The Twin Mutes; Taught and Untaught

Where the thorn grows by a ruin'd abbey,
In a valley of our grey north land,
Sits a lonely woman 'mid the gravestones,
Rocking to and fro with claspèd hand.

Two rough stones, uncarven and unletter'd,
Stand to guard that double-mounded grave,
Darkly brown in the untrodden churchyard,
Where the starflowers and the harebells wave.

“Ah, my grief is not extreme, O stranger!
Many a mother mourns a buried child;
Many a hearth that's silent in the autumn
Was not voiceless when the summer smiled.

“But our sorrows are of different texture;
Through the black there runs a silver thread:
Griefs there are susceptible of comfort,
Tears not salt above the happy dead.

“Tender joy amid her wildest anguish
Hath the mother, waiting in the calm
Of the death-hush by her angel's cradle,
When she thinketh of the crown and palm:

“And the ear that ached with the long tension,
When the eye gave weary sorrow scope,
Hears at night the voices of the dying
Breathe again their last low words of hope.

“In mine ear there are no voices ringing;
One pale smile is all that memory holds,—
Smile that flickers like a streak at sunset,
That a night of gloomy cloud enfolds.

“On that mountain, stranger! where the heather
Casts a tint of purple and dull red,
And a darker streak along the meadow
Shows from far the torrent's rocky bed;—

“Where the broken lines of larch and alder
To the roof a scanty shelter yield,
And the furze hedge, like a golden girdle,
Clasps one narrow cultivated field,—

“Lies mine homestead. In that whitewash'd dwelling,
Joys, and pains, and sorrows have I known;
Look'd on the dear faces of my children,
Seen their smiles, and heard their dying moan.

“Five times had I heard the birth-cry feeble
In those walls, like music in mine ear,—
Five times, and no son's voice on my bosom
Cried the cry that mothers love to hear.

“But the sixth time,—more of pain and wailing,
More of pleasure after long alarms;
For a boy was in the double blessing,—
Son and daughter slept within mine arms.

“Ah, what rapture was it all the summer,
Sitting underneath the alder tree,
While the breeze came freely up the mountain,
And my twin babes smiled upon my knee!

“Piped the thrush on many a cloudy evening,
Poising on the larch-top overhead;
Cried the brown bird from the heather near us,
And the torrent warbled in its bed.

“But the twain upon my bosom lying
Were as dead to voice of bird or man,
As the stone that under those blue waters
Heard no rippling music as they ran.

“Silence, silence in the hearts that bounded
With each passionate pulse of love or hate;
No articulate language or expression,
When the soul rush'd to its prison-gate.

“Only sometimes through their bars of azure,
The wild eyes, with glances keen and fond,
Told some secret of that unsearch'd nature,
Of the unfathom'd depth that lay beyond.

“Came the lady to our lonely mountain,
Pleaded gently with her lips of rose;
Pleaded with her eyes as blue as heaven,
Spake of endless joys and endless woes.

“Told me art had bridged that gulf of silence,—
That the delicate finger-language drew
From the deaf-mute's heart its secret strivings,
Gave him back the truths that others knew.

“And she pray'd me by all Christian duty,
And she urged me when I wept and strove;—
For the place was far, my son was precious,
And I loved him with a cruel love.

“Love! ah no, sweet love is true and tender,
Self-forgetting; flinging at the feet
Of the loved one all her own emotions:
For my thought such name were all unmeet.

“So I gave the girl, and to my bosom
Hugg'd the boy in his long soundless night;—
Gave the life of an immortal spirit
For the bareness of a short delight.

“Years came, years went, he grew up on this mountain,
A strange creature, passionate, wild, and strong;
Untaught, savage—wanting, like the savage,
Natural vent for rapture, or for wrong.

“He was smitten,—when the furze in April
To the wind that cometh from the east,
Shakes like gold bells all its hardy blossoms,
The death arrow struck into his breast.

“And she, too—like that strange wire that vibrates
Thousand miles along to the same strain,
His twin sister, through her similar nature,
In her far home felt the same sharp pain.

“And she came to die beside the hearthstone,
Where we watch'd him withering, day by day;
On her wan cheek the same burning hectic,
In her eye the same ethereal ray.

“But she came back gentle, patient, tutor'd,
Climbing noble heights of self-control;
On her brow the conscious calm of knowledge,
And the Christian's comfort in her soul.

“Ah, mine heart! how throbb'd it with reproaches,
When the weak wan fingers met to pray!
When the eyes look'd sweetly up to Heaven,
While my poor boy laugh'd, and turn'd away.

“Thus they died. Athwart the red leaves falling
Rush'd the first cold winds of Autumn time,
When the ears that never heard their howling
Open'd to some great eternal chime.

“She went first: the Angel on the threshold
Saw upon her face the look Divine;
Saw her tracing with her dying finger,
On my hand, her dear Redeemer's sign.

“And he took her. Softly, without motion,
Dropp'd down gently the small finger's tip,
And I look'd in her dear eyes and closed them,
With the smile still lingering on her lip.

“But the boy!—he felt the darkness gather,
As the Angel's dusky wing drew near:
In his eyes there was a cruel question,
As he look'd up in his doubt and fear.

“On his dying face the shadow darken'd:
He rose up and clung unto my side.
I had lost him, but I could not save him;
And the shade grew darker as he died.”

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