafts which, once sped at random from the lips,
Some friendly fiend must guide to their eclipse
In the dark heart, where, on his starless throne,
Deception sat, and, smiling, reigned alone!

Thus had she nursed her grief for many days,
And thus the curse was struggling from her breast,
When, as the midnight's solemn sentry bell
Struck vaguely through her woe-engendered haze,
Announcing, as it were, the mournful guest,
She heard the sudden close of wings which fell,
Together with the rustling sound of sighs;
And presently, uplifting her blank eyes,
Beheld a dull and ashen form of woe
Stand looking its great melancholy there,
As if long years of under-world despair
Had fanned him with the hottest airs that blow
Athwart the fierce Sahara fields below!
The wings were leaden-hued and ruffled all,
As if long beaten 'gainst some stormy wall,
Or blown contrary by belligerent gusts,
Then trailed for ages through the cinder dusts
On plains adjacent, where the Stygian pours,
Hissing forever on volcanic shores!
She looked, and on her lips the curse was stayed!
Thrice all the vengeance which her soul had planned
Burned on the forehead of the fallen shade!
Her purpose dropt — as from the archer's hand
Might fall the arrow if he saw the foe
Struck by the lightning's swift and surer blow!
The curse was stayed — she looked to heaven and sighed,
" Forgive! forgive! " and in her prayer she died!
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